LONDON — The World Health Organization said countries globally reported more than 2 million confirmed coronavirus cases last week — the shortest time ever for such an exponential increase since the pandemic began.
In a weekly analysis of COVID-19, WHO said for the second consecutive week, the European region accounted for the biggest proportion of new cases, with more than 1.3 million reported cases or about 46% of the worldwide total. The U.N. health agency said deaths were also on the rise in Europe, with about a 35% spike since the previous week.
“Although the number of deaths is gradually increasing, the proportion of deaths to cases remains relatively low, compared to the early phase of the pandemic in the spring,” WHO said.
The agency also noted that hospitalizations and ICU occupancy due to COVID-19 increased in 21 countries across Europe. It estimated about 18% of COVID-19 were hospitalized, with about 7% needing ICU support or breathing machines.
Globally, WHO said the countries reporting the highest numbers of cases remain unchanged as for the past three weeks: India, the U.S., France, Brazil, and the U.K.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Belgium, host to the 27-nation European Union, becomes Europe's top virus hot spot
— German leader Angela Merkel presses for a partial lockdown to stem a surge of cases
— French markets fall as nation fears President Emmanuel Macron will impose new lockdown
— Protesters clash with police in Rome as unrest grows in Europe over increasing restrictions to fight a surge of coronavirus infections.
— Iowa election officials fear possible illnesses among key workers and volunteers could be a problem through Election Day.
— Follow AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
PARIS — France is bracing for a potential new lockdown as the president prepares a televised address aimed at stopping a fast-rising tide of virus patients filling French hospitals and a growing daily death toll.
French markets opened lower on expectations that President Emmanuel Macron will announce some kind of lockdown Wednesday, though the government has not released details amid ongoing discussions about what measures would be most effective.
Many French doctors are urging a new nationwide lockdown, noting that more than half of intensive care units are now occupied by COVID patients and medical staff are under increasing strain.
Business owners and some politicians are pushing for a compromise, such as local lockdowns in hard-hit areas, or a lockdown that would allow schools to stay open.
France reported 523 virus-related deaths in 24 hours Tuesday, the highest daily tally since April. It is reporting tens of thousands of new infections per day, and more than 380 new cases each week per 100,000 people.
PRAGUE — Coronavirus infections in the Czech Republic have again jumped to record levels amid new restrictive measures imposed by the government to curb the spread.
The Health Ministry says the day-to-day increase hit a new record high of 15,663 on Tuesday in the nation of over 10 million. It’s over 400 more than the previous record set on Friday.
The hard-hit country had 284,033 confirmed cases, with over a half of them registered in the last two weeks. So far, 2,547 have died — with a record 139 deaths registered Monday.
The country’s hospitals have been under pressure, with the number of COVID-19 patients higher than 6,000,and almost 900 of them in serious condition.
The government has further tightened its regulations, imposing nationwide curfew between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., starting Wednesday.
Previously, the government limited free movement, closed stores, schools and restaurants, made it mandatory to wear face masks indoors and in cars and banned sport competitions, but the number of infections has still risen.
Several demonstrations against the restrictions are planned in the capital of Prague for Wednesday, a national holiday.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases has risen over the past two weeks from 52.99 new cases per 100,000 people on Oct. 13 to 120.18 new cases per 100,000 people on Tuesday.
BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel is pressing for a partial lockdown as the number of newly recorded infections in the country hit another record high Wednesday.
The Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s disease control agency, said 14,964 new cases were recorded across the country in the past days, taking the total since the start of the outbreak to 449,275. Germany also saw a further 27 COVID-related deaths, raising its overall death toll to 10,098.
Merkel meets Wednesday with the governors of Germany’s 16 states and senior government officials say she will demand they introduce measures to drastically reduce social contacts, echoing her repeated public appeals to citizens over the past two weeks that have so far not resulted in a drop in new cases.
Owners of restaurants and bars planned to stage a protest over fears that their establishments will be closed for several weeks, further hurting Germany’s already ailing hospitality industry.
Schools across Germany have also been preparing to shift at least some of their teaching online, in anticipation of possible partial closures.
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has blamed “this lady called COVID” for forcing him to keep his distance from the faithful during his general audience, which was far smaller than usual amid soaring coronavirus infections in Italy.
Francis again eschewed a protective mask Wednesday even when he greeted a few maskless bishops at the end of his audience. While the prelates wore masks throughout the hour-long audience, they took them off when they lined up to shake Francis’ hand and speak briefly with him one-on-one.
A Vatican official who is a key member of Francis’ COVID-19 response commission, the Rev. Augusto Zampini, acknowledged Tuesday that at age 83 and with part of his lung removed, Francis would be at high risk for complications if he were to become infected.
Zampini said he hoped Francis would don a mask at least when he greeted people during the general audience. “We are working on that,” he said.
Francis has only been seen wearing a mask in public twice: On Sept. 9 as he entered and exited his general audience, and last week during a two-hour interfaith prayer service in downtown Rome.
BERLIN — Takeout delivery giant Delivery Hero is benefitting from pandemic-related closure of restaurants worldwide.
The Berlin-based company, which operates in 41 countries, said Wednesday that third-quarter revenues doubled compared to the same period last year, to 776 million euros ($913 million).
Delivery Hero said it processed over 120 million orders a month during the quarter.
The company was the only gainer in Germany’s blue chip DAX, with shares rising 5% in morning trading amid reports that authorities are planning to agree a nationwide closure of restaurants.
