The Latest: UN warns terrorist groups could exploit pandemic

GENEVA — Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Monday that the COVID-19 pandemic can provide new opportunities for the Islamic State extremist group, al-Qaida and their affiliates as well as neo-Nazis, white supremacists and hate groups.

The U.N. chief said it’s too early to fully assess the implications of the coronavirus pandemic on terrorism but all these groups seek to exploit divisions, local conflicts, failures in governing, and other grievances to advance their aims.

Guterres said that the Islamic State group, which once controlled a vast swath of Syria and Iraq, is trying to reassert itself in both countries.

Tunisia’s U.N. Ambassador Kais Kabtani said with global attention focused on tackling the pandemic, terrorist groups are also seeking to capitalize “by undermining state authority and launching new attacks.”

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

— Egypt arrests doctors, silences critics over government’s handling of virus outbreak

— Trump’s bluster doesn’t beat a virus, calm a restive nation

— Coronavirus pandemic and Floyd’s death merge in brutal blow to Black well-being

— Amid pandemic, fewer students seek federal aid for college

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

ATLANTA — Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms says she has tested positive for COVID-19.

She tweeted Monday that she had no symptoms but still tested positive. Bottoms has risen to prominence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first-term mayor drew attention for her earlier criticism of Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on his slowness to order Georgians to shelter in place and his quickness to lift that order.

Bottoms was an early and vocal supporter of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, speaking on his behalf in Iowa before that state’s caucus. The former vice president has been considering Bottoms as his possible running mate.

Bottoms has also supported protests against police brutality and racial injustice that have been widespread in Atlanta.

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ATLANTA — Organizers of Dragon Con, a popular sci-fi, fantasy and gaming convention in Atlanta, have announced that the in-person event will be canceled this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Dragon Con had been originally set to take place over Labor Day weekend. Officials announced Monday that it will be moved online for a virtual event, which would feature panels, highlights from past years and virtual costume contests.

The convention was set to mark its 34th year in Atlanta. Organizers said last year’s event drew a record 85,000 participants across four days.

Statewide confirmed coronavirus cases in Georgia approached 100,000 Monday.

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on Monday instituted a mandatory face mask order for indoor spaces after the state reported record numbers of new coronavirus cases over the weekend.

The Republican’s executive order, which goes into effect at midnight, requires everyone over the age of 9 to wear face coverings inside buildings when social distancing isn’t possible.

Confirmed virus cases in the state have risen 30% in the last two weeks.

State health officials have urged residents to wear masks, but the governor had previously said a mask mandate would be politically divisive and difficult to enforce. On Monday, he said he could wait no longer.

According to the census, nearly 1.8 million people live in West Virginia.

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PHOENIX — The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Arizona, which leads the U.S. in new cases per capita, has now surpassed 100,000. State health officials said Monday that younger people have comprised more than half of them.

The Department of Health Services said in a statement that more than 62,000 of the 101,441 reported cases involve people younger than 44.

Director Dr. Cara Christ said it’s those between ages 20 and 44 who can drive community spread of COVID-19.

Arizona continues to remain high in terms of positive tests and coronavirus hospitalizations. While the test positivity rate nationwide is around 9%, Arizona’s is at around 13.4%. The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients on Sunday was 3,212, a new high according to state data. Hospital capacity statewide is currently around 89%.

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NEW YORK — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said there were nine deaths from the coronavirus reported statewide on Sunday, a far cry from the height of New York’s outbreak in April when deaths topped 700 daily.

He said that while the state has been successful at containing the spread of the coronavirus, New Yorkers cannot afford to be complacent.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said about 50,000 more people will come back to work as the city enters Phase 3 of reopening, which in addition to nail salons includes tattoo parlors, indoor tanning and sports such as basketball, volleyball and handball.

De Blasio said that indoor dining will be on hold for “a substantial amount of time” given the COVID-19 spikes traced to bars and restaurants in other locations around the country.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greek authorities say the majority of new cases reported in the country Monday have come from tourists following a new round of border and airport openings last week.

The Health Ministry said 43 newly confirmed cases were recorded in the latest 24-hour reporting period, 36 of which were detected at tourist entry points.

Tourism is a vital industry for the Greek economy and restrictions for travelers have been eased in recent weeks.

Most tourists are now subjected only to spot checks.

Greece reimposed tougher travel restrictions Monday on Serbia after the country reported a spike in COVID-19 infections.

The total number of confirmed cases in Greece stood at 3,562, while the death toll was unchanged at 192.

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LISBON, Portugal — Portuguese officials have rebuked the British government over its decision to exclude Portugal from a relaxation of travel restrictions.

The U.K. government announced last Friday that from July 10 it will scrap a requirement for people arriving from dozens of countries to spend 14 days in isolation. Portugal wasn’t on the list, however, apparently because of its relatively high infection rate.

