The Latest: Britain PM Johnson postpones easing lockdown
LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is postponing some planned measures to ease the lockdown because coronavirus cases are on the rise for the first time since May.
The government is scrapping plans to allow venues such as casinos, bowling alleys and skating rinks to open on Monday. A plan to allow a limited number of fans back into sports stadiums is on hold.
Johnson says the measures will be reviewed after two weeks.
He says a rule requiring face coverings worn in shops and on public transit will be extended to museums, galleries, cinemas and places of worship.
On Thursday, the government re-imposed restrictions on social life in a swath of northern England because of a surge in cases, barring households from visiting one another.
Scientists say they are no longer confident the R number, which measures how many people each infected person passes on the disease, is below 1 in England. A number above 1 means the virus will exponentially spread.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Asia-Pacific tourism makes patchy restart, and some missteps
— Final days of hajj and Eid festival impacted by coronavirus
— Virus testing turnaround times reveal wide disparity
— Dr. Anthony Fauci returns to Capitol Hill on Friday to testify before a special House panel investigating the coronavirus pandemic. His testimony comes at a time when early progress on combating the virus seems to have been lost and uncertainty clouds the nation’s path forward.
— Scientists at Imperial College London say they are immunizing hundreds of people with an experimental coronavirus vaccine in an early trial after seeing no worrying safety problems in a small number vaccinated so far.
— Champagne is losing its fizz. For months, the lockdown put the cork on weddings, dining out, parties and international travel — all key sales components for the French luxury wine marketed for decades as a sparkling must at any celebration.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus is making mask-wearing compulsory in all indoor areas where people gather in large numbers and ramping up random coronavirus testing at two main airports.
Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou says a rollback of restrictions combined with a low infection rate led to “excessive complacency” by some people he blamed for “choosing to recklessly violate health protocols” and “put public health at risk.”
The internationally recognized part of Cyprus confirmed 1,084 COVID-19 infections and 26 deaths.
TOKYO — Japanese leaders are grappling with how to contain flareups in coronavirus cases while trying to avoid shutdowns that might push the economy deeper into recession.
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said the confirmed number of new cases hit a daily record of 463 on Friday, up nearly 100 from Thursday’s 367. Nationwide, cases have recently topped 1,000 a day, and some areas that had avoided any cases at all, such as Iwate prefecture in the northeast and Sado island off the Japan Sea coast, have confirmed cases.
Koike says, “You might have plans or events for summer, but unfortunately this summer will be different from last summer. We cannot loosen our grips on (anti-infection) measures and I want to share this mindset with you all.”
Earlier this week, Koike asked bars and restaurants to close by 10 p.m. Legal limits on what the government can demand of the private sector and individuals mean authorities largely must rely on social pressure and persuasion to compel people to comply with anti-disease precautions.
BERLIN — German authorities have added Catalonia and two other northern Spanish regions to a long list of risk areas, days after the foreign ministry advised against nonessential travel to the area.
The designation on Friday by the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s national disease control center, comes as authorities prepare to make coronavirus tests for people arriving from risk areas compulsory as of next week. It affects the inland Aragón and Navarra regions as well as Catalonia.
Most countries in the world are currently on the high-risk list, though most of Germany’s partners in the European Union and the rest of the Schengen travel zone are not -- except neighboring Luxembourg, where new infections have exceeded a level that is considered risky.
LONDON — Britain’s health secretary has defended a decision to reimpose restrictions on social life in a swath of northern England.
Matt Hancock told Sky News that while he understands it is not the “sort of decision that anybody would want to take,’’ the government had to do whatever it could right way to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.
Under the new restrictions, people from different households in Greater Manchester, England’s second largest metropolitan area, have been asked to not meet indoors. The same orders applies to the surrounding areas of Lancashire and West Yorkshire counties.
Hancock told the BBC that “one of the terrible things about this virus is it thrives on the sort of social contact that makes life worth living.”
The affected region has a large Muslim population, and the restrictions come ahead of the Eid al-Adha holiday on Friday.
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s number of confirmed coronavirus cases is edging close to a half-million, with the Health Ministry reporting 11,046 new cases overnight.
That brings the country’s caseload to 482,169, including 7,812 deaths.
Corruption in the country’s pandemic response is also a growing problem. On Thursday, the health minister in the country’s epicenter of Gauteng province was forced to step down over corruption allegations related to government contracts for COVID-19 personal protective equipment.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has warned that now, more than ever, South Africa’s persistent problem with widespread graft is endangering people’s lives. South Africa makes up well over half the cases on the African continent and has the world’s fifth highest virus caseload.
HONOLULU--Hawaii’s Board of Education has approved an agreement to delay the start of public schools.
Students across Hawaii were originally scheduled to return to school on Aug. 4. But the statewide teachers union led an effort to delay, saying the state Department of Education didn’t sufficiently plan for safely reopening schools during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Parent Burke Burnett says delaying in-person instruction is necessary because Hawaii is seeing a spike in cases.
Parent Genna Javier opposes a delay. She says students who don’t want to return to school have a distance learning option.
KATHMANDU, Nepal — Nepal is opening its Himalayan peaks, hoping to bring back Western climbers who were unable to visit during a spring lockdown.
The government, expedition workers and businesses are hoping foreign climbers who bring some $300 million annually to Nepal will return during the autumn climbing season that begins in September.
Commercial flights to Nepal will resume in August.
