The Latest: WHO chief warns virus is worsening globally

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A mosque official takes the temperature reading of a man entering the Cut Meutia mosque to attend a Friday prayer amid concerns of coronavirus outbreak in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, June 5, 2020. Muslims in Indonesia’s capital held their first communal Friday prayers as mosques closed by the coronavirus outbreak for nine weeks reopened at half capacity. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

The head of the World Health Organization warned that the coronavirus pandemic is worsening globally, even as the situation in Europe is improving.

At a press briefing on Monday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that about 75% of cases reported to the U.N. health agency on Sunday came from 10 countries in the Americas and South Asia. He noted that more than 100,000 cases have been reported on nine of the past 10 days — and that the 136,000 cases reported Sunday was the biggest number so far.

Tedros said most countries in Africa are still seeing an increase in cases, including in new geographic areas even though most countries on the continent have fewer than 1,000 cases.

“At the same time, we’re encouraged that several countries around the world are seeing positive signs,” Tedros said. “In these countries, the biggest threat now is complacency.”

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

— New Zealand says it has eradicated the virus.

— New York City gradually begins reopening.

— Medical professionals raise alarm that tear gas, pepper sprays could increase virus spread.

— India eases lockdown even as virus cases jump in capital.

— Big hotel companies are competing on cleanliness in wake of the pandemic.

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Go to https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreakfor updates throughout the day.

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING TODAY:

RICHMOND, Va. — Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House’s virus task force, says she’s worried about the potential impact the widespread protests may have on curbing the coronavirus pandemic.

Birx said Monday she’s concerned shouting protesters may have spread the disease and that high-risk individuals attended some protests. She also said that some testing sites were destroyed in the protests. Birx made the comments on a private White House call with governors, the audio of which was obtained by The Associated Press.

Birx said she saw many protesters not wearing masks and some who wore masks were shouting. She said that while the masks may work at stopping to spread the disease when an infected person wearing one is talking, “we don’t know the efficacy of masks with shouting.”

She said she’s also concerned about some of the age groups she saw at the protests, particularly as they became more peaceful.

“I saw more and more higher risk groups on the streets,” Birx said.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greece has announced a major jump in positive coronavirus cases, with 97 new infections confirmed since the previous announcement on June 4.

Health authorities said Monday that the total number of confirmed cases now stands at 3,049, while two more deaths since June 4 bring the total death toll to 182.

Authorities said 30 of the new cases were travelers from abroad, while another 29 were found during mass testing in the northeastern Xanthi region following previous outbreaks there.

Greece has lifted nearly all lockdown measures and is to allow tourists into the country starting from June 15, without compulsory coronavirus tests or quarantine unless they arrive from an airport listed as having a high risk of coronavirus by the European air safety agency.

Currently anyone arriving in Greece is subject to compulsory tests and a quarantine of seven days if the test is negative, or 14 days if positive.

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MEXICO CITY — Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador says he does not plan to get tested for COVID-19, one day after the announcement that a high-ranking member of his administration he’d recently been in contact with was infected.

Zoé Robledo, director of Mexico’s social security system, announced Sunday night that he had tested positive, two days after he appeared with López Obrador at an event in the Tabasco state capital of Villahermosa. The president’s security cabinet had also been present during that event.

López Obrador returned to the capital Sunday after a week-long tour of the country’s southeast. He used the trip to kick off construction of a tourist train, one of his signature projects, and to illustrate the government’s efforts to reactivate the economy.

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SKOPJE, North Macedonia — Authorities in North Macedonia have announced the second highest number of new infected people recorded, saying a second wave of coronavirus was expected because people have ignored recommendations to wear protective masks and to keep social distance.

Health Minister Venko Filipce said 127 newly infected people and three deaths were recorded over the past 24 hours, which is the second highest number of new cases in the country since the outbreak of the epidemic in late February. The total number of confirmed cases in North Macedonia now stands at 3,152, with 156 deaths in the country of roughly 2 million people.

Filipce said more than a half of those newly infected are from the capital Skopje and that the new spike is related to mass gatherings two weeks ago, during the celebrations of religious holidays.

