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Russia coronavirus cases top 1.5 million; no new lockdown

MOSCOW -- Russia’s tally of confirmed coronavirus cases surpassed 1.5 million on Sunday as authorities reported 16,710 new infections amid a rapid resurgence of the outbreak that has swept the country in recent weeks.

Russia’s caseload remains the fourth largest in the world. The government’s coronavirus task force has also registered a total of over 26,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

The task force has been reporting over 15,000 new infections every day since last Sunday, which is much higher than in the spring, when the highest number of daily new cases was 11,656.

Despite the sharp spike in daily new infections, Russian authorities have repeatedly dismissed the idea of imposing a second lockdown or shutting down businesses after most virus-related restrictions were lifted during the summer. In some Russian regions, officials urged the elderly to self-isolate at home and called on employers to have at least part of their staff work from home. Several regions have shut down nightclubs and limited the hours of restaurants and bars.

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

Europe's restaurants and bars are being walloped by new virus curfews and restrictions

Spain orders nationwide curfew to tamp down surging virus infections

— Surging coronavirus colors White House race in closing days

— Vice President Mike Pence plans to maintain an aggressive campaign schedule despite an apparent outbreak of the coronavirus among his senior aides.

— Police in England will try to stop people from leaving Wales, which has started a 17-day lockdown to slow a surging rate of coronavirus infections.

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

BALTIMORE — A day after the U.S. set a daily record for new confirmed coronavirus infections, it came very close to doing it again.

Data published by Johns Hopkins University shows that 83,718 new cases in the U.S. were reported Saturday, nearly matching the 83,757 infections reported Friday. Before that, the most cases reported in the United States on a single day had been 77,362 on July 16.

Close to 8.6 million Americans have contracted the coronavirus since the pandemic began, and about 225,000 have died. Both statistics are the world’s highest. India has more than 7.8 million infections but in recent weeks its daily number have been declining.

U.S. health officials have feared the surge of infections to come with colder weather and people spending more time indoors, especially as many flout guidelines to protect themselves and others such as mask-wearing and social distancing.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington currently forecasts that the country’s COVID-19 death toll could exceed 318,000 by Jan. 1.

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BERLIN — Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn, who has tested positive for the new coronavirus, appealed to Germans on Sunday to keep obeying precautionary measures as the virus spikes across the country and the hospital intensive care units are filling up again.

Spahn, 40, posted a video on his Facebook page saying he was lucky that other than “cold symptoms,” he is not suffering any other COVID-related symptoms. He also said none of his close coworkers at the ministry had yet tested positive.

Spahn appealed to all citizens to wear masks and keep distance in light of quickly rising infection figures.

““It is serious. We know the harm this virus can cause, especially for people with preexisting illness and for the elderly and very old,” he said.

On Sunday, Germany’s national disease control center reported 11,176 new daily infections, almost double the number reported a week ago Sunday. Another 29 people died of COVID, bringing Germany’s overall death toll to 10,032.

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ROME — For at least the next month, most people outdoors in Italy now must wear masks, the country's gyms, cinemas and movie theaters will be closed, ski slopes are off-limits to all but competitive skiers and cafes and restaurants must shut down in the early evenings.

The latest restrictions came via a decree signed Sunday by Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte, who ruled against another severe lockdown despite Italy's current surge in COVID-19 infections. In several regions of the country, mask-wearing outdoors was already mandatory.

A day earlier, Italy surpassed the half-million mark in the number of confirmed coronavirus infections since its outbreak began in February, the first country to be stricken in Europe. The last two days have seen daily new caseloads creep close to 20,000.

Italy has the second-most confirmed virus deaths in Europe after Britain, with 37,210 dead.

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BERLIN — Several people attacked Germany’s national disease control center with incendiary devices early Sunday, Berlin police reported.

A security guard noticed the attack on the Robert Koch Institute in the German capital and was able to quickly extinguished the flames. Nobody was injured, but one window was destroyed. Criminal police has taken over the investigation on suspicion that the attack may have been politically motivated.

Among other things, the institute keeps track of Germany’s coronavirus outbreak. It publishes daily new infection figures and also advises the government and the public on how to keep the pandemic from getting out of control.

While most Germans support the country’s handling of the pandemic, some have tried to downplay the dangers of the virus.

On Sunday, the institute reported 11,176 new daily infections, almost double the number reported a week ago Sunday. Another 29 people died of COVID, bringing Germany’s overall death toll to 10,032.

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NEW DELHI — India’s daily coronavirus cases have dropped to nearly 50,000, maintaining a downturn over the last few weeks.

The Health Ministry says 50,129 new cases have taken the overall tally to nearly 7.9 million on Sunday. It also reported 578 deaths in the past 24 hours, raising total fatalities to 118,534.

The ministry also said India’s active coronavirus cases were below 700,000 across the country and almost 7.1 million people had recovered from COVID-19.

India is second to the United States with the largest outbreak of the coronavirus. Last month, India hit a peak of nearly 100,000 cases in a single day, but since then daily cases have fallen by about half and deaths by about a third.

