The Latest: Slovakia virus cases rising to levels in April

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Coronavirus infections have been rising in Slovakia, reaching levels unseen for half a year.

The Health Ministry says the daily increase in new cases reached 1,459 on Tuesday, the highest number since April 7. It was 1,180 cases a week ago.

There were 14 reported deaths on Tuesday for a total of 12,620 in the nation of 5.5 million, the most since mid-June.

Also, the number of people needing hospitalization reached 531, the highest since May. The ministry says almost 85% are unvaccinated.

So far, 2.4 million people in Slovakia have received at least one shot of a vaccine, one of the lowest vaccination rates among European Union countries.



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LJUBLJANA, Slovenia — Slovenia has suspended Johnson & Johnson vaccines while probing the death of a 20-year-old woman.

Health Minister Janez Poklukar on Wednesday said the suspension will be in place until all circumstances of the woman’s death are cleared. He says the woman died from a stroke two weeks after receiving the jab.

The woman’s death this week was the second serious case of adverse effects of the Johnson & Johnson jabs that have been administered to about 120,000 people in Slovenia, the official STA news agency reported.

However, Poklukar says the vaccine “benefits continue to outweigh the risks.”

The announcement is likely to fuel Wednesday’s protests in the capital, Ljubljana, against vaccination and coronavirus measures. Demonstrators recently clashed with police, and they have put up metal fences to control the gathering.


BEIJING — A city in northern China has killed three housecats after they tested positive for COVID-19.

The authorities in Harbin say the action was taken because there was no available treatment for animals with the disease. The owner tested positive for the coronavirus on Sept. 21 and went into isolation after leaving food and water out for the three cats.

A community worker gave the cats coronavirus tests, which twice came back positive. Despite an online appeal by the owner, the cats were put down Tuesday evening.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of animals spreading the coronavirus to people is “considered to be low.” It’s known to be transmissible from people to animals in some situations, especially when there is close contact.

“People with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should avoid contact with animals, including pets, livestock, and wildlife,” the CDC says on its website.


MOSCOW — Russia is reporting record coronavirus deaths for the second day in a row, but authorities say they are not considering imposing nationwide restrictions.

Russia’s state coronavirus task force on Wednesday registered 857 deaths, the country’s highest daily number of the pandemic. The previous record of 852 COVID-19 deaths was reported Tuesday.

New cases also have risen in recent weeks, increasing from about 18,000 confirmed a day in mid-September to some 22,000 this week. On Wednesday, Russia reported 22,430 new confirmed cases.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the numbers are “a serious cause for concern” but nationwide restrictions aren’t currently being discussed. Peskov pointed out that regional governments are empowered to introduce their own measures and some regions are doing that in light of the surging infections.

In all, Russian authorities have reported over 7.4 million confirmed infections and more than 206,000 deaths. However, reports by the government’s statistical service Rosstat that tally coronavirus-linked deaths retroactively reveal much higher mortality numbers.


HANOI — Video footage of police officers in southern Vietnam violently escorting a women to take a COVID-19 test has gone viral as authorities requested an investigation of the case on Wednesday, local media reported.

In a video shown on the website of the state-owned Tuoi Tre newspaper, two riot police officers locked the woman’s arms behind her back in front of her crying child as they took her out of an apartment in Binh Duong province.

According to the newspaper, the officers broke the lock of the woman’s apartment after she refused to attend a routine coronavirus test at her condominium building on Tuesday.

The woman said she was busy with an online yoga class and did not want to go for the test because the testing site might be crowded, the newspaper reported.

The video shows the woman was taken to the site, where a police officer held her arms as a health officer took a swab sample.

Provincial authorities have ordered an investigation of the individuals involved in the incident, the newspaper said.

Under Vietnamese laws, people who resist procedures needed to contain contagious diseases and go on to spread the disease face up to five years in prison, but police cannot break into private household without a warrant.


MADRID — Open-air stadiums in Spain will be allowed to host spectators to their full capacity and indoor sports facilities up to 80% of their maximum capacity during October.

Audience attendance in sports’ events is currently capped to 60% outdoors and 40% in indoor facilities.

The new capacity guidelines will be in place from Oct. 1, the Health Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. The revision was timed for the beginning of the Spanish soccer and basketball leagues.

The ministry says fans will need to wear masks at all times and keep 1.5 meters (5 feet) of social distance. Drinking will be allowed during games, but not eating or smoking.

A vaccination drive has reached 77% of Spain’s 47 million residents and largely credited for a sharp decline in coronavirus infections.


GENEVA — The World Health Organization reported that the global number of new coronavirus cases and deaths continued to fall in the past week, with an estimated 3.3 million new infections and about 55,000 deaths, marking a 10% drop in both.

In its regular assessment of the pandemic issued on Tuesday, the U.N. health agency said the biggest drops in new cases were seen in the Middle East, the Western Pacific and the Americas.

