The Latest: Venezuela to resume flying to four countries
CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan authorities say they’re resuming international flights to four friendly nations seven months after the novel coronavirus quarantine halted commercial airline travel.
The National Institute of Civil Aviation said Monday that flights are resuming to Turkey, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Iran. President Nicolás Maduro in March ordered dramatic quarantine measures, attempting to halt the spread of COVID-19.
Authorities say domestic flights throughout Venezuela will remain restricted, except for short flights to Los Roques, an archipelago of Caribbean islands prized by Venezuela’s elite.
Venezuela officials report a steady decline in new cases, with just a few hundred daily. They say in total 800 people have died out of roughly 92,000 total infections. Government critics say that’s a vast undercount. ___
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— America stands at a crossroads the day before Election Day, facing a stark choice between candidates in the midst of historic pandemic
— U.S. hospitals are scrambling to hire more nurses as the coronavirus pandemic surges, leading to stiff competition and increased costs.
— Germany kicks off a partial lockdown, as several European countries tighten restrictions this week
— The BBC says Britain’s Prince William had the virus in April, around the same time as his father Prince Charles
— Follow AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
PARIS — French health authorities on Monday reported 52,518 new COVID-19 infections in 24 hours, the highest daily number since the country began widespread testing.
The death toll from the virus increased by 418. In total, 37,435 people have died in French hospitals and nursing homes since the start of the pandemic, the world’s seventh-highest reported death toll.
COVID patients now occupy more than 70% of France’s intensive care units, a proportion that has doubled in two weeks.
France’s government has shut down all nonessential businesses and ordered people to stay indoors for at least one month to slow accelerating virus infections, hospitalizations and deaths.
The main exception to this lockdown is schools, which are allowed to stay open to reduce learning gaps and allow their parents to keep working.
MADRID — Spain’s total number of COVID-19 infections has climbed to more than 1,240,000, but the government said Monday it won’t be introducing stricter lockdown conditions for now.
Over the weekend, a spate of violent protests in a dozen cities were held in response to a nightly curfew introduced last week in Spain. Mostly young protesters set fire to vehicles and trash cans, blocked roads and threw objects at riot police.
Spain’s Minister for Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, José Luis Escrivá told Antena 3 television Monday that “this kind of behavior is to be expected” as people grow weary of restrictions against the spread of COVID-19.
The Health Ministry reported just over 55,000 new cases in Spain since it last published official figures on Friday. More than 36,000 people have died in Spain since the pandemic began.
Asturias, a region on the north coast, asked the national government to order people in the province to stay at home for two weeks.
The Health Ministry refused, saying it is waiting to see the results of the central government’s latest restrictions, introduced last week. A strict lockdown from March to June brought down the number of cases but hit the economy hard.
GENEVA — A top World Health Organization scientist focusing on the coronavirus response says there has been no transmission or clusters at the agency’s Geneva headquarters.
Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on the COVID-19 pandemic, made the comments to reporters after the U.N. agency’s chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, announced that he was starting a self-quarantine after coming into contact with a person who tested positive for the virus.
“I am well and without symptoms, but will self quarantine in the coming days in line with WHO protocols,” Tedros said via video conference from his home during a regular WHO news conference on Monday.
Van Kerkhove said the agency was tracking all cases among staff and carrying out contact tracing to ensure that transmission wasn’t taking place at its Geneva headquarters.
“We haven’t had any transmission take place on the premises, and we have no clusters on the premises,” she said. “But it is something that we’re monitoring every day.”
O’FALLAN, Mo. — Missouri hospital leaders are raising alarms about bed capacity as coronavirus cases continue to spike, with some urging Gov. Mike Parson to issue a statewide mask mandate.
Meanwhile, an eastern Missouri eighth-grader died days after his COVID-19 diagnosis, the state’s first child under age 14 to die since the onset of the pandemic. Washington School District Superintendent Lori VanLeer said in a statement that 13-year-old Peyton Baumgarth died over the weekend, less than two weeks after he last attended classes.
The National Center for Health Statistics report for Oct. 28 cited just 80 deaths nationwide among children ages 14 or younger.
Missouri, like many Midwestern states, is seeing a big rise on COVID-19 cases, and many of the illnesses are severe enough to require hospitalization. The state health department on Monday cited 1,659 hospitalizations statewide, eclipsing by 10 the previous record set a day earlier. The state also cited 2,651 more confirmed cases and five additional deaths. All told, Missouri has reported 188,186 confirmed cases and 3,031 deaths from the virus.
LANSING, Mich. — Meals at Michigan restaurants came with a new side dish Monday: What’s your name and phone number?
Restaurants must be able to contact customers if there’s a virus case linked to the business, according to the latest order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s health department.
Michigan’s coronavirus cases have risen significantly, setting a new daily high Saturday at 3,792, the health department said.
The Michigan Restaurants & Lodging Association insists COVID-19 transmission doesn’t occur much at restaurants. The group predicts job losses and more financial strife because of the requirement.
“You have guests that feel it’s intruding on their personal liberties and freedoms, and now we’ve got to be the arbitrator of that,” said Jeff Lobdell, president of Restaurant Partners Management, which operates 12 eateries in western Michigan.
