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Wednesday October 21st, 2020 4:55PM

The Latest: Italy OKs $47 billion to counter pandemic's blow

By The Associated Press
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MILAN — The Italian government has approved 40 billion euros ($47 billion) in new spending to counter the pandemic’s economic blow.

The stimulus package announced Sunday includes an additional 1 billion euros to the national health care system, plus funds to hire doctors and nurses to fill in during the emergency and money to pay for vaccines and other necessities to treat and combat the spread of COVID-19.

There is also money to extend short-term layoff schemes, to support families, to help the underdeveloped south and to make it cheaper to hire workers under 35 years of age.

Premier Giuseppe Conte is expected to approve new restrictions on people's movements later Sunday, after new infections are hitting 10,000 a day. That is well beyond the numbers confirmed during the peak of Italy's outbreak in the spring, when only the most seriously ill people were being tested.

Experts warn that the virus is already reaching vulnerable populations again and filling hospital wards in Milan, the epicenter of the new surge. Italy has over 36,400 confirmed deaths in the pandemic, the second-worst in Europe after Britain.

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

— New infections and deaths are hitting records in Russia, but Vladimir Putin's government appears determined to avoid unpopular restrictions.

— Rural Midwest hospitals struggling to handle virus surge

— Trump plays down virus as he steps up pitch for second term

— Chancellor Angela Merkel urges Germans to unite against the virus like they did in the spring, says what Christmas and the winter looks like depends on people's actions now.

— Iran's virus death toll passes 30,000, the worst outbreak in the Mideast.

— Europe’s economy was just catching its breath from the sharpest recession in modern history but a resurgence in coronavirus cases will likely lead to a lean winter of job losses and bankruptcies.

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Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

MOSCOW — The coronavirus outbreak in Russia this month is breaking the records set in the spring lockdown. But, as governments across Europe move to reimpose restrictions to counter rising cases, authorities in Russia are resisting shutting down businesses again.

Some regions have closed nightclubs or limited the hours of bars and restaurants, but few measures have been implemented in Moscow, which is once again the epicenter of the surge.

Moscow — with less than 10% of the population — accounts for up to 30% of new infections each day. The health minister says 90% of hospital beds for coronavirus patients have been filled.

On Friday, Russian authorities reported over 15,000 new infections, the highest daily spike so far in the pandemic. Three times this week, Russia’s daily death toll exceeded the spring record of 232.

The spring lockdown hurt the country’s already weakened economy and compounded Russians’ frustration with plummeting incomes and living conditions, driving President Vladimir Putin’s approval rating to a historic low of 59%.

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NEW DELHI — India has added 61,871 new confirmed cases in the past 24 hours, raising its total to about 7.5 million.

The Health Ministry on Sunday also registered 1,033 new fatalities, taking the death toll to 114,031.

The country is continuing a downward trend in new cases, but virus-related fatalities jumped after recording the lowest daily figure of 680 in nearly three months on Friday.

Some experts say India’s numbers may not be reliable because of poor reporting and inadequate health infrastructure. India is also relying heavily on antigen tests, which are faster but less accurate than traditional RT-PCR tests.

Health officials have warned about the potential for the virus to spread during the religious festival season beginning later this month. New Delhi is also bracing for high air pollution levels, making the coronavirus fight more complicated in upcoming months.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked officials to prepare cold storage chains and distribution network for vaccine delivery involving all levels of government and citizen groups. According to Indian officials, three vaccines are in advanced stages of development.

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BANGKOK — Thailand has closed all border crossings between its northern province of Tak and Myanmar after five people in the Thai border town of Mae Sot tested positive for the coronavirus.

The five, none of whom exhibited symptoms, are the first locally transmitted cases confirmed in Thailand since early September. All five are members of a family of Myanmar nationals residing in Thailand.

Along with cases found among people quarantined after arriving from abroad, seven additions on Sunday brought Thailand’s total number of cases to 3,686, including 59 deaths.

In response to the new cases, schools in the Mae Sot area were ordered closed for seven days and only take-out service is allowed at restaurants and food stalls. Shops, malls and fresh markets remain open but must take temperature checks and enforce social distancing.

Thai authorities in the past two months have sought to tighten crossings in northern Thailand, which shares a long border with Myanmar, where there has been a surge of coronavirus cases since August.

