Britain renews sweeping powers to curb virus

LONDON — British lawmakers have renewed the government’s sweeping powers to impose emergency restrictions to curb the coronavirus pandemic, although many legislators criticized the way Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative administration has used them.

Legislators are increasingly unhappy about the government’s handling of the pandemic, which went from a national lockdown in March to a patchwork of local measures of varying stringency.

Johnson says it’s too soon to say whether restrictions introduced in recent weeks were working. The government has barred people from meeting in groups of more than six and banned millions of residents in northern England from mixing with people outside their household.

New hospitalizations for COVID-19 and virus deaths in Britain are rising again. There were 7,108 new infections reported Wednesday and 71 virus-related deaths, the same number of deaths confirmed the day before.

Britain’s official virus death toll has passed 42,000 — the highest in Europe.

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

— UK lawmakers grumble but renew sweeping govt virus powers

— Wisconsin hospitals filling with patients as virus surges

— At virus milestone, Italian priest reflects on loss, lessons

— Scientists are starting to unravel one of COVID-19′s scariest mysteries: Why are some people only mildly ill or have no symptoms and others rapidly die.

— The coronavirus pandemic has put a damper on student life across the globe. But in Brussels, the Belgian capital is using its famous Grand-Place square for graduation ceremonies of two universities.

— Scores of actors, technicians and theater staff marched through London’s West End to Parliament to the beat of showtunes, asking for plan to revive the arts.

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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:

MILWAUKEE — Coronavirus patients are filling Wisconsin hospitals, forcing doctors to transfer patients to other facilities as the disease surges across the state.

The number of people hospitalized in Wisconsin stood at 646 on Tuesday, a new record, with 205 patients in intensive care units, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Case spikes in northern and northeastern Wisconsin are driving much of the hospitalizations.

Officials at Bellin Hospital in Green Bay say their facility is at 94% capacity. Aspirus Healthcare President and CEO Matthew Heywood says the Wausau hospital has had a 30% increase in COVID-19 patients between Monday and Tuesday.

State health officials say if cases don’t subside, patients could be directed to a 530-bed field hospital the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built on the state fairgrounds in West Allis in April.

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HILO, Hawaii — Hawaii officials say state contact tracers have received productive responses from about half the travelers in a program for screening and contact tracing.

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported a House Select Committee on COVID-19 heard testimony that during phone calls to ensure traveler quarantine compliance, contact tracers have successfully engaged half of the time.

Hawaii Medical Service Association CEO Mark Mugiishi says travelers can be reluctant to respond because of several factors, including thinking contact tracing calls are scams and an unwillingness to provide personal information.

The state is expected to launch a pre-travel testing program Oct. 15.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is “urgently advising” people throughout the Netherlands to start wearing face masks in indoor public areas.

That includes wearing masks in shops, bars, museums, theaters and libraries to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Rutte says the government doesn’t plan to legislate to make masks obligatory. Instead, he says, “let’s make it an urgent advice and see how it goes.”

Under the current virus containment measures, facemasks are mandatory on public transport and advised in public indoor areas of the three major cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague.

More than 19,000 people in the Netherlands tested positive in the last week, a sharp increase from the nearly 13,500 a week earlier.

The country has nearly 126,000 confirmed cases and 6,456 dead, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

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PRAGUE — The Czech government has declared a state of emergency because of a record surge of coronavirus infections.

Health Minister Roman Prymula says it will be effective for 30 days, starting Monday.

The new restrictive measures include a limit on public gatherings for a two-week period. All public outdoor gatherings with more than 20 people are banned, along with more than 10 for indoor events. Theater performances and movie theaters are excluded from the bans.

Also, no fans at sports competitions and high schools at the most hard-hit regions will be closed for at least two weeks.

The Czech Republic has reported a total of 67,843 cases, with more than 43,000 testing positive in September. There’s been 636 confirmed deaths.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greece says it expects revenue from its tourism industry to drop by 80% on in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Government spokesman Stelios Petsas says third-quarter data showed an estimated 3.9 million tourists visited Greece from July through September, a drop of 88% from 2019.

The pandemic followed a record year for the Greek tourism industry with 34 million visitors and some 18 billion euros ($21 billion) in travel receipts in 2019.

The tourism industry is a key source of income for Greece’s $200 billion economy. Greece began reopening to tourism in mid-June after strict lockdown measures kept infection rates lower than in most other EU countries.

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TORONTO — The provinces of Quebec and Ontario have increased coronavirus cases and are adding restrictions to help limit the spread.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault says Montreal and Quebec City are included in the “red zone” lockdown. Legault says there should be no guests in homes with a few exceptions for help. He also says restaurants and bars will close except for delivery, and outdoor gatherings require two meters of spacing. The measures will last from Oct. 1-28.

Legault says the objective is to protect schools from closing again. Quebec reported 896 new cases on Sunday, the province’s highest single-day tally in months.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford calls the 700 new daily cases in his province extremely troubling. Of Monday’s cases, 344 were reported in Toronto.