STOCKHOLM — Coronavirus is spreading in 17 of Sweden's 21 counties, according to Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet.
Worst hit is Scania, Sweden’s southern region around Malmo, the country’s third-largest city, where national authorities have urged people to avoid shopping centers and shops and stay away from public transportation.
Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s chief epidemiologist who is credited with being behind Sweden's much-debated COVID-19 approach of keeping large parts of society open, said the country is about ”to reach a critical point,” as he announced the restrictions for Malmo, which took effect immediately for at least a three weeks.
Also, the counties of Orebro, west of Stockholm, and Kronoberg in southern Sweden have been warnings of strains on hospitals due to the number of COVID-19 patients.
WARSAW, Poland — Poland hit a new record in daily infections with over 18,800 cases and also reported 236 new COVID-19-related deaths.
The news Wednesday reported by the Health Ministry was much more than the expected 15,000 daily cases, a figure that Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has described as a “worst case scenario” that would totally overwhelm the country's underfunded health care system.
Total number of registered infections is almost 300,000 in the nation of 38 million. Many cities are building temporary hospitals and the government says there are enough beds and ventilators, but the system is short of trained medical personnel.
NEW DELHI — India’s tally of confirmed coronavirus cases is moving closer to 8 million, with 43,893 new cases reported for the latest 24-hour period.
The total reported Wednesday includes the highest single-day number of cases for the Indian capital of New Delhi — 4,853.
The Health Ministry also reported 508 fatalities from COVID-19 across India in the past 24 hours, raising the total for the pandemic to 120,010.
India’s caseload is second in the world behind the United States, which has over 8.7 million positive cases.
In September, India hit a peak of nearly 100,000 positive cases in a single day, but since then daily infections have fallen by more than half and deaths by about a third.
HONOLULU — Starting Nov. 6, Hawaii allow visitors from Japan to bypass the state’s 14-day quarantine requirement if they test negative for the coronavirus within 72 hours of departing for the islands.
But Japanese travelers will still have to spend two weeks in quarantine upon returning home, which will likely limit the number of people taking advantage of the plan.
Hawaii earlier this month implemented a similar testing program for travelers from other parts of the U.S.
Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy gets more travelers from Japan than any other foreign country. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the state would welcome about 5,000 visitors from Japan daily. Those numbers have dwindled to almost none.
TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly and leaders in the legislature have agreed to try for now to encourage counties to adopt local mask mandates rather than consider a statewide rule as the state experiences its biggest surge in coronavirus infections.
Kelly issued a statewide mask mandate July 2, but a state law enacted only the month before allowed the state’s 105 counties to opt out, and most did.
Participants in Tuesday's virtual meeting say they agreed to work with the Kansas Association of Counties and Kansas League of Municipalities to encourage local officials to consider mask mandates in coronavirus hot spots.
The governor issues a statement calling it “a strategy of engagement.”
BEIJING — Authorities in Kashgar prefecture in northwest China’s Xinjiang region say they have completed tests on more than 4.7 million residents following the country’s latest coronavirus outbreak over the weekend.
The regional health authority said Wednesday that more than 200 confirmed or suspected cases have been found in Kashgar’s Shufu county, where the outbreak occurred.
While China has contained the nationwide outbreak since the coronavirus emerged in the central city of Wuhan last year, small regional clusters continue to appear. China has reported a total of 85,868 coronavirus cases and 4,634 deaths from COVID-19.
The economy and schools have almost entirely re-opened in China, but social distancing measures and mask wearing mandates remain in force.
ROME — Italy on Tuesday registered nearly 22,000 confirmed coronavirus cases since the previous day, its highest one-day total in the pandemic. The Health Ministry reported 221 more deaths.
The last several nights have seen protests in some Italian cities, reflecting anger about overnight curfews in some of Italy’s regions. Nationwide restrictions began this week, closing down gyms, pools, cinemas and theaters. Restaurants are required to close before dinner hour.
Northern Lombardy and southern Campania regions have been experiencing the highest daily caseloads in recent days.
Italy’s total confirmed cases rose to 564,778 and the death toll reached 37,700.
MADRID — Spain is reporting more than 8,300 coronavirus cases in the past day and 746 more deaths in the last week.
Amid the resurgence, Spain’s Socialist-led government will try to win approval in parliament on Thursday for its plan to declare a six-month state of emergency.
A state of emergency would make it legally easier for authorities to take swift action, including temporary curfews, to crack down on hot spots.
Almost 16,700 coronavirus patients are in the hospital, representing 14% of hospital beds. About 25% of beds in ICUs are occupied by COVID-19 patients.
Spain’s Health Ministry has recorded a total of 1.1 million coronavirus cases, with nearly 35,300 dead.
NEW YORK — The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is embarking on a first-in-the-nation testing program to test thousands of workers weekly to guard against a second wave of the coronavirus.
MTA Chairman Patrick Foye said Tuesday that the goal will be to test 15% of frontline workers weekly.
Transport Workers Union Local 100 President Tony Utano said in an email that would amount to roughly 6,000 bus and subway workers. Overall, the nation’s largest public transit system has more than 70,000 employees. More than 120 MTA employees have died from COVID-19 this year.
The testing will be done at field sites, including bus depots and subway and train yards, and at several medical assessment and operational health centers. Results will be available within 24 to 48 hours.
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