The Latest: Belgian foreign minister in intensive care

BRUSSELS — Belgian Foreign Minister and former Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes has been hospitalized in intensive care with the coronavirus.

Wilmes, who was in charge when the first wave of infections hit the country this spring, now serves in the new government led by Alexander De Croo.

Elke Pattyn, a spokesperson at the Foreign Ministry, told The Associated Press that Wilmes is in a stable condition and conscious. She said her condition “is not worrying.”

The 45-year-old Wilmes, who was admitted to the hospital on Wednesday evening, said last week she thought she got infected within her family circle.

Belgium, a country of 11.5 million inhabitants, has been severely hit by the coronavirus and is currently seeing a sharp rise in new cases. More than 10,000 people have died from coronavirus-related complications in Belgium

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

— Regulators, experts take up thorny vaccine study issues

— Despite pledges, Czechs face 2nd lockdown as system totters

— Virus spikes have officials looking to shore up hospitals

— Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has overruled his own health minister on the announced purchase of 46 million doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine being tested in Sao Paulo state.

— Ireland is already focused on Christmas. It’s a major national priority. Unless the country can get the COVID-19 epidemic under control, there won’t be much Christmas cheer this year in Galway, Cork or Dublin.

— Poland’s prime minister has signaled that the whole country faces being placed on the highest restriction level short of a full lockdown, as health authorities registered a record in new confirmed COVID-19 infections.

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Follow all of AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

LONDON — U.K. Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is expected to announce increased help for bars, pubs and restaurants that have seen business collapse because of COVID-19 controls.

Hospitality businesses are under pressure because the measures severely limit social gatherings, even under the lower levels of restrictions imposed on areas with less severe outbreaks. That reduces the number of people who go out for dinner or to meet up with friends, reducing income and forcing employers to lay off workers.

But most can’t take advantage of current government aid programs, which are focused on businesses that are ordered to close under the highest level of restrictions.

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street told the BBC that the support programs were designed with the assumption that the pandemic would ease, reducing the need for government assistance. That didn’t happen and infection rates are now rising across the country.

The government “didn’t expect us to be in a position through the autumn where we were having a rising level of the virus to this extent, so if you look at the design of the winter economy package, at the time that seemed rational but clearly events have moved very quickly.”

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BUDAPEST — The number of confirmed coronavirus infections in Hungary has risen above 2,000 for the first time as health authorities increase testing capacities.

Hungary recorded 2,032 new infections, pushing the total number of active cases to 35,653. There were 16,361 tests carried out over the past 24 hours, which is also a record. The rate of identified infections stands at 12.4% of all tests, well above the 5% threshold recommended by the World Health Organization. The relatively high rate indicates that the testing capacity of the Hungarian health care system is still insufficient.

Over the Past day, 46 patients have died, slightly below the daily record of 48. A total of 1,305 Hungarians have died since the outbreak of the pandemic.

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WARSAW, Poland — Poland has broken another record for recorded daily infections, with over 12,100 reported by the Health Ministry Thursday and almost 170 deaths, in the nation of 30 million.

The government is expected to extend Poland’s highly restrictive local red zones to cover the whole nation, in a move just short of a lockdown. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has suggested he would like all Poland to be in a red zone starting Saturday.

The regulation means, among other things, wearing masks in all open public spaces, a ban on ceremonies and wedding parties, limits on number of customers in shops and passengers on public transport, shorter restaurant hours and closed gyms and swimming pools.

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BERLIN — Germany’s disease control center is reporting a new daily record increase in coronavirus infections, which rocketed past the 10,000 mark for the first time as the pandemic continues to spread.

The Robert Koch Institute said Thursday that it had recorded 11,287 new cases over the past 24 hours, shattering the previous record figure of 7,830 daily infections set on Saturday.

The news comes the day after Health Minister Jens Spahn tested positive for COVID-19 himself.

He has been quarantined at home and told Bild newspaper that so far he’s just suffering from “cold-like symptoms.”

The government says Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet members have always followed distancing, hygiene and mask rules, so there is no reason for other ministers to quarantine.

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NEW DELHI — Indian authorities are worried elections in the third-largest state and a religious congregation could spread the coronavirus.

India added fewer than 60,000 new cases for a third day. The Health Ministry reported 55,839 new cases, taking the total past 7.7 million. The 702 deaths recorded in the past 24 hours brought its total fatalities to 116,616 on Thursday.

