BRUSSELS — European Union countries are getting ready to adopt a common traffic light system to coordinate traveling across the 27-nation bloc amid the coronavirus pandemic.
To ensure that member states do not close their borders to one another and avoid a repeat of the cacophony witnessed in March when the virus first struck, the EU commission came up with proposals that have been amended before their scheduled approval by EU nations on Tuesday.
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The key measure is a common map of infections drawn up by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. It will sort European regions into green, orange and red zones according to the severity of coronavirus outbreaks. Under the latest proposal, red zones should be areas where the total number of newly notified COVID-19 cases is more than 50 per 100,000 people during a 14-day period and the percentage of positive tests reaches at least 4%.
Regions with a lower positive rate but where the total number of cases is more than 150 per 100,000 will also be classified red.
In light of the very high level of infections across the continent now, most of the bloc should be classified as red or orange.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Supreme Court nominee Amy Barrett faces Senate despite virus
— Trump insists he’s free of virus, ready for campaign trail
— Britain expected to tighten restrictions on hard-hit northern cities like Liverpool
— COVID-19 coverage safety net has plenty of holes in U.S.
— Four Swiss guards who protect 83-year-old Pope Francis have the virus
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican says four Swiss Guards have tested positive for the coronavirus, as the surge in infections in surrounding Italy enters the Vatican walls.
The four are all symptomatic and are in isolation while their contacts are being traced, the Vatican said Monday. They join three other Vatican residents who tested positive in recent weeks plus the dozen or so Holy See officials who tested positive during the first wave of the outbreak.
Despite the positive cases among his own bodyguards, 83-year-old Pope Francis continued Monday to shun a mask. He was seen warmly greeting Cardinal George Pell in his private studio, and neither man wore a mask.
Francis decision to shun a mask during his Wednesday audience, held last week indoors, drew criticism on social media.
Italy is seeing a sharp surge in COVID-19 cases, with the Lazio region around the Vatican among the worst-hit in this second wave of the pandemic.
The Vatican last week amended its mask mandates to conform to that of Italy, requiring them indoors and out. The Vatican didn’t immediately respond when asked why Francis wasn’t wearing one to receive Pell.
MADRID — Supporters of Spain’s far-right Vox party have staged protests by car across Spain against restrictions introduced to help stem the spread of COVID-19.
The protests Monday coincided with the Fiesta Nacional de España and aimed to “turn our National Day into a cry for freedom.”
Scores of cars jammed traffic in Madrid on the Paseo de la Castellana, one of the capital’s main roads. Protesters, wearing face masks, honked horns and waved Spanish flags out of their car windows.
Vox has lawmakers in the Spanish and European parliaments, as well as many town councillors across Spain.
Spain has officially recorded more than 861,000 COVID-19 cases and has attributed almost 33,000 deaths to the new coronavirus, making it one of Europe’s worst-hit countries.
BRUSSELS — Organizers of the Brussels auto show, which was scheduled to be held in January, say the event will be postponed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to organizers, the event draws some 500,000 visitors every in Belgium’s capital city. The 99th edition of the show will now take place from Jan. 14-23, 2022.
Several other auto shows have been cancelled or postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, including those in New York and Geneva.
BRUSSELS — Authorities in Belgium, one of the European countries hit hardest by the coronavirus, are warning that the number of cases is rising at a “quite alarming” rate and that 10,000 people could be catching the virus each day by the end of the week.
Yves Van Laethem, a spokesman for Belgium’s COVID-19 crisis center, says that “all the indicators continue to rise, it must be said, in a quite alarming way, in all provinces and all age groups.”
An average of 4,145 new cases were being recorded every day in Belgium in the week of Oct. 2-8, an increase of 89% over the previous week, according to data released Monday. Van Laethem said “if this rise continues at the same rate, we could see 10,000 new cases a day at the end of this week.”
Since the start of the pandemic, more than 162,200 people have been infected with the virus in Belgium, which has a population of around 11.5 million. As of Monday, 10,191 people were reported to have died from the disease in Belgium.
Last week, the government tightened its coronavirus restrictions. Close contacts are limited to a maximum of three people outside of a household. In the capital, Brussels, which is seeing more than 800 new cases each day, bars and cafes were ordered to close for at least a month.
LONDON — British health officials have ordered three temporary COVID-19 hospitals in northern England that were mothballed when the outbreak receded over the summer to prepare to reopen as new infections surge.
Stephen Powis, medical director of the National Health Service in England, said Monday that the “Nightingale” hospitals in Manchester, Sunderland and Harrogate were being readied to admit new patients if needed.
The temporary facilities were set up rapidly inside conference centers and other venues earlier this year to treat coronavirus patients if hospitals became overwhelmed. Most were not needed during the initial peak of the U.K. outbreak in the spring.
Coronavirus infections are on the rise again across the U.K., with northwest and northeast England seeing the biggest surges.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to announce new restrictions for the worst-hit areas later Monday.
PARIS — French Prime Minister Jean Castex has warned that France could impose further restrictions as the coronavirus is spreading rapidly and the situation in hospitals is deteriorating in the country.
