The Latest: UN council asks end of conflicts in virus areas
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations Security Council is demanding an “immediate cessation of hostilities” for at least 90 days in key conflicts including Syria, Yemen, Libya, South Sudan and Congo to tackle COVID-19.
The U.N.’s most powerful body voted unanimously Wednesday to adopt the resolution after the United States and China resolved a lengthy dispute over mentioning the World Health Organization.
Germany’s U.N. Ambassador Christoph Heusgen, the council president for July, announced the result calling it “a sign for hope for all people currently living in conflict zones around the world.”
“It is now the obligation of the council – and all parties to armed conflicts – to implement this resolution in our work this month and beyond,” he said.
The resolution backs Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ March 23 call for global cease-fires to tackle the pandemic. It calls on all warring parties to pause and allow safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid and medical evacuations.
President Donald Trump suspended funding to WHO in early April, accusing the U.N. health agency of failing to stop the virus from spreading when it first surfaced in China. Beijing strongly supports WHO and insisted that its role in calling for global action on COVID-19 be included in any resolution.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Health experts slam the U.S. decision to hoard nearly the entire global supply of remdesivir, the only drug licensed so far to treat COVID-19. They say it sets a dangerous precedent.
— WHO urges prioritizing both health and economy.
— Virginia governor scales back restaurant bars.
— Egypt reopens airports, museums, Giza Pyramids.
— Hollowed out public health system faces more cuts amid virus.
— Beirut’s airport is partially reopening after a three-month shutdown and Lebanon’s cash-strapped government is hoping that thousands of Lebanese expatriates will return for the summer, injecting dollars into the country’s sinking economy.
Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
JERUSALEM — The Palestinian Authority has announced a five-day total lockdown in the West Bank in response to a major increase in coronavirus cases and deaths in recent days.
The Palestinian government says the lockdown will take effect Friday, and people will be required to shelter at home. A two-month total lockdown of the Palestinian territory was lifted in late May.
In the past two weeks, Palestinian health authorities have reported more than 1,700 confirmed coronavirus cases in the West Bank city of Hebron and hundreds more in Bethlehem and Nablus.
The occupied West Bank has a total of 3,045 confirmed cases and 11 deaths from the coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Palestinian health ministry.
RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam says the state’s restaurants will not be allowed to fully reopen their bars as previously planned.
He announced the decision Tuesday, a day before the state was set to allow people to congregate if practicing social distancing. Instead, restaurants can still operate under Phase 2 restrictions, which allows limited table service in bar areas but generally prohibits sitting at bar counters.
Northam’s office says the decision to keep stricter rules on bars was made because of a spike in virus cases in other states that reopened earlier than Virginia. Over the past few days, Florida, Arizona, Texas and California have closed or otherwise clamped down on bars, shut beaches, rolled back restaurant capacity and put limits on crowds at pools.
WILMINGTON, Del. — Bars in certain Delaware beach towns will close ahead of the Fourth of July holiday to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
The new order from Delaware Gov. John Carney announced Tuesday says bars in eastern Sussex County will close Friday morning and only serve customers who are seated at tables.
“Clearly we’ve had an outbreak among bars, restaurants, social activity in Delaware beaches,” Carney said during a news conference. “We’ve also witnessed throughout our state but in particularly in beach communities complacency with respect to mask wearing and social distancing.”
The latest order comes on the same day commissioners in the city of Rehoboth Beach voted unanimously to require people over age 12 to wear face coverings in public spaces. The governor’s decision to close bars was a factor in the commissioners’ decision, the city said in a statement.
There have been nearly 11,500 confirmed coronavirus cases in Delaware and about 500 people, according to the state’s health department.
“COVID-19 has not gone away,” Carney said. “We need to protect our progress and stay vigilant.”
GENEVA — Switzerland’s executive body says users of public transport will be required to wear masks starting next week and travelers from some foreign locations will need to quarantine for 10 days.
The Federal Council ruled people aged 12 and older will be required to wear masks in trains, trams, buses and ski lifts starting Monday.
