The Latest: Greek school teachers prepare for protest march
ATHENS, Greece — Greek state school teachers angry at government plans to reopen schools next month have called a protest march in central Athens Tuesday with a string of demands – several of which the education ministry had addressed hours earlier.
The main high school teachers’ union said Monday it wanted fewer pupils per class, as well as extra teachers and classrooms to make that possible.
It also called for free masks and disinfectant, extra staff hirings and seminars on COVID-19 health measures — three things which the government had already said it would do.
The teachers’ union also demanded free and repeated tests for all school staff, the implementation of “all necessary measures to ensure the safety of pupils and teachers,” extra state education funding and a ban on virtual learning using a live link with real classrooms for children unable to attend class.
Hours earlier, the education ministry announced schools would reopen full time on Sept. 7 – with a possible delay if deemed necessary – with use of masks obligatory for schoolchildren and teachers.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK
— WHO says children aged 6-to-11 should wear masks at times, too
— 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:
MIAMI — Florida’s coronavirus spread appears to be waning, with several key metrics on the decline.
State-provided statistics on Monday showed that the number of people being treated for COVID-19 in Florida hospitals stood at 4,655 late morning Monday — less than half of the peaks above 9,500 a month ago. A total of 72 new deaths were reported Monday, bringing the seven day average to 123 — the lowest rate in a month.
And the average daily increase in cases over the past week has declined to a level not seen since late June. Because of the declining cases, Gov. Ron DeSantis and South Florida officials announced that the Miami Dolphins football team will allow up to 13,000 socially distancing fans to attend their home opener against Buffalo on Sept. 20.
MADRID — Fearing an even sharper surge in coronavirus infections with the opening of the school year in September, some Spanish regions moved Monday to impose new measures against the spread of the pandemic, including bans on large social gatherings.
On Monday, when Spain’s Ministry of Health reported figures for the previous three days, the country added more than 19,000 new cases to its epidemic tally of more than 400,000 since the beginning of the pandemic. The figure is the highest in Europe.
Dr. Fernando Simón, the epidemiology expert in charge of Spain’s response to COVID-19 , stopped short of describing the situation as that of a second wave, but admitted that contagion with no clear source of infection is now widespread across the country.
“There is a certain level of community transmission in all Spain, but in some regions is more than in others,” Simón said at a press conference. “The return to school is an opportunity for an easier transmission of the virus.”
The Health Ministry said that 2,060 of the new cases were diagnosed in the past 24 hours, with 34 new fatalities bringing the total death toll of 28,838. The figures are considered incomplete due to insufficient testing at the beginning of the pandemic, while daily data is often corrected as officials rein in a backlog of information reported by Spanish regions.
The Catalonia region announced Monday that it was extending a ban on social gatherings of more than 10 people to the region’s 7.6 million inhabitants. Murcia, in the country’s southern coast and with 1.5 million residents, restricted gatherings to a maximum of six people.
JACKSON, Miss. — An entire fourth grade class in Mississippi is in quarantine after a student and more than half of a school’s fourth grade teachers tested positive for the coronavirus.
Lafayette County School District Superintendent Adam Pugh told The Associated Press on Monday that the district notified the families of more than 200 fourth-grade students at Lafayette Upper Elementary School to quarantine for two weeks over the weekend. One student and six out of 10 or 11 total fourth-grade teachers have tested positive for the virus, and most of the rest of the fourth-grade teachers were exposed, he said.
“We don’t have enough staff to cover our entire fourth-grade class in-person, so we had to send everybody home, to do virtual lessons,” he said.
Lafayette County School District teachers returned to campus on Aug. 3, and students returned to school on Aug. 5. They have reported nine total cases among staff members district-wide and only one case in a student — the one at Lafayette Upper Elementary School.
Pugh said the school is in the midst of contact tracing investigations to figure out whether those who have tested positive for the virus were exposed at school or outside of school.
Since returning to school in-person for the school year, the district’s student body has been operating on a split schedule, with only half of the student body in the classroom on any given day. The entire district community was meant to return to school together for the first time on Monday. However, Pugh said that date has now been extended to early September.
MEXICO CITY — Millions of Mexican school children returned to classes, but not schools, on Monday as the government attempted to start a new school year despite the challenges of the pandemic.
A system cobbling together online classes, instruction broadcast on television channels and radio programming in Indigenous languages is meant to keep students from missing out in a country already defined by deep inequalities.
As other countries around the world have already discovered, there is no perfect replacement for in-person classes.
The Mexican government enlisted the country’s largest private television companies to dedicate channels to school programming around the clock. Education officials developed schedules giving students at each level multiple opportunities to watch their classes.
Education Secretary Esteban Moctezuma said officials decided to rely on television because it has a far greater penetration that the internet. Still, questions abound about how families, especially those with multiple children, will juggle the classes along with jobs that could force both parents out of the home — often taking their children along with them.
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.
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.
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 Food and Drug Administration’s emergency authorization of convalescent plasma for COVID-19 patients. It is not full FDA approval; numerous rigorous studies are underway to find out if the treatment really works.
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.