The Latest: WHO says test, despite CDC's recent flip flop
LONDON — The World Health Organization says countries should actively test people to find coronavirus cases, even if they have mild or no symptoms.
That’s despite the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recently switched guidance to say asymptomatic contacts of cases don’t need to be tested.
Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for the coronavirus, says when officials are investigating clusters of COVID-19, “testing may need to be expanded to look for individuals who are on the more mild end of the spectrum or who may indeed be asymptomatic.”
Van Kerkhove says countries were free to adapt their testing guidance for their individual needs and its critical how fast countries get results.
“What’s really important is that testing is used as an opportunity, to define active cases so that they can be isolated and so that contact tracing can also take place,” Van Kerkhove said. “This is really fundamental to breaking chains of transmission.”
Earlier in the pandemic, WHO recommend that countries focus on “testing, testing, testing.”
Van Kerkhove also says wearing masks alone to protect against the spread of the coronavirus isn’t enough, expressing concerns that people are growing too lax on maintaining physical distancing.
“So it’s not just masks alone. It’s not just physical distancing alone,” Van Kerkhove said. “It’s not just hand cleaning alone. Do it all.”
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK
— Face masks required for all students over age 6 in Spain
— Pakistan, China cooperate on virus vaccine
— Europe is going back to school despite recent virus surge
— The Food and Drug Administration authorized the first rapid coronavirus test that doesn’t need any special computer equipment to get results.
— Latin America’s evangelical churches hard hit by pandemic praying through face masks for the health of friends and family suffering from the coronavirus.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
LONDON — Britain’s transport secretary has added Switzerland, Jamaica and the Czech Republic to the U.K.’s quarantine list.
Grant Shapps says travelers arriving from those countries must quarantine for 14 days starting Saturday.
Like the rest of Europe, the U.K. has seen the number of coronavirus cases rise. On Thursday, official data showed the U.K. recorded 1,522 new confirmed cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours -- the largest number since around mid-June.
Overall, a total of 330,368 cases have been confirmed. The government says 41,477 people have died in the U.K. after testing positive for coronavirus, an increase of 12 from the previous day.
UNITED NATIONS — A senior U.N. humanitarian official says reports of Syrian health care facilities filling up and increasing death notices and burials appear to indicate that actual coronavirus cases “far exceed official figures” of 2,440 cases confirmed by the government’s Ministry of Health.
Assistant Secretary-General for humanitarian affairs Ramesh Rajasingham told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday that “rising patient numbers are adding pressure to the fragile health system.”
He says many people “are reluctant to seek care at medical facilities, leading to more severe complications when they do arrive,” and “health workers still lack sufficient personal protective equipment and associated supplies.”
Of the more than 2,400 cases confirmed by the Ministry of Health, Rajasingham says, “the majority cannot be traced to a known source.”
He says several health facilities suspended operations this month because of capacity issues and staff becoming infected. That included Al Hol camp in northeast Syria, where 65,000 mainly women and children connected to Islamic State fighters are detained.
He says both field hospitals at the camp have since resumed operations.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman says his country and China agreed to strengthen cooperation in developing a vaccine for the coronavirus.
The ministry spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri says Beijing has agreed to keep supporting Pakistan to overcome the impact of the coronavirus. He says this understanding was reached during a recent visit of Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to China.
The announcement comes days after Pakistan’s drug regulatory agency approved final-phase testing of a Chinese-made vaccine against coronavirus. Pakistan reopened business in May and plans to reopen schools next month.
Pakistan has reported six new deaths and 445 new cases in the past 24 hours. The coronavirus has caused 62,74 confirmed deaths since February.
BOISE, Idaho — Idaho’s public health officials are trying to decide whether they’ll officially adopt new CDC guidelines that no longer recommend coronavirus testing for people who have had close contact with infected people.
The CDC guidelines have drawn widespread criticism from scientists who say it runs counter to what is necessary to control the pandemic. It comes at a time when Idaho is at a particularly critical juncture, with many students starting classes across the state.
Idaho Department of Health and Welfare spokeswoman Niki Forbing-Orr says the department became aware of the new guidelines Tuesday and officials are discussing whether to adopt them.
LONDON — The World Health Organization says hotels should consider reducing their occupancy rates if physical distancing measures cannot be maintained.
It recommends all staff and guests comply with basic coronavirus protective measures, like frequent hand washing and mask wearing.
In guidance issued this week, the U.N. health agency says because hotels and other accommodation facilities involve significant contact between guests and employees, certain safeguards should be in place.
WHO says hotels and related facilities should have a strategy if staff or guests become infected with the coronavirus.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Danish government advised against traveling to France and Croatia.
Basing its decision on Danish health authorities, the Foreign Ministry in Copenhagen says the advice came because those countries have now passed the threshold of 30 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the past days. The figure for France was 31.3 and Croatia 32.6.
The other nations on the list within Europe were Andorra, Belgium, Luxembourg, Malta, Romania, Spain and Monaco.
Denmark has 16,627 confirmed cases and 624 deaths.
