Friday 14 August, 2020

Watch: WHO says coronavirus cases have doubled over past 6 weeks

A man wearing a face mask and a shield walks past a bank's electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index at Hong Kong Stock Exchange Monday, July 27, 2020. Asian stock markets were mixed Monday amid U.S.-China tension and concern a recovery from the coronavirus pandemic might be weakening. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

A man wearing a face mask and a shield walks past a bank's electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index at Hong Kong Stock Exchange Monday, July 27, 2020. Asian stock markets were mixed Monday amid U.S.-China tension and concern a recovery from the coronavirus pandemic might be weakening. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

The coronavirus pandemic "continues to accelerate", with a doubling of cases over the last six weeks, the World Health Organization chief says.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says nearly 16 million cases have now been reported to the UN health agency, with more than 640,000 deaths worldwide.

Tedros will convene on Thursday WHO's emergency committee, a procedural requirement six months after the agency's declaration of a public health emergency of international concern, made on January 30 for the coronavirus outbreak. The panel will advise him on the pandemic.

"COVID-19 has changed our world," he told reporters from WHO's Geneva headquarters on Monday. "It has brought people, communities and nations together — and driven them apart."

He cited some factors that have proven effective in some countries, including political leadership, education, increased testing and hygiene and physical distancing measures.

"We are not prisoners of the pandemic. Every single one of us can make a difference," Tedros said. "The future is in our hands."

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

— WHO cites doubling of cases over the past six weeks

— Tourism, diplomacy facing pushback as virus caseloads surge

— White House, Senate GOP try again on $1 trillion virus  aid

— Hanna 's rains bring flooding threat along US-Mexico border as virus surges

— Uncertainty over US-China tensions, pandemic pushes gold  to record price

— Baseball's  return includes several comeback stories

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

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HERE'S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

LONDON — Budget airline Ryanair says the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on its bottom line, with pandemic travel restrictions leading to a 99 per cent drop in passengers in the first quarter compared to the same period last year.

The airline called the quarter the "most challenging'' in its history, with a loss of 185 million euros ($216 million). It described a second wave of COVID-19 as its "biggest fear."

Travel restrictions led to a contraction of travellers, with 500,000 passengers in the first quarter compared with 41.9 million in the same period last year.

The low-cost carrier expects air travel to be depressed in Europe for the next two to three years.

Ryanair shares fell four per cent in early trading. Shares in other European travel and tourism companies also got slammed on Monday, with TUI down some 13 per cent, British Airways' parent company by more than eight per cent and easyJet 10 per cent.

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BRUSSELS — Belgian health authorities say cases of COVID-19 are growing at an alarming rate amid a surge of infections in the port city of Antwerp.

According to the latest figures released Monday, confirmed cases rose 71 per cent for the week of July 17-23 compared to the previous week, with 47 per cent of the cases detected in the Antwerp province. Numbers were also going up in the rest of the county, with an average of about 279 new confirmed cases per day.

Authorities also noted an increase of 30 per cent in people admitted to hospital.

Belgium, a country with 11.5 million, has been particularly hit by the virus, with more than 66,000 cases confirmed including 9,821 deaths. The government tightened restrictions last week, making the use of face masks mandatory in crowded outdoor spaces while requiring bar and restaurant owners to register contact details of customers.

Another meeting of the national security council is taking place Monday and Belgian Prime minister Sophie Wilmes is expected to announce further measures that could include reducing the so-called "social bubbles" to a maximum of 10 people from the current 15.

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PARIS — Morocco is banning all travel to and from some of its major cities to try to stem a small spike in coronavirus cases, even though the North African country has remained less impacted than its European neighbors to the north.

As of Monday morning, a joint statement from the Moroccan Health and Interior Ministries quoted by MAP state news agency said that there is a "ban" on travel affecting the cities of Tangier, Tetouan, Fez, Meknes, Casablanca, Berrechid, Settat and the popular tourist destination of Marrakech.

The statement adds that exceptions to this include "people with urgent medical needs" and workers on specific missions who will need a travel permit issued by a local authority.

The ministries said the decision was made because many Moroccans were not complying with measures encouraged by the governments to fight the spread of the coronavirus, such as social distancing, the wearing of masks and the use of disinfectants.

Morocco has confirmed 20,278 cases and a relatively low 313 deaths from the virus.

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HONG KONG — Hong Kong will ban dining at restaurants completely and mandate masks in all public places, as the city battles a worsening coronavirus outbreak that has infected over 1,000 people in the last two weeks.

The tightened measures will be effective for one week from Wednesday. They are an extension of a previous ban on eating at restaurants and eateries after 6 pm, as well as making it mandatory to wear masks on public transport.

A ban on public gatherings of more than four people has also been furthered tightened, with gatherings limited to two people.

Bars, beauty salons and amusement game centers will remain closed, and swimming pools and sports venues will be closed from Wednesday. Eateries and restaurants will be allowed to provide takeout services to customers.

"This is so far the most challenging, the most critical wave of transmission Hong Kong. So the next two to three weeks will be critical, we need to prevent the further spread of the disease in the community." said Matthew Cheung, Hong Kong's chief secretary for administration.

The city has reported 2,634 infections as of Sunday. The government on Monday announced that two more patients had died, taking the coronavirus death toll in Hong Kong to 20.

Over the last two weeks, 1,164 people were infected with the coronavirus, a majority of which were locally transmitted. The surge in cases is the highest in Hong Kong so far, after the city reported several weeks of no locally transmitted cases in the months of May and June.

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan hit another low in COVID-19 deaths with 20 in the last 24 hours, the lowest daily increase since mid-June.

