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The Latest: Spain to honor its dead in July 16 ceremony

MADRID — Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says a state ceremony will be held on July 16 to honor more than 27,000 people who have died in the pandemic.

Speaking to lawmakers, Sánchez said Wednesday that the ceremony will be presided over by King Felipe VI, Spain’s head of state, and attended by top officials from the European Union and the World Health Organization.

It will take place four months after Spain imposed one of the strictest lockdowns. Confining the population at home and halting most of the economic activity, it took nearly two months to curb the outbreak.

Spain has had more than 244,000 confirmed cases. Although daily deaths are believed to have dropped to a single digit, the government has kept the fatality toll at 27,136 for two weeks as it revises inconsistencies on reporting from different regional authorities.

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

Flights canceled as Beijing’s new outbreak raises concerns

— Months into virus, biggest one-day case spike worries Iran

Australia accuses China and Russia of virus disinformation

— Researchers in England say they have the first evidence that a drug can improve survival from COVID-19. The drug is a cheap, widely available steroid called dexamethasone. Results released Tuesday show it reduced deaths by up to one third in severely ill hospitalized patients.

— For Fort Bragg soldiers deploying to the Middle East, the usual predeparture fanfare has been replaced with a mandatory two-week quarantine amid the coronavirus pandemic. Married paratroopers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team are hunkering down at home before boarding a military transport to fly across the globe. Single soldiers, meanwhile, are quarantined in a secluded compound on base.

— U.S. officials say they expect health insurance companies will cover vaccines for COVID-19 without charging copays, once those vaccines are approved and become available. At a briefing for reporters Tuesday, a senior Trump administration official said the government has been talking with insurers about offering vaccines at no cost to patients.

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Danish government is urging participants in a large racial justice demonstration earlier this month to get tested after a person in the crowd tested positive for the coronavirus.

Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said 15,000 people attended the June 7 rally in downtown Copenhagen and “some of them stood very close to each other.”

He urged them to get tested “whether you have symptoms or not.”

He says “as long as we have the virus in Europe and in Denmark, it will flare up. We are dealing with a very, very contagious disease.”

Two other outbreaks have been reported in Denmark, including a nursing home in the north where at least 26 persons have tested positive. Six people on a June 6 flight from Pakistan also have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and more may have been exposed. Authorities are currently tracking other passengers.

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ISLAMABAD — A top health official says Pakistan will consider the use of Britain’s new drug that experts say reduces death risk in seriously ill COVID-19 patients.

Wednesday’s announcement by Zafar Mirza, who advises Prime Minister Imran Khan on health issues, came as Pakistan reported 136 more COVID-19 deaths, the highest single-day number of fatalities.

The government has moved to seal off hot spots across the country to contain the rising trajectory of infections.

On Wednesday, Pakistan reported 5,839 new cases for a total of 154,760, including 2,975 deaths.

Britain reported that clinical trial found that a cheap, widely available steroid called dexamethasone, reduced deaths by up to one third in hospitalized patients who needed oxygen.

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NEW DELHI, India — India has added more than 2,000 COVID-19 deaths to its tally, after Delhi and Maharashtra states included 1,672 unreported fatalities, increasing the total number to 11,903.

The Health Ministry on Wednesday reported 10,974 new coronavirus cases for a total of 354,065. Of the 2,003 newly added fatalities, 331 were reported in the last 24 hours.

India has been reporting some 10,000 new infections and more than 300 deaths each day over the last two weeks. The previously unreported deaths have driven India’s fatality rate from 2.9% to 3.4%.

Earlier, health experts had warned that India was undercounting fatalities as some states used different criteria. Like elsewhere, the actual numbers are thought to be higher as testing remains limited.

India is the fourth hardest-hit country by the pandemic after the U.S., Russia and Brazil.

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has assigned a top military leader to oversee the nation’s border quarantine measures after what she described as an “unacceptable failure” by health officials in allowing two women who had recently returned from London to leave quarantine before they had been tested for the virus.

The women, who are New Zealand citizens, had flown home to visit a dying parent and were granted an exemption to leave their mandatory 14-day quarantine early on compassionate grounds. They then traveled by car from Auckland to Wellington, where they tested positive for the virus.

Health officials said the women had no contact with other people on their road trip. However, officials said they are contacting 320 people who may have come into contact with the women on their flight or in the hotel they stayed at during their time in quarantine.

Before the two new cases were announced Tuesday, New Zealand had gone more than three weeks without reporting any new cases and was considered virus-free.

Ardern has advocated tough border measures to prevent another outbreak and has cancelled quarantine exemptions on compassionate grounds while the case is investigated further.

She said she had appointed Air Commodore Digby Webb, the assistant chief of defense, to oversee all quarantine and managed isolation facilities.

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CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne says China and Russia are using the heightened anxiety around the coronavirus pandemic to undermine Western democracies by spreading disinformation online.

Payne said in a speech at the Australian National University that the disinformation contributed to a “climate of fear and division” when the world needed cooperation and understanding.

She said “it is troubling that some countries are using the pandemic to undermine liberal democracy to promote their own more authoritarian models.” Payne referred to a Europe Union commission report Russia and China are flooding Europe with disinformation campaigns.

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BEIJING — China’s capital reported a slight increase in the numbers confirmed new coronavirus cases Wednesday as it seeks to battle the recent outbreak with strict measures aimed at reducing human contact and the chances of a new wave of infections across the country.

The capital, which had seemed to have the outbreak under control, reported 31 cases, up from 27 the day before, primarily linked to the city of 20 million’s largest wholesale market in its southwest.

Nationwide, China reported 44 new cases, around the average for recent days. Eleven of those were brought from abroad by Chinese travelers, while one other local case was from Hebei province adjacent to Beijing and one in the eastern province of Zhejiang further south.

No new deaths were reported and just 252 people are currently in treatment for COVID-19, with another 113 being isolated and observed for being suspected cases or for testing positive for the virus without showing any symptoms.

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MEXICO CITY — Even as Mexico announces plans for reopening churches and religious events, the country is posting near-record numbers of newly confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19.

The Health Department reported on Tuesday that confirmed cases rose by 4,599, the second-highest daily increase to date, to reach an accumulated total of 154,863.

Deaths rose by 730, the third-highest daily confirmation number, after one-day increases of 1,092 and 816 earlier this month. Those death tolls rivaled those of the United States.

Both case and death total — which now stands at 18,310 — are clearly undercounts, because Mexico does very little testing.

Health officials acknowledged Mexico is on a plateau with sustained rates of transmission and deaths, with few if any signs of a decrease. Despite that, business are beginning to reopen after mandatory lockdowns due to the coronavirus.

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