Rudra Singh Tamang, director general of Nepal’s tourism department, said mandatory test results and quarantines when needed are among the measures being used to ensure tourism returns safely.
HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnam reported a daily high of 45 more cases Friday, all of them connected to a Da Nang hospital where the first case surfaced last week after more than three months.
All of the infected are hospital staff, current or former patients and their family members.
Vietnam reacted quickly to try to contain the spread from Da Nang, a popular destination where thousands of tourists were vacationing on its golden beaches. Other cases this week were confirmed in Hanoi and other cities and provinces.
Da Nang was put under lockdown on Tuesday and testing and business restrictions increased in other areas. The city on Friday began setting up a makeshift hospital in a sport auditorium and doctors have been mobilized from other cities to help.
NEW DELHI — A record surge of 55,079 new cases in the past 24 hours took India’s coronavirus caseload past 1.6 million, as the government decided to lift a nighttime curfew that has been in force since late March.
The Health Ministry on Friday also reported 779 additional deaths, taking total fatalities to 35,747. The ministry said more than 1 million people have recovered from the virus at a rate of 64%.
The night curfew will be lifted this weekend and yoga institutes and gyms will reopen on Aug. 5, according to the Home Ministry. The government also removed interstate restrictions on movement of people and goods.
Hotels in the Indian capital will reopen as they no longer serve as quarantine facilities. After a peak of nearly 3,500 new cases a day earlier this month, the surge has come down to around 1,000 cases.
Lockdown remains in place across all containment zones.
Subways, cinemas, swimming pools, entertainment parks, bars, theaters, auditoriums and other social gathering places will remain closed till Aug. 31.
DENPASAR, Indonesia — Indonesia’s resort island of Bali has reopened to domestic tourists after an almost four-month lockdown for the coronavirus pandemic.
Bali’s governor has been impatient to revive the economy and began easing restrictions on public activities three weeks ago.
Under the easing that took effect Friday, Indonesians visiting Bali will face stringent rules at hotels, restaurants and beaches. Foreign tourists will be allowed on the island beginning Sept. 11.
Tourism is the main source of income for Bali, which had 6 million tourists from abroad and 10 million from Indonesia last year. The pandemic has caused the numbers to dive.
BEIJING — China is tightening travel restrictions in the capital of the Xinjiang region amid a COVID-19 outbreak in the northwestern city.
People arriving in Urumqi from regions considered to have high infection risk must undergo a two-week quarantine. Others arriving from less risky areas most show proof of good health. Locals “in principle” must stay in the city or show proof of health to be allowed to leave.
Hong Kong, meanwhile, continues to see a third wave of infections, with almost 150 new cases reported Friday to bring its total to 3,151 cases and 25 deaths.
Despite that, authorities issued an order Thursday allowing restaurants to operate under limited hours and with limited capacity. But businesses such as bars, karaoke bars and amusement parks still must remain closed.
MELBOURNE, Australia — The leader of Australia's Victoria state warns that tougher pandemic restrictions may be coming after the coronavirus hot spot reported its second-highest daily COVID-19 count on record.
Officials reported 627 new confirmed virus infections and eight deaths Friday, a day after a record 723 new cases were reported.
The state capital of Melbourne and a neighboring semi-rural district are over half way through a six-week lockdown designed to curb the coronavirus spread.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said Friday that state and federal officials are conducting an analysis over the next few days to consider what the next steps might be. Nothing has been decided, he says, but warns that "all of us acknowledge that these numbers are still far too high.”
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 36 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19, most of them tied to international arrivals.
The figures announced by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday brought the national caseload to 14,305, including 301 deaths.
The agency says 22 of the new cases are linked to people arriving from abroad. The country in recent weeks reported dozens of infections among South Korean construction workers flown home from virus-ravaged Iraq and crew members of Russia-flagged cargo ships docked in the ports of Busan and Incheon.
JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi is continuing to see a sharp increase in reported cases of the new coronavirus, and Gov. Tate Reeves says he will put eight more counties under restrictions that include mandatory masks in public.
The restrictions are already in place in 29 of the state’s 82 counties, covering more than half of the state’s population. Those are being extended until Aug. 17.
The eight counties that will be added Monday have seen a rapid rise in cases.
The state epidemiologist says Mississippi has “astoundingly high” numbers of people hospitalized with COVID-19.
FARGO, N.D. — Tribal leaders on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation in northeastern North Dakota are requiring residents to wear masks to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
It is a rare move in a state where face coverings have not been mandated despite a steady increase in overall cases.
The reservation is primarily in Benson County, which according to the COVID Tracking Project has seen the state’s most new cases per capita in the last two weeks.
The administrator for the Lake Region District Health Unit says the increases in Benson are “basically coming from Spirit Lake,” although it’s not yet clear why. Officials hope a mass testing scheduled for Friday will provide more clues.
MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota state officials have unveiled a plan to reopen schools this fall that gives districts some flexibility to toggle between in-person and online learning, but reserves the right for the state to step in if the coronavirus gets out of control.
Gov. Tim Walz acknowledged the value of in-person learning, but said Thursday that the state’s top priority is safety.
State education officials will use data on virus cases in a county to help districts determine which model they should use.
Districts with fewer than 10 cases per 10,000 people in a 14-day average will be able to teach in person. Those with 50 or more cases will have to use distance learning. Levels in between will rely on hybrid models.