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Here are the latest developments in the coronavirus pandemic from around the world.

LONDON — As the U.S. closed in on 200,000 coronavirus deaths Monday, the crisis deteriorated across Europe, with Britain working to draw up new restrictions, Spain clamping down again in Madrid and the Czech Republic replacing its health minister with an epidemiologist because of a surge of infections.

In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce a round of restrictions Tuesday to slow the spread of the disease. British Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty warned that cases are doubling every seven days and could lead to a rise in deaths in the coming weeks.

The chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland raised the nation’s COVID-19 alert Monday from three to four, the second-highest level. More than 4,300 new infections were reported on Monday, a level not seen since early May.

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A police officer stops a vehicle at a checkpoint in Madrid on Monday. Police in the Spanish capital and its surrounding towns are stopping people coming in and out of working-class neighborhoods that have been partially locked down to stem Europe’s fastest coronavirus spread. Bernat Armangue/Associated Press

“We have, in a very bad sense, literally turned a corner,” after weeks of rising infections, Whitty said.

In France, where infections reached a record high over the weekend with more than 13,000 new cases in 24 hours, health authorities opened new testing centers in the Paris region to reduce lines and delays. Italy added Paris and other parts of France to its COVID-19 blacklist, requiring travelers from those regions to show proof of a negative test or undergo testing on arrival.

And the Norwegian capital of Oslo banned gatherings of more than 10 people in private homes after a spike in cases and strongly urged people to wear face masks when traveling on public transportation amid a strike by bus drivers that forced many commuters to take the tram.

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Cruise lines say they’ll test all on board in plan to resume sailing

Major cruise lines say they will test all passengers and crew for COVID-19 prior to boarding as part of their plan for resuming sailing in the Americas.

The Cruise Lines International Association, a trade group that represents 95 percent of global ocean-going cruise capacity, said Monday that its members will also require passengers and crew to wear masks while onboard whenever physical distancing can’t be maintained.

No date has been set for the resumption of cruising in the Americas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a no-sail order for U.S. waters through Sept. 30. The association’s safety plan will now go to the CDC, which will consider it as the agency decides whether to lift the no-sail order. The order has been extended twice since March.

The cruise association has issued a voluntary suspension of cruises through Oct. 31. In a conference call Monday, Arnold Donald, the president and CEO of Carnival Corp., said once the CDC lifts its order, it will probably take cruise lines at least a month to prepare their ships and train crew before they can sail.

The safety plan requires testing of passengers and crew, but doesn’t specify the types of coronavirus tests that companies must use, CLIA Chairman Adam Goldstein said. It also doesn’t make clear that test results must be known before the ship sails.

The plan permits limited shore excursions and requires passengers to wear masks and stay apart from other people during those excursions. Passengers who don’t comply won’t be allowed to reboard.

The plan also requires ships to increase the amount of fresh air in their ventilation systems and use advanced filtration methods where feasible.

Cruise company executives said the limited resumption of cruising in Europe over the last few weeks has convinced them that cruising can be done safely.

Italian voters turn out in droves despite virus

ROME — Italians have turned out in droves to vote in regional elections and on a referendum on cutting the number of parliamentarians by a third, despite the coronavirus and strict hygiene protocols at all polls.

Turnout at the close of voting Monday indicated that in some regions nearly 60%-75% of eligible voters cast ballots, including those who voted from home or hospitals because they were sick with COVID-19 or quarantining. An army of volunteers, wearing head-to-toe protective equipment, made house calls to ensure even virus-affected Italians could cast their ballots.

Those who made it to polling centers had to follow strict protocols on facemasks and social distancing, with the elderly given precedence in lines and hand sanitizer ubiquitous.

Voters were choosing new regional administrators in seven regions as well as mayors in 1,000 towns and cities. Italians also voted on a referendum to reduce the number of national lawmakers in the lower house from 630 to 400 and those in the Senate from 315 to 200.

Oslo bans groups of more than 10 in homes

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Norwegian capital of Oslo on Monday banned crowds of more than 10 people in private homes after a spike in cases and “strongly urged” people to wear face masks when travelling on public transportations amid strike among bus drivers.

“The situation in Oslo is serious. This development must be stopped, and we have to do it now,” mayor Raymond Johansen said.

A strike that broke out Sunday among more than 8,000 Oslo bus drivers that sent commuters to take the tram instead had health officials worrying.

“It is obvious that if 300,000 people who should have taken the bus, take the tram instead during rush hour, it will increase the risk of infection significantly,” Robert Steen who is in charge of the health in the city told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

Oslo has nearly 700,000 inhabitants, and there have been recorded more than 20 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

France moves to expand testing

PARIS — French health authorities have started opening new testing centers in the Paris region to try to reduce queues and delays as the number of virus infections is steadily increasing in the country.

In total, 20 new testing centers were scheduled to open in the French capital and its suburbs this week.

The facilities will reserve certain hours to people considered as having priority access: patients with a medical prescription, those who have been in close contact with a person infected and medical staff.

In Paris on Monday, some testing centers were warning people results could take up to seven or ten days.

