The Latest: WHO seeks more information about Russia vaccine
LONDON — The World Health Organization’s Europe office says it has begun discussions with Russia to try to get more information about the coronavirus vaccine that Russia approved last week before the shot had passed the advanced trials normally required to prove it works.
Catherine Smallwood, a senior emergency official at WHO Europe, said “this concern that we have around safety and efficacy is not specifically for the Russia vaccine, it’s for all of the vaccines under development.”
She acknowledged WHO was taking an “accelerated approach” to try to speed development of coronavirus vaccines but said “it’s essential we don’t cut corners in safety or efficacy.”
Smallwood said WHO has begun “direct discussions” with Russia and that WHO officials have been sharing “the various steps and information that’s going to be required for WHO to take assessments.”
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— India reports record high of 69,000 new infections in past 24 hours
— U.S. states have varying answers on when it's safe to open schools
— New York governor brushes back AP report of care home death undercount
— Mexico targets junk food as obesity takes toll amid pandemic
— Florida virus deaths surpass 10,000 as teachers, state argue
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
BERLIN — Germany’s disease control agency has classified parts of Croatia as coronavirus risk areas.
The Robert Koch Institute on Thursday declared the Croatian regions of Sibenik-Knin and Split Dalmatia as risk areas.
Usually, Germany’s Foreign Ministry quickly follows the recommendations of the institute and gives out travel warnings for these risk areas meaning people returning from there to Germany are required to get tested for the virus.
Croatia is a popular vacation destination for Europeans. Last week, Austria already issued a travel warning for Croatia, which led to a mass exodus of Austrian vacationers.
Inside Germany, another 1,707 new cases were reported Thursday, reflecting similar spikes across Europe after a period of less virus activity in June and early July.
The spike in new cases in Germany is mostly related to travelers returning from abroad, but also to bigger crowds of people getting together for family gatherings and other celebrations. In addition, several German states have gone back to school again.
LONDON — The head of the World Health Organization’s Europe office said the region is “on a trajectory of its own” and noted that coronavirus cases have been steadily increasing every week in the last two months even as the epicenter of the pandemic has shifted to the Americas.
At a press briefing on Thursday, Dr. Hans Kluge said that while European countries had made “phenomenal efforts” to contain the virus after being hit hard earlier in the year, there were now about 26,000 cases every day across Europe.
Kluge said new clusters of the virus are mainly occurring in localized settings, like long-term care homes, in food production facilities or being sparked by travelers.
Kluge noted the region was in a “much better position to stamp out these localized virus flare-ups” and ”can manage the virus differently now than we did when COVID-19 first emerged.”
Kluge also called for schools to be reopened where possible and said WHO Europe would be convening a virtual meeting of its 53 member countries on August 31 to discuss how schools across the region might be reopened safely.
BERLIN — The conductor of a high-speed train in Germany called police after a far-right lawmaker refused to wear a mask, then locked himself in the bathroom.
Wearing simple mouth and nose coverings is mandatory on public transport, but rail firm Deutsche Bahn has struggled to enforce the rule with a minority of travelers who object to wearing masks.
Stephan Brandner, a member of the Alternative for Germany party, confirmed the incident took place on Aug. 12 but mocked reports that he tried to hide on the toilet.
German news agency dpa quoted a police spokesman Wednesday confirming that officers responded to a request for help from the conductor after two travelers on a train from Berlin to the Baltic town of Binz refused to put on masks.
Brandner wrote on Twitter that he had been enjoying a pastry when the conductor asked him to put on a mask, whereupon he responded: “Can’t, I’m eating right now, I’ll think about it afterward.”
CAIRO — The Egyptian government has announced that worshipers will soon be able to attend mosque for Friday prayers now that the daily tally of confirmed new virus cases is plateauing at below 200.
Egypt’s Minister of Religious Endowment Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa said that weekly congregational prayers may be held starting Aug. 28. The gatherings have been suspended for nearly five months.
Worshipers are expected to observe social distancing and wear face masks to prevent another viral outbreak, Gomaa said in a statement Wednesday.
He said the Friday sermon, which usually lasts for nearly an hour, will be reduced to 10 minutes.
Starting in August, the number of new cases in Egypt has dropped significantly to less than 200 new cases a day.
Overall, Egypt has reported nearly 97,000 confirmed cases, including 5,197 deaths.
