TOP OF THE HOUR: — 4 new cases in South Korea, China show work on containment. — Iran's president speaks with Japan's prime minister about the coronavirus, state-run media said. — Technology institute tells Swedish newspaper that the coronavirus has been found in the sewage system.
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency says that the country’s president, Hassan Rouhani, has spoken over the phone with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Tuesday’s report says the two discussed bilateral cooperation on fighting the coronavirus pandemic, and that during the phone call, Rouhani thanked the Japanese government for its humanitarian assistance to Iran on combating the virus.
Rouhani was quoted as saying that with the “escalation of the United States’ cruel and inhumane sanctions against Iran,” the country faces “many problems today, even in the field of medical equipment and food supply.”
Iran, which has been the hardest-hit country in the Middle East in the pandemic, says its death toll rose to over 6,300 after 63 more people died on Monday. The Health Ministry’s spokesman, Kianoush Jahanpour, says Iran has so far confirmed nearly 100,000 cases.
A Swedish newspaper said Tuesday that a technology institute in Sweden has found large concentrations of the coronavirus in Stockholm’s sewage system.
The analysis by the KTH Royal Institute of Technology was made in the purification plant in Bromma, west of the capital. The institute told Dagens Nyheter, one of Sweden’s largest newspapers, that the test that can predict a second virus wave.
Since the beginning of April samples have been taken from two treatment plants in Stockholm with the purpose of monitoring how the amount of virus residues develop over time, the newspaper reported.
Initial results showed the highest virus concentration at the Bromma waste water treatment plant, which handles wastewater from northern Stockholm suburbs. At another treatment plant, an increase in the content between the first and second samples was seen.
The institute told Dagens Nyheter that the survey had quickly grown into an international research project involving six countries. No one at the institute was immediately available for comments.
There are no known cases of infection spreading through wastewater or drinking water.
Spain is adding on Tuesday 185 recorded deaths to its coronavirus fatality tally, now counting a total of 25,613 diagnosed patients who succumbed to the COVID-19 disease.
The figures, which are in line with the overall slowdown of the pandemic in the country, don’t capture thousands more who have died in nursing homes in March and April before they could be tested.
Despite the country’s limited ability to conduct tests until recently, health ministry data showed that infections rose on Tuesday to 250,000, including some 30,000 that have been identified by antibody tests after showing no symptoms or overcoming the disease.
Most new infections are happening among health workers, the data showed.
Top health official Fernando Simón said that the easing trend is clear and that the goal is now to avoid any rebound of the outbreak. He said that more than 123,000 people have recovered from the disease.
Spain has this week started to roll back from a lockdown in place since mid-March, one of the world’s strictest.
New figures show that Britain has had more than 30,000 deaths among people with the coronavirus, possibly a third more than the official count.
The Office for National Statistics says there were 29,710 deaths involving COVID-19 in England and Wales up to April 24, 34% more than the government’s figure of 22,173 for the same period. Deaths in Scotland and Northern Ireland, collected separately, push the number over 30,000.
Britain’s official death toll, which includes cases where there was a positive test for the virus, stands at 28,734, just behind Italy’s 29,079 and the third-highest in the world.
The statistics office data, which is published with a 10-day lag, includes deaths where COVID-19 is suspected, even if there was no test.
Scientists say it will be hard to determine the total toll from the disease until there are complete statistics for excess mortality during the pandemic.
Britain’s statistics office says the number of total deaths registered in the week to April 24 was slightly lower than the previous week, but still more than double the five-year average.
Authorities in India’s capital are imposing a special tax of 70% on liquor purchases to dissuade huge gatherings a day after thirsty drinkers formed long queues at stores across the country.
The new tax on retail liquor purchases in New Delhi is called the “special corona fee.” It will be effective from Tuesday.
On Monday, after some lockdown restrictions were eased, thousands turned up at liquor stores without following social distancing guidelines. This led the authorities to shut many of the liquor shops. In some places, officers had to resort to baton-charge to disperse crowds.
The ban on liquor sales formed an important component of the ongoing six-week countrywide lockdown and was meant to rein the pandemic by limiting social gatherings. The ban, however, also deprived state governments in India of tax revenue.
India has recorded nearly 45,000 cases and more than 1,500 deaths. On Tuesday, the country reported almost 3,900 new infections for its highest single day rise.
