The Latest: US task force leader says pandemic in new phase
CHARLESTON, W.Va. __ White House coronavirus task force leader Dr. Deborah Birx says widespread coronavirus infections in urban and rural America mark a “new phase” for the pandemic as she doubled down on calls to wear face masks and observe social distancing measures.
Birx, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday morning, said “What we are seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread.”
The United States has the world’s biggest number of cases at 4.6 million, or one-quarter of the total, and 154,361 deaths. Birx said mitigation efforts across the west and the south are beginning to work but warned that people need to take the virus seriously and employ significant safety precautions when cases first begin to tick up.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— India reports 55,000 virus cases, Florida faces hurricane
— Virtual school: Teachers want to improve but training varies
— South Africa hits 500,000 confirmed cases, still not at peak
— Thousands have converged in Berlin to protest Germany’s coronavirus restrictions at a demonstration proclaiming “the end of the pandemic” has arrived. The protest comes as German authorities are voicing increasing concerns about an uptick in new infections.
— Travelers entering France from 16 countries where the coronavirus is circulating widely are having to undergo virus tests upon arrival at French airports and ports.
— British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he is postponing some planned measures to ease the lockdown because the number of new coronavirus cases in the country is on the rise.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
WASHINGTON -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she doesn’t have faith in White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, whom she ties to misinformation spread by President Donald Trump.
Pelosi was asked on ABC’s “This Week” whether she had confidence in Birx.
The California Democrat replied: “I think the president has been spreading disinformation about the virus and she is his appointee so I don’t have confidence there, no.”
Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Birx said she has respect for Pelosi and attributed the sentiment to a New York Times article in which Birx is described as embracing overly optimistic assessments of the coronavirus.
Birx said that she has “never been called Pollyannish or non-scientific or non-data-driven. And I will stake my 40-year career on those fundamental principles of utilizing data to really implement better programs to save more lives.”
ATHENS, Greece — Greek health authorities on Sunday announced 75 new coronavirus cases — 4 of them from international arrivals — and 2 deaths over the past 24 hours.
The total number of cases has risen to 4,662, with 208 deaths. Twelve patients are on ventilators, while 128 have exited intensive care units.
Sunday’s data are less alarming than Saturday’s 110 new cases — the fourth largest daily tally and largest since April — but authorities are stepping up inspections, especially at holiday hotspots, where people have started gathering after a very slow start to the tourist season.
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa exceeded half a million confirmed cases of the coronavirus, even as President Cyril Ramaphosa said he sees “promising signs” that the rapid growth of cases is stabilizing and that the country’s strained health system is managing to cope in most areas.
South Africa’s caseload represents more than 50% of all reported coronavirus infections in Africa’s 54 countries. Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize announced 10,107 new cases Saturday night, bringing the country’s cumulative total to 503,290, including 8,153 deaths.
South Africa, with a population of about 58 million, has the fifth-highest number of cases in the world, behind the U.S., Brazil, Russia and India, all countries with significantly higher populations, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Experts say the true toll of the pandemic worldwide is much higher than confirmed cases, due to limited testing and other reasons.
Ramaphosa, in a letter to the nation on Sunday, said that despite the high number of confirmed cases, he sees some positive developments, including that the daily increase in infections appears to be stabilizing in the provinces of the Western Cape, which includes Cape Town, the Eastern Cape and Gauteng, which is home to Johannesburg and Pretoria.
NEW DELHI — Indian Home Minister Amit Shah says he has tested positive for the coronavirus and is getting admitted to a hospital on the advice of doctors.
Shah, 55, tweeted on Sunday that his health is fine and requested those who had come in his contact to isolate themselves and get tested.
Shah is No. 2 in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. He has been visiting hospitals and holding meetings with top officials as part of the government’s massive efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 infections in the country.
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis called on politicians to create jobs so that economies can relaunch from the lockdowns imposed to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
The pope, speaking after the traditional Sunday blessing, said that ‘’without work, families and society cannot go forward. Let us pray for this, because this will be a problem in the post-pandemic period, the poverty and the lack of jobs. It requires lots of solidarity and lots of creativity to resolve this problem.’’
The pontiff also wished the faithful ’’some days of rest, and contact with nature, to recharge also in the spiritual dimension.”
The pope’s remarks follow a week in which officials released statistics showing a record plunge in both the U.S. and eurozone economies.
MANILA, Philippines — Coronavirus infections in the Philippines surged past 100,000 Sunday after medical groups declared that the country was waging “a losing battle” against the virus and asked the president to reimpose a lockdown in the capital.
The Department of Health reported a record-high daily tally of 5,032, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to 103,185, including more than 2,000 deaths. The Philippines has the second-most cases in Southeast Asia after Indonesia.
