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Thursday January 21st, 2021 7:39PM

The Latest: COVID cases rising again in Britain

By The Associated Press
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LONDON -- The U.K., which has suffered Europe’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak, has recorded more than 3,000 new cases of COVID-19 for the third day running for the first time since May.

The Department for Health and Social Services reported a further 3,330 cases on Sunday, taking the three-day tally above 10,000.

Though a ramp up in testing accounts for some of the increase, it’s clear that the U.K. has seen the virus spread in recent weeks. Daily cases are more than double those reported a couple of weeks ago, a change that has stoked concerns of a second wave of the virus.

To get on top of the flare-up, authorities have tightened a number restrictions to everyday life. For example, the British government said social gatherings in England will be limited to six people from Monday, both indoors and outdoors, and that rule-breakers will face fines.

Daily deaths remain very low but the worry is that the rise in cases, even if confined to younger people, will lead to a rise in hospitalizations in coming weeks and potentially of more people dying.

The U.K. has an official virus-related toll of over 41,600 people who died within 28 days of testing positive.

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

— Virus America, six months in: Disarray, dismay, disconnect

— Trump’s virus debate: Project strength or level with public

— Israeli minister resigns to protest expected virus lockdown

— With many teachers opting out of returning to the classroom because of the coronavirus, schools around the U.S. are scrambling to find replacements and in some places lowering certification requirements to help get substitutes in the door.

— Oxford University says trials of a coronavirus vaccine its developing with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca will resume, days after a pause due to a reported side-effect in a U.K. patient.

— Antarctica is still free of COVID-19. Can it stay that way? Nearly 1,000 scientists have wintered on the ice and are getting a peek of the sun for the first time in months. Now the task is making sure incoming colleagues don’t bring the virus.

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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:

ROME — Italy added another 1,458 coronavirus infections to its official tally on the eve of the return to school for most Italian students for the first time since March.

Another seven people died over the past 24 hours, bringing Italy’s official COVID-19 toll to 35,610, the highest number in Europe after Britain.

The Health Ministry issued its daily update Sunday as Premier Giuseppe Conte urged Italian students to embrace the new school year with enthusiasm but responsibility. Italian schools closed nationwide on March 5 and never reopened as Italy became the epicenter of the pandemic in Europe.

Most of Italy’s recent infections during its six-week spike in cases have been among young Italians returning from vacation. The average age of those infected, which had dropped to the low 30s in recent weeks, is beginning to rise again, presumably as young people infect more vulnerable older relatives.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greek health authorities announced 207 new coronavirus cases Sunday, including 29 international arrivals. There were also three deaths.

Total confirmed cases now stand at 13,240, about two-thirds of them since the beginning of August. Deaths are 305. The median age of those falling sick is 39, while that of those dying is 78.

Monday marks an important step towards a return to a kind of normal, with the opening of schools. Teachers and students will be wearing masks. In the face of some parents protesting against masks and a few rallies against their use, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he would not hesitate to go after conspiracy theorists.

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa officials said the number of coronavirus cases in the state increased by 814 Sunday and two additional deaths were reported.

Health officials said that as of 10 a.m. Sunday 74,361 confirmed cases of coronavirus have been reported since the pandemic began. Of that total, 1,218 people have died and 53,120 have recovered, according to the state’s online virus tracker.

The state said Iowa had an 8.9% positivity rate over the past 14 days, but six Iowa counties reported positivity rates over 15% over the past 14 days. The high rate means that public schools in Sioux, Lyon, Bremer, Plymouth, Carroll and Chickasaw counties may be able to apply for a state waiver to provide instruction entirely online.

State officials said 274 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 Sunday, down from 290 on Saturday. The number of patients battling COVID-19 in intensive care also decreased to 79 on Sunday from Saturday’s 90 patients.

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BEIRUT — More than 3 million Syrian students started school in government-held areas Sunday, marking the first school day amid strict measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, state media reported.

Syria, which had a population of 23 million before its conflict began in March 2011, has registered 3,506 confirmed coronavirus cases as well as 152 deaths in government-held areas. The actual number of cases is believed to be much higher, as the number of tests being done in the country is very low and many people in rural areas are unaware they are carrying the virus.

Coronavirus tests at private clinics cost around $60, far to expensive for most Syrians, whose average salary is less than $100 a month. The government conducts about 300 free tests each day for people showing symptoms.

Among the precautionary measures taken by the Ministry of Education were the sanitizing of all classrooms, walls, floors, stairs and bathrooms of schools, state news agency SANA said. Students’ temperatures will be checked as well.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea says it will ease social distancing rules in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area following a declining number of new coronavirus cases.