"This is 87 per cent reduction in COVID-19 related deaths," Dr Zafar Mirza, special assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan, tweeted Monday.

Pakistan's daily infections also continued to drop with just 1,176 new cases reported in the past 24 hours. Since records began in March, Pakistan has recorded 274,288 infections with 241,026 people having recovered from COVID-19.

Still with the Muslim holy day of Eid-ul Adha later this week, Mirza said despite the encouraging and consistent drop in infections there is "no place for complacency." Pakistan saw its last spike in cases following the earlier holiday of Eid-al Fitr.

Khan and his coronavirus team credit their success against the virus to so-called smart lockdowns, quickly quarantining infection hot spots. At one point, more than 800 hot spots, including markets and residential areas throughout the country, had been on lockdown.

Khan ignored those who wanted a complete lockdown, which he said threatened the poorest. Pakistan's poverty rate before the pandemic hovered at around 30 perc ent. Economists say it has climbed to 40 per cent since March.

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NEW DELHI — As India recorded nearly 50,000 fresh cases of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepared to launch facilities in three major cities to significantly ramp up testing capacity.

The 49,931 cases reported on Monday brought India's tally to beyond 1.4 million. India has the world's third-highest caseload after the United States and Brazil. The 32,771 reported deaths from the disease in India, however, mark a far lower fatality rate than in the other two countries.

Modi's office says the testing facilities that will begin operating on Monday will help authorities track the virus. They will be put in Noida, a suburb of the capital New Delhi, and in the cities of Mumbai and Kolkata. Each is capable of analyzing as many as 10,000 tests per day.

India's chief medical research agency says the country tested about 515,000 samples for COVID-19 on Sunday.

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JOHANNESBURG — South Africa is reporting more than 11,000 new confirmed coronavirus cases as the country now has more than 445,000 in all, including more than 6,700 deaths.

South Africa has the world's fifth largest caseload and makes up more than half the cases across the African continent. President Cyril Ramaphosa says the recovery from the pandemic will be "long and difficult" but experts say the worst is yet to come.

A growing concern is poorly resourced Eastern Cape province, which makes up 16 per cent of the country's cases but more than 20 per cent of deaths. South Africa's public labs continue to face testing delays, with the average turnaround time for results at just over a week.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea reported 25 new cases of COVID-19, bringing its caseload to 14,175 infections and 299 deaths.

South Korea's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday said 16 of the new cases were tied to people arriving from abroad.

The country in past days have reported dozens of cases among crew members of a Russia-flagged cargo ship docked in the southern port of Busan and hundreds of South Korean construction workers airlifted from virus-ravaged Iraq.

Among the nine local transmissions, eight were from the Seoul metropolitan area, which has been at the center of a virus resurgence since late May.

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BEIJING — China on Monday reported 61 new cases of coronavirus, spread between its northeastern and northwestern regions.

The Xinjiang region in the northwest reported 41 new cases, while Liaoning and Jilin provinces in the northeast saw a combined total of 16. Another four cases were brought by Chinese travelers from outside the country.

No new deaths were reported, leaving the toll from COVID-19 in the country at 4,634 among 83,891 cases.

A total of 339 people are receiving treatment for the disease, 21 of them in serious condition, while 305 people are being monitored in isolation for showing signs of infection or for having tested positive for the virus without showing symptoms.

The latest outbreaks come as most of the country is opening up, with major cities restarting indoor recreation venues and sporting events, albeit without fans in attendance.

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Australia's hard-hit Victoria state on Monday posted a new daily record of 532 new COVID-19 cases, and the government leader warned that a lockdown in the city of Melbourne would continue while infected people continued to go to work.

Melbourne is almost half way through a six-week lockdown aimed at curbing community spread of coronavirus. Mask-wearing in Australia's second-largest city became compulsory last week.

The new cases and six deaths reported on Monday surpasses a previous record of 484 new infections reported on Wednesday last week.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said the biggest driver of the new infections was people continuing to go to work after showing symptoms.

"This is what is driving these numbers up and the lockdown will not end until people stop going to work with symptoms and instead go and get tested," Andrews said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for patience in Victoria.

"There has been significant community transmission in Victoria. That will take some time to get on top of," Morrison said.

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MANILA, Philippines — Vietnam has postponed its hosting of Asia's largest security forum, which includes North Korea, and an annual meeting of Southeast Asian foreign ministers by a month to September due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Two Southeast Asian diplomats said Monday that Vietnam, which leads the Association of Southeast Asian Nations this year, hopes to hold face to face meetings in mid-September instead of doing them by online video due to travel restrictions if the annual gatherings were to be held as originally scheduled later this week.

The 10-nation bloc hosts the ASEAN Regional Forum, which brings together its top diplomats with counterparts from the United States, China, Japan, Russia, India, the two Koreas and other Asia Pacific countries to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and other security issues.

Most of about 1,300 ASEAN meetings this year have so far been shifted online due to the coronavirus pandemic, including an annual summit of ASEAN leaders last month.

More sensitive talks, including secretive negotiations between China and ASEAN member states for a so-called "code of conduct" in the disputed South China Sea, have been delayed indefinitely, said the two diplomats, who spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authority to discuss the matter publicly.

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump won't be throwing out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium next month after all.

Trump tweeted Sunday that he won't be able to make the trip because of his "strong focus" on the coronavirus, vaccines and the economy.

Trump said in the tweet: "We will make it later in the season!"

He had announced at a briefing Thursday on Major League Baseball's opening day that he'd be at Yankee Stadium on August 15 to throw out the first pitch.

Trump has been trying to show voters that he is taking the virus seriously by holding briefings and cancelling Republican convention events set for Jacksonville, Florida. Florida is among several states where the virus is raging.

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