The Latest: WHO: Virus surge due to peak in big countries

GENEVA — The record levels of new daily COVID-19 cases are due to the fact that the pandemic is peaking in a number of big countries at the same time and reflect a change in the virus’ global activity, the World Health Organization said.

At a media briefing on Monday, WHO’s emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan said that “the numbers are increasing because the epidemic is developing in a number of populous countries at the same time.”

Some countries have attributed their increased caseload to more testing, including India and the U.S. But Ryan dismissed that explanation.

“We do not believe this is a testing phenomenon,” he said, noting that numerous countries have also noted marked increases in hospital admissions and deaths — neither of which cannot be explained by increased testing.

“There definitely is a shift in that the virus is now very well established,” Ryan said. “The epidemic is now peaking or moving towards a peak in a number of large countries.” He added the situation was “definitely accelerating” in a number of countries, including the U.S. and others in South Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— The WHO chief is warning world leaders not to politicize the pandemic.

— As virus surges, Pakistan says there’s no choice but to open.

— From shopping to dining out, New York City reopens but some remain wary.

— Coronavirus lockdowns have increased wildlife poaching in Asia and Africa, and it may worsen as countries reopen.

— Young baseball players, deprived of a treasured tournament, get a memento from the stadium.

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Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

LISBON, Portugal — Portuguese authorities are providing crack addicts with pipes free of charge as part of an effort to halt the spread of the new coronavirus.

Officials said Monday the crack pipes are being bought for 78,000 euros (about $88,000) and distributed to nongovernmental health workers who deal with addicts.

The Intervention Service for Addictive Behaviors, a government body, said in an email to The Associated Press that crack use has increased in recent years and users can contaminate each other with diseases such as COVID-19, HIV and hepatitis.

Portugal has won renown for its innovative approach to drug addiction and use. A ground-breaking 2001 law sent drug users into the public health system, instead of to the criminal courts. Though drug use remains illegal, the change in tactics was successful in substantially reducing the country’s problems with addiction, especially heroin.

Authorities have been providing heroin addicts with clean syringes to stop the spread of disease since the early 1990s.

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LONDON — The British government says more than 2 million elderly and vulnerable people who have been in isolation at home for three months will soon be able to meet other people.

Lockdown has gradually been easing for most Britons, but many of the elderly and those with some underlying health conditions have been told to remain isolated.

The government says that from July 6, people in this group in England will be allowed to meet outdoors in groups of up to six, and some can form a “support bubble” with another household.

The government also says the “shielding” program, which has provided food and support to those at greatest risk from the coronavirus, will be phased out at the end of July.

Jenny Harries, the deputy chief medical officer for England, says it’s safe to relax the rules because “the prevalence of the virus in the community is now lower and chances of getting infected are reduced.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock thanked everyone who has been shielding, saying “I know what a burden it has been.” He said “these measures have been vital for saving lives.”

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MOSCOW — The mayor of Moscow says the Russian capital’s gyms and pools can open after three months of coronavirus shutdown and restaurants can begin full service.

Mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced these operations can resume on Tuesday.

Some other restrictions will remain, including a ban on mass gatherings. Moscow’s daily tally of new coronavirus infections has fallen notably this month: 1,068 new cases were reported on Monday, about half as many as in early June.

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MIAMI — In Miami, officials have been cracking down on businesses not following rules restricting capacity and requiring the use of masks as COVID-19 infections have been rising in the state.

The county conducted more than 10,000 checks and issued warnings to 45 businesses.

Police in the city of Miami last weekend shut down two restaurants in the artsy neighborhoods of Wynwood and Design District and another one in Little Havana.

The mayor of Miami-Dade County, Florida’s largest, says he has no plans on ordering businesses and places that had reopened to close back again due to the increase in coronavirus cases. The owners of businesses not complying with the rules may face a $500 fine and up to 180 days in jail.

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CHICAGO — Illinois is poised to move to the next phase of reopening Friday, allowing museums, gyms and zoos to open their doors with restrictions.

Health officials said Monday that health metrics required for reopening under state and city plans have been met, with a continuing decline in COVID-19 cases.

Previously, Chicago’s reopening had been on a slower pace than Illinois. Indoor dining will be allowed, but capped at 25%. Indoor gatherings are limited to 50 people, up from 10. Outdoor gatherings will be capped at 100 people, up from 50 people.

