JOHANNESBURG — South Africa on Saturday surpassed 500,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, representing more than 50% of all reported coronavirus infections in Africa’s 54 countries.

Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize announced 10,107 new cases Saturday night, bringing the country’s cumulative total to 503,290, including 8,153 deaths.

South Africa, with a population of about 58 million, has the fifth-highest number of cases in the world, behind the U.S., Brazil, Russia and India, all countries with significantly higher populations, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Experts say the true toll of the pandemic worldwide is much higher than confirmed cases, due to limited testing and other reasons.

South Africa’s Gauteng province — which includes Johannesburg, the country’s largest city and Pretoria, the capital — is the country’s epicenter with more than 35% of its confirmed cases. Local hospitals have been struggling to cope, and health experts say the country could reach the peak of its outbreak in late August or early September.

Cape Town, a city beloved by international tourists at the country’s southern tip, was the first epicenter and reached its peak last month, according to health experts.

Florida reaches 7,000 deaths

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Florida health officials have reported 179 new deaths from the coronavirus, bringing the state’s total to more than 7,000.

The latest numbers came Saturday as Hurricane Isaias threatened Florida’s eastern coast, but no evacuations were immediately announced. The National Hurricane Center’s latest prediction had the storm scraping past Florida but not making landfall.

Hospitalizations for the coronavirus have been declining for the past week and a half, with fewer than 8,000 treated for the coronavirus on Saturday. That’s down from highs of more than 9,500 last week.

Negotiators report progress in COVID-19 aid talks

WASHINGTON — Talks on a huge coronavirus relief measure resumed on Saturday, focused on restoring a newly expired $600-per-week supplemental unemployment benefit and hundreds of billions of dollars in other aid to states, businesses and the poor.

The Trump administration is willing to extend the $600 jobless benefit, at least in the short term. But it’s balking at other demands of Democratic negotiators like aid for state and local governments, food stamp increases, and assistance to renters and homeowners.

Unemployment insurance is a principal element of the COVID-19 relief bill, which is expected to grow considerably from a $1 trillion-plus GOP draft released this week.

Read the full story here.

Arizona representative contracts coronavirus

WASHINGTON — Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona says he has the coronavirus.

The Democrat says he tested positive for the coronavirus days after he sat close to another member, Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, who announced a positive test this week.

The 72-year-old Grivalva is at least the 11th member of Congress known to have tested positive for the virus.

Gohmert, a Republican, has questioned the use of masks and often walked around the Capitol without one.

Grijalva released a statement, saying in part: “This week has shown that there are some members of Congress who fail to take this crisis seriously. Numerous Republican members routinely strut around the Capitol without a mask to selfishly make a political statement at the expense of their colleagues, staff, and their families.”

Judges won’t stop enforcement of restrictions in Louisiana

HEREBATON ROUGE, La. — Two Louisiana federal judges have refused to immediately stop enforcement of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ coronavirus order prohibiting bars from letting customers drink onsite.

U.S. District Judge Robert Summerhays in Lafayette on Friday denied the temporary restraining order requested by 11 Acadiana area bar owners who filed a lawsuit challenging Edwards’ decision limiting bars to takeout and delivery.

U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans rejected a similar restraining order sought by 22 southeast Louisiana bar owners who filed the same lawsuit in their regional federal court.

Feldman set an Aug. 14 hearing to consider further arguments in the New Orleans case. Summerhays set an Aug. 17 Lafayette hearing.

The bar owners argue the Democratic governor’s restrictions are unconstitutional, unlawfully targeting one business sector without enough evidence to back up Edwards’ assertion that bars are driving the spread of the COVID-19 disease more than any other businesses.

The governor and his health advisers say bars have shown to be specifically problematic because people tend to huddle closely together inside without masks while drinking and lapse in their virus precautions the more alcohol they consume.

The White House coronavirus task force recommended Louisiana close bars to reduce public health risks and lessen the spread of the virus.

Florida coast preps for hurricane, virus safety

MIAMI — Hurricane Isaias is heading toward the Florida coast, where officials say they were closing coronavirus testing centers and navigating safety measures for evacuation facilities.

Officials in Miami have 20 evacuation centers on standby with social distancing in mind.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says the state was “fully prepared for this and any future storm during this hurricane season,” with stockpiles of personal protective equipment, generators, bottled water and meals ready to be distributed.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says Isaias had maximum sustained winds of 85 mph Saturday morning and some strengthening was possible later in the day.

Read the full story here.

Employee at Austrian chancellery tests positive

BERLIN — Authorities say an employee at the Austrian chancellery has tested positive for the coronavirus, but didn’t work directly with Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

The Austria Press Agency reported the chancellery says people who were in contact with the employee have tested negative and the office’s work wasn’t affected by the support worker’s infection. Kurz is tested regularly for the virus.

Austria’s handling of the pandemic has generally been viewed as relatively successful. The country recently toughened rules on wearing masks after an increase in new infections.

Austria has 718 confirmed deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Travelers must be tested to enter France

PARIS — Travelers entering France from 16 countries where the coronavirus is circulating widely must have virus tests upon arrival at French airports and ports.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced last month the tests would be required starting Aug. 1 for the arriving passengers, unless they present proof of a negative test within 72 hours of their departure.

Those who test positive in France must quarantine for 14 days.

France is not permitting general travel to and from the 16 countries, which include the hotspots of the United States and Brazil. The testing requirement only applies to people entering under limited circumstances: “French citizens who live in these countries or citizens of these countries with an established residence in France,” Castex has said.

Health authorities say the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has increased on the French mainland in recent weeks. So far, the French government has ruled out imposing another nationwide lockdown.

