The Latest: Italian voters turn out in droves despite virus
ROME — Italians have turned out in droves to vote in regional elections and on a referendum on cutting the number of parliamentarians by a third, despite the coronavirus and strict hygiene protocols at all polls.
Turnout at the close of voting Monday indicated that in some regions nearly 60%-75% of eligible voters cast ballots, including those who voted from home or hospitals because they were sick with COVID-19 or quarantining. An army of volunteers, wearing head-to-toe protective equipment, made house calls to ensure even virus-affected Italians could cast their ballots.
Those who made it to polling centers had to follow strict protocols on facemasks and social distancing, with the elderly given precedence in lines and hand sanitizer ubiquitous.
Voters were choosing new regional administrators in seven regions as well as mayors in 1,000 towns and cities. Italians also voted on a referendum to reduce the number of national lawmakers in the lower house from 630 to 400 and those in the Senate from 315 to 200.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK
— Analysis: U.S. to hit 200,000 dead; Trump sees no need for regret
— New Zealand to begin lifting all remaining coronavirus restrictions
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Norwegian capital of Oslo on Monday banned crowds of more than 10 people in private homes after a spike in cases and “strongly urged” people to wear face masks when travelling on public transportations amid strike among bus drivers.
“The situation in Oslo is serious. This development must be stopped, and we have to do it now,” mayor Raymond Johansen said.
A strike that broke out Sunday among more than 8,000 Oslo bus drivers that sent commuters to take the tram instead had health officials worrying.
“It is obvious that if 300,000 people who should have taken the bus, take the tram instead during rush hour, it will increase the risk of infection significantly,” Robert Steen who is in charge of the health in the city told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.
Oslo has nearly 700,000 inhabitants, and there have been recorded more than 20 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
PARIS — French health authorities have started opening new testing centers in the Paris region to try to reduce queues and delays as the number of virus infections is steadily increasing in the country.
In total, 20 new testing centers were scheduled to open in the French capital and its suburbs this week.
The facilities will reserve certain hours to people considered as having priority access: patients with a medical prescription, those who have been in close contact with a person infected and medical staff.
In Paris on Monday, some testing centers were warning people results could take up to seven or ten days.
French health minister Olivier Veran said getting the results within 24 hours has been set as a goal for priority patients.
YANGON, Myanmar — Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon, on Monday began its first day under a tightened lockdown, with initial enforcement measures appearing lax.
The city and its suburbs were placed under greater restrictions as the government attempts to stem a rising number of coronavirus cases and deaths that originated last month with an outbreak in the western state of Rakhine.
The new restrictions allow banks and financial services, fuel refilling stations, food businesses and cold storehouses, pharmaceutical and medical equipment businesses, drinking water businesses and factories producing daily hygiene products to stay open. But many other businesses and shops were operating as usual on Monday.
Office buildings and towers were closed to comply with instructions that staff of companies and other organizations must work from home.
City residents are not supposed to travel outside their officially designated wards, but checkpoints are operating in only a few areas heavily affected by the virus, and street vendors could be seen moving freely in and out of the different wards.
YPSILANTI, Mich. — Eastern Michigan University will test campus wastewater for the COVID-19 virus and other signs of infectious diseases.
The testing, part of the school’s return-to-campus plan, is intended to track the presence of the coronavirus in wastewater flowing from residence halls and apartment complexes.
The monitoring might provide early detection of asymptomatic cases of the virus, according to the school.
“The results of the tests will help us pinpoint any concerning trends and expand individual testing among specific populations as necessary,” EMU President James Smith said.
Researchers and health officials have said they can track the course of a community outbreak of the coronavirus by studying the waste flushed from its bathrooms. Tests have shown that wastewater contains infectious biomarkers that can signal the growth or reduction of the virus in a community or around a university campus.
EMU in Ypsilanti is working with Michigan-based Aquasight on the testing.
ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s government spokesman says more than 200 people have tested positive for the coronavirus among thousands of asylum seekers admitted to a new camp on the island of Lesbos after the old one burnt down.
Speaking during a regular briefing Monday, Stelios Petsas said 7,064 people who entered the new camp at Kara Tepe had been tested, and 243 of them were found positive.
The average age of those confirmed positive was 24, and most were asymptomatic, Petsas said. Another 160 people, mainly police and administrative staff who had come into contact with the migrants, were tested and all were negative for the virus.
Petsas said the positive cases from Lesbos would be added to Greece’s official coronavirus figures Monday.
PRAGUE — Roman Prymula has been selected to become the Czech Republic’s new health minister, just hours after his predecessor in the post resigned.
Adam Vojtech announced his resignation on Monday amid a record rise of coronavirus infections in the country.
As deputy Health Minister, Prymula led for some time the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic in the spring.
BERLIN — The Bavarian city of Munich is tightening its coronavirus measures as it faces one of the highest infection rates in Germany.
