THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch government aims to introduce a coronavirus tracking app nationwide on Sept. 1 to help rein in the spread of the virus.
Health Minister Hugo de Jonge says the app will roll out across the country once final security tests are completed and only if the country’s privacy watchdog gives its approval.
De Jonge says the app will help officials “get a grip on the virus and prevent infections” and “the more people who download the app, the better.”
Use of the app is voluntary and the government says it doesn’t store information about users or their locations. It’s intended to bolster efforts by local health authorities to track and isolate people who were in contact with people known to be infected.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Online classes only this fall in Richmond, Va.
— China firm uses workers to ‘pretest’ vaccine in global race
— Rising virus totals force rethink of bars, schools, tourism
— Early-stage testing showed the first COVID-19 vaccine tested in the U.S. revved up people’s immune systems the way scientists had hoped.
— Coronavirus cases have surged to record levels in the Los Angeles area. Health officials say the nation’s most populous county is in “an alarming and dangerous phase” that if not reversed could overwhelm intensive care units and usher in more sweeping closures.
Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
BERLIN — German officials say local travel bans could be used to curb coronavirus outbreaks, though on a smaller and more targeted scale.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff Helge Braun said earlier this week the government was considering limiting travel in and out of areas that have a sudden, unexplained surge in COVID-19 cases. Officials in various states objected to the idea of quarantining entire counties. Talks over the past two days led to a more precise solution.
Braun and his counterparts in Germany’s 16 states agreed Thursday that travel restrictions could be used if infections rise locally. A statement notes “these measures should be imposed in a targeted way and do not have to concern the whole county or the whole city.”
JOHANNESBURG — Central African Republic’s health minister is blasting the “big inequality crisis” in coronavirus testing.
Pierre Somse told a World Health Organization briefing “we are in a scarcity, a misery of tests.” He says his country of more than 4 million people is still waiting for testing supplies ordered via the WHO.
He called for more than just talk about global solidarity in the pandemic, especially for “small and fragile” states.
He notes rich countries like Britain conduct thousands of tests daily while his country struggles to obtain supplies for a few hundred.
Central African Republic has more than 4,300 confirmed virus cases but the true number is unknown. Somse says, “it’s hiding a major health problem because we cannot have the real situation.”
He says without donations of testing materials from the Chinese, “we could not have done nothing, nothing at all.”
STOCKHOLM — Swedish prime minister defended the country not shutting down and less stringent methods for handling the coronavirus pandemic.
Prime Minister Stefan Lofven stressed in an interview with the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet the key issue for the government during the crisis has been securing the functions vital to the Swedish society while “we try to limit the infection as much as possible.”
“It is a matter of protecting life, protecting health,” says Lofven, adding his government has worked hard to minimize the impact of the virus while noting there have been problems caring for the elderly.
On Thursday, there were 21 reported virus deaths in the past day. The total confirmed deaths in Sweden stands at 5,593 with 76,877 confirmed cases.
MADRID — Authorities in northern Spain are ordering the culling of more than 90,000 mink from a farm after about 90 animals were positive for the coronavirus in four waves of testing.
The Aragon regional government says it must take the “drastic” measure of ordering 92,700 mink culled in accordance with national animal health laws.
The farm in Teruel province’s La Puebla de Valverde has been under isolation since May 22 after seven workers tested positive.
The region’s chief of agriculture and environment, Joaquín Olona, says there is no evidence of whether the virus was transmitted from the workers to the animals or the other way around.
“We are absolutely certain that the virus is present in these animals and community transmission between animals is taking place,” Olona said, according to Spanish private news agency Europa Press. He adds the goal of the culling was to avoid “risks to public health.”
RICHMOND, Va. — Public schools in Richmond will hold only online classes this fall for all grade levels because of the coronavirus.
The Richmond School Board voted 8-1 Tuesday to go virtual after Superintendent Jason Kamras offered five plans, including hybrid lessons and allowing certain students and grades to return to classrooms.
Kamras says the online instruction will be broken down into live-teaching and playlist-teaching, where students could watch and respond to video lessons.
Teachers and staff will get additional training on how to work in a virtual environment. The district also plans to buy more laptops.
