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Wednesday July 15th, 2020 12:11AM

The Latest: Partial lockdown extended in German district

By The Associated Press
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BERLIN — Authorities have extended by a week a partial lockdown in a western German district hit by a big coronavirus outbreak at a slaughterhouse.

The measures were imposed on Guetersloh county, home to some 360,000 people, for an initial one-week period nearly a week ago. Cinemas, gyms and bars were closed, but stores remained open and restaurants have been able to serve customers from the same household. People from the district have faced restrictions on travel elsewhere in Germany.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s state governor, Armin Laschet, said Monday that the measures are being extended by a week in Guetersloh as a precaution. But the partial lockdown will end on Tuesday in neighboring Warendorf county, where some of the slaughterhouse workers live.

New infections in Guetersloh, although they are falling, remain above 50 per 100,000 inhabitants over the past week, the level at which German regions are supposed to take action. But they have dropped below that level in Warendorf.

Laschet said that much-increased testing has shown no sign of infections crossing into the wider population in Warendorf, and “only a slight entry” into the population beyond slaughterhouse workers in Guetersloh.

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

— Experts say the pandemic is wreaking havoc in poor and war-torn nations.

— Virus cases worldwide hit 10 million and deaths have surpassed 500,000.

— UK PM Boris Johnson says the pandemic “has been a disaster” for Britain.

— Hunger stalks Yemen's children as pandemic hits Arab world's poorest nation.

— Nurses, doctors feel strain as virus races through Arizona.

— The pandemic means millions of women in Africa and other developing regions could lose years of success in contributing to household incomes and asserting their independence.

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia’s authorities have made wearing face masks mandatory in all closed spaces in the capital, Belgrade, following a rise in coronavirus cases.

The crisis team on Monday said that visitors to shopping malls, cafes, restaurants, night clubs, beauty parlors, gyms and other places must wear protective masks all the time or face fines.

Throughout the Balkan country, several towns have declared emergency measures in a bid to contain the renewed surge. The country on Monday reported 242 new cases and said four people died in 24 hours.

Serbia has seen a spike in the number of infections after moving from very strict lockdown rules to a near-total relaxation.

Several officials also have tested positive, including the defense minister and the parliament speaker. The country held a parliamentary election on June 21.

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TOKYO — Japan’s capital city of Tokyo reported 58 new cases of coronavirus, as the number remained at recent highs since last week and a top government official said the trend doesn’t look good.

The number of cases in Tokyo rose to 60 on Sunday, highest since early May and nearly doubling from 31 five days ago. About half of recent daily confirmed cases have been detected among staff or customers of Tokyo’s nightlife districts.

Tokyo’s numbers were at their highs since the late May lifting of a pandemic state of emergency.

“We are closely watching the latest development,” Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters. “Frankly, this gives me a rather bad feeling.”

He said he planned to meet with Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike to discuss the situation and a new set of caution scale that would balance disease prevention with maintaining economic activity. Koike planned to announce a new set of infection monitoring measures on Tuesday.

The latest cases brings Tokyo’s total infections to 6,172, with 325 deaths — about one-third of national total.

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LJUBLJANA, Slovenia — Slovenia is slashing the number of people in public gatherings from 500 to 50 after several cases of coronavirus emerged apparently as a result of social encounters.

Government spokesman Jelko Kacin said Monday the decision will be formally made later in the day. He said bigger events will need special permits and must guarantee they will meet social distancing rulles with the seating arrangements and other facilities.

Slovenia has confirmed 64 new cases in the past seven days after having none or one or two cases days for weeks. The European Union nation of 2 million people has had 111 deaths linked to COVID-19.

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LONDON -- The central England city of Leicester is waiting to find out if lockdown restrictions will be extended as a result of a spike in coronavirus infections.

The city’s mayor, Peter Soulsby, told BBC radio that the British government had recommended in a document sent to him early Monday that “we continue the present level of restriction for a further two weeks beyond July 4.”

On Saturday, England will see a number of lockdown restrictions eased. Pubs and restaurants, for example, will be allowed to reopen provided they abide by social distancing rules.

There has been some confusion after Home Secretary Priti Patel said Sunday that Leicester, a city of 330,000, faced a possible local lockdown in the wake of figures showing 866 new cases of coronavirus in the last two weeks.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he is “concerned about Leicester, we are concerned about any local outbreak.” He said he wanted to stress that “we are not out of the woods yet.”