The city’s Mayor, Dieter Reiter, said Monday that starting Thursday only up to five people or members of two households are allowed to meet. No more than 25 people are allowed to attend private indoor gatherings like birthday parties, weddings or funerals. Private events outside can be attended by up to 50 people. Organized events can host 100 people indoors and up to 200 outdoors as there are already hygiene concepts in place.
“We have to drastically reduce the number of people getting together,” Reiter said deploring the fact that many people in Munich no longer adhere to social distancing measures that are in place already such as keeping distance when standing in line in front of stores or wearing masks in places where it is already obligatory such as stores or public transportation.
The mayor also said that in crowded public places people have to wear masks at all times.
MADRID — Spain’s main opera house has come under fire after a show had to be cancelled amid loud protests from spectators complaining about the lack of social distancing in upper-circle seats.
Videos shared online by several attendees to Sunday’s performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s ‘Un ballo in maschera’ at the Royal Theatre in Madrid showed some full rows in the highest and cheapest audience platform, while attendance at the pricier floor area had been reduced leaving empty seats.
The performance was cancelled after several rounds of applause and shouting during the performance and despite the theatre relocating some spectators and offering to return the value of their tickets, the Royal Theatre said in a statement.
The theatre, which has launched an investigation into the incident, said that attendance had been reduced to 905 seats, or 51.5% of the total. Current rules in Madrid limit cultural performances to 75% of the audience.
The incident comes as a debate is raging in Spain over inequality after the Madrid regional government placed under partial lockdown some poor, working-class neighborhoods with some of the worst virus spread indicators. The measures have been met with protests because some people consider that authorities are stigmatizing the poor.
BERLIN — Official data shows that Germany saw nearly 30,000 fewer marriages in this year’s first six months than a year earlier because of restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Federal Statistical Office said Monday that 139,900 couples tied the knot between January and June — a decline of 29,200 compared with the first half of 2019. Many registry offices restricted ceremonies to a minimum or closed altogether at the height of the first wave of infections.
It wasn’t clear whether other marriages were delayed or called off altogether. The number of marriages was the lowest for a first half since 2007 — a year when marriages on July 7, or 07.07.07, were popular.
The statistics office said the number of marriages increased in May and June, as Germany eased coronavirus restrictions, though it still didn’t reach pre-crisis levels.
MADRID — Police in the Spanish capital and its surrounding towns are stopping people coming in and out of working-class neighborhoods that have been partially locked down to combat Europe’s fastest coronavirus spread.
The police controls on Monday are for two days only for informational purposes, but authorities say that enforcement will be mandatory starting from Wednesday and that those not justifying their trips will face fines.
Some 860,000 residents are affected by the new heightened restrictions, having to justify their trips out of their neighborhoods for work, study or medical reasons. Parks are closed and shops and restaurants have to limit their occupancy to 50% in the affected zones.
The targeted locations have a 14-day rate of transmission above 1,000 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, some of the highest in Europe.
The measure has been met with protests from people who think the restrictions are stigmatizing the poor.
PRAGUE — The Czech Republic’s health minister has resigned amid a record rise of coronavirus infections.
Adam Vojtech says his move should create space for a new approach to the pandemic.
The country coped well with infections in the spring but has been facing a record surge of new confirmed cases over the past week.
On Thursday, the day-to-day increase of new cases was higher than 3,000.
It is not immediately clear who will replace Vojtech, who was under pressure from the opposition to resign.
The Czech Republic has reported a total of 49,290 infected and 503 deaths since the pandemic began, according to government figures released on Monday.
LONDON — Britain’s top medical and scientific advisers are set to give a sobering assessment of the COVID-19 pandemic to the public on Monday, amid expectations the government is preparing to announce new measures to control rising infection rates.
Chief medical officer Chris Whitty and chief scientific officer Patrick Vallance are scheduled to hold a televised briefing at 11 a.m. BST (1000 GMT) during which they are expected to warn that infection rates are going in the wrong direction and the U.K. faces a challenging winter.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson huddled with ministers over the weekend to discuss the government’s reaction. Analysts expect the government to announce a slate of short-term restrictions that will act as a circuit breaker to slow the spread of the disease.
NEW DELHI — India has recorded nearly 87,000 new cases of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, with another 1,130 deaths.
With the Health Ministry announcement Monday, India now has more than 5.4 million reported cases since the pandemic began and within weeks is expected to surpass the United States, currently the country with the most reported cases.
India’s total deaths in the pandemic now stand at 87,882.
More than 60% of the active cases are concentrated in five of 28 Indian states: Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.
Despite the steady increase in cases, the government has continued to relax virus restrictions in order to help an economy that contracted 24% in the second quarter.
On Monday, the Taj Mahal will reopen after a six-month closure. There will be some restrictions such as compulsory mask-wearing, thermal screening of visitors and physical distancing at the monument.