French health minister Olivier Veran said getting the results within 24 hours has been set as a goal for priority patients.

Myanmar’s largest city goes on lockdown

YANGON, Myanmar — Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon, on Monday began its first day under a tightened lockdown, with initial enforcement measures appearing lax.

The city and its suburbs were placed under greater restrictions as the government attempts to stem a rising number of coronavirus cases and deaths that originated last month with an outbreak in the western state of Rakhine.

The new restrictions allow banks and financial services, fuel refilling stations, food businesses and cold storehouses, pharmaceutical and medical equipment businesses, drinking water businesses and factories producing daily hygiene products to stay open. But many other businesses and shops were operating as usual on Monday.

Office buildings and towers were closed to comply with instructions that staff of companies and other organizations must work from home.

City residents are not supposed to travel outside their officially designated wards, but checkpoints are operating in only a few areas heavily affected by the virus, and street vendors could be seen moving freely in and out of the different wards.

Michigan university will test wastewater for virus

YPSILANTI, Mich. — Eastern Michigan University will test campus wastewater for the COVID-19 virus and other signs of infectious diseases.

The testing, part of the school’s return-to-campus plan, is intended to track the presence of the coronavirus in wastewater flowing from residence halls and apartment complexes.

The monitoring might provide early detection of asymptomatic cases of the virus, according to the school.

“The results of the tests will help us pinpoint any concerning trends and expand individual testing among specific populations as necessary,” EMU President James Smith said.

Researchers and health officials have said they can track the course of a community outbreak of the coronavirus by studying the waste flushed from its bathrooms. Tests have shown that wastewater contains infectious biomarkers that can signal the growth or reduction of the virus in a community or around a university campus.

EMU in Ypsilanti is working with Michigan-based Aquasight on the testing.

Greece says 200 test positive at refugee camp

ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s government spokesman says more than 200 people have tested positive for the coronavirus among thousands of asylum seekers admitted to a new camp on the island of Lesbos after the old one burnt down.

Speaking during a regular briefing Monday, Stelios Petsas said 7,064 people who entered the new camp at Kara Tepe had been tested, and 243 of them were found positive.

The average age of those confirmed positive was 24, and most were asymptomatic, Petsas said. Another 160 people, mainly police and administrative staff who had come into contact with the migrants, were tested and all were negative for the virus.

Petsas said the positive cases from Lesbos would be added to Greece’s official coronavirus figures Monday.

Munich tightens restrictions as infection rates rise

BERLIN — The Bavarian city of Munich is tightening its coronavirus measures as it faces one of the highest infection rates in Germany.

The city’s Mayor, Dieter Reiter, said Monday that starting Thursday only up to five people or members of two households are allowed to meet. No more than 25 people are allowed to attend private indoor gatherings like birthday parties, weddings or funerals. Private events outside can be attended by up to 50 people. Organized events can host 100 people indoors and up to 200 outdoors as there are already hygiene concepts in place.

“We have to drastically reduce the number of people getting together,” Reiter said deploring the fact that many people in Munich no longer adhere to social distancing measures that are in place already such as keeping distance when standing in line in front of stores or wearing masks in places where it is already obligatory such as stores or public transportation.

The mayor also said that in crowded public places people have to wear masks at all times.

Spanish opera house under fire after lack of social distancing

MADRID — Spain’s main opera house has come under fire after a show had to be cancelled amid loud protests from spectators complaining about the lack of social distancing in upper-circle seats.

Videos shared online by several attendees to Sunday’s performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s ‘Un ballo in maschera’ at the Royal Theatre in Madrid showed some full rows in the highest and cheapest audience platform, while attendance at the pricier floor area had been reduced leaving empty seats.

The performance was cancelled after several rounds of applause and shouting during the performance and despite the theatre relocating some spectators and offering to return the value of their tickets, the Royal Theatre said in a statement.

The theatre, which has launched an investigation into the incident, said that attendance had been reduced to 905 seats, or 51.5% of the total. Current rules in Madrid limit cultural performances to 75% of the audience.

The incident comes as a debate is raging in Spain over inequality after the Madrid regional government placed under partial lockdown some poor, working-class neighborhoods with some of the worst virus spread indicators. The measures have been met with protests because some people consider that authorities are stigmatizing the poor.

German marriage rates plummet

BERLIN — Official data shows that Germany saw nearly 30,000 fewer marriages in this year’s first six months than a year earlier because of restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Federal Statistical Office said Monday that 139,900 couples tied the knot between January and June — a decline of 29,200 compared with the first half of 2019. Many registry offices restricted ceremonies to a minimum or closed altogether at the height of the first wave of infections.

It wasn’t clear whether other marriages were delayed or called off altogether. The number of marriages was the lowest for a first half since 2007 — a year when marriages on July 7, or 07.07.07, were popular.

The statistics office said the number of marriages increased in May and June, as Germany eased coronavirus restrictions, though it still didn’t reach pre-crisis levels.

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Source : https://www.pressherald.com/2020/09/21/the-latest-italian-voters-turn-out-in-droves-despite-virus/

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