The Latest: Guatemala sacks health minister as virus spikes
GUATEMALA CITY — Guatemala has replaced its health minister amid a spike in COVID-19 infections and deaths in the Central American country.
An official in the presidency who was not authorized to speak about the personnel change and requested anonymity said that Health Minister Hugo Monroy was replaced on Friday with Amelia Flores, a former vice-minister of health in an earlier administration.
Monroy, who had held the position since January, had been harshly criticized for his management of the pandemic.
Guatemala has reported more than 11,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 449 deaths.
President Alejandro Giammattei has been under growing pressure from the business sector to loosen restrictions. Earlier attempts to reactivate the economy were followed by a surge in infections, prompting Giammattei to clamp down again.
—By Sonia Perez D, Guatemala City;
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Confirmed cornavirus cases linked to Germany slaughterhouse surpass 800
— World Health Organizations chief says pandemic is “accelerating,” confirmed cases hit daily high
— Decline in new US virus deaths may be temporary reprieve
— A South African activist and doctor who died of COVID-19 spent his life fighting apartheid, the government’s denial of HIV/AIDS and rampant corruption. Loved ones say Clarence Mini knew the odds were against him but he was committed to what he believed was right. He died in May at age 69.
— The United Nations food agency i s warning that without immediate funding it will stop delivering masks, gloves and other critical equipment to tackle the pandemic to 132 countries by the third week of July.
— New York City restaurants will be allowed to open with outdoor seating on Monday as the city enters the second phase of easing coronavirus restrictions.
Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
PARIS — French authorities are keeping a close eye on signs of an accelerating spread of the coronavirus in Normandy, a region that’s until now been spared the worst of the outbreak that has hit Paris and the east of France particularly hard.
An indicator that authorities are watching closely is the so-called “R” number, which indicates how many people will be contaminated on average by an infected person.
In Normandy, that number has increased to 1.6 this past week, higher than the alert level of 1.5 set by French authorities.
However, health authorities said on Friday that the increase could be explained by the carrying out of mass-testing in the region and the discovery of several new clusters “that are being managed” in the Normandy town of Rouen.
PHOENIX — Arizona’s count of confirmed COVID-19 cases has surged again, setting the third record in four days for daily high numbers of new cases.
The state Department of Health Services reported 3,246 additional cases on Friday, increasing the statewide total to 46,689.
Arisona has also reported 1,312 deaths from the virus, including 41 reported on Friday.
The state has become a national coronavirus hotspot since Gov. Doug Ducey lifted stay-home orders last month. Ducey on Wednesday reversed himself and allowed local governments to mandate use of face masks in public to slow spread of the coronavirus.
Tucson and Flagstaff are among cities that have imposed mandates and the Phoenix City Council planned Friday to consider imposing one.
COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina’s hard-hit hospitality industry in May clawed back some of the jobs lost amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as businesses across the state continue to reopen — and new COVID-19 case numbers continue to soar.
South Carolina’s Department of Employment and Workforce announced on Friday that the state’s jobless rate for the month of May stood at 12.5%, a slight improvement over a record-setting revised April rate of 12.8%. At that point, the coronavirus had wiped out nearly half of the state’s restaurant tourism and other hospitality jobs, with officials estimating that overall annual revenue from the $24 billion tourism industry would be cut in half for 2020.
Many of May’s gains came in the hospitality sector, which posted more than 36,000 new jobs. Employment and Workforce director Dan Ellzey pointed out that the May labor survey was conducted during the same week that Gov. Henry McMaster allowed restaurants in the state to re-open, a move that accounted for many of the hospitality job gains.
The news comes amid a record-setting week for new COVID-19 cases in South Carolina. On Thursday, state health officials announced an additional 982 people had tested positive for coronavirus — a new single-day record — for a total number of more than 21,500 across the state, resulting in 621 deaths.
TORONTO — Canada’s deputy prime minister says Canada has approved a National Hockey League plan to play in Canada amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The plan required an exemption as the U.S.-Canada border is currently closed to all non-essential travel until at least July 21 and those who enter Canada must self isolate for 14 days.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada’s top public health officer as well as the top health officers of Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Toronto worked closely with the NHL to approve the plan. Freeland says it will be very important for the players to continue to work very closely with health officials and follow their instruction.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, says robust protocols such as group quarantining and testing will be in place. The league plans to have training camps open in July and to play games without spectators in a couple of cities in late July or August.
