The latest on the coronavirus pandemic from around the U.S. and the world.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida — Florida surpassed its daily record for coronavirus deaths Tuesday amid rising global worries of a resurgence, even as researchers announced that the first vaccine tested in the U.S. had worked to boost patients’ immune systems.

Florida’s 132 additional deaths topped a state mark set just last week. The figure likely includes deaths from the past weekend that had not been previously reported.

The new deaths raised the state’s seven-day average to 81 per day, more than double the figure of two weeks ago and now the second-highest in the United States behind Texas.

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A health care worker signs people up for testing at a COVID-19 testing site at the Miami Beach Convention Center on Monday. Associated Press/Lynne Sladky

The worrisome figures were released just hours before the news about the experimental vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc.

Key final testing of the vaccine will start around July 27, tracking 30,000 people to prove if the shots really work in preventing infection. Tuesday’s announcement focused on findings since March in 45 volunteers.

With the virus spreading quickly in the southern and western U.S., one of the country’s top public health officials offered conflicting theories about what is driving the outbreak.

Read the full story here.

Promising COVID-19 vaccine is poised for final testing

The first COVID-19 vaccine tested in the U.S. revved up people’s immune systems just the way scientists had hoped, researchers reported Tuesday – as the shots are poised to begin key final testing.

“No matter how you slice this, this is good news,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, told the Associated Press.

The experimental vaccine, developed by Fauci’s colleagues at the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., will start its most important step around July 27: A 30,000-person study to prove if the shots really are strong enough to protect against the coronavirus.

But Tuesday, researchers reported anxiously awaited findings from the first 45 volunteers who rolled up their sleeves back in March. Sure enough, the vaccine provided a hoped-for immune boost.

Those early volunteers developed what are called neutralizing antibodies in their bloodstream – molecules key to blocking infection – at levels comparable to those found in people who survived COVID-19, the research team reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“This is an essential building block that is needed to move forward with the trials that could actually determine whether the vaccine does protect against infection,” said Dr. Lisa Jackson of the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle, who led the study.

There’s no guarantee but the government hopes to have results around the end of the year – record-setting speed for developing a vaccine.

The vaccine requires two doses, a month apart.

There were no serious side effects. But more than half the study participants reported flu-like reactions to the shots that aren’t uncommon with other vaccines – fatigue, headache, chills, fever and pain at the injection site. For three participants given the highest dose, those reactions were more severe; that dose isn’t being pursued.

Some of those reactions are similar to coronavirus symptoms but they’re temporary, lasting about a day and occur right after vaccination, researchers noted.

Faulty data raises questions about Trump’s claims on small-business aid program

WASHINGTON — A trove of data on $517 billion in emergency small-business loans contains numerous errors that cast doubt on the Trump administration’s jobs claims and obscure the real economic impact of the program, according to a Washington Post analysis and interviews with bankers and borrowers.

Jovita Carranza is administrator of the Small Business Administration, which distributed 4.89 million PPP loans. Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post

A Post analysis of data on 4.9 million loans released last week by the Small Business Administration shows that many companies are reported to have “retained” far more workers than they employ. Likewise, in some cases the agency’s jobs claim for entire industries surpasses the total number of workers in those sectors.

And for more than 875,000 borrowers, the data shows that zero jobs were supported or no information is listed at all, according to the analysis.

The flaws raise questions about the claims by the Trump administration that 51 million jobs were “supported” by the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, which has been a rare bright spot for the administration at a time of a surging coronavirus pandemic and a suddenly stalling economic recovery. Many economists credit the program with helping staunch the deep wounds in the job market by offering forgivable loans to small businesses that rehire or keep workers on their payroll.

But repeated claims by President Trump and administration officials about the success of the program are belied by errors in data collection, according to the Post analysis.

For every loan offered to businesses under the program, the SBA lists a number of “jobs retained.” But in numerous cases, the listed number of jobs retained exceeded the total employment at the company, according to interviews with individual loan recipients.

