The Latest: Germany works to tame meatpacking outbreak
BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said “everything needs to be done” to contain an outbreak of the coronavirus linked to a large slaughterhouse where over 1,300 people have tested positive for COVID-19.
Steffen Seibert said 20 workers at the Toennies meat plant in the western Guetersloh region have been hospitalized and several are in intensive care.
“We very much hope that all those who have fallen ill survive,” Seibert told reporters in Berlin on Monday. “This is an outbreak that needs to be taken very seriously.”
Authorities have scrambled to stop the outbreak from spreading, by ordering mass tests of all workers and putting thousands of people into quarantine. The outbreak at Toennies, where many workers are migrants from Eastern Europe, has pushed up Germany’s daily infection rate.
Authorities have dispatched virologists, contact tracing teams and the German army to help contain the outbreak.
Germany’s disease control center says the country has seen 190,359 confirmed cases and 8,885 virus-related deaths — about five times fewer deaths than in Britain.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— The WHO chief is warning world leaders not to politicize the pandemic.
— As virus surges, Pakistan says there’s no choice but to open.
— From shopping to dining out, New York City reopens but some remain wary.
— Coronavirus lockdowns have increased wildlife poaching in Asia and Africa, and it may worsen as countries reopen.
— Young baseball players, deprived of a treasured tournament, get a memento from the stadium.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch public health institute says that no COVID-19 deaths have been reported in the last 24 hours, the first time since March 12 that no new deaths have been seen.
The institute’s Monday death tallies are sometimes lower than other days of the week due to weekend reporting lags.
The official Dutch death toll in the coronavirus pandemic stands at 6,090. The true toll is higher because not all people who have died with suspected COVID-19 were tested.
SAN FRANCISCO — Due to coronavirus restrictions in Silicon Valley, Tesla Inc. is delaying its annual shareholders meeting from July 7 probably until Sept. 15.
The electric car and solar panel company announced the delay in a regulatory filing Monday after CEO Elon Musk revealed it overnight on Twitter.
The event likely will be combined with what Musk has touted as “Battery Day,” when the company is supposed to announce new battery technology that will work for 1 million miles and have longer range than current models.
In the filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Tesla said its board believes that stockholders appreciate the “interpersonal connection and dynamic” of an in-person annual meeting.
It reprinted Musk’s tweets saying Sept. 15 was a tentative date, and the meeting would be held at the company’s factory in Fremont, California.
SOFIA — Bulgarian health authorities have restored some lockdown measures following the rise of new coronavirus cases in the Balkan country.
Health Minister Kiril Ananiev on Monday ordered the mandatory wearing of protective masks in all indoor public places and announced stricter lockdown measures.
Bulgaria had imposed a two-month state of emergency between March and May and health authorities were initially successful in containing a virus outbreak. But with easing lockdown measures, the number of active cases rose by 640 between June 7 and June 22, to a total of 1,632.
The Black Sea nation, which relies heavily on tourism, started to reopen its resorts in hopes of salvaging the summer season, but the current virus spike is derailing those plans.
The first charter flight to Bulgaria this season that was bringing in Latvian tourists was cancelled Monday. The mayor of Bulgaria’s Black Sea town of Burgas, Dimitar Nikolov, added that a total of 150 Burgas-bound chartered flights scheduled for July had been cancelled.
ZAGREB, Croatia — Croatian authorities have banned visits to nursing homes and hospitals in the Croatian coastal town of Zadar following an outbreak of the new coronavirus at an exhibition tennis tournament there.
Tennis players Grigor Dmitrov from Bulgaria, Borna Coric from Croatia and two more people have tested positive after participating in the Adria Tour event organized by top-ranked Novak Djokovic of Serbia.
Authorities said Monday that dozens more tests are underway in Zadar, while Croatia’s state HRT television reported that Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic also will be tested after visiting the event.
Djokovic’s team said he has returned to Serbia and was tested there, while the event has been canceled.
Croatia has reopened in hopes of salvaging the summer tourism season along the Adriatic Sea coast. The European Union nation will hold a national election on July 5.
SEOUL, South Korea -- The mayor of South Korea’s capital fears the country is losing control over a virus resurgence and said Seoul will reimpose stronger social distancing measures if the daily jump in infections doesn’t come below an average of 30 over the next three days.