WASHINGTON – The capital of the United States is moving to the second phase of its reopening next week.
Washington, D.C., officials say the anticipated spike in COVID-19 infections appears to have been successfully blunted by months of social restrictions.
Playgrounds, libraries, gyms and nail salons will be able to reopen on a limited basis starting Monday. All nonessential businesses will be allowed to let customers inside up to 50% capacity. Restaurants also will be able to seat diners indoors, also at 50% capacity.
Theaters, cinemas and concert venues will remain closed but they can apply for a special waiver from the District government. Public pools will reopen on a limited basis, although Washington Mayor Bowser said earlier this week that it may take a few weeks to properly prepare the facilities.
Indoor gatherings of up to 50 people will be allowed, and houses of worship can hold in-person for 100 people or 50% capacity — whichever number is smaller.
As of Friday, the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Washington stood at 9,952, including 530 deaths.
MILAN — Italy added 251 new corinavirus cases in 24 hours, bringing the national total to 238,011 as of Friday.
Italy’s civil protection agency says two-thirds of the new confirmed cases, or 157, were in the Lombardy region.
The agency said virus-related deaths rose by 47 between Thursday and Friday, for a total death toll of 34,561 since Italy’s outbreak started.
Six weeks after the Italian government began easing its lockdown measures, 21,543 people are currently positive for corinavirus.
Experts believe the number is much higher as testing has been limited to those with severe COVID-19 symptoms, people hospitalized, health care workers and nursing home residents.
A Chinese tourist couple who were treated as Italy’s first known COVID-19 patients have donated $40,000 to the Italian infectious diseases hospital where they spent weeks receiving treatment.
Rome’s Spallanzani Hospital Health Director Francesco Vaia said on Friday that the married couple asked that their gift be used to help combat COVID-19.
LONDON — The emergencies chief of the World Health Organization has confirmed that China shared coronavirus sequences from its latest outbreak with the global community and says it appears the virus was imported to Beijing from strains circulating in Europe.
At a press briefing on Friday, Dr. Michael Ryan noted that “strains and viruses have moved around the world” throughout the pandemic. Ryan said that many viruses in New York “were of European origin” but that doesn’t mean Europe necessarily was the original source.
He says analysis of the genetic sequences so far suggests that the virus spread to people in China from other humans instead of jumping from animals directly into humans.
Ryan called for a detailed investigation into the recent Beijing outbreak to determine how the imported cases sparked such a large cluster.
After the new coronavirus was first detected in people in Wuhan in late December, officials guessed that it likely jumped into people from a wildlife market, although the species responsible has never been identified.
BERLIN — German authorities say the number of confirmed coronavirus infections linked to an outbreak at a slaughterhouse has risen to 803.
Officials in Guetersloh county in western Germany said Friday that 463 tests so far have been negative. They have tested over 3,500 people so far at the Toennies Group site in Rheda-Wiedenbrueck, and are awaiting the results of the remaining tests.
The number of confirmed cases was up from 730 on Thursday. The source of the infections remained unclear.
The flurry of cases at the site contributed to Germany’s biggest daily increase in virus cases in a month.
Following a series of earlier coronavirus clusters at abattoirs, the German government pledged to crack down on the practice of using subcontractors, who often hire migrant workers and house them in cramped accommodation. But some lawmakers have warned of the risk that jobs might move abroad.
GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization said the coronavirus pandemic is “accelerating” and that more than 150,000 cases were reported yesterday — the highest single-day number so far.
In a media briefing on Friday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said nearly half of the newly reported cases were from the Americas, with significant numbers from South Asia and the Middle East.
“We are in a new and dangerous phase,” he said, warning that restrictive measures are still needed to stop the pandemic. “Many people are understandably fed up with being at home (and) countries are understandably eager to open up their societies.”
But Tedros warned that the virus is still “spreading fast.” He noted the toll would be especially great on refugees, more than 80% of whom live in mostly developing nations.
“We have a shared duty to everything we can to prevent, detect and respond to the transmission of COVID-19 detected among refugees in hospitals.”
