LONDON — The British government says it won’t be using 50 million face masks it bought during a scramble to secure protective equipment for medics at the height of the coronavirus outbreak because of safety concerns.
The masks were part of a 252 million pound ($332 million) contract the government signed with investment firm Ayanda Capital in April. Papers filed in a court case reveal that the masks will not be distributed because they have ear loops rather than head loops and may not fit tightly enough.
The government says another 150 million masks supplied by Ayanda are unaffected but are still being tested.
The papers are part of a lawsuit against the Conservative government by campaigning groups the Good Law Project and EveryDoctor.
As the coronavirus outbreak accelerated across the U.K. in March, it became clear that the country lacked sufficient stockpiles of masks, gloves, gowns and other protective gear for health care workers and nursing home staff. That sparked a race to buy billions of pieces of equipment from suppliers in the U.K. and abroad.
Opposition parties are calling for an urgent investigation into the way personal protective equipment was acquired.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Virus testing in the US is dropping, even as deaths mount
— Seeking refuge in US, children fleeing danger are expelled
— Colombia’s long virus lockdown fuels anxiety and depression
— North Korea says it is quarantining thousands of people and shipping food and other aid to a city locked down over coronavirus concerns.
— California has stopped updating a list of counties facing more restrictions on businesses and schools after a technical problem in the state’s coronavirus testing database led to an undercount.
— Officials in Scotland ordered bars, cafes and restaurants in the city of Aberdeen to close in response to a cluster of 54 COVID-19 cases linked to a single bar.
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
JOHANNESBURG — As Africa’s confirmed coronavirus cases near 1 million, the director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that “we cannot at all exercise fatigue” in the pandemic response.
John Nkengasong spoke to reporters as the continent’s cases are now at more than 992,000. More than half are in South Africa.
Africa has seen an 11% increase in cases in the past week, lower than in recent weeks, but Nkengasong says that while it’s tempting to see a decrease, the numbers must be observed over several weeks to determine the real trend of infections on the continent of 1.3 billion people.
Five countries account for 75% of cases: South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Ghana and Algeria.
The low rate of testing remains a concern, but Nkengasong says that if countries do the right things “we have a good chance of beating back this pandemic.” He says the CDC is closely watching countries including Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan as cases climb.
BERLIN — Germany’s health minister says authorities will require people arriving from a large number of countries deemed high-risk to take coronavirus tests starting on Saturday.
German officials have voiced alarm over a steady upward creep in the number of new infections over recent weeks. The national disease control center on Wednesday recorded more than 1,000 cases in a day for the first time in three months.
As school holidays end, the government is keen to keep tabs on potentially infected vacationers entering the country. Last Saturday, it started offering free tests for people returning to the country.
People entering Germany from countries deemed high-risk — most of them outside Europe — are currently required to quarantine for 14 days unless they can present a negative test result no more than two days old.
Health Minister Jens Spahn said that starting on Saturday, arrivals from those countries will be obliged to take a test — unless they bring a new test result with them.
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines reported 3,561 new coronavirus cases Thursday, overtaking Indonesia with the most infections in Southeast Asia, as Manila plunged into a recession.
The latest jump brings confirmed cases to 119,460, including 2,150 deaths. Indonesia reported a total of 118,753 confirmed infections as of Thursday, with 5,521 deaths.
The economy slumped by 16.5% in the second quarter in the worst contraction on record in decades that caused the Philippines to slip into a recession.
The stagnant economy has begun to rebound slightly after President Rodrigo Duterte eased a three-month lockdown in June. But he put the capital and outlying provinces of more than 25 million people back under a two-week moderate lockdown Tuesday, after medical groups warned the health care system was being overwhelmed and could collapse.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque says, “I’ll be honest with you, the economy can no longer withstand a much longer lockdown.”
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The number of people on a Norwegian cruise ship who have tested positive for the coronavirus has reached 53.
Following the outbreak on the MS Roald Amundsen, the ship’s owner halted all cruises on Monday and Norway closed its ports to cruise ships for two weeks.
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health said that during its two journeys last month, a total of 37 crew members and 16 passengers have tested positive. The passengers all registered as living in Norway.