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BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania has recorded the highest daily number of new coronavirus cases since the pandemic took hold in the country in late February.

The daily number of confirmed infections has hit 2,158 on Wednesday, taking the confirmed total to more than 127,500.

Romania, a country of 19 million, has confirmed more than 4,800 virus-related deaths.

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BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia’s government is declaring a state of emergency in the country after facing a recent record surge of coronavirus infections.

Prime Minister Igor Matovic says the state of emergency that gives his government extraordinary powers to curb the spike will be effective for 45 days, starting on Thursday.

Slovakia’s day-to day increase in confirmed coronavirus cases reached 567 on Tuesday, a new record. The previous record of 552 was set on Friday.

Slovakia has a total of 10,141 confirmed cases and 49 deaths, significantly lower than most other European countries.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Norway is easing up some of its restrictions by removing a ban on serving alcohol after midnight and allowing crowds of up to 600 people at outdoor events.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg says “this is not a total release but a new phase in the strategy to maintain control of the corona infection.”

The Scandinavian country had a previous limit of 200 people at indoor events. Abid Raja, the minister in charge of sports, says the changes apply Oct. 12 and “this will please many soccer fans.”

Norway has 13,914 confirmed cases and 274 deaths.

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KARACHI, Pakistan — Pakistan’s top health official has urged authorities to place high-risk areas of Karachi under lockdown following an increase in coronavirus cases.

Faisal Sultan spoke at the military-backed National Command and Operations Center in Islamabad to review the coronavirus situation.

As many as 365 new cases were reported in Karachi among the country’s single-day 774 infections in the past 24 hours.

It prompted health official to suggest a “smart lockdown” after identifying high-risk areas in Karachi, the capital of southern Sindh province. The latest increases have occurred after Pakistan reopened schools this month.

Pakistan has reported 312,264 confirmed cases and 6,479 confirmed deaths.

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LONDON — Planned surgeries are being suspended at a hospital in Wales following a coronavirus outbreak there.

The Royal Glamorgan Hospital, which is near the Welsh capital city of Cardiff and subject to local virus-related restrictions, says it has identified 82 cases of the virus, some linked to transmission within the hospital.

As a result, it has announced some temporary restrictions. Except for a small number of urgent cancer cases, the hospital has decided to suspend planned surgeries beginning Wednesday.

Paul Mears, chief executive of the local health board, says the restrictions have “not been taken lightly, and we understand that they will impact our patients, their families, our staff and partner organizations.”

Large parts of Wales have had an array of local lockdown restrictions imposed in recent weeks following a spike in coronavirus cases.

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BANGKOK — Thailand is preparing to receive the first group of foreign tourists since scheduled commercial passenger flights into the country were halted in April.

Phuket Gov. Narong Woonsiew on Wednesday inspected the international airport at the popular southern resort island, where a new system including coronavirus testing and transport facilities has been installed to welcome the first 150 Chinese from Guangzhou province on Oct. 8.

Minister of Tourism and Sports Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn says at least three groups of foreign tourists will arrive in October — two from China and one from Scandinavia. All will be subject to a 14-day quarantine and other restrictions on their movements.

The plan still needs final approval from the Cabinet. There has been speculation that the Oct. 8 start may be delayed, but Narong says Phuket is ready. Regular commercial air traffic remains limited.

Thailand has 3,564 confirmed coronavirus cases and 59 confirmed deaths.

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PRAGUE — Czechs are casting ballot from their cars for the first time, a measure forced by the coronavirus pandemic.

A total of 156 drive-in temporary ballot stations have been established by the armed forces across the country for those quarantined due to coronavirus infections.

Those who cannot use a car can ask for a visit of a special electoral committee with a ballot box in their homes.

Previously, those quarantined were not allowed to vote because of health concerns. But as their numbers rose, new legislation was passed to make sure their voting rights were respected.

The Czechs are voting in regional elections and the first round of elections for one third of the upper house of Parliament, the Senate, on Friday and Saturday. The second round of the Senate elections is scheduled for Oct 9-10.

The Czech Republic has 67,843 confirmed cases and 636 deaths.

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NEW DELHI — India recorded 80,472 new confirmed coronaviruses cases in the past 24 hours, showing a decline from a record high two weeks ago.

The Health Ministry raised India’s confirmed total to more than 6.2 million on Wednesday with 2.5 million in September alone. It also reported 1,179 deaths in the last 24 hours, raising the confirmed death toll to 97,497.

India’s Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu tested positive on Tuesday and was advised home quarantine. His office said in a tweet that Naidu, 71, is asymptomatic and in good health. Home Minister Amit Shah had tested positive last month and recovered in a hospital.

India’s recovery rate crossed 83% on Tuesday and the number of cases under treatment were less than 1 million. The daily testing covered more than 1 million people, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, a serological survey showed that the infections were more prevalent in urban centers with high population density. The survey by the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research also found that 6.6% of the population above age 10 have been exposed to the coronavirus.

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