The Latest: Pakistan PM says he won’t impose a new lockdown



LAHORE, Pakistan — Pakistan’s prime minister has ruled out imposing another virus lockdown, despite a steady increase in fatalities from COVID-19. Imran Khan says his government doesn’t want people to die because of hunger while trying to save them from the pandemic.

Khan spoke to journalists Wednesday in the eastern city of Lahore hours after authorities reported one of the highest COVID-19 death tallies in a 24-hour period yet at 59, and over 3,000 new cases .

Pakistan is experiencing a second wave of the virus and hospitals are being flooded with patients.

Khan urged people to strictly adhere to social distancing rules and said wearing face masks is the easiest way to contain the spread of the virus.

Khan said he did not want to shut down factories, shops and shopping malls as it could affect country’s economy.

Pakistan has recorded 382,892 confirmed cases, including 7,803 deaths, since February when the country reported its first case.

Pakistan imposed a nationwide lockdown in March but eased restrictions in May.

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

— Restaurant employees out of work again as coronavirus surges anew

— A migrant’s odyssey from boat to COVID-19 nursing job in Spain

— Christmas traditions axed as pandemic sweeps rural Kansas

— Germany set to extend partial shutdown well into December

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Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

ROME — Italy registered a slightly higher new daily caseload of coronavirus infections, but significantly more swab tests were conducted compared to the previous day. That’s according to Health Ministry figures released Wednesday.

With the addition of 25,853 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, Italy’s known total in the pandemic rose to 1.480,874. The number of persons hospitalized with symptoms in regular care beds declined by 264 since Tuesday, but the number of ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients rose by 32 on Monday.

In the same 24-hour period, 722 deaths were registered, bringing to 52,028 the number of known dead in the pandemic.

Later this week, the government must decide whether to extend nationwide restrictions, including an overnight curfew, as well as determine which regions should stay “red zones” due to worrisome factors like high rates of contagion and pressure on local hospital systems.

The “Red zone” designation means only essential shops, like food stores and pharmacies, can open, while restaurants and cafes can only do take-out or delivery service, and residents can’t leave their towns, except for reasons like work or medical care.

Businesses are pressing the government to lift or ease restrictions to salvage the upcoming holiday shopping and travel season.

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HONOLULU — A Honolulu city councilman has called on the city’s police chief to reinstate its coronavirus enforcement unit. The unit was suspended after allegations that officers abused overtime hour submissions.

Councilman and Legal Affairs Committee chair Ron Menor proposed this week that Police Chief Susan Ballard should only ban officers currently under investigation for wrongdoing. He says that the rest of the officers should continue to enforce coronavirus restrictions around the city, especially with the upcoming holiday season fast approaching.

The job of ensuring that Honolulu’s residents and tourists are following coronavirus guidelines is now conducted by on-duty patrol officers. They take assignments based on their availability.

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LIHUE, Hawaii — The first coronavirus death on the island of Kauai has been reported.

Mayor Derek Kawakami announced in a statement this week that an elderly resident of the island with no travel history had died from the coronavirus, which has killed 232 others in Hawaii.

The Garden Island reports that a Kauai resident died in Arizona earlier this year.

The island reported four newly confirmed virus cases Monday, including one adult resident and three adult visitors. Kauai currently has 117 confirmed virus cases since the pandemic began. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested.

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HARTFORD, Conn. — A small number of flagrant violations and concerns about the holiday shopping season have prompted Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont to impose a steep new $10,000 fine on businesses that break the state’s coronavirus rules.

The new fine will replace the current $500 maximum penalty beginning at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, the Democratic governor announced Tuesday evening. A small number of restaurants have been cited for essentially operating as bars, which have been ordered closed during the pandemic.

The governor says the harsher fine was the result of concerns by municipal leaders, public health officials and people in the business community. He also cited concerns about keeping workers and customers safe during Black Friday and the rest of the holiday shopping season.

The state has an array of rules on businesses during the pandemic. Restaurants, for example, are limited to 50% capacity, a maximum of eight people per table and must stop inside dining service at 9:30 p.m.

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MINNEAPOLIS — A surge of COVID-19 cases throughout Minnesota is affecting staffing levels at many nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.

That’s forcing the state to send the National Guard to help out in some homes, while the administration is also asking state employees to consider volunteering in facilities with critical staff shortages.

The Star Tribune reports Wednesday that Minnesota Department of Health data shows 90% of the state’s nursing homes and 58% of assisted-living facilities have active outbreaks.

Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Tuesday that 47 long-term care facilities are in “a crisis staffing situation” and are receiving active support from the state, including help from federal health nurses.

Gov. Tim Walz’s administration is also taking the unusual step of e-mailing all state employees and asking them to consider volunteering for two-week stints in long-term care facilities, particularly in greater Minnesota.

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BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary has set new records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and for patients being treated on ventilators. That’s the case even as the number of registered daily cases showed a downward trend as the country’s lockdown passes its two-week mark.

Wednesday figures released on the government’s coronavirus website showed 7,718 patients were being treated in hospitals, of which 656 were on ventilators, both record highs. The total number of coronavirus-related deaths rose by 106 to 4,114 in the country of nearly 10 million inhabitants.

The seven-day rolling average of new registered cases has steadily declined for nearly a week, suggesting strict lockdown measures imposed two weeks ago could be helping to slow the spread of the virus. The measures include the closure of high schools and universities, an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, and limiting restaurants to home delivery.

However, the seven-day average of coronavirus tests has also declined in recent days, likely influencing the drop in new daily cases. The rolling average of daily deaths has not dropped below 100 for the past five days.

On Tuesday, Hungary’s emergency task force announced that exclusive shopping hours would be reserved for individuals over 65 years of age, a measure aimed at reducing potential contacts with the virus among the elderly, who are particularly vulnerable.

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ZAGREB, Croatia — Croatia has registered a record number of daily coronavirus cases as authorities consider additional measures to try to stem the outbreak.

The national COVID-19 response team said Wednesday that 3,603 infections have been registered in the past 24 hours and 56 patients have died.

Since Feb. 25, when the first case was registered in the country of 4 million, 111,617 persons have tested positive for the coronavirus and 1,501 have died.

Croatian media say that because of the latest outbreak, some hospitals are running out of beds and infected patients have had to be placed in tents.

Authorities are reportedly considering introducing new nationwide restrictive measures that could include closing cafes and restaurants.

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MADRID — Hundreds of white taxis have gridlocked streets in downtown Madrid as drivers protested that their business is collateral damage from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Representatives of the taxi sector say it is “drowning” in the economic hardship caused by the limits on movement and social gatherings, restrictions for bars and restaurants, and more people working from home.

Taxis drove between two of the Spanish capital’s main squares Wednesday, demanding that Madrid authorities help them out.

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BERLIN — Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has pushed back against calls to write off this year’s ski season because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The ski resort of Ischgl in western Austria became a hotspot for infection in March, with foreign tourists from across Europe carrying the virus back to their home countries after authorities there failed to react swiftly to an outbreak.

But Kurz told reporters in Vienna on Wednesday that Austria’s ski resorts will be treated in the same way as other walks of life when a decision is made whether to relax lockdown measures after Dec. 6.

He says: “It depends on the infection risk and the same is true for all reopening steps.”

The governor of Germany’s neighboring state of Bavaria, Markus Soeder, called Tuesday for a Europe-wide agreement on whether to keep ski resorts shut or not. Soeder linked the issue of skiing to the question of open borders and stressed that those who go abroad to enjoy the slopes would likely have to quarantine for 10 days when they return.

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ANKARA, Turkey — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says a Turkish-developed vaccine against COVID-19 could be ready for use by April.

In an address to legislators from his ruling party Wednesday, Erdogan also said that, once ready, Turkey plans to share the vaccine with the world.

Erdogan said Turkey has repeatedly urged countries “not to sacrifice the vaccine to political and commercial ambitions” and to make it “the joint property of all humanity.”

He added: “We are planning to put the vaccine that we are developing in the service of all humanity under the best conditions possible.” He did not elaborate.

The vaccine, ERUCOV-VAC, is being developed by Erciyes University, in the central Turkish province of Kayseri, and is currently undergoing phase 1 of testing.

Erciyes University Rector Mustafa Calis said this week that phase 2 testing could start soon.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg says going home for Christmas has “a high value” in the government’s assessment of the virus situation.

But she says “we must see a clear decrease in infection and get better control before we consider opening (for) more social contact.”

Solberg’s comments Wednesday come as the government extends national measures another three weeks. The Scandinavian country has reported 33,183 cases and 314 deaths.

Solberg says: “We now see a hint of flattening in the numbers of new cases of infection and hospitalizations. This is positive news, but it is too early to say whether the infection control measures that were introduced at the beginning of November are sufficient.”