On Wednesday, Egypt reported 161 confirmed cases and 13 fatalities.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Norwegian government is advising against traveling to Britain, Ireland, Greece, Austria and parts of Sweden and Denmark, the latest European nations where the government does not recommend non-essential travel.
Norwegian health officials said these countries have now passed the threshold of 20 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants in recent days.
As of Saturday, people from the countries on Norway’s red list will have to self-isolate for 10 days.
The other nations on the list where Norway advises against unnecessary travel are the Netherlands, Poland, Cyprus, Iceland, Malta, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Switzerland, Romania and Bulgaria.
Norway has reported 10,162 coronavirus cases and 262 deaths.
NEW DELHI — India has recorded another record number of new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours as it ramps up testing to more than 900,000 a day.
The 69,652 new cases reported Thursday push India’s total reported cases past 2.8 million, of which 2 million have recovered.
The Health Ministry says another 977 coronavirus fatalities were recorded in the past 24 hours, raising total deaths to 53,866.
India has conducted 3 million tests for the virus, but experts have urged increasing its testing capacity greatly, given India has the world’s second-highest population of 1.4 billion people.
It has the third-most reported cases in the world, behind the United States and Brazil, and has the fourth highest number of reported deaths behind the U.S., Brazil and Mexico.
India’s nationwide lockdown imposed in late March began easing in May and is now largely being enforced in high-risk areas.
CANBERRA, Australia — Australian lawmakers will for the first time be able to attend Parliament remotely due to new rules introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Attorney-General Christian Porter on Thursday announced the new rules ahead of Parliament resuming for two weeks from Monday.
Lawmakers will be able to participate in debates and ask ministers questions by video if they can persuade House of Representatives Speaker Tony Smith that they can’t come to Canberra because the pandemic had made it “essentially impossible, unreasonably impracticable, or would give rise to an unreasonable risk” for the lawmaker to attend.
But they will not be able to vote on legislation, second motions or move amendments to legislation.
Most states and territories have closed their borders to non-essential interstate travelers to slow the spread of coronavirus which is concentrated in the cities of Melbourne and Sydney.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 288 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus — its third straight day of over 200 as health authorities scramble to slow an outbreak in the region around the capital.
The figures announced Thursday by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention brought the national caseload to 16,346, including 307 deaths.
The agency says 230 of the new cases are in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan region, home to half of the country’s 51 million people.
Health workers there have struggled to track transmissions tied to various places and groups, including churches, restaurants, schools and workers. Officials have banned large gatherings and shut down nightspots and churches in the capital area amid fears that the outbreak could spread nationwide.
MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s point man on the coronavirus epidemic says three weeks of continuing decline in the number of new coronavirus cases means the country is seeing a reduction in the pandemic.
Assistant Health Secretary Hugo López said Wednesday that “we now see a sustained tendency.”
Still, he warned that “the risk is not over” as his office reported still-high levels of confirmed infections and deaths. Confirmed cases rose by 5,792 to 537,031, and 707 more deaths were confirmed, bringing Mexico’s total to 58,481.
López Gatell cautions Mexicans that the health emergency will probably last until October, when the regular flu season begins.
LOS ANGELES — The mayor of Los Angeles says he authorized shutting off utility services at a home in the Hollywood Hills that has been the site of raucous parties despite a ban on large gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday that “this house has turned into a nightclub in the hills, hosting large gatherings in flagrant violation of our public health orders.”
The city has not identified the home’s address or the owner.
Garcetti warned earlier that such action would be taken against houses and businesses for hosting parties. He says big parties can be “superspreaders” of the coronavirus.
His warning came days after hundreds attended a party at a mansion without masks or social distancing. That party ended in a shooting that killed a woman and wounded two other people.
MELBOURNE, Australia — Australia’s coronavirus hot spot of Victoria state has backed down in the face of a public backlash against a decree that barred residents of Melbourne from taking a short drive to get to an exercise place.
The Victoria government said late Wednesday that residents of Australia’s second-largest city can now drive up to 5 kilometers (3 miles) from their homes to exercise. Those who have been fined for doing that since lockdown restrictions were increased this month can apply to police to have their cases reviewed.
The government’s retreat followed a public argument between a Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews and Melbourne resident angry that she was restricted to walking in her own neighborhood.