Germans protest pandemic restrictions

BERLIN — Protesters against coronavirus restrictions have gathered in Berlin for a demonstration titled “The end of the pandemic — freedom day.” It comes amid increasing concern about an upturn in infections in Germany.

A crowd of people whistling and cheering — and with few masks in sight — marched from the Brandenburg Gate on Saturday ahead of a rally on a wide boulevard that runs through the city’s Tiergarten park.

Protesters held up homemade placards featuring slogans that included “Corona, false alarm,” “We are being forced to wear a muzzle” and “Natural defense instead of vaccination.” Some chanted “We’re here and we’re loud, because we are being robbed of our freedom.”

Demonstrations against restrictions this year have drawn a variety of people, including some conspiracy theorists and right-wing populists. People came from various parts of Germany for Saturday’s protest.

Germany’s management of the pandemic has widely been viewed as relatively successful, with a lower death rate than comparable countries. The country has been easing lockdown measures since late April but social-distancing rules remain in place, as does a requirement to wear masks in public transport and shops.

Infection figures have crept up over the past few weeks and officials have warned against complacency.

Japan reports 472 new cases

TOKYO — Japan’s capital recorded 472 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, the third straight day of record numbers.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike issued a warning Saturday in an online video, urging people to wash their hands, wear masks and visit those businesses that display the special city-backed stickers with the image of a rainbow, which indicates good social distancing.

Most people getting sick are in their 20s and 30s, highlighting how they may be putting their guard down and going out partying, according to officials.

Nationwide, the daily count of coronavirus cases in Japan totaled a record 1,579 on Friday.

India reports steep spike in new infections

NEW DELHI — India recorded the steepest spike of 57,118 new cases in the past 24 hours, taking its coronavirus caseload close to 1.7 million. In July alone, there were nearly 1.1 million infections.

The Health Ministry on Saturday also reported 764 additional deaths for a total of 36,511.

India’s Civil Aviation Ministry delayed resumption of international flights by another month until Aug. 31. But it will continue to allow several international carriers from the United States, Europe and the Middle East to operate special flights to evacuate stranded nationals.

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan says India achieved more than 1 million recoveries, with active cases only one-third of the total. He says India is conducting more than 640,000 tests in 24 hours, taking cumulative tests across the country to nearly 1.9 million.

Lockdown remains in places across all containment zones, while subways, cinema halls, swimming pools, entertainment parks, bars, theaters, auditoriums and other social gathering places will remain closed until Aug. 31.

South Korean police arrest leader of religious sect linked to outbreak

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean prosecutors have arrested the elderly leader of a secretive religious sect as part of an investigation into allegations the church hampered the government’s anti-corfonavirus response after thousands of worshipers were infected in February and March.

Prosecutors are questioning 88-year-old Lee Man-hee over charges that the Shincheonji Church of Jesus hid some members and under-reported gatherings to avoid broader quarantines.

More than 5,200 of the South Korea’s 14,336 confirmed virus cases have been linked to the church.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday reported 31 more confirmed cases of COVID-19. At least 23 of the cases were tied to international arrivals.

Mexico now third in virus deaths, behind U.S. and Brazil

MEXICO CITY — Mexico has become the country with the third most COVID-19 deaths in the world, behind the United States and Brazil.

Mexican health officials said Friday there were 688 deaths for the latest 24-hour reporting period, pushing the country’s confirmed total to 46,688. That put Mexico just ahead of the United Kingdom, which has 46,119, according to the tally by Johns Hopkins University. Mexico’s population is double that of Britain.

The health officials also said Mexico now has had more than 424,000 confirmed coronavirus cases during the pandemic.

Nine state governors from opposition parties criticized what they called the federal government’s “confusing messages” on measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Venezuela sets up field hospital in Caracas

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela’s president has unveiled hundreds of hospital beds set up inside a sports dome in the capital of Caracas as his government prepares for a possible wave of coronavirus infections.

President Nicolás Maduro went on state TV to show off the converted complex Friday as he urged Venezuelans to stop throwing parties and wash their hands to prevent the virus’ spread.

Inside, the dome’s floor is walled off with beds. Outside, dozens of tents in the parking lot hold even more. A Cuban medical team presented their nation’s flag, saying they are ready.

Venezuelan officials have reported 164 deaths from COVID-19 so far, among more than 18,000 confirmed infections. The official daily count Friday hit an all-time high with 715 new reported illnesses.

Libyan government reinstates lockdown for at least 5 days

CAIRO — The internationally recognized Libyan government based in Tripoli has reinstated a total lockdown for at least five days to curb the growing coronavirus outbreak in the war-torn country.

The tight restrictions imposed Friday dampened the festive spirit of the Eid-al-Adha holiday, when Muslims gather to pray and slaughter livestock and distribute the meat to the poor.

With Libya’s health system and infrastructure devastated by nine years of conflict, the U.N.-supported government ordered people in western Libya to stay inside unless they have to purchase essentials.

Libya is divided between rival administrations in the west and east. It has reported 3,621 confirmed coronavirus infections and 74 deaths due to COVID-19, but testing nationwide remains extremely limited.

Alabama gets money to bolster remote learning

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama state officials say a program to aid families with students who are limited to remote learning this fall because of the coronavirus pandemic will provide $100 million for increased internet service.

Gov. Kay Ivey’s office says vouchers to help families pay for equipment and high-speed internet service through Dec. 31 will be available for students who receive free or reduced-price meals or meet other income criteria. High-speed internet service is often unavailable across rural Alabama and in some urban areas.

While some students participated in classes online after schools closed in the spring because of the pandemic, many didn’t because of the lack of reliable high-speed internet.

 


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