Latest world virus headlines: Madrid expands restrictions to indoor gatherings

Mateo Ulcuango attends a virtual class using the Zoom app from his home Thursday in Cangahua Alto, Ecuador. Because of the unabated COVID-19 pandemic, Ecuador has started the new school year imparting classes via the internet. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

Here are summaries of the latest Associated Press stories worldwide on the coronavirus pandemic, including:

• Former Premier Berlusconi in Milan hospital with coronavirus;

• Madrid expands restrictions to indoor gatherings;

• India adds 83,000 coronavirus cases, nears 2nd most in world;

• Mexico downplays coronavirus cases among medical personnel;

• Death of an Alabama town’s mayor brings reckoning where he spent his entire life;

• Chickens replace students in Kenyan school;

• More than 100 South African healthcare workers protest working conditions;

• Tyson Foods plans medical clinics at several U.S. Plants.

ROME — Former Premier Silvio Berlusconi, who tested positive this week for the coronavirus, has been hospitalized in Milan.

Alberto Zangrillo, his personal doctor who is also on staff at San Raffaele hospital, says the 83-year-old has an early stage lung infection but is breathing on his own.

Zangrillo says test results “makes us optimistic” for his recovery over the next “hours and days.” He says after examining Berlusconi at home a day earlier, he decided on hospitalization after detecting “bland pulmonary involvement.”

Berlusconi, who has a pacemaker, is expected to be hospitalized for a ”few days,” according to Zangrillo.

BERLIN — German pharmaceutical company CureVac says it is receiving another 252 million euros ($298 million) to develop a coronavirus vaccine.

The company says its request for additional funding has been approved by Germany’s Ministry for Education and Research, provided certain milestones are reached.

Germany’s state-owned KfW bank has already taken a 23 percent stake in CureVac for 300 million euros. The company launched an initial public offering of shares, but its main shareholder remains Dietmar Hopp, the co-founder of German software giant SAP.

CureVac is among a small number of companies that aim to develop a COVID-19 vaccine using mRNA technology that experts say could allow rapid inoculation on a larger scale than traditional forms of vaccination.

JOHANNESBURG — The World Health Organization director-general says “so far our worst fears have not been realized” after warnings that malaria deaths could double this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told malaria experts many countries have gone to great lengths to maintain services, even as 46 percent of more than 100 countries surveyed have reported disruptions to related services.

However, he says an increase in malaria cases and deaths is still expected this year. Malaria killed more than 400,000 people last year, with more than 90 percent of deaths in Africa.

The WHO chief called for more protection of health workers and strengthened health systems.

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke says testing will be stepped up in Copenhagen after more than 170 cases have been reported nationwide for the second day in a row.

Existing test facilities will be upgraded and extra facilities set up in two neighborhoods in the Danish capital, Heunicke says.

Kaare Moelbak of Statens Serum Institut, a government agency that maps the spread of the coronavirus in Denmark, that the cases were spread throughout Copenhagen and occurred mainly at private gatherings.

Some 173 cases were reported today. Denmark recorded 179 on Thursday — the highest number of new cases in a single day since April 22.

Overall, Denmark has 17,547 confirmed cases and 627 deaths.

PRAGUE — Health authorities are tightening restrictions in the Czech capital after a recent spike of coronavirus cases in Prague and other parts of the country.

Starting Wednesday, it’s mandatory to wear face masks in stores and shopping malls. Bars, restaurants and night clubs must be closed from midnight until 6 a.m.

Students in Prague must wear face coverings in all shared spaces of elementary and high schools, starting Sept. 14.

The Czech Republic on Thursday had a record daily increase of 680 cases, with 168 in the capital.

The country has 26,452 confirmed cases and 426 deaths.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — A South Carolina beach town has renewed its mask mandate. That’s despite coronavirus cases trending downward after a spike linked to the popular tourist destination this summer.

Myrtle Beach has extended through Sept. 30 the July executive order mandating face coverings worn in public places, according to the city’s website.

“This is not the time to stop our efforts,” City Manager John Pedersen said during a City Council meeting Thursday.

In June and July, some coronavirus clusters in other states, including West Virginia and New Jersey, were linked to vacationers and wedding attendees returning from trips to Myrtle Beach. Horry County, which contains Myrtle Beach, also had a spike in cases. Since then, data shows the county has seen a downward trend in case numbers.

BATON ROUGE, La. — The Louisiana Department of Corrections has suspended a work program that places inmates in the state Capitol building after two inmates tested positive for the coronavirus.

An agency spokesman says the Dixon Correctional Institute inmates began showing symptoms of coronavirus on Monday and tested positive for the virus Tuesday. They’re in medical isolation.

State data shows that nearly 400 inmates at Dixon currently have the coronavirus.

The inmates are part of a crew of workers bused 30 miles from Jackson to Baton Rouge to clean, cook and perform landscaping in the Capitol and other state buildings.

The inmates in the programs make between 4 and 70 cents an hour or credit toward early release for their work. Some lawmakers have criticized the use of cheap inmate labor at state-owned buildings, The Advocate reported.

MADRID — The Madrid regional government is further restricting family reunions and social gatherings to curb a sharp spike in coronavirus cases just as schools are set to reopen.

An existing ban on outdoor meetings of more than 10 people is now being extended indoors, after most new recent infections have been tied to gatherings at homes. Funerals, burials, weddings and religious celebrations, as well as group visits to museums or guided tourism will also be restricted starting Monday.

Nearly one third of the country’s new infections are in and around the Spanish capital, a region of 6.6 million. At least 16 percent of beds in Madrid’s hospitals are occupied by COVID-19 patients, the highest rate of all Spanish regions.

Announcing the new restrictions today, the regional health chief said that recent data show the rate of new daily increases is slowing down.

“The pandemic in the Madrid community is stable and is controlled,” said Enrique Ruíz Escudero. “We are not alarmed.”

Madrid is also expanding the number of contact tracers, which has been one of the weakest links in dealing with the the outbreaks. It’s also purchasing 2 million kits for rapid coronavirus tests.

Spain, now edging to half a million confirmed coronavirus cases since February, is leading Europe’s second wave of the pandemic, with a rate of virus prevalence above 212 per 100,000 residents for the past two weeks. Authorities say at least 29,234 people have died with the virus.

BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary has registered 459 new cases of the coronavirus, the highest daily figure since the start of the pandemic.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio that his government has three main objectives regarding the second wave of the pandemic: Protect those the most at-risk, like the elderly; create conditions needed for schools to function; and rev up the economy.

Orban said today that “if the economy has to stop again, we’re all going to be in a very difficult situation.”

Hungary’s decision to close its borders to most foreigners from Sept. 1 has drawn criticism from the European Union, but Orban said that despite the objections from Brussels, “in a few days they will be doing what we are,” because without new border rules they won’t be able to stem the spread of the virus.

Hungary has registered 7,382 confirmed cases and 621 deaths.

PARIS — France has closed 22 of its 62,000 schools since in-person classes resumed this week because of virus infections.

Of those, 10 were on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion, where access to health care is poorer than on mainland France and the number of virus patients in hospitals has jumped in recent weeks.

Education Minister Jean-Blanquer told Europe-1 radio that overall, French schools have reported about 250 suspected virus cases per day since they started reopening Tuesday.

Not all those cases turn out to be positive, but once a suspicion is reported, schools must follow an extensive government protocol that can include sending a whole class home for online learning or shutting the whole school.

Blanquer says the number of disruptions remains relatively low compared to the number of schools in France.

The French government, like many around Europe, ordered the in-person reopening of all schools this week to tackle inequalities worsened by lockdowns and get parents back to work to revive the economy.

France recorded more than 7,000 new virus cases Thursday, the highest daily rate in Europe and up from several hundred a day in May and June, in part thanks to ramped-up testing. More than 30,700 people with the virus have died in France.

ROME — A senator who is a top aide to Silvio Berlusconi said the former premier was admitted to a Milan hospital early today as a precaution to monitor his coronavirus infection.

Sen. Lucia Ronzulli told RAI state TV this morning that the media mogul, 83, who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week, was doing “well. He spent the night well” in hospital.

She said he was undergoing “precautionary monitoring” of his infection.

