The Latest: UK to lay off 6K contact tracers in local shift

LONDON — The British government is laying off 6,000 coronavirus contact tracers and deploying the rest to work in local teams, in an acknowledgment that the centralized track-and-trace system is not working well enough.

The U.K. has been criticized for failing to keep track of infected people’s contacts early in the pandemic, a factor that contributed to the country’s high death toll of more than 46,500, the most in Europe.

Since May the country has rapidly set up a test-and-trace system to try to contain the outbreak, recruiting thousands of staff in a matter of weeks. But the system, which relies on telephone call centers, has failed to reach more than a quarter of contacts of people who have tested positive for the virus.

Some frustrated local authorities have set up their own contact-tracing networks, which have proved more effective because they know communities better and can go door-to-door if needed.

The national test-and-trace program said Monday it was officially adopting that localized approach. Some 6,000 contact tracers will be laid off this month, and the remaining 12,000 will work with local public health authorities around the country.

The government also abandoned plans to create a contact-tracing phone app, but says it will be reintroduced in some form in the near future.

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

— Extreme poverty rises; a generation sees a future slip away

— Schools mull outdoor classes amid virus, ventilation worries

— States on hook for billions under Trump’s unemployment plan

— Pandemic wrecks global Class of 2020′s hopes for first job

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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:

ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s culture ministry is closing down the Museum of the Ancient Agora, a major archaeological site in central Athens, for two weeks after a cleaner there was diagnosed with COVID-19.

A ministry statement Monday said the museum would be comprehensively disinfected, while the actual site of the Ancient Agora, which was the administrative, political and social center of the ancient city, will remain open.

Greek sites and museums are open to visitors, with the wearing of masks obligatory in museums.

The closure also comes as Greece has announced 126 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the last day, bringing the country’s total to 5,749, and one more death for a total death toll of 213 amid a spike in daily infections.

Of the new cases, 17 were migrants who arrived on the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos who arrived from the nearby Turkish coast.

The government announced new measures Monday to curb the spread, including orderings bars, restaurants and cafes in several regions to shut between midnight and 7 a.m. Other measures include requiring those arriving in the country from land borders, as well as those flying in from several European countries, to have proof of a negative coronavirus test.

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BANGKOK — Thailand is making plans to allow at least 3,000 foreign teachers to enter the country, even as it continues to keep out tourists and tightly restricts other arrivals to guard against new coronavirus infections.

Attapon Truektrong, secretary-general of the Private Education Commission, said Monday that those who have registered include teachers returning to their jobs after leaving during the pandemic, as well as newly employed teachers.

The teachers, who come from countries including the Philippines, New Zealand, the United States and Britain, will have to be quarantined for 14 days after arrival. Thailand barred scheduled passenger flights from abroad in early April

Thailand hosts many international schools and there is a general shortage of qualified teachers of English and other non-Thai languages.

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Students have begun returning to some Florida university campuses as the state reports its lowest number of new daily cases in more than a month.

Classes for new students started Monday at Stetson University. Students moved into dormitories over the weekend at the DeLand campus as well as at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

In Orange County, public school students started the school year with two-weeks of online learning. At the end of the month, they will get to choose between continuing with virtual learning or going to in-person classes.

Meanwhile, Florida reported 4,155 new coronavirus cases on Monday, the smallest daily caseload increase since the end of June.

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ISLAMABAD — The incoming president of the United Nations General Assembly has praised Pakistan for quickly containing the coronavirus, saying the South Asian nation’s handling of the pandemic is a good example for the world.

The Turkish diplomat Volkan Bozkir made his comment Monday at a news conference in the capital, Islamabad.

Bozkir was recently elected as the president of the 75th session of the U.N. General Assembly.

Upon his arrival in Islamabad, he met with the country’s prime minister, Imran Khan, who wants international financial institutions and rich nations to give a debt relief to poor countries whose economies have badly been affected by the new virus.

Bozkir’s visit comes amid a steady decline in COVID-19 deaths and infections in Pakistan.

Pakistan reported its first confirmed case of coronavirus in February and in March it imposed a nationwide lockdown, which has gradually been lifted in recent weeks. Pakistan on Monday reported 15 fatalities from coronavirus in the past 24 hours, raising its total COVID-19-related fatalities to 6,097.

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HARWOOD, N.D. — Veterans who weren’t given military funeral rights when they were buried during the coronavirus pandemic have been given a final salute at the Fargo National Cemetery.

United Patriotic Bodies and Fargo Honor Guard volunteers were at the cemetery Saturday when three rifle volleys were fired and taps were played individually for 14 different families of veterans.

United Patriotic Bodies Cmdr. Jason Hicks says the salute is an honor and a duty to those who sacrificed for their country.

Gary Varberg came to the cemetery to honor his brother, Roger Nelson. KVLY-TV reported that the two served in Iraq together and decades in the National Guard.

Nelson was just one of the many veterans who wasn’t given military rights and honors when he was buried during the global pandemic.

“This means we get to say our final goodbye to our brothers and sisters,” Fargo Honor Guard Chaplain Russel Stabler said.

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WATERLOO, Iowa — The family of a fourth worker who died from the coronavirus during an outbreak at Tyson Foods’ largest pork processing plant is suing the company over his death.