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne, has loosened lockdown restrictions as new and active COVID-19 continue to decline.

From midnight Sunday, Melbourne residents will no longer face limits on the time they can spend away from their homes for education or recreation. Previous restrictions allowing Melburnians to travel only 5 kilometers (3 miles) from home will increase at midnight to 25 kilometers (15 miles).

Outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people from two households will be allowed and golf and tennis can resume.

Victoria state reported only two new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday and no deaths. The rolling 14-day average of cases dropped to eight, the lowest in four months.

There were only 137 active cases across Victoria state on Sunday with 12 people receiving hospital treatment, none in intensive care.

Regulations will be further loosened on Nov. 2 with the partial reopening of shops, bars and restaurants.

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WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation, which sprawls across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, reported 53 new coronavirus cases and no new deaths Saturday.

The total number of cases on the reservation is now 10,913. The total number of deaths remains at 571.

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska — State officials say an outbreak of coronavirus has infected 33 inmates at a prison in Fairbanks, causing the facility to go into quarantine for 14 days.

The Alaska Department of Corrections says 32 of the cases at the Fairbanks Correctional Center are men and one is a woman. All of those infected were housed in the general population.

Other inmates are being tested for coronavirus, with results expected by Monday. The inmates with coronavirus are being isolated in a separate unit of the prison.

The facility serves northern Alaska and has male and female inmates, some of whom are serving sentences and others of whom are awaiting trial.

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PHILADELPHIA — Pennsylvania is reporting 1,857 new COVID-19 cases, the second-highest daily total since the beginning of pandemic, days after officials said it was seeing a “fall resurgence” of the coronavirus.

The numbers announced Saturday by the state health department are exceeded only by the 1,989 cases reported April 9 and bring the statewide total to almost 181,000. Nine new deaths were reported, bringing the total number of deaths associated with the virus to 8,466.

On Wednesday, the state’s health secretary pronounced Pennsylvania “at the start of the fall resurgence” of COVID-19 but said there were no plans to reimpose a stay-at-home order or shut down businesses again in response.

Dr. Rachel Levine said Pennsylvania is more prepared for such an influx than it was in the spring, citing a contact tracing program, more personal protective equipment supplies and enough hospital beds available.

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OKLAHOMA CITY — The number of hospitalizations due to the coronavirus remained near a record high in Oklahoma on Saturday while the number of reported cases increased by 1,195 and deaths rose by 14.

Some 792 people were hospitalized, the state Department of Health said Saturday, one fewer than the one-day record of 793 reported Friday. There are 106,503 total cases reported since the pandemic began in March and 1,168 deaths due to COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

The department said that there were 8,272 new coronavirus cases during the week ending Thursday, an increase of 15% from the previous week, and 58 additional deaths from the previous week due to COVID-19.

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INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s daily average of new coronavirus infections continued growing at record levels with Saturday’s update from state health officials, who also added 31 more COVID-19 deaths to the state’s toll.

The state health department’s daily update showed Indiana’s seven-day rolling average of newly confirmed COVID-19 infections reached 1,799 as of Friday. That is the highest level the state has seen during the pandemic and has more than doubled over the past three weeks.

The 2,521 new infections reported Saturday, a daily high, marked the second straight day that figure topped 2,000 in a single day. The health department said the number was inflated by about 100 cases that weren’t previously included because of technical issues. The newly recorded deaths raise Indiana’s death toll to 3,918.

Gov. Eric Holcomb cited the increase in cases on Wednesday when he said he would continue the statewide mask mandate for another month.

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NEW YORK — Movie theaters in New York state can reopen next Friday with restrictions on audience size and other precautions in place, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

Theaters in New York City aren’t included, and counties must have a positivity rate below 2% on a 14-day average and have no “cluster zones.”

Audiences will be restricted to 25% of capacity with a maximum of 50 people per screen, Cuomo said. Masks will be required and there will be assigned seating to ensure social distancing.

This week, the Global Cinema Federation sent an open letter to Cuomo urging him to let theaters reopen, saying Hollywood studios may continue delaying their remaining 2020 releases if theaters remain closed. The group asked Cuomo to adopt a county-by-county plan for theater openings based on virus data, similar to what California Gov. Gavin Newsom has done.

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