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Thursday June 24th, 2021 2:46PM

The Latest: Polosi urges action on coronavirus relief

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is imploring Republicans and the White House to come quickly to the negotiating table with Democrats over the next coronavirus relief package to prevent unemployment assistance and an eviction moratorium from expiring for millions of Americans.

Polosi on Monday invited GOP leaders and White House negotiators to her office after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s planned Monday afternoon release of the Republican’s $1 trillion proposal.

The Republican leader is poised to try again to unveil his plan after last week’s effort came to an abrupt halt amid infighting with the White House. It’s a long-awaited GOP counter-offer to Pelosi’s $3 trillion effort passed in May.

But even as Senate Republicans push ahead, the White House is now suggesting a narrower relief package may be all that’s possible with Friday’s approaching deadlines.

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

— President Donald Trump's national security adviser tests positive for COVID-19

— The world’s biggest COVID-19 vaccine study has begun

— WHO cites doubling of cases over the past six weeks

— White House, Senate GOP try again on $1 trillion virus aid

— Uncertainty over US-China tensions, pandemic pushes gold to record price

— Two baseball games have been postponed due to virus concerns

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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:

BRUSSELS — Belgium’s prime minister has unveiled a set of drastic social distancing measures aimed at avoiding a new general lockdown amid a surge of COVID-19 infections.

Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes said that from next Wednesday contacts outside family circles will be limited to the same five people over the next four weeks. Belgian residents are currently allowed to meet with 15 different people. The measures don’t apply to children under the age of 12.

Wilmes said the new measures — which also include lowering crowd limits at public events to 100 people indoors and 200 people outdoors — could be sufficient to avoid further restrictions and to ensure children can return to school en masse in September.

Wilmes exhorted people to get back to working remotely when possible, and said shoppers should run errands alone from now on and limit the time they spend in stores to 30 minutes.

After a sharp decline of infections, Belgium has witnessed a surge in the number of confirmed cases over the past three weeks, especially in Antwerp province.

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DA NANG, Vietnam — About 80,000 people, mostly local tourists, are being evacuated from the popular Vietnamese beach city of Da Nang after more than a dozen people there were confirmed to have COVID-19.

The evacuations were announced Monday by the government.

Vietnam, widely seen as a success in dealing with the coronavirus, reimposed a social distancing order in Da Nang following confirmation of the cases.

A 57- year-old man was confirmed to be infected by the coronavirus on Saturday, the country’s first local case since April. The Ministry of Health says 14 additional cases have been confirmed since then.

The new outbreak sparked fear among tourists in the city, with many cutting their trips short.

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MADRID -- Spanish hoteliers are suggesting that foreign tourists take a coronavirus test when they leave their own country and take another before they return home.

The Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodation says such a Europe-wide rule would remove the need for all travelers to certain countries having to go into quarantine when they arrive home.

The Spanish tourism sector is reeling from the U.K. government’s abrupt decision last weekend requiring travelers arriving in England from Spain to quarantine for 14 days.

The confederation’s president, Jorge Marichal, said in a video posted on social media Monday that Spanish hotels are prepared to pay for tests on their guests at the end of their stay.

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien has tested positive for the coronavirus — the highest-ranking U.S. official to test positive so far.

That’s according to two people familiar with the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss it by name.

The White House confirmed that O’Brien has mild symptoms and “has been self-isolating and working from a secure location off site.” The White House says there is “no risk of exposure to the President or the Vice President” and that the “work of the National Security Council continues uninterrupted.”

The news was first reported by Bloomberg News, which said O’Brien came down with the virus after a family event.

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MIAMI — Two major league games scheduled for Monday night are postponed after more than a dozen Miami Marlins players and staff members tested positive for the coronavirus in an outbreak that stranded the team in Philadelphia.

The Marlins’ home opener against Baltimore was called off, as was the New York Yankees’ game at Philadelphia. The Yankees would have been in the same clubhouse the Marlins used last weekend.

Nine Marlins players and five staff members received positive results in tests conducted Friday. That's according to a person familiar with the situation, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the results hadn’t been publicly disclosed.

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UNDATED — The world’s biggest COVID-19 vaccine study has begun with the first of 30,000 planned volunteers helping to test shots created by the U.S. government -- one of several candidates in the final stretch of the global vaccine race.

There’s still no guarantee that the experimental vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., will really protect. The study began Monday.

Volunteers won’t know if they’re getting the real shot or a dummy version. After two doses, scientists will closely track which group experiences more infections as they go about their daily routines, especially in areas where the virus still is spreading unchecked.

Moderna said the vaccination was done in Savannah, Georgia, the first site to get underway among more than seven dozen trial sites scattered around the country.

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STRAWBERRY, Ala. — An Alabama pastor says more than 40 people have been infected with the coronavirus after attending a multi-day revival event at a Baptist church.

Pastor Daryl Ross of Warrior Creek Missionary Baptist Church in Marshall County says the churchgoers, including himself, tested positive after the congregation held a series of religious services featuring a guest pastor over the course of several days last week.

