The Latest: Italy governor wants people to quarantine, trace
ROME — The governor of Italy’s northeastern Veneto region says he’ll crack down on people who test positive but refuse to quarantine or give details to health authorities about recent contacts for tracing.
After days of fewer than a dozen daily confirmed infections, Veneto’s new cases increased to 20 on Thursday. Gov. Luca Zaia says next week he’ll present a new ordinance aimed at ensuring those testing positive stay home in isolation until further testing indicates they have cleared the virus.
Said Zaia: “If we continue to go around without masks in crowds, continue to give credence to conspiracy-believers, those who think the virus was invented by Big Pharma, Martians or came aboard some spaceship, it’s inevitable” that Veneto’s cases numbers will rise again.
Veneto, which early on stressed widespread testing, has had only a fraction of confirmed cases and deaths than its neighbor, Lombardy, by far Italy’s worst-stricken region.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Miami mayor sets curfew, closes some businesses.
— Confirmed coronavirus cases are rising in 40 of 50 states.
— Kim Jong Un urges North Koreans to keep up virus fight.
— South Africa’s hospitals bracing for surge of virus patients.
— Pubs in England can reopen on Saturday for the first time since they were closed on March 20 as part of the coronavirus lockdown. Those that reopen will have to make sure they are safe for staff and customers alike.
— With coronavirus-related restrictions being eased and temperatures climbing, people are flocking back to the Jersey Shore. And with the July Fourth holiday on the horizon, that’s making some people nervous.
— Nearby South American countries are grappling with uncontrolled spread of the novel coronavirus, but Paraguay appears to be controlling the disease. It’s had just a few thousand confirmed cases and a few dozen deaths.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi announced he’s tested positive for the coronavirus.
He says he felt a ’slight fever,” immediately quarantined at home and later tested positive for the coronavirus.
Qureshi is the senior most government official to contract the virus. Pakistan’s infection rate has been steadily climbing as Prime Minister Imran Khaneased restrictions saying the country’s fragile economy would collapse under a strict lockdown and the poorest would suffer the most.
Khan has gone on national television to ask Pakistanis to wear masks and social distance, but the vast majority largely ignore the precautions. Confirmed infections reached 221,896 on Friday and more than 4,500 deaths. Pakistan has pulled back on testing to around 20,000 tests a day from a high of more than 32,000.
Four Parliamentarians have died of COVID-19 disease, one from the federal legislature and three provincial Parliamentarians.
BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia announced the highest number of daily deaths since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the Balkan country, as authorities declared an emergency in the capital of Belgrade.
Authorities say 11 people have died and there were 309 new confirmed cases in the last 24 hours. This compares to the highest previous daily figure of nine deaths on April 14.
Serbia has gone from a very tight lockdown to almost total relaxation, allowing spectators back to the soccer and tennis venues and reopening nightclubs. Government critics have said this was because populist authorities wanted to hold the June 21 parliamentary election that tightened their grip on power.
The Belgrade crisis team on Friday said nightclubs and cafes will be closed between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. and public gatherings limited to 100 people indoors and 500 outdoors. Those not wearing masks in closed spaces face strict fines.
Emergency measures also have been introduced in several other towns in Serbia where hospitals have been overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients in recent days.
Belgrade authorities said the rules will be reviewed in two weeks. So far, there have been 25,504 confirmed cases and 298 deaths in Serbia.
BUCHAREST, Romania — Only about a third of hospital beds for coronavirus patients are available in Romania following a week during which the country has been logging hundreds of daily cases.
In the last day, the number of confirmed cases rose by 420, one of the highest daily increases in Romania since the start of its outbreak at the end of February.
“We started transferring intensive care patients between different hospitals to ensure they still have a bed available,” said Nelu Tataru, Romania’s Health Minister.
Tataru and other officials attributed the surge to a failure by local authorities in some parts of Romania to clearly communicate to the public that the danger from the virus was not removed after easing its lockdown on May 15.
Total confirmed cases in Romania reached nearly 28,200 and 1,708 deaths.
