The Latest: WHO survey finds virus disrupts health services
GENEVA — The U.N. health agency says a new survey found that 90% of countries that responded reported fallout from COVID-19 on the provision of other health care services like immunization, family planning services, and cancer and cardiovascular disease diagnosis and treatment.
The World Health Organization says 105 countries responded to the survey aimed at assessing the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on strained health systems, notably in low- and middle-income countries.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the survey, covering five regions between March and June, exposed “cracks in our health systems” and the need for better preparation for health emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic that has produced more than 25 million confirmed cases and killed over 843,000 people by WHO’s count. Such figures are believed to far underestimate the actual totals.
The survey found that routine immunization and outreach services were among the most affected, with 70 percent of countries reporting disruptions, followed closely by the diagnosis and treatment of non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Nearly a quarter of countries that responded reported disruptions to emergency services.
WHO cautioned about some “limitations” about the study including that it involved “self-assessment” that could be prone to bias, variations from country to country in survey completion, and differences in the phases of the outbreak that countries were experiencing.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK
— Australia records its deadliest day of the pandemic
— In China’s Xinjiang, forced medication accompanies lockdown
— Survey: China manufacturing logs feeble growth in August
— Arizona reports 374 new coronavirus cases, 23 more deaths
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus’ education minister says mask wearing will be compulsory for all middle and high school students but optional for primary and kindergarten grades when all schools open next week.
Prodromos Prodromou affirmed the guideline on Monday, easing an earlier position that masks would be mandatory for all grades to prevent the spread of the coronavirus when kids go back to school on Sept. 7. The revised approach comes after an earlier Health Ministry decision to adopt a World Health Organization recommendation making mask-wearing compulsory for individuals 12 and over in enclosed spaces.
Prodromou said all schools have been instructed to conduct classes in the largest available spaces to ensure social distancing rules are adhered to, while a number of new desks to accommodate those rules have been ordered. He repeated that his ministry is ready to switch to online teaching if coronavirus infection rates within schools increase.
MADRID — Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says the Spanish government is working on a post-pandemic recovery plan that aims to bring sustained annual economic growth higher than 2%.
Spain has been allocated 140 billion euros ($166.84 billion) from the European Union’s coronavirus recovery fund, roughly divided in half between grants and repayable loans.
Using that aid, the plan outlined Monday by Sánchez will aim to address inequality deepened by the virus, which has claimed at least 29,000 victims in Spain.
He says the plan will try to accomplish structural reforms in digitalization, equal conditions for women, and fight climate change, as well as addressing regional and social differences to establish a sustained growth during the next decade.
Speaking to business leaders and representatives from civil society, he also called for unity, in what has been seen as a call for opposition parties to back his left wing coalition’s new national budget when it’s presented to parliament later this year.
Spain, with nearly 440,000 infections of the new virus since February, has become western Europe’s hardest-hit country by a new surging wave of fresh outbreaks.
BUCHAREST, Romania — Romanian government is lifting several restrictions on daily life imposed earlier to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the country, despite consistently rising number of new infections and deaths.
The government announced Monday it will let indoor dining, movie theaters and performing art venues restart on Sept. 1. They must comply with social distancing and mask-wearing rules.
The announcement was made hours before the Romanian parliament was set to vote on a no-confidence motion against the government. It was filed by the strongest opposition party over what they describe as the incompetent response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Since the pandemic took hold in Romania in late February, the country of around 19 million people — including around 4 million who live abroad — has confirmed over 87,500 virus cases and 3,600 deaths.
Nearly 45% of all virus cases and close to 40% of all virus-related deaths were registered since the start of August.
Over the past week, the country has on average tallied over 1,150 new cases and 43 virus-related deaths a day.
LONDON — British authorities say 16 coronavirus cases have been linked to a flight that brought U.K. tourists back from Greece, and everyone aboard has been told to isolate themselves for two weeks.
Public Health Wales says it is contacting almost 200 people who were aboard the Tui flight from the Greek island of Zante to Cardiff, Wales, on Tuesday.
