The Latest: New York museums and gyms prepare to reopen
NEW YORK — Museums across New York and gyms in some parts of the state outside of New York City can reopen starting Monday as coronavirus restrictions are cautiously eased.
Under guidelines announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, museums will face restrictions including timed ticketing and 25% occupancy. New York City museums that will open over the next few weeks include the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Aug. 29 and the American Museum of Natural History on Sept. 9.
Cuomo said gyms and fitness centers could open at 33% capacity starting Monday, but New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city’s gyms would stay closed until at least Sept. 2.
Cultural institutions and gyms across the state have been closed since March when nonessential businesses were forced to shut down to stop the spread of the coronavirus. New York was the epicenter of the U.S.’s outbreak during the spring but has so far succeeded in staving off a second wave of infections.
State health officials have reported an infection rate below 1% every day for more than two weeks.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Trump announces plasma treatment authorized for COVID-19
— Biden says he’d shut down U.S. economy if scientists recommended
— South Korea tightens restrictions as new virus cases climb
— Emails show businesses held sway over reopening plans in U.S. states
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
ROME — Testing on volunteers of an Italian candidate vaccine began in Rome on Monday at the National Infectious Diseases Institute at Spallanzani hospital.
Ninety people were selected out of some 7,000 who offered to be inoculated with the vaccine, known as GRAd-COV2, in Phase One. The vaccine is produced by ReiThera, a biotech company near Rome.
Half the participants are younger than 55 and half are older than 65. The institute’s health director, Francesco Vaia, told reporters that the aim is to “work well, also quickly, but above all well” in trying to achieve what would be Italy’s first vaccine against COVID-19.
Phase One will last 24 weeks and aims to test safety and tolerance. If all goes well, subsequent phases will involve higher numbers of volunteers and will also be conducted abroad, likely in Latin American countries, which currently are much harder hit by the coronavirus pandemic than Italy.
“Having an Italian vaccine means not being a slave or servant of other countries which will say ‘me, first,’’’ said Giuseppe Ippolito, Spallanzani’s scientific director.
JERUSALEM — An Israeli Cabinet minister has tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Blue and White party on Monday confirmed the positive test of Pnina Tamano-Shata, the minister for immigrant absorption. It said two other Cabinet ministers and a lawmaker went into protective isolation due to possible exposure.
After moving quickly to contain the coronavirus last spring, Israel appears to have eased its lockdown restrictions too soon and is now battling a sharp spike in cases.
The country is coping with nearly 22,000 active cases and has reported 839 deaths.
ATHENS, Greece – Greece’s education minister says schools are due to reopen nationwide on Sept. 7 – a week earlier than normal – with the physical presence of pupils and teachers, as well as obligatory use of masks indoors.
Niki Kerameos says the opening date for the new term may be pushed back depending on the course of the pandemic over the next week, with a final decision expected on Sept. 1, and urged parents not to delay their return from holiday until just before schools reopen.
The measure will apply to all schoolchildren, from kindergarten to high school pupils. Kerameos said pupils or teachers will be excused physical attendance in class if they are infected with COVID-19, or if somebody they live with is, or if they are at a high risk of contracting the disease. Intervals between lessons will be staggered, while school sports competitions will be suspended.
Kerameos said all schoolchildren and teaching staff will be given free cloth masks.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — High school students in Denmark’s second largest city that saw a recent spike in cases prompting the city authorities to order high schools to have online classes, protested Monday against not being allowed to go back to classes.
Students in Aarhus were boycotting online teaching and later demonstrated in downtown, saying online education is not the same as being taught in classrooms. Many found it odd that they can go to shopping malls, gyms or the movies with lots of others but not in school.
“Like the rest of the high school students in Denmark, we would like to go back to high school, back to the classroom and back to the right teaching,” Christoffer Bundgaard told Danish broadcaster DR. “I take fewer notes and participate less in the classes. It is not optimal.”
Scores of students, all wearing face masks, gathered on the city hall square in Aarhus with signs saying “I just want to go to school” or “Education in the bars.”
As for now, high school students in Aarhus must stay home until Sept. 4.
GENEVA — The World Health Organization says using plasma from the recovered to treat COVID-19 is still considered an “experimental” therapy and that the preliminary results showing it may work are still “inconclusive.”
President Donald Trump on Sunday announced the FDA’s emergency authorization of convalescent plasma for COVID-19 patients.
WHO’s chief scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said convalescent plasma therapy has been used in the last century to treat numerous infectious diseases, with varying levels of success. Swaminathan says WHO still considers convalescent plasma therapy to be experimental and said it should continue to be evaluated. She added that the treatment is difficult to standardize, since people produce different levels of antibodies and the plasma must be collected individually from recovered patients.
Swaminathan says that the studies have been small and provided “low-quality evidence.” She says countries can “do an emergency listing if they feel the benefits outweigh the risks” but that that’s “usually done when you’re waiting for the more definitive evidence.”
Dr. Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser to WHO’s director-general, said that convalescent plasma therapy can come with numerous side effects, from a mild fever and chills to more severe lung-related injuries.
MADRID — Catalonia’s president has announced a ban on social gatherings of more than 10 people and widespread testing of half a million students in Spain’s northeastern region.