It noted the Swiss government’s previous advice for people to voluntary wear masks during rush hour has been “barely followed.”
That comes as use of public transport has spiked and coronavirus case counts have fallen over the last two months and COVID-19 lockdown measures eased.
The council noted since mid-June, COVID-19 case counts have ticked upward following the arrival of infected people from some specific foreign regions that were not immediately identified. It says Switzerland planned on July 20 to join the European Union in lifting travel restrictions imposed on travelers from 15 states, with the exception of Serbia.
Switzerland has confirmed 31,851 coronavirus cases, an increase of 137 from a day earlier. About 1,680 people have died.
London — Some British experts have slammed the U.S. decision to snap up nearly the entire global supply of remdesivir, the only drug licensed so far to treat COVID-19.
Ohid Yaqub, a senior lecturer at the University of Sussex called it “disappointing news” in a statement.
“It so clearly signals an unwillingness to cooperate with other countries and the chilling effect this has on international agreements about intellectual property rights,” Yaqub said.
The U.S. government announced Tuesday that President Donald Trump had struck “an amazing deal” to buy the remdesivir drug for Americans, made by Gilead. The Department of Health and Human Services said Trump has secured 500,000 treatments of the drug through September, representing 100% of Gilead’s July production capacity and 90% of its capacity in August and September.
In earlier stages of the pandemic, the U.S. refused to export pre-ordered masks to other countries, including Canada.
BANGKOK — The spokesman for the government body coordinating Thailand’s response to COVID-19 outbreaks has expressed pride that the European Union selected Thailand as one of just 14 countries whose travelers it will once again welcome.
Taweesin Witsanuyothin of the Center for COVID-19 Situation said Wednesday that he was proud that Thailand’s efforts to contain the coroanvirus were recognized.
Thailand has confirmed 3,173 coronavirus cases and 58 virus-related deaths, and during the past five weeks new cases only have been been found among repatriated Thais.
The E.U.’s decision has little immediate practical effect since Thailand has kept in effect a ban on regularly scheduled international flights with no set end date.
A limited number of foreign visitors in categories covering families, residency and business were being allowed into Thailand beginning Wednesday on flights carrying Thai citizens back home.
The E.U. announced Tuesday that its member nations could readmit visitors from Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — The government of Indonesia’s capital region is extending the first transition phase from large-scale social restrictions in Jakarta as the number of new confirmed coronavirus cases continues to rise.
Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan said on Wednesday that the social restrictions will be extended for the next 14 days and reevaluated “when we see new development.”
“We do not want the number of the new cases jumped when we ease the restrictions” Baswedan said.
Jakarta has become the first COVID-19 epicenter since Indonesia’s outbreak started in March. As of Wednesday a total of 11,637 confirmed cases with 632 deaths had been recorded in Jakarta.
The local government imposed broad restrictions on public life in Indonesia’s capital city on April 10. It moved to lift some restrictions starting on June 10.
“In the last one month, 19 markets have been closed because of the transmission. The military and police officers will be deployed to watch the markets in Jakarta as well as the Jakarta’s civil servants,” Baswedan said.
The Indonesian government reported 1,385 new confirmed virus cases, bringing the country’s total to 57,770 as of Wednesday. The National Task Force for COVID-19 Mitigation reported 58 people died because of coronavirus in the last 24 hours, taking the national total death toll to 2,934.
ZAGREB, Croatia — A train carrying some 550 tourists from the Czech Republic and Slovakia has arrived to Croatia as the country seeks to attract visitors after easing coronavirus lockdown.
The train on Wednesday morning rolled into the northern port of Rijeka, from where the tourists were bused to their destinations along the Adriatic Sea coast.
The Croatian coastline is a leading European tourism destination, particularly for visitors from Central and Eastern Europe who can easily travel by car or train.
Croatia is hoping to salvage as much as possible of the summer season. Its economy is among the weakest in the European Union and largely dependent on tourism.