MADRID — Masks will be mandatory for all students in Spain age 6 or older when returning to schools in September because of increased coronavirus cases, the government announced Thursday.
The measure will be adopted by the country’s 17 regions, which manage education autonomously. It’s part of a series of standardized guidelines agreed in a meeting with central authorities. Previously, masks were only required for students above age 12 by some Spanish regions.
Students will receive a daily body temperature check, must wash hands at least five times per day and classrooms will need frequent ventilation, the government said.
“Bubble-classrooms” where students only socialize with a limited number of peers, will be key to identifying contacts. That allows localized quarantines if there’s a positive test, rather than closing entire schools.
Parent and teachers have expressed concern, with new waves of outbreaks since the country emerged from a strict lockdown.
YANGON, Myanmar — Schools throughout Myanmar have been temporarily closed by government order as the country experiences a surge in confirmed coronavirus cases.
Both public and private schools were closed Thursday under instructions from the Department of Basic Education. Students will continue their studies through home learning.
The closings were ordered after 70 new coronavirus infections were reported on Wednesday, the country’s highest single-day total since its first case was reported in March.
The surge of new cases mostly has been in the western state of Rakhine, which borders Bangladesh and hosts several major displacement camps due to years of civil conflict. The government instituted a “stay-at-home” program for the entire state to contain the coronavirus. It bans unnecessary and unauthorized travel.
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has officially reported 586 coronavirus cases and six deaths in a country of 53 million.
BRUSSELS — The European Union has signed a contract with British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca to provide a possible COVID-19 vaccine to its member states.
The EU Commission says the contract provides for the 27 EU nations to buy 300 million doses with an option for 100 million more. The contract also allows vaccines to be donated to poorer countries or redirected to other European nations.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says it was “an important step forward” in making sure any vaccine would be available to as many EU citizens as possible.
Vaccines typically take years to develop and more than a dozen are in the early stages of testing globally.
GENEVA — The World Health Organization’s chief for Europe has warned COVID-19 is a “tornado with a long tail” and says increased case counts among young people could ultimately passed on to more vulnerable older people and cause an uptick in deaths.
Dr. Hans Kluge said younger people are likely to come into closer contact with the elderly as the weather cools in Europe.
“We don’t want to do unnecessary predictions, but this is definitely one of the options: That at one point there would be more hospitalizations and an uptick in mortality,” he said from Copenhagen, the WHO Europe headquarters.
Kluge said 32 out of 55 state parties and territories in WHO’s European region have seen a 14-day incidence rate increase of more than 10%, calling that “definitely an uptick which is generalized in Europe.”
But he also suggested health authorities and other officials are better positioned and more prepared than in February, when the continent was on the cusp of a huge surge in cases and deaths.
NEW DELHI — An Indian government official says four members of the Great Andamanese tribe have tested positive for the coronavirus and are recovering in a hospital in the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Senior health officer Avijit Ray said they were among 59 members of the dwindling tribe who live in the Strait Island.
Ray said they apparently got the virus during a recent visit to Port Blair, the capital city of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a federally-administered Indian territory in the Bay of Bengal. They tested positive on Saturday,
Ray said all were recovering, adding that they tribal welfare department was looking after them.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a chain of islands with a population of nearly 400,000, has reported 41 deaths and 2.944 positive cases so far.
PARIS — The government says the coronavirus is now actively circulating in about a fifth of France’s regions and is allowing new local restrictions to avoid another national lockdown.
Despite the resurgence, the government is pushing ahead with plans to reopen all French schools next week, and to welcome workers back to their jobs after summer vacations blamed for spreading the virus.
France “must do everything to avoid a new confinement,” Prime Minister Jean Castex told reporters Thursday. The government’s main mantra this fall will be learning to “live with the virus.”
He acknowledged that the rising cases this summer — attributed notably to vacation gatherings of families and friends — came earlier than authorities expected.
France is now seeing more than 50 positive tests per 100,000 people in Paris, Marseille and other areas.
The government announced Thursday that 21 administrative regions, or departments, are now in the “red zone” where the virus is actively circulating, and where local authorities can impose stricter rules on gatherings and movements.
LONDON — Jet engine maker Rolls-Royce has announced a first-half loss of 5.4 billion pounds ($7.1 billion) as the pandemic causes an “unprecedented” slump in commercial air travel.
Rolls-Royce says both engine deliveries and flying hours dropped by about 50% in the period, slashing revenue for a company that makes money both from selling jet engines and servicing them. The slump deepened during the second-quarter, when flying hours dropped 75%.
The company says it plans to sell parts of the business to raise more than 2 billion pounds. Rolls-Royce, which sold its luxury car division in 1998, also says it will cut another 5,000 jobs, adding to the more than 4,000 that have been eliminated since restructuring plans were announced in May.
CEO Warren East says the pandemic "has significantly affected our 2020 performance, with an unprecedented impact on the civil aviation sector with flights grounded across the world.” The company has responded so it can “weather the continued uncertainty around the timing and shape of the recovery in the civil aviation sector.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.