“If Seoul gets penetrated (by the virus), the entire Republic of Korea gets penetrated,” Park Won-soon said Monday in a televised briefing, referring to South Korea by its formal name.
He also lamented what he described as complacency of citizens in social distancing, citing an increase in public transportation usage that he says has been approaching last year’s levels in recent weeks.
Citing research by health experts, Park the country could be possibly reporting as much as 800 new cases a day a month from now if it fails to stem current trends in transmissions. He said the basic reproduction number of virus carriers, which measures the number of infections caused by an individual, has reached nearly 1.8 for the period between April 30 and June 11. Any number above 1 indicates a growing epidemic.
In a separate briefing, Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, acknowledged that the country was now going through a second wave of the virus, following a surge in late February and March centered around the southeastern city of Daegu.
The country has been reporting around 40 to 50 new cases per day since late May, mostly from the Seoul metropolitan area, where about half of South Korea’s 51 million people live.
South Korea was reported around 500 new case per day in early March but managed to control the outbreak with an active testing and contact tracing campaign.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The head of the World Health Organization is warning that the coronavirus pandemic is still accelerating around the globe.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director-general, noted Monday that the last 1 million cases of the virus were reported in just the last eight days alone.
Ghebreyesus also warned against the “politicization” of the pandemic, likely referring to U.S. President Donald Trump’s criticism of WHO and China over their handling of the outbreak.
Ghebreyesus said: “The greatest threat we face now is not the virus itself, it’s the lack of global solidarity and global leadership. We cannot defeat this pandemic with a divided world.”
Ghebreyesus made the comments during a videoconference organized by the Dubai-based World Government Summit.
JOHANNESBURG — Africa’s reported cases of COVID-19 have surpassed 300,000 as the spread of the disease quickens across the continent.
The Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday the continent now has 306,567 confirmed cases, including 8,115 deaths and 146,212 recoveries. It took more than 90 days for Africa’s 54 countries to reach 100,000 cases, 19 days to reach 200,000 and now 12 days to go above 300,000. The actual number of cases is believed to be much higher because testing across the continent is low.
South Africa, with 97,302 cases, accounts for nearly 1/3 of the continent’s total cases. The country had initially hoped it could control the disease through testing and tracing. But despite conducting more than 1.3 million tests, the highest number in Africa, it currently takes an average of 12 days to get results, which medical experts say is much too long to do any effective tracking and quarantining.
LONDON — The U.N. AIDS agency is warning that the coronavirus pandemic could jeopardize the supply of AIDS drugs in developing countries and could lead to deadly shortages in the next few months.
In a statement Monday, UNAIDS said a survey it recently conducted found that lockdowns and border closures to stop the spread of COVID-19 were affecting both the production and distribution of the medicines, which could result in higher costs and shortages in the next two months.
As of June 2019, UNAIDS estimated that more than 24 million people were on life-saving anti-retroviral drugs and that losing access now could risk their health and the further spread of HIV.
“I call on countries and buyers of HIV medicines to act swiftly in order to ensure everyone who is currently on treatment continues to be on it,” Winnie Byanyima, executive director of UNAIDS, said in a statement.
UNAIDS said the sharp reduction in air and sea transport was complicating the distribution of raw materials and that social distancing was reducing manufacturing capacity. This could lead to a shortage of medicines or price increases, with some of the treatment courses for children estimated to be those worst affected.
The UNAIDS analysis was based on information collected from eight generic manufacturers of AIDS drugs in India, who account for more than 80% of the generic anti-retroviral drug supply globally. Governments in seven other countries that produce generic AIDS medications were also surveyed.
BEIJING — A Beijing government spokesperson said the city has contained the momentum of a recent coronavirus outbreak that has infected more than 200 people, after the number of daily new cases fell to single digits.
“The situation is developing in a good direction ... but the prevention situation remains grave and complex,” Xu Hejian said at a Monday news conference.
Xu spoke after the city reported nine new cases in the previous day, down from more than 20 daily for eight straight days. A massive testing campaign found 236 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 22 more without any symptoms. China does not include the latter in its official case count.
The Transport Ministry said tests of more than 100,000 of the city’s ubiquitous delivery drivers were expected to be competed Monday, as authorities expand testing to more groups.