Some experts say the decline in cases suggests that the virus may have finally reached a plateau but others question the testing methods. India is relying heavily on antigen tests, which are faster but less accurate than traditional RT-PCR tests.

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MELBOURNE, Australia — A COVID-19 outbreak in the north of Melbourne has led health authorities in Australia’s Victoria state to hold off on any further easing of restrictions in the beleaguered city.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews withheld any announcement on an easing on Sunday as the state awaits results on 3,000 people who were tested in the city’s north in the past 24 hours.

He described it as a “cautious pause” - not a setback - to rule out there wasn’t widespread community transmission linked to the cluster.

Among the current restrictions are mandatory wearing of masks and no traveling beyond 25 kilometers (15 miles) from home. At the start of the second wave of cases two months ago, Andrews instituted an overnight curfew and shut down most businesses.

“I know it is frustrating,” Andrews said. “I know people are keen to have a long and detailed list of changes to the rules. It is not appropriate for us to do that now.”″

Victoria reported seven new coronavirus cases on Sunday, with six linked to the latest outbreak, which involves 39 people across 11 households.

No additional deaths kept the state toll at 817 and the national toll at 905.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lankan authorities have terminated a number of passenger trains and widened the curfew as COVID-19 cases related to a new cluster at a garment factory continue to surge.

The Railway Department canceled at least 16 trains — mostly ran through busy office hours — after the number of commuters declined due to the curfew imposed in many parts of the country.

More than a dozen villages are isolated in densely populated Western province, which includes capital Colombo.

Authorities last week closed the island’s main fish market on Colombo’s outskirts after 49 traders tested positive for the coronavirus. By Sunday, the number of cases from the fish market went up to nearly 900.

Authorities say the outbreak is linked to a cluster in a garment factory early this month, which has grown to 4,052 cases, more than half the country’s total of 7,521. During the last 24 hours, 368 new cases have been detected.

In a bid to contain the spread, health authorities also closed three fishery harbors and many fish stalls around the country.

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BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombia reached 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases on Saturday, its health ministry says, becoming the second country in Latin America to report that number in less than a week.

The nation of 50 million saw cases peak in August and has seen a decline since but still continues to register around 8,000 new infections a day.

Eight countries now have more than 1 million confirmed cases, and three are in Latin America. Argentina hit 1 million confirmed cases on Monday. Brazil ranks third worldwide in the number of virus cases, with more than 5 million, and passed 1 million infections back in June. Peru and Mexico are expected to reach 1 million cases each in the coming weeks.

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LANSING, Mich. — Michigan has reported more than 3,000 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus — the highest daily count yet during the pandemic.

The 3,338 new COVID-19 cases reported Saturday by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services surpassed the state’s previous single-day record of 2,030 new cases set on Oct. 15. That earlier record had topped the previous record of 1,953 from early April.

The state agency also reported Saturday 35 more deaths from COVID-19, raising Michigan’s pandemic toll to 7,182 deaths.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan’s chief medical executive, said that it’s “now more important than ever that people take this seriously.” She urged Michigan residents to wear a face mask every time they are around someone outside of their own household, to practice social distancing and avoid large gatherings.

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EL PASO, Texas — The surge in coronavirus in the Texas border city of El Paso continued Saturday with a record 1,216 new cases, nearly 20% of the state’s 6,125 new cases, according to city-county health officials.

There have been 3,346 cases in the city during the past three days, according to city-county health reports. El Paso has reported 38,554 total cases since the pandemic began in March.

“Today’s spike is part of an unfortunate national surge that we have been planning and preparing for,” public health director Angela Mora said. “Now, we need our community to help us by doing their part and staying home, if and when possible, for the next two weeks in order to stop the rapid the spread of the virus.”

Gov. Greg Abbott has sent medical equipment and about 500 medical personnel to the region to help fight the virus. There have been more than 858,000 reported cases in Texas and nearly 17,500 deaths, 81 reported Saturday, since the pandemic’s start.

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COLUMBIA, Tenn. — A Tennessee hospital is suspending all elective procedures requiring an overnight stay due to a surge in patients hospitalized with COVID-19, The Daily Herald of Columbia, Tennessee, reported.

As of Friday evening, Columbia’s Maury Regional Medical Center was treating 50 COVID-19 inpatients, 20 of whom were in the medical center’s 26-bed intensive care unit. In response, the hospital said Friday it is suspending elective surgical procedures that require an overnight stay for two weeks, beginning on Monday.

“The time has long passed for our community to take this virus seriously,” said Alan Watson, CEO of Maury Regional Health.

On Thursday, the Tennessee Department of Health reported that statewide hospitalizations had reached a new record of 1,300 patients with COVID-19 and had an ICU bed availability of just 11%.

Martin Chaney, Maury Regional’s chief medical officer, said small home gatherings have become the emerging threat.

“In our homes, we all let our guard down,” Chaney said. “You think it is safe to not socially distance, and you take your masks off. That is spreading the disease very rapidly.”

He said Maury Regional has consistently seen a surge in cases about two weeks after each major holiday.

Tennessee recorded 2,574 new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday and 24 new deaths, bringing the total number of deaths in the state to 3,100.

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