Some venues, like the Lincoln Park Zoo, will require reservations.

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ORLANDO — In Orlando, 152 coronavirus cases have been linked to one bar near the University of Central Florida campus, as of last Friday, Dr. Raul Pino, a health officer in Orlando with the Florida Department of Health, said Monday.

“A lot of transmission happened there,” Pino said at a news conference. “People are very close. People are not wearing masks. People are drinking, shouting, dancing, sweating, kissing and hugging, all the things that happen in bars. And all those things that happen are not good for COVID-19.”

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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida — Florida health officials say more than than 100,000 people in the state have been diagnosed with coronavirus.

Florida reached the milestone Monday morning, as public health officials reissued advisories urging social distancing and mask-wearing, and as some businesses reevaluate their decisions to reopen. More than 3,100 people in Florida have died.

Over the weekend, Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered the Health Department to reissue advisories urging Floridians to consider wearing masks to help keep the virus from spreading.

In Orlando, a challenge was filed in court to Orange County’s mandatory face mask order that went into effect last Saturday. Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, as well as other municipalities such as Tampa and the Florida Keys, issued similar orders last week.

In court papers filed Sunday, an Orange County resident said the face mask order violated his right to privacy under the Florida Constitution.

The lawsuit, supported by Republican State Rep. Anthony Sabatini and Florida Family Policy Council president John Stemberger, called the order “a radical infringement on the reasonable and legitimate expectation of privacy that most Floridians expect to have over their own facial and bodily autonomy.”

At a news conference on Monday, Demings said he hadn’t seen the lawsuit.

“With the numbers climbing rapidly, it’s really important that we wear masks,” Demings said about his order. “Our goal is really simple — to slow the spread of the virus in our community.”

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BERLIN — German officials say steps are being taken to ensure that workers at a large slaughterhouse in the west of the country are strictly quarantined following an outbreak of the new coronavirus there, to prevent it from spreading around the region.

Regional official Olaf Gericke told reporters Monday that “we don’t want a lockdown, we want a return to normal life.”

More than 1,300 workers from the Toennies meat packing plant in the western Guetersloh region have tested positive for COVID-19, and 20 have been hospitalized, with several in intensive care.

Most are subcontractors from Eastern Europe who are housed in buildings together, and Karl-Josef Laumann, the health minister for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, said it was now critical that they remain in isolation.

He said during a visit to the region that efforts were underway to assure them they would be provided food and other supplies while in quarantine, and medical care regardless of insurance status.

“Every person who is sick here will be treated through our health care system,” he said.

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BARCELONA, Spain — Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu opera house reopened on Monday and performed its first post-pandemic concert — to an audience didn’t have to worry about social distancing.

Instead of people, the UceLi Quartet played Giacomo Puccini’s I Crisantemi (Chrysanthemums) for 2,292 plants, one for each seat in the theater. The concert was also livestreamed for humans to watch.

The event was conceived by Spanish artist Eugenio Ampudia who said he was inspired by nature during the pandemic.

“I heard many more birds singing. And the plants in my garden and outside growing faster. And, without a doubt, I thought that maybe I could now relate in a much intimate way with people and nature,” he said Monday before the performance.

At the end of the eight-minute concert, the sound of leaves and branches blowing in the wind resonated throughout the opera house like applause.

The theater says it will gift the plants to local health workers as a thank you for their efforts during the pandemic. Spain’s national state of emergency was lifted on Sunday after three months of restrictions on movement and assembly.

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RIO DE JANEIRO — The Brazilian state with the second-highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths, Rio de Janeiro, has lost its second health secretary in just over a month.

Rio’s health secretariat in a statement on Monday confirmed Secretary Fernando Ferry’s exit, without providing a reason. Local media published a video from Ferry announcing his resignation, in which he said that he had tried to resolve the grave health problems facing the state and apologized to Rio’s population.

Rio state has recorded almost 100,000 COVID-19 cases and 9,000 deaths, more than half in the capital. Both tallies had begun plateauing recently, prompting mayors to relax restrictions to avoid spread of the virus. Early signs of a renewed uptick in the virus’ spread are emerging.

The state’s governor, Wilson Witzel, fired his prior health secretary in mid-May after failure to construct several promised field hospitals for treatment of COVID-19 patients.

The governor is among the targets of an investigation into suspect health expenditures, and the state assembly has decided to kick off an impeachment process. Witzel has denied wrongdoing and has alleged political persecution.