The Post found half a dozen businesses that said they had fewer employees than the SBA reported the businesses had retained. Bankers also said employment figures for hundreds of businesses had been incorrectly reported by the SBA.

Read the full story about the PPP here.

In response to Trump criticism, White House virus task force member says ‘none of us lie’

WASHINGTON — A top member of the White House coronavirus task force said Tuesday that “none of us lie” to the public, an accusation President Trump had retweeted, and that while kids need to be back in school as Trump insists, “we have to get the virus under control.”

Asked on NBC’s “Today,” whether the CDC and other doctors are lying, Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary of Health and Human Services, allowed that mistakes have been made and that public guidance is updated when more is learned about the virus, “but none of us lie. We are completely transparent with the American people.” Alex Brandon/Associated Press

Adm. Brett Giroir’s comment came a day after Trump shared a Twitter post from a former game show host who, without evidence, accused government medical experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among others, of “lying.”

Trump himself has at times disregarded the advice of his medical experts on the task force and continues to play down the threat from the virus as it spikes across the country, forcing some states to slow or reverse steps to reopen their economies.

Asked on NBC’s “Today,” whether the CDC and other doctors are lying, Giroir allowed that mistakes have been made and that public guidance is updated when more is learned about the virus, “but none of us lie. We are completely transparent with the American people.”

Trump has said on several occasion that the virus will “just disappear.” Giroir said that is unlikely “unless we take active steps to make it disappear.” He appealed to people to wear masks, practice social distancing and to avoid bars and other tightly packed areas.

With U.S. virus cases spiking and the death toll mounting, the White House has worked to undercut its most trusted coronavirus expert, playing down the danger as Trump pushes to get the economy moving before he faces voters in November.

The U.S. has become a cautionary tale across the globe, with once-falling cases now spiraling. However, Trump suggests the severity of the pandemic that has killed more than 135,000 Americans is being overstated by critics to damage his reelection chances.

Trump on Monday retweeted a post by Chuck Woolery, onetime host of TV’s “Love Connection,” claiming that “Everyone is lying” about COVID-19. Woolery’s tweet attacked not just the media and Democrats but the CDC and most doctors “that we are told to trust. I think it’s all about the election and keeping the economy from coming back, which is about the election.”

At the same time, the president and top White House aides are ramping up attacks against Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert. Fauci has been increasingly sidelined by the White House as he sounds alarms about the virus, a most unwelcome message at a time when Trump is focused on pushing an economic rebound.

Read the full story about the task force here.

White House signals openness to compromise as unemployment deadline looms for 30 million Americans

WASHINGTON – Senior Trump administration officials have begun signaling their willingness to approve a narrow extension of the enhanced unemployment benefits helping tens of millions of jobless Americans hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.

In less than two weeks, the federal program that provides a $600-per-week increase to unemployment benefits will expire. Many economists warn the disappearance of this enormous federal stimulus, created in March, could hinder the economic recovery and deprive millions of Americans of a vital financial lifeline.

More than 30 million people are collecting what many recipients say is a crucial pillar of financial support right now.

“We’d basically have to choose between paying bills and eating,” Erin Walker, 48, who was furloughed from her job as a dining manager at a college campus near Summerville, S.C., at the end of April, said about the looming expiration of the benefits. “I honestly don’t know what I would do.”

For months, President Donald Trump and White House officials have argued the $600-per-week unemployment bonus provides a disincentive to work and should be scrapped so that more Americans return to work as part of the economic recovery. But with the benefits soon set to expire and the economy showing new signs of strain, Trump administration officials have begun opening the door to accepting a narrower version of what Congress previously approved.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on CNBC last week that the administration’s priority was ensuring that future benefits amount to “no more” than 100% of a worker’s prior wages. Mnuchin’s comments surprised some congressional Republicans who thought he shared their strong opposition to extending the benefits, according to two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal dynamics.

Larry Kudlow, the president’s top economic adviser, told Fox Business on Monday that the administration is seeking “some unemployment reforms.” Kudlow had in previous weeks more aggressively bashed the $600-per-week increase.