Portuguese officials argue the country is doing better than Britain in other measurements of the battle against COVID-19. Portugal officially has 426 cases per 100,000 while the U.K. has 429, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

British visitors are a cornerstone of the key Portuguese tourism sector, and the British decision angered many people. Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva labelled the decision “absurd.”

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TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel is reimposing a series of restrictions after seeing a surge of coronavirus infections in recent weeks.

The government decided Monday it was shuttering all events spaces, bars, clubs, gyms and public swimming pools. It is limiting occupancy at restaurants and places of worship. The decision still must be approved by the Knesset.

The move comes as Israel, which appeared to have largely contained its initial outbreak, is seeing a swift rise in cases. Experts have warned that Israel is “losing control,” saying it moved too quickly to reopen its economy after a lockdown and didn’t properly prepare for a second wave of infections.

Israel now counts more than 30,000 confirmed cases since the start of the outbreak, with nearly 18,000 recovering. More than 330 people have died.

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CHICAGO — Three of the top U.S. medical organizations issued an open letter Monday urging Americans to wear masks, social distance and wash hands often to help stop “the worst public health crisis in generations.”

In the absence of a federal mandate, the American Medical Association, American Nurses Association and American Hospital Association issued the plea and said steps taken early on that helped slow the spread of COVID-19 “were too quickly abandoned.”

“We are not powerless in this public health crisis, and we can defeat it in the same way we defeated previous threats to public health — by allowing science and evidence to shape our decisions and inform our actions,” the letter said.

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BERLIN — A court in western Germany has granted an emergency request to suspend the lockdown imposed on a region that saw a spike in coronavirus cases linked to a slaughterhouse.

The top administrative court in North Rhine-Westphalia state ruled Monday that the lockdown slapped on all of Guetersloh county last month wasn’t justified anymore.

The judges agreed with a local company that had argued their businesses were in parts of the county that hadn’t recorded many cases and should therefore not be subjected to the restrictions.

The federal government in May agreed to delegate the handling of regional outbreaks to Germany’s 16 states, which in turn have tried to restrict measures to individual counties, of which the country has over 400. The court ruling will likely force authorities to limit measures to even smaller regional entities.

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NEW DELHI, India — A 37-year-old journalist recovering from coronavirus killed himself Monday by jumping from the fourth floor of India’s premier public hospital in Delhi.

The hospital authorities said the journalist, who worked with a Hindi newspaper, broke a windowpane and jumped out of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences building.

Dr. Aarti Vij, the hospital’s spokeswoman, said the journalist “was making significant recovery from his COVID symptoms.”

She didn’t cite any reasons for his suicide.

The journalist had undergone a brain tumor surgery at a different hospital in March and was having “bouts of disorientation” while undergoing treatment for COVID-19, Vij said in a statement.

India has reported 697,413 confirmed cases, the third highest in the world, and 19,693 deaths.

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MADRID — A U.N. report has blasted Spain’s record on social care, though it says the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic is “encouraging” for the future of social services.

U.N. Special Rapporteur Philip Alston said in his report published Monday that “Spain’s social protection net was utterly inadequate before COVID-19, but the pandemic has since exposed just how deeply it is failing people.”

He wrote that before the pandemic, 26.1% of Spaniards, and 29.5% of the country’s children, were at risk of poverty or social exclusion in Spain — among the highest rates in Europe.

COVID-19 has exposed “serious weaknesses” in Spain’s efforts to reduce poverty, according to the report.

Recent measures by the government seek to secure jobs and housing, extend protections to domestic workers and introduce a new national minimum income scheme to support 850,000 vulnerable families. The report said those steps were “a vast improvement” on the situation when Alston visited at the beginning of the year.

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MIAMI — Florida’s largest county is again closing down restaurants and gyms and other indoor venues as it experiences a rise in confirmed coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez is issuing an emergency order to close restaurants, gyms, fitness centers and other indoor venues. The decision comes seven weeks after they were allowed to reopen.

“We want to ensure that our hospitals continue to have the staffing necessary to save lives,” Gimenez said in a Monday news release.

The mayor is allowing hair salons, barbershops and retail stores to remain open. Other outdoor venues are also allowed to stay open such as condominium, hotel pools and summer camps.

Beaches will reopen in the county on Tuesday after they were closed for the Fourth of July weekend.

“But if we see crowding and people not following the public health rules, I will be forced to close the beaches again,” he said.

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WASHINGTON — The White House is again rejecting calls for a national mask-wearing mandate.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows says in an appearance on “Fox and Friends” Monday morning that the president sees the issue as a “state-to-state” matter.

He says that, “certainly a national mandate is not in order” and that “we’re allowing our local governors and our local mayors to weigh in on that.”

