The Latest: Mask-less Pope Francis noticed by commission
ROME — The decision by Pope Francis to forgo wearing a mask has been noticed by a member of the Vatican’s coronavirus commission.
The Rev. Augusto Zampini acknowledged Tuesday the 83-year-old pope, who is missing part of a lung because of an illness in his youth, is at high risk for complications of the virus.
“He has started to use the mask now,” Zampini said. “And I hope he will use it in the general audiences, when he’s close to the people. When you’re in an open space, we know that it’s different. But we are working on that.”
Francis has courted some criticism for declining to wear a mask when indoors. Vatican regulations call for masks indoors and out when social distancing cannot be guaranteed.
On Saturday, the pope met with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and neither they nor anyone in the Spanish delegation wore masks.
The photos caused a mild stir in Spain over the weekend. The prime minister’s office says the delegation was following Vatican protocol rules. The Vatican has declined to respond to questions about Francis and masks.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Spanish doctors stage 24-hour walkout to protest weak public health system
— Russia issues nationwide mask requirement amid surge of cases
— Iran hits record single-day virus death toll
— Coronavirus cases increasing in states Trump needs the most – the Midwest.
— European nations enact sweeping restrictions like curfews to try to slow surging infection rates
— World Series played at a neutral site in front of smallest crowds in a century, but Dodgers and Rays are just happy that some fans are there
— Follow AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
NEWARK, N.J. — Businesses in Newark, New Jersey’s largest city, will face restrictions beginning Tuesday after the city’s positivity rate reached levels not seen since late May.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka announced that non-essential businesses must close at 8 p.m. and restaurants must curtail indoor dining but can stay open for delivery and takeout.
Baraka, a Democrat, says testing from Oct. 11 to Oct. 18 showed Newark’s positivity rate at more than 11 percent, the highest since May 23.
Beauty salons, nail salons and barbershops can be open by appointment only. Gyms and health clubs must close for half an hour each hour for sanitizing. The restrictions will be re-assessed in two weeks.
In one Newark neighborhood, the positivity rate was more than 25 percent. The state’s positivity rate is roughly 5 percent.
WARSAW, Poland — Poland is offering a short-term package of financial aid to medium and small business worth $1.8 billion PLN ($465 million).
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki says the measures are intended to prevent layoffs. The government says it will apply to more than 170,000 companies, employing more than 400,000 workers affected by the latest coronavirus restrictions.
In November, medium and small businesses will be exempt from paying social security insurance for their employees and will receive government subsidies for wages in idled firms.
The entire country is considered a “red zone,” with restricted a number of customers in shops and markets. Restaurants and eateries are takeout only.
The daily registered coronavirus cases hit a record 16,300 in the nation of 38 million.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch government will provide support for businesses worth some 500 millions euros ($590 million).
They come on top of billions of euros the government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte already has pledged to businesses, ranging from carrier KLM to small restaurants. The package includes contributions to help bars and restaurants.
Infections have rapidly risen in the Netherlands. The government announced a partial lockdown two weeks ago, which closed bars and restaurants for at least four weeks.
ZAGREB, Croatia — Croatia’s hospitals are rapidly filling up and authorities are turning a sports arena in the capital of Zagreb into a temporary facility for COVID-19 patients.
The European Union nation of 4.2 million people has posted record daily infections in the past weeks, reaching more than 2,000 cases.
On Tuesday, health officials reported 1,413 cases and 18 deaths in the past 24 hours.
Authorities have limited gatherings and working hours of bars and restaurants to curb the spread.
Croatia has confirmed a total of 38,621 cases and 470 deaths.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s top health official says a second wave of coronavirus is underway.
Faisal Sultan urged authorities to strictly implement social distancing rules to contain the spread of the virus. His comments come days after authorities issued a warning that another lockdown could be imposed if people don’t stop violating social-distancing rules.
On Tuesday, Pakistan reported 773 new cases in the past 24 hours and six deaths.
Pakistan has confirmed 329,375 cases and 6,745 virus-related deaths since February.
PRAGUE — The Czech government is asking the Parliament to approve its plan to extend a state of emergency it declared a month.
Prime Minister Andrej Babis says the measure is needed “to protect the health and lives of the citizens.” The Parliament is expected to take a vote on the request to extend the state of emergency until Dec 3.
The rolling average of daily cases has risen in the past two weeks from 48 per 100,000 people on Oct. 12 to 115 on Monday.
Starting on Wednesday, the government is imposing more regulations, including nationwide curfew from 9 p.m. – 5 a.m. All stores must close on Sundays. Employees in state and private companies are recommended to work from home. The government says it won’t reopen elementary schools as planned on Monday because the rising infections.
The Czech Republic has 268,370 cases, about a third registered in the last week. There are 5,613 COVID-19 patients hospitalized.
The nation recorded 2,365 deaths since March, with 748 confirmed in the last week.
ALBANY, N.Y. — New York’s public university system is requiring students to test negative for the coronavirus before they can leave for Thanksgiving break in hopes of preventing community spread back home.
State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras told The Associated Press that the system’s 64 colleges and universities must have plans by Nov. 5 to test about 140,000 students within 10 days before Thanksgiving break.
SUNY has planned to transition most colleges and universities to remote learning after Thanksgiving. SUNY will require colleges to isolate or quarantine any residential student who tests positive for COVID-19 or is exposed to COVID-19 in the 14 days before Thanksgiving break.
MADRID — Spanish doctors are staging their first national walkout in 25 years to protest what they say are poor working conditions and the weakened state of the national public health system.
