The Latest: WHO warns that pandemic is worsening globally
LONDON — The head of the World Health Organization has warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is worsening globally and things won’t return to “the old normal” for some time.
At a press briefing Monday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that “there will be no return to the old normal for the foreseeable future.”
Tedros said that while numerous countries, especially in Europe and Asia, have brought outbreaks under control, too many others are seeing virus trends move in the wrong direction.
Tedros also chastised political leaders for mixed messages about outbreaks that damage trust, without referring to any politicians by name.
Tedros called for countries to adopt a comprehensive strategy to curb the soaring caseloads in many countries, noting that about half of all the new cases are now coming from the Americas.
Still, Tedros said there was a roadmap out of the pandemic and that it’s never too late to control its spread even in places with explosive transmission.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Hong Kong bans public gatherings of more than four and requires face coverings on public transport
— Recent confirmed cases of COVID-19 at U.S. military bases on Japan’s Okinawa grow to more than 90.
— The November election is coming with a big price tag as America faces voting during a pandemic
— America’s two largest generations agree: the pandemic has smacked many at a pivotal time in their lives
— Families of Italy’s virus dead seek answers, solace, justice
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
PARIS — France’s government signed accords with unions promising to invest 8 billion euros in salaries and new staff for public hospitals, which struggled to treat waves of coronavirus patients after years of cuts.
The agreements signed Monday come after two months of negotiation launched by President Emmanuel Macron after criticism of his government’s handling of the pandemic.
The new investment includes raises for doctors, nurses and other hospital staff. Health Minister Olivier Veran said it would include 15,000 new jobs.
Public hospital workers have been protesting for years against staff and equipment shortages and hospital closures.
Unions stepped up demonstrations after France started relaxing its confinement measures in May. Unions representing at least 50% of public hospital staff signed the accords, though some health workers say they don’t go far enough to fix problems.
France has reported more than 30,000 virus-related deaths and treated more than 100,000 virus patients in hospitals.
HONG KONG — Hong Kong has banned public gatherings of more than four and required face coverings on public transport as the city battles an increase in COVID-19 cases.
Restaurants won’t be allowed to offer dine-in services from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m., while fitness centers and beauty salons will be closed for 7 days. The measures take effect July 15.
The city will also increase testing to identify asymptomatic patients who are infected.
Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam, who announced the measures on Monday, also urged the private sector to put in place work-from-home arrangements for employees.
On Monday, 41 out of 52 coronavirus infections reported in Hong Kong were locally-transmitted cases.
Since July 6, Hong Kong has reported 250 new cases, with Monday’s tally being the highest since March.
TOKYO — Recent confirmed cases of COVID-19 at U.S. military bases on Japan’s Okinawa have grown to more than 90.
Okinawa prefectural officials said that 32 more cases were confirmed Monday at the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, bringing the recent total to 95 across the installation and three other bases. Most of the cases are at the air station.
Governor Denny Tamaki held telephone talks on Saturday with Lt. Gen. Stacy Clardy, commander of III Marine Expeditionary Force. Tamaki demanded the U.S military increase disease prevention measures, stop sending personnel from the mainland U.S. to Okinawa and seal the bases.
Okinawa is home to more than half of about 50,000 American troops based in Japan under a bilateral security pact. Many Okinawans have long complained about pollution, noise and crime.
Outside the U.S. military bases, Okinawa has had about 150 cases of the coronavirus. Cases have surged recently in Japan, mostly in Tokyo and other major cities.
BERLIN — Germany’s health minister says his country is willing to help other governments develop coronavirus tracing apps, but wouldn’t say which countries have sought Berlin’s assistance.
Jens Spahn told reporters Monday that the German app’s code is open source, meaning others can see how it works. He also said that other countries had sought Germany’s help, but declined to name them because the issue was “highly political.”
The German Corona-Warn-App has been downloaded more than 15 million times since its launch last month. Officials say that so far about 500 people in Germany who tested positive for coronavirus have received the code required to warn others who might have been exposed.
The app uses Bluetooth signals to register which other smartphone were nearby for at least 15 minutes. Strict privacy guards mean the German government doesn’t know who has received the warnings for coming near an infected person.
PRAGUE — The Czech Republic is re-imposing restrictions for travel to Serbia and Montenegro after a spike in coronavirus cases in the Balkan countries.
Starting Monday, the Czechs moved Serbia and Montenegro from an EU list of safe countries to a list of high-risk countries.
The Czech Health Ministry says the two countries now have more than 50 positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people.
The move means that anyone coming to the Czech Republic from Serbia and Montenegro has to present a negative COVID-19 test or be quarantined.
The citizens of Serbia and Montenegro can enter the Czech Republic only for specific reasons, such as work or visiting relatives.
