The Latest worldwide: Austria starts tough lockdown to slow virus


The Associated Press



VIENNA — Austria has started a new tough lockdown meant to slow the surging spread of the coronavirus in the Alpine nation.

As of Tuesday, people are only allowed to leave their homes to purchase groceries, to go to jobs deemed essential, to exercise or to help people who need assistance.

All restaurants, shops, hair salons and other services have been ordered closed, and the nation’s schools have been moved to remote learning programs.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Monday ahead of the lockdown, which is to run through Dec. 6, that “all of social and public life will be brought down to a minimum.”

Austria currently is registering more than 527 new cases per 100,000 residents over seven days — more than 10 times the rate that authorities say is sustainable. Over the last seven days it has reported 46,946 new coronavirus infections.

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

ROME — Italian authorities have inspected more than 230 nursing homes as part of the health ministry’s anti-coronavirus controls, identifying 37 with violations and flagging 11 people to law enforcement for possible prosecution.

The violations included lack of protective equipment and training for health care workers, insufficient hygiene and missing anti-COVID protocols. In addition, inspectors found other underlying violations of health norms, including overcrowding, abusive treatment of the elderly, expired medicine, poor food safety and unqualified staff.

The violations reported Tuesday by the carabinieri’s health care inspectors were so grave in four cases that the homes were closed outright and the guests transferred back to their families or other structures.

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the lack of adequate oversight in some of Italy’s eldercare homes, particularly smaller, private ones. As in other countries, thousands of elderly died in Italy’s nursing homes during the first wave of the outbreak, many without having ever been tested for the virus.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea says it will tighten social distancing rules in the greater Seoul area and some parts of eastern Gangwon province to try to suppress a coronavirus resurgence there.

Tuesday’s announcement came as South Korea’s daily virus tally stayed above 200 for a fourth straight day. The country has been experiencing a steady increase in virus infections since it relaxed its social distancing guidelines last month.

Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said it was necessary to adjust the distancing rules for two weeks.

Under the new rules starting Thursday in those areas, authorities are banning gatherings of more than 100 people during rallies, festivals, concerts and academic events. Customers at theaters, concerts and libraries are required to sit at least one seat apart from each other, while audiences at sporting events will be limited to 30% of the stadium’s capacity.

The new rules also ban dancing and moving to others’ seats at nightclubs and other high-risk entertainment facilities, and drinking and eating at karaoke rooms and concert halls.

South Korea added 230 more virus cases on Tuesday, raising the country’s total to 28,998, including 494 deaths.

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NEW DELHI — India’s coronavirus caseload has dropped to 29,164 new infections in the last 24 hours, continuing a downturn.

The Health Ministry on Tuesday also reported 449 new fatalities, raising the overall death toll to 130,519.

With nearly 8.9 million cases in all, India is the second worst-hit country behind the U.S., but it has been witnessing a steady fall in daily cases despite no substantial drop in overall testing numbers. In the last 10 days, there have been fewer than 50,000 new cases every day.

In the capital, New Delhi, however, the latest surge in new infections continues. The city reported 3,797 new coronavirus cases and 99 fatalities in the past 24 hours, fewer than last week’s daily average of nearly 7,000 cases. But health experts say the numbers in the capital have come down because fewer tests were conducted over the weekend.

More than 600 people have died in the capital due to the coronavirus in the past week.

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — With Iowa hospitals filling up, Gov. Kim Reynolds has dropped her opposition to a statewide mandate for mask use to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Reynolds signed a proclamation Monday requiring that everyone over 2 years old wear masks when in indoor public spaces. The mandate applies only when people are within six feet of others for 15 minutes and they aren’t members of their households.

Reynolds also is limiting gatherings for social, community, business and leisure purposes to no more than 15 people indoors and 30 outdoors, including family events. Routine office and factory work and spiritual gatherings are exempted.

The governor rejected calls to close bars and restaurants for in-person service but is ordering that they close by 10 p.m. She also has suspended sports and recreational activities, except for high school, college and professional sports.

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MONROE, La. — Louisiana landlords have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn a moratorium on evictions ordered by the CDC to avoid spreading the novel coronavirus.

The suit says that “the CDC’s eviction moratorium represents a sweeping assumption of power by an administrative agency that it simply does not possess.”

Figures provided by the Seattle-based Housing Justice Project says landlords in Georgia, Ohio and Tennessee have filed similar lawsuits against the CDC moratorium. Those in 13 other states and the District of Columbia are trying to overturn state or city eviction moratoriums.

The CDC’s Sept. 1 order came about three weeks after President Donald Trump issued an executive order telling federal health officials to consider measures to temporarily halt evictions.

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NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Johnson & Johnson has begun a new late-stage trial of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine, this time on a two-dose regimen.

J&J plans to give up to 30,000 people two doses of the vaccine. It’s been testing a one-dose regimen in a 60,000-person trial that began in late September and has enrolled nearly 10,000 volunteers so far.

In the new trial, volunteers will get either the vaccine or a dummy shot, then a second dose 57 days later, a company spokesman said Monday. That study is being conducted in the U.S., plus Belgium, Colombia, France, Germany, the Philippines, South Africa, Spain and the UK — locations chosen because they have a high incidence of COVID-19 and can start testing quickly.

The company said it’s being “extremely thorough”’ by testing multiple doses and dosing regimens to evaluate long-term effectiveness.

A small, early-stage study of the vaccine found it triggered a strong immune response and was well tolerated.

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HARTFORD, Conn. — The Yale professor who co-chairs President-elect Joe Biden’s coronavirus advisory board said her group has not been able to speak with President Trump’s coronavirus advisors, but is optimistic the two groups will work together during the transition.

Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith said there is a long “wish list” of information that the incoming administration would like to know about the Trump administration’s COVID-19 strategy, with plans for the storage and distribution of a vaccine at or near the top.

She said it was in everyone’s best interest for the two teams to sync during the transition.

Nunez-Smith also reiterated that Biden plans to work with governors, mayors and other elected leaders to reach “national agreement and unification” on mask-wearing standards.

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is showing no sign of budging from her hands-off approach to the pandemic, despite her state having the nation’s highest death rate this month.

South Dakota has reported 219 deaths in November — about a third of all its deaths over the course of the pandemic. The COVID-19 deaths have sent the state to the top of the nation in deaths per capita this month, with nearly 25 deaths per 100,000 people.

Still, Noem, a Republican, has no plans to issue mask requirements. The governor’s spokeswoman Maggie Seidel pushed back against arguments by public health experts, pointing to states like Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin that have also experienced significant virus waves in spite of having mask rules.

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SACRAMENTO — California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he was pulling the “emergency brake” on the state’s efforts to reopen its economy as coronavirus cases surge more dramatically than during a summer spike.

Newsom will impose more restrictions on businesses across most of the state. He said masks would now be required outside homes with limited exceptions.

Newsom’s action, which takes effect Tuesday, will put most of the state’s 58 counties in the strictest of the four-tier system for reopening that is based on virus case rates. That tier closes many non-essential indoor businesses.

Counties with lower rates have had more freedom for businesses to operate, schools to open for classroom instruction and for formal gatherings like religious services.

The Associated Press