Solberg said she hoped that the situation soon will “allow for more social contact.”

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BRUSSELS — Belgian health authorities are launching a new coronavirus testing strategy to try to halt the spread of the disease, incorporating rapid antigen kits with more reliable and standard molecular tests.

Until now, the country has relied on standard kits, known as PCR tests, which detect the genetic material of the virus. Rapid antigen tests provide quicker results but are not as reliable.

Belgium’s top government coronavirus official Pedro Facon said Wednesday that a task force is being set afoot to move the country into what is dubbed testing strategy 2.0.

Facon says that “scientific studies are showing that in patients with symptoms, rapid antigen tests are almost as reliable as PCR tests if they are done in the first five days after the symptoms appear.”

He says that in cases where people are strongly suspected to have the disease but produce a negative rapid test, a separate PCR test will be conducted to reduce the risk of cases slipping through.

Belgium is one of the European countries worst hit by the virus in per capita terms. As of Wednesday, more than 561,000 people had contracted the disease in a country with a population of around 11.5 million people. Over 15,900 have died.

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BERLIN — Austria’s leader says his country plans to start mass testing for the coronavirus next month in hopes of avoiding further lockdowns.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Wednesday that Austria’s westernmost provinces, Vorarlberg and Tyrol, will start carrying out mass tests on the first weekend in December, beginning with groups such as teachers and police officers who have particularly frequent contact with other people. The government is discussing dates with other provinces.

Austria’s current lockdown is due to run until Dec. 6. Kurz said that “we should take every opportunity that offers itself to avoid further lockdowns or at least to shorten them.”

Italy’s South Tyrol province, which borders Austria, already has conducted mass tests — following the example of Slovakia, which moved to slow infections and avoid a second lockdown by testing nearly two-thirds of its people in one weekend this month.

Kurz said that, even though a vaccine should be available in January, “that doesn’t mean everything will be solved in January.” He said that “we still have some hard months ahead of us.”

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea says 60 new army recruits at a boot camp have tested positive for the coronavirus, the military’s largest cluster infection.

The Defense Ministry says in a statement the recruits had been taking basic training at an army unit in Yeoncheon, a town near the tense border with North Korea, at the start of their 18 months of mandatory military service.

The statement says one of the recruits was found to have contracted the virus on Wednesday morning before 59 others tested positive later in the day.

It says more tests are underway to determine whether 860 other recruits and troops at the Yeoncheon unit have been infected with the virus too.

South Korean health authorities on Tuesday recorded 382 new cases, taking the country’s’ total to 31,735 with 513 deaths.

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LONDON — The World Health Organization says the coronavirus pandemic has “slowed down” in the past week although death rates continued to rise, with more than 67,000 new deaths reported.

The U.N. health agency said in its latest epidemiological update Wednesday that even though there was a “downward trend” in the number of cases in Europe, the region still has the biggest proportion of new cases and deaths globally. WHO noted that Africa reported the highest increase in new cases and deaths, driven by South Africa, Algeria and Kenya.

In the past week, WHO said, the number of new cases reported in Europe dropped by about 6% after a 10% decline the previous week, suggesting that lockdowns across the continent are effectively slowing transmission. Still, the region accounts for about half of new global deaths.

Britain’s caseload fell by about 13%, its first weekly decline since late August. There were about 1,600 people hospitalized every day in mid-November, but that remains far lower than the more than 3,000 patients admitted daily in early April.

In Asia, WHO noted that Japan reported the largest number of daily cases since the beginning of the outbreak, with more than 2,000 reported every day for five consecutive days, a 41% increase from the previous week. Myanmar reported a 74% jump in cases last week, with more than 11,000 new cases and a 36% increase in deaths, at 188.

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MOSCOW — Russian authorities have registered a record number of coronavirus deaths for a second straight day.

The government coronavirus task force reported 507 new deaths on Wednesday, the country’s highest daily toll. The previous record of 491 deaths was reported on Tuesday. A total of 37,538 people have died from the coronavirus in Russia, according to the task force.

Russia has been swept by a rapid resurgence of the outbreak this fall, with numbers of confirmed infections and deaths hitting new highs almost daily and significantly exceeding those reported in the spring.

The country’s authorities have rejected the idea of another nationwide lockdown or widespread closure of businesses, even as media reports from Russian regions showed that the healthcare system was under severe strain.

On Wednesday, officials reported 23,765 new confirmed cases. Russia currently has the world’s fifth largest coronavirus caseload of over 2.1 million.

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