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BERLIN — Germany’s foreign intelligence chief says authoritarian countries are trying to “expand their spheres of influence” amid the coronavirus crisis.

Bruno Kahl, the head of the BND intelligence service, didn’t identify any countries by name in comments released by his office as he gave regular testimony to a parliamentary committee.

He said Monday the COVID-19 pandemic “damages the world economy, exacerbates existing conflicts and threatens the geopolitical balance of power.”

Kahl said that, in trying to expand their influence, authoritarian states “will exploit the weaknesses of other international actors, fill in gaps and intensify hybrid measures.”

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ATHENS, Greece — Movie theaters, casinos and children’s summer camps reopened in Greece on Monday, while concerts, conferences, commercial fairs and artistic events can once again be held, in the latest phase of the country’s easing of lockdown measures.

Outdoor summer movie theaters have already been open for several weeks, but this is the first time indoor theaters will be able to operate since the lockdown was imposed in March.

Greece’s government imposed a lockdown early on in the country’s coronavirus outbreak, a move that has been credited with keeping the number of deaths and critically ill patients low. On Sunday, Greece reported no new deaths and 10 new cases, for a total of 191 deaths and 3,376 confirmed cases. The country has gradually been easing restrictions.

On Wednesday, international flights will be allowed at regional airports across the country once more. Currently tourists can fly into only Athens or the northern city of Thessaloniki. Greece has been eager to attract foreign visitors, as tourism makes up a significant part of the country’s economy.

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BERLIN — Germany’s parliament has signed off on a government plan to lower sales tax and provide more money for families that it is hoped will stimulate spending and help the economy as coronavirus restrictions are eased.

The lower house of parliament on Monday approved the plan to lower the country’s value added tax from 19% to 16% for half a year, starting July 1. A reduced tax for food and other necessities will be lowered from 7% to 5% under the plan.

In addition, lawmakers approved one-time bonus payments of 300 euros ($335) per child to families. The first 200 euros will be paid in September, followed by an additional 100 euros in October.

The measures are part of a 130 billion euro stimulus package proposed by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, which also includes financial incentives for electric and hybrid vehicles. They are expected to receive final approval from the upper house of parliament later Monday.

The Finance Ministry says the reduction in sales tax will result in some 13 billion euros less in revenue, while the child bonus program is expected to cost some 5.4 billion euros.

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BERLIN — Germany medical research company BioNTech SE says it has received an investment of $250 million from Singapore’s Temasek and others as it races to develop the first vaccine against the coronavirus.

The Mainz-based biotechnology company said Monday that the investment will take the form of about $139 million in ordinary shares and $112 million in four-year mandatory convertible notes.

BioNTech in April became the first company in Germany to receive regulatory approval to conduct trials of its experimental mRNA-based vaccine on volunteers. Initial results from those early-stage trials are expected by early July.

Temasek is a sovereign wealth fund owned by the government of Singapore.

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PRAGUE — The number of new coronavirus cases in the Czech Republic continues to surge.

The day-to-day increase reached 305 on Sunday, the highest number since April 3.

The Czech Republic had a total of 11,604 confirmed cases of the virus through Sunday, including 348 deaths, according to Health Ministry figures.

Because of the increase in cases, Prague, the capital, and a region in the country’s northeast will remain under orders to wear face masks beyond July 1, when the order will be lifted for the rest of the country, Health Minister Adam Vojtech said Monday.

In Prague, it will still be compulsory to wear face coverings on the subway and at indoor public gatherings of more than 100 people.

In the northeastern region, face masks will remain mandatory in indoor public spaces, on public transport and at gatherings of more than 100 people. The outbreak in that region is linked to miners from a coal mine, their relatives and their other contacts.

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MADRID — Spain’s foreign minister says that the European Union is putting together a list of 15 countries that are not bloc members and whose nationals will be allowed to visit from Wednesday.

The final list will be announced later on Monday or Tuesday morning, Arancha González Laya told Spain’s Cadena SER radio.

She said she wasn’t aware of pressure from the United States for the EU to reopen travel to their nationals, adding that countries have been chosen according to their coronavirus statistics — whether similar or not to that in the EU — trends of contagion and how realiable data is.

“This is not an exercise to be nice or unfriendly to other countries, this is an exercise of self-responsibility,” González Laya said.

Among the countries being discussed is Morocco, whose government doesn’t plan to open borders until July 10. González Laya said that the EU is considering to accept travelers from China if Beijing reciprocates accepting travelers from the EU starting on July 1.