The outbreak took hold in a huge wholesale food market crowded with workers and buyers. Additional cases traced to the same outbreak have been found in neighboring Hebei province and nearby Tianjin city.
PARIS — With many more pupils returning to school, cinemas and casinos reopening, and more group sports, France’s coronavirus lockdown measures are largely over.
Schoolyards were again filled with children's voices as classes resumed Monday for all pupils except those in high schools who have either finished studies for the academic year or still face restrictions.
Schools closed in March as the coronavirus outbreak raged. Classes gradually resumed for some primary and middle school children in May. But for many others, Monday marked a reunion with teachers and pupils they had only seen via video link during remote learning in recent months.
While more group sports resumed on Monday, combat sports remain banned. The government has promised to revue that policy by September.
Masks are also still obligatory on public transport.
If the outbreak continues to abate in France, the government says nightclubs should be allowed to reopen in September along with trade fairs and international cruises.
BERLIN — Germany’s labor minister is calling for an examination of whether a company whose slaughterhouse is at the center of a big coronavirus outbreak can be held financially liable for the fallout.
As of Sunday, with most results of tests on workers at the Toennies site in Rheda-Wiedenbrueck now in, 1,331 had tested positive and another 4,568 negative.
Local authorities in the western county of Guetersloh have quarantined Toennies employees and last week closed schools in the area. But they are keen to avoid reimposing a wider lockdown, and North Rhine-Westphalia state governor Armin Laschet said Sunday there has been no “significant jump” of the virus to the rest of the local population.
Labor Minister Hubertus Heil told ARD television Monday he expects the company to do everything to limit the damage. He added: “I think we must examine what civil-law liability possibilities there are in this area.”
The source of the infections isn’t yet clear.
NEW DELHI — India’s coronavirus caseload has risen to 425,282 as infections soar in rural areas to which migrant workers fleeing major cities have returned in recent weeks.
India’s health ministry on Monday reported 14,821 new cases and about 300 new deaths, bring the toll of fatalities up to more than 13,000. The coastal state of Goa reported its first COVID-19 death.
India is the fourth most-affected country globally after the United States, Brazil and Russia.
India’s government planning body Niti Aayog says infections have now emerged in 98 out of 112 of the country’s poorest districts.
The Indian government ran special trains to bring thousands of migrant workers back to their ancestral villages in recent weeks.
Still, about 60% of India’s cases have been reported in the states of Delhi, which includes the national capital of New Delhi, Maharashtra, home to India’s financial capital Mumbai and Tamil Nadu, where manufacturing hub Chennai is located.
CANBERRA, Australia — The Australian state of Victoria on Monday reported 16 new cases of the coronavirus as it tries to bring an outbreak there under control.
The number of cases in the state is the highest in two months and has accounted for more than 80% of Australia’s new cases over the past week. That increase has forced the state government to reverse some of its plans to ease certain restrictions from Monday.
Meanwhile, Australia’s central bank says the economic downturn is not as bad as it first feared.
Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe says the economy is benefiting from the way the government responded to the pandemic in both health and economic terms. The number of new cases and the 102 deaths from the virus in Australia are low compared to many other countries.
BEIJING — The chairman of a chain of pharmacies in Beijing has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for selling more than 500,000 counterfeit 3M Corp. masks during the coronavirus epidemic, news reports said Monday.
Two people who colluded with Li Dong, chairman of Kang Baixin Pharmacy, also were sentenced to prison by the Chaoyang District Court, the Beijing News and other outlets reported, citing unidentified sources.
There was no announcement from the court and phone calls to its press office weren’t answered.
Li and co-defendants Li Yuzhang and Luo Hanyi were convicted of buying fake 3M masks and reselling them to pharmacies or individuals, the news reports said. They said the defendants all denied the charges and said they would appeal their conviction.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand has reported two new cases of the coronavirus as a trickle of infected people continue to arrive at the border.
The country of 5 million people now has nine active cases after having none at all earlier this month.
Health officials said Monday that all those cases involve people who have recently arrived and are in quarantine, and there’s no evidence of community transmission.
Still, many remain anxious community transmission could return, especially after health officials admitted making a mistake by allowing two women who had arrived from London to leave quarantine before they had been tested because a parent was dying. The women later tested positive and have since isolated themselves.
The latest two cases involve people returning from India and Pakistan.