State radio later said he was admitted to San Raffaele hospital, where his private doctor is based, shortly after midnight, after having COVID-19 “symptoms” and would have tests but didn’t give details.

On Thursday, Berlusconi, in a strong but somewhat nasal voice, told his supporters he no longer had fever or pain. Italian media have said two of his adult children also were recently diagnosed with COVID-19 and are self-isolating.

The media mogul spent some of his summer vacation at his seaside villa on Sardinia’s Emerald Coast. Many of Italy’s recent cases of COVID-19 have been linked to clusters in people who vacationed on Sardinia.

PRAGUE — The number of people infected with COVID-19 has continued to surge to record levels in the Czech Republic, surpassing 600 for the second straight day.

The Health Ministry says the day-to-day increase reached 680 new confirmed cases on Thursday, a new record.

Health authorities are expected to discuss a response to the spike later today.

The Czech Republic has had a total of 26,452 infected with COVID-19, 426 have died. Currently, 177 people were hospitalized while 40 needed intensive care.

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish border controls to Germany and Sweden but also at airports today changed status from permanent to random, Denmark’s national police said.

The “adjusted” control “will provide a smoother settlement and thus a shorter waiting time for travelers into Denmark,” police said in a statement.

The decision was made by the government late Thursday.

On March 14, Denmark introduced permanent border controls to prevent foreign nationals without “a legitimate purpose of entry” from entering the Scandinavian country “with an increased risk of infection as a result” as authorities then phrased it.

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea will extend elevated social distancing restrictions imposed in the greater capital area for another week as it looks to contain a coronavirus resurgence that threatens to erase hard-won epidemiological gains.

Health Minister Park Neung-hoo announced the decision today after health workers reported 198 new cases of COVID-19, mostly from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where about half of the country’s 51 million people live.

Through next Sunday, restaurants in the capital area will be required to provide only takeouts and deliveries after 9 p.m., as they have been doing since Aug. 30. Indoor sports venues like fitness centers and billiard clubs and after-school academies in the region will have to remain closed.

Authorities have shut down churches and nightspots nationwide and shifted most schools back to remote learning to slow the viral spread.

NEW DELHI — The number of people infected with the coronavirus in India rose by another 83,000 and is near Brazil’s total, the second-highest in the world.

The 83,341 cases added in the past 24 hours pushed India’s total past 3.9 million, according to the Health Ministry. Brazil has confirmed more than 4 million infections while the U.S. has more 6.1 million people infected, according to Johns Hopkins University.

India’s Health Ministry today also reported 1,096 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 68,472.

India’s case fatality rate of 1.75 percent is well below the global average of 3.3 percent, the ministry said. Experts have questioned whether some Indian states have undercounted deaths.

India added nearly 2 million coronavirus cases in August alone.

In a country of 1.4 billion people, only those places most affected by the virus remain under lockdown. People are crowding markets and other public spaces with potential safety measures like masks and social distancing largely unenforced.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand reported its first death from the coronavirus in more than three months today.

Health authorities said a man in his 50s died at an Auckland hospital where he was being treated for the virus following a small outbreak in the city that began last month. New Zealand has reported more than 1,700 cases and 23 deaths.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand would keep its current coronavirus restrictions until at least mid-September.

A lockdown in Auckland has been eased, but crowd sizes are limited across the country and masks mandated on public transport.

“As with last time, a cautious approach is the best long-term strategy to get our economy open and freedoms back faster in the long term,” Ardern said.

SYDNEY — Australian authorities have added 53 deaths at nursing homes from earlier this year to the country’s total of coronavirus deaths.

Those deaths plus six that officials reported today for the previous 24 hours raises Australia’s toll from the pandemic to 737.

Victoria state officials say the 53 earlier deaths were determined from reconciling numbers from July and August. An outbreak in the city of Melbourne has raced through dozens of aged-care homes, resulting in hundreds of deaths.

The outbreak in the state appears to be slowly waning, with Victoria officials reporting 81 new confirmed coronavirus cases today.

Victoria state chief health officer Brett Sutton says that “this is the stubborn tail of the epidemic curve.”