Read the full story here.

Florida hits record number of virus deaths in a single day

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Florida confirmed 132 coronavirus deaths Tuesday, a one-day record for the state.

That’s a 10% increase from the previous record set Thursday, but likely includes deaths from Saturday or Sunday not reported until Monday.

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A health care worker signs people up for testing at a COVID-19 testing site at the Miami Beach Convention Center Monday, July 13 in Miami Beach. AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

The rolling seven-day average is 81 deaths per day, currently the second highest in the country behind Texas and double the 39 average two weeks ago. Doctors had been predicting a surge in deaths because Florida’s daily reported infection cases have gone from about 2,000 a day to more than 12,000 in the past month.

That is partly driven by increased testing. However, the percentage of tests coming back positive has increased from 6% a month ago to more than 18%.

When COVID-19 was ravaging New York three months ago, it recorded 799 deaths on April 9 and had a top seven-day average of 763 deaths on April 14. It now has one of the lowest death rates in the country per capita, recording 10 per day during the last week.

Pence tells governors to protect citizens however they can

Vice President Mike Pence told U.S. governors Monday that the administration would back them on any measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic as 13 states reached an alarming rate of positive tests.

On a conference call, Pence said those states have rates of higher than 10%, according to a person who listened to the private session and requested anonymity to discuss it. The vice president has consistently argued that the administration’s response has been vigorous. On Monday, he made clear the situation has become grave, the person said.

“You have our full support on the steps you deem necessary within your states,” Pence said, according to the listener. “I am a phone call away.”

Pence’s message came on a day that states and cities across the U.S. posted daunting statistics on infections and deaths, and made their own efforts to control the disease.

California, the most populous state, reversed part of its reopening by closing indoor dining and bars. The state’s two biggest school districts said they would offer remote learning only, despite previous calls by the Trump administration for classrooms to fully reopen. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms asked New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for help, and he said during a news conference he would send a team of experts.

Mike Pence, Deborah Birx, Brett Giroir, Robert Redfield

Vice President Mike Pence, with, from left, White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, Adm. Brett Giroir, head of the U.S. Public Health Service and Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Robert Redfield, takes off his face mask at the start of a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing at the Department of Education building Wednesday, July 8. AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

The epicenter of the pandemic remains in the Americas region, which has had more than half the globally reported cases, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday. Governments in the Americas need to make a “huge” commitment to fight the virus and citizens need to comply more with prevention efforts, said Mike Ryan, the head of the WHO’s Health Emergency Program.

“Too many countries are headed in the wrong direction,” Tedros said. “It’s never too late to bring the virus under control.”

On Monday, coronavirus cases in the U.S. rose by 64,605 from a day earlier to 3.34 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. The 2% increase was in line with the average daily increase of 1.9% over the past week. Deaths rose to 135,400.

Read the full story here.

France to require masks at indoor public spaces

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron says he wants to require masks inside all indoor public spaces by Aug. 1.

In an interview with French television networks marking Bastille Day, Macron says “the best prevention” for the virus are masks, social distancing and hand washing.

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France’s President Emmanuel Macron, left, and Prime Minister Jean Castex, wear face mask, at the end of the Bastille Day military parade, Tuesday, July 14, 2020 in Paris. Nurses in white coats played the starring role in France’s Bastille Day ceremonies Tuesday instead of uniformed soldiers. Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP

Macron says France’s virus reproduction rate is inching past 1 again, meaning each infected person is infecting at least one other.

Many other European nations required masks in indoor public space when they started easing virus lockdowns. France took a more relaxed attitude, recommending but not requiring masks.

Recent rave parties in France and widespread backsliding on social distancing — even within Macron’s presidential palace and other government facilities — have raised concerns.

France has confirmed more than 30,000 virus deaths.

As U.S. debates school reopening, WHO warns of no return to normal

MIAMI — The resurgence of the coronavirus in the United States ignited fierce debate Monday about whether to reopen schools, as global health officials warned that the pandemic will intensify unless more countries adopt comprehensive plans to combat it.

