Wednesday’s announcement comes as Iran struggles with the largest outbreak in the Middle East with 350,200 confirmed cases. But despite the somber statistic, the Islamic Republic is still holding university entrance exams for over 1 million students and is preparing for mass Shiite commemorations at the end of the month.
Earlier this year Iran suffered the Mideast’s first major outbreak, with senior politicians, health officials and religious leaders in its Shiite theocracy stricken with the virus.
It since has struggled to contain its spread across this nation of 80 million people, initially beating it back only to see it spike again, beginning in June.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Baby boom ahead as COVID-19 kept millions of women from care
— Colleges grapple with coronavirus as students return
— Lives Lost: ‘Warrior’ fought for slave descendants in Brazil
— A widely used coronavirus test is under scrutiny after federal health officials flagged two separate issues that could deliver inaccurate results for patients.
— France is now mandating masks in all workplaces, from the Paris business district to factories in the provinces.
— Rates of depression appear to have almost doubled in Britain since the country was put into lockdown in late March as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
— Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
LONDON — London’s Heathrow Airport, the U.K.’s busiest, has unveiled a new coronavirus testing facility that could sharply reduce the length of time people have to stay at home after arriving from countries on the government’s quarantine list.
Heathrow’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye said testing will help avoid what he termed the “quarantine roulette” that many British travelers have faced over the past few weeks when countries like France and Spain were taken off the U.K.’s safe list.
The new facility has been set up by aviation services company Collinson and logistics firm Swissport at Heathrow’s Terminal 2. They say more than 13,000 tests will be available to passengers each day, with results within hours.
It is proposed that arrivals will then take a second test at home and will be able to leave their 14-day quarantine early if they pass both.
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government was not in a position to back Heathrow’s plan but insisted that it was working with airports to find a way for coronavirus testing to reduce the quarantine period.
HELSINKI — Finland says it will tighten travel restrictions and reintroduce and step up border checks for arrivals from 10 countries starting Monday due to the worsening pandemic situation in Europe and elsewhere.
The Finnish government says border checks will apply for passengers to and from Nordic neighbors Denmark, Iceland and Norway as well as Germany, Greece and Malta – all countries belonging to the European Union’s borderless Schengen area.
Outside the Schengen area, border checks will be stepped up for arrivals from Cyprus, Ireland, San Marino and Japan.
Passengers arriving to Finland from those countries are recommended to self-quarantine for 14 days. Travel in Finland’s border areas with Sweden and Norway is more relaxed.
Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo says Finland’s current coronavirus travel policies are among the tightest in the EU.
Border checks can be relaxed if a country records fewer than eight infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the past two weeks.
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is warning against any prospect that rich people would get priority for a coronavirus vaccine.
Francis says, “The pandemic is a crisis. You don’t come out of it the same — either better or worse.″ He added that “we must come out better.”
In remarks on Wednesday during his weekly public audience, he said that after the COVID-19 pandemic, the world can’t return to normality if normal means social injustice and degradation of the natural environment.
Said Francis: “How sad it would be if for the COVID-19 vaccine priority is given to the richest.”
He also said it would be scandalous if all the economic assistance in the works, most of it using public funds, ends up reviving industries that don’t help the poor or the environment.
WARSAW, Poland — The director of a major Polish hospital has warned that his facility is at risk of running out of beds for coronavirus patients.
The country of 38 million has so far registered some 58,000 cases and 1,900 deaths, numbers which are far lower than many countries in western Europe. However, infections have been rising for weeks, with around 700 new cases per day — up from 200-300 earlier in the summer.
Marcin Jędrychowski, director of the University Hospital in Krakow, the largest and most modern facility in Poland, told the news portal Onet that his hospital has already been forced to select patients and admit only the most severe cases.
He says, “With such an upward trend that has continued for many days, we will soon run out of places.”
He said he was also concerned about a further rise of infections once schools reopen on Sept. 1.
TOKYO — Japan’s exports in July plunged 19.2% from a year ago, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to slam the world’s third largest economy.
The Finance Ministry’s provisional numbers showed Japan’s imports in July fell 22.3%.
Exports to the U.S. especially suffered, declining 19.5% last month. They include plastic goods, iron and steel and computer parts. But Japan recorded its first trade surplus in four months on the back of a recovery in China.