Speaking on French news broadcaster France Info on Monday, Castex said that “there can be no more slackening” to face the COVID-19 epidemic. Nine big cities, including Paris and Marseille, have been placed under maximum virus alert.
Castex called on French people to limit private gatherings in their homes. He said a “general lockdown” of the country “must be avoided by all means.”
French health authorities reported about 43,000 new infections over the weekend.
The director of the Paris region public health agency, Aurelien Rousseau, said that COVID-19 patients now occupy more than 42% of ICU beds in the capital and its suburbs. Speaking on BFM TV, he said that the rate of positive tests reached 17% in the region.
France is one of Europe’s hardest-hit countries, with at least 32,730 virus-related deaths.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lankan officials say they have suspended bringing back expatriates stranded overseas due to the coronavirus because the country’s quarantine facilities are full.
Army Commander Shavendra Silva, who heads the task force to control the pandemic, says Sri Lanka’s quarantine facilities have filled up amid a steep rise in COVID-19 patients in the past week.
Sri Lanka had earlier announced that it successfully contained the spread of the virus, and no local clusters were reported for two months.
However, a cluster that originated from a garment factory earlier this month has led to 1,307 new cases in just one week.
In all, the Indian Ocean island nation has recorded 4,791 cases, including 13 deaths.
BUDAPEST, Hungary — Health authorities in Hungary say the number of coronavirus patients needing hospital treatment jumped by 166 overnight to 1,418, the highest number since the outbreak of the pandemic.
The country of 10 million has so far recorded 38,837 cases of coronavirus infections, including 968 deaths.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán warned last week that the pandemic is set to gain momentum over the coming months and that a vaccine would not be available until the summer of 2021 at the earliest.
Apart from making the wearing of masks compulsory on public transportation and in shops, the government has so far refrained from reintroducing restrictive measures similar to those implemented in the spring.
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia is imposing a new restrictive measure that limits the number of people who can meet in response to a record surge of coronavirus infections.
The government says only up to six people are allowed to gather, starting on Tuesday. Members of one family are an exception.
Monday’s announcement comes a day after the government approved a series of restrictions, making it mandatory again to wear face masks outdoors and banning all public events, including religious services in churches.
Also, fitness and wellness centers and public swimming pools will be closed. Restaurants will be banned from serving meals indoors, while the number of people in stores will be limited.
Last week, Slovakia registered new records of confirmed virus cases for four straight days, with a record-high 1,887 on Friday. The country has had a total of 20,355 cases, including 61 deaths.
LONDON — The mayor of Liverpool says his city will be placed under the most stringent level of restrictions in a new three-tier system of measures to slow the transmission of the coronavirus in England.
The system is due to be announced later Monday. But Steve Rotheram, mayor of the greater Liverpool region in northwest England, says local officials have not yet agreed with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government on what the exact restrictions will be.
Businesses including gyms and pubs are expected to be shut, but restaurants are lobbying to be allowed to remain open. Rotheram said cities also wanted to know what the exit strategy would be from the measures, which are set to be reviewed after a month.
Under the new measures, areas of England will be classed as at medium, high or very high risk and placed under restrictions of varying severity.
After falling in the summer, coronavirus cases are on the rise in the U.K. as winter approaches. Liverpool has one of the country’s highest levels of infection, with more than 600 cases per 100,000 people.
LISBON, Portugal — Portugal’s prime minister and most of his Cabinet have tested negative for the coronavirus, but other government members are still in isolation after the science minister tested positive.
Prime Minister Antonio Costa’s office announced after midnight Sunday that he and all members of his government had gone into isolation and were being tested because they had attended a Cabinet meeting last Thursday.
Only the foreign minister and environment minister were still in isolation and awaiting test results on Monday morning, the prime minister’s office said.
The planning minister and labor minister were due to remain in isolation despite testing negative because they sat next to Science Minister Manuel Heitor at the Cabinet meeting.
ROME — Scientific advisers to the Italian government have modified Italy’s coronavirus quarantine rules, reducing to 10 days the 14-day minimum quarantine for people who test positive or have come into contact with someone who tested positive.
The shift, which follows reductions taken by other European countries, was an acknowledgement of the impracticability of asking tens of thousands of people to remain isolated for two weeks as a precaution, even as infections are rising sharply. In addition, in a bid to reduce pressure on Italy’s overwhelmed laboratories, the advisers also decided that only one negative test is required to get out of quarantine, rather than two.
The scientific committee issued revised guidelines late Sunday as Italy is seeing a surge in new infections, averaging more than 5,000 a day. While still far fewer than the daily increases in Spain, France or Britain, Italy’s surge is prompting the government to consider new restrictions.
According to Italian news reports, they could include nighttime curfews for bars, restrictions on drinking outside bar venues and limitations on the size of parties and other social gatherings. Public health authorities say three quarters of Italy’s current active clusters were spread within families.
BEIJING — China’s government says all 9 million people in the eastern city of Qingdao will be tested for the coronavirus this week after nine cases linked to a hospital were found.
