The Latest: WHO: Russian vaccine not in advanced test stages
LONDON — The World Health Organization says the vaccine approved by Russia this week is not among the nine that it considers in the advanced stages of testing.
WHO and partners have included nine experimental COVID-19 vaccines within an investment mechanism it is encouraging countries to join, known as the Covax facility. The initiative allows countries to invest in several vaccines to obtain early access, while theoretically providing funding for developing countries.
“We don’t have sufficient information at this point to make a judgment” on the Russia vaccine, said Dr. Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser to WHO’s director-general. “We’re currently in conversation with Russia to get additional information to understand the status of that product, the trials that have been undertaken and then what the next steps might be.”
This week, President Vladimir Putin announced Russia had approved a coronavirus vaccine that has yet to complete advanced trials in people and claimed, without evidence, the immunization protects people for up to two years.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Second man dies of virus in federal immigration custody in Georgia
— Study says 6% of England infected, led by London
— ‘Impossible’: School boards at heart of reopening debate
— Number of U.S. laid-off workers applying for unemployment aid fell below 1 million last week for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic intensified five months ago, yet still remains at a high level.
— German authorities worked through the night to clear a backlog of coronavirus tests from travelers after it emerged 900 people who tested positive had yet to be informed.
— Virus-proofing NFL facilities includes frequent testing, wearing masks and proximity tracker watches. Those are among the protocols at training camp in an attempt to hold an NFL season.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
LUMPKIN, Ga. — A Costa Rican man in federal immigration custody has become the second detainee in Georgia to die from COVID-19 complications.
Officials say 70-year-old Jose Guillen-Vega died on Monday after being hospitalized since Aug. 1. Guillen-Vega was held at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin. He’s the fifth person to die while in an ICE detention facility nationwide.
The detention center has reported more than 150 coronavirus cases. Guillen-Vega had diabetes and high blood pressure.
Advocates have been asking the agency to release at-risk detainees during the pandemic.
TEL AVIV, Israel — Greece’s foreign minister says his country will allow tourists from Israel to enter.
Nikos Dendias announced during a visit to Israel that 600 Israeli tourists will be allowed into four Greek destinations per week.
It wasn’t immediately clear under what conditions the tourists will be allowed in and whether they must quarantine upon arrival.
Dendias met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. Israel’s Foreign Ministry says there was no decision regarding Greek tourists to Israel.
Israel is challenged by high daily coronavirus infections, adjusted for population. However, the country is taking steps to open travel for its citizens.
BERLIN — A court in Austria has fined a woman 10,800 euros ($12,810) for leaving her quarantine while infected with the coronavirus.
The regional court in Tyrol found the 54-year-old German woman had breached the order to stay home three times.
Police officers who checked on the woman found her shopping in a supermarket, strolling in a park and visiting a hospital to treat an injured hand.
The defendant can appeal the ruling.
GREENVILLE, N.C. — East Carolina University police say about 20 parties, including one with nearly 400 people in attendance, were shut down during the school’s opening weekend.
Lt. Chris Sutton of the East Carolina University Police Department told McClatchy News the parties were held last week and over the weekend at the school.
Nearly 5,500 students began moving into their dorm rooms at the university last Wednesday. Sutton says most of the parties that campus authorities have shut down since then were “manageable,” with between 25 and 50 people.
Sutton says the party with 400 people was held a few blocks from the school in an area dominated by off-campus student housing. They dispersed once authorities arrived.
ROME — Rome prosecutors have formally told Premier Giuseppe Conte and other ministers they have opened an investigation into the government’s coronavirus response.
A statement Thursday from Conte’s office notes such investigations are required when complaints are received. However, prosecutors have already informed the government that it considers the claims “unfounded and worthy of being shelved.”
Conte and the ministers say they were available to provide any information “in a spirit of maximum collaboration.”
Italy was the first country in Europe to become the epicenter of COVID-19 and has a confirmed death toll of more than 35,000, now sixth highest in the world.
Conte and the health and interior ministers already had been questioned by Bergamo prosecutors investigating a delay in locking down two key towns in hard-hit Lombardy. The Bergamo prosecutors have made clear they interviewed government authorities as informed witnesses, not suspects.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — An official with the Swedish Transport Administration urged people in Sweden to use public transport only if necessary this fall.
Roberto Maiorana says his agency is experiencing increased traffic.
“Travel only if you have to, and if you have to, avoid the rush hour. Bicycle or walk if you can," he says. "Do not replace public transport with travel by car unnecessarily, as it might cause traffic jams.”
In Sweden, a total of 5,776 deaths — two more from Wednesday — have been confirmed.
Swedish chief epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell whose country has opted for a much-debated coronavirus approach of keeping large parts of the society open, says there’s a trend of only a “few deaths per day.”
In neighboring Finland, the government recommended face masks be used on public transportation and in public places where it’s difficult to keep distance from other people. Masks are not mandatory in Sweden.
LONDON — Researchers at Imperial College estimate 6% of England’s population — or 3.4 million people — have been infected by COVID-19.
The estimate is based on a study of 100,000 randomly selected volunteers who used home finger-prick blood tests to find antibodies for the virus that cause COVID-19.
