The Latest: Maine tightens restrictions against virus surge
PORTLAND, Maine — Maine is reinstating restrictions meant to curb the spread of COVID-19 amid a resurgence of the virus, Gov. Janet Mills said Sunday.
Maine has been one of the most successful states at controlling the virus, but it’s dealing with a wave of new infections. The rolling average of daily cases more than doubled from below 30 per day to more than 67 by Friday. The state reported 103 infections that day, the largest single day increase in cases.
The state had been slated to reopen bars Monday, but that has been postponed to a yet-to-be-determined date, said Mills, a Democrat.
The state is removing New York, Connecticut and New Jersey from its list of states that are exempt from travel restrictions, Mills said. That means visitors from those states must quarantine for two weeks or produce a negative coronavirus test.
Maine is also reducing indoor capacity limits from 100 to 50, Mills said.
The new restrictions take effect Wednesday.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— UK says 4-week coronvirus lockdown may have to last longer
— Pre-election virus spike creates concern for polling places
— Minority contact tracers build trust in diverse cities
— A company with no manufacturing facilities that is based in a luxury condo may be in line for as much as $65 million in taxpayer dollars for antiviral plasma treatments.
— The Netherlands will halt its multibillion euro coronavirus bailout to national carrier KLM amid a standoff with a pilot’s union about the rescue package.
— Austria has announced a partial shutdown with restaurants and bars closed for four weeks, cultural, sports and leisure activities canceled and residents asked to stay home after 8 p.m.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
___ROME — The governor of the Italian region with the largest percentage of residents older than 65 has apologized for a tweet which contended the elderly aren’t indispensable to the country’s production, as Italy battles COVID-19.
The newspaper Corriere della Sera said Liguria Gov. Giovanni Toti, in a meeting Sunday with government ministers, had advocated limiting movement outside the home for those older than 70 in a bid to avoid a generalized, nationwide lockdown amid surging spread of coronavirus infections.
“For as much as every single COVID-19 victim pains us, we must keep in mind this data: Only yesterday among the 25 deaths in Liguria, 22 were very elderly patients,” Toti tweeted on Sunday.
They are “persons for the most part in retirement, not indispensable to the productive effort” of the economy, tweeted Toti, who is 52. Nearly 29 percent of Liguria’s residents are older than 65, compared to a nationwide percentage of just under 23 percent.
Maurizio Gasparri, a 64-year-old senator, slammed Toti’s assessment of the elderly’s value as “delirious.” Apologizing for what he termed “misunderstandings,” Toti later claimed his tweet was “badly extrapolated” and blamed it on an error by his social media manager.
PARIS — French families took advantage Sunday of an exception to national virus lockdown measures to gather at cemeteries to mark All Saints’ Day and honor lost loved ones.
France’s government has shut down all nonessential businesses and ordered people to stay indoors for the next month to slow accelerating virus infections, hospitalizations and deaths. But cemeteries stayed open and church services were allowed for the All Saints’ holiday weekend.
Parisian Alice Crespel, who took her children to the cemetery in the historic Montmartre neighborhood, told The Associated Press, “It is very important to be with the kids and have them join their grandmother in a family reunion without taking risks.”
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.
While the lockdown is currently scheduled to end Dec. 1, Health Minister Olivier Veran warned that Christmas “will not be a normal holiday” this year and cautioned against planning big New Year’s parties.
France reported 223 new virus-related deaths Saturday, for a total of 36,788, the world’s seventh-highest reported death toll. COVID patients now occupy 68% of France’s intensive care units, a proportion that has doubled in two weeks
BEIRUT— Facing a relentless surge in cases of coronavirus infections, Lebanese authorities are lengthening a nationwide nighttime curfew and placing a number of towns and villages under total lockdown.
The Interior Ministry’s decisions Sunday increase a nighttime curfew by four hours, asking people to stay off the streets and shops to close between 9pm local time and 5am. It did not set an end date.
The Interior Ministry also put 115 towns and villages in total lockdown for a week because of a high positive infection rate and “high level of danger.” Bars and nightclubs will continue to be closed; restaurants and cafes are to continue to operate at 50% while public gatherings and parties are barred.
Lebanon, a country of over 5 million, has been witnessing a surge of infection cases, deaths and intensive care unit occupancy over the past weeks that brought the recorded cases to over 80,000. According to health ministry statistics, the number of recorded cases nearly doubled between September and October in the country that is also home to over 1 million refugees. The percentage of positive tests has increased to over 12% for every 100 tests and the average age of those who die from the virus has gone down.
ROME — Italy registered nearly 2,000 fewer new COVID-19 infections in its daily caseload Sunday, but it also conducted some 32,000 fewer swab tests to detect the virus in the last 24 hours.
With 29,907 confirmed new infections, Italy’s total known coronavirus cases in the pandemic grew to 709,335, according to Health Ministry figures.
Weekends often see fewer tests carried out. Since Saturday, the deaths of 208 infected persons were registered, raising to 38,826 the number of known dead in the pandemic, the second-highest confirmed toll in Europe.
Italian government officials have been consulting with scientific advisers and regional and municipal representatives as Premier Giuseppe Conte ponders tighter restrictions he is expected to order this week to try to slow the galloping spread of contagion, especially in the areas of Milan in the north and Naples in the south.
GENEVA — Authorities in Geneva say Switzerland’s largest hospital complex is facing “imminent saturation” and is preparing to airlift patients to other Swiss hospitals after a sixfold spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations over the last two weeks.
The Geneva canton, or region, said the University Hospitals of Geneva on Sunday counted 474 people hospitalized with coronavirus infections, including 56 in intensive care. That’s up from 78 hospitalizations and 13 people in the ICU in mid-October.
