The Latest: Africa reports sharp decline in new infections

JOHANNESBURG — Africa’s top public health official says the continent has seen a 20% decrease in confirmed coronavirus cases in the past week, but he warns that “we shouldn’t go home celebrating that our pandemic is over.”

John Nkengasong with the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells reporters that testing and other efforts to contain the virus are largely working, but just one or two cases could reignite infections.

He says 23 of Africa’s 54 countries have reported a sustained decrease in new confirmed cases in the past couple of weeks.

The African continent has reported more than 1.2 million confirmed cases, roughly half in South Africa. More than 11 million tests for the virus have been conducted across the continent of 1.3 billion people, and Nkengasong says the new goal is an additional 20 million tests by November.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK

— U.S. Justice Department seeks data on care home deaths in 4 Democrat-led states

— Rapid $5 coronavirus test doesn’t need specialty equipment

— Virus surge makes South Korean lockdown more likely

— Gyms aim to open in Phoenix, Tucson as virus cases ebb

— Latin America’s evangelical churches hard hit by pandemic

— Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea has told the World Health Organization it tested 2,767 people for the coronavirus as of Aug. 20 and that all have tested negative.

In an email to the Associated Press Thursday, Edwin Salvador, WHO’s representative to North Korea, said the country is currently monitoring 1,004 citizens placed under quarantine. Salvador said the North told WHO that it has released 29,961 people from quarantine since December 31, including 382 foreigners.

The North has yet to confirm a single-case of COVID-19, but outsiders have widely doubted its virus-free claim.

In late July, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered a lockdown of Kaesong, a city near the border with South Korea after the North reported it found a person with COVID-19 symptoms.

The North later told the World Health Organization the person’s test results were inconclusive. Salvador said the WHO has yet to receive detailed information about the suspected case.

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NEW DELHI — India has recorded another single-day record of new coronavirus cases, reporting 75,760 new confirmed infections in the past 24 hours.

The Health Ministry on Thursday also reported 1,023 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 60,472.

India’s previous highest daily count was 70,488 on Aug. 22. India has been recording more than 60,000 new infections per day for the last two weeks and now has reported 3.3 million cases since the pandemic began.

With an average of more than 800,000 tests every day, India has scaled up testing per million to more than 27,000, the ministry said.

It also said India’s recovery rate is now around 76% with a fatality rate of 1.84%

India has reported the third most cases in the world after the United States and Brazil, and its reported fatalities are the fourth-highest in the world.

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Australia’s virus hotspot Victoria state has recorded its third deadliest day of the pandemic as well as the lowest tally of new COVID-19 infections in more than eight weeks.

The 23 dead reported Thursday followed 24 deaths on Wednesday. The all-time daily record of 25 deaths was set on Aug. 17.

Victoria’s Health Department said 22 of the most recent deaths were related to aged care.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said outcomes in four Melbourne aged care homes were “unacceptable.”

But while 56% of British aged care homes had staff or residents infected with COVID-19, the proportion was only 8% in Australia, he said. Only four out of 700 aged care facilities in Victoria had been “acutely effected,” he said.

“My fear when the COVID pandemic hit in Victoria was that we could have potentially seen far more,” Morrison said.

The 113 new cases reported on Thursday was the lowest count since 87 on July 5.

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UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. children’s agency says at least a third of the world’s children couldn’t access remote learning when the pandemic closed schools, creating “a global education emergency.”

UNICEF said in a report released Wednesday night that nearly 1.5 billion children were affected by school closures at the height of nationwide and local lockdowns.

“For at least 463 million children whose schools closed due to COVID-19, there was no such a thing as remote learning,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said.

“The sheer number of children whose education was completely disrupted for months on end is a global education emergency,” she said in a statement. “The repercussions could be felt in economies and societies for decades to come.”

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 441 new cases of the coronavirus, its highest single-day total in months, as fears grow that lockdown-like restrictions are becoming inevitable.

The country has added nearly 4,000 infections to its caseload while reporting triple-digit daily jumps in each of the past 14 days, prompting health experts to warn about possible strain on hospitals.

The 441 cases reported Thursday was the biggest daily increase since the 483 reported on March 7.

The National Assembly in Seoul was shut down and more than a dozen ruling party lawmakers were forced to isolate Thursday following a positive test of a journalist covering the parliament.

If the viral spread doesn’t slow, health authorities have said they will consider elevating social distancing measures to the strongest “Level 3,” which could include banning gatherings of more than 10 people and advising private companies to have their employees work from home.

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