Gwen Lowe of Public Health Wales says 30 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the last week among people who returned from Zante on several flights. She says the number is expected to rise.
The U.K. requires people arriving from overseas to quarantine for two weeks, unless they are coming from one of more than 70 countries and territories considered at low risk from the coronavirus. Greece is on the exemption list.
TIRANA, Albania — In a test before the start of the school year, a few thousand Albanian elementary school students have started lesson following strict personal hygiene and environmental rules.
The Education Ministry said 4,500 students resumed lessons Monday while social distancing, wearing masks and having temperatures checked.
The move is considered as a preparatory step ahead of the mass school start in two weeks.
Education and health authorities have prepared other alternatives like online schooling if they see a spike of cases after the start of the school year.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey reports that its economy contracted by 9.9% in the second quarter of the year from the previous three-month period in the wake of lockdown measures put in place to deal with the pandemic.
Though the quarterly decline in the April to June period reported by the Turkish Statistical Institute on Monday was the country’s biggest contraction in more than a decade, it was slightly better than economists had predicted.
When the pandemic struck in March, the government imposed a number of restrictions to keep a lid on infections that inevitably hurt the economy.
As well as shutting down some businesses, it imposed weekend curfews, closed borders and restricted domestic travel. Many of the restrictions were lifted in June.
Hopes that the economy would rebound strongly in the third quarter have faltered as tourism levels have been way lower than previous years.
NEW DELHI — India has registered 78,512 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, maintaining an upward surge.
The Health Ministry on Monday also reported 948 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 64,469.
The surge has raised the country’s total reported virus cases since the pandemic began to more than 3.6 million.
A country of 1.4 billion people, India now has the fastest-growing reported coronavirus caseload of any country in the world, seeing more than 75,000 new cases for five straight days.
The virus has hit India’s major cities and is now fast spreading in smaller towns and rural areas.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand has lifted a lockdown imposed on the city of Auckland and also made it mandatory to wear masks on public transportion.
The nation’s largest city had been in a lockdown for more than two weeks after an outbreak of the coronavirus was discovered earlier this month. The new outbreak followed more than three months without any community transmission.
Health Minister Chris Hipkins said Monday that it was safe to reopen Auckland because all the recent infections have been linked to the same cluster through contact tracing.
He noted: “We’re already seeing signs of the city getting back to normal."
New Zealand reported nine new virus infections Monday, including four among recently returned travelers who are in quarantine.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has counted its 18th straight day of triple-digit daily jumps in coronavirus cases as its health minister warned about an increase in transmissions gone untraced.
The 248 new cases reported by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday brought the total reported cases since the pandemic began to 19,947, including 324 deaths.
KCDC said 187 of the new cases came from the Seoul metropolitan area, which has been at the center of the viral resurgence this month.
But infections were also reported in major cities across the country, including Busan, Daejeon, Ulsan and Daegu, which was the epicenter of the country’s previous major outbreak in late February and March.
Health Minister Park Neung-hoo during a virus meeting said it has become difficult for epidemiological workers to track transmissions and predict infection routes, saying they haven’t been able to trace the infection source of more than 20% of the cases found in the past two weeks.
MELBOURNE, Australia — The Australian state of Victoria has reported 41 new virus deaths as the government urges the hot spot state to announce plans to lift lockdown restrictions.
In addition to the deaths, Victoria’s health department on Monday reported 73 new coronavirus infections.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said only eight of the 41 new fatalities had died in the latest 24-hour period.
The other 33 had died in aged care since late July and were reported on Sunday following a tightening of reporting obligations and a review of previous reporting, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said.
The most deaths reported at a single time had previously been the 25 reported on Aug. 17. The tally of 73 new infections is the lowest since 67 new cases were recorded on June 30.
A six-week lockdown in the state capital Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, is due to be relaxed on Sept. 13. But the state government has not said how it will be relaxed or given any assurances that it won’t be extended.
Andrews said he would announce his government’s plan to reopen the economy on Sunday.