The Latest: Asia’s version of Nobel Prize awards canceled
MANILA, Philippines — The Ramon Magsaysay awards, regarded as Asia’s version of the Nobel Prize, have been cancelled this year due to the global pandemic, the only third time the annual awards were disrupted in six decades.
The Manila-based foundation that hands out the awards said Tuesday it has no choice but to cancel the awards this year “with the COVID-19 pandemic practically immobilizing the world.” The awards were also cancelled due to a financial crisis in 1970 and a disastrous earthquake that hit the Philippines in 1990.
The awards are named after a popular Philippine president who died in a 1957 plane crash and honor “greatness of spirit in selfless service to the peoples of Asia.”
The more than 330 awardees so far had included leaders like the late President Corazon Aquino, an icon of nonviolent democratic struggle across the world, and Mother Teresa, who has been honored in the Catholic church as Saint Teresa and known globally for her missionary work for the poorest of the poor.
The Philippines is a coronavirus hotspot in Southeast Asia, with about 22,400 infections, including more than 1,000 deaths. It has eased lockdowns for millions of people in a tightrope move to bolster its economy, which contracted in the first quarter.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— New Zealand says it has eradicated the virus.
— New York City gradually begins reopening.
— Medical professionals raise alarm that tear gas, pepper sprays could increase virus spread.
— India eases lockdown even as virus cases jump in capital.
— Big hotel companies are competing on cleanliness in wake of the pandemic.
Go to https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak for updates throughout the day.
SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea has reported 38 new cases of COVID-19 and one more death, bringing national totals to 11,852 infections and 274 virus-related fatalities.
Figures from South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday showed 35 of the new cases came from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where officials have struggled to trace transmissions linked to entertainment venues, church gatherings and low-income workers who couldn’t afford to stay home.
At least 1,300 infections have been linked to international arrivals, with around 90% of them being South Korean nationals who have returned home amid broadening outbreaks in the United States, Europe and elsewhere.
Officials have repeatedly pleaded for people to stay home amid the resurgence in coronavirus infections, but they are so far resisting calls to reimpose social distancing restrictions after easing them in April, citing concerns about unleashing further shock on a fragile economy.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING TODAY:
HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont has ordered an independent, third-party review of how Connecticut’s nursing homes and assisted living centers prepared for and responded to the coronavirus pandemic, noting the findings could be helpful if the state faces a second wave this fall.
The Democrat said Monday that proposals will soon be solicited from third-party experts. In the meantime, he expects to meet with state lawmakers to determine the full scope of the review, which will include input from the operators of the long-term care facilities, unions representing the workers, patients, health experts and others.
“Obviously that was the tragic center for our state and the other 49 states, in terms of fatalities,” said Lamont, referring to the nursing homes. “If there’s a chance that there could be a second surge later on this summer, more likely in the fall, we want to be ready.”
Lamont said “a strong outside group” will be able to focus on things like infection protocols, adequate supplies of personal protective equipment and what nursing homes might look like in the long-term.
To date, there have been more than 2,500 resident deaths from COVID-19 in nursing homes across Connecticut, a number that represents more than 60% of the state’s total deaths, which grew to 4,084 on Monday.
The president of the United Nations General Assembly says world leaders will not be coming to New York for their annual gathering in late September for the first time in the 75-year history of the United Nations because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tijjani Muhammad-Bande told a news conference Monday that he hopes to announce in the next two weeks how the 193 heads of state and government will give their speeches on pressing local and world issues during the assembly’s so-called General Debate.
He said “world leaders cannot come to New York because they cannot come simply as individuals and “it is impossible” to bring large delegations during the pandemic.
“We cannot have them in person as we used to — what happened in the last 74 years — but it will happen” Muhammad-Bande said of the annual gathering.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recommended last month that the meeting of world leaders, which was supposed to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, be dramatically scaled back because of the pandemic.
VERMONT — Officials in Vermont say the outbreak of COVID-19 that began in the city of Winooski on Memorial Day has grown to 62 cases, including nine in the adjoining city of Burlington and five in other communities.
Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said Monday that 38 are adults and 24 are children with a median age of 21. There have been no reports of hospitalizations or deaths and only one in five of the infected individuals showed any symptoms.