“If the basics aren’t followed, there is only one way this pandemic is going to go,”said the director of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, to reporters. “It’s going to get worse and worse and worse.”

He slammed some government leaders for eroding public trust by sending mixed messages on the coronavirus and warned that their failures to stop their countries’ spiraling outbreaks mean there would be no return to normal “for the foreseeable future.”

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Des Moines Public Schools custodian Cynthia Adams cleans a desk in a classroom at Brubaker Elementary School on Wednesday in Des Moines, Iowa. As the Trump administration pushes full steam ahead to force schools to resume in-person education, public health experts warn that a one-size-fits-all reopening could drive infection rates even higher. Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

He did not call out specific politicians for criticism but said “too many countries are headed in the wrong direction” with the pandemic and some are not taking the proper steps to curb infections.

“Mixed messages from leaders are undermining the most critical ingredient of any response: trust,” Tedros said, adding that governments should communicate clearer public health messages and individuals should maintain social distancing, mask-wearing, hand-washing and staying home when they have COVID-19 symptoms.

Debate over the risks the virus poses, and how best to fight it, were spotlighted in Florida after it shattered the record among U.S. states for the largest single-day increase, with more than 15,000 newly confirmed cases.

Read the full story here.

Legal challenges mount to Trump administration rule on student visas

Eighteen attorneys general sued the Trump administration Monday, joining a growing number of efforts to challenge an order that would require international students to take classes in person this fall despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Google, Facebook, Twitter and more than a dozen other tech companies and associations, as well as more than 70 higher-education associations and scores of universities, supported a lawsuit by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology seeking to block the rule. That case argues that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s decision was made as part of an apparent political strategy to force colleges to fully reopen despite the rising number of COVID-19 cases.

A group of 20 universities in the Western United States, including Stanford University, the University of Southern California, the University of Oregon and the California Institute of Technology, also filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to overturn the order.

A coalition of student-government leaders at more than 150 colleges spoke out against the new guidance, which has not been published, calling it xenophobic and dangerous.

“The decision to take visa protections away from international students is cruel, callous, and senseless,” Ellen Yates, student body president at the University of Virginia, said in a statement Monday. “International students are not visitors or political pawns, they are human beings pursuing education, livelihoods, and dreams.”

Carissa Cutrell, a spokeswoman for ICE, said she is unable to comment because of the pending litigation.

Read the full story here.

Judge rules against man challenging New Hampshire coronavirus limits

CONCORD, N.H. — Nashua’s face-covering ordinance and the governor’s declaration of a state of emergency because of the coronavirus will stand while they’re being challenged in court, a judge ruled Monday.

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A masked mannequin hangs from a placard at Crosby’s Bakery in Nashua, N.H., in May. People are required to wear face coverings when entering any businesses under an ordinance passed in Nashua following the COVID-19 virus outbreak. Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Andrew Cooper, a Nashua resident, had filed a request for a preliminary injunction as part of his lawsuit seeing to end Gov. Chris Sununu’s emergency declaration and the city’s rules requiring members of the public ages 10 and older to wear face masks when entering any business, work site or government building.

He argued that Sununu lacked the authority to make the declaration because “there is no ‘emergency’ in New Hampshire,” a claim that Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Jacalyn Colburn said defied common sense.

“As anyone not living in a cave for the past few months would know, the State, the Country, and the entire world are in the midst of a once-in-a-century pandemic event,” she wrote in denying the motion.

The judge was equally blunt in rejecting Cooper’s claim that the mask ordinance infringes on his freedom of speech. She noted that the U.S. Supreme Court established more than a century ago that actions taken in response to a public health emergency should be upheld as long as they have a substantial relation to public health and safety and do not constitute a “plain, palpable invasion of rights.”

“Here, it is plain-as-day that the ordinance bears a substantial relation to public health and safety,” she wrote. “It seems common sense — to everyone except the plaintiff, his attorney, and his expert — that requiring individuals to cover their faces while indoors will help reduce the transmission of a highly contagious virus that is spread through the air.”

