The Latest: U.N. agency needs cash to keep delivering aid
AMMAN, Jordan — The U.N. agency that flies crucial medical supplies and aid in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic will be forced to ground its planes in a month if it does not receive a large injection of cash, its head said Thursday.
David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Program, told The Associated Press that his agency needs $965 million for the flights through the end of the year. He said it only has about $150 million, enough to keep flying until the third week of July.
Beasley repeated an earlier estimate that the number of people pushed to the brink of starvation could double by the end of the year, to 265 million, and said that number could get worse. He said his agency reaches about 100 million people, and about one-third are solely dependent on food aid.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— U.N.’s World Food Program needs cash for the rest of the year to deliver medical supplies and aid.
— France to test some 1.3 million near Paris. The Eiffel Tower reopens to visitors after 104 days.
— Court rules gyms will remain closed in Michigan.
— Masks, travel restrictions, testing as virus cases surge.
— Billionaire seeking test kits for South Africa says West cornering market.
Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
BRUSSELS — The World Health Organization chief expects the number of COVID-19 cases to hit 10 million and the death toll from the disease to reach 500,000 by next week.
Speaking Thursday during a videoconference with European Parliament members, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that although the crisis has improved across Europe, “globally, it’s still getting worse.”
Tedros said more than 4 million cases of the disease have been reported in the last month.
JOHANNESBURG — Testing in Africa for the novel coronavirus is expected to increase significantly in the coming weeks, the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control said Thursday.
John Nkengasong pointed to a new continental platform that African nations set up to negotiate cheaper prices for urgently needed medical equipment amid intense global competition.
African leaders have said that China will ensure the supply of 30 million testing kits and 10,000 ventilators each month for purchase on the platform by Africa’s 54 nations. Each country has a quota based on its population and number of virus cases, and a line of credit is available.
About 4.3 million tests have been conducted in Africa, or about 3,200 tests per million people, far short of the ideal on a continent of 1.3 billion people.
AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Greg Abbott again halted elective surgeries in Texas’ biggest counties in a bid to free up hospital beds after the number of patients admitted with COVID-19 has more than doubled in two weeks.
Texas has emerged as one of the nation’s hotspots, reporting more than 11,000 new cases in the past two days.
By re-imposing a ban on elective surgeries, Abbott is returning to one of his first actions when the virus emerged in Texas in March. He later rescinded the order during an aggressive reopening of the state in May, which lifted lockdown orders ahead of most of the U.S.
This week, Abbott has taken a newly urgent tone about the worsening trends and is telling the public they should stay home. On Thursday, the number of hospitalizations climbed to more than 4,700 patients, setting a record for a 13th consecutive day.
The surgery ban applies to Dallas, Harris, Travis and Bexar counties, which includes the Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio areas.
KATHMANDU, Nepal — Nepal is increasing quarantine facilities and testing at border points to prepare for the expected return of thousands of workers from neighboring India.
Nepal has reported 11,162 cases and just 26 deaths in a population of 29 million. It was among the first countries in South Asia to report a case, but a lockdown imposed in March helped control the outbreak.
Deputy Prime Minister Ishwar Pokhrel says in an interview with The Associated Press that coronavirus cases are expected to increase as workers return home from India, where millions of Nepalese are believed to be employed and where coronavirus cases are surging.
“We are very aware of the number of coronavirus cases in India. That is why we are monitoring and controlling entry of people and at the same time increasing quarantine facilities and testing at border points,” Pokhrel says.
India has reported 473,105 cases and 14,894 deaths.
LANSING, Mich. — A federal appeals court ruled gyms and fitness centers will remain closed under Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s shutdown order from months ago.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 3-0 decision late Wednesday, granted an emergency stay sought by the governor. After a lawsuit was filed by indoor fitness facilities, District Judge Paul Maloney in Kalamazoo said last week that gyms could reopen at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.
The appellate judges said while the gym owners who sued bear the risk of losing their businesses, the governor’s interest in combating the coronavirus “is at least equally significant.”
“To date, the disease has infected thousands of Michiganders, and it has shown the potential to infect many more. That the public interest weighs in favor of a stay is apparent for the same reason,” they wrote.
Whitmer planned to let gyms, movie theaters and places like bowling alleys, which closed March 16, reopen in much of Michigan by July 4 if COVID-19 case trends remain favorable.
However, she won’t make an announcement this week, citing concerns about some outbreaks. In the less-populous northern part of the state, gyms and fitness centers could open June 10 if they reduced class sizes and made other changes.
RABAT, Morocco — Moroccans are reuniting with friends and family, attending cafés and restaurants open the first time in three months amid an easing of measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
The Moroccan government allowed cafés, restaurants, gyms, and salons to open with social distancing and at 50% seating capacity.
From the most reputable restaurants to the humblest small cafes in the Medina of Rabat, the social pulse of the capital is slowly beating back to life as customers return.
In Rabat, Hakim Tazi, the owner of Mazarine café greeted his customers with hand gels, paper tissues and with safety signs.
STOCKHOLM — The medical authority for northern Sweden says some of the 300 new cases reported since early June likely started in the mining town of Gallivare.
