The Latest: Africa sees average 8% rise in new virus cases

NAIROBI, Kenya — Africa’s top public health official says the continent has seen an average 8% rise in new coronavirus cases over the past month as infections creep up again in parts of the continent of 1.3 billion people.

John Nkengasong says “we expected it to happen” and warns that when the virus comes back for a second wave, “it seems to come back with a lot of full force.”

The African continent is approaching 2 million confirmed cases, with just over 1.9 million now including more than 45,000 deaths.

Nkengasong says that “we are at a critical point in the response” and again urges governments and citizens to follow public health measures. Testing across Africa remains a challenge, with 19 million tests conducted so far. Countries with the highest increase of cases in the past week include Congo at 37%, Kenya at 34% and Nigeria at 17%.

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

World leaders speak to Biden about the pandemic and other issues even as Trump complicates transition

Italian hospitals face breaking point as fall virus surge sickens patients

— New Orleans teenager getting ready for milestones of adulthood among lives lost to virus

California is nearing 1 million confirmed infections, the second US state after Texas passed the mark earlier this week

— The last virus-free places on Earth are one distant continent, a few Pacific island nations and two highly secretive states

— Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

BERLIN — Germany’s national disease control center says it is seeing tentative signs that the country’s increase in coronavirus infections is slowing, but is warning that some hospitals could reach capacity limits in the coming weeks.

Germany embarked on a four-week partial shutdown on Nov. 2. On Thursday, the Robert Koch Institute, the disease control center, said 21,866 new cases were recorded in the past 24 hours in the nation of 83 million. That’s short of a record of 23,399 set on Saturday, but nearly 2,000 more than a week earlier.

The institute’s head, Lothar Wieler, said Thursday that he is “cautiously optimistic” because “the curve is rising somewhat less steeply, it is flattening.” But he said “we don’t yet know whether this is stable development.”

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PARIS — Some doctors and France’s latest virus figures suggest the current wave of infections is peaking, and relief is in sight.

The French prime minister is giving a news conference Thursday evening about the impact of two weeks of a partial new lockdown, and is expected to announce that authorities are starting to regain control over the virus.

Businesses are pushing to reopen, but the confinement measures are scheduled to stay in place at least until Dec. 1.

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BERLIN — Germany’s flagship airline Lufthansa has started a test program that it is hoping will ensure passenger and flight crew safety amid the coronavirus pandemic, and encourage more people to fly.

The airline said Thursday that all passengers on a Munich to Hamburg morning flight took a so-called antigen test and were only allowed to board after the quick results showed they were negative for the coronavirus.

The passengers weren't charged for the test, but had to block out about an hour extra time for it to be carried out and for the results to be ready, the airline said.

For the twice-daily flight during the trial period, passengers who refuse to be tested or who can’t show they had a negative PCR test no more than 48 hours before boarding will be rebooked.

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ISTANBUL — Turkey’s interior ministry has banned smoking in public places across the country to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

In a statement late Wednesday, the ministry said smoking would be banned in busy streets, bus stops and public squares when necessary.

It said the nationwide mask mandate in public spaces must be followed at all times. It said smokers were routinely violating the mask rule, which has been in effect for several months.

The ministry also said provinces can decide to impose curfews on people older than 65 according to increases in the number of critical patients. The governors of Istanbul and Ankara have already reintroduced measures this week, allowing senior citizens to leave their homes only between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Turkey has seen a spike in infections since lifting partial lockdowns and reopening businesses in late May.

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SEOUL, South Korea — A South Korean court has granted bail for a religious sect leader who was arrested in August over allegations that he and his church disrupted the government’s anti-virus response.

The Suwon District Court on Thursday cited concerns about the health of 88-year-old Lee Man-hee, chairman of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, and said he was no longer a serious threat to destroy evidence considering the prosecution’s progress in investigation. The court required Lee to wear electronic tracking devices and not to leave his home.

Prosecutors have accused Lee and his church of violating infectious disease laws by deliberately hiding some of the church’s membership and under-reporting its gatherings to avoid broader quarantines.

Lee and his church have steadfastly denied the accusations, saying that the church has been properly cooperating with health authorities.

More than 5,200 of the South Korea’s 27,942 coronavirus cases have been linked to the church.

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NEW DELHI — India has reported 47,905 new cases of coronavirus infection with New Delhi setting another daily record Thursday.

The surge of 8,593 cases in the nation’s capital is the highest for any major Indian city and comes as people crowd shopping areas ahead of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, on Saturday.

Deaths, too, are climbing again, with 85 in New Delhi in the past 24 hours. Deaths are a lagging indicator of the impact of the virus, due to long periods of illness and medical treatment.

Overall, India’s new cases held steady. The Health Ministry also reported 550 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities to 128,121.

India’s tally of confirmed cases — currently the second largest in the world behind the United States — has exceeded 8.6 million.

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Health officials in New Zealand have asked people who work in central Auckland to stay home on Friday or limit their movements while they continue to investigate a coronavirus case from an undetermined source.

Authorities say they’re urgently investigating the recent movements of the Auckland student who works at a clothing store. They say the student lives next door to a hotel where people arriving from abroad are being quarantined, some of whom have tested positive over recent weeks.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says authorities are testing the genome of the student’s case to see if there is a connection to the hotel cases, and they will announce Friday whether they’ll be changing New Zealand’s alert levels.

The case comes as a blow to a country which has been largely successful in its attempts to eliminate community spread of the virus.

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