The pace of infection is growing in India and experts say the virus still hasn’t reached its peak.
The head of Germany’s national disease control center says there will be a second wave of coronavirus infections, but his country is well-prepared to deal with it.
Lothar Wieler, the head of the Robert Koch Institute, was responding Tuesday to a question about whether a planned contact-tracing app is still relevant given that new infections have slowed significantly. Wieler put the current reproduction rate in Germany — the number of other people whom one person with the virus infects — at 0.71.
However, Wieler pointed to the nature of a pandemic and said “we know with great certainty that there will be a second wave — the majority of scientists is sure of that. And many also assume that there will be a third wave.” He said that means that “this app is not coming too late.”
Wieler said that Germany’s “preparation is definitely better” for a second wave. He added that a lot has been done in recent months and doctors know more about how to deal with COVID-19 cases.
But he added: “it’s clear, depending on how strong this second wave is, certain measures will of course have to be taken again if we want to slow the wave — I don’t know how it could be handled differently.”
Germany is currently in the process of loosening restrictions imposed in March to slow the initial coronavirus outbreak.
Nearly 200 Pakistanis stranded in a nationwide coronavirus lockdown on the other side of the border in India have been able to cross back home.
Border security forces allowed on Tuesday masked passengers in private vehicles with luggage strapped to roofs to cross the Attari-Wagah border that separates the sprawling Punjab region split between Indian and Pakistan. The border opened on Tuesday for the first time since the ongoing lockdown began.
Wahid Khan, a 55-year-old from Lahore, Pakistan’s second-largest city, said he and five family members were in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh visiting relatives when the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a near-total lockdown to curb the spread of the virus on March 24. Khan said authorities were helpful and extended his family’s visas without incident.
India has recorded nearly 45,000 cases and more than 1,500 deaths. The lockdown was partially lifted on Monday to allow some employment for the millions of daily wage workers who found themselves jobless overnight and have survived only on donated food. But the pace of infection is growing and experts say the virus still hasn’t reached its peak in India.
HONG KONG — Hong Kong on Tuesday said it would relax some of its social distancing measures, allowing certain businesses such as gyms, cinemas and beauty salons to reopen and doubling the number of individuals allowed at public gatherings to a maximum of eight.
Businesses must continue to observe social distancing measures, said Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam in a press conference.
Schools will resume from May 27, with students in the more senior grades at secondary schools returning to schools first, while some younger pupils will follow suit in June.
Lam said Hong Kong’s social-distancing measures will remain in place for two more weeks, until May 21.
All Hong Kong residents will receive a locally-developed reusable mask, and each household will also receive a packet of 10 disposable masks. Schools, and homes for the disabled and vulnerable populations will also receive face masks from the government.
Hong Kong has seen no local transmissions of the coronavirus for 16 consecutive days, and its total COVID-19 cases stand at just over 1,000, with four reported deaths.
MADRID — The Spanish government says that the halting of most economic activity during April’s strict confinement shot up unemployment to a total of 3.8 million, the highest figure in nearly four years.
Altogether 282,891 people registered as jobless in April, or 8% more than a month earlier, data published on Tuesday by Spain’s Labour Ministry shows.
More than 300,000 people had already gone jobless the previous month, after authorities enacted a state of emergency on March 14 that provided the legal framework to confine Spaniards at home and deal with a pandemic that has killed at least 25,000.
The jobless statistics don’t include the millions of workers in Spain that have been furloughed or seen a temporary reduction in the number of hours that they are working.
The government wants to prolong the state of emergency for two additional weeks to May 23, although opposition parties argue that the government doesn’t need special powers during the lockdown roll back and are threatening to block the extension when the bill reaches parliament on Wednesday.
CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s prime minister still suspects the new coronavirus originated in a Chinese wildlife market despite U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo advocating a theory that it began in a laboratory.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Tuesday that he had written to Group of 20 government leaders calling for a “proper assessment” of the origins of and government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pompeo, who has backed Australia’s call for an independent review, told ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” that there is “enormous evidence” that the virus began in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The institute, which is run by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, is about 8 miles (13 kilometers) from a market considered a possible source of the virus.
Asked about the lab theory, Morrison told reporters Australia works closely with the United States and cannot rule out potential origins. But he said a wet market was “most likely” the origin of the pandemic.
China has dismissed calls for an international inquiry independent of the World Health Organization and has accused Australia of parroting the United States.
Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.