The Latest: US envoy to Afghanistan not going to Kabul
ISLAMABAD — The U.S. peace envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, will not be going to the Afghan capital, Kabul, while in the region on his latest peace mission because of the dangers presented by the coronavirus and instead will video conference with Afghan leaders, the U.S. State Department said.
Afghanistan’s dilapidated health system is grappling with the pandemic, with the number of infections thought to far outnumber the official tally of over 31,000 cases, including 733 deaths.
Khalilzad, who was in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, on Tuesday, will be traveling to Pakistan later in the day or early Wednesday before meeting with Taliban officials in Qatar, where they have a political office.
The coronavirus infection rate in Pakistan has been climbing steadily, with 209,336 cases recorded as of Tuesday and more than 4,300 deaths.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Experts say the pandemic is wreaking havoc in poor and war-torn nations.
— Virus cases worldwide hit 10 million and deaths have surpassed 500,000.
— UK PM Boris Johnson says the pandemic “has been a disaster” for Britain.
— Hunger stalks Yemen's children as pandemic hits Arab world's poorest nation.
— Nurses, doctors feel strain as virus races through Arizona.
— The pandemic means millions of women in Africa and other developing regions could lose years of success in contributing to household incomes and asserting their independence.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
LONDON — Britain’s medical regulatory agency has approved the resumption of a trial testing whether hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug favored by U.S. President Donald Trump, might help prevent health workers from contracting the coronavirus.
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency had suspended enrollment into the trial after a paper was published in the journal Lancet last month that suggested there was an increased death risk linked to the drug. The paper was found to be based on fraudulent data and was retracted.
A large British trial previously found that hydroxychloroquine did not prevent deaths among people hospitalized with COVID-19 compared to people who didn’t get the drug. The World Health Organization suspended its own trial into the drug, citing data from Britain and elsewhere, but said it was still unknown whether or not hydroxychloroquine might work to prevent coronavirus infections preventively.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency said it had approved the resumption of an ongoing clinical trial testing the use of the drug in health workers. Oxford University’s tropical research center in Bangkok is leading a trial aiming to include more than 40,000 health workers and other staff at risk to determine if hydroxychloroquine can stop infections of the coronavirus.
MADRID — Spanish official statistics show that the country’s gross domestic product contracted 5.2% during the first three months of the year compared to the previous quarter, the biggest drop in at least half a century.
The National Institute of Statistics, or INE, said Tuesday that the economic freeze imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus impacted the economy like never before since quarterly records began to be kept in 1970. From January to March 2009, following a global financial meltdown, the country’s GDP shrank by 2.6%.
If the figures for the second quarter are also negative compared to the first — and nobody doubts that since the impact of a strict lockdown was felt especially in April and May, and recovery of economic activity since then has been slow — the eurozone’s fourth-largest economy will officially enter in recession.
That’s a sharp contrast from GDP growth averaging 0.4% in the second, third and fourth quarters of 2019. Year on year, the drop on the first quarter of 2020 was of 4.1% compared to the same period in 2019.
Spain has recorded some 249,000 coronavirus infections confirmed by lab tests and at least 28,300 deaths.
TOKYO — Online services Yahoo Japan and Line Corp. said Tuesday the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic is causing delays that will push back their merger to later than the scheduled October date.
Z Holdings Corp., which operates Yahoo Japan, and Naver Corp. of South Korea, which owns a majority stake in Line, announced last year the merger as equal partners that will form a joint venture through a tender offer.
Both sides said procedures required under law were getting delayed because of the outbreak.
“Due in part to the impact of the global spread of COVID19, the procedures and measures under the competition laws of some of the countries have not been completed,” their statement said.
A new schedule will be announced as soon as possible, it said.
Z Holdings includes Yahoo Japan, Japan Net Bank, Gyao video content distributor, BuzzFeed Japan and ZoZo fashion e-commerce under its wing. It’s also part of Japanese technology giant SoftBank Group., which includes solar power and robotics.
The planned combination will create one of the largest Japanese net businesses in combined sales, with retail services, advertising and mobile messaging. The move is designed to boost competitiveness in an evolving market, with potential expansion in various sectors focused on the Japanese market.
MELBOURNE, Australia — Australia’s second-largest city will lock down dozens of suburbs for a month in a bid to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said Tuesday that 233 positive tests for COVID-19 in Melbourne since Thursday was unacceptably high.
Andrews announced 10 zip codes covering 36 suburbs in which residents will be required to stay at home from Wednesday night until July 29 except for four permitted reasons.