LISBON, Portugal — Portugal’s government is lashing out at some of its European Union partners who have barred Portuguese from entering their country due to fears over the spread of COVID-19.
Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva said Friday that some countries are basing their risk evaluation solely on the number of new cases reported each day.
Portugal has in recent weeks been reporting around 300 new infections a day due to a spate of isolated outbreaks, and Portuguese are now shut out of a half-dozen other EU countries.
Santos Silva said in a statement that Portugal has been carrying out more tests than most EU countries, with its tally of 98,700 tests per million inhabitants making it the sixth-highest in the EU. He said that strategy increases the number of cases detected.
Also, he noted that Portugal’s COVID-19 death toll is relatively low in EU terms, at 149 per million inhabitants.
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s public laboratories continue to struggle with long delays in coronavirus testing, while the country has seen some of its highest daily case numbers in recent days.
The average wait for test results is 12 days at public labs, according to the latest weekly report by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.
The average wait at private labs is less than two days. South Africa has roughly 30% of the virus cases on the African continent with more than 83,000 cases.
The country is becoming a global hot spot and yet its number of tests has slipped in recent weeks. The new report says that’s likely because of a shortage of testing materials, a problem faced by countries across Africa. The continent overall has more than 275,000 cases.
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — The number of newly confirmed coronavirus cases in Bosnia nearly quadrupled this month compared to the situation in May when the country was still under a strict lockdown.
According to official statistics, as of June 1, when Bosnia allowed life to return to something like normal, it registered 749 new cases compared to just 189 registered in the last 19 days of May.
While Bosnians are still required to wear face masks and maintain social distance, they are increasingly stretching the rules, often gathering at uncomfortably close quarters and without masks.
So far, more than 81,000 of Bosnia’s 3.5 million people have been tested for the coronavirus. The total number of confirmed cases during the pandemic reached nearly 3,300 as of Friday, including 169 deaths.
MADRID — Spain is adding more than 1,000 more fatalities to its coronavirus death toll in the first update in nearly two weeks after officials revised a backlog of inconsistent data.
At least 28,313 people have died through Friday with a COVID-19 diagnosis, health officials. Authorities had stopped updating the tally at 27,136 on June 7.
The country has also confirmed more than 244,000 infections since the beginning of the outbreak, although an official immunization survey estimates that 5% of its 47 million inhabitants are presumed as having contracted the virus.
Spain’s health minister says that 34 clusters have been detected in the past six weeks, since Spain began to relax its confinement rules. The new clusters have infected around 1,000 people in slaughterhouses, nursing homes, hospitals and among migrant workers and party-goers.
JOHANNESBURG — A global campaign to end malaria is warning that the COVID-19 pandemic is hurting the production and supply of needed rapid testing kits and drugs as the rainy season begins in Africa, the region hardest hit by the mosquito-borne disease.
A statement by the RBM Partnership to End Malaria says there’s an immediate need for another 105 million rapid testing kits for malaria this year. It says the COVID-19 pandemic and demand for testing kits and potential drugs is creating shortages and price increases of malaria testing kits and “active pharmaceutical ingredients” used in malaria medicines.
The statement doesn’t mention hydroxychloroquine by name. But President Donald Trump aggressively pushed the drug early in the pandemic and raised its profile even though a British trial showed that it doesn’t prevent deaths among hospitalized patients with COVID-19.
ROME — A study by Italy’s National Institute of Health has found that the new coronavirus was in circulation in wastewater in the northern cities of Milan and Turin in December 2019, at least two months before the virus was confirmed to have spread locally in the population.
The study, released Thursday, was based on 40 water samples collected as part of regular checks from sewage treatment plants in northern Italy from October 2019 to February 2020. It showed the virus that causes COVID-19 in Dec. 18 samples from Milan and Turin, while earlier samples were negative.
The research has so far not linked any confirmed cases to the virus’ earlier presence, but researchers have proposed using the system to monitor the presence of the new coronavirus in water systems to help identify any possible new outbreaks.
A pilot monitoring system will launch next month in tourist destinations, in preparation for wider monitoring ahead of a possible new spike in infections, the institute said.
TOKYO — Japanese shoppers queued up in a long line at Uniqlo stores and others clogged up the company’s online shopping site Friday as they rushed to buy washable face masks made from the fashion brand’s popular underwear fabric.
