The Latest: EU joins coronavirus vaccine alliance COVAX
MANILA, Philippines — Fitness gyms, barber shops and internet cafes were allowed to reopen partly in the Philippine capital Tuesday as the government further eased quarantine restrictions despite the country having the most coronavirus infections in Southeast Asia.
President Rodrigo Duterte, however, placed the southern city of Iligan under a mild lockdown after a rise in community infections, underscoring how COVID-19 cases have spread away from the capital, metropolitan Manila, the epicenter of the pandemic in the country.
Night curfew hours have been shortened in most cities in the capital and outlying provinces under the new arrangements, which will last for a month.
Duterte announced that medical personnel, who could be ejected because of fears by landlords that they are virus carriers, would be given free billeting and food near their hospitals.
More than 220,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including about 3,500 deaths, have been reported in the Philippines, which has struggled to find a balance between restricting public mobility to curb the virus and reviving an economy that has fallen into recession.
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
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
HONG KONG — Hong Kong has kicked off a voluntary mass-testing program for coronavirus as part of a strategy to break the chain of transmission in the city’s third outbreak of the disease.
The testing program began Tuesday with residents making their way to more than 100 testing centers staffed by over 5,000 volunteers. It is aimed at identifying silent carriers without symptoms who could be spreading the disease.
The virus-testing program has become a flashpoint of political debate in Hong Kong. Many are distrustful over resources and staff provided by China’s central government and fear that their DNA could be collected during the exercise.
MELBOURNE, Australia — Australia’s hard-hit Victoria state has reported its lowest daily tally of new COVID-19 cases since June as a lockdown continues to slow infections.
The health department on Tuesday reported 70 new infections and five deaths in the latest 24-hour period. It is the lowest tally of new infections since 67 were reported on June 30.
The latest weeklong average is 104 new cases a day, down from 184 in the previous week.
A six-week statewide lockdown is due to end on Sept. 13. The government will outline its plans to reopen the economy next Sunday.
The infection rate is not expected to fall to low double digits by Sept. 13. Health authorities have said such a reduction in infections would be required before they could safely lift restrictions.
WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease expert, says Labor Day weekend will be key in determining whether the U.S. gets a “running start” at containing the coronavirus this fall.
Fauci said Monday he has a “great deal of faith in the American people” to wash their hands, practice social distancing, wear masks, avoid crowds, and congregate outside during the weekend celebrations. He said it’s important to avoid a surge in coronavirus cases like those seen after the Memorial Day and July 4th holidays.
He made the comments on a White House conference call with governors, the audio of which was obtained by The Associated Press.
Vice President Mike Pence said he shared Fauci’s confidence in the American people to celebrate the holiday responsibly.
JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves says he is extending a statewide mask mandate and most other restrictions another two weeks to try to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. He made a single change — eliminating a cap of two spectators per participant at high school sports events.
Republican Reeves said a limit of 25% capacity remains in place for stadiums, gyms, and other venues, and people should maintain social distance from those who are not in their immediate families.
As the University of Southern Mississippi prepares to host its first home football game on Thursday, Reeves said his prohibition on tailgating at college games also remains in place at least two more weeks.
“I’d rather be in the South where we can’t have tailgating, where we have rules in place but we are going to have football, than to be in the Pac-12 where they’re not even going to have football,” Reeves said.
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus’ Health Ministry says anyone taking part in a peaceful protest is obligated to wear a face mask and keep at least 5 feet (1.5 meters) from other demonstrators.
The ministry issued guidelines on Monday on how public demonstrations are to be conducted in line with health protocols to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. It said the distribution and sharing of pamphlets among demonstrators is prohibited, and food and other vendors aren’t permitted at the protest site.
Organizers must appoint a liaison who will be charged with communicating with police and ensuring that demonstrators stick to the guidelines. Cypriot Justice Minister Emily Yiolitis said the point of the guidelines isn’t to limit citizens’ democratic rights, but to ensure that people are protected from the virus’ spread.
CHICAGO — Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has predicted a roughly $1.2 billion hole for the 2021 budget, blaming the coronavirus pandemic as the “single largest driver” of economic challenges.
She says tourism, transportation and the hospitality industry have been hit hardest. Lightfoot presented the city’s budget forecast Monday, saying the current budget will have a roughly $800 million shortfall. She says federal help will be needed as cities nationwide struggle.
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations chief says the COVID-19 pandemic has deepened the inequality between men and women and reversed “decades of limited and fragile progress on gender equality and women’s rights.”
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned young women from civil society organizations at a virtual town hall meeting on Monday that “without a concerned response, we risk losing a generation or more of gains.”
During the pandemic, he said “women have been on the front lines of the response, as health care workers, teachers, essential staff and as carers in their families and communities.” A majority of health care workers are women, but less than a third are in decision-making roles, he said.
Guterres said the pandemic has impacted physical and mental health, education, and labor force participation. He also noted reports in some places of increases in teenage pregnancies and gender-based violence.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Gov. Gina Raimondo says every public school district in Rhode Island except two has been given the go-ahead to resume in-person classes in September.
The Democrat said Monday that children are scheduled to return to school on Sept. 14 and “our expectation is that’s what you will do.”
Five metrics had to be met, including low hospitalization and spread rate statewide and an ability to return coronavirus test results within 72 hours.
Only Providence and Central Falls haven’t met the metrics. Those cities have had the highest coronavirus rates in the state.
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Officials in Columbia, South Carolina, say at least 200 people were crowded around without masks at a pool party that was shut down near the University of South Carolina.
Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins tells WLTX-TV the scene Saturday at an apartment complex violated rules meant to halt the coronavirus and created “a perfect storm to spread the virus.”
Jenkins persuaded the complex to close the pool for several days, but no one was cited for violating the city’s mask ordinance.
CHICO, Calif. — California State University, Chico has canceled the limited number of in-person classes it was offering and has gone virtual-only for the duration of the fall semester after at least 30 people tested positive for the coronavirus three days after the semester began.
University President Gayle Hutchinson says she is asking students to vacate campus housing by this weekend because nearly all on-campus residences have at least one case and there are concerns the numbers will increase.
GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization warns that opening up societies too quickly amid the coronavirus pandemic is a “recipe for disaster.”
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus insists that countries that are serious about opening up must also be serious about suppressing transmission. He says that’s not “an impossible balance.”
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.
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 Monday, with clusters of infections linked to crowded discos or holiday-goers’ parties on the Mediterranean island.
The regions with the most daily new cases were 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 downplayed the risk of infections in young people and agreed with DeSantis that college football needs to be played this year and “can be done safely.”
Atlas also downplayed the need to test people for the coronavirus when they don’t have symptoms.
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 its 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.
DETROIT — 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 processions around Belle Isle Park in the Detroit River, where more than 900 photos were displayed.
Detroit’s director of arts and culture, Rochelle Riley, said organizers hoped 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, 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. Their head coach, who wasn’t at the Aug. 22 party, was also quarantined after having close contact with players.
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 says 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 the need for better preparation for health emergencies like the current pandemic.
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 differences in the phases of the outbreak that countries were experiencing.
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.
It 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.