North Macedonia has ended a strict 80-hour curfew in four regions on Monday, but the health minister said the national commission for protection of infectious diseases is recommending the government impose another movement restrictions in the most affected regions with new infected. The government is yet to decide on whether to announce movement restrictions in four regions, including capital Skopje.’ ___

The World Health Organization says it still believes the spread of the coronavirus from people without symptoms is “rare,” despite warnings from numerous experts worldwide that such transmission is more frequent and likely explains why the pandemic has been so hard to contain.

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19 said at a press briefing on Monday that many countries are reporting cases of spread from people who are asymptomatic, or those with no clinical symptoms. But when questioned in more detail about these cases, Van Kerkhove said many of them turn out to have mild disease, or unusual symptoms.

Although health officials in countries including Britain, the U.S. and elsewhere have warned that COVID-19 is spreading from people without symptoms, WHO has maintained that this type of spread is not a driver of the pandemic and is probably accounts for about 6% of spread, at most. Numerous studies have suggested that the virus is spreading from people without symptoms, but many of those are either anecdotal reports or based on modeling.

Van Kerkhove said that based on data from countries, when people with no symptoms of COVID-19 are tracked over a long period to see if they spread the disease, there are very few cases of spread.

“We are constantly looking at this data and we’re trying to get more information from countries to truly answer this question,” she said. “It still appears to be rare that asymptomatic individuals actually transmit onward.”

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MADRID — Spain’s top health official for the coronavirus response is warning against complacency, saying that the earlier detection and treatment of infections could be giving a deceiving impression that the virus might be weakening.

Fernando Simón, who heads Spain’s health emergency coordination center, said that the much lower rate of hospital admissions for COVID-19 and the lower age of incoming patients — who are now 52 on average compared with 61 in early May —might have contributed to the idea that the outbreak is less severe.

“There is no evidence that the virus is less virulent,” Simón said Monday during a daily briefing. “The most plausible explanation is simply that we now detect cases at a milder stage.”

Spain has 241,136 confirmed infections for the novel virus, 48 more in the past 24 hours mainly due to small clusters identified in hospitals. At least 56 deaths in the past seven days have been attributed to the virus, although Spain is not updating the official tally of 27,136 deaths until it completes a revision of past data provided by regional governments.

The country is edging closer to fully re-emerging from confinement rules. On Monday schools re-opened in some regions where students need to catch up on studies before college-entry exams later this month, while nightlife in bars and clubs is expected to resume in roughly half of the country.

Hard-hit Madrid and Barcelona, where most new infections are still being recorded, are also advancing to phase 2 of 3 in Spain’s staggered plan out of the lockdown. That means dropping the existing time slots for daily exercise and allowing restaurants to serve food and drinks indoors as well as outdoors.

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MILAN — Italy added 280 new cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours, with over one-third of those in the hardest-hit region of Lombardy. Italy’s total confirmed number of positives has reached 235,278 — although experts believe the actual number is much higher as only certain groups of people, such as nursing home residents, medical personnel and people with serious symptoms, are being tested. Just 65 deaths were added Monday, according to civil protection figures, for a total in the epidemic to date of 33,964. Most Italian regions are showing either no cases or new positives in the single digits. Lombardy is the only region with triple-digit positives, with the next closest region, Emilia Romagna, adding just 20.

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TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government will allow immediate family members of citizens or permanent residents to come to Canada amid the pandemic.

Trudeau noted anyone entering the country will be required to quarantine for 14 days and if they don’t follow the rules there will be serious penalties. He says his immigration minister will release details later on the limited exemption.

Canada closed its borders to nonessential travel in March.

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LONDON — The U.K. has recorded the lowest daily rise in the number of coronavirus deaths since March, when the country imposed lockdown measures.

As of Sunday afternoon, official figures showed that a further 55 people died after testing positive with the virus. The total death toll rose to 40,597.

Scotland and Northern Ireland recorded no new deaths for the second day in a row.

Mondays typically see a lower death figure because of a delay in reporting over the weekend.

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PHILADELPHIA — A dozen new coronavirus cases in the Philadelphia area have been traced to someone who attended gatherings at beach houses at the Jersey Shore, health officials said.

Eleven cases reported Saturday were linked to a New Jersey resident at gatherings in the past two weeks, Bucks County officials said. One case reported Friday also was traced to the person.