Many people were waiting in the rain Friday even before stores opened. The breathable “Airism” masks that come in three sizes were sold out by early afternoon at both stores and the online shopping site.
Uniqlo apologized that the masks were sold out so quickly. The company said it is now increasing production and more will be available at a later date.
A three-piece pack is priced at 990 yen ($9.20).
Electronics maker Sharp has also begun mask production.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan is racing against time to arrange 1,500 more ventilators as part of a contingency plan to handle any emergency, as Islamabad reported 136 new deaths from coronavirus.
According to Pakistan’s National Command and Control Center, as many as 103 additional ventilators were recently provided to hospitals handling COVID-19 patients, bringing the total number of ventilators to 1,503.
The announcement comes amid a surge in COVID-19 deaths which critics blame on Prime Minister Imran Khan.
They say Khan eased restrictions last month at a time when there was a need to enforce a stricter lockdown to contain the spread of the virus.
As well as the 136 new deaths — for a total of 3,229 — Pakistan on Friday reported 4,944 new confirmed cases, increasing the total to 165,062.
LONDON — A meat processing plant in West Yorkshire has been shut down amid a localized outbreak of COVID-19, the third such site to shut down in the U.K. in recent days.
The shutdown of the Yorkshire plant follows further outbreaks in food processing sites in Anglesey and Wrexham in North Wales.
Asda confirmed that its subsidiary, Kober, had decided to close a plant in Cleckheaton.
It says that as soon as it became aware of the outbreak, it “responded swiftly and worked collaboratively with the local authority and Public Health England to test all colleagues.’’
Doctors and local officials in the community have expressed frustration at the announcement because they say they first learned about it when Health Secretary Matt Hancock mentioned “as cluster of cases’’ in the Kirklees area during the daily Downing Street news conference on Thursday.
LONDON — Britain has lowered its coronavirus threat level by one notch, as public health officials say the outbreak is coming under control.
The U.K.’s Joint Biosecurity Center has recommended that the country move from the second-highest level, 4 — meaning transmission is high or rising exponentially — to level 3, where a COVID-19 epidemic is in general circulation.
The U.K.’s chief medical officers say there has been “a steady decrease in cases” across the country, but localized outbreaks are still likely.
Britain has suffered Europe’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak, with more than 42,000 confirmed fatalities.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the lowering of the alert level was “a big moment for the country, and a real testament to the British people’s determination to beat this virus.”
TOKYO — Japan has launched a smartphone app that notifies users who have come into close contact with someone infected with the coronavirus.
The COVID-19 Contact Confirming Application, or COCOA, was created by the Health Ministry using technology developed by Apple and Google.
The free app logs users’ data via phone Bluetooth when they are within a meter (yard) of each other for 15 minutes of longer. If any of them test positive and disclose their results in the app, other users are notified.
Data will only be recorded and stored in each user’s phone, and will be deleted after 14 days.
Studies have shown that similar contact tracing apps can be effective when used by about 60% of the population. That means virtually all smartphone users in Japan have to register — an extremely ambitious goal to make it work.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Security authorities in The Hague have banned a planned protest against coronavirus restrictions, saying the demonstration Sunday forms a threat to public health.
The city’s mayor, Johan Remkes, wrote Friday that the planned event originally was to have drawn about 100 people but changes to the program to include performances by DJs have effectively turned it into a festival that could attract up to 10,000.
Remkes says in a statement that the right to demonstrate in public is important, “but it is not unlimited.”
Organizers called the event to protest the government’s lockdown measures.
BERLIN — Germany’s disease control center reported the highest daily increase in COVID-19 cases in a month, as positive tests from an outbreak at a slaughterhouse enter the statistics.
The Robert Koch Institute listed 770 new cases Friday, taking its total tally since the start of the outbreak to 188,534. It was the biggest daily increase since May 20.
The German government has stuck to its course of gradually reopening the country while seeking to clamp down swiftly on local outbreaks.
Authorities in the western county of Guetersloh are testing thousands of workers at a slaughterhouse. At least 730 people have already tested positive for the new coronavirus there.
PERTH, Australia — A livestock ship loaded with 35,000 sheep has left Australia for the Middle East three weeks behind schedule due to half the crew becoming infected with the coronavirus.
