WHO boss slams ‘mixed messages’ from leaders on coronavirus

GENEVA — The World Health Organization’s chief on Monday slammed some government leaders for eroding public trust by sending mixed messages on the coronavirus and warned that their failures to stop their countries’ spiraling outbreaks mean there would be no return to normal “for the foreseeable future.”

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus did not call out specific politicians for criticism but said “too many countries are headed in the wrong direction’’ with the pandemic and some were not taking the proper steps to curb infections.

At the same time, Tedros acknowledged how difficult it was for governments to respond effectively, given the economic, social, and cultural consequences of imposing restrictions.


“The virus remains public enemy No. 1, but the actions of many governments and people do not reflect this,” he said.

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The director general’s remarks to reporters in Geneva came a day after the WHO reported yet another worldwide record of more than 230,000 confirmed cases in 24 hours. Ten countries accounted for 80 percent of the daily tally reported Sunday, and more than half of the new confirmed cases came from the United States and Brazil alone.

Associated Press

Outbreak at Japan bases roils an uneasy relationship

TOKYO — An outbreak of coronavirus cases on US military bases in Okinawa, Japan, has alarmed the island’s local population, which at times has been at odds with the Americans stationed there and has otherwise been successful in limiting COVID-19.

The US Marine Corps, which has about 20,000 troops stationed on the island, reported 94 confirmed cases to the prefectural government and said it had instituted strict measures in all 33 installations in the region.

Denny Tamaki, the governor of Okinawa, said he was shocked by the number of infections and said it was “extremely regrettable” that so many cases had emerged among US troops and affiliated personnel in less than a week. Excluding the American cases, Okinawa has recorded just 148 infections since February.


Tamaki added that he had “strong doubts” about the prevention measures reported by the United States.

The US military in South Korea also announced Monday that 11 troops had tested positive upon arrival from the United States. The US military has struggled with outbreaks among its troops, with a major cluster of infections in March on the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt.

The Japanese military, by contrast, has reported just 14 cases among its defense forces, all of whom are thought to have contracted the virus in their communities rather than while deployed.

The cases in Okinawa are a new strain on relations between the military and the local government, where the presence of US bases, dating to the end of World War II, has been an ongoing source of friction.

Citizens have long complained of noise, crime, and aircraft accidents, and have repeatedly questioned why nearly half of the 55,000 US troops in Japan — which include personnel from all of the military branches — are stationed on Okinawa.

New York Times

Mexico now has fourth-highest death toll, at 35,000


MEXICO CITY -- Mexican officials say the number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths has passed 35,000, making it the country with the fourth-highest total.

A count by Johns Hopkins University has only the United States, Brazil, and Britain with more confirmed deaths from the coronavirus. Sunday’s rise to 35,006 deaths moved Mexico, a country with 130 million inhabitants, past Italy.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador insisted the development of the pandemic in Mexico “is positive, it is good” because of the country’s 32 states only nine had increases in infections.

Deputy Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell said the number of confirmed cases rose to 299,750 on Sunday.

Associated Press

Britain, France weigh whether to mandate masks

PARIS — Amid pervasive backsliding on social distancing, Britain and France are weighing whether to require people to wear masks in public places.

Scientists say the two countries’ governments should have done so ever since they started easing lockdowns — like many other European nations did – instead of exposing their populations to the risk of infections from mass dance parties and summer vacationers who think there’s no longer anything to worry about.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged UK residents Monday to wear face coverings in shops and other tight indoor spaces — but stopped short of making it compulsory.

Critics have accused Johnson’s government of failing to provide clarity on mask-wearing in the days since he began backtracking on its previous advice that suggested face covers were not necessary.

Meanwhile, France’s government said Monday it’s considering requiring masks in all indoor public places amid signs of a small rise in confirmed virus cases – and a big drop in public vigilance.

Local mayors have already started requiring masks, notably in the Mediterranean city of Nice, where images of thousands of people dancing at an outdoor DJ performance this weekend provoked nationwide concern.

Associated Press

Pakistan bans open-air livestock markets in cities

ISLAMABAD — Pakistani authorities are banning open-air livestock markets in cities for the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, or “Feast of Sacrifice,” to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

However, people will be allowed to buy and sell sacrificial animals at the designated 700 markets, which will be set up on the outskirts of cities across the country.

Monday’s move comes as Pakistan reported 69 more COVID-19 deaths, taking total fatalities to 5,266. Pakistan now has 251,625 confirmed cases, and the decision to ban open-air cattle markets within the cities was announced at a meeting of National Command and Control Center, which supervises the country’s response to the virus.

Eid-al Adha will be celebrated in Pakistan on July 31, subject to the sighting of the moon. During the three-day holiday, Muslims across the world slaughter livestock and distribute part of the meat to the poor.

Associated Press

Hong Kong Disney park forced to close again

HONG KONG — For the second time this year, Hong Kong Disneyland Park is closing temporarily following the city’s decision to ban public gatherings of more than four people because of the coronavirus pandemic, Disney officials said Monday.

Disney officials posted on the resort’s website that the Hong Kong park was closing Wednesday until further notice. The resort’s hotels will remain open with adjusted levels of service, Disney officials said.

Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, announced new coronavirus-related restrictions Monday and urged the private sector to put in place work-from-home arrangements for employees.

Since July 6, Hong Kong has reported 250 new cases, with Monday’s tally of 52 being the highest since March.

Associated Press