Officials say the outbreak is confined to “one social network of families,” but they have been reluctant to provide more details, citing confidentiality concerns.
State Epidemiologist Patsy Kelso said contact tracers have identified shared activities that could have led to the outbreak and officials believe there has been spread within households as well.
“We think this is a pretty-well contained situation or outbreak and while the case numbers may go up because there may have been exposures in the recent days even, we don’t think this is something that we will see pop up all over the state,” Kelso said.
Lockdowns and social distancing helped save 3.1 million lives across 11 European countries, according to research published Monday in the journal Nature.
Yet there’s still need for caution, said co-author Seth Flaxman at Imperial College London.
“We’re just at the beginning of this epidemic,” he said, adding that there’s substantial “risk of a second wave if all precautions are removed” quickly.
Another study published in the same journal found that shutdowns also had a substantial impact in slowing disease spread in the U.S., China and South Korea.
“This has been an extraordinary moment in human history,” said co-author Solomon Hsiang at the University of California, Berkeley. He credits leaders listening to scientists’ advice with making it possible “to save more lives in a shorter period of time that ever before.”
The head of the World Health Organization warned that the coronavirus pandemic is worsening globally, even as the situation in Europe is improving.
At a press briefing on Monday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that about 75% of cases reported to the U.N. health agency on Sunday came from 10 countries in the Americas and South Asia. He noted that more than 100,000 cases have been reported on nine of the past 10 days — and that the 136,000 cases reported Sunday was the biggest number so far.
Tedros said most countries in Africa are still seeing an increase in cases, including in new geographic areas even though most countries on the continent have fewer than 1,000 cases.
“At the same time, we’re encouraged that several countries around the world are seeing positive signs,” Tedros said. “In these countries, the biggest threat now is complacency.”
RICHMOND, Va. — Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House’s virus task force, says she’s worried about the potential impact the widespread protests may have on curbing the coronavirus pandemic.
Birx said Monday she’s concerned shouting protesters may have spread the disease and that high-risk individuals attended some protests. She also said that some testing sites were destroyed in the protests. Birx made the comments on a private White House call with governors, the audio of which was obtained by The Associated Press.
Birx said she saw many protesters not wearing masks and some who wore masks were shouting. She said that while the masks may work at stopping to spread the disease when an infected person wearing one is talking, “we don’t know the efficacy of masks with shouting.”
She said she’s also concerned about some of the age groups she saw at the protests, particularly as they became more peaceful.
“I saw more and more higher risk groups on the streets,” Birx said.
ATHENS, Greece -- Greece has announced a major jump in positive coronavirus cases, with 97 new infections confirmed since the previous announcement on June 4.
Health authorities said Monday that the total number of confirmed cases now stands at 3,049, while two more deaths since June 4 bring the total death toll to 182.
Authorities said 30 of the new cases were travelers from abroad, while another 29 were found during mass testing in the northeastern Xanthi region following previous outbreaks there.
Greece has lifted nearly all lockdown measures and is to allow tourists into the country starting from June 15, without compulsory coronavirus tests or quarantine unless they arrive from an airport listed as having a high risk of coronavirus by the European air safety agency.
Currently anyone arriving in Greece is subject to compulsory tests and a quarantine of seven days if the test is negative, or 14 days if positive.
MEXICO CITY -- Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador says he does not plan to get tested for COVID-19, one day after the announcement that a high-ranking member of his administration he’d recently been in contact with was infected.
Zoé Robledo, director of Mexico’s social security system, announced Sunday night that he had tested positive, two days after he appeared with López Obrador at an event in the Tabasco state capital of Villahermosa. The president’s security cabinet had also been present during that event.
López Obrador returned to the capital Sunday after a week-long tour of the country’s southeast. He used the trip to kick off construction of a tourist train, one of his signature projects, and to illustrate the government’s efforts to reactivate the economy.
SKOPJE, North Macedonia — Authorities in North Macedonia have announced the second highest number of new infected people recorded, saying a second wave of coronavirus was expected because people have ignored recommendations to wear protective masks and to keep social distance.
Health Minister Venko Filipce said 127 newly infected people and three deaths were recorded over the past 24 hours, which is the second highest number of new cases in the country since the outbreak of the epidemic in late February. The total number of confirmed cases in North Macedonia now stands at 3,152, with 156 deaths in the country of roughly 2 million people.