The cruise liner often acts like a local ferry, traveling from port to port along Norway’s west coast. Some passengers disembarked along the route and authorities fear they may have spread the virus to local communities.
In the Arctic harbor of Bodoe, the crew and passengers on the cruise ship Seadream 1 all tested negative for the virus. The tests were made “in an abundance of caution,” according to Norway-based company that owns the ship, SeaDream Yacht Club.
The ship was put in quarantine after a person from Denmark tested positive on Tuesday upon returning home. The vessel arrived in Bodoe early Wednesday.
KATHMANDU, Nepal — Nepal has reimposed some restrictions, shutting down hotels and restaurants and restricting travel because of the increasing number of coronavirus cases.
The Home Ministry statement says all gatherings are prohibited and movement of people and vehicles only allowed during the night.
In the districts with high numbers of cases, vehicles will be allowed on the streets on alternating days by even-odd license plates.
Nepal’s lockdown imposed in March lasted for 120 days. The country has had 21,390 cases and 60 deaths, including 81 infections and two fatalities on Wednesday.
HANOI, Vietnam — A health official says Vietnam’s COVID-19 outbreak could peak in the coming 10 days as the country reported another death and scores of new infections.
Deputy Health Minister Nguyen Truong Son, who is in hot spot Da Nang to oversee the fight against the virus, says new infections have been found every day and “therefore, we have to continue keeping guard up.”
To cope with an increase in virus patients, Da Nang completed a 700-bed makeshift hospital on Wednesday. The hospital, converted from a sports auditorium, has a maximum capacity of 3,000 beds.
A 67-year-old woman became Vietnam’s ninth fatality. She had suffered from other health complications.
Since the outbreak returned to Vietnam two weeks ago after more than three months, 270 local infections have been confirmed, most of them traced to a cluster of hospitals in Da Nang. Among the new cases are six in a high-tech industrial park in the city.
The virus has since spread to 11 provinces and municipalities, including the largest cities of Ho Chi Minh with eight cases and Hanoi with three.
Among measures to curb the outbreak, the government is encouraging the use of a smart phone app that alerts clients if they had come into contact with a person who tested positive.
BERLIN — Germany’s national disease control center has registered the highest number of new coronavirus infections in a day for three months.
The Robert Koch Institute says 1,045 cases were recorded on Wednesday. It was the first time since May 7 that it has counted more than 1,000 cases in a day. It’s still far short of early April’s peak of more than 6,000.
While daily numbers are volatile, the figure fits into a pattern of new cases edging higher over recent weeks as authorities deal with a number of small outbreaks in different parts of the country.
The disease control center’s daily report repeated its assessment that “this development is very disturbing.” Officials last week pleaded with Germans to respect mask-wearing and social distancing rules.
Germany’s COVID-19 response so far is widely regarded as relatively successful. The Robert Koch Institute has recorded 9,175 deaths from over 213,000 confirmed cases — a lower death rate than in many comparable countries.
NEW DELHI — India has recorded the biggest single-day fatalities of 904 in the past 24 hours as fresh coronavirus infections surged by another 56,282 cases to reach nearly 2 million.
The Health Ministry says the total fatalities touched 40,699. India has recorded 20,000 deaths in the past 30 days.
The ministry also said the recovery rate has improved to 67% from 63% over the last 14 days. Nearly 600,000 patients are still undergoing treatment.
The case fatality rate stands at 2.09%.
Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are the worst-hit Indian states.
MELBOURNE, Australia — The premier of Australia’s hot spot Victoria state has urged residents not to panic-buy as he announced reductions in meat productions.
The state capital Melbourne began its first full day of tough lockdown restrictions on Thursday as Victoria posted 471 new COVID-19 infections and eight deaths.
Premier Daniel Andrews says beef, lamb and pork production will be reduced by one third from late Friday because of the virus transmission risks in abattoirs and meat processing plants.
Poultry production will be reduced by 20%.
He says the measures are designed to drive down to the lowest possible numbers of workers to without at the same time delivering a shortage of products.
Andrews says there was no need for shoppers to stockpile, as has occurred spasmodically and to various extents during Melbourne’s first and second lockdowns.
He says, “You may not necessarily be able to get exactly the cut of meat that you want, but you will get what you need and you will get all the products that are, basically, fundamentally important to you.”
