The Latest: WHO official warns against reopening too quickly
GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization is warning that opening up societies too quickly amid the coronavirus pandemic is a “recipe for disaster.”
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus advises that “the more control countries have over the virus, the more they can open up,” and insists that countries that are serious about opening up must also be serious about suppressing transmission.
“This may seem like an impossible balance, but it’s not,” he told reporters in Geneva.
Tedros cited four key points that countries, communities and individuals should focus on: preventing “amplifying events” — as the virus thrives on clusters; protecting vulnerable groups; people taking steps individually to protect themselves; and finding, isolating, testing and caring for cases, while tracing and quarantining their contacts.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK
— Students are returning to schools in much of Europe
— How will the U.S. coronavirus crisis play out this fall?
— In South Africa, the pandemic claimed 14,000 lives, plus the rituals to mourn them
— In China’s Xinjiang, forced medication accompanies lockdown
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
ROME — Italy registered nearly 1,000 more coronavirus cases on Monday, far fewer than recent daily new caseloads — but far fewer swab tests had been done.
Italy now counts 269,214 confirmed infections. Many of those testing positive in recent weeks have been travelers returning from vacations or their close contacts.
Sardinia, which had relatively few cases for weeks, registered 79 new infections on Monday, with clusters of infections linked to crowded discos or holiday-goers’ parties on the Mediterranean island.
In a reversal of the situation of the outbreak some six months ago, the two regions with the most daily new cases weren’t in the north, but in Campania, which includes Naples, and Lazio, which includes Rome.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — President Donald Trump’s new pandemic adviser, Dr. Scott Atlas, says coronavirus infections and deaths are declining in the hardest-hit states.
Appearing with Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for a panel discussion on Monday, Atlas said hospitalizations, length of hospital stays and mortality are also declining.
“The American public should feel cautiously optimistic here about what’s going on,” Atlas said. “There is no need for fear at this point.”
He also downplayed the risk of infections in young people and agreed with DeSantis that college football needs to be played this year. He described fit athletes as low-risk and said football “can be done safely” using social distancing in big stadiums.
“College sports is a big part of America and it’s a big part of the economic engine,” he said.
Atlas also downplayed the need to test people for the coronavirus when they don’t have symptoms.
“When you start a program of testing simply to detect positive cases among asymptomatic low-risk groups, the outcome from that is to close the schools,” he said. “And the goal of testing is not to close things. The goal of testing is to protect the vulnerable while we open the schools and open the economy.”
YANGON, Myanmar — The Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar has reported its highest single-day total of confirmed COVID-19 cases since its first cases were confirmed in late March.
The Health Ministry announced 95 new cases Monday, bringing the country’s total to 882. Of those, 354 are listed as recovered, and six died.
The surge of new cases over the past week has mostly been in the western state of Rakhine, which borders Bangladesh and hosts several major displacement camps due to years of civil conflict. The government responded by instituting a “Stay-at-Home” program for the entire state. It also banned unnecessary and unauthorized travel.
Northwestern Myanmar borders India, which has the world’s third highest official number of cases after the United States and Brazil.
DETROIT — The city of Detroit turned an island park into an extraordinary memorial garden on Monday as cars packed with families slowly passed hundreds of photos of residents who died from COVID-19.
Mayor Mike Duggan declared a Detroit Memorial Day to honor the city’s 1,500-plus victims of the pandemic. Hearses led solemn all-day processions around Belle Isle Park in the Detroit River, where more than 900 photos were displayed.
The region’s classical music station added gospel music to the playlist and read the names of the deceased.
Detroit’s director of arts and culture, Rochelle Riley, said the hope was that the memorial would “wake people up to the devastating effect of the pandemic” and also “bring some peace to families whose loved ones didn’t have the funerals they deserved.”
BRUSSELS — The European Union is joining the COVID-19 vaccine alliance COVAX with the aim of helping to provide access to any future vaccine for people in countries that might not be able to afford it.
The EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, announced Monday that it was contributing 400 million euros ($478 million) to support the scheme.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the aim is to work together “in purchasing future vaccines to the benefit of low and middle income countries.”
But the commission refused to say whether it wants to use COVAX as another means to secure access for relatively-wealthy Europe to any future vaccine.
Activists warn that without stronger attempts to hold political, pharmaceutical and health leaders accountable, any vaccines could be hoarded by rich countries in a race to inoculate their populations first.
TRENTON, N.J. — Indoor dining will resume Friday with limited capacity in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy announced.
Restaurants can have 25% capacity under the new rules, which includes maintaining social distancing between tables. Masks will be required except when eating or drinking.
“Reopening responsibly will help us restore one of our state’s key industries while continuing to make progress against #COVID19,” Murphy wrote in a tweet Monday announcing updated regulations.
New Jersey has had more than 190,000 positive cases, with over 14,000 fatalities.
FAIRBANKS, Alaska — The University of Alaska Fairbanks hockey team and other student-athletes there are in quarantine or isolation after some tested positive for the coronavirus following an off-campus party.
Administrators say 37 students were placed in isolation after six hockey players and an athlete from another university team tested positive.
