Steve August 18, 2020
the-latest:-japan’s-exports-plunge-19.2%-amid-pandemic

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.

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

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— 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.

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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:

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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