SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea is reporting its biggest daily jump in new coronavirus cases just a day before it plans to relax its physical distancing rules.
The government said Wednesday it confirmed 794 new cases over the past 24-hour period, about 80% of them in the greater Seoul area, where more than half of South Korea’s 52 million people live.
Starting Thursday, authorities plan to permit social gatherings of up to six people — an increase from the current four. Restaurants, cafes and other businesses will be allowed to stay open until midnight, rather than 10 p.m. And eased distancing guidelines will be applied outside the Seoul region.
Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol says the government will restore tough distancing rules if the outbreak gets more serious.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC
— Russia faces virus surge, will allow booster shots 6 months after vaccination
— India to import Moderna vaccine to offset surge of cases, deaths
— Red Cross: Indonesia ‘on the edge’ of virus catastrophe
— Fearing COVID, Malawian women forgo prenatal care
Follow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Some COVID-19 patients are being turned away from an overwhelmed hospital in southwestern Missouri amid a surge in cases, and some are being taken to less-stressed hospitals hundreds of miles away in Kansas City and St. Louis.
The Springfield News-Leaders quotes CoxHealth system president Steve Edwards as saying Tuesday that the Cox hospital in Springfield is on “COVID diversion” as the delta variant of the coronavirus gains momentum in the region, where large swaths of residents aren’t vaccinated.
Edwards says four Cox patients recently were transferred to the St. Louis area and four went to Kansas City.
Officials at Springfield’s other hospital, Mercy Springfield, say patients haven’t been sent to bigger cities so far.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Street musician Charles Adams has spent the last three months living at a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, motel paid for with federal money aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 by taking homeless residents off the streets. But as hotels reopen to tourists and funding wanes, tens of thousands of homeless nationwide are being forced from the motels.
Several cities like New Orleans ended their programs months ago amid financing shortages. Experts warn there aren’t enough shelter beds, which means sending many back on the streets.
In one Vermont community, social workers are offering camping equipment to some homeless people no longer eligible to stay at motels come month’s end.
Cities drew from various federal pots to fund the homeless hotels. The Federal Emergency Management Agency extended its funding through September, but the approval process is so arduous that many jurisdictions are not taking advantage of it.
The crunch comes as millions across the country face uncertainty over the end of a federal freeze on most evictions on July 31. The ban kept many people from being turned onto the streets during the pandemic, yet it also artificially kept many units off the market meaning less long-term housing for those already homeless.
DETROIT — Unionized auto workers in the U.S. who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus will no longer have to wear face masks at work.
A virus task force with representatives from Ford, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler (now Stellantis) and the United Auto Workers union made the decision Monday. It’s effective July 12.
About 150,000 factory workers from all three companies have been wearing masks, keeping safe distances, cleaning equipment and taking other precautions since factories reopened in May of last year. Other precautions will remain in place.
The task force reviewed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and other standards before making the decision, the UAW said in a statement Tuesday. The companies will comply with all state and local regulations.
Workers won’t have to show proof of vaccination to take off their masks.
MOSCOW — Russian health officials have approved booster shots for those vaccinated against COVID-19 six months after their first dose.
On Tuesday, 20,616 new infections were registered and 652 deaths — the highest daily death toll in the pandemic.
Russia’s health minister Mikhail Murashko told a government meeting Tuesday the ministry has updated its vaccination guidelines. It allows those who contracted the coronavirus to get vaccinated six months after they recovered and those who have been immunized to get booster shots six months after their first vaccination.
Russia’s state coronavirus task force has been reporting more than 20,000 new infections daily since last Thursday, more than double the average in early June.
Russia was among the first globally to announce and deploy a coronavirus vaccine last year but has since inoculated only a fraction of its 146 million people. Murashko says more than 23 million — just over 15% — have received at least one dose.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — The Red Cross says Indonesia needs to urgently increase medical care, testing and vaccinations as the number of infections has left it “on the edge of a COVID-19 catastrophe.”
The group says its coronavirus hospital in Bogor, outside of Jakarta, was “overflowing” and emergency tents had been set up to house more patients. It was a similar scene at other hospitals near the capital, including at the Bekasi city hospital that reached 90% capacity.
On Monday, Indonesia reported more than 20,600 new cases and more than 400 deaths in the world’s fourth most populous nation.
The surge in Indonesia is considered in part because of the delta variant, which is thought to be more contagious. Indonesia has registered more than 2.1 million cases and more than 57,500 confirmed deaths, both the most in Southeast Asia.
Less than 5% of adults in the nation of 270 million have been fully vaccinated. The Red Cross called for global action so countries such as Indonesia can get needed vaccines.
PARIS — France’s government is urging all nursing home staff in the nation to get vaccinated. It’s sending more vaccine doses to a southwestern region where the delta variant of the coronavirus is spreading fast.
France’s virus infections, hospitalizations and deaths have been dropping nationwide for weeks, but with only 32% of the population fully vaccinated so far, concerns are growing about the highly contagious delta variant. The variant accounts for about 20% of new virus cases in France and is becoming “progressively dominant,” Health Minister Olivier Veran told broadcaster France-Info on Tuesday.
Lawmakers pressed the government Tuesday for tougher measures to slow the variant’s spread.
The minister in charge of elder care, Brigitte Bourguignon, says the government “doubled the doses” of vaccines sent to the southwest Landes region, where the delta variant makes up a majority of infections and recently swept through a nursing home.