The Election Commission issued a warning after political campaigning drew large crowds without masks and social distancing in eastern Bihar state where voting for state elections is due to begin next week.

Bihar is India’s third largest state with a population of about 122 million people.

Health officials also are concerned about the potential spread during religious festivals. In West Bengal state, a court limited the size of congregations during the Hindu Durga Puja festival.

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PRAGUE — Coronavirus infections in the Czech Republic are on a steep rise, setting a new record for the second straight day.

The Health Ministry says the daily increase soared to almost 15,000 on Wednesday. That’s almost 3,000 more than the previous record a day earlier.

The country has been facing a surge for the last two months. It has had a total of 208,915 confirmed cases while 1,739 have died. About a third of all the new cases have been recorded in last seven days.

About 4,500 COVID-19 patients have filled up hospitals with the government expecting the health system will be overwhelmed by Nov. 11 if the surge doesn’t slow.

Further strict regulations are being imposed on Thursday, including limits on movement and the closure of many stores, shopping malls and hotels.

Since Wednesday, it’s mandatory again to wear masks outdoors and in cars.

The seven-day rolling average in the Czech Republic has risen over the past two weeks from 29.59 per 100,000 people on Oct. 6 to 85.64 on Tuesday.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Authorities in Sri Lanka have closed the country’s main fish market and widened the curfew in many parts of the island nation following a surge of coronavirus infections related to a new cluster centered on a garment factory.

The government imposed a curfew Thursday in parts of Colombo and some areas outside the capital. Officials already isolated at least six villages elsewhere in the same province, where the new cluster was discovered early this month.

Authorities also suspended operations at Sri Lanka’s main fish market after 49 traders tested positive. Health workers are conducting tests on hundreds of other traders at the market on the outskirts of Colombo.

Schools and key public offices are also closed, public gatherings banned and restrictions imposed on public transport.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has 121 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, its first triple-digit daily jump in a week amid concerns about the country easing social distancing restrictions just last week to cope with a weak economy.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Thursday that South Korea’s caseload is now at 25,543 for the pandemic, including 453 deaths.

Hundreds of recent infections have been tied to hospitals in major cities such as Seoul and Busan. Officials are testing 130,000 workers at hospitals, nursing homes and senior facilities in the Seoul metropolitan area hoping to reduce outbreaks.

South Korea has enforced its lowest level of social distancing measures since Oct. 13, allowing high-risk businesses and karaoke bars to reopen and fans to return to professional sports.

MEXICO CITY — Mexican health officials estimated Wednesday that the country has risen above 1 million coronavirus cases, though the figure includes both confirmed infections as well as suspected cases.

Officials put the country’s apparent deaths from COVID-19 at 102,293, again including cases in which patients were not tested for the virus.

The Health Department says its pandemic caseload tally has reached 1,005,938. That includes people who have displayed symptoms of COVID-19 but were not given tests or whose samples could not be processed. Test-confirmed cases total 867,559.

The agency attributes 102,293 deaths to the pandemic, adding in deceased patients who weren’t tested but had symptoms judged to be caused by COVID-19. Test-confirmed deaths stand at 87,415.

Mexico has an extremely low testing rate.

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LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says the state has more confirmed daily cases of the coronavirus than ever, and notes there has been a sharp increase since the state Supreme Court invalidated her sweeping restrictions earlier this month.

Confirmed infections had been gradually rising for months prior to the Oct. 2 ruling — from a seven-day average of 119 in June to 984 — as the governor loosened economic restrictions and allowed schools to reopen. Since the court decision, the seven-day average has nearly doubled to 1,818, although surrounding states without legal rulings have also seen similarly big spikes.

Whitmer said Wednesday that “these numbers are moving in the wrong direction” and are putting Michigan “in a dangerous moment,” though she did not indicate whether another lockdown might be necessary.

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COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — Health officials in Idaho say people with COVID-19 in the northern part of the state soon may have to be sent for treatment in Seattle or Portland, Oregon, because the region’s hospitals are nearing capacity.

Kootenai Health said in a statement Wednesday that its hospital is at 99% capacity for patients that need medical or surgical care. Chief Physician Executive Karen Cabell told KREM that the hospital nearing capacity is “unprecedented.”

Idaho is seeing its largest spike in confirmed coronavirus infections since the pandemic began. Newly reported cases have increased statewide by 46.5% over the past two weeks.

Categories: National News