TOKYO — The governor of Japan’s Aichi Prefecture has announced a regional “state of emergency” seeking to curb the coronavirus.
Gov. Hideaki Ohmura on Thursday asked businesses to close altogether or close early and urged people to stay home at night.
The measures continue through Aug. 24, a period that coincides with the Obon holidays, when schools and many companies close. Aichi includes Nagoya, which is home to Toyota Motor Corp.’s headquarters.
The governor says confirmed coronavirus cases have been rising in Aichi since mid-July at 100 or more a day. Before that, daily cases had been zero for extended periods.
Japan’s national government in April called for social distancing and business closings, though those measures were gradually lifted. Japan has had nearly 42,700 confirmed coronavirus cases and about 1,000 deaths.
BEIJING — New COVID-19 cases in China’s northwestern city of Urumqi have shown a slight rise, with 27 reported Thursday, five more than the day before.
The uptick in the Xinjiang region shows authorities are still battling to end country’s latest major outbreak that appeared around three weeks ago. Officials have responded with stiff control measures, including locking down some residential neighborhoods, limiting public transport and restricting travel outside the city.
Urumqi is the capital and biggest city in Xinjiang, which has reported more than 600 coronavirus cases but no deaths.
With no new deaths, China’s total remains at 4,634, among 84,528 confirmed cases recorded since the coronavirus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
MEXICO CITY — Mexico is nearing 50,000 confirmed deaths from COVID-19.
The federal Health Department reported 829 newly confirmed deaths Wednesday, giving the country a total of 49,698 such deaths. That is the third highest number of pandemic deaths in the world.
Officials said Mexico’s number of confirmed infections rose by 6,139 to 449,961.
Authorities acknowledge Mexico’s real number of deaths could be much higher, in part because it has done so little testing. Only about 1 million tests have been performed in the country of almost 130 million people since the pandemic began.
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb is defending school reopenings in the face of mounting reports of students and education staff testing positive for the coronavirus since returning to classes.
Box said Wednesday that she “continue(s) to believe that our schools can safely reopen.” She says improved testing and hospital capacity are added safeguards for returning students for in-person learning.
The governor adds that her biggest recommendation to students and families is to know when to stay at home.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas state government is requiring public schools to stay open five days a week when classes resume this month, complicating efforts by some districts to limit on-site instruction because of the coronavirus.
Education Secretary Johnny Key issued the guidance to schools Wednesday as the state reported 912 new confirmed virus cases and 18 more deaths.
The state’s guidance says schools must be open all five weekdays to comply with the state constitution. Some districts had planned to limit on-site instruction and use remote learning on the days that schools weren’t open.
Arkansas’ public schools are set to reopen the week of Aug. 24.
OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says schools in the much of the state should strongly consider online-only learning for students this fall due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Inslee also urged Wednesday that they cancel or postpone sports and all other in-person extracurricular activities.
Health experts say the virus is still spreading too extensively in the state, which saw the nation’s first confirmed virus case in late January. Since then, Washington has recorded more than 59,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 1,600 deaths.
MONTPELIER, Vt. — Vermont officials say nearly 150 Vermont inmates housed in a Mississippi prison have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Vermont houses 219 inmates at the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Tutwiler, Mississippi, because of a lack of capacity in its own prisons.
Late in July, six inmates who were returned to Vermont from the private Mississippi prison tested positive when they arrived at the Rutland correctional facility. That prompted Vermont’s Corrections Department to order that the remaining Vermont inmates in Mississippi be tested.
Interim Vermont Corrections Commissioner James Baker says there were 147 positive tests, 62 negative ones, two tests that are pending and eight inmates refused to be tested.
UNITED NATIONS — The United States and seven European countries are calling on Russia to withdraw its forces from the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions in Georgia and allow medical evacuations and aid deliveries during the coronavirus pandemic.
The eight countries said after a closed U.N. Security Council session Wednesday that Russia’s presence further divides communities and puts at risk “the health and lives of the conflict-affected population” during the pandemic.
Deputy Russian Ambassador U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyansky tweeted that the statement is “only a fiction.”
Georgia made a botched attempt to regain control of its breakaway province of South Ossetia in 2008, setting off a short war with Russia. Moscow then recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and set up military bases there.