Health Minister Park Neung-hoo told an online briefing Sunday that the greater Seoul area recorded about 80-110 new virus cases each day last week, down from 110-180 in the previous week.

Under eased rules that are effective from Monday for two weeks, Park says authorities will lift a ban on dining at restaurants after 9 p.m. in the Seoul area. They’ve been allowed to provide only takeouts and deliveries after 9 p.m. since late August.

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BEIRUT — The U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon along the border with Israel said Sunday that 90 of its troops have tested positive for COVID-19.

The force, known as UNIFIL, said in a statement that 88 of the troops are from the same contingent and two others are from another country. Only four presented symptoms. It said the 90 troops are in complete isolation and it is carrying out contact tracing.

It said the coronavirus cases did not affect activities of the force.

UNIFIL, which has some 10,300 peacekeepers, said last month that 22 soldiers had tested positive for the coronavirus.

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PARIS — France’s health agency says that the country crossed the threshold of 10,000 new cases of COVID-19 in 24 hours — the most since widespread testing began in May.

Public Health France reported 10,561 new cases Saturday, compared to 9,406 fresh cases the day before.

France is one of European countries that has been the hardest hit by the virus, with a total of 30,910 people having died.

Prime Minister Jean Castex pledged on Friday that there would be a reduction in waiting times for tests, faced with what he described as a “manifest deterioration” of the situation. Around 10 millions tests have so far been carried out.

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BERLIN — Austria’s leader says his country is seeing the start of a “second wave” of coronavirus infections. He is appealing to his compatriots to comply with newly reinforced rules to keep down infections.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced Friday that the government would reimpose measures such as an obligation to wear masks in shops to curb a rise in new infections. Austria recorded 859 new infections on Friday, the highest daily figure since late March.

Kurz stepped up his rhetoric on Sunday. He told the Austria Press Agency in a written statement that “what we are experiencing at the moment is the beginning of a second wave.” He added that developments in the capital, Vienna, are “particularly dramatic,” with the city accounting for around half of new cases.

Kurz said that Austria will soon hit the 1,000 per day mark. He called on Austrians to reduce social contacts, wear masks and keep their distance “as well as possible.”

He predicted “a tough autumn and winter,” though he stuck to his assessment that things should be largely normal by next summer.

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PRAGUE — Coronavirus infections continue to grow in the Czech Republic, reaching a record level for the fourth day this week.

The Health Ministry says the day-to-day increase in new cases reached 1,541 on Saturday, a record high for the country.

Health Minister Adam Vojtech said “nobody expected” such a spike.

The Czech Republic has had 35,401 cases overall, including 453 deaths.

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NEW DELHI — India has registered a single-day spike of 94,372 new confirmed coronavirus cases, driving the country’s overall tally to 4.75 million.

The Health Ministry on Sunday also reported 1,114 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 78,586.

Even as infections are growing faster in India than anywhere else in the world, the number of people recovering from the virus has also risen sharply. The country’s recovery rate stands at 77.77% and nearly 70,000 recoveries have been reported every day in the month of September, according to the Health Ministry.

The ministry attributed India’s COVID-19 recovery pace to aggressive testing and prompt surveillan, but experts say India needs to test more due to its huge population. It’s climbed to the second worst-hit country behind the United States, and is now testing more than 1 million people every day.

India’s Parliament is expected to resume work on Monday with strict physical distancing. Parliament adjourned in March just before a nationwide lockdown was announced to contain the pandemic.

The harsh lockdown caused a severe economic crisis, with India’s economy contracting nearly 24% in the second quarter, the worst among the world’s top economies.

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BEIJING — Domestic air travel in Wuhan, the epicenter of the global coronavirus outbreak, has returned to pre-pandemic levels, authorities say.

The virus was first detected in Wuhan late last year and the city underwent a draconian 76-day lockdown as its hospitals struggled to deal with a tidal wave of cases that required the rapid construction of field hospitals to handle the overflow.

Since reopening in early April, life has gradually returned to normal and numbers of domestic flights serving the city, as well as the number of passengers, had both fully recovered, according to the operator of Wuhan Tianhe International airport. It said 64,700 passengers were transported aboard 500 domestic flights on Friday.

The airport is preparing to eventually resume international passenger flights to destinations such as Seoul, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta, Qu Xiaoni, an airport representative was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency.

International cargo routes have already re-opened connecting the major industrial city and center of the Chinese auto industry with destinations such as Amsterdam and New Delhi.

China has gone almost a month without registering a new case of local transmission and on Sunday, the National Health Commission reported just 10 new cases, all of them imported. Hospitals are treating 151 people for COVID-19 and another 357 people are in isolation after testing positive for the disease without showing any symptoms, the commission said. China has reported a total of 85,184 cases of COVID-19 with 4,634 deaths.

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