The Latest: Spanish groups urge scientific response to virus

MADRID — Groups representing more than 170,000 health workers are urging Spanish politicians to base their response to the pandemic on scientific grounds rather than politics.

A 10-point manifesto by 55 scientific societies published Sunday in all the major newspapers said “decisions must be based on the best available scientific evidence, completely detached from the continuous political confrontation.”

The campaign comes after a dispute between the left-wing national government and the conservative regional authorities of the Madrid region led to weeks of back and forth before partially locking down the Spanish capital late Friday amid a surge of infections.

The manifesto also calls for less red-tape in adopting measures against virus outbreaks, for authorities in Spain’s 19 regions to abide by a set of national scientific standards that would dictate the response, and calls for stopping interference in medical decisions.

Addressing “politicians” in general, the scientists write: “On behalf of more than 47 million Spaniards, including you and your families, we have to change so much political, professional and human inconsistency.”

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

— Trump takes a brief car ride outside hospital, ignoring own COVID infection

— Biden campaign says Democratic presidential nominee tested negative for virus

— Asian shares rise as investors are optimistic about Trump’s recovery from virus

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

BRUSSELS — Authorities in Belgium are warning that the number of virus cases is rising sharply and is likely to do so for several more months.

A spokesman for Belgium’s COVID-19 crisis center says that “unfortunately, the stabilization that we had hoped for has not happened. On the contrary, we see a clear increase in the number of cases in every region and age group.”

The number of new cases reported daily over the last week climbed by 32% to around 2,100, as of Monday. Those aged 20-29 are seeing most new infections, but authorities are particularly concerned for the very elderly, with a tenfold increase in new cases among people aged over 90.

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 130,200 people have been infected with the virus in the country, which has around 11.5 million residents. As of Monday, 10,064 people were reported to have died from the disease.

Just last Thursday, Belgium dropped rules requiring people to wear a mask outdoors but they must still do so in crowded places. The government also reduced the mandatory quarantine period from 14 days to one week for people with COVID-19 symptoms who eventually test negative for the virus.

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VILNIUS, Lithuania — Lithuania’s foreign minister will spend a week in isolation after having had contact with a person from the French delegation who was infected with the coronavirus the French president’s visit to the country last week.

A spokeswoman for the Lithuanian foreign minister made the announcement.

The French Embassy in Vilnius told the Baltic News Service that two embassy staffers had tested positive for the coronavirus and they were part of the delegation.

The persons are self-isolating and the French Embassy has been closed for several days.

The French Embassy said the whole delegation from Paris was pre-tested and the results were negative before the visit.

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STOCKHOLM — A technology institute in Sweden has found large concentrations of the coronavirus in Stockholm’s sewage system, saying it “has doubled in the last weeks and is now back at the same levels as in May 2020.”

In a statement, the KTH Royal Institute of Technology said the increased number of cases of COVID-19 in recent weeks is reflected in the wastewater and thus not due to more people being tested.

“My interpretation is that this latest increase is definitely about an increased number of infected people in society,” said Cecilia Williams, a professor at the institute in Stockholm.

Sweden, which has opted for a much debated COVID-19 approach of keeping large parts of the society open, has reported 94,283 cases and 5,895 deaths.

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LONDON — Britain’s opposition Labour Party is asking the government to explain the latest problem with the nation’s COVID-19 tracing system after the reporting of almost 16,000 cases was delayed for days.

Public health officials said Sunday that 15,841 cases weren’t tabulated from Sept. 25 to Oct. 2. While all of those who tested positive were informed of the results, authorities weren’t able to trace and notify the people they had come in contact with, Public Health England said.

The government said the “technical issue” was discovered Friday night and has now been resolved. The previously unreported cases were added to the government’s daily figures over the weekend, boosting new cases to 12,872 on Saturday and 22,961 on Sunday. That compares with about 7,000 cases on each of the previous four days.

The reporting error is just the latest problem with Britain’s test and trace system, which is seen as crucial to slowing the spread of COVID-19 and reducing the need for further limits on social interaction. Lawmakers from all parties have previously criticized the government for a shortage of testing capacity and delays in notifying people of their test results

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NEW DELHI — India has registered a single-day spike of 74,442 new coronavirus cases, driving the country’s overall tally since the pandemic began to 6.6 million.

The Health Ministry on Monday also reported another 903 virus deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 102,685.

India has reported the second most infections globally after the United States, but its daily new infections are now on a downward trend, though still the highest in the world. The number of active virus cases in the country has also remained below 1 million for the past two weeks.

The country’s recovery rate stands at 84%, the highest in the world, with more than 5.5 million people recovered from coronavirus so far, according to the Health Ministry.

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MANILA, Philippines — Grade and high school students in the Philippines have started classes at home after the pandemic forced remote-learning onto an educational system already struggling to fund schools.

The shift to distance-learning that began Monday has been a logistical nightmare for the poverty-stricken Southeast Asian country that has long lacked enough classrooms, teachers and educational equipment. Nearly 25 million students enrolled this year in mostly 47,000 public schools nationwide that would have to be replicated in homes and enlist the help of parents and guardians as co-teachers.

A majority of families, especially from poor and rural communities, opted to use government-provided digital or printed learning materials, which students would read at home with the guidance of their elders before carrying out specified activities. Most lacked computers and reliable internet connections. Teachers could answer questions by telephone.

The rest of the families preferred for their children to get lessons online or through regional radio and TV educational broadcasts.

President Rodrigo Duterte has said school classes should resume only when a COVID-19 vaccine has been made available.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 73 new cases of the coronavirus, its fifth straight day of below 100. Nevertheless, officials are concerned about the threat from increased travel during a five-day holiday that ended Sunday.

The figures released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Monday brought the national caseload to 24,164, including 422 deaths.

Fifty-one of the new cases were reported from the greater capital area. The newest cluster of infections in the region is an army unit in Pocheon, north of Seoul, where more than 30 troops have so far tested positive.

The KDCA said nine of the new cases were linked to international arrivals, including passengers from the United States, Poland, Britain, Russia and Uzbekistan.

There’s a possibility that the downward trend in confirmed infections is related to the fewer tests that were conducted during the five-day Chuseok harvest holiday.

Health Minister Park Neung-hoo during a virus briefing Monday said usage of express buses and rail services declined by more than 40% during the holiday break compared to last year as officials pleaded that people stay home to help slow transmissions.

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