Bourguignon says the government sent a letter to all nursing homes in France urging staff to get vaccinated and warning that vaccination could become mandatory if they don’t do so by September. She says getting vaccinated is “a moral imperative.”
France has recorded more virus infections than any European country and more than 111,000 confirmed deaths.
NEW YORK — From suicidal crises to mental fatigue, many U.S. kids are facing challenges navigating re-entry after more than a year of living in a pandemic.
A surge in suicidal crises among children led a Colorado hospital to declare a state of emergency in May when emergency department and hospital inpatient beds were overrun with suicidal kids and those struggling with other psychiatric problems.
In Florida, waits for outpatient treatment are even longer and many therapists don’t accept kids insured through Medicaid, said hospital psychologist Terrie Andrews.
In typical times, the cluster of activities that come as the school year ends — finals, graduations, prom — can be stressful even for the most resilient kids. Mental health specialists say many children and teens are worn down and struggling to handle usual stresses during the pandemic.
BRUSSELS — The European Union says cultural institutions in the bloc have lost up to four-fifths of revenue and attendance as the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the continent.
The latest EU figures show that museums in popular tourist regions lost up to 80% of revenue last year. Cinemas saw a drop in box office sales of 70 %, while attendance for music concerts and festivals from 76 %, resulting in a staggering 64 % in revenue.
EU Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas says “everybody has lost out here and we need to revive the sector.”
NEW DELHI — Indian pharmaceutical company Cipla has been granted emergency use authorization from the country’s drugs regulator to import the Moderna vaccine.
Dr. V.K. Paul, the head of India’s COVID-19 task force, says the Mumbai-based Cipla must submit a safety assessment of the vaccine before rolling it out for a large-scale immunization program.
Moderna will be the fourth vaccine administered in India after AstraZeneca’s Covishield, Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and Russia’s Sputnik V.
Paul says the Indian government is expected to close a deal with Pfizer soon. India, with nearly 1.4 billion people, has administered both doses of vaccines to less than 5% of its population.
The country has experienced a huge surge in cases and deaths in the last few months. India has recorded nearly 30.3 million confirmed cases, with a death toll of more than 397,000.
TOKYO — Some stages of the Tokyo Olympic torch relay may be pulled off the streets of the Japanese capital because of fears about spreading the coronavirus.
Japan’s Kyodo news agency reports cited the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. Kyodo says the relay will not appear on public streets from July 9-16. Kyodo says organizers will decide on the format for the relay from July 17 until the opening ceremony on July 23.
The relay began in March in northeastern Japan. It has faced numerous detours, scaled back programs, and has been run at times only in public park spaces to avoid spreading the virus. The relay is heavily sponsored by Coca-Cola and Toyota.
Tokyo is under a quasi-state of emergency until July 11, with infection cases rising again. Tokyo confirmed 476 new cases on Tuesday, up from 435 last Tuesday. It the 10th straight day that cases were higher than seven days earlier.
Japan has attributed about 14,500 deaths to the coronavirus.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka announced a 13-day travel ban on passengers from six Gulf countries.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka says passengers with a travel history in the past 14 days to Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, and Kuwait won’t be permitted to disembark in Sri Lanka starting Thursday. The restriction will continue until July 13.
Authorities have said they were concerned about the surge of coronavirus-infected passengers who had arrived from that region.
The announcement on travel ban came a week after Sri Lanka ended a 30-day lockdown. But public gatherings are still banned and schools, religious places, bars, hotels and gyms remain closed. Sri Lanka has seen a sharp increase of positive cases and deaths since April because of the celebrations and shopping by the people during the traditional new year festival.
The total number of confirmed cases has reached 253,618 and 2,944 deaths.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A Dutch health organization is advising the government to make the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine available to all children age 12-17.
The Health Council of the Netherlands says vaccinating teens would reduce school closures and help rein in the COVID-19 pandemic. The council is an independent panel that advises the government on public health issues.
Health Minister Hugo de Jonge is expected to announce a decision Wednesday on vaccinating that age group.
MOSCOW — Russian authorities have reported 652 new coronavirus deaths on Tuesday — the highest daily tally in the pandemic. The new record comes as Russia struggles to cope with a surge in infections and deaths and low vaccine uptake.
Russia’s state coronavirus task force has been registering over 20,000 new coronavirus cases and around 600 deaths every day since last Thursday. On Tuesday, 20,616 new contagions were recorded.
Russian officials have blamed the surge, which started in early June, on Russians’ lax attitude toward taking necessary precautions, growing prevalence of more infectious variants and laggard vaccination rates. Although Russia was among the first countries to announce and deploy a coronavirus vaccine, only about 14% of the population has received at least one shot.
Russia’s coronavirus task force has reported nearly 5.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the pandemic and 134,545 deaths.
BUDAPEST — Hungary will donate a half million COVID-19 vaccines to other countries in Central and Southeast Europe as its vaccination drive slows and supplies pile up.
An early vaccination leader in the European Union, Hungary has struggled in recent weeks to use up its available stocks of vaccines. With 67% of its adult population having received at least a first dose, until recently Hungary had the second-highest vaccination rate in the 27-member EU.
But other European countries like Belgium and Finland have since caught up as most Hungarians who want a vaccine have already received one. While a daily average of 60,000 first-dose shots were being given in mid-May, on Tuesday that number was scarcely over 9,000.