New Jersey’s Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy has said he’d like to see a national strategy on the coronavirus, including a mask requirement. He says his state is seeing “small spikes in reinfection” from residents coming back from Florida, South Carolina and other virus hotspots, and the U.S. is “as strong as our weakest link right now.”

Vice President Mile Pence has also rejected the idea of a national mandate, saying that’s up to governors and local health officials.

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BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel has weighed into the country’s debate over wearing masks in public, after some governors suggested ending the requirement.

Merkel’s spokesman told reporters in Berlin on Monday that “the chancellor and the whole German government has a very clear stance on this,” saying that masks are an “indispensable means” of keeping infections low.

“Whether on the bus, in the subway or in stores, the requirement to wear masks should remain,” Steffen Seibert said.

He said the wearing of simple masks, which have been shown to reduce virus-carrying droplets exhaled by the wearer, is part of the trade-off for being able to travel freely again.

The general secretary of Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union, Paul Ziemiak, laid out his party’s position more bluntly Monday, telling reporters at a news conference: “Wearing masks is sexy.”

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MADRID — Health experts say that only one in 20 residents in Spain has been exposed to the new coronavirus, according to the final results of a nationwide survey on the prevalence of antibodies released Monday.

The final round of the random blood tests has confirmed that antibodies were present in 5.2% of the more than 68,000 participants surveyed three times over the past three months. The sample is meant to be representative of the country’s 47 million residents.

Only residents in hard-hit nursing homes and patients at hospitals have been excluded from the survey because, according to the experts, separate specific research would be needed to map the impact there.

Marina Pollán, director of the National Epidemiological Center, said the results confirm that Spain is far from having developed the “herd immunity” that scientists had hoped for as a shield for future spread of the virus.

She also said that the fact that there has been no significant change from previous versions of the survey was a result of the strict lockdown that kept most Spaniards at home for over two months.

As in the previous two rounds, important differences have been detected between regions depending on whether they were more or less hit by the pandemic, with the area around the Spanish capital and the provinces of Soria and Segovia showing more than 11.7% of infections. The Balearic and Canary islands had under 2% of prevalence, according to the survey, which found no significant differences based on gender, age, nationality or income.

Partial lockdowns were brought back over the weekend to two northern counties after significant spikes in infections. Spain has recorded at least 28,300 deaths with the new coronavirus.

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BERLIN — A German company working on a potential vaccine for COVID-19 is to get a 75 million-euro ($84 million) loan from the European Investment Bank.

CureVac said Monday that the loan will support its development of vaccines, including the one against the coronavirus, and help it speed up the completion of a new production site in Tuebingen, Germany. The loan will be paid out in three tranches.

Last month, the German government said it was taking a 23% stake in CureVac via a 300 million-euro investment by the state-owned KfW development bank. That decision underlined its determination to keep key industries in the country.

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BERLIN — The Austrian government says the number of people with active cases of COVID-19 has risen above 1,000 for the first time since mid-May.

The Health Ministry’s official dashboard listed 1,012 people “currently ill” on Monday and a total of 18,279 positive cases since the start of the pandemic.

The Alpine country was one of the first in Europe to order a swift lockdown, but has gradually reopened again in recent months.

Over the weekend, Austrian media reported small outbreaks of coronavirus cases at three slaughterhouses.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s government has announced that direct flights from the United Kingdom to all airports in Greece can resume on July 15.

Government spokesman Stelios Petsas said Monday the decision was made “in cooperation with the British government and after the recommendation of experts.” Greece had previously banned all flights from Britain due to the extent of the coronavirus spread there.

Britons are among the top tourist visitors to Greece, and the country is eager to ensure it can salvage whatever it can from this year’s summer tourism season. The sector accounts for around 20% of Greece’s economy.

Direct flights from Sweden have also been banned until at least July 15. Petsas said Greece was still “watching the epidemiological data” from Sweden, and would make announcements depending on how the situation there evolves.

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MADRID — Traffic controls are in place Monday into and out of two northern Spanish counties that have renewed lockdowns to contain significant spikes in coronavirus infections.

The restrictions to leave or enter these areas unless it’s for work or extenuating reasons affect some 70,000 residents in the northwestern county of A Mariña, in the northern Atlantic coast, and over 200,000 in northeastern Catalonia’s Segrià county around Lleida.

The latter is particularly worrying because it affects migrant laborers harvesting fruit who are considered highly vulnerable to contagion.

Catalonia’s regional health authorities are warning that residents could be asked to stay at home if the outbreak there doesn’t subside.

The small-scale lockdowns come two weeks after Spain ended a national state of emergency that enable the national government to lock down the entire country and prohibit travel between provinces or certain areas since mid-March.

Over 28,000 people are confirmed to have died from the virus in Spain.

Categories: National News

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