MIAMI — The mayor of Florida’s most populous county has issued a new overnight curfew and will close some businesses that reopened in June.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez says the 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew begins Friday night and will be in place indefinitely. The order closes casinos, movie theaters and other entertainment venues.
“This curfew is meant to stop people from venturing out and hanging out with friends in groups, which has shown to be spreading the virus rapidly,” Gimenez said in a statement.
On Thursday, Florida reported a new daily record of 10,109 COVID-19 positive cases. The state’s health department on Thursday tallied 325 new coronavirus hospitalizations in Florida, one of the biggest 24-hour jumps.
The 66-year-old Gimenez cited staffing shortages at local hospitals in announcing the curfew.
The Cuban-born Republican had previously announced beaches would be closed over the July 4th holiday weekend.
BEIJING – Officials in China’s capital city say 10 million people have been tested for the coronavirus.
Samples had been collected from 10.4 million people, about half the city’s population, through Thursday and tests had been completed on nearly 10.1 million, according to Zhang Qiang, a Communist Party official,
Starting Saturday, officials say Beijing will lift a requirement that anyone leaving the city must have a negative coronavirus test result within the past seven days. Authorities imposed the testing requirement and restricted outbound travel after an outbreak emerged three weeks ago.
Beijing officials reported two new cases in the previous 24-hour period, raising the total confirmed in the three-week outbreak to 331.
LONDON — Official figures show nearly 20,000 care home residents in England and Wales died after contracting the coronavirus, comprising nearly 40% of COVID-19-related deaths.
In its assessment of death certificates between March 2 and June 12, the Office for National Statistics has found 19,394 care home residents mentioned “novel coronavirus” as a cause of death. That’s 29.3% of the deaths of care home residents over the period.
The tally includes all care home residents who died with coronavirus either at their care home or in hospital. Around three-quarters of the deaths took place in the care home, with men more vulnerable to dying from the virus than women.
Comparative figures show the U.K. as a whole – including Scotland and Northern Ireland -- failed to contain the outbreak in care homes, along with other countries.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson acknowledged it’s been an “absolutely miserable time” and the government “will have to have a proper investigation.”
RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinian Authority is imposing a five-day lockdown following a surge in coronavirus infections in the occupied West Bank.
Beginning Friday, residents are ordered to remain at home unless they need to purchase food or medicine. Movement between cities and towns is heavily restricted.
Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority imposed sweeping restrictions in March that largely succeeded in containing their outbreaks. But as the restrictions have been lifted in recent weeks, the number of new cases has surged in both Israel and the West Bank.
In the past two weeks, Palestinian health authorities have reported more than 1,700 confirmed coronavirus cases in the West Bank city of Hebron and hundreds more in Bethlehem and Nablus.
The Palestinian Authority, which governs parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, has reported more than 3,000 cases and at least 10 deaths since the outbreak began. Israel has reported more than 27,000 cases and at least 326 deaths.
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus’ beleaguered tourism sector got some good news after the government announced that U.K. travelers will be allowed entry into the east Mediterranean island nation next month without a compulsory 14-day quarantine.
But Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou says that still depends on whether U.K. coronavirus infection rates stay at the current low ebb.
Ioannou said that as of Aug. 1, Britain will be grouped with 14 other countries including France, Italy and Spain, where travelers will be required to obtain a health certificate declaring them coronavirus-free three days prior to boarding a flight.
Britons made up a third of Cyprus’ 4 million tourist arrivals last year.
Tourism officials say July appears to be a bust in terms of visitors, despite earlier hopes that holidaymakers would flock to the island because of its minimal infection rate.
A 14-quarantine remains in effect for travelers from Russia — another key market. Deputy Tourism Minister Savvas Perdios says there are hopes for reviving the Russian market later in the year.
Ioannou says there are plans for a five-fold increase in random COVID-19 testing of arriving passengers at two airports. Currently, around 15% of arriving travelers are being tested.
LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson does not think allowing pubs in England to open on a Saturday instead of a working weekday makes any difference.
Amid concerns that the reopening of pubs for the first time in more than three months on Saturday may lead to excessive drinking and a subsequent disregard of social distancing rules, Johnson told LBC radio that he hoped people will “behave responsibly and enjoy summer safely.”
Saturday night invariably sees the most alcohol-related incidents in the week, with police cells disproportionately filled by those causing a nuisance after imbibing one too many, and emergency wards in hospitals packed out with people nursing injuries.
Johnson said allowing much of the hospitality sector to reopen, criticized by many as being overly hasty, is based on a “clear understanding” of the statistical risks.
He said people are “appreciably less likely now to be in close proximity” with someone with the virus.
He says, “Let’s not blow it now.”
BANGKOK — Thai authorities are urging vigilance as the country celebrates its first long holiday weekend after lifting most COVID-19 restrictions.
The break will see Thais returning en masse to their rural family homes from the cities where many work.
A spokesman for the COVID-19 center, Taweesin Witsanuyothin, said the risk of spreading the virus during the weekend “is our real concern.”
The Transport Ministry says it’s preparing for 7.6 million people traveling between provinces.
As part of the easing of restrictions, Bangkok’s elevated Skytrain no longer requires that sitting passengers keep an empty seat between them and that all keep a meter (3.2 feet) from each other.
Thailand has had 3,180 confirmed cases of COVID-19 including 58 deaths. For more than five weeks, the small number of new cases has been limited to infected Thais returning from abroad.
LONDON — British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says anyone arriving to England from around 60 countries or overseas territories will not have to self-quarantine for 14 days from July 10.
Shapps confirmed on BBC radio that four countries — France, Germany, Italy and Spain — will be on that initial list. The United States will remain on the “red list” because of still high levels of coronavirus infections.
Other countries where travelers will not face a requirement to quarantine on their return are expected to include a number of European nations and the likes of New Zealand, which reduced the incidence of the coronavirus dramatically.
The full list is expected to be published later.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson Johnson said that “it’s right we should open up cautiously” and that the U.K. cannot have infections from abroad.
TOKYO — Japan’s capital has reported 124 new coronavirus cases, exceeding 100 for the second straight day, as the governor asked residents to stay away from night spots linked to half of all infections.
Gov. Yuriko Koike said the increase reflected a larger number of people proactively taking tests, but she did raise concern about a significant number of untraceable cases.
She says, “We need to raise our caution against the further spread of the infections and to prepare for a second wave.”
The latest rise began in late June, weeks after Japan lifted a state of emergency that allowed Tokyo to gradually return to business.
Koike said the majority of recent cases were younger people in their 20s and 30s linked to nightlife establishments. She urged them to avoid such spots or choose places with adequate safety measures.
Koike said closing businesses is a possibility if another emergency is declared, but it would apply to specific establishments or districts instead of the entire prefecture.
Japan has had 19,068 cases with 976 deaths. Tokyo accounts for about a third of the total.
ISLAMABAD — The U.S. government has donated 100 ventilators to Pakistan to help the country respond to COVID-19.
The U.S. Embassy says the ventilators deliver on President Donald Trump’s “generous offer of these critically needed supplies.” The new ventilators are valued at $3 million.
The announcement comes days after Pakistan said it had started producing locally designed ventilators. The government now says it has enough ventilators to tackle the crisis.
Pakistan reported 78 more deaths from the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, raising virus-related fatalities to 4,551.
Pakistan has had 221,896 confirmed cases of the virus and new infections have begun decreasing amid reduced testing.
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa on Friday confirmed another record high number of daily virus cases with 8,728 as anxiety grows in Johannesburg, the country’s latest hot spot.
The city has more than 22,000 cases and Gauteng province, which also includes the capital, Pretoria, now has nearly 30% of the country’s cases.
South Africa has Africa’s most confirmed cases with more than 168,000.
The country has the most developed health care system in sub-Saharan Africa and in places it’s already pushed near the limit, with more than 2,000 health care workers infected and beds in Gauteng’s public hospitals filling up.
