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Thursday October 22nd, 2020 5:26PM

The Latest: Switzerland tightens restictions as COVID grows

By The Associated Press
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BERLIN — Switzerland is introducing new restrictions across the country to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, which has been growing at a record pace in recent days.

At a special meeting Sunday, the government decided to broaden a mask mandate, saying “the rapid rise in coronavirus cases in the last few days is a cause for great concern.”

As of Monday, face and nose coverings will be required in all publicly accessible indoor areas, including all railway stations and airports, and at bus and tram stops. The rule also extends to schools, child-care facilities, shopping malls, libraries, places of worship and hotels, among other places.

Gatherings of more than 15 people are not permitted in public, and new regulations were put on private events of more than 15 people.

The number of new cases in the Alpine nation of 8.5 million people has been increasing rapidly recently, hitting a new daily record of 3,105 on Friday. Overall Switzerland has reported 74,422 infections and 1,823 deaths.

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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.

— Uganda's ‘ taxi divas' rise from COVID’s economic gloom.

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

— France's 9 p.m. virus curfew leaves an eerie quiet on streets of Paris, eight other cities

— 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.

— 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:

MILAN — As the Italian government considers yet more restrictions to try to curb the resurgence of coronavirus, the 179 Italian doctors who have died in the COVID-19 crisis were remembered Sunday in a ceremony in the northern Italian town of Duno, north of Milan.

Their names were inscribed in marble at a sanctuary in the Lombardy region, which has been the hardest-hit area in the country. The names include Dr. Roberto Stella, the first-known Italian physician to die of COVID-19. His death at 67 on March 11 death shocked the Italian medical establishment and underlined the risk that the coronavirus pandemic to family doctors.

Italy, the first country outside of Asia to detect local transmission of the virus, has seen new confirmed positive cases surge above 10,000 a day in recent days. That is higher than the virus’ most lethal peak in March and April, when only the most seriously ill were being tested in Italy.

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JERUSALEM — Israeli authorities have granted senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat permission to enter Israel for medical treatment following his infection with the coronavirus.

Erekat’s condition has deteriorated in recent days, and he requested and received authorization to be hospitalized at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital, people familiar with the Palestinian official’s condition said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Erekat made the request despite the fact the Palestinian Authority severed ties with Israel earlier this year over the Trump administration’s Mideast plan, which would allow Israel to annex large parts of the West Bank.

Erekat is a longtime senior adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and served as the Palestinians’ chief negotiator in past peace talks. Erekat has a history of health problems and received a lung transplant in the U.S. in 2017.

There have been over 58,000 cases and 474 deaths reported in the Palestinian-administered areas of the Israeli occupied West Bank.

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PARIS — The streets of Paris and eight other French cities were deserted on Saturday night on the first day of the government-imposed 9 p.m. curfew that is to last at least four weeks.

The measure was announced this week by French President Emmanuel Macron to curb the resurgent coronavirus as new daily infections peaked last week to over 30,000. Macron said the curfews were needed to stop hospitals from becoming overrun.

Many restaurant owners are up in arms about the move that is forcing them to close early, something that they say will devastate the industry.

In France, nearly 20 million people are covered by the curfew and eerily deserted scenes were observed in Marseille, Lyon, Lille and Toulouse as well. The curfew runs until 6 a.m. daily.

France has seen over 33,300 confirmed deaths in the pandemic, the fourth-highest death toll in Europe.

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BEIRUT — Lebanon’s public works and transport minister says he’s has been infected with the coronavirus as his country grapples with a surge in cases.

Minister Michel Najjar said Sunday he is continuing to carry out his duties from isolation, according to the National News Agency.

Lebanon is struggling to contain an escalating infection rate since August. The country of just over 5 million has recorded over 61,000 infections that killed over 500 people.

The surge is testing Lebanon’s already flailing health care system. A massive explosion in Beirut’s port that killed over 190 people further undermined the health sector and deepened an economic meltdown. The government resigned in the wake of the Aug.4 explosion but continues in a caretaker capacity.

Authorities have put more than a hundred villages and towns under lockdown and ordered nightclubs and pubs to close to curb the surge of infections. But the caretaker health minister told a local paper Sunday the localized lockdowns have failed, urging similar measures in major cities.

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JERUSALEM — Dozens of ultra-Orthodox elementary schools and religious schools known as yeshivas opened in Israel on Sunday in violation of a government lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Israeli government only permitted nurseries and kindergartens to reopen in person on Sunday as part of country’s first phase of easing restrictions following a month-long lockdown, but schools, learning centers and universities are to conduct classes remotely.

On Saturday, a leading ultra-Orthodox rabbi — who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month — called for religious grade schools and yeshivas to reopen, despite government regulations. Police said officers were dispatched to a number of reopened schools in ultra-Orthodox towns, ordered them to send students home and issued fines.

Israel has recorded over 300,000 cases, including nearly 2,200 deaths. The country’s ultra-Orthodox community, many of whom live in densely populated neighborhoods with large families, has been disproportionately affected. Some members of the community have flouted the rules, holding weddings and mass prayers inside synagogues in conditions that help spread the disease.

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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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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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