California shuts bars, indoor dining, gyms, salons and churches

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday extended the closure of bars and indoor dining statewide and ordered gyms, churches and hair salons closed in most places as coronavirus cases keep rising in the nation’s most populated state.

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A hostess waits to sit customers on a restaurant at the pier on Sunday in Santa Monica, Calif., amid the coronavirus pandemic. The governor imposed additional restrictions on 30 counties on Monday as coronavirus cases rise again. Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

On July 1, Newsom ordered 19 counties with a surging number of confirmed infections to close bars and indoor operations at restaurants, wineries, zoos and family entertainment centers like bowling alleys and miniature golf.

The Democratic governor extended that order statewide Monday. He also imposed additional restrictions on the 30 counties now with rising numbers, including the most populated of Los Angeles and San Diego, by ordering worship services to stop and gyms, hair salons, indoor malls and offices for noncritical industries to shut down.

“The data suggests not everybody is practicing common sense,” said Newsom, whose order takes effect immediately.

He didn’t include schools, which are scheduled to resume in a few weeks in much of the state. But Monday, the state’s two largest school districts, San Diego and Los Angeles, announced their students would start the school year with online learning only. LA Unified is the second-largest public school district in the country.

In March, California was the first state to issue a mandatory, statewide stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The order appeared to work as cases stabilized in the ensuing weeks while other states grappled with huge increases.

But the order devastated the world’s fifth-largest economy, with more than 7.5 million people filing for unemployment benefits. Newsom moved quickly to let most businesses reopen in May. Like other states that took similar steps, a subsequent rise in cases and hospitalizations led him to impose new restrictions this month.

Newsom has compared his strategy of opening and closing businesses as a “dimmer switch,” highlighting the flexibility needed as public health officials monitor the virus’s progress

California confirmed 8,358 new coronavirus cases on Sunday. Cases have increased 47 percent over the past two weeks, while hospitalizations have jumped 28 percent during the same time period.

Overall, California has reported more than 329,100 cases and more than 7,000 deaths, though infections are probably higher because some people don’t show symptoms and there’s a lack of testing.

Boston sees return of gyms and duck boats

BOSTON — Gyms in Boston are welcoming back members and the iconic duck boat tours are rolling again as the city enters the third phase of its coronavirus economic restart.

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Dan York, left, of Marshfield, Mass., carries his two-year-old daughter, Genevieve, following a ride on one of the iconic duck boats after tours resumed, Monday in Boston as Phase 3 of the city’s coronavirus economic restart began. Museums, movie theaters, historical sites and gyms in Boston were permitted to reopen Monday with certain restrictions, a week after most of the rest of Massachusetts. Steven Senne/Associated Press

Boston begins Phase 3 on Monday, a week after most of the rest of Massachusetts, allowing museums, movie theaters, historical sites and gyms to reopen with certain restrictions.

The New England Aquarium and Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum are among those expected to reopen this week.

Boston Duck Tours are also beginning on Monday. The company says its limiting the number of people on the duck boats so guests can socially distance and is requiring face masks for staff and guests.

Pat Smith, co-founder of a South Boston gym that reopens Monday, told The Boston Globe that most of its members have said they feel safe to return to working out in person.

“People are ready to roll, and get back to a little bit of normalcy,” said Smith of Lifted Fitness. “But only if they know the place they are going is taking the right precautions and being safe about it.”

But some residents are concerned that the reopenings could set Boston back in its coronavirus recovery.

“I feel like once the stuff starts to reopen, just like everywhere else in the country, there will be a surge in Boston and they’ll have to pull it back,” Marc D’Amico told WHDH-TV.

All three casinos in Massachusetts are also back in business.

MGM Springfield reopened Monday morning, following the reopening of Encore Boston Harbor in Everett on Sunday. Plainridge Park Casino, a slots parlor and horse racing track in Plainville, reopened last week.

The casinos, which have been shuttered for nearly four months, have reopened under strict guidelines from the state’s Gaming Commission.