The study, through the end of June, found London had the highest infection rate at 13%. Black, Asian and other ethnic groups were two to three times more likely to have had COVID-19 than white people.
England had nearly 271,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The United Kingdom is listed at more than 315,000 cases.
The majority of the Johns Hopkins confirmed case count comes from tests using nasal swabs.
JOHANNESBURG — The United Nations estimates that 43% of schools around the world don’t have access to water and soap for basic hand-washing.
The new report comes as countries wrestle with when and how to safely open schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report by the World Health Organization and UNICEF says more than one-third of the 818 million children around the globe who lacked basic hand-washing facilities at their schools last year are in sub-Saharan Africa.
The report says authorities must balance health concerns with economic and social ones in deciding on opening schools, and it notes the negative effects that long closures have on children.
The report also says one in three schools around the world have limited or no drinking water service.
JOHANNESBURG — The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a continent-wide study has begun into antibodies to the coronavirus after evidence indicated that more people have been infected than official numbers show.
Director John Nkengasong told reporters the study will include all African countries. Those showing interest to start in the coming weeks are Liberia, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Nigeria and Morocco.
That’s after surveys in Mozambique found antibodies in 5% of households in the city of Nampula and 2.5% in the city of Pemba. And yet Mozambique has just 2,481 confirmed cases.
Nkengasong says, “What is important is far fewer people are coming down with the disease. How many people are infected and asymptomatic on our continent? We don’t know that.”
Africa’s young population, with a median age of 19, has been called a possible factor.
THESSALONIKI, Greece — A Greek prosecutor has ordered an investigation into a string of infections at a retirement home in northern Greece, where 33 of the 150 residents and three staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.
Authorities say 20 people from the home at Asvestochori, a village outside the northern city of Thessaloniki, were taken to a hospital Wednesday with mild symptoms. The disease is believed to have been spread by a staff member who got it from a relative who had visited a popular holiday resort.
The investigation was ordered Thursday.
Greece has seen a rise in COVID-19 infections, which reached 262 on Wednesday, the highest since the virus outbreak.
The country of 11 million has registered about 6,200 confirmed cases, and 216 deaths.
THIMPU, Bhutan — The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has imposed its first nationwide lockdown due to a virus infection in a returning traveler who had been released from quarantine.
The government issued a stay-at-home order for its approximately 750,000 people, and all schools, offices and commercial establishments were closed.
The government’s statement says the lockdown would be enforced from five to 21 days “to identify and isolate all positive cases, immediately breaking the chain of transmission.”
The 27-year-old Bhutanese woman returning from Kuwait tested negative in mandatory quarantine for arriving travelers. But between her discharge from quarantine and her positive test result Monday, she is believed to have traveled extensively in Bhutan.
The tourism-dependent country closed its borders to foreign travelers in March after an American tourist was hospitalized with COVID-19. Bhutan’s 113 reported infections were all quarantined travelers, except for one with conflicting test results.
MELBOURNE, Australia — The coronavirus outbreak centered in Australia’s second-largest city showed a decline in new infections Thursday, though the state’s leader urged continued vigilance.
Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews says there were 278 new infections and eight new deaths, down from around 700 daily at the peak of the outbreak.
Daniels says the lower numbers indicate the lockdown restrictions in Melbourne are working but urged people to stay the course.
“We would just caution against any Victorian thinking that we aren’t in the midst of a real marathon,” Daniels said.
Meanwhile, neighboring New South Wales state, which includes Australia’s largest city Sydney, recorded 12 new cases and one death.
SEATTLE — The Seattle school board has voted unanimously to begin the academic year with only remote teaching.
The Seattle Times reports the state’s largest school district approved the plan Wednesday.
The remote learning plan passed with a wide-ranging amendment from school board members that directs the superintendent to explore creating outdoor classes. It also reinforces teaching of Black studies and curricula developed by Indigenous communities.
But the district’s plans are far from set because it is still bargaining with the teachers union. Those discussions will set the parameters for how teachers spend their time and for the support the district will provide in an online learning environment.
BEIJING — New locally transmitted cases of the coronavirus reported in China have fallen into the single digits, but Hong Kong is seeing another rise in hospitalizations and deaths.
China’s National Health Commission says eight new cases were registered in the last 24 hours in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, whose main city of Urumqi has enacted lockdown measures and travel restrictions. An additional 11 cases were brought by Chinese returning from overseas.
Hong Kong has 62 new cases, up from 33 on Wednesday, along with an additional five deaths.
The semi-autonomous southern Chinese city has required masks in all public settings and limited indoor dining, among other measures, to curb a new outbreak.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 56 new cases of the coronavirus as clusters pop up in cities.
The figures announced by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday brought the caseload to 14,770 infections, including 305 deaths. Forty-three of the new cases were from the Seoul area and two were from Busan, the country’s second-largest city, where infections have been reported at schools and among foreign cargo ship workers.
South Korean authorities have employed an aggressive test-and-quarantine campaign against COVID-19, using mobile-phone location data and credit-card records to trace contacts and smartphone tracking apps to monitor tens of thousands quarantined at home.
Visitors at nightclubs, baseball stadiums and other facilities deemed as “high-risk” must register with smartphone QR codes so they can be easily located when needed.