“These figures point to a severe worsening of the situation,” the canton said in a statement, noting that over 1,000 people have tested positive each day recently in the region of about 500,000 people.
Cantonal authorities held a rare Sunday news conference to announce new measures, including the closure of restaurants, bars, cinemas, gyms and other entertainment sites. Barber shops and other services requiring close physical contact are to close too. Operations at post offices, bookstores, doctors and dentist offices, repair shops and public administration offices are to continue. Geneva has already limited public gatherings to no more than five people in parks and other public spaces.
The measures begin on Monday and will last at least through Nov. 29, and amount to some of the strictest measures yet in Switzerland — a country that devolves much power and decision-making to cantonal authorities.
WASHINGTON — The government’s top infectious diseases expert is cautioning that the U.S. will have to deal with “a whole lot of hurt” in the weeks ahead due to surging coronavirus cases. Dr. Anthony Fauci’s comments in a Washington Post interview take issue with President Donald Trump’s frequent assertion that the nation is “rounding the turn” on the virus.
Fauci says the U.S. “could not possibly be positioned more poorly” to stem rising cases as more people gather indoors during the colder fall and winter months. He says the U.S. will need to make an “abrupt change” in public health precautions.
Speaking of the risks, Fauci says he believes Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden “is taking it seriously from a public health perspective,” while Trump is “looking at it from a different perspective.” Fauci, who’s on the White House coronavirus task force, says that perspective is “the economy and reopening the country.”
In response, White House spokesman Judd Deere says Trump always puts people’s well-being first and Deere charges that Fauci has decided “to play politics” right before Tuesday’s election.
TEHRAN — Iran hit another single-day record for coronavirus deaths as the country grapples with a sharp spike in cases.
The Health Ministry reported Sunday that 434 people had died in 24 hours from the virus, bringing Iran’s death toll in the pandemic to more than 35,000.
The ministry said it recorded 7,719 new confirmed infections since Saturday. Iran has reported more than 620,000 confirmed virus cases in all.
Most deaths have occurred in the capital, Tehran, which is also the most populated city in Iran. The head of the virology department at Masih Daneshvari Hospital in Tehran, Alireza Naji, warned that Iran could reach 900 confirmed coronavirus deaths per day if more restrictions on movement and gatherings are not imposed.
Tehran’s City Council has proposed a two-week lockdown of the city. For the past three weeks, Iran has banned weddings and funeral gatherings, and closed universities and schools, as well as libraries, mosques, cinemas, museums and beauty salons to try and curb the spread of the virus in Tehran.
PODGORICA, Montenegro — Huge crowds have attended the funeral of the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro in violation of coronavirus.
Thousands on Sunday gathered outside the main church in the capital Podgorica for the liturgy and the burial of Bishop Amfilohije inside the church crypt.
The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church led the prayers inside the packed church joined by dozens of officials and clergy, many of whom did not wear face masks. Montenegro recently has seen a surge in virus cases.
Bishop Amfilohije died on Friday of COVID-19. He was well-know for fighting against a new religion law in the country.
In an illustration of the bishop’s popularity, thousands have paid their respects since Saturday, passing by an open casket with his body. Many kissed the bishop’s remains, prompting an appeal from doctors to close the coffin.
ROME — After days of protests over the Italian government’s pandemic restrictions, the country’s president has appealed to people to put aside partisan politics and pull together.
President Sergio Mattarella on Sunday visited a cemetery near Brescia, a northern city in Lombardy, the region which has largely borne the brunt of Italy’s coronavirus outbreak to pay tribute to those who died from COVID-19.
Mattarella said he chose the cemetery because that’s where someone carried out the “ignoble theft” of a cross placed there in memory of pandemic victims.
The head of state recalled Italy’s more than 38,000 confirmed dead in the pandemic, including “the many who died in solitude.”
He called for Italians, “whatever one’s role or convictions,” to unite with the “common aim of defending people’s health and assuring the economic revival of our country.”
Right-wing opposition leaders have been railing against the center-left government’s infection-prevention measures, contending they unfairly penalize and don’t reflect their input.
LONDON — A British government minister says a new national lockdown in England may have to last longer than the planned four weeks if coronavirus infection rates don’t fall quickly enough.
The lockdown is due to run from Thursday until Dec. 2. Prime Minister Boris Johnson says it is needed to stop hospitals becoming overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients within weeks.
Cabinet minister Michael Gove said Sunday that “with a virus this malignant, and with its capacity to move so quickly, it would be foolish to predict with absolute certainty what will happen in four weeks’ time.”
Under the new restrictions, bars and restaurants can only offer take-out, non-essential shops must close and people will only be able to leave home for a short list of reasons including exercise.
Other venues that must close including bowling alleys, gyms, pools, golf courses, driving ranges, dance studios, horse riding centers, soft play facilities, climbing walls, water parks and theme parks.
JERUSALEM — Israel reopened elementary school classes after a six-week shutdown on Sunday as the country eases restrictions following a nationwide lockdown that began in September.
First to fourth grade students will attend school four days a week, with up to 20 students in each class. Students and teachers are required to wear face masks in class.
Group prayers are also now allowed with up to 10 people indoors and 20 in open spaces. Hairdressers and beauty salons across the country have too been allowed to reopen. Other businesses, including street shops, will remain closed until next Sunday.
Israel imposed a second nationwide lockdown on Sept. 18 as the country saw one of the highest per capita infection rates.
Israel’s Health Ministry has recorded over 314,000 cases of the coronavirus and 2,541 deaths.