Israel confirms record high number of new cases

JERUSALEM — Israel’s Health Ministry says the country has confirmed 1,681 new coronavirus cases, a record high.

Israel was widely praised for taking swift action early in the pandemic by closing its borders and imposing other restrictions to contain the virus’s spread. But since reopening the economy and schools in May following a more than monthlong lockdown, the number of new cases has steadily increased.

Health Ministry Director General Hezi Levi says the government is making every effort to try to avoid another countrywide lockdown.

“A general lockdown is without a doubt one of the tools that we try our utmost to avoid reaching for,” Hezi told Israel Radio, but says it remained an option authorities are considering.

Israel has recorded a total of 41,235 cases of the coronavirus. The country currently has over 21,000 active cases and confirmed at least 368 Israelis deaths from COVID-19, according to the Health Ministry.

Mosques, businesses close in Iran after spike

TEHRAN, Iran — A semi-official Iranian news agency says Tehran’s governor has imposed new restrictions because of a spike in coronavirus cases, ordering mosques and several businesses closed for a week in the Iranian capital.

According to the Tasnim news agency, Anoushiravan Mohseni Bandpey, the governor, said the measures would apply to mosques and women’s beauty salons, gyms, swimming pools, cinemas and coffee shops.

The development comes after Iran has been seeing a surge in COVID-19 infections and deaths in recent weeks, including record numbers of deaths so far in the pandemic for the Middle Eastern country.

Health Ministry spokesperson Sima Sadat Lari says 179 more people died in Iran from the virus on Monday, bringing the country’s confirmed death toll to 13,211.

She says there were 2,521 new confirmed cases on Monday, more than half of which were hospitalized, bringing the overall number of infections to 262,173.

Iran is the regional hotspot for COVID-19, with the highest number of infections and deaths from the virus.

Austria expands flight bans to 6 more countries

VIENNA — Austria is expanding a list of countries with banned flights to include six nations in the western Balkans, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Egypt.

Austria currently bans flights from eight countries and one region of Italy. The Austria Press Agency reported that only the latter — Lombardy, the Italian region worst-hit by the coronavirus pandemic — is being removed from the list starting on Thursday.

The health ministry added 10 new countries in light of high coronavirus infection levels and kept the eight that were already on the list: Belarus, China, Britain, Iran, Portugal, Russia, Sweden and Ukraine. There are exceptions for flights bringing in freight, repatriated Austrians, medical caregivers or agricultural workers.

Hawaii will extend 14-day quarantine for travelers

HONOLULU — Hawaii’s governor says he will wait another month to waive a 14-day quarantine requirement for out-of-state travelers who test negative for COVID-19, citing an increasing number of cases locally, “uncontrolled” outbreaks in several U.S. mainland states and a shortage of testing supplies.

The testing plan was scheduled to take effect on Aug. 1. It’s now postponed to Sept. 1.

Many in Hawaii’s business community had been looking forward to the plan making it easier for tourists to visit and potentially boost the economy. The quarantine requirement has practically shut down tourism since it took effect in late March. Hotels have closed and the unemployment rate stands at 22.6%, the second highest in the U.S.

“I know that this increases the burden on businesses here in the islands, especially small businesses. But we do believe that it is time to continue to protect the health and safety of our community,” Gov. David Ige said at a news conference.

Hawaii reported 23 new cases on Monday for a total of 1,243. It has one of the lowest infection rates in the U.S.

Australian state will impose tougher punishments for those who break quarantine rules

BRISBANE, Australia — Australia’s Queensland state is toughening the punishment for those who break coronavirus quarantine rules.

Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles says the current fines for breaking a mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine for some visitors or lying about their whereabouts may not be a sufficient penalty.

The maximum penalty will be a higher fine or up to six months’ imprisonment.

Queensland reopened its borders to all but Victoria state residents two weeks ago. Victoria is the center of Australia’s recent outbreak, adding 270 new infections overnight to its more than 4,000 active cases.

The Victorian city of Melbourne is under a six-week lockdown to try to contain the outbreak.


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