The Latest: South Africa reports big delays in test results
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa says the average delay in obtaining coronavirus test results from public labs has risen to 12 days amid backlogs and shortages of testing materials.
South Africa represents well over a quarter of Africa’s virus cases, with more than 61,000. The country has conducted about a third of the virus tests in Africa, and countries with fewer resources could face similar delays or worse.
The longer it takes to confirm a positive case, the greater the risk that an infected person is unknowingly spreading the virus.
South Africa’s latest weekly report by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, issued late Friday and ending June 6, says the average time to process tests at public labs has grown from a little over two days a month ago.
Public labs earlier were handling three-fourths of coronavirus testing but that dropped to just over one-fourth as of June 6. Turnaround time in testing by private labs is less than two days.
South Africa’s overall number of tests conducted has dropped since mid-May, also likely reflecting shortages. The African continent overall has more than 225,000 cases.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Lives Lost: Weatherman built career on skills learned in war
— France has millions of unsold face masks after virus crisis
— Treasury chief refusing to disclose recipients of virus aid
— In the sprawling refugee camps of Sudan’s Darfur, officials say people are falling sick and dying at astonishing rates. Humanitarian workers and medical personnel believe the coronavirus is spreading unchecked and untracked through Sudan’s most marginalized territory. Medical facilities are few and far between in the large western territory.
— Most Americans say they are wearing masks. They are still by and large avoiding restaurants. And the vast majority are still staying at least six feet from others. A new poll finds most Americans aren’t ready to abandon precautionary measures in response to the coronavirus, even as states and metropolitan areas relax restrictions.
— In the battle against COVID-19, public health workers spread across states, cities and small towns make up an invisible army on the front lines. But that army is under assault when it’s needed most. Elected officials and members of the public frustrated with lockdowns and safety restrictions have turned public health workers into politicized punching bags, battering them with angry calls and physical threats.
Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING TODAY:
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis said Saturday that the coronavirus pandemic has challenged many assumptions.
In a message for the 4th World Day of the Poor, which will be celebrated Nov. 15, the pope said that “we feel poorer and less self-sufficient because we have come to sense our limitations and the restriction of our freedom.’’
He said the loss of jobs along with the chance to spend more time with loved ones ‘’suddenly opened our eyes to horizons that we have long since taken for granted,’’ and that the period of lockdown allowed many to rediscover ‘’the importance of simplicity, and of keeping our eyes fixed on the essentials.’’
He also said that the pandemic ’’has made us all the more aware of the presence of the poor in our midst and their need for help,″ and that its sudden arrival sparked ‘’a powerful sense of bewilderment and helplessness’’ that also demonstrated ‘’our own need for an outstretched hand.’’
ISLAMABAD — Pakistani authorities have identified and sealed off nearly 1,300 hot spots to contain the rising trajectory of new coronavirus infections.
The sealing of high-risk area comes as Pakistan reported 6,472 news cases on Saturday, the country’s highest single-day total. Pakistan has confirmed a total of 132,405 cases, including 2,551 deaths.
Pakistan put its entire population of 220 million under lockdown in March. The government has since eased restrictions, saying it was necessary to save the country’s economy, but it has caused a surge in infections.
Prime minister Imran Khan has resisted demands from experts to reinforce the lockdown.
Authorities, however, are now using the term “smart lockdown” to close shops and markets and force people to stay home in areas where confirmed cases have increased in recent weeks. Some residential areas were also sealed in the capital, Islamabad, to contain the spread of the virus.
BEIJING — The Chinese capital has locked down 11 residential communities near a wholesale food market to try to stem a new outbreak of COVID-19.
Beijing officials said Saturday that 45 workers at the Xinfadi market tested positive for the coronavirus, though they showed no symptoms. That was in addition to an earlier announcement of seven people with symptoms who had visited or worked at the market.
Forty environmental samples taken at the market also tested positive, city officials said.
The Beijing News newspaper said in a social media post that Communist Party members and volunteers were being organized to shop for food and other daily necessities for the affected residents.
The city, which had not had a locally transmitted infection in more 50 days, reversed some recent moves to relax coronavirus restrictions.
Authorities delayed the planned reopening of schools on Monday for first to third graders and suspended athletics events. One immediate casualty was an orienteering race slated for Saturday, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
The National Center for the Performing Arts, which had just reopened on June 2, reclosed, according to a media report.
NEW DELHI — India reported another record daily spike in coronavirus infections as the country passed the grim milestone of 300,000 cases.
The Health Ministry reported 11,458 new cases on Saturday and 386 deaths, driving the toll of fatalities up to 8,884.