Restaurants, bars and other venues must seat no more than six people at a table. The state said indoor settings are much more likely to drive COVID-19 outbreaks than outdoor settings.
ROME — Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte has announced new national restrictions aimed at halting the increase of coronavirus cases, including closing shopping malls on the weekends, shuttering museums and limiting movements between regions.
Conte outlined the new measures to lawmakers Monday, ahead of a new decree expected soon. He said shopping malls will be closed on weekends, except for food stores, newsstands, drugstores and tobacco shops located inside. He also announced the closure of gambling parlors and video game arcades.
He added that there will be a “late evening” curfew, but without providing a time. Currently only some regions, including Lazio where Rome is located, have a curfew.
He also said high schools, which are currently on ¾ distance learning, can go on full-time distance learning in a bid to help alleviate pressure on public transport.
Conte told lawmakers on that one big difference this time – compared to measures during the virus’s last peak in March – is that some measures will vary by region, depending on how critical the virus’ spread is and pressure on hospitals.
Italy’s new cases count eased slightly in the last 24 hours, adding 22,253 new cases to bring the pandemic total to 731,588. Nearly one-quarter of the cases are in hard-hit Lombardy, the epicenter of both virus surges.
LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday defended his decision to impose a second national lockdown, ignoring criticism that weeks of delay have meant thousands more infections and hundreds of needless deaths.
The comments came as Johnson gave the House of Commons details of the proposed four-week lockdown in England that is set to begin Thursday. The plan was hurriedly announced Saturday after updated projections showed that rapidly rising infection rates risked swamping hospitals in a matter of weeks.
The new policy comes three weeks after Johnson announced plans for a three-tiered regional approach to combatting the virus, with tighter restrictions imposed on areas with higher infection rates. The government chose that strategy in an effort to reduce the economic and social impact of new restrictions, even though a committee of scientific advisers on Sept. 21 recommended a short lockdown as a “circuit breaker” to slow the spread of COVID-19.
But that approach became untenable after new analysis showed COVID-19 was spreading so rapidly that the number of deaths this winter could more than double those recorded earlier this year.
Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said the cost of delaying a lockdown 40 days after scientific advisers recommended such a move was recorded in statistics of the pandemic. On Sept. 21 the U.K. recorded 11 deaths from COVID-19 and about 4,000 new infections. Forty days later, there were 326 deaths and more than 22,000 cases.
BERLIN — A four-week partial shutdown has started in Germany, with restaurants, bars, theaters, cinemas and other leisure facilities closing down until the end of the month.
The restrictions that took effect Monday are milder than the ones Germany imposed in the first phase of the coronavirus pandemic in March and April. This time around, schools, kindergartens, non-essential shops and hairdressers are to remain open.
But leading officials decided last week that a “lockdown light” was necessary in light of a sharp rise in new infections that has prompted many other European countries to impose more or less drastic restrictions.
On Saturday, the national disease control center reported the highest number of infections in one day — 19,059 — since the pandemic began. Figures at the beginning of the week tend to be lower, and the center reported 12,097 cases Monday. But that compared with 8,685 a week earlier, underlining the upward trend. Germany has reported over 100 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past week.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and state governors are to review the situation after two weeks.
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia tested over 3.5 million of its population over the weekend in a national rapid-testing program with about 1% testing positive for the coronavirus.
Prime Minister Igor Matovic says 3.625 million were tested across the country in the two days in the optional tests that looked for antigens. The plan was to test almost everyone older than 10 in the nation of 5.4 million. The results of the free tests were available for people in several minutes.
Thanking anyone who participated, he says the unprecedented program was conducted in efforts to avoid the country’s lockdown amid a surge of coronavirus infections. Those testing negative won’t have to abide by strict limits on movement imposed on citizens.
BRUSSELS — Belgium, which is proportionally the worst-hit nation in Europe when it comes to coronavirus cases, announced Monday that it is finally starting to see “some points of light” amid the dark, dire statistics of the past weeks.
Some critical statistical curves are starting to ease their upward rise, increasing hopes that measures taken in parts of the country last month are beginning to pay off.
“The number of infections and hospital admissions continue to rise but not as fast anymore,” said virologist Steven Van Gucht of the Sciensano government health group. “The high-speed train is somewhat easing up, even if it still rages on.”
Belgium has the highest proportional incidence of cases in the European Union with 1,781 per 100,000 people, while countries like Spain, Britain and Italy have less than a third of that concentration.
Despite such numbers, Van Gucht said that cases now rose at an adjusted 29 percent, “which is considerably lower than the past weeks, when increases were 100 percent on a weekly basis.”
ZAGREB, Croatia — Croatia has reported the highest daily death toll since the start of the new coronavirus outbreak with 32 deaths in the past 24 hours.
Authorities on Monday confirmed 1,165 new infections in the country of 4.2 million that has seen soaring numbers in the past several weeks.
Most of the infections have been recorded in the Croatian capital Zagreb. Croatia has evaded lockdown despite surging numbers but has limited gatherings and working hours of bars and restaurants.