The 24-hour strike was called by the State Confederation of Medical Unions, which wants health authorities to negotiate changes in the sector. The confederation says the coronavirus pandemic has exposed a lack of investment public health system in recent decades.
The protest came as the government said its proposed 2021 state budget includes a 151% increase in spending for the public health sector.
BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungarian health authorities reported a surge in coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, pushing the number of daily deaths to a new record.
The government data shows 63 deaths the past 24 hours, up from 47 deaths a day earlier. The number of new confirmed cases, reported at 2,079 on Tuesday, has been above 2,000 for the sixth consecutive day.
Hungary’s Parliament passed new legislation on Monday that tightens the rules governing home quarantine and stipulates the fines for breaching these rules.
Authorities in the country of nearly 10 million have conducted about one million tests so far. The totals have reached 63,642 infections and 1,535 deaths.
TEHRAN — Iran has reached another single-day record with 346 deaths. That brings the country’s total virus deaths to 33,299, the highest coronavirus toll in the Mideast.
Iran Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari says daily coronavirus cases have also hit a record, with 6,968 reported. That brings Iran’s total number of infections to 581,824.
She says 4,995 COVID-19 patients are in serious condition.
JERUSALEM — Israel has appointed a new coronavirus czar as it slowly emerges from a second nationwide lockdown amid widespread criticism of the government’s handling of the pandemic.
Dr. Nachman Ash, a retired brigadier general and former surgeon general of the Israeli military, will take over from Dr. Ronni Gamzu, a leading public health expert whose three-month tenure was marred by political infighting and public anger at the government’s response to the outbreak.
Israel imposed a second nationwide lockdown in mid-September after a surge in new cases threatened to overwhelm the health system. The rate of new cases has declined since the lockdown was imposed. Authorities have lifted restrictions on movement, but most schools and businesses remain closed.
Israel hopes to avoid repeating its experience last spring, when an earlier lockdown largely succeeded in containing the outbreak before authorities abruptly lifted most restrictions. Cases shot up while the economy failed to recover, stoking public anger and weekly protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israel has reported more than 300,000 cases and 2,452 virus deaths
MADRID — Spain’s Canary Islands aim to pass a law this week demanding a negative COVID-19 test result from tourists wanting to visit the archipelago off northwest Africa.
Canary Islands President Ángel Víctor Torres says the measure will apply to both Spaniards and foreigners. New infections have been soaring across Spain except for the Canary Islands, a popular tourist destination that is 1,800 kilometers (1,120 miles) southwest of Madrid.
He said the law was being prepared even before the U.K. and Germany recently lifted travel restrictions to the Canary Islands. Those two countries account for more than half the archipelago’s 13 million annual visitors.
Any tourist without a certified document confirming a negative test result between 48 and 72 hours before their arrival won’t be allowed inside any accommodations on the island. The visitor will be asked to go to a local testing center at their own expense.
Officials in the Canary Islands have officially recorded almost 17,000 cases of coronavirus and 272 deaths.
BERLIN — A second German district has gone into a de facto lockdown as new coronavirus infections surge in the country.
The restrictions in Bavaria’s Rottal-Inn county, on the border with Austria, began Tuesday, news agency dpa reported. Rottal-Inn follows Berchtesgaden, another Bavarian county in Germany’s southeastern corner, which introduced similar restrictions last week.
Schools and kindergartens will be closed and events canceled, and people have been told not to leave their homes without good reason.
Rottal-Inn has recorded more than 200 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants over the past seven days. In Germany, measures are required once new infections top 50 per 100,000.
On Tuesday, the country’s national disease control center reported 11,409 new infections. Another 42 people died, bringing the country’s overall virus death toll to 10,098.
Hospitals and intensive units are filling up again and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed grave concern, saying the current restrictions are not strong enough to slow down the spread of the virus.
Merkel will meet with the state governors on Wednesday.
PARIS — The French government is warning of possible new lockdowns as hospitals fill up wit COVID-19 patients and doctors plead for backup.
President Emmanuel Macron is convening top ministers and Prime Minister Jean Castex is meeting with lawmakers, unions and business lobbies as the government weighs its next steps in the fight against surging infections. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told France-Inter radio that “we should expect difficult decisions.”
Among possible new measures for the hardest-hit areas are lengthening existing curfews, full confinement on weekends or all week and closing non-essential businesses.
Doctors describe growing pressure on emergency services and intensive care wards, where COVID-19 patients take up 54% of beds nationwide.
France is reporting more than 350 new cases per 100,000 people each week, and nearly 18% of tests are positive. It has reported Europe’s third-highest virus death toll, at more than 35,000 lives lost.
MOSCOW — Russian authorities on Tuesday have issued a nationwide mask requirement amid a rapid resurgence of the coronavirus outbreak.
Health authorities registered 16,550 new cases and 320 deaths on Tuesday, the highest daily death toll since the beginning of the pandemic.
Russia’s public health agency, Rospotrebnadzor, ordered all Russians to wear masks in crowded public spaces, on public transport, in taxis, at parking lots and in elevators starting on Wednesday. The agency also recommended regional authorities put a curfew on entertainment events, cafes, restaurants and bars from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Russia has the world’s fourth-largest tally of more than 1.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases. The government’s coronavirus task force has been reporting more than 15,000 new infections every day since last Sunday, which is much higher than in the spring.
In total, Russia has reported more than 26,000 virus-related deaths.
Despite the sharp spike in daily new infections, Russian authorities have repeatedly dismissed the idea of imposing a second national lockdown or shutting down businesses. Most virus-related restrictions were lifted during the summer.