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Bosnia’s top intelligence officer and the prime ministers of the Balkan country’s two entities have tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Intelligence-Security Agency says director Osman Mehmedagic has mild symptoms of the disease and self-isolated, along with other agency employees who have been in contact.
The PM of the Bosniak-Croat entity, Fadil Novalic, tested positive and has been hospitalized with pneumonia. Bosnian media reported he’s in stable condition. Novalic recently took part in events marking the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica.
The Bosnian Serb PM Radovan Viskovic also has tested positive on the coronavirus.
Bosnia has seen a surge in the cases of the coronavirus, both in the half of the country run by Serbs and the remaining part dominated by Bosniaks and Croats.
More than 250 infections have been confirmed in the past 24 hours in Bosnia.
BERLIN — Germany’s health minister says a second wave of coronavirus infections in Europe can’t be ruled out, but he expects the continent will be prepared.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn says it’s important to prepare with thorough testing and protective equipment.
Most European Union countries have significantly eased restrictions on public life over recent weeks and outbreaks in several places have caused concern.
Spahn says although “the pandemic is largely under control,” it is “important for us in all of Europe to secure what has been achieved.”
He added: “I am very sure that a second wave, which certainly isn’t ruled out, won’t come suddenly. If it does, we would see it coming, if we test and are vigilant and attentive, and my impression is that we are in all 27 (EU) member states.”
JOHANNESBURG — As the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic crashes across Africa, the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the intellectual property from any effective vaccine should be made available for local manufacturing and swifter distribution.
John Nkengasong says Africa’s 1.3 billion people have “all kinds of differences in genetic makeup, so we want to be sure that we are participating fully” in vaccine trials.
Africa has more than 644,000 confirmed virus cases, nearly half in South Africa alone.
Concerns are widespread that a successful vaccine will be snapped up by richer countries and Africa will be last in line, an echo of when it took years for affordable HIV drugs to become available.
The Africa CDC chief says the continent has more than 80 potential clinical trial sites with the ability to enroll participants and monitor them carefully. He also warned that “we are in for a long, long journey” in this pandemic.
TOKYO — Confirmed coronavirus cases in Tokyo hit a new daily record with 286.
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike says one reason is increased testing, which numbered more than 4,000 on Thursday. She says 760 people are hospitalized, seven in serious condition, while more than 350 are quarantined at hotels and homes.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe acknowledged a need to reexamine the government’s tourism campaign offering discounts for traveling within Japan, set to start next week.
Abe says, “We are looking at the situation with a high level of nervousness.”
Tourism is among the hardest hit in the massive fallout from the pandemic, causing the world’s third largest economy to tumble into recession.
Japan has nearly 23,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and about 1,000 deaths.
PARIS — New French Prime Minister Jean Castex says masks will be mandatory in closed public places next week, sooner than Aug. 1 as announced by President Emmanuel Macron.
The change in date comes as the Mayenne area of the Loire region has seen several coronavirus outbreaks, and authorities have recorded a marginal increase in infections in the Paris region.
Calling the situation in Mayenne “problematic,” French Health Minister Olivier Veran said he asked the prefect of Mayenne personally to make masks compulsory in closed public places without waiting for the later date.
MADRID — Spain paid homage to the nation’s victims of the coronavirus and workers who put their lives at risk during the worst of the pandemic.
Relatives of around 100 people who died, representatives of medical personnel, police and other essential workers joined King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia in a solemn ceremony at an esplanade in Madrid’s Royal Palace. Others attending included government authorities and officials from the European Union and the World Health Organization.
The guests, masked and seated in a socially distanced fashion surrounding a central cauldron, included representatives from a dozen religious organizations and ambassadors. The ceremony was shown live on television and online.
All political parties are attending except the far-right Vox, whose leader has called the event “an exculpatory ceremony” for the left-wing ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.
Spain has officially recorded 28,413 deaths among some 258,000 confirmed cases, although the numbers are likely higher.
CANBERRA, Australia — Australian authorities say a COVID-19 patient apparently became infectious within a day of contracting the coronavirus.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd gave no details of how the patient was infected in New South Wales state or whether that patient infected anyone else before COVID-19 was diagnosed.