The new series of measures announced by Quim Torra on Monday aim to curb a wave of new coronavirus infections ahead of the re-opening of schools in mid-September, which officials and experts fear could become a vector for more contagion.
Torra said that the next three weeks are crucial in fighting not only the current incidence of the pandemic but how it will evolve in autumn and winter.
Spain as a whole leads Europe’s charts with more than 386,000 total reported infections since February.
BERLIN — The Bavarian town of Rosenheim, near the border with Austria, says it is banning more than five people from different households from meeting in public to counter a spike in coronavirus infections.
Authorities said Monday that the number of new infections over the previous seven days exceeded the national threshold in Germany of 50 cases per 100,000 people.
Officials also banned private events with more than 50 people indoors or 100 outdoors.
Germany has seen a steady rise in new COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. On Saturday the number of new cases topped 2,000. On Sunday, when fewer labs report results, the number of newly registered infections fell to 782.
VILNIUS, Lithuania — The Baltic country of Lithuania is as of Monday ordering a 14-day isolation for travelers from Germany because the number of infected people there is high.
Germany was added to the Lithuanian Health Ministry’s list of coronavirus-affected countries because the COVID-19 infection rate on Friday reached 16.5 cases per 100,000 people over the last two weeks.
Anyone entering Lithuania must self-isolate if they return from countries with rates above 16 per 100,000 people and must also get tested if they return from countries with rates above 25.
Health officials said that besides Lithuania, where the rate stands at 12.8, seven EU member countries currently have less than 16 cases per 100,000 people: Slovenia, Italy, Slovakia, Estonia, Finland, Hungary and Latvia.
Lithuania has seen 2,635 confirmed cases and 84 deaths.
TOKYO — The Japanese government spokesman has defended the nation’s GoTo campaign, which encourages travel within Japan by offering discounts at hotels and inns.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday that the government-backed campaign was a success, having been used by 2 million people in the last month.
He said only 10 cases of COVID-19 were found at hotels and other lodging during that monthlong campaign, and just one of those people had used the campaign discount.
The tourism business in Japan supports 9 million jobs, Suga said, adding: “Its importance to the economy can’t be emphasized enough.”
The campaign has come under fire as a risk for spreading the virus.
Japan, which has already sunk into recession, has confirmed more than 1,100 deaths and 62,000 coronavirus cases so far. Daily cases are rising gradually to about 1,000 people lately.
CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — New Zealand’s prime minister says the lockdown of Auckland will last an extra four days as authorities try to stamp out an outbreak of the coronavirus.
The two-week lockdown of the country’s largest city was due to end Wednesday but will now continue through Sunday.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday that authorities need to be sure they have found the perimeter of the outbreak and they’re not seeing too many cases crop up that they haven’t found through contact tracing.
New Zealand went 102 days without any community transmission of the virus before the cluster of cases was found in Auckland this month. Ardern said the rest of the country would continue for now with some restrictions under Alert Level 2, and it would become mandatory from next week to wear masks on public transport under level 2.
Health authorities on Monday reported nine new virus cases.
NEW DELHI — India has registered 61,408 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, driving the country’s reported virus tally past 3.1 million.
The Health Ministry on Monday also reported 836 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 57,542.
India has been recording at least 60,000 new infections per day for the last two weeks. Western Maharashtra state and three southern states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are the country’s worst-hit regions. New hot spots also continue to feed surges in rural areas of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar states in India’s north.
Meanwhile, India’s recovery rate has reached nearly 75% as more than 2.3 million people affected by the virus have been discharged from hospitals, according to the Health Ministry.
India has reported the third most cases in the world after the United States and Brazil, and its fatalities are the fourth-highest in the world.
The country of 1.4 billion people has been slowly opening up to heal the economy, though areas identified as most affected by the virus remain under lockdown.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea counted its 11th straight day of triple-digit daily jumps in coronavirus cases as officials tighten social distancing restrictions nationwide to combat what they describe as the biggest crisis since the pandemic began.
The 266 cases reported by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Monday came after three consecutive days of over-300 increases, although infection numbers tend to be lower at the start of the week due to the lesser number of tests in weekends.
The KCDC said 202 of the new cases came from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, home to half of the country’s 51 million people, where health workers have struggled to track transmissions linked to various sources, including churches, restaurants, schools and workers.
Infections were also reported in major cities throughout the country, including Busan, Daejeon and Sejong.
KCDC director Jeong Eun-kyeong said it’s likely the country will continue to report huge infection numbers in coming days as health workers scramble to trace and test contacts of virus carriers.
The country since Sunday has banned larger gatherings, shut down nightspots and churches and removed fans from professional sports nationwide.
MELBOURNE, Australia — Australia’s hard-hit Victoria state on Monday recorded its lowest tally of new coronavirus cases in eight weeks with the state capital Melbourne half way through a six-week lockdown.
Victoria reported 116 new cases and 15 deaths. That is the lowest daily tall of new cases since 87 were reported on July 5. The daily count has been as high as 725 news cases in early August.
The state recorded 208 new cases on Sunday and 182 on Saturday.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton had predicted on Sunday that numbers could dip below 150 this week.
He added although the daily case numbers had been “jumping around,” he expected they were on a downward trajectory.
But health authorities have warned that the daily tally would need to fall to single digits or low double digits before the Melbourne lockdown was relaxed.