It’s an important reminder not to let one’s guard down at the beach, said Dr. David Damsker, health director of the large county, which borders Philadelphia to the south and New Jersey to the east. He did not disclose exactly where the gatherings took place.

The region’s mass transit system on Monday reinstated a requirement that passengers wear masks. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority had eased the requirement to a recommendation in April after a viral video showed a rider being dragged off a bus by police after boarding without a mask.

Employees will now remind riders of the requirement, SEPTA said.

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CHISINAU, Moldova — The government of Moldova says it has registered a record number of new cases of the new coronavirus during the first week of June, as a former health minister described the pandemic situation in the country as “out of control.”

One of the poorest countries in Europe and plagued by corruption and political turmoil, Moldova confirmed 1,449 new cases of COVID-19 during June 1-7, nearly 300 more than the previous week, according to data from the Ministry of Health. It was the fourth consecutive week with more than 1,000 new cases.

Since its first confirmed case on March 7, Moldova — population 3.5 million — has registered 9,700 cases and 346 deaths.

Former Health Minister Ala Nemerenco was very critical of the government’s handling of the pandemic.

“You don’t have to be an epidemiologist, a virologist, or even a doctor to understand that the situation has gotten out of control,” Nemerenco said in a Facebook post in reference to the rising number of cases.

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WARSAW, Poland — Polish authorities have ordered the closure of 12 coal mines for three weeks after hundreds of workers were infected with COVID-19.

The measure announced on Monday comes as coal mines in Poland’s southern mining region of Silesia have become hot spots for the transmission of the novel coronavirus.

Deputy prime minister Jacek Sasin said that the measure will take effect on Tuesday and is aimed at suppressing the epidemic. He added that the miners will continue to receive their full pay.

“It is very important for us not to punish the miners economically for the infections at mines that have made us take this decision,” Sasin told reporters.

In some other earlier cases, miners told not to work because of the epidemic saw their wages reduced, increasing their frustration ahead of a presidential election that is crucial to Poland’s governing conservatives.

Poland has so far recorded about 27,000 cases of coronavirus, which is far less than many other European countries. Yet nearly 5,000 of the confirmed cases are coal miners. That is an extremely high infection rate in the sector given that there are just 82,000 miners in the nation of 38 million people.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish Airlines says it is offering a 40 percent discount on airfares for health care workers across the globe.

The national flag carrier said Monday the campaign was aimed at people “who are working selflessly to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.” Up to three people traveling with a health care worker would be able to benefit from the discount, the airline said.

The tickets must be purchased before Aug. 1 for flights before May 31, 2021.

Turkish airline companies resumed domestic flights last week. International flights are scheduled to resume gradually as of June 10.

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MOSCOW — The Russian capital is ending a tight lockdown that has been in place for more than two months, citing a slowdown in the coronavirus outbreak.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said that starting Tuesday residents will no longer be required to obtain electronic passes for travel and can walk, use public transport and drive without any restrictions.

Hairdressers and beauty salons will be allowed to reopen Tuesday, and cafes and restaurants will be able to open outdoor terraces starting June 16.

Under the lockdown imposed in late March, all nonessential businesses were closed and residents were only allowed to shop at nearby stores and pharmacies, visit doctors and walk their dogs.

The restrictions have been gradually eased. Industrial plants and construction sites were allowed to start working on May 12 and non-food retailers were permitted to reopen last Monday.

The number of daily infections in Moscow has dropped from a peak of about 6,700 to about 2,000 recently. Overall, Russia has registered over 476,000 infections, the world’s third-highest caseload after the United States and Brazil, including 5,971 deaths.

Moscow has accounted for nearly half of the nation’s infections and coronavirus deaths. Many of Russia’s 85 regions already have eased their lockdowns.

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YEREVAN, Armenia — Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian says he and his family have recovered from the coronavirus.

Pashinian said on Facebook that he and his family members tested negative Monday for a second time in as many days.

Pashinian announced that he was infected a week ago, adding that he probably contracted the virus from a waiter who brought him a glass a water at a meeting without wearing gloves and later tested positive for the virus.

Armenia has so far reported over 13,000 infections, including 211 deaths, among its population of nearly 3 million.

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Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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