The lawsuit says that Isidro Fernandez, of Waterloo, Iowa, died April 26 from complications of COVID-19, leaving behind a wife and children.

The lawsuit is similar to one filed in June by the same lawyers on behalf of the estates of three other deceased Waterloo employees.

The lawsuits allege Tyson put employees at risk by downplaying concerns and covering up the outbreak to keep them on the job. They allege the company failed to implement safety measures, allowed some sick and exposed employees to keep working, and falsely assured the public that the plant was safe.

The company says the workers’ deaths are tragic but that it vigorously disputes the allegations. Tyson says that it worked during the pandemic to follow safety guidelines and has invested millions of dollars to keep workers safe.

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LONDON — The emergencies chief for the World Health Organization said that COVID-19 doesn’t seem to follow the seasonal patterns that some viruses exhibit, making it harder to control.

Unlike other respiratory viruses like influenza that spread mainly in the winter, the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating in the summer. That’s despite earlier predictions from some scientists and politicians it would fade in the heat.

“This virus has demonstrated no seasonal pattern as such,” said Dr. Michael Ryan at a press briefing on Monday. “What it has clearly demonstrated is that if you take the pressure off the virus, the virus bounces back,” he said. Ryan said the U.N. health agency continues to advise countries even where COVID-19 appears to be under control, such as those in Europe, to maintain measures to slow virus spread.

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NEW DELHI — India has registered a record 1,007 fatalities in the past 24 hours as new coronavirus infections surged by 62,064 cases.

The Health Ministry says the total fatalities reached 44,386 on Monday.

The number of positive cases reported so far are 2,215,074. At least 634,935 patients were still undergoing treatment.

India has recorded more than 60,000 cases of the virus daily in the last four days and more infections than any other country in the world for six consecutive days. It has averaged around 50,000 new cases a day since mid-June.

Infections in India remain concentrated in 10 states that contribute nearly 80% of the new cases.

India has the third-highest caseload in the world after the United States and Brazil. It has the fifth-most deaths but its fatality rate of about 2% is far lower than the top two hardest-hit countries.

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LONDON — The head of the World Health Organization predicted that the number of people infected by the coronavirus will hit 20 million this week, including about 750,000 deaths.

In a briefing on Monday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged that “behind these statistics there is a great deal of pain and suffering” but said there were still “green shoots of hope” no matter what stage in an outbreak a country or region might be.

He offered no new strategies to combat the virus but said again that “leaders must step up to take action and citizens need to embrace new measures,” pointing to New Zealand as an example for the world. The country recently marked 100 days with no local spread of the virus.

Tedros said that recently adopted measures in countries including Britain and France, which have imposed targeted lockdowns and mask-wearing strategies in the last week, were a good example of specific strategies needed to curb a new upsurge in cases.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka reopened schools Monday, nearly five months after shutting them to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The government decision says state-run schools and government-approved private schools were to reopen in stages.

Students in grades 5, 10, 11, 12 and 13 should attend daily to prepare for government exams. Students in grades 1, 2, 3, 6, 7 and 8 must attend once a week while students in grades 4 and 9 must come two days per week.

The arrangement will continue until Oct. 9 when the school holiday is expected to start.

Schools were shut in mid-March when Sri Lanka detected its first COVID-19 patient, but health authorities say the outbreak has been under control in the Indian Ocean island nation.

The country has reported 2,841 patients with 11 deaths.

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BEIJING — New locally transmitted cases of coronavirus in China fell to just 14 over the past 24 hours, the National Health Commission reported Monday. The low figure was offset, however, by 35 cases brought into the country by Chinese travelers from overseas.

All the cases of local transmission were in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, whose main city Urumqi is the center of China’s latest outbreak. Tightened restrictions on travel, widespread testing and a lockdown on some residential communities appear to have been effective in bringing down numbers of new infections in Urumqi, while a separate outbreak in the northeastern city of Dalian seems to have run its course.

Chinese hospitals are currently treating 802 people for COVID-19, 41 of them in serious condition, while another 290 people are under observation while being isolated for showing signs of having the virus or for testing positive without displaying symptoms. China has reported a total of 4,634 fatalities from the disease among 84,668 cases.

Hong Kong reported another 72 cases and five deaths as it continues to battle a new wave of infections with tightened rules on indoor dining and obligatory mask wearing in public settings. The semi-autonomous southern Chinese city has reported 52 deaths among 4,079 total cases.

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SYDNEY — Australia has reported fewer new daily cases from its virus hotspot in the city of Melbourne than on any single day since last month. But it has also reported the nation’s highest daily death total since the virus outbreak began.

The state of Victoria reported 322 new infections and 19 new deaths on Monday, with 14 of the deaths connected to outbreaks at aged care facilities. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was more hopeful now that cases are stabilizing in Victoria than he has been at any time over the past week.

But state premier Daniel Andrews cautioned that not too much could be read into a single day’s worth of data, and that some of the state’s most stringent lockdown measures had only come into effect at midnight Sunday.

The number of new cases was the lowest recorded in Victoria since July 29. The figures did not include new infections and deaths from other Australian states, although Victoria has been accounting for the vast majority of both in recent weeks. Since the outbreak began, Australia has reported more than 21,000 infections and more than 300 deaths.

Categories: National/World