The town experienced a surge, but the situation has improved, according to Anders Nysted of Region Norrbotten.
“It boils down to the people’s ability to follow advice and guidelines,” like social distancing or staying at home if one has a cold, Nysted said.
The affected LKAB mining company has said it followed health authorities’ recommendations and emphasized individual responsibility. Health authorities have disagreed.
Last week, Gallivare shut down local bus lines and most non-essential public services like swimming pools, sport-halls, library and museum for the 8,500 inhabitants. The outbreak was reported in local retirement homes and among miners.
Sweden has declined to implement the strict lockdown measures used in Europe. Large gatherings were banned, but restaurants and schools for children have stayed open. The Swedish government has urged social distancing. Some 5,230 people have died from the virus.
JOHANNESBURG — The billionaire tasked with speeding up Africa’s access to critical medical supplies in the COVID-19 pandemic says he turned to China for testing kits after manufacturers in the West said the continent would have to wait months.
Strive Masiyiwa tells an African vaccine conference that testing kits “were available but only to the Western countries. … Abbott and them were saying, ‘You wait until September, wait until October.’ So I didn’t waste any time with them. I spent my time talking to the suppliers in China who were willing to supply immediately.”
Africa faces widespread shortages of medical supplies in the competition with richer countries. The pandemic on the continent is growing rapidly, with more than 335,000 cases.
The CEO of vaccines alliance GAVI, Seth Berkley, says “vaccine nationalism” is real. Initiatives in high-income countries are “essentially trying to corner the market in those countries.”
LONDON — The European Medicines Agency has granted its first approval for a drug to treat the new coronavirus — remdesivir, which has been shown in trials to speed the recovery time of people hospitalized with COVID-19.
The regulatory agency says it was granting a conditional marketing authorization for remdesivir to be used in treating adults and adolescents older than 12 with pneumonia who require oxygen.
“Remdesivir is the first medicine against COVID-19 to be recommended for authorization in the EU,” the agency says. Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted an emergency use authorization for the drug.
Although larger trials on remdesivir are still ongoing, preliminary results showed that patients hospitalized with severe illness were discharged quicker from the hospital than those who didn’t get the drug. No beneficial effect was seen in patients with mild or moderate disease.
ATHENS, Greece — Greece has recorded a widening budget deficit because of the coronavirus, with the negative balance at 7.49 billion euros ($8.39 billion) in the first five months of the year.
The Finance Ministry says the primary deficit figure for the state budget, the balance before debt servicing costs, stood at 4.84 billion euros ($5.41 billion).
Greece has delivered primary budget surpluses for the past five years as part of its commitments to European Union bailout lenders, but creditors have agreed to relax those conditions this year due to the virus.
With its strong reliance on tourism, Greece is headed back into a major recession in 2020. Finance Minister Christos Staikouras said Wednesday the government expected a contraction of 8% of gross domestic product in 2020, with a whopping 16% downturn in the second quarter of the year.
PARIS —The Eiffel Tower reopened to visitors after its longest closure in peace time: 104 days.
Tourists who are trickling back to Paris were delighted to find the landmark open while some other attractions remain closed. The Louvre Museum will open July 6.
“We’ve seen a lot Paris people enjoying their city, enjoying their parks without all the tourists,” said Annelies Bouwhuis, a 43-year-old visitor from the Netherlands.
Lifts that usually whisk visitors up the 324-meter (1,063-feet) tall wrought-iron Eiffel Tower remain closed, so people are taking the stairs. Of the tower’s three decks, only the first two reopened.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch government is giving a 1,000 euro ($1,120) bonus to health care workers who helped the country tackle the coronavirus outbreak.
The health ministry says the payment is a way for Parliament and the ruling coalition government to express their gratitude to workers such as nurses, cleaners and other support staff in the health sector.
Health Minister Hugo de Jonge says during the coronavirus crisis “health professionals worked tirelessly, day and night, to help others. And that happened under unprecedented circumstances. The Netherlands could count on them.”
Geneva — The health ministers of France and Germany say their countries are “fully aligned” in support of the World Health Organization both financially and politically.
Germany’s health minister Jens Spahn says the country remains a “critical friend” of the World Health Organization and is donating more than 500 million euros ($552 million) to the U.N. agency for various programs. Those include the response to the coronavirus pandemic, although some of those funds were already previously announced.
Spahn says “this comes with the clear expectation that remaining challenges are adequately addressed and needed reforms are pushed forward.”
Germany will provide medical equipment including masks for countries struggling to deal with the virus.
Olivier Veran say France will donate 90 million euros to build a WHO academy in Lyon, in addition to 50 million announced by French President Emmanuel Macron.
BERLIN — Authorities in one of two German districts under renewed pandemic lockdown say they are opening five new centers for people to get free coronavirus tests.
Sven-Georg Adenauer, the head of the regional administration in Guetersloh, says authorities want to conduct 10,000 tests per day but warned people to expect long wait times.
Guetersloh and neighboring Warendorf have become a hotspot after an outbreak at a local slaughterhouse that infected about 1,300 people.
Schools, bars and fitness clubs have been closed in the two districts, which have an estimated population of 670,000.