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Tuesday January 26th, 2021 10:13AM

The Latest: Syrian students head back to classrooms

By The Associated Press
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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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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:

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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FRANKFORT, Ky. — A prominent Kentucky infectious disease specialist who was hailed by the governor as a “front line hero” has died after a nearly four-month battle against COVID-19.

Dr. Rebecca Shadowen, who tested positive for the virus on May 13, died on Friday night, Med Center Health in Bowling Green said. Gov. Andy Beshear tweeted Saturday that he was “heartbroken” to hear of her death and urged people to follow her advice and “wear a mask in her honor.”

Connie Smith, president and CEO of Med Center Health, said Shadowen “will forever be remembered as a nationally recognized expert who provided the very best care for our patients and community. She was a dear friend to many.”

Before contracting the virus, Shadowen led Med Center Health’s work in National Institute of Health trials of patients’ treatment for the virus, according to media reports.

Shadowen had said she believed she contracted the virus after an elderly family member received care at home from an infected caregiver.

“COVID-19 does not discriminate in its ability to penetrate our homes and communities,” Shadowen said when announcing in the spring that she had tested positive for the virus.

While battling the virus, she surprised members of the Bowling Green–Warren County Coronavirus Workgroup by joining in a conference call, telling the group: “It’s a great day to be alive.” She stressed the importance of wearing a mask in public.

In his social media tribute Saturday, Beshear referred to Shadowen as a “front line hero who worked tirelessly to protect the lives of others.”

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri has topped 100,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services’ coronavirus dashboard cited 1,974 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 101,134. The true number is likely much higher since many people with the virus go undiagnosed.

The state also added three new deaths. All told, 1,704 Missourians have died from COVID-19.

The number of cases in the state is growing at a rate faster than most places. Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that over the seven-day period of Sept. 4-10, Missouri saw the nation’s sixth-highest number of new cases.

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PHOENIX — Arizona Department of Health Services officials on Saturday reported more than 600 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases and 27 additional deaths as the state's coronavirus outbreak continues to slow.

The additional 605 cases increased the statewide total to 208,128 as the death toll increased to 5,315.

COVID-19-related hospitalizations reported by the department continued to drop, a trend that began in July after the state became a national hot spot in June.

Johns Hopkins University data analyzed by The Associated Press showed drops in seven-day rolling averages of daily new cases and daily deaths over the past two weeks.

The average of daily new cases went from 537 on Aug. 28 to 406 on Friday while the average of daily deaths went from 41 to 20.

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CARSON CITY, Nev. — Nevada health officials on Saturday reported 414 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases and 10 additional deaths, increasing the statewide totals to 73,220 cases and 1,439 deaths.

Meanwhile, Johns Hopkins University data analyzed by The Associated Press showed seven-day rolling averages for Nevada’s daily new cases and daily deaths dropping over the past two weeks.

The average of daily deaths went from 488 on Aug. 28 to 299 on Friday while the average of daily deaths dropped from 15 to 9.

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