President Rodrigo Duterte eased a tough virus lockdown in the capital, Manila, on June 1. After shopping malls and workplaces were partially reopened and limited public transport was allowed, infections spiked sharply with increased virus testing.
More than 50,000 infections were reported in less than four weeks and leading hospitals began warning that their coronavirus wards were fast being overwhelmed to capacity again, as they were when cases soared alarmingly in April.
After Duterte further relaxed quarantine restrictions and allowed more businesses, including gyms, internet cafes and tattoo shops, to reopen, leaders of nearly 100 medical organizations held an online news conference Saturday and warned that the health system may collapse as many medical personnel fall ill or resign out of fear, fatigue or poor working conditions.
TOKYO — Confirmed coronavirus cases are hovering at near record levels in Japan, raising worries the pandemic may be growing more difficult to control.
The Tokyo government reported 292 new cases Sunday, about half in their 20s. Japan in total reported 1,540 cases on Saturday— the second straight day the number was above 1,500.
Nationwide cases for Sunday will be tallied at midnight. Numbers are usually fewer over the weekend because of fewer tests.
Japan has avoided a total lockdown, encouraging business activity while urging people to wear masks, social distance and work from home.
TEL AVIV, Israel — An Israeli Cabinet minister says he has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Minister for Jerusalem and Heritage Rafi Peretz tweeted late Saturday that he received a positive result after being tested the previous day. He said he felt well.
Peretz is the second Israeli minister to have been infected with the virus. Israel’s former health minister, Yaakov Litzman, also contracted it and later recovered.
Israeli media reported that contact tracing was being conducted to determine whether Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or other legislators would need to self-isolate following Peretz’ diagnosis.
Israel is experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases after having largely contained an earlier outbreak in the spring.
MELBOURNE, Australia — The premier of Australia’s hard-hit Victoria state has declared a disaster among sweeping new coronavirus restrictions across Melbourne and elsewhere from Sunday night.
An evening curfew will be implemented across Melbourne from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Premier Daniel Andrews says the state of disaster proclamation gave police greater power.
He says 671 new coronavirus cases had been detected since Saturday, including seven deaths. It comes among a steadily increasing toll in both deaths and infections over the past six weeks in Victoria.
Melbourne residents will only be allowed to shop and exercise within 5 kilometers (3 miles) of their homes. All students across the state will return to home-based learning and child care centers will be closed.
The deaths in Victoria took the national toll to 208.
NEW DELHI — India’s coronavirus caseload crossed 1.75 million with another spike of 54,735 in the past 24 hours.
The new cases are down from 57,118 on Saturday. The Health Ministry on Sunday also reported 853 deaths for a total of 37,364.
Randeep Guleria, a top government expert, said that New Delhi and Mumbai may have crossed their peak levels with declining trends.
The month of July alone has accounted for more than 1.1 million cases in India.
Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said the case fatality rate was progressively reducing and currently stands at 2.18%, one of the lowest globally. Out of the total active cases, only 0.28% are on ventilators, 1.61% need intensive care support and 2.32% oxygen support.
MELBOURNE, Australia — Australian media are reporting that coronavirus-forced restrictions in Melbourne could be tightened from next week as authorities try to stem the spread of COVID-19.
The Sunday Age reported the city may be placed under a six-week period of more stringent constraints, including the almost complete shutdown of Melbourne’s public transport network, starting from Wednesday.
The Sunday Herald Sun reports Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews will announce the new measures over the next two days. They also include limiting the distance residents could travel from their homes and the closure of more businesses selling non-essential goods.
It comes as Australia’s COVID-19 death toll rose to 201, with Victoria state leaders considering New Zealand-style lockdowns to get community transmission under control. Victoria on Saturday reported the deaths of a man and two women aged in their 80s and 90s, and 397 new cases.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Florida health officials have reported 179 new deaths from the coronavirus, bringing the state’s total to more than 7,000.
The latest numbers came Saturday as Hurricane Isaias threatened Florida’s eastern coast, but no evacuations were immediately announced. The National Hurricane Center’s latest prediction had the storm scraping past Florida but not making landfall.
Hospitalizations for the coronavirus have been declining for the past week and a half, with fewer than 8,000 treated for the coronavirus on Saturday. That’s down from highs of more than 9,500 last week.
ROME — Italy’s daily coronavirus infections has dipped under 300 cases for the first time in three days, after a recent flurry of clusters throughout the nation raised concern among health experts.
The Health Ministry says Italy registered 295 cases in the last 24 hours, raising the total to 247,832.
The ministry’s weekly report says there were 123 clusters of infection throughout Italy in the previous seven days.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Roberto Speranza ordered the railways to resume leaving empty seats so passengers can be at least one meter (3 ½ feet) apart during summer travel.
With five more deaths, the total confirmed deaths in Italy reached more than 35,000 on Saturday.