WHO first reported a substantial decrease in cases in mid-September at 4 million new cases, with declines seen in all areas of the world, the first time in more than two months that COVID-19 cases had fallen.

WHO said all regions reported more than a 15% decline in deaths, except for Europe, where the number of deaths was similar to the previous week and Africa, where there was about a 5% rise.

In Asia, the number of deaths dropped by nearly a quarter. WHO warned there would likely be more spikes of COVID-19 as the Northern Hemisphere enters winter. The disease spreads more easily during winter as people spend more time indoors. Social distancing restrictions also are being relaxed in many countries that have a relatively high level of vaccination.


TEL AVIV, Israel – Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says his priority is keeping the nation’s economy open and increasing vaccinations among the country’s Arab minority as Israel copes with a wave of coronavirus infections.

Bennett made his comments Wednesday before returning to Israel from New York, where he addressed the United Nations General Assembly this week. Israeli media reported that some health officials who favor tigher restrictions were upset over parts of the speech, in which Bennett said that doctors alone cannot be in charge of coronavirus policy.

Bennett says he “respects” those advisers and values their work. But, he added, “imposing more and more sweeping restrictions on all citizens of the state of Israel is not the policy of the government.”

He said data shows dozens of communities in Israel that are coronavirus hotspots are Arab communities and more than 90% of people hospitalized in critical condition are unvaccinated. Therefore, “despite the pressures” from the medical community, “we will at this stage avoid sweeping restrictions on the entire population,” he said.


CANBERRA, Australia — The Australian government is ramping up pressure on state governments to end pandemic lockdowns by outlining plans to end financial aid.

The government says in a Wednesday statement that its payments to workers who lose hours due to lockdowns will end two weeks after a state or territory reaches its vaccination benchmark. That benchmark is 80% of residents ages 16 and older being fully inoculated with a double dose of AstraZeneca, Pfizer or Moderna.

State and territory leaders agreed in July that lockdowns would no longer be necessary after that level was achieved. But with the delta variant outbreak worsening in Sydney and Melbourne, some leaders have suggested they may maintain restrictions until 90% are fully vaccinated.

Australia’s government reported Tuesday that less than 53% of the population is fully vaccinated.


WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand is reporting 45 new local cases of the coronavirus, the most in nearly a month as an outbreak in Auckland continues to grow.

Auckland remains under lockdown although officials have eased some restrictions since the outbreak began last month.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said Wednesday that people need to keep steady as officials continue efforts to tamp down the outbreak.

Officials say some of the cases have been spreading among homeless people living in transitional housing, a group that may be more reluctant than most to seek health services.

About 64% of New Zealanders have had at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine.


BOISE, Idaho — Health care workers in Idaho say they are facing increased animosity from some patients and community members, and they blame misinformation about the pandemic and coronavirus vaccines.

Officials at Kootenai Health in Coeur d’Alene, for instance, say some nurses are scared to go to the grocery store unless they have changed out of scrubs because they get accosted by angry people.

The Idaho Hospital Association says similar instances are happening across the state. State health officials say the state will help hospitals boost security if needed.

Some state lawmakers, political groups and local leaders have been dismissive of coronavirus vaccines, pushed the use of an anti-parasitic drug to treat COVID-19 and claimed that coronavirus case numbers are being inflated.


LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he’ll appoint a chair this year to the planned public inquiry into the coronavirus pandemic and bereaved families will have a role in the proceedings.

The COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, which has around 4,000 members, have been calling for a public inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic so lessons can be learned to limit future virus-related deaths. It has criticized Johnson and his Conservative government for a lack of protective gear for health workers, delaying lockdowns and a too-lax travel policy.

Johnson confirmed in May a public inquiry will start to hear evidence next year. However, the group says, “we see no reason why preparations for the inquiry cannot begin now, particularly as nearly 1,000 people are still losing their lives each week.”

The U.K. registered 167 virus-related deaths on Tuesday. Britain has Europe’s second-highest pandemic death toll after Russia, with nearly 136,500 confirmed dead.


WASHINGTON — More than 400,000 Americans got Pfizer booster shots last weekend through local pharmacies in the opening days of the U.S effort to provide more protection for vulnerable populations.

White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients says an additional 1 million people have scheduled booster shots for the coming weeks. He adds: “We’re off to a very strong start with the booster campaign.”

As many as 25 million people qualify for the third dose of the Pfizer shot, which was authorized last week for those 65 or older, those with pre-existing conditions or facing an elevated risk at their workplace.

U.S. officials say their primary focus is ensuring the roughly 25% of eligible Americans who have yet to get their first shot do so.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says a major priority is the vaccination rate among pregnant women, which stands at 30% nationally and at 15% among Black pregnant women. She encouraged them to seek out vaccinations, saying data shows they’re safe for mother and baby and can prevent needless illness or death.


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