The announcement Monday broke a string of weeks without any locally transmitted infections reported in China.
The National Health Commission said authorities were investigating the source of the infections found in eight patients at Qingdao’s Municipal Chest Hospital and one family member. The commission said the whole city will be tested within five days.
China, where the pandemic began in December, has reported 4,634 deaths and 85,578 cases, plus nine suspected cases that have yet to be confirmed.
The last reported virus transmissions within China were four patients found on Aug. 15 in the northwestern city of Urumqi in the far western Xinjiang region. All the cases reported since then were in travelers from outside the mainland.
NEW DELHI — India has reported 66,732 new coronavirus cases, driving the country’s overall tally to more than 7.1 million.
The Health Ministry on Monday also reported 816 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities to 109,150.
India is second in the world in number of infections, behind only the U.S., which has reported more than 7.7 million cases.
Maharashtra in the south continues to be the worst-hit Indian state, with over 1.5 million cases. Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh are the next four worst-hit states, followed by the Indian capital, New Delhi, according to the Health Ministry.
India has seen the spread of the virus slow down since mid-September, when daily infections touched a record high of 97,894 cases. It’s averaging more than 70,000 cases daily so far this month.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Authorities in Indonesia’s capital have moved to ease coronavirus restrictions despite a surge in cases nationwide.
Jakarta previously imposed large-scale social restrictions from April to June, then eased them gradually. The city reimposed strict restrictions last month as the virus spread significantly and overwhelmed its health system.
Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan said Sunday that his administration decided to ease restrictions beginning Monday as the increase in infections had stabilized.
He said people can return to offices with limits on employee numbers, while transport services will run at half capacity. Cinemas, gyms and tourism sites can reopen at a maximum 25% of capacity.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has confirmed 97 new cases of the coronavirus, a modest uptick from the daily levels reported last week, just as officials ease social distancing restrictions after concluding that transmissions have slowed following a resurgence in mid-August.
The figures released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency Monday brought the national caseload to 24,703, including 433 deaths.
Sixty-three of the new cases came from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, home to half of the country’s 51 million people, where health workers have struggled to track infections tied to various places and groups, including churches, hospitals, schools, workers and troops.
Twenty-nine of the new cases were linked to international arrivals, including 13 passengers from Nepal, most of whom who came to South Korea for a Korean language program.
South Korea relaxed its social distancing guidelines beginning Monday, allowing high-risk businesses like nightclubs and karaoke bars to open as long as they employ preventive measures, such as requiring masks and keeping lists of visitors.
Spectators will also be re-allowed in professional sports, although teams will be initially allowed to only sell 30% of their seats in stadiums.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A “database extract error” resulted in an incorrect inflation of the number of reported COVID-19 cases in Missouri going back over several days, Missouri health officials said Sunday. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said in a news release that it is in the process of migrating all COVID-19 testing and case data into one new consolidated system. Missouri incorrectly reported Saturday on its coronavirus website more than 5,000 new COVID-19 cases, more than double the previous single-day record. The agency said Sunday it is working urgently to resolve the issue and will update its website with the correct numbers once that is done. It said the problems with the data were limited to cumulative reporting on its Show Me Strong Covid-19 Public Health Dashboard.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The number of people hospitalized in Arkansas with the coronavirus hit a record-high on Sunday of 576. The Arkansas Department of Health said the number of people hospitalized rose by 22. Hospitalizations from COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, reached records levels Tuesday through Friday before dropping by six on Saturday. The health department on Sunday reported 613 new cases for a total of 92,833 confirmed and probable cases. With 17 more deaths, the number of confirmed and probable deaths in the state so far rose to 1,569. Gov. Asa Hutchinson told CNN on Sunday that he was concerned about the increase in hospitalizations. “Right now, we do have capacity,” Hutchinson said, adding that they’re “watching it very carefully and taking it seriously.”
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky’s governor says he will be in isolation after a member of his security detail who drove with his family tested positive for the coronavirus.
Gov. Andy Beshear said Sunday that he and his family feel fine and have tested negative for the virus. Beshear’s wife and their two children also will stay isolated.
The governor has stressed the importance of following the advice of health experts to limit the virus’s spread and says that by going into isolation he will be “walking the walk, not just talking the talk.”
Beshear says his family was not in contact with anyone else following the exposure. He says that his family and the state police trooper who accompanied his family all wore facial coverings.
MIAMI — Florida officials have reported the state’s biggest one-day total of confirmed coronavirus cases since late August, a day after not releasing any pandemic data because of a problem with a private testing laboratory.
The Florida Department of Health said Sunday there were 3,700 new cases in the previous 24 hours and 1,790 for the day before that. It said there were 180 COVID-19 over both days.
Health officials say they received 400,000 previously reported test results late Friday from Helix Laboratory, which prevented them from processing and releasing the daily data report Saturday. Epidemiologists needed to verify results to make sure cases weren’t counted more than once.
Florida has reported 734,491 known cases of coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic and 15,552 deaths.
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