Japan’s export-reliant economy has been ailing since the outbreak caused some plant production to be temporarily halted, squelched tourism and generally hurt economic activity.
Japan has never imposed a lockdown but has encouraged people to work from home, wear masks and social distance. Some stores have closed or shortened their hours.
Japan has had about 1,100 confirmed COVID-19 deaths among 57,636 cases. Worries are growing over a recent surge in infection, especially in Tokyo and other urban areas.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand appears to be gaining control over a coronavirus outbreak in Auckland after just five new community infections were reported Wednesday amid record levels of testing and contact tracing.
A sixth infection was found in a quarantined traveler who had returned from Qatar.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says 500 more military personnel would be deployed to quarantine hotels as the nation looks to reduce the number of private security guards it employs and tighten its border controls.
Health authorities have still not figured out how the outbreak began after the country went 102 days without the virus spreading in the community. The discovery of the outbreak last week prompted authorities to put the nation’s largest city into a two-week lockdown.
NEW DELHI — India reported 1,092 new fatalities from COVID-19 on Wednesday, its highest single-day total.
India has the fourth-most deaths in the world and the third-most cases, with over 2.7 million — including more than 64,000 new infections reported in the last 24 hours.
The actual numbers, like elsewhere in the world, are thought to be far higher due to limited testing.
Four of India’s 28 states now account for 63% of total fatalities and 54.6% of the caseload. The western state of Maharashtra and the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are the country’s worst-hit regions.
CANBERRA, Australia — Australia has announced a deal to manufacture a potential coronavirus vaccine being developed by British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZenec.
“Under the deal, every single Australian will be able to receive the University of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine for free, should trials prove successful, safe and effective,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement Wednesday.
Morrison said the Oxford University trial was in a phase-three stage and more work was needed to prove its viability.
“If this vaccine proves successful, we will manufacture and supply vaccines straight away under our own steam and make it free for 25 million Australians,” Morisson said.
Morrison said there was no guarantee that the vaccine would be successful, “which is why we are continuing our discussions with many parties around the world while backing our own researchers at the same time to find a vaccine.”
SPARKS, Nev. — Thousands of students began returning to northern Nevada classrooms or the first time since March with masks, social distancing and other precautions to help guard against the spread of COVID-19.
Others cranked up their laptops from home Tuesday in Reno and Sparks where the Washoe County school district is using a combination of in-person and distance learning.
The scheduled start of the new school year in Reno-Sparks was delayed a day over concerns about unhealthy air quality driven by smoke from a nearby wildfire.
The state’s largest school district doesn’t open until next week in Las Vegas, where it will be having only remote instruction.
RALEIGH, N.C. — Health officials have identified a COVID-19 cluster at another North Carolina university.
A statement from North Carolina State University confirmed on Tuesday that Wake County health officials identified of COVID-19 cases at off-campus housing east of the Raleigh, North Carolina, campus.
The school said several people who have tested positive as part of this cluster have been identified, including some who are N.C. State students. Contact tracing has been initiated with direct communication to anyone known to have been in close contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, according to the school.
The school said reports indicated a party or some type of gathering was hosted at the location on or around Aug. 6. The notice said it was not known how many people were at the gathering, but encouraged anyone who attended to visit their personal healthcare provider or Student Health Services.
SANTA FE, N.M. — It’s too early to say whether a COVID-19 vaccine — once available — will be mandatory for certain people in New Mexico, but Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is indicating that health care workers, educators, nursing home residents and emergency responders could be among those required to be inoculated.
Acknowledging uncertainties about the availability and effectiveness of a vaccine, the Democratic governor said she expects a debate over mandating certain groups of people to accept the vaccine.
Her comments came during a recent briefing as pharmaceutical companies race to have a vaccine ready by early next year.
New Mexico has seen its daily COVID-19 case counts improve. On Tuesday, an additional 79 cases were confirmed, bringing the statewide total to nearly 23,580 since the pandemic began.
The governor’s administration has authority under a 2003 state law to issue vaccine orders during a declared public health emergency. The Albuquerque Journal reported that those who decline a vaccine for reasons of health, religion or conscience can be ordered to isolate or self-quarantine under the same law.