Local media say thousands of tickets have been sold for the train connecting the Czech capital of Prague and Rijeka. Reports say the link will operate during the summer months despite a renewed spike in virus cases.
Croatia has confirmed 2,777 cases while 107 people have die
JOHANNESBURG — Africa’s confirmed coronavirus cases have surpassed 400,000 and deaths have crossed 10,000 as health officials warn the pandemic is picking up speed on the continent of 1.3 billion people.
The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say confirmed cases are now above 404,000 on the 54-nation continent, while testing capabilities remain low because of shortages of materials.
The new milestones come as some countries loosen their lockdowns and even reopen airports for international flights.
South Africa leads the continent with more than 151,000 confirmed cases. An emerging hot spot is in Gauteng province, containing Johannesburg, with 28% of the country’s cases.
CAIRO — Egypt has reopened its airports, the Egyptian museum and the famed Giza Pyramids in Cairo, for the first time in more than three months since the coronavirus closure.
The national carrier, EgyptAir, said around 2,000 passengers left Cairo’s international airport on 14 international flights on Wednesday.
Two flights carrying over 350 Ukrainian tourists landed in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada and the major resort and beach destination of Sharm el Sheikh in the southern part of Sinai Peninsula.
Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said around two dozen museums and tourist sites also received visitors with preventive measures in place against the coronavirus.
They include the Egyptian museum, the Giza Pyramids and the Citadel of Saladin in Cairo, along with the ancient temple of Karnak and the famous Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut in the southern city of Luxor.
The government wants to revive the tourism sector, which had showed sings of recovery before the pandemic after years of instability.
BERLIN — Germany says it is easing restrictions on travelers from up to 11 countries outside the European Union — but not the full list recommended by the European Union.
The Interior Ministry said that, as of Thursday, people from Australia, Georgia, Canada, Montenegro, New Zealand, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay will be able to enter without restrictions. That will also apply to Japan, South Korea and China — but only if those countries also allow people from Germany to enter.
Germany omitted four countries from the list released by the EU on Tuesday of those whose people should be allowed into the 27 member countries and four other nations in the visa-free Schengen area: Algeria, Morocco, Rwanda and Serbia.
Neighboring Austria’s Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said his country is maintaining a ban on people from non-European countries entering until further notice. And he said Austria is imposing a travel warning for six countries for the western Balkans — Bosnia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro and Serbia — in view of high coronavirus figures.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — The World Health Organization says countries must strive to ensure that the “new normal” simultaneously prioritizes health and the economy so they can recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Woochong Um, the director general for the Asia Development Bank’s sustainable development and climate change sector, said that the pandemic will reduce developing Asia’s growth to its lowest in six decades.
Um says the pandemic has spared no economy in the region.
WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr. Takeshi Kasai says communities must be prepared for more case surges in the future.
He says as long as the virus is circulating somewhere, no country is safe. He says we must continue responding to the current situation and preparing every corner of every country for the possibility of large-scale community transmission.
LONDON — The owner of coffee shop chain Upper Crust says some 5,000 U.K. jobs are under threat as travelers stay home amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
SSP announced the consultation to reshape its business Wednesday amid plunging numbers of passengers at airports and train stations.
Chief Executive Simon Smith says “in the UK the pace of the recovery continues to be slow,” and that it needs further action to protect the business.
Britain has been facing thousands of job cuts in recent weeks, as aviation and the hospitality sectors begin to make longer term plans following the initial shock of the lockdown.
BEIRUT — Lebanon’s only international airport has reopened following a more than three-month shutdown as part of the country’s lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The airport will operate at 10% capacity at first, bringing in around 2,000 travelers a day.
The first flight to arrive was Emirates from Dubai. Others scheduled Wednesday are from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, London and Paris.
Lebanon has been hit by an unprecedented economic and financial crisis and the government is hoping that the reopening of the airport will help bring in hard currency to prop up the economy.
Travelers from countries that do not provide PCR tests ahead of boarding will be tested upon arrival in Lebanon at the airline’s expense. Passengers must pay for a second test 72 hours later and will be required to quarantine if they test positive.