The European Union recommended that starting July 1, member states should begin lifting the travel restrictions at the external borders for residents from 14 non-EU countries, including Serbia and Montenegro.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistani authorities are banning open-air livestock markets in cities for the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, or “Feast of Sacrifice,” to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
However, people will be allowed to buy and sell sacrificial animals at the designated 700 markets, which will be set up on the outskirts of cities across the country. These markets will only remain open from dawn to dusk.
Monday’s move comes as Pakistan reported 69 more COVID-19 deaths, taking total fatalities to 5,266.
Pakistan now has 251,625 confirmed cases and the decision to ban open-air cattle markets within the cities was announced at a meeting of National Command and Control Center, which supervises country’s response to the virus.
It said all the buyers and sellers of sacrificial animals must adhere to social distancing regulations
Eid-al Adha will be celebrated in Pakistan on July 31, subject to the sighting of the moon.
During the three-day holiday, Muslims across the world slaughter livestock and distribute part of the meat to the poor.
BEIJING — China on Monday said two World Health Organization experts were in the country as part of a mission to trace the origin of the global coronavirus pandemic.
China had been reluctant to allow a probe into the virus that was first detected in the central industrial city of Wuhan late last year, but relented after scores of countries called on the WHO to conduct a thorough probe. Foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the representatives would with Chinese scientists and medical experts on “scientific cooperation on the new coronavirus tracing issue.”
China has argued that the virus might have originated outside of China and has angrily denied allegations that it covered up the scale of the outbreak as it was first beginning to spread. The U.S. has moved to cut funding for the WHO over accusations it responded too slowly to the virus outbreak and repeated Beijing’s claims of having dealt with it swiftly without verification.
“We have a basic consensus with the WHO that virus tracing is a scientific issue that requires international scientific research and cooperation of scientists across the world,” Hua said at a daily briefing.
The WHO has confirmed the visit by an epidemiologist and an animal disease specialist but has not given out information on its agendas while in China. The virus is believed to have originated in bats and then jumped to humans via an intermediary species, possibly the anteater-like pangolin that is prized in China for its scales used in Chinese medicine as well as its meat.
LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged Britons to wear face coverings in shops and other tight indoor spaces — but stopped short of making it mandatory.
Critics have accused Johnson’s government of failing to offer clarity on the mask issue in the days since he began backtracking on previous advice suggesting such coverings were not necessary. But Johnson says the scientific research has is now showing that masks help stop the transmission of COVID-19.
Speaking to reporters during a visit to the London Ambulance Service, Johnson said “face coverings do have a real value in confined spaces and I do think the public understand that.”
When pressed on whether it should be mandatory, Johnson said “we will be looking at the guidance, we will be saying a little bit more in the next few days.”
Masks were made mandatory in Scotland last week.
MADRID — A judge has overturned a decision by the Catalan regional government to confine over 140,000 people to only leaving their homes for work and other essential activities, arguing that only central authorities can issue a lockdown that restricts freedom of movement.
Authorities in northeastern Catalonia had announced the stay-at-home order on Sunday a week after they had already limited travel to and from El Segria county because of an outbreak of the virus that causes COVID-19.
But a judge in Lleida, the largest municipality in the county, ruled overnight that because the measure is “indiscriminate” and “disproportionate” it has to be applied under a state of emergency, which can only be enacted by the nation’s government.
Regional Vice President Pere Aragonés has said that the Catalan government plans to appeal the judge’s decision.
The outbreak in the rural area is connected to farm work and seasonal day workers, many of whom work and live in precarious conditions.
Spain’s 17 regional governments are now largely in charge of handling the response to the pandemic after a 3-month nationwide lockdown ended in mid-June. The virus has claimed at least 28,000 lives in the country, according to official records.
NEW DELHI — India reported another record surge of coronavirus infections on Monday, adding 28,701 new cases over the previous 24 hours.
Authorities in several cities are reinstating strict lockdowns after attempting to loosen things up to revive an ailing economy.
The new cases raised the national total to 878,254. The Health Ministry also reported another 500 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 23,174.
New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and Pune are among the key Indian cities witnessing a surge in infections. Several states introduced weekend curfews and announced strict lockdowns in high-risk areas to slow down infections.
India is third in total coronavirus caseload, behind only the United States and Brazil.
MEXICO CITY -- Mexican officials say the number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths has passed 35,000, making it the country with the fourth highest total.
A count by Johns Hopkins University has only the United States, Brazil and Britain with more confirmed deaths from the new coronavirus. Sunday’s rise to 35,006 confirmed deaths moved Mexico, a country with 130 million inhabitants, past Italy.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador insisted the development of the pandemic in Mexico “is positive, it is good” because of the country’s 32 states only nine had increases in infections.
“The bottom line is that the pandemic is on the downside, that it is losing intensity,” Mexico’s president said.
Nevertheless, some days this past week have seen record daily numbers of new infections.
Deputy Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell said the number of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus rose to 299,750 on Sunday.