Residents will face fines if they leave home for reasons other than to give or receive care, to exercise, to buy essentials or to go to work or school. People who live outside those suburbs will only be allowed to enter them for the same reasons.
Andrews also announced there would be no international flights allowed into Melbourne for the next two weeks to help curb infections.
SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea’s professional baseball league says it will require fans to wear masks, sit at least a seat apart and prohibit them from eating food in the stands as it prepares to bring back spectators in the coming weeks amid the coronavirus epidemic.
The Korea Baseball Organization said Tuesday that teams will be initially allowed to sell only 30% of the seats for each game. It said attendance could be expanded to as much as 50% depending on the progress in the country’s anti-virus efforts.
Fans will also be screened for fevers and discouraged from shouting, singing and cheering during the game. They will be able to buy tickets only with credit cards so that health authorities could easily locate them when needed. South Korea has been actively tracing the contacts of virus carriers using credit card information, cellphone location data and surveillance camera footage.
The KBO became one of the world’s first major sports competitions to return to action in May, but without fans in the stands. Seats have been covered with cheering banners, dolls or pictures of fans as teams tried to mimic a festive atmosphere.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The island nation of Bahrain says it will cover 50% of the salaries of private-sector workers amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The island kingdom off Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf says the program will begin in July and covers “insured citizens employed in the private sector working for companies most affected by the coronavirus.”
The payments will go on for three months.
The kingdom says it also will cover electricity bills at employees’ homes.
Like other Gulf Arab nations, Bahrain has a large population of foreign workers. The kingdom’s announcement is among the most significant aid offered that covers those workers.
SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea has reported 43 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 from across the country as infections begin to spread beyond the greater capital area, which has been at the center of a virus resurgence since late May.
The figures announced by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday brought national totals to 12,800 cases, including 282 deaths. Seventeen of the new cases came from the Seoul metropolitan area, where about half of South Korea’s 51 million people live, while infections were also reported in other major cities such as Daejeon, Gwangju, Busan and Sejong.
Twenty of the new cases were linked to international arrivals as the coronavirus continues to strengthen its hold in Southern Asia, the United States and beyond.
Authorities in recent weeks have been struggling to track transmissions that have been popping up from various places as people increasingly venture out in public amid an erosion in citizen vigilance.
SALEM, Ore. — Gov. Kate Brown announced Monday that people throughout Oregon will be required to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces starting Wednesday to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The guidance applies to businesses and members of the public visiting indoor public spaces, she said in a news release.
Face covering requirements were mandated in eight counties last week. Over the past month, Brown said the disease has spread at an alarming rate in both urban and rural counties.
Face coverings that cover the nose and mouth play a critical role in reducing the spread of the disease because droplets from people’s breath can carry the virus to others without people realizing it, she said.
She said she did not want to close businesses again as has happened in other states that are seeing a spike in cases. She said Oregon Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) will take the lead in enforcing face covering requirements for all covered Oregon businesses.
TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly says she will issue an executive order mandating the use of masks in public starting Friday to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“The evidence could not be clearer — wearing a mask is not only safe, but it is necessary to avoid another shutdown,” the Democratic governor told reporters Monday.
Kelly’s executive order would require every Kansan to wear a mask if they are around other people. She said her administration will issue specific guidance later this week and will work with the attorney general’s office to implement the policy.
Local officials would enforce the policy.
“”This is all we have to fight this virus and it is up to each of us to do our part,” Kelly said.
Kansas health officials reported on Monday at least 14,443 confirmed coronavirus cases, an increase of 905 since Friday. The state also had six more deaths from COVID-19, bring the total number of deaths in the state to 270. Kansas reported that 1,152 people had been hospitalized.
MIAMI — In South Beach, not wearing a mask could lead to a $50 fine starting Tuesday. Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said the broader regulations, which include requiring masks when not able to socially distance, including outside, in condominium common areas and at hotels, will be punishable with a verbal warning or fine. A curfew is also being discussed.
“We don’t have too many tools left in our kit, and we don’t want to be forced to return to a shelter in place order that proved so economically devastating,” Gelber said, urging residents to comply.
The city will also dispatch ambassadors to congested areas to pass out free masks.
“To those of you who seem to believe that wearing a mask is a political statement — it is not. This virus couldn’t care who you support or what party you belong to,” said Gelber. “I don’t know the politics of the 13 seniors living here in South Beach and who recently perished.”