The Al Kuwait left the west coast port of Fremantle on Friday bound for Kuwait after the federal government granted it an exemption from a ban on live sheep exports during the Northern Hemisphere summer and a court later rejected an appeal by animal rights activists.
The Al Kuwait arrived at Fremantle from the United Arab Emirates on May 22 with plans to load the last shipment of sheep before the three-month export ban on animal welfare grounds took effect on June 1.
But more than 20 of its 48 crew members soon tested positive for the virus and were taken to a hospital and hotel rooms to recover. All have recovered and most left Fremantle with the ship.
NEW DELHI — India has recorded the highest one-day spike of 13,586 coronavirus cases, raising the total to 380,532.
India’s death toll on Friday reached 12,573, a rise of 336. The number of recoveries touched 52% at 204,711.
India stands behind the United States, Brazil and Russia in the number of cases. But the country is continuing with unlocking the economy.
The lockdown, imposed on March 25, is now restricted to high-risk areas. The worst-hit states are Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and New Delhi. They account for 60% of all cases.
SINGAPORE — Singaporeans can wine and dine at restaurants, work out at the gym and get together but no more than five people after most lockdown restrictions were lifted Friday.
The city-state has one of the highest infections in Asia with 41,473 confirmed cases, mostly linked to foreign workers’ dorms. The government says the infections have declined, with no new large clusters emerging.
Cases outside the dorms were also stable despite a partial economic reopening two weeks ago.
Malls, gyms, massage parlors, parks and other public spaces reopened Friday, with strict social distancing and health safety rules. Tuition classes also resumed, except singing. Minor prohibitions remain including on contact sports and mass religious congregations.
Entertainment venues such as cinemas, karaoke rooms and bars are still shut while big events including trade fairs and concerts are banned.
SEOUL, South Korea — The coronavirus continues to spread in South Korea, particularly in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan region, which is home to half the country’s 51 million people.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 49 new cases for the nation Friday, with 26 of them in Seoul and the nearby port city of Incheon. South Korea has had a total of 12,306 infections, including 280 deaths.
Officials have been reporting around 30 to 50 new cases a day since late May, inspiring second guessing on whether officials were too quick to ease social distancing guidelines in April after the country’s first wave of infections waned.
Hundreds of cases in the Seoul area have been linked to leisure and religious activities and low-income workers who can’t afford to stay home.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma has a big surge in new coronavirus cases, to a new daily high double the previous record-setting number two days earlier.
State health officials listed 450 new cases Thursday, compared to the previous one-day high of 229 reported Tuesday. The additional cases increased the state’s overall total 5.1% to 9,354 since the outbreak began.
Two deaths Thursday brought the Oklahoma COVID-19 death toll to 366.
Tulsa County continues as the state’s leading COVID-19 hot spot with 120 new cases, for a total of 1,945. Second-place Oklahoma County reported 107 new cases, bringing its total to 1,861.
The new wave comes amid demonstrations to protest police killings of black citizens and ahead of Juneteenth celebrations and a Saturday rally planned by President Donald Trump
BEIJING — New coronavirus cases remained stable in China’s capital Friday, a day after a public health official declared Beijing’s latest outbreak under control.
Beijing recorded 25 new cases, up by just four from Thursday, out of a total of 32 cases reported nationwide.
Beijing has confirmed 183 new cases over the past week, but an official of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that the daily numbers should begin to decline soon. Wu Zunyou said such outbreaks are inevitable, though this one was larger than expected because it spread from Beijing’s main wholesale market.
Classes in the city have been suspended and opening-up plans for everything from sports events to art exhibitions are hold.
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations’ food agency says ít needs immediate funding to prevent a shutdown in late July of the global transport system that has been delivering tons of masks, gloves and other critical equipment for the coronavirus pandemic in 132 nations.
The World Food Program’s director of operations said Thursday that the agency also would have to ground aircraft that have transported 2,600 humanitarian and health workers free of charge to 40 destinations across Africa, Asia and the Middle East since the pandemic began.
Amer Daoudi says the WFP requested $965 million to sustain its transport services through 2020 but so far has received only $132 million even though “the entire humanitarian and health community is relying on WFP’s logistic services now more than ever.”
Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak