GENEVA — The head of emergencies at the World Health Organization says Asia’s “follow-through” in the fight against COVID-19 and its populations’ greater trust in and compliance with their governments have given the continent a leg up against the coronavirus.
As Europe grapples with big surges in case counts in recent days, Dr. Michael Ryan said that if he had one “golden wish” that “might change the game,” it would be to make sure that every contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case would undergo quarantine to break the chains of transmission.
Countries like China, South Korea and Japan, which had experience against earlier respiratory disease outbreaks, have been able to implement measures longer than their counterparts in places like Europe and North America that continued to struggle against the pandemic, he said.
Ryan noted the ability of Asian nations to restart tracing, quarantine and isolation activities when needed.
Such countries had “serious follow-through once they got the numbers down. They followed through,” Ryan said. “They didn’t start reducing testing centres. They increased testing. They didn’t start reducing clinical capacity. They increased clinical capacity.”
Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead on COVID-19, acknowledged that Asian nations had more experiences with viruses like SARS and MERS earlier this century.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide top 40 million but experts say that's only the tip of the iceberg
— Coronavirus vaccines will require non-stop refrigeration to stay potent and safe, which may leave 3 billion people without access to them
— India reports lowest daily virus death toll in three months; Belgium and Slovakia slap night-time curfews on residents to control virus spread.
— To avoid the economic hit of full lockdowns, some places are trying more targeted restrictions
— Congress is past the point of being able to deliver more coronavirus relief before the Nov. 3 election
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
MADRID — Regional authorities across Spain continue to tighten restrictions against a sharp resurgence of coronavirus infections that is bringing the country’s cumulative caseload close to one million infections, the highest tally in western Europe.
Nearly 38,000 new cases were reported Monday, bringing the total since the onset of the pandemic to 974,449. Meanwhile, fatalities climbed to 33,992, with 217 confirmed deaths for COVID-19 recorded since the health ministry’s last data update on Friday. Experts agree that the real toll of the pandemic is much higher due to missed cases.
The regions of Aragon and Catalonia, in the northeast, had successfully tamed the curve of contagion after outbreaks tied to farm work in the early summer, but they have also recently joined Madrid and northern Navarra in recent days with varying degrees of measures against new outbreaks.
The restrictions include caps on the amount of people allowed to meet indoors or outdoors and early closing times for businesses and restaurants, among others.
ROME — Italy added another 9,338 confirmed coronavirus infections to its official toll as the government implemented new restrictions to curb nightlife and socializing in hopes of slowing the resurging outbreak.
Another 73 people died, bringing Italy’s official COVID-19 toll to 36,616, the second-highest in Europe after Britain.
Monday’s health ministry update reflected the typical reduction in confirmed new cases following weekend testing lulls: Whereas tests had topped 160,000 by the end of last week, only 99,000 tests were performed over the last 24 hours.
Hospital officials are voicing increasing alarm at the growing number of intensive care admissions — 797 as of Monday. While hospitals may have enough ventilators in this second wave of the outbreak, they don’t have enough medical personnel to operate them, Dr. Roberto Parrella of Naples’ Cotugno hospital told Sky TG24.
Premier Giuseppe Conte’s cabinet on Sunday approved new restrictions short of a curfew or lockdown to try to tame the infections: they include a maximum of six people allowed at restaurant tables, and only table service allowed at bars after 6 p.m. The new decree also prohibits local festivals and allows mayors to close piazzas or streets at night to prevent crowds from gathering.
CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block Massachusetts from collecting income tax from roughly 80,000 New Hampshire residents who are employed by Massachusetts companies but have been working from home during the coronavirus pandemic.
New Hampshire filed a lawsuit Monday challenging a temporary rule that requires residents of other states who were working in Massachusetts before the pandemic to pay Massachusetts’ 5.05% income tax while they work from home.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu says Massachusetts can’t balance its budget on the backs of New Hampshire citizens. Massachusetts officials declined to comment on the litigation.
BUCHAREST, Romania — Authorities in the Romanian capital of Bucharest stepped up restrictive measures as the relentless increase in confirmed coronavirus cases pushed the city into the “red scenario," meaning the rate of infections has passed three cases per 1,000 inhabitants.
The Municipal Committee for Emergency Situations ordered all the schools in the city of nearly 2 million to be closed and classes to be held online as of midnight. The panel also ordered the closure of all restaurants, bars, theaters, cinemas and gambling venues. In addition, the wearing of masks has been made mandatory in all public venues, indoors and outdoors. Officials will re-evaluate the measures in 14 days.
MILAN — Milan’s La Scala theater said Monday that the cast of “Aida” has been put under quarantine after two members tested positive for coronavirus.
It is the first change in program due to positive tests at the Italian venue, one of Europe’s premiere opera houses. It underlines the difficulties facing the opera world due to the virus.
La Scala opened a restricted fall season with concerts instead of full operatic performances and with less than half of the house full, to allow distancing to be maintained both on and off stage.
But with the virus spiking in Milan, it has delayed announcing plans for December-March. La Scala said that it tested the entire cast after one performer resulted positive, and that a second infection was confirmed.
Now with the whole cast in quarantine, the opera house on Monday will instead stage a concert of arias and opera choruses from “Aida,” “Nabucco” and “La Boheme.”
VILNIUS, Lithuania — Lithuanians voted Monday in the second round of their national election, some of them in cars casting ballots in special drive-in polling stations amid a spike in COVID-19.
As instructed, voters arrived alone in their vehicles, wore face masks and stayed inside their vehicle while using the ballot and the envelope provided by the Baltic country’s electoral commission. There are four such stations in Lithuania. Only those in isolation and on an official list can and vote that way.
So far, Lithuania has recorded 7,726 cases and 113 deaths.
MOSCOW — Russia reported almost 16,000 new coronavirus cases on Monday, the highest single-day number since the beginning of the pandemic.
According to the Russian government’s coronavirus task force, the 15,982 confirmed infections brought the country’s total to over 1.4 million, which is the fourth largest in the world. The task force has also reported over 24,300 deaths since the start of the outbreak.
Russian authorities lifted most virus-related restrictions over the summer and have said there were no immediate plans to impose a second lockdown despite the resurgence. In some Russian regions, officials urged the elderly to self-isolate and called on employers to have at least part of their staff work from home. Several regions have shut down nightclubs and limited the hours of restaurants and bars.
In Moscow, which on Monday reported 5,376 new infections, officials recommended the elderly to self-isolate at home and ordered employers to have 30% of their staff work remotely. Starting from Monday, school students from 6th to 11th grades also moved their studies online until Nov. 2.
BERLIN — A 71-year-old man faces an investigation in Germany after authorities said he used pepper spray to keep cyclists and joggers at a coronavirus-appropriate distance.
Police in the western city of Aachen said Monday that the man, who wasn’t identified, sprayed the passers-by on Saturday. The cyclists were able to dismount and were otherwise unhurt.
The man told officers that he had seen no other way to keep people at a suitable distance. He now faces an investigation on suspicion of bodily harm and dangerous interference in traffic.
German coronavirus rules call for people to keep a 1.5-meter (roughly 5-foot) distance from each other.
LONDON — Wales became the second nation in the United Kingdom to lock down large swaths of the economy to combat a second wave of coronavirus infections as Prime Minister Boris Johnson resists calls to do the same throughout England.
The Welsh government announced its decision Monday. First Minister Mark Drakeford said Wales would implement a short, sharp “fire break” to slow the spread of COVID-19 beginning Friday.
Northern Ireland has already ordered schools to close for the next two weeks, while banning most social gatherings and shutting many businesses for a month.
BRUSSELS — Bars and restaurants across Belgium shut down for a month and a night-time curfew took effect Monday as health authorities warned of a possible “tsunami” of new virus cases in the hard-hit nation that hosts the European Union’s headquarters.
The new measures aim to limit social interactions to slow down the exponential growth of the pandemic in the nation of 11.5 million people. The new surge of coronavirus cases has already prompted several hospitals to delay non-essential operations to focus on treating COVID-19 cases.
“We are really very close to a tsunami,” Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke told broadcaster RTL.
According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Belgium recorded more than 700 infections per 100,000 people over the last 14 days, the second-worst European record behind the Czech Republic, which had 828 per 100,000.
BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia’s army has reopened a makeshift hospital inside the main sports arena in the capital, Belgrade, in response to the increasing number of COVID-19 patients.
The hospital has 510 beds. Ten doctors and 20 other medical staff are on standby awaiting first patients, Serbia’s Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin said Monday as he inspected the vast hall.
Serbia had been experiencing relatively low rates of infection when compared to neighboring countries but is now faced with a new surge. The Balkan country of 7 million has recorded over 36,000 virus cases and 776 deaths.
LONDON — The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the planet has passed 40 million.
The milestone was passed early Monday according to Johns Hopkins University, which collates reporting from around the world.
The actual worldwide figure of COVID-19 cases is likely to be far higher, as testing has been variable, many people have had no symptoms and some governments have concealed the true number of cases. To date, more than 1.1 million confirmed virus deaths have been reported.
The U.S., Brazil and India are reporting by far the highest numbers of cases, although the increase in recent weeks has been driven by a surge in Europe.
WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s government is transforming the National Stadium in Warsaw into a field hospital to handle the surging number of patients infecting with the coronavirus.
The stadium, with a seating capacity of over 58,500, was constructed to host matches for the Euro 2012 soccer championship.
Government spokesman Piotr Müller said Monday the stadium will have room for 500 patients and will be equipped with oxygen therapy.
However, it was unclear how the government would staff the hospital given widespread reports of shortages of doctors. Poland experienced very low rates of infection in the spring compared to western European countries but is now witnessing an exponential surge of coronavirus infections.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The city-state of Dubai is allowing weddings and major social events to resume at halls, hotels and homes after a months-long ban, even as the country’s coronavirus infections reach new heights.
Dubai authorities say that starting this week, wedding halls will reopen for receptions with a maximum of 200 guests and strict conditions, including social distancing, masks and a four-hour time limit on festivities. Residents can now throw celebrations in their homes and outdoor tents for the first time since early March, with a maximum capacity of 30 people.
The city is loosening restrictions even as infections in the United Arab Emirates continue to climb, with over 1,000 new cases recorded daily amid an aggressive testing campaign. The federation of seven sheikhdoms has reported more than 115,600 cases and 460 deaths.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea on Monday began testing tens of thousands of employees of hospitals and nursing homes to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks at live-in facilities.
Fifteen of the 76 latest cases reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency were from Busan, where more than 70 infections have been linked to a hospital for the elderly. The disease caused by the coronavirus can be more serious in older people.
Health workers have been scrambling to track infections in the Seoul metropolitan area, home to about half of the country’s 51 million people, as the virus spreads in a variety of places, including hospitals, churches, schools and workplaces.
From Monday, they will start a process to test 130,000 workers at hospitals, nursing homes and senior centers in the greater capital area. Officials will also test 30,000 patients who have visited and used these facilities, but will leave out hospitalized patients, who already receive tests when they are admitted.