The Latest: WHO panel to offer report on virus next year
LONDON — An independent panel appointed by the World Health Organization to review its coordination of the response to the coronavirus pandemic says it will have full access to any internal U.N. agency documents, materials and emails.
The panel’s co-chairs, former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, announced the 11 other members on Thursday. They include Dr. Joanne Liu, who was an outspoken WHO critic while leading Medecins Sans Frontieres during the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
Also on the panel: Dr. Zhong Nanshan, a renowned Chinese doctor who was the first to publicly confirm human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus; Mark Dybul, who led the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; and David Miliband, a former British foreign secretary who is CEO of the International Rescue Committee.
Clark says she and Johnson Sirleaf chose the panel members independently and WHO didn’t attempt to influence their choices.
“We must honor the more than 25.6 million people known to have contracted the disease and the 850,000 and counting who have died from COVID-19,” Johnson Sirleaf says.
The panel will meet Sept. 17 and every six weeks until April. It expects to brief WHO on the initial progress in November before presenting a final report next year.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK
— Tyson Foods to open medical clinics at US plants
— Arkansas reported its largest single-day increase in deaths
— CDC tells states: Be ready to distribute vaccines on Nov. 1
— An independent panel appointed by the WHO to review its coordination of the response to the coronavirus pandemic will have access to any internal U.N. agency documents, materials and emails.
— Growth in the U.S. services sector, where most Americans work, slowed in August after a big rebound in July, indicating lingering problems stemming from the coronavirus.
— South African healthcare workers in Pretoria and Cape Town are protesting and threatening a strike against poor working conditions and corruption in the purchase of needed personal protective equipment.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
HONOLULU — Hawaii officials tested more than 1,700 Oahu residents on the state’s H-3 freeway and planned to do so again, risking a loss of federal transportation funds.
State officials say they expect to conduct a second round of tests on the H-3 Thursday. The Federal Highways Administration had denied Hawaii’s request to use the freeway for the event, citing the impact on traffic, commerce, safety.
The state receives $180 million in annual project funding from the highways agency, says Ed Sniffen, Hawaii Highways Division deputy director. Sniffen says, “it’s way too important for the public for us not to move forward with this testing.”
Democratic Gov. David Ige calls the freeway was “a safe testing site.”
MIAMI — Florida authorities say a 16-year-old student has been arrested for orchestrating a series of network outages and cyberattacks during the first week of school in the state’s largest district.
The Miami-Dade Schools Police say he’s a student at South Miami Senior High School. They say there could be others involved in cyberattacks that have plagued the Miami-Dade schools all week.
He is charged with computer use in an attempt to defraud, a felony, and misdemeanor interference with an educational institution.
Authorities say the student told police he had conducted eight attacks on the school computer system “designed to overwhelm district networks.”
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — A foreign national has been expelled from Norway for having violated the Scandinavian country’s 10-day quarantine rule.
Norwegian news agency NTB said Thursday the man had arrived from Germany via The Netherlands by plane. He was banned from re-entering the country for two years and given a fine of 20,000 kroner ($2,271).
Meanwhile, the Norwegian government advised against travelling to Italy and Slovenia and people coming from these two countries face a 10-day quarantine starting Saturday.
Italy and Slovenia have surpassed the threshold of 20 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the past days. The government followed a recommendation this week from Norwegian health officials.
The Foreign Ministry in Oslo says the Vatican and the tiny enclave of San Marino were considered as being part of Italy. Norway removed Cyprus from its red list.
Neighbor Denmark has recorded 179 new cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours, the highest single-day tally since April 22.
Norway has 11,035 confirmed coronavirus cases and 264 deaths.
AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan plans to resume international flights next week with a three-tiered system to isolate and track travelers who may have been exposed to the coronavirus.
The Transportation Ministry says all passengers must be tested 72 hours before departure and again on arrival when international flights resume on Tuesday.
Those arriving from “green” countries will not be required to quarantine if their test is negative. Those arriving from “yellow” or “red” countries will have to spend seven days in quarantine and another seven in home quarantine.
Those arriving from “red” countries will have to wear tracking bracelets while in home quarantine.
Jordan, a country of 10 million, has one of the lowest infection rates in the region — 2,161 confirmed cases and 15 deaths.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas reported its largest single-day increase in deaths from the coronavirus, while the number of cases at the University of Arkansas’ Fayetteville campus increased to nearly 400.
The Department of Health reported 27 new deaths Wednesday, bringing the state’s total to 841. However, the department says 13 of the deaths were late reports.
The University of Arkansas has been conducting testing on its campus through Thursday, which Dr. Jose Romero, the state’s health secretary, has said will give the state a better sense of the prevalence of the outbreak there. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he expected more than 1,000 test results from college students to come in over the next week.
The state reported 615 new confirmed cases, bringing its total to 62,112.
ZAGREB, Croatia — Croatia has registered a record 369 new daily coronavirus cases.
Health officials say the previous high was 358 on Aug. 26.
The new infections are attributed to the summer tourist season at the Adriatic coast where social distancing on the beaches, restaurants and nightclubs wasn’t strictly observed.
So far, 11,094 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Croatia and 194 have died.