The minister also confirmed that Spain will fully reopen borders with Portugal, despite a spike in infections in the neighboring country.

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NEW DELHI — India on Monday reported nearly 20,000 new coronavirus infections, a new record for the country, as several states reimpose partial or full lockdowns to stem the spread of the virus.

India has seen a jump of nearly 100,000 cases over the past week, the health ministry said. In all, the country has confirmed 548,318 cases, making it the world’s fourth-worst affected country after the United States, Brazil and Russia. India’s death toll has reached 16,475.

The capital district of the northeastern state of Assam on the Bangladesh border has reimposed a full lockdown until July 12 following a spike in cases. Another border state, West Bengal, has extended its lockdown until July 31.

However, in India’s worst-affected states — Maharashtra, which includes India’s financial capital, Mumbai, and Delhi, home to the capital, New Delhi — most lockdown restrictions have been eased, with restaurants, shopping malls and parks reopened, and public buses and shared-ride services back on the roads.

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Civil aviation authorities in the United Arab Emirates have suspended all flights to Pakistan over fears about the spread of the coronavirus.

The UAE’s state-run WAM news agency issued a statement late Sunday from the country’s General Civil Aviation Authority announcing the decision.

Officials said flights would resume after the creation “of a special laboratory” to conduct coronavirus tests for those coming into the Emirates from Pakistan.

The decision comes after Pakistani media last week reported 27 passengers originating from Pakistan arrived in Hong Kong and tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. The passengers had transited through the UAE.

Pakistan restarted international travel earlier this month even as its critics said the airport precautions were limited and ineffective.

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MANILA, Philippines — Philippine officials say authorities in a central village may face criminal or administrative complaints for allowing a street parade and dance amid a strict coronavirus lockdown.

Mayor Edgar Labella of Cebu city said officials of Basak village have been ordered to explain why the religious fiesta gathering in honor of St. John the Baptist was held Saturday despite a quarantine prohibition against public gatherings. Performers in native wear and face masks danced during the night procession, which drew a large crowd.

While the Philippines has eased quarantine restrictions in most regions to revive its contracting economy, officials placed Cebu city back under a strict lockdown this month and deployed more policemen to enforce restrictions following a spike in infections.

The Philippines remains a Southeast Asian coronavirus hotspot with more than 35,000 confirmed infections, including 1,244 deaths.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 42 new infections of COVID-19 as infections steadily climb in the greater capital area, forcing authorities to consider stronger social restrictions.

The figures announced by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday brought the national caseload to 12,757, including 282 deaths. Twenty-four of the new cases were reported from capital Seoul and nearby metropolitan areas, which have been at the center of a virus resurgence since late May. At least 12 of the new cases were linked to international arrivals as the virus continues to strengthen its hold in southern Asia, the United States and beyond.

South Korea was reporting hundreds of new cases a day in late February and early March following a major surge surrounding the southeast city of Daegu, where the majority of infections were linked to a single church congregation with thousands of members.

But while health authorities had used aggressive testing and contact tracing to contain the outbreak in that region, they are having a much harder time tracking recent transmissions in the Seoul metropolitan area, where about half of the country’s 51 million people live. With people increasingly venturing out in the public, new clusters are popping out from just about everywhere, including nightspots, churches, restaurants, warehouses and among door-to-door salespeople.

Health Minister Park Neung-hoo during a briefing Sunday afternoon announced that the government is prepared to implement stronger social distancing measures if the epidemic continues to grow.

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BEIJING — China on Monday reported a further decline in new confirmed cases of COVID-19, with a total of just 12, including seven cases of domestic transmission in Beijing, where nearly 8.3 million people have now undergone testing in recent weeks. The number of new cases in the city was down by half from the day before, the National Health Commission reported.

No new deaths were reported Monday, leaving the total at 4,634 among 83,512 confirmed cases of COVID-19, . Currently 418 patients are in treatment, and another 112 are under observation for being suspected cases or for testing positive without showing any symptoms.

Beijing temporarily shut a huge wholesale food market where the virus spread widely earlier this month, re-closed schools and locked down some neighborhoods. Anyone leaving Beijing is required to have a negative virus test result procured within the previous seven days.

About 7.69 million results on people tested in Beijing have been returned, city official Zhang Qiang said Sunday. Beijing has more than 20 million people but authorities have focused so far on high risk groups.

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