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PARIS — France is battling a surge of COVID-19 cases in French Guiana, its South American territory that shares a border with badly hit Brazil.

The so-called “R” number, which indicates how many people will be contaminated on average by an infected person, has climbed quickly to 1.8, said Clara de Bort, who heads the territory’s regional health authority. That suggests each infected person is passing the virus on to nearly two other people.

Speaking Monday on France-Info radio, de Bort said French authorities are mulling whether to place the territory’s 300,000 people into a short lockdown again to bring the outbreak back under control. The territory’s outbreak is expected to peak in July.

“The peak still hasn’t been reached,” she said. “We fear that we’re only at the beginning of the upswing of the epidemic.”

She suggested that it’s impossible to stop the illness crossing from Brazil, saying: “The pressure from our immense neighbor and the 700 kilometers (400 miles) of frontiers that we share is necessarily huge.”

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MADRID — Three counties in northern Spain have reimposed lockdown measures after coronavirus infections spiked among workers handling fruits and vegetables at a warehouse.

Authorities in the Aragon region have limited public activity and recommended limited mobility in several towns after recording 33 infections, most of them tied to the warehouse where some 200 workers are being tested.

The region’s top public health official said Monday that authorities are confident they can control the outbreak at an early stage: “We identify cases because we are looking for them,” said Francisco Javier Falo.

The official said that most of those infected are young and had either no symptoms or showed very mild forms of the COVID-19 disease.

Monday is Spain’s first working day after leaving behind a 98-day lockdown that ended over the weekend, with some restrictions remaining on public transportation, venue capacity and large-scale gatherings.

Since early March, Spain has recorded more than 246,000 infections and over 28,300 deaths for the new virus.

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SACRAMENTO, California — Arnold Schwarzenegger and three other former California governors have joined Gov. Gavin Newsom in a video campaign promoting use of face coverings to prevent spread of COVID-19.

The public service announcement released Monday also features Jerry Brown, Gray Davis and Pete Wilson. The message from the Republicans and Democrats is that nobody wants to wear masks but COVID-19 is still spreading and halting it is important to keeping people safe, reopening businesses and putting people back to work.

The video follows Newsom’s recent order requiring Californians to wear masks in high-risk settings. Schwarzenegger tells viewers wearing a mask is not about being weak and they should just do it.

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LISBON, Portugal — Portugal’s government is bringing back restrictions in some parts of the Lisbon metropolitan area as authorities struggle to break the chain of coronavirus transmission in towns around the capital.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa said after a four-hour meeting with municipal officials Monday that the COVID-19 hot spots are in 15 parishes.

He said that from midnight, a 10-person limit on gatherings in those areas will be reintroduced and commercial establishments will have to close at 8 p.m.. More police will patrol the streets.

Health officials will step up inspections at construction sites and in construction workers’ transport, which have been identified as an important source of new infections, Costa said.

A project called Healthy Neighborhoods will aim to involve communities more closely in the fight against the outbreak.

Portugal called off its state of emergency at the end of April as the outbreak ebbed, but in recent weeks the country has been reporting around 300 new cases daily, with 70-80% of them in the Greater Lisbon area.

The number of COVID-19 patients in hospital and in ICUs has remained relatively low.

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BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said “everything needs to be done” to contain an outbreak of the coronavirus linked to a large slaughterhouse where over 1,300 people have tested positive for COVID-19.

Steffen Seibert said 20 workers at the Toennies meat plant in the western Guetersloh region have been hospitalized and several are in intensive care.

“We very much hope that all those who have fallen ill survive,” Seibert told reporters in Berlin on Monday. “This is an outbreak that needs to be taken very seriously.”

Authorities have scrambled to stop the outbreak from spreading, by ordering mass tests of all workers and putting thousands of people into quarantine. The outbreak at Toennies, where many workers are migrants from Eastern Europe, has pushed up Germany’s daily infection rate.

Authorities have dispatched virologists, contact tracing teams and the German army to help contain the outbreak.

Germany’s disease control center says the country has seen 190,359 confirmed cases and 8,885 virus-related deaths — about five times fewer deaths than in Britain.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch public health institute says that no COVID-19 deaths have been reported in the last 24 hours, the first time since March 12 that no new deaths have been seen.

The institute’s Monday death tallies are sometimes lower than other days of the week due to weekend reporting lags.

