Steve August 31, 2020
the-latest:-eu-joins-coronavirus-vaccine-alliance-covax

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. I’m confident this will bring us closer to our goal: beating this virus, together.”

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 that might be developed could be hoarded by rich countries in a race to inoculate their populations first.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK

— In South Africa, the pandemic claimed 14,000 lives, plus the rituals to mourn them

— In China’s Xinjiang, forced medication accompanies lockdown

— Survey: China manufacturing logs feeble growth in August

— Arizona reports 374 new coronavirus cases, 23 more deaths

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Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

TRENTON, N.J. — Indoor dining will resume Friday with limited capacity in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy announced.

Restaurants will only be able to have 25% capacity under the new rules, 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 the updated regulations.

It comes five months after the state shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. The outbreak in New Jersey has led to more than 190,000 positive cases, with over 14,000 fatalities.

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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.

University of Fairbanks Chancellor Dan White said athletes from different sports attended the Aug. 22 party. No university staff members were there, but officials said head hockey coach Erik Largen was also quarantined because he had close contact with players.

University officials don’t know if every member of the hockey team was at the party. All the players are quarantined because they were in close contact while working out together.

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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 told a joint press conference that the vaccine should be administered in priority to people over age 70, people in risk groups, and care and nursing staff.

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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 “cracks in our health systems” and the need for better preparation for health emergencies like the pandemic that has produced more than 25 million confirmed cases and killed over 843,000 people by WHO’s count. Such figures are believed to far underestimate the actual totals.

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 that it involved “self-assessment,” as well as differences in the phases of the outbreak that countries were experiencing.

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NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus’ education minister says mask-wearing will be compulsory for all middle and high school students but optional for primary and kindergarten grades when all schools open next week.

Prodromos Prodromou affirmed the guideline on Monday, easing an earlier position that masks would be mandatory for all grades when kids return on Sept. 7. The revised approach comes after an earlier Health Ministry decision to adopt a World Health Organization recommendation making mask-wearing compulsory for individuals 12 and over in enclosed spaces.

Prodromou said schools were instructed to conduct classes in the largest available spaces to ensure social distancing. He says his ministry is ready to switch to online teaching if coronavirus infection rates within schools increase.

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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.

He says the plan will try to accomplish structural reforms in digitalization, equal conditions for women, and fight climate change, as well as addressing regional and social differences to establish a sustained growth during the next decade.

Speaking to business leaders and representatives from civil society, he also called for unity, in what was seen as a call for opposition parties to back his left wing coalition’s new national budget when it’s presented to parliament later this year.

Spain, with nearly 440,000 infections of the new virus since February, has become western Europe’s hardest-hit country by a new surging wave of fresh outbreaks.

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BUCHAREST, Romania — Romanian government is lifting several restrictions on daily life imposed earlier to curb the spread of 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.

The announcement was made hours before the Romanian parliament was set to vote on a no-confidence motion against the government. It was filed by the strongest opposition party over what they describe as the incompetent response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Since the pandemic took hold in Romania in late February, the country has confirmed over 87,500 virus cases and 3,600 deaths.

Nearly 45% of all virus cases and close to 40% of all virus-related deaths were registered since the start of August.

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LONDON — British authorities say 16 coronavirus cases have been linked to a flight that brought U.K. tourists back from Greece, and everyone aboard has been told to isolate themselves for two weeks.

Public Health Wales says it is contacting almost 200 people who were aboard the Tui flight from the Greek island of Zante to Cardiff, Wales, on Tuesday.

Gwen Lowe of Public Health Wales says 30 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the last week among people who returned from Zante on several flights. She says the number is expected to rise.

The U.K. requires people arriving from overseas to quarantine for two weeks, unless they are coming from one of more than 70 countries and territories considered at low risk from the coronavirus. Greece is on the exemption list.

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TIRANA, Albania — In a test before the start of the school year, a few thousand Albanian elementary school students have started lessons following strict personal hygiene and environmental rules.

The Education Ministry said 4,500 students resumed lessons Monday while social distancing, wearing masks and having temperatures checked.

The move is considered as a preparatory step ahead of the mass school start in two weeks.

Education and health authorities have prepared other alternatives like online schooling if they see a spike of cases after the start of the school year.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey reports that its economy contracted by 9.9% in the second quarter of the year from the previous three-month period in the wake of lockdown measures put in place to deal with the pandemic.

Though the quarterly decline in the April to June period reported by the Turkish Statistical Institute on Monday was the country’s biggest contraction in more than a decade, it was slightly better than economists had predicted.

When the pandemic struck in March, the government imposed a number of restrictions to keep a lid on infections that inevitably hurt the economy.

As well as shutting down some businesses, it imposed weekend curfews, closed borders and restricted domestic travel. Many of the restrictions were lifted in June.

Hopes that the economy would rebound strongly in the third quarter have faltered as tourism levels have been way lower than previous years.

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NEW DELHI — India has registered 78,512 new coronavirus cases in a 24-hour span, maintaining an upward surge.

The Health Ministry on Monday also reported 948 deaths in the previous 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 64,469.

The surge has raised the country’s total reported virus cases since the pandemic began to more than 3.6 million.

A country of 1.4 billion people, India now has the fastest-growing reported coronavirus caseload of any country in the world, seeing more than 75,000 new cases for five straight days.

The virus has hit India’s major cities and is now fast spreading in smaller towns and rural areas.

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand has lifted a lockdown imposed on the city of Auckland and mandated wearing masks on public transportion.

The nation’s largest city had been in a lockdown for more than two weeks after an outbreak of the coronavirus was discovered earlier this month. The outbreak followed more than three months without any community transmission.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins said Monday that it was safe to reopen Auckland because all the recent infections have been linked to the same cluster through contact tracing.

He noted: “We’re already seeing signs of the city getting back to normal.”

New Zealand reported nine new virus infections Monday, including four among recently returned travelers who are in quarantine.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has counted its 18th straight day of triple-digit daily jumps in coronavirus cases as its health minister warned about an increase in transmissions gone untraced.

The 248 new cases reported by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday brought the total reported cases since the pandemic began to 19,947, including 324 deaths.

KCDC said 187 of the new cases came from the Seoul metropolitan area, which has been at the center of the viral resurgence this month.

But infections were also reported in major cities across the country, including Busan, Daejeon, Ulsan and Daegu, which was the epicenter of the country’s previous major outbreak in late February and March.

Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said it has become difficult for epidemiological workers to track transmissions and predict infection routes, saying they haven’t been able to trace the infection source of more than 20% of the cases found in the past two weeks.

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MELBOURNE, Australia — The Australian state of Victoria has reported 41 new virus deaths as the government urges the hot spot state to announce plans to lift lockdown restrictions.

Victoria’s health department on Monday also reported 73 new coronavirus infections.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said only eight of the new fatalities occurred in the previous 24-hour period.

The other 33 had died in aged care since late July and were reported on Sunday, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said.

The most deaths reported at a single time had previously been the 25 reported on Aug. 17.

Andrews said he would announce his government’s plan to reopen the economy on Sunday.

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