India’s total caseload reached 308,993, the four-highest in the world, including more than 150,000 recoveries.
The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a nationwide in late March. India’s caseload jumped by about 100,000 cases in a week, which coincided with the reopening of shopping malls, houses of worship and restaurants.
In the capital of New Delhi, most public hospitals are full, and crematoriums and graveyards are struggling to manage a rash of bodies. Delhi’s government has projected that cases in the capital area alone could expand to more than half a million by late July, and is considering taking over luxury hotels and stadiums to convert into field hospitals.
UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. secretary-general says COVID-19 travel restrictions have left hundreds of thousands of the world’s 2 million seafarers stranded at sea for months, and is calling on countries to designate them and other marine personnel as key workers.
Antonio Guterres also called on nations to ensure that crews can leave vessels and be replaced safely, according to a statement Friday from U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
The U.N. chief said the maximum time for seafarers to spend at sea under international conventions is being ignored, with some marooned on vessels for 15 months.
Guterres said U.N. agencies, including the International Labor Organization and the International Maritime Organization, have worked with the International Chamber of Shipping and the International Transport Workers Federation to develop protocols for crew changeovers, “taking full account of public health concerns.”
BEIJING — Beijing closed the city’s largest wholesale food market Saturday after the discovery of seven coronavirus cases in the previous two days.
The Xinfadi market, which has 4,000 tenants, will be disinfected after workers tested positive and the virus was found in the environment, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
The National Health Commission said that six new cases were confirmed in Beijing on Friday. Another case was reported Thursday. They are the first locally transmitted cases in the Chinese capital in more than 50 days.
Attention focused on the market after the discovery of the first three cases. Two of the infected people had been to the market, and the third worked with one of them at a meat research institute, according to Chinese media reports.
City officials said late Friday that all the workers were being tested for the coronavirus. They also ordered the testing of food and environmental samples from all the city’s wholesale food markets.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 49 new coronavirus cases.
Most most of them are in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where health authorities have been struggling to slow transmissions linked to entertainment and leisure activities, church gatherings and low-income workers who can’t afford to stay home.
The figures released Saturday brought national totals to 12,051 cases and 277 deaths.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 44 of the new cases are in greater capital area, which is home to half the country’s 51 million people.
Agency director Jung Eun-kyeong is urging residents in the capital area to stay home over the weekend, saying there is “high concern” that increased public activity will lead to widespread circulation of the virus.
GUATEMALA CITY — The spread of the coronavirus is encroaching on Guatemala President Alejandro Giammattei.
He says 58 employees in the presidential offices have tested positive for the virus, up from 18 on Sunday.
Those who have tested positive include people from administration and security areas. Giammattei says he has been tested multiple times, but always has come out negative.
On Friday, Guatemala reported more than 8,600 infections and 351 deaths.
BEIJING — Officials in China’s capital are moving quickly to stem a new coronavirus outbreak after the discovery of seven cases the past two days.
The National Health Commission said six of the cases were confirmed in Beijing on Friday, a day after the first was reported. They are the first locally transmitted cases in the city in more than 50 days.
Chinese media said at least two of the infected people had visited a wholesale market dealing in fresh food. Authorities said all workers at the Xinfadi market were being tested for the virus and testing of food and environmental samples had been ordered for all Beijing’s wholesale food markets.
Earlier, the city said it was delaying the planned reopening of school Monday for first to third graders because of the new cases.
SAN DIEGO — A top U.S. Border Patrol official says coronavirus cases are on the rise in certain pockets of the agency.
Deputy Chief Raul Ortiz said Friday that 93 Border Patrol employees and 16 people in custody have tested positive for the virus. He says that is “relatively low” but adds that “we are not out of the woods just yet.”
Ortiz tells employees that there have been “indications of localized increases” among Border Patrol personnel. He doesn’t say where in an email to agents that was obtained by The Associated Press, and the agency didn’t immediately respond to questions.
AP reported Thursday that border states Arizona and Texas have seen a recent rise in coronavirus cases.
AUSTIN, Texas — Daily coronavirus hospitalizations in Texas have reached a new high for a third time in four days as state officials continue to loosen restrictions on public activities.
Health officials said Friday that 2,166 patients were in Texas hospitals with COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus. That is 13 more than the previous high reached Wednesday.
Nineteen more COVID-19 deaths also were reported Friday, bringing the state’s overall toll to 1,939.
Officials said almost 2,100 new coronavirus infections had been confirmed, bringing the state’s total to 83,680.
The actual number is likely higher because many people have not been tested. Studies have found that many people can be infected and not feel sick, so may not seek testing.