Filipce said more than a half of those newly infected are from the capital Skopje and that the new spike is related to mass gatherings two weeks ago, during the celebrations of religious holidays.
North Macedonia has ended a strict 80-hour curfew in four regions on Monday, but the health minister said the national commission for protection of infectious diseases is recommending the government impose another movement restrictions in the most affected regions with new infected. The government is yet to decide on whether to announce movement restrictions in four regions, including capital Skopje.′ ___
The World Health Organization says it still believes the spread of the coronavirus from people without symptoms is “rare,” despite warnings from numerous experts worldwide that such transmission is more frequent and likely explains why the pandemic has been so hard to contain.
Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19 said at a press briefing on Monday that many countries are reporting cases of spread from people who are asymptomatic, or those with no clinical symptoms. But when questioned in more detail about these cases, Van Kerkhove said many of them turn out to have mild disease, or unusual symptoms.
Although health officials in countries including Britain, the U.S. and elsewhere have warned that COVID-19 is spreading from people without symptoms, WHO has maintained that this type of spread is not a driver of the pandemic and is probably accounts for about 6% of spread, at most. Numerous studies have suggested that the virus is spreading from people without symptoms, but many of those are either anecdotal reports or based on modeling.
Van Kerkhove said that based on data from countries, when people with no symptoms of COVID-19 are tracked over a long period to see if they spread the disease, there are very few cases of spread.
“We are constantly looking at this data and we’re trying to get more information from countries to truly answer this question,” she said. “It still appears to be rare that asymptomatic individuals actually transmit onward.”
MADRID — Spain’s top health official for the coronavirus response is warning against complacency, saying that the earlier detection and treatment of infections could be giving a deceiving impression that the virus might be weakening.
Fernando Simón, who heads Spain’s health emergency coordination center, said that the much lower rate of hospital admissions for COVID-19 and the lower age of incoming patients — who are now 52 on average compared with 61 in early May —might have contributed to the idea that the outbreak is less severe.
“There is no evidence that the virus is less virulent,” Simón said Monday during a daily briefing. “The most plausible explanation is simply that we now detect cases at a milder stage.”
Spain has 241,136 confirmed infections for the novel virus, 48 more in the past 24 hours mainly due to small clusters identified in hospitals. At least 56 deaths in the past seven days have been attributed to the virus, although Spain is not updating the official tally of 27,136 deaths until it completes a revision of past data provided by regional governments.
The country is edging closer to fully re-emerging from confinement rules. On Monday schools re-opened in some regions where students need to catch up on studies before college-entry exams later this month, while nightlife in bars and clubs is expected to resume in roughly half of the country.
Hard-hit Madrid and Barcelona, where most new infections are still being recorded, are also advancing to phase 2 of 3 in Spain’s staggered plan out of the lockdown. That means dropping the existing time slots for daily exercise and allowing restaurants to serve food and drinks indoors as well as outdoors.
MILAN — Italy added 280 new cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours, with over one-third of those in the hardest-hit region of Lombardy. Italy’s total confirmed number of positives has reached 235,278 — although experts believe the actual number is much higher as only certain groups of people, such as nursing home residents, medical personnel and people with serious symptoms, are being tested. Just 65 deaths were added Monday, according to civil protection figures, for a total in the epidemic to date of 33,964. Most Italian regions are showing either no cases or new positives in the single digits. Lombardy is the only region with triple-digit positives, with the next closest region, Emilia Romagna, adding just 20.
TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government will allow immediate family members of citizens or permanent residents to come to Canada amid the pandemic.
Trudeau noted anyone entering the country will be required to quarantine for 14 days and if they don’t follow the rules there will be serious penalties. He says his immigration minister will release details later on the limited exemption.
Canada closed its borders to nonessential travel in March.
LONDON — The U.K. has recorded the lowest daily rise in the number of coronavirus deaths since March, when the country imposed lockdown measures.
As of Sunday afternoon, official figures showed that a further 55 people died after testing positive with the virus. The total death toll rose to 40,597.
Scotland and Northern Ireland recorded no new deaths for the second day in a row.
Mondays typically see a lower death figure because of a delay in reporting over the weekend.