OMAHA, Neb. — Tyson Foods says it is planning to open medical clinics at several of its U.S. plants to improve the health of its workers and better protect them from the coronavirus.
The Springdale, Arkansas-based company, which processes about 20% of all beef, pork and chicken in the U.S., says its plan to open the clinics was in the works before the coronavirus struck this year, but that they will undoubtedly help the company respond to the pandemic.
Tyson joins a long list of companies that have clinics on or near their worksites.
At least 17,700 meatpacking workers in the U.S. have been infected or exposed to the coronavirus and 115 have died, the United Food and Commercial Workers said.
This summer, the families of three Tyson workers in Iowa who died from COVID-19 sued the company, saying it knowingly put employees at risk in the early days of the pandemic.
JOHANNESBURG — The World Health Organization says all of Africa’s 54 countries have expressed interest in a global effort to ensure a coronavirus vaccine is distributed equally to rich and poorer countries.
The COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, or COVAX, aims to secure at least 220 million doses for the African continent of 1.3 billion people.
“In the past, we Africans have ended up far too often at the back of the queue for vaccines, and we have to ensure that this doesn’t happen again,” WHO Africa official Richard Mihigo said.
More than 170 countries have expressed in COVAX, with the goal of securing 2 billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021 so countries can meet the needs of at least 20% of their populations, starting with health workers and vulnerable populations.
The goal to have “significant quantities” of vaccines in the first half of 2021 seems on target, said Richard Hatchett, CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations
ATHENS, Greece — Three cabinet ministers in Greece have been placed in precautionary quarantine after a meeting with a business executive who later tested positive for the coronavrus.
The ministers of development and shipping Adonis Georgiadis and Giannis Plakiotakis say they would remain at home until tested. An alternate minister for development, Nikos Papathanassis, also was in precautionary quarantine.
The development ministry says the ministers had attended an investors’ meeting and the visiting business executive who tested positive had traveled from overseas.
Meanwhile, government officials say they are pressing ahead with plans to build detention facilities for migrants on Greek islands after a Somali man tested positive for the coronavirus at the country’s largest refugee camp on the island of Lesbos.
The Health Ministry is expected to carry out mass testing at the camp over the next few days.
HONG KONG — Only six people in Hong Kong have tested positive for the coronavirus out of a batch of 128,000 residents who had undergone the mass-testing program that began on Tuesday.
Four of the six were previous coronavirus patients who had been discharged last month, and still carried traces of the virus when they were tested.
As of Thursday, 850,000 people in the city of 7.5 million had registered to take part in the weeklong program that offers all residents a one-time, free coronavirus test as the city seeks to identify silent carriers of the virus.
The low number of positive cases found so far has drawn criticism that the government’s universal testing program was not cost effective amid privacy concerns and fears that DNA data could be sent to mainland China.
Hong Kong saw its third and worst surge of coronavirus infections in early July. At its peak, Hong Kong recorded more than 100 local cases a day, after going weeks without any in June. Cases have steadily dwindled following a raft of tough restrictions, including limiting dining-in hours and shuttering businesses such as bars and karaoke lounges.
Apart from the six people, Hong Kong reported eight other coronavirus infections on Thursday. In total, it has reported 4,839 confirmed cases with 93 deaths.
BERLIN — One of Europe’s biggest brothels has filed for bankruptcy after being unable to operate for months due to coronavirus restrictions.
German daily Express reported Thursday that the Pascha brothel in Cologne had used up all of its financial reserves paying for the upkeep of its 10-story building and 60 staff.
As part of a wide range of efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, the German state of North-Rhine Westphalia, where Cologne is located, banned prostitution five months ago.
Organizations representing sex workers have warned that the closure of brothels will likely force prostitution underground, where women are at greater risk of exploitation.
JOHANNESBURG — Africa’s top public health official says the rate of confirmed new coronavirus cases has fallen again, by 14% from the previous week.
John Nkengasong dismisses the idea of a “hidden pandemic” on the continent, telling reporters that testing has improved significantly in Africa’s 54 countries and close to 1% of the total population of 1.3 billion has been tested for the virus.
He says earlier concerns about testing shortages are disappearing as countries test more, and the easing curve “represents a sign of hope.”
Africa has a total of 1.2 million confirmed cases, roughly half in South Africa.
“In the coming weeks we’ll see dynamics begin to change with the introduction of antigen tests,” Nkengasong says. “We’re very encouraged it can transform the situation” as they can be easily decentralized for use beyond major cities and give a clearer picture of infections.
In response to the Trump administration saying it will not work with an international cooperative effort to develop and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine globally, Nkengasong says “we are in this together. No country will be safe if any country in the world still has cases of COVID.”
MELBOURNE, Australia — A pregnant woman was handcuffed by police in front of her children in her Australian home and led away in pajamas for allegedly inciting activists to demonstrate against pandemic lockdown.
Zoe Buhler’s partner helped her livestream the arrest on Wednesday at her home where she lives with two children ages 3 and 4 in the Victoria state city of Ballarat. The video has been viewed millions of times.
The 28-year-old has since been charged with using social media platforms to incite others to break pandemic restrictions by attending weekend rallies.