“The whole church has got it, just about,” Al.com quoted Ross as saying.

Ross said only two members’ cases were serious, and as of Sunday, nobody had been hospitalized.

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WASHINGTON — Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says people “stepping up to the plate” is the reason for some of the “plateauing” in coronavirus cases being seen in Arizona, California, Florida and Texas.

White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said last week that “we already are starting to see some plateauing,” or leveling off of cases, in these hard-hit states.

In an interview Monday on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends,” Azar said officials think “it’s due to the fact that people are actually wearing their masks.” He said they’re also social distancing and practicing good hygiene, and he complimented governors for closing bars.

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ATHENS, Greece — Authorities in Greece say they are likely to extend the mandatory use of masks at churches and shopping malls, citing the worsening public adherence to the government’s pandemic safety guidelines.

Greece has maintained a low infection rate since ending lockdown measures and opening up to tourism in recent weeks but has seen an increase in Summer infections in cities — reaching 4,193 total number of confirmed cases and 202 deaths by Sunday.

Aug. 15 is a major holiday on the Orthodox Christian calendar, the Great Feast for the Dormition of the Mother of God, and is celebrated annually with pilgrimages, church fairs, and other public gatherings around Greece.

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EFFIE, Minn. — Thousands showed up for what is known as Minnesota’s largest outdoor rodeo, packing the stands for the three-day event despite orders to limit crowds because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The state Department of Health and the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office imposed a spectator limit at the event. The latest order from Gov. Tim Walz limits outdoor events and entertainment to 250 people who are socially distanced.

The stands remained full or nearly full for the three days of the 65th annual North Star Stampede Rodeo in Effie in northern Minnesota, the Star Tribune reported.

The event’s organizer, Cimarron Pitzen, wrote on a Facebook post before the event that he would not stand in the way of people coming to protest what he describes as “ridiculous Government Over Reach” and their right to assemble.

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MADRID -- The head of Catalonia’s regional government says the Archbishop of Barcelona is being placed under investigation for possibly breaking hygiene rules by holding an unauthorized Mass.

Juan José Omella held a service Sunday at Antoni Gaudí’s La Sagrada Familia Basilica in memory of victims of the coronavirus.

Catalonia has implemented tight restrictions on gatherings as it tries to stem a growing outbreak of COVID-19. The region reported 133 new cases on Saturday, the second-highest increase across Spain.

Catalan chief Quim Torra said Monday that regional health authorities gave no prior permission for the ceremony, as required under the current rules.

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GENEVA —The coronavirus pandemic “continues to accelerate," with a doubling of cases over the last six weeks, the World Health Organization chief says.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says nearly 16 million cases have now been reported to the U.N. health agency, with more than 640,000 deaths worldwide.

Tedros will convene WHO’s emergency committee later this week, a procedural requirement six months after the agency’s declaration of a public health emergency of international concern, made on Jan. 30 for the coronavirus outbreak. The panel will advise him on the pandemic.

“COVID-19 has changed our world,” he told reporters from WHO’s Geneva headquarters on Monday. “It has brought people, communities and nations together — and driven them apart.”

He cited some factors that have proven effective in some countries, including political leadership, education, increased testing and hygiene and physical distancing measures.

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LONDON — Budget airline Ryanair says the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on its bottom line, with pandemic travel restrictions leading to a 99% drop in passengers in the first quarter compared to the same period last year.

The airline called the quarter the “most challenging’’ in its history, with a loss of 185 million euros ($216 million). It described a second wave of COVID-19 as its “biggest fear.”

Travel restrictions led to a contraction of travelers, with 500,000 passengers in the first quarter compared with 41.9 million in the same period last year.

The low-cost carrier expects air travel to be depressed in Europe for the next two to three years.

___

PARIS — Morocco is banning all travel to and from some of its major cities to try to stem a small spike in coronavirus cases, even though the North African country has remained less impacted than its European neighbors to the north.

As of Monday morning, a joint statement from the Moroccan Health and Interior Ministries quoted by MAP state news agency said that there is a “ban” on travel affecting the cities of Tangier, Tetouan, Fez, Meknes, Casablanca, Berrechid, Settat and the popular tourist destination of Marrakech.

The ministries said the decision was made because many Moroccans were not complying with measures encouraged by the governments to fight the spread of the coronavirus, such as social distancing, the wearing of masks and the use of disinfectants.

___

HONG KONG — Hong Kong will ban dining at restaurants completely and mandate masks in all public places, as the city battles a worsening coronavirus outbreak that has infected over 1,000 people in the last two weeks.

The tightened measures will be effective for one week from Wednesday. They are an extension of a previous ban on eating at restaurants and eateries after 6 p.m., as well as making it mandatory to wear masks on public transport.

A ban on public gatherings of more than four people has also been furthered tightened, with gatherings limited to two people.

Bars, beauty salons and amusement game centers will remain closed, and swimming pools and sports venues will be closed from Wednesday. Eateries and restaurants will be allowed to provide takeout services to customers.

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