BERLIN — Germany’s finance minister says businesses have a “moral obligation” to pass a temporary cut in value-added tax on to customers.
The cut, a centerpiece of a 130 billion-euro ($146 billion) stimulus package aimed at helping pull the economy out of the coronavirus crisis, takes effect for six months starting Wednesday.
The main value-added tax rate was cut to 16% from 19%, and the reduced rate applied to groceries and some other everyday items to 5% from 7%.
Officials are keen to ensure that businesses actually cut prices to encourage buying.
Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told the daily Bild that “if everyone waits to see what others are doing, the economy won’t pick up — and then we could have a long bad economic stretch.”
Scholz, who is also vice chancellor, added that that’s why everyone should play along.
ISLAMABAD — The number of people who have recovered from the coronavirus in Pakistan has surpassed 100,000, about 50% of total infections.
The virus has spread in Pakistan at one of the fastest rates in the world since February, and the deaths have jumped since May, when Prime Minister Imran Khan eased lockdown despite warnings from experts.
In Wednesday’s statement, the national command and control center said 100,802 patients have recovered out of 213,469 confirmed cases. Pakistan recorded 41,33 more cases and 91 deaths in the last 24 hours.
The government data show 2,741 people are still listed in critical condition.
Pakistan has sealed off hot spots across the country since last month to contain the spread of virus, saying the country’s economy cannot afford a stricter lockdown.
TOKYO — Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea reopened after being closed for four months due to the coronavirus pandemic, with hundreds of visitors applauding as they were let in Wednesday.
The two parks have new guidelines, including limiting the number of entrants in three shifts to maintain social distancing.
No handshakes, hugging or photos taken with Mickey Mouse and other characters are allowed.
Though characters greet guests from afar, their signature parades and shows have been suspended to avoid crowds.
Entrants are asked to get their temperatures checked at the gate, sanitize their hands and wear masks while in the park.
Tokyo has detected more than 50 cases for five consecutive days, and on Wednesday confirmed an additional 60. Japan on Tuesday had 132 new cases nationwide for a total of 18,723 with 974 deaths.
MELBOURNE, Australia — An Australian state leader has welcomed “some sense of stability” in numbers of new coronavirus cases detected daily in the nation’s second largest city as more than 300,000 residents prepare to be locked down for a month.
There were 73 confirmed cases in Melbourne in 24-hours to Wednesday, up from 64 reported on Tuesday but less than 75 on Monday.
Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews says “it is pleasing that there is some sense of stability to these numbers. There is the beginning of some consistency here.”
He said a “significant concentration” of the new cases were in the 36 hot spot suburbs that will be locked down from Wednesday night until July 29 in a bid to halt the spread.
Some of the infections were spread from staff who had supervised travelers who had been held in hotel quarantine for two weeks on arrival from overseas.
Andrews says a judge would be appointed to investigate “unacceptable infection control breaches in hotel quarantine.”
He says international flights would not be allowed to land in Melbourne for two weeks because of those breaches.
BANGKOK — Thailand has further eased COVID-19 restrictions, allowing the reopening of schools and high-risk entertainment venues such as pubs and massage parlors that had been shut since mid-March.
It also is allowing in foreign visitors on a controlled basis, limiting entry to those with existing family or work ties, students, technical experts, investors and specially invited VIPs. Scheduled passenger flights to Thailand were suspended in early April.
The number of foreign visitors allowed into the country each day is limited to 200, and they are supposed to travel on repatriation flights bringing Thai citizens home. All returnees, foreign and Thai, will be subject to varying degrees of quarantine.
All confirmed coronavirus cases for the past five weeks have been repatriated Thais rather than cases of local transmission, giving the government confidence to lift restrictions. However, it has extended through July a state of emergency, which critics charge is used to suppress political dissent.
Reopened establishments still have to maintain social distancing rules. A contact tracing app already used at shopping malls is also mandated for the reopened entertainment venues.
Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak