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The Latest: Africa CDC begins study into virus antibodies | World News

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JOHANNESBURG — The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a continent-wide study has begun into antibodies to the coronavirus after evidence indicated that more people have been infected than official numbers show.

Director John Nkengasong told reporters the study will include all African countries, but the ones showing interest to start in the coming weeks are Liberia, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Nigeria and Morocco.

That’s after surveys in Mozambique found antibodies in 5% of households in the city of Nampula and 2.5% in the city of Pemba. And yet Mozambique has just 2,481 confirmed cases.

Nkengasong says, “What is important is far fewer people are coming down with the disease. How many people are infected and asymptomatic on our continent? We don’t know that.”

Africa’s young population, with a median age of 19, has been called a possible factor.

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

— Virus exposes economic, racial divide in French health care

— ‘Impossible’: School boards are at heart of reopening debate

— Experts warn Spain is losing the 2nd round in virus fight

— Like many countries, Rwanda is finding it impossible to test each of its citizens for the coronavirus amid shortages of supplies. But researchers there have created an approach that’s drawing attention beyond the African continent.

German authorities worked through the night to clear a backlog of coronavirus tests from travelers after it emerged 900 people who were positive for COVID-19 had yet to be informed.

— A puzzling new outbreak of the coronavirus in New Zealand’s largest city has grown to 17 cases, with officials saying the number will likely increase further. And a lockdown in Auckland designed to extinguish the outbreak could be extended well beyond an initial three days.

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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:

THESSALONIKI, Greece – A Greek prosecutor has ordered an investigation into a string of infections at a retirement home in northern Greece, where 33 of the 150 residents and three staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.

Authorities say 20 people from the home at Asvestochori, a village outside the northern city of Thessaloniki, were taken to a hospital Wednesday with mild symptoms. The disease is believed to have been spread by a staff member who caught it from a relative who had visited a popular holiday resort.

The investigation was ordered Thursday.

Greece has seen a major rise in COVID-19 infections, which reached 262 on Wednesday — the highest since the virus outbreak.

The country of 11 million has registered about 6,200 confirmed cases, and 216 deaths.

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THIMPU, Bhutan — The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has imposed its first nationwide lockdown due to a virus infection in a returning traveler who had been released from quarantine.

The government issued a stay-at-home order for its approximately 750,000 people, and all schools, offices and commercial establishments were closed.

The government’s statement said the lockdown would be enforced from five to 21 days “to identify and isolate all positive cases, immediately breaking the chain of transmission.”

The 27-year-old Bhutanese woman returning from Kuwait tested negative in mandatory quarantine for arriving travelers. But between her discharge from quarantine and her positive test result Monday, she is believed to have traveled extensively in Bhutan.

The tourism-dependent country closed its borders to foreign travelers in March after an American tourist was hospitalized with COVID-19. Bhutan’s 113 reported infections were all quarantined travelers, except for one with conflicting test results.

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MELBOURNE, Australia — The coronavirus outbreak centered in Australia’s second-largest city showed a decline in new infections Thursday, though the state’s leader urged continued vigilance.

Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said there were 278 new infections and eight new deaths, down from around 700 daily at the peak of the outbreak.

Daniels said the lower numbers indicate the lockdown restrictions in Melbourne are working but urged people to stay the course.

“We would just caution against any Victorian thinking that we aren’t in the midst of a real marathon,” Daniels said. “This is an endurance race, and we need to stay the course on this. We need to be as vigilant each and every day.”

Meanwhile, neighboring New South Wales state, which includes Australia’s largest city Sydney, recorded 12 new cases and one death.

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SEATTLE — The Seattle school board has voted unanimously to begin the academic year with remote teaching only.

The Seattle Times reports the state’s largest school district approved the plan Wednesday.

The remote learning plan passed with a wide-ranging amendment from school board members that directs the superintendent to explore creating outdoor classes. It also reinforces teaching of Black studies and curricula developed by Indigenous communities.

But the district’s plans are far from set because it is still bargaining with the teachers union. Those discussions will set the parameters for how teachers spend their time and for the support the district will provide in an online learning environment.

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BEIJING — New locally transmitted cases of the coronavirus reported in China have fallen into the single digits, but Hong Kong is seeing another rise in hospitalizations and deaths.

China’s National Health Commission said Thursday that eight new cases were registered in the last 24 hours in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, whose main city of Urumqi has enacted lockdown measures and travel restrictions. An additional 11 cases were brought by Chinese returning from overseas.

Hong Kong, meanwhile, has 62 new cases, up from 33 on Wednesday, along with an additional five deaths.

The semi-autonomous southern Chinese city has required masks be worn in all public settings and limited indoor dining among other measures to curb a new outbreak.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 56 new cases of the coronavirus as clusters continue to pop up in cities.

The figures announced by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday brought the caseload to 14,770 infections, including 305 deaths. Forty-three of the new cases were from the Seoul area and two were from Busan, the country’s second-largest city, where infections have been reported at schools and among foreign cargo ship workers.

South Korean authorities have employed an aggressive test-and-quarantine campaign against COVID-19, using mobile-phone location data and credit-card records to trace contacts and smartphone tracking apps to monitor tens of thousands quarantined at home.

Visitors at nightclubs, baseball stadiums and other facilities deemed as “high-risk” must register with smartphone QR codes so they can be easily located when needed.

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UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the cordonavirus pandemic not only threatens gains in fighting poverty and building peace but risks exacerbating existing conflicts and generating new ones.

The U.N. chief told a Security Council meeting Wednesday that his March 23 call for an immediate cease-fire in conflicts to tackle the virus led a number of warring parties to deescalate or stop fighting. But, he added, “regrettably, in many instances, the pandemic did not move the parties to suspend hostilities or agree to a permanent ceasefire.”

Guterres predecessor as secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, told the council it is astonishing that the world has locked down billions of people, closed borders and suspended trade, but has failed to put conflicts on hold.

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Over 200,000 People Have Died in the US: Live Covid-19 Updates

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Three major economies — the United States, China and Russia — have not joined. All three are pursuing their own vaccine plans.

In a virtual appearance before the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, insisted that Russia’s vaccine was safe and effective, and offered free shots to U.N. staff. Russia’s approval of the vaccine, which came with much fanfare, occurred before it had been tested in late-stage trials.

More than 130 potential vaccines are estimated to be in development globally.

Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, said Tuesday that COVAX “represents the most secure means of access, because it includes vaccines from very different countries of the world.”

Mexico has seen one of the world’s worst coronavirus outbreaks, with over 700,000 recorded cases, or 555 per 100,000 people, and nearly 74,000 deaths, according to a Times database.

In other news around the world:

  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand has apologized after being photographed with supporters without social distancing or masks last week while on the campaign trail, drawing criticism from the public and opposition politicians.

  • The awards ceremony for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize has been canceled because of the pandemic, the Norwegian Nobel Institute announced on Tuesday. Instead of the usual ceremony at Oslo City Hall, a scaled-back event will be held at the city’s university with a limited number of guests on Dec. 10. The prize will be announced at a news conference on Oct. 9.

  • Russia has reported a sharp rise in the number of new cases, with Moscow the epicenter of a nationwide spike in infections. Official figures released on Tuesday showed 6,215 new cases over the previous 24 hours — a marked increase from the start of the month and the highest number of daily cases since mid-July. Of those, 980 were reported in Moscow.

  • South Korea on Tuesday suspended a plan to provide free flu shots for about 19 million people, amid reports of problems with storing some of the vaccines during transport. The number of newly confirmed cases in the country, which is battling a second wave of infections, has stayed below 100 for the past three days. But millions are set to travel domestically next week to celebrate a five-day holiday.

  • Sixteen more residential areas in Madrid exceeded the infection rate criteria to return to lockdown restrictions, government data showed Tuesday. Those areas are in addition to 37 that went back under lockdown on Monday, raising the prospect that restrictions on movement will soon spread further across Spain’s capital region. Ignacio Aguado, the deputy head of the Madrid region, said that health care services were struggling to control the spread of the virus, while Salvador Illa, Spain’s health minister, urged residents of Madrid to stay at home as much as possible.

Reporting was contributed by Livia Albeck-Ripka, Stephen Castle, Troy Closson, Rick Gladstone, Abby Goodnough, Andrew Higgins, Jan Hoffman, Mike Ives, Anatoly Kurmanaev, Apoorva Mandavilli, Victor Mather, Patricia Mazzei, Patrick McGeehan, Raphael Minder, Claire Moses, Campbell Robertson, Simon Romero, Dagny Salas, Anna Schaverien, Christopher F. Schuetze, Megan Specia, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Eileen Sullivan, Katherine J. Wu, Carl Zimmer and Karen Zraick.

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Vatican: Assisted Suicide, Euthanasia ‘Intrinsically Evil’ | World News

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NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press

ROME (AP) — The Vatican on Tuesday reaffirmed its stance that euthanasia and assisted suicide are “intrinsically evil,” and told priests they should minister to those contemplating such deaths to try to change their minds but shouldn’t be present at the end if they don’t.

The Vatican’s doctrine office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a lengthy new document on end-of-life care for the terminally ill on Tuesday. It takes into account medical advances, the advent of “do not resuscitate” orders and legal approval for assisted suicide, as well as new Vatican perspectives on palliative care, including for children.

Catholic teaching holds that life must be defended from conception until its natural death. It insists that chronically ill patients, including those in vegetative states, must receive “ordinary” care such as hydration and nutrition, but that “extraordinary” or disproportionate care can be suspended if it is no longer beneficial or is only prolonging a precarious and painful life.

The Vatican stressed in the new document that the renunciation of extraordinary care in no way can mean a request for assisted suicide or euthanasia, which it called “a crime against human life.”

“The judgment that an illness is incurable cannot mean that care has come at an end,” it said. “Euthanasia, therefore, is an intrinsically evil act, in every situation or circumstance.”

It said those who participate in it, including medical personnel, are committing “homicide” and that lawmakers who approve it “become accomplices of a grave sin.”

Pope Francis has described euthanasia and abortion as evidence of today’s “throwaway culture,” in which the sick, the elderly and disabled are considered unworthy of life.

In the text, the Vatican told priests they should provide spiritual accompaniment to those who have expressed a desire to end their lives through assisted suicide or euthanasia. But it said priests can only offer the sacraments of confession or anointing of the sick if the patients truly repent and change their minds.

“To delay absolution is a medicinal act of the church, intended not to condemn, but to lead the sinner to conversion,” it said.

And it told priests that if such patients don’t change their minds, the priests shouldn’t be present at the time of death since “that could be interpreted as approval of this action.”

The Vatican backed the use of hospice centers and palliative care, including deep sedation to reduce pain. But it said such medication must never be used with the intent of hastening death.

And it called for the expansion of “prenatal hospice centers” to provide medical, psychological and spiritual care to parents and children suffering pre-natal pathologies that are “inconsistent with life.”

Rather than resorting to abortion, the Vatican said, providing this assistance “helps the parents to handle their grief and to regard this experience not just as a loss, but as a moment in the journey of love which they have travelled together with their child.”

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Jailed Kurdish Politician Handed Another Year for Insulting Turkey’s Erdogan | World News

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ANKARA (Reuters) – A former Kurdish parliamentarian jailed in Turkey on terrorism charges has been handed an additional prison term for insulting President Tayyip Erdogan, two of her lawyers said.

Sebahat Tuncel was sentenced last week to 11 months and 20 days for calling Erdogan an enemy of Kurds and women in a speech in 2016, comments one of her lawyers defended as legitimate criticism of a political opponent.

Tuncel had served in Turkey’s parliament for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). Her lawyer said her words had been taken out of context

“The defendant said that the president was an enemy of women and Kurds,” said attorney Sivan Cemil Ozen.

Her statements were “criticism of a political rival, which is within the boundaries of freedom of expression,” she said.

In a July hearing, Tuncel denied the charge, saying she should be able to criticise a political opponent. The charges against her were an attempt to “prevent freedom and thought, expression and organisation, especially the freedom of politics,” she said.

Last year, Tuncel was jailed for 15 years for spreading terrorist propaganda and belonging to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is banned in Turkey and branded a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union. She had denied the charges.

Charges of insulting the president carry a maximum four-year prison sentence. Such cases rose by 30% in 2019, with 26,115 people investigated, some 5,000 facing court hearings and 2,462 jailed, according to data from the justice ministry.

How Turkey’s courts turned on Erdogan’s foes https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/turkey-judges

(Reporting by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Dominic Evans)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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