University of Fairbanks Chancellor Dan White said athletes from different sports attended the Aug. 22 party. No university staff members were there, but head hockey coach Erik Largen was also quarantined after close contact with players.
University officials don’t know if the entire team was at the party.
STOCKHOLM — A Swedish health official said Monday that a COVID-19 vaccine “alone cannot stop the pandemic,” adding “important preventive measures must remain in place for the foreseeable future.”
Johan Carlson, head of the Public Health Agency in Sweden that opted for a much debated COVID-19 approach of keeping large parts of the society open, said a future vaccine “will probably be an important tool” but “not the tool that ultimately solves the problem.”
Social Affairs Minister Lena Hallengren told a joint press conference that the vaccine should be administered in priority to people over age 70, people in risk groups, and care and nursing staff.
GENEVA — The U.N. health agency says 90% of countries that responded in a new survey reported fallout from COVID-19 on the provision of other health care services.
The World Health Organization says 105 countries responded to the survey aimed at assessing the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on strained health systems, notably in low- and middle-income countries.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the survey, covering five regions between March and June, exposed “cracks in our health systems” and the need for better preparation for health emergencies like the pandemic that has produced more than 25 million confirmed cases and killed over 843,000 people by WHO’s count. Such figures are believed to far underestimate the actual totals.
The survey found that routine immunization and outreach services were among the most affected, with 70% of countries reporting disruptions, followed closely by the diagnosis and treatment of non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Nearly a quarter of countries that responded reported disruptions to emergency services.
WHO cautioned about some limitations about the study, including that it involved “self-assessment,” as well as differences in the phases of the outbreak that countries were experiencing.
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus’ education minister says mask-wearing will be compulsory for all middle and high school students but optional for primary and kindergarten grades when schools open next week.
Prodromos Prodromou affirmed the guideline on Monday, easing an earlier position that masks would be mandatory for all grades. The revised approach comes after an earlier Health Ministry decision to adopt a World Health Organization recommendation making mask-wearing compulsory for individuals 12 and over in enclosed spaces.
Prodromou said schools were instructed to conduct classes in the largest available spaces to ensure social distancing. He says his ministry is ready to switch to online teaching if coronavirus infection rates within schools increase.
MADRID — Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says the Spanish government is working on a post-pandemic recovery plan that aims to bring sustained annual economic growth higher than 2%.
Spain was allocated 140 billion euros ($166.84 billion) from the European Union’s coronavirus recovery fund, roughly divided in half between grants and repayable loans.
Using that aid, the plan outlined Monday by Sánchez will aim to address inequality deepened by the virus, which has claimed at least 29,000 victims in Spain.
He says the plan will try to accomplish structural reforms in digitalization, equal conditions for women, and fight climate change, among other things.
Spain, with nearly 440,000 infections of the new virus since February, has become western Europe’s hardest-hit country by a new surging wave of fresh outbreaks.
BUCHAREST, Romania — Romanian government is lifting several restrictions imposed earlier to curb the coronavirus, despite consistently rising number of new infections and deaths.
The government announced Monday it will let indoor dining, movie theaters and performing art venues restart on Tuesday. They must comply with social distancing and mask-wearing rules.
The announcement was made hours before the Romanian parliament was set to vote on a no-confidence motion against the government. It was filed by the strongest opposition party over what they describe as the incompetent response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Romania has confirmed over 87,500 virus cases and 3,600 deaths. Nearly 45% of the cases and close to 40% of the deaths were registered in August.
LONDON — British authorities say 16 coronavirus cases have been linked to a flight that brought U.K. tourists back from Greece, and everyone aboard has been told to isolate for two weeks.
Public Health Wales says it’s contacting almost 200 people who were aboard the Tui flight from the Greek island of Zante to Cardiff, Wales, on Tuesday.
Gwen Lowe of Public Health Wales says 30 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed among people who returned from Zante on several flights, and the number is expected to rise.
The U.K. requires people arriving from overseas to quarantine for two weeks, unless they are coming from a considered at low risk from the coronavirus. Greece is on the exemption list.
TIRANA, Albania — In a test before the start of the school year, a few thousand Albanian elementary school students have started lessons following strict personal hygiene and environmental rules.
The Education Ministry said 4,500 students resumed lessons Monday while social distancing, wearing masks and having temperatures checked.
Education and health authorities have prepared other alternatives like online schooling if they see a spike of cases after the mass school start in two weeks.
NEW DELHI — India has registered 78,512 new coronavirus cases in a 24-hour span, maintaining an upward surge.
The Health Ministry on Monday also reported 948 deaths in the previous 24 hours, increasing total fatalities to 64,469.
India has had more than 3.6 million reported virus cases since the pandemic began and now has the fastest-growing reported caseload of any country, seeing more than 75,000 new cases for five straight days.
The virus hit India’s major cities and is now fast spreading in smaller towns and rural areas.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand has lifted an outbreak-prompted lockdown in Auckland, its largest city, after more than two weeks and mandated wearing masks on public transportation.
Health Minister Chris Hipkins said Monday that it was safe to reopen Auckland because all the recent infections have been linked to the same cluster through contact tracing.