KIRINYAGA, Kenya — Chickens have replaced students in one Kenyan school as struggling educators make what money they can after the country’s studies were called off until January.

Private schools in the East African nation say they are hit especially hard. More than 300,000 staff are mostly on unpaid leave until classes resume, said Peter Ndoro, CEO of Kenya’s Private Schools Association.

In the classroom-turned-poultry farm, owner Beatrice Maina called the situation “a disaster as far as academics is concerned.” Her Mwea Brethren School is normally attended by over 300 children and has 20 full-time teachers. But all have been sent home.

As the economy sputters, Maina is raising a different flock altogether in the empty classrooms.

Blackboards now display her notes on chicken rearing. Dates of deworming and data for feed have long replaced multiplication tables.

Maina’s not alone. Some colleagues have ventured into other businesses.

“I hope even my teachers are still doing something because life must continue,” she said.

Schools in Kenya have been closed since March.

OMAHA, Neb. — Tyson Foods is planning to open medical clinics at several of its U.S. plants to improve the health of its workers and better protect them from the coronavirus.

The Springdale, Arkansas-based company, which processes about 20 percent of all beef, pork and chicken in the U.S., said its plan to open the clinics near its plants was in the works before the coronavirus struck this year, but that they will undoubtedly help the company respond to the pandemic.

Tyson said it would initially set up clinics near seven of its plants, including in Storm Lake, Iowa, and Holcomb, Kansas, in a pilot program. It didn’t announce the other locations Thursday. The clinics would open early next year, providing primary care to thousands of Tyson workers and their families.

Tyson is joining a long list of companies that have clinices on or near their worksites or bring in physicians to ensure employees receive annual physicals. Companies say having clinics can reduce health insurance costs by cutting out unnecessary emergency room visits and helping better manage chronic conditions such as diabetes and obesity. It can also improve productivity because employees don’t have to take as much time off for doctor’s appointments.

PRETORIA, South Africa — South African healthcare workers have protested against poor working conditions and urged the government to end corruption in the purchase of COVID-19 personal protective equipment.

The protesters gathered Thursday in Pretoria and Cape Town, charging that the lives of healthcare workers are endangered as some health facilities have inadequate supplies of protective equipment like surgical masks.

The union leading the demonstrations, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union, has threatened that its 200,000 public workers will go on strike on Sept. 10 if their issues are not addressed.

A widespread strike by healthcare workers would cause serious problems for South Africa’s hospitals, which have been stretched to the limit by the coronavirus. Although the number of new confirmed cases of COVID-19 has decreased, South Africa is still reporting more than 2,000 new cases per day and the country has been warned of a possible second wave of infections.

MEXICO CITY — Mexican officials on Thursday downplayed the country’s rate of coronavirus infections and deaths among medical personnel, appearing to dispute reports this week that Mexico had the highest rate in the world.

The Health Department said 1,410 doctors, nurses and other hospital employees had died from COVIED-19, while a total of 104,590 medical workers had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Infections among among health care personnel represented about 17 percent of Mexico’s total 616,900 coronavirus cases, though such workers account for only about 1 percent of the population. Deaths in the sector were only about 2 percent of Mexico’s total deaths, and the government said the fact that health care workers died less frequently than other severe cases showed they weren’t particularly hard hit by the pandemic.

CLANTON, Ala. — It seemed like Billy Joe Driver, 84, was always around in this Alabama city after 36 years as mayor.

Most weekdays you’d find Driver working at a first-floor conference table at Clanton City Hall, and many nights he’d eat at Green’s Small Town Diner with friends. On Fridays it was lunch at the local senior center, and Wednesday night and Sunday meant worship at his church, Temple Assembly of God.

All that visibility meant people noticed when Driver disappeared from public in June, and friends bowed in prayer when word got out he was sick with what many had assumed was a big-city disease, COVID-19. Driver died of the illness in July, forcing a reckoning that’s still rippling through the community.

The new coronavirus is just as dangerous in central Alabama as in New York City, people now know, and older folks who were close to Driver look askance these days at others who flout Alabama’s mandatory mask rule in stores or at high school football games. Many are staying home more than they did early in the pandemic.


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