The official Dutch death toll in the coronavirus pandemic stands at 6,090. The true toll is higher because not all people who have died with suspected COVID-19 were tested.

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SAN FRANCISCO — Due to coronavirus restrictions in Silicon Valley, Tesla Inc. is delaying its annual shareholders meeting from July 7 probably until Sept. 15.

The electric car and solar panel company announced the delay in a regulatory filing Monday after CEO Elon Musk revealed it overnight on Twitter.

The event likely will be combined with what Musk has touted as “Battery Day,” when the company is supposed to announce new battery technology that will work for 1 million miles and have longer range than current models.

In the filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Tesla said its board believes that stockholders appreciate the “interpersonal connection and dynamic” of an in-person annual meeting.

It reprinted Musk’s tweets saying Sept. 15 was a tentative date, and the meeting would be held at the company’s factory in Fremont, California.

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SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgarian health authorities have restored some lockdown measures following the rise of new coronavirus cases in the Balkan country.

Health Minister Kiril Ananiev on Monday ordered the mandatory wearing of protective masks in all indoor public places and announced stricter lockdown measures.

Bulgaria had imposed a two-month state of emergency between March and May and health authorities were initially successful in containing a virus outbreak. But with easing lockdown measures, the number of active cases rose by 640 between June 7 and June 22, to a total of 1,632.

The Black Sea nation, which relies heavily on tourism, started to reopen its resorts in hopes of salvaging the summer season, but the current virus spike is derailing those plans.

The first charter flight to Bulgaria this season that was bringing in Latvian tourists was cancelled Monday. The mayor of Bulgaria’s Black Sea town of Burgas, Dimitar Nikolov, added that a total of 150 Burgas-bound chartered flights scheduled for July had been cancelled.

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ZAGREB, Croatia — Croatian authorities have banned visits to nursing homes and hospitals in the Croatian coastal town of Zadar following an outbreak of the new coronavirus at an exhibition tennis tournament there.

Tennis players Grigor Dmitrov from Bulgaria, Borna Coric from Croatia and two more people have tested positive after participating in the Adria Tour event organized by top-ranked Novak Djokovic of Serbia.

Authorities said Monday that dozens more tests are underway in Zadar, while Croatia’s state HRT television reported that Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic also will be tested after visiting the event.

Djokovic’s team said he has returned to Serbia and was tested there, while the event has been canceled.

Croatia has reopened in hopes of salvaging the summer tourism season along the Adriatic Sea coast. The European Union nation will hold a national election on July 5.

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SEOUL, South Korea — The mayor of South Korea’s capital fears the country is losing control over a virus resurgence and said Seoul will reimpose stronger social distancing measures if the daily jump in infections doesn’t come below an average of 30 over the next three days.

“If Seoul gets penetrated (by the virus), the entire Republic of Korea gets penetrated,” Park Won-soon said Monday in a televised briefing, referring to South Korea by its formal name.

He also lamented what he described as complacency of citizens in social distancing, citing an increase in public transportation usage that he says has been approaching last year’s levels in recent weeks.

Citing research by health experts, Park the country could be possibly reporting as much as 800 new cases a day a month from now if it fails to stem current trends in transmissions. He said the basic reproduction number of virus carriers, which measures the number of infections caused by an individual, has reached nearly 1.8 for the period between April 30 and June 11. Any number above 1 indicates a growing epidemic.

In a separate briefing, Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, acknowledged that the country was now going through a second wave of the virus, following a surge in late February and March centered around the southeastern city of Daegu.

The country has been reporting around 40 to 50 new cases per day since late May, mostly from the Seoul metropolitan area, where about half of South Korea’s 51 million people live.

South Korea was reported around 500 new case per day in early March but managed to control the outbreak with an active testing and contact tracing campaign.

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The head of the World Health Organization is warning that the coronavirus pandemic is still accelerating around the globe.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director-general, noted Monday that the last 1 million cases of the virus were reported in just the last eight days alone.

Ghebreyesus also warned against the “politicization” of the pandemic, likely referring to U.S. President Donald Trump’s criticism of WHO and China over their handling of the outbreak.

Ghebreyesus said: “The greatest threat we face now is not the virus itself, it’s the lack of global solidarity and global leadership. We cannot defeat this pandemic with a divided world.”

Ghebreyesus made the comments during a videoconference organized by the Dubai-based World Government Summit.

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