MADRID — Fueled by a sharp surge of coronavirus contagion just as the school year opens, Spain has now officially more than half a million confirmed coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic.
The health ministry on Monday reported 26,560 new infections since its last report on Friday — or an average of 8,800 daily_, bringing the total since February to 525,549. Most new cases show new symptoms and the spike is so far not overwhelming hospitals.
During the same period 29,516 people have died in Spain with the new coronavirus, although the real death toll is believed to be much higher given insufficient testing in March and April.
More than 8 million undergraduate students are heading to school starting from Monday under strict safety measures including mandatory masks, frequent hand-washing, classroom ventilation and smaller student groups.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK
— India now 2nd behind U.S. in reported virus cases amid economic pain
— Scientists are still trying to determine whether coronavirus antibodies shield someone from getting infected again and medical experts warn tests that check for them cannot be safely used to return workers to the office.
— A teacher in Nigeria has helped students across the country, and internationally, learn math virtually during coronavirus restrictions.
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
ROME — The number of new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours dropped by nearly 200 in Italy, but the number of tests performed plunged to the lowest in two weeks.
Fewer tests are often performed during weekends.
Italy’s high number of tests lately largely reflected tens of thousands of vacationers who underwent testing at airports or seaports, many of them returning from vacations in places where clusters of infections were detected.
Now, that influx of travelers is dwindling as families get ready for schools to reopen.
Italy’s total number of confirmed coronavirus infections stood at 278,784, with the addition of 1,108 on Monday, according to the Health Ministry. There were 12 deaths since the previous day, raising to 35,535 the toll of known dead in the pandemic in Italy.
Daily caseloads have been rising for five weeks now, after steadily dropping at the start of summer.
As of Monday, 142 COVID-19 patients occupied ICU beds. That’s about 100 more than in late July. But the first weeks of the pandemic saw that number top 4,000, and many hospitals, especially in northern Italy which bore the brunt of the outbreak, were overwhelmed.
GENEVA — As school resumes for millions of children, the World Health Organization is appealing for people not to stigmatize kids who come down with COVID-19 or their families.
WHO emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan said Monday that anyone can get this disease.
Ryan alluded to concerns and anxieties felt by many parents if their child were to contract the coronavirus, fearing they might become “pariahs” if the child’s illness leads to the entire class being sent home. He emphasized that schools, too, should not be left alone — and that public health authorities should work with them.
Depending on local conditions, Ryan said it’s important that public health authorities explain “what’s going to happen next” if an incident, case or cluster turns up in a school setting. And communities mustn’t rush to judge.
JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he has delayed plans to impose overnight curfews in 40 cities and towns hit hard by the coronavirus by 24 hours in order to “consult” with the communities.
In a news conference Monday, Netanyahu said the curfews will now go into effect on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. and last until 5 a.m.
The government has been forced to take action after failing to contain an outbreak that has claimed more than 1,000 lives and remains at record levels of new infections.
Netanyahu announced the curfew plan on Sunday but decided against full lockdowns after an uproar by politically powerful religious leaders. Many of the hardest-hit communities are home to ultra-Orthodox populations.
The outbreak has raised fears of a nationwide lockdown during the upcoming Jewish New Year.
GENEVA — The head of emergencies at the World Health Organization says governments that provide “politically motivated” information about the coronavirus pandemic could face a political backlash.
Dr. Michael Ryan said Monday that “trying to present oversimplified, simplistic solutions for people is not a long-term strategy that wins.” He told reporters in Geneva that “transparency, consistency, honesty” and admitting errors can build trust.
Ryan was speaking in general terms after being asked about conflicting messages sent by the Brazilian government over its COVID-19 response.
Ryan says coronavirus-related messages sometimes come with “political overtones” and he alluded to a saying that trust takes years to build but seconds to lose.
He says: “If communities perceive that they’re getting information that is being politically manipulated or that it has been managed in a way that is distorting evidence, then unfortunately that comes back to roost.”
ROME — A doctor says the clinical condition of former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi is starting to improve after he was hospitalized with pneumonia and COVID-19 last week.
Dr. Alberto Zangrillo, Berlusconi’s long-time personal doctor, said in a statement Monday that the 83-year-old media mogul, who has a history of heart problems, has pneumonia in both lungs. Zangrillo says Berlusconi’s overall condition “appears to be improving” and that his body has mounted “a specific robust immune response” associated with a reduction in inflammation.
Zangrillo heads the intensive care unit at San Raffaele hospital in Milan, but he has stressed that Berlusconi isn’t in intensive care but in isolation elsewhere in the hospital.
Zangrillo said last week that Berlusconi’s advanced age and his history of medical problems make him particularly vulnerable to the dangers of coronavirus infection.
PARIS — Doctors have raised the alarm that nearly all the intensive care beds reserved for COVID-19 patients are in use in and around France’s second city of Marseille.
The Marseille Hospitals Medical Commission President Dominique Rossi told BFMTV on Monday that of the 70 designated intensive care beds in the Bouches-du-Rhone region, “between 65 and 67” are currently occupied.
New daily infections in France have averaged over 5,000 in recent days, raising fears of a second wave of the virus.
Rossi tweeted that the situation is tense, but that it isn’t as bad as at the height of the first wave, when the Bouches-du-Rhône department had up to 270 COVID-19 patients in intensive care.
Professor Lionel Velly, of the anesthesia-intensive care unit at Marseille’s La Timone hospital, says he fears there will soon be no more beds to accommodate the sick in Bouches-du-Rhône.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke says authorities have reduced the number of people who can gather in greater Copenhagen from 100 to 50.
Heunicke said Monday that the restriction is imposed with immediate effect in the Danish capital and its suburbs, and Odense, Denmark’s third largest city.
He says 230 new cases have been recorded since Sunday and that the number of infections is “the most worrying situation ... since the spring.”
Overall, Denmark has reported 18,113 cases and 628 deaths. Most of the new cases were recorded in private homes and among young people.
TEL AVIV, Israel — Israeli demonstrators have placed more than 1,000 empty chairs in a central Tel Aviv square in an eerie display symbolizing the local lives claimed by the coronavirus.
A red rose was laid on each empty chair Monday with black and white signs representing those killed by the virus.
Israel has recorded nearly 130,000 cases of the virus, with more than 26,000 still active. It recently has been reporting some 3,000 new cases each day.
The surge in cases has raised concerns that the country could be forced to declare a nationwide lockdown during the upcoming holiday period, a time of widespread travel and large family gatherings.
On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced overnight curfews in some 40 cities and towns hit hard by the coronavirus. But he backed away from reported recommendations for full lockdowns after an uproar by politically powerful religious politicians.
AMSTERDAM — The coronavirus pandemic has proved to be the worst of times for an annual Dutch celebration of the works of 19th century British author Charles Dickens.
Organizers said Monday that this year’s edition of the Dickens Festival, which was to have been staged in December in the eastern town of Deventer, has been canceled.
Organizers say it would be impossible for visitors — and performers who dress up as Dickens characters during the two-day festival —- to observe social distancing guidelines in Deventer’s narrow streets.
The event draws more than 100,000 visitors to the town each year.
WARSAW, Poland — Doctors say Poland’s first double lung transplant COVID-19 patient is feeling fine and will be going home this week.
Doctors who treated 45-year-old Grzegorz Lipinski said Monday that the double transplant was the only way to save him after the virus almost totally his lungs.
Lipinski is head of the medical instruments sterilization room at a hospital in Tychy, southern Poland, that only treats COVID-19 patients. He was initially treated there then was moved to the University Hospital in Krakow, where he was put on the ExtraCorporeal Membrane Oxygenation, which is a system that performs the functions of the lungs.
He had the double transplant at the Silesia Center of Heart Diseases in Zabrze in July. Professor Marian Zembala, the center’s chief, says Lipinski is due to go home Tuesday.
ISLAMABAD — Education officials in Pakistan say authorities will start reopening schools from Sept. 15 amid a steady decline in coronavirus deaths and infections.
Schools were closed in March when the government enforced a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus. Authorities lifted curbs on most of the businesses in May, but schools remained closed across the country.
Officials said schools will reopen in Punjab and Sindh provinces from Sept. 15 and a formal announcement about opening of schools elsewhere was expected later Monday.
On Sunday, Pakistan reported three new deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, one of the lowest number of daily fatalities in more five months.
Pakistan has reported 298,903 infections and 6,345 deaths since the pandemic began.
BUDAPEST, Hungary — The Hungarian government says it has registered 576 new cases of the coronavirus, the country's highest daily figure since the start of the pandemic.
Monday’s tally raises the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases to 8,963 since the pandemic began, with 625 deaths.
Hungary closed its borders to foreigners on Sept. 1 but has since announced a series of exceptions, including for citizens from the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia, as well as allowances for cultural and sporting events.
Hungary is scheduled to host the UEFA Super Cup final on Sept. 24 between Bayern Munchen and Sevilla at the Puskas Arena in Budapest.
Schools reopened across the country last week and pandemic-related measures in the education system, such as quarantines or switching to digital learning, are being handled on a case-by-case basis.
CANBERRA, Australia — Australia says it has struck supply and production agreements with pharmaceutical companies worth 1.7 billion Australian dollars ($1.2 billion) over two potential COVID-19 vaccines.
Under the agreement announced Monday, Britain’s University of Oxford in collaboration with AstraZeneca and Australia’s University of Queensland working with CSL will provide more than 84.8 million vaccine doses for Australia’s population of 26 million people, almost entirely manufactured in the Australian city of Melbourne, a government statement said.
Australians would have access to 3.8 million doses of the University of Oxford vaccine in January and February, it said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said both vaccines would need to be proven safe and effective and meet all necessary regulatory requirements before being made available to the public. Any vaccine would be free to all Australians.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has added 119 more cases of the coronavirus, its lowest daily jump in more than three weeks amid a downward trend in new cases.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday the additional figures took the country’s total to 21,296 with 336 deaths.
It’s the fifth straight day the country’s daily jump has stayed under 200. The 119 additional cases are the lowest in kind since mid-August.
South Korea’s caseload had risen since early last month, with many associated with churches, restaurants and schools and an anti-government street rally in the greater Seoul area. In late August, South Korea’s daily jump once marked over 400.
But the caseload has gradually slowed down, largely thanks to toughened social distancing rules that restricts at dining at restaurants and bans gatherings at churches, night spots, after-school academics and fitness centers.