NEW DELHI — India reported another single-day record high of new virus cases Friday while its monuments like the Taj Mahal will reopen for tourists next week.
The 20,903 new cases took the national total to 625,544. The Health Ministry also reported another 379 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking fatalities up to 18,213.
With the current rate of infections, India is expected to surpass Russia’s 660,000 cases in coming days and become the third worst-hit country after the United States and Brazil. It has the eighth-most fatalities in the world, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally, but both numbers are thought to be far higher than has been confirmed around the world.
After a strict two-month lockdown, India has eased its restrictions in most of the country except for the highest-risk areas.
The Culture Ministry decided to reopen all monuments Monday with a cap on the number of visitors and mandatory masks.
AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas GOP is moving ahead with a three-day convention in Houston, one of the nation’s coronavirus hotspots, over opposition from doctors and some local party activists.
Party leaders voted Thursday night to stick with an in-person gathering starting July 16. The event is typically one of the largest political conventions in America, drawing thousands of attendees, and some supporters suggested that changing plans is not what President Donald Trump would want.
The vote came hours after Republican Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statewide mask order as COVID-19 hospitalizations in Texas set another high Thursday. Hospitals in Houston have warned they are becoming stretched and the Texas Medical Association has called for cancelling the convention, saying now was not the time to pack thousands of people indoors.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, has left the decisions about the convention up to the GOP. Abbott has also not taken a position on whether his party should go forward with meeting in person.
MELBOURNE, Australia — Australian authorities are considering locking down more suburbs in Melbourne, where 66 new coronavirus cases were reported.
Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said suburbs with more than five cases and a high infection rate could be added to the 36 suburbs that have been locked down since Wednesday.
Sydney, Australia’s largest city, said a man who recently tested positive had been working in a Balmain supermarket.
Around 50 supermarket staff have gone into isolation. Health authorities have urged people who have visited the supermarket and show symptoms to be tested.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 63 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 as health authorities scramble to mobilize public health tools to the southwestern city of Gwangju, where more than 50 people were found sickened over the past week.
The figures announced by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday brought the national caseload to 12,967 infections, including 282 deaths.
Thirty-one of the new cases were reported from the Seoul metropolitan area, which has been at the center of a virus resurgence since late May.
Six of the new cases came from Gwangju, where officials have raised concern over possible shortages in hospital capacities, while 13 of them came from the southeastern city of Daegu, which had been the epicenter of a major outbreak in February and March.
The municipal government of Gwangju, which had one of the smallest caseloads among major South Korean cities before this week, has shut hundreds of schools and banned gatherings at wedding halls, banquet facilities and senior welfare centers to stem the transmissions.
Neighboring provinces are providing dozens of hospital beds and planning to send medical personnel to help Gwangju deal with the spike of infections.
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un urged officials to maintain alertness against the coronavirus, warning that complacency risked “unimaginable and irretrievable crisis,” state media said Friday.
Despite the warning, Kim reaffirmed North Korea’s claim to not have had a single case of COVID-19, telling a ruling party meeting Thursday that the country has “thoroughly prevented the inroad of the malignant virus” despite the worldwide health crisis.
Outsiders widely doubt North Korea escaped the pandemic entirely.
Describing its anti-virus efforts as a “matter of national existence,” North Korea earlier this year shut down nearly all cross-border traffic, banned tourists and mobilized health workers to quarantine anyone with symptoms. Experts say the country’s self-imposed lockdown is hurting an economy already battered by stringent U.S.-led sanctions over its nuclear weapons and missile program.
The Korean Central News Agency said Kim during the politburo meeting of the Workers’ Party “stressed the need to maintain maximum alert without a slight self-complacence or relaxation” as the virus continues to spread in neighboring countries.
The agency said Kim sharply criticized inattentiveness among officials and violations of emergency anti-virus rules and warned that a “hasty relief of anti-epidemic measures will result in unimaginable and irretrievable crisis.”