The Latest: France bracing for coronavirus restrictions

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Commuters wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus are reflected on a window panel as others walk by an office building under renovation in Beijing, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

PARIS — France is bracing for possible curfews and other coronavirus restrictions as hospitals and intensive care units take in more patients.

French President Emmanuel Macron will give a nationally televised interview Wednesday night to speak about the virus, his first in months. French media reports say Macron will step up efforts on social media to press the need for virus protections among young people.

France’s government has already put Paris, seven other cities and the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe under maximum virus alert, closing bars, banning student parties and capping the size of gatherings.

Bar and other business owners have organized numerous protests in response, saying they won’t survive the consequences of the crisis.

But with hospitalizations still rising, authorities are discussing tougher measures, including a possible overnight curfew in areas where infections are spreading fast. The government is seeking volunteers to pitch in at hospitals.

The COVID-19 patients occupy a third of intensive care units nationwide. France reported about 180 positive cases per 100,000 people during the last week and higher concentrations in some cities.

France has 798,000 confirmed cases and nearly 33,000 deaths.

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

— World Bank OKs $12B for coronavirus vaccines, tests

— Russia sets daily infection record with more than 14,000

— India confirms more than 63,000 new cases of coronavirus

— Lives Lost: Indian doctor embodied his family’s dreams

— Despite virus fears, Texas sends most voters to the polls

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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:

GENEVA — The Swiss army is stopping weekend leave for some 10,000 recruits for the last two weeks of October to brace against the spread of the coronavirus.

Spokesman Daniel Reist of the Swiss army says the 24 coronavirus cases currently tallied were all contracted during previous leave at home — not among soldiers — so military chiefs opted to suspend the upcoming leave.

Seven of those cases produced mild symptoms, while the others had no symptoms at all. Switzerland has mandatory military service for all young men.

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BUCHAREST, ROMANIA — Romania registered a record number of new coronavirus infections with 4,016 on Wednesday as the number of patients in intensive care also surged.

Romania, a nation of 19 million, has a total of 164,477 confirmed cases and 5,601 deaths. More than two-thirds of the confirmed cases were reported since the end of July.

The surge in new infections comes as authorities in Bucharest are considering a partial reopening of cinemas, theaters and restaurants following the recommendations of the National Center for Supervision and Control of Infectious Diseases (CNSU).

Romanian authorities ordered the shutdown of all indoor restaurants, theaters, movie cinemas, gambling and dance venues in the capital in early October. If the recommendations are approved, cinemas, theaters and restaurants will re-open on Thursday with reduced capacity, depending on the number of registered cases in their areas.

City officials have banned larger gatherings such as weddings and baptisms and may impose mandatory mask wearing outdoors.

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WASHINGTON — The World Bank says it has approved $12 billion in financing to help developing countries buy and distribute coronavirus vaccines, tests and treatments.

The bank says the aim is to support the vaccination of up to 1 billion people and to signal to researchers and the pharmaceutical industry that people living in poor countries need access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.

It is part of a wider World Bank Group package of up to $160 billion to help developing countries fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The bank says its pandemic response programs are reaching 111 countries.

Development and deployment of such preventive vaccines is crucial to helping stem outbreaks of the coronavirus that has killed more than 1 million people and sickened more than 38 million.

The world’s richest countries have locked up most of the potential vaccine supply through 2021, raising concerns poor and vulnerable communities won’t get the shots.

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has apologized to the faithful for being unable to greet them and shake hands following a coronavirus spike in Italy and the Vatican.

Instead of wading into the crowd to embrace the sick and kiss babies during his weekly general audience Wednesday, Francis walked in through a back door directly onto the stage.

At 83 and with part of a lung missing since an illness in his 20s, the pope would be at high-risk for COVID-19 complications. Yet he has been reluctant to wear a face mask and appeared without one again Wednesday, even though many of his entourage and all the Swiss Guards wore masks.

He told the crowd: “I would like to come down as usual and get close to you to greet you, but with new prescriptions, we would better keep our distances.”

This week, four Swiss Guards tested positive for the coronavirus and were in isolation. There have been 19 total cases in the Vatican. The Vatican amended its mask mandates to conform with all of Italy, requiring them indoors and out.

While Francis was seen donning a mask a few weeks ago, the Vatican has not responded to questions about why he isn’t wearing one now. Francis often seems out of breath and speaks in a whisper because of his lung condition, suggesting that wearing a mask might be particularly uncomfortable.

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GENEVA — Authorities in Switzerland are reporting a new daily record of 2,823 confirmed coronavirus cases, with young adults as the most affected demographic.

The Federal Office of Public Health says that brings the total to 68,704 confirmed cases. It recorded eight new deaths for a confirmed total of 1,816.

At a peak between late March and mid-April, Switzerland was recording more than 40 COVID-related deaths per day.

The age group 20-29 has tallied most of the new cases, while older groups were generally more affected in the early phases of the pandemic.

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MOSCOW — Russian authorities have reported a record 14,000 new coronavirus cases, the latest daily spike in infections.

Russia, which has the world’s fourth-largest confirmed coronavirus caseload of more than 1.3 million, has been reporting over 10,000 new cases for 11 straight days, The 14,231 new infections on Wednesday is the highest number since the beginning of the pandemic.

Most of the virus restrictions in the county have been lifted over the summer. Despite the rapid resurgence of the outbreak, Russian authorities have dismissed suggestions of a second national lockdown.

In Moscow, which has been reporting over 4,000 new cases every day since Saturday, officials recommended that the elderly to self-isolate at home and ordered employers to have 30% of their staff work from home. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin also extended school holidays by one week.

On Wednesday, Sobyanin said school students from 6th to 11th grades will shift to online studies for two weeks beginning Monday. Pupils in 1st to 5th grades will continue attending schools as usual.

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — For the second consecutive day, the United Arab Emirates has reported a record number of coronavirus cases, with 1,431 new infections.

The caseload brings the total number in the country over 110,000, including 450 fatalities. Recorded infections have soared in recent weeks as authorities have relaxed restrictions and resumed schools for in-person instruction. Dubai, the region’s business hub, recently reopened its airport for international travelers.

While coming amid an aggressive testing campaign, the upward trend has raised fears that authorities could reinstate lockdowns in parts of the country that rely heavily on tourism.

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STOCKHOLM — Sweden’s third-largest city has decided to temporarily make faces masks mandatory for health care workers who are in close contact with elderly.

Gisela Ost, head of administration of Malmo, the southern Sweden city of nearly 345,000, called it “an extra precaution” for when staff are within 1 meter (3.3 feet) of an elderly person.

Sweden’s Public Health Agency says for the time being it didn’t recommend face masks in public but adds “there may be situations where face masks can be useful.”

Sweden which has had 100,654 cases and 5,899 