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, the country’s peak decision-making body for public health emergency, reported such a short incubation was “unusual,” but “not implausible,” Kidd said.
People usually develop symptoms within five to seven days but may become infectious a day or two before their symptoms develop, Kidd said.
A person becoming infectious within 24 hours was unlikely to be evidence of the virus changing, Kidd said. It more likely reflected differences in individual reactions to the virus, he said.
NEW DELHI — India’s virus cases have surged another 32,695, taking the nation closer to 1 million and forcing a new lockdown in the popular western beach state of Goa, two weeks after it reopened to tourists.
The new confirmed cases took the national total to 968,876. The Health Ministry on Wednesday also reported a record number of 606 deaths for a total of 24,915.
The Indian Medical Association said 99 doctors have died and another 1,302 are infected with the coronavirus. It called for shortening of working hours for health workers following safety concerns.
It also said the fatality rate among doctors was 7.6%, much high than the national average of about 2.5%.
About a dozen states, including Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Assam, have put high-risk areas under lockdowns, allowing only essential food supplies and health services.
Goa state’s top elected official, Pramod Sawant, announced a three-day lockdown and a night curfew in the popular backpacking tourist destination, beginning Thursday night.
He said people were flouting social distancing norms. Nearly 40,000 were fined 100 rupees ($1.3) each in the past two weeks for not wearing masks.
SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco and Sacramento have become the latest cities in California to announce that public school students will not return to classrooms when the new term begins because of surges in coronavirus cases and delays in getting test results back.
They join Los Angeles and San Diego, the state’s two largest districts. Also not reopening are schools in Oakland, Long Beach, Santa Ana, San Bernardino and others that have chosen to start the new term with digital learning amid strong concerns from teachers unions and public health officials about the safety of staff on school campuses.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond says he expects more districts to announce plans for distance learning.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania is imposing broad new statewide restrictions on bars and restaurants and larger indoor gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Tom Wolf said Wednesday there has been an “alarming escalation” in new infections.
Nightclubs will be shut down, bars must close unless they also offer dine-in meals, and bars and restaurants will be limited to 25% capacity under Wolf’s order that takes effect Thursday. The order also requires businesses to have their employees work from home to the extent possible.
The new restrictions come more than two months after Pennsylvania began reopening its pandemic-battered economy and they risk major backlash in large swaths of the state where COVID-19 has largely been kept at bay.
But Wolf warns that a “new surge is in the offing” that could eclipse what happened in the spring, when the virus killed thousands and sickened tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians.
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Wyoming’s governor and top public health officer are speaking out firmly in support of wearing face masks in public amid an accelerating spread of the coronavirus and doubt among some that masks are necessary.
Gov. Mark Gordon says it is important to be “conscientious to one another” and “there is no constitutional right to go infect somebody else.” Gordon had a face mask hanging around his neck during the news conference.
The governor blamed a “casual attitude” about mask wearing and social distancing for Wyoming’s growing number of cases and his recent decisions to extend health orders affecting public gatherings through July.
JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves says he may set restrictions on bars in hopes of slowing the spread of the coronavirus, but he isn’t revealing any timetable and hasn’t indicated if the rules will be statewide.
The governor commented Wednesday after meeting with Dr. Deborah Birx from the White House coronavirus task force. Reeves says Birx praised the Mississippi order that took effect this week requiring people to wear masks in public in 13 of the state’s 82 counties.
The Mississippi Health Department reported that a record 1,099 people were hospitalized with confirmed or suspected cases of the coronavirus in the state as of Tuesday evening. That is up from 664 on June 22.
Mississippi has had more than 38,500 confirmed cases of the virus since the pandemic began.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California has reported its second-highest daily total of new coronavirus cases and equaled its second worst day for deaths.
More than 11,000 new cases were recorded by state officials Tuesday, a rise of 3.3%. California also recorded 140 deaths, tying a recent tally for its second-highest daily figure.
The number of tests and the rate of those testing positive also rose. The positivity rate over the past two weeks has now topped 7%, while in hard-hit Los Angeles County with a quarter of California’s population that rate has soared to nearly 10%.
Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday that Los Angeles County is in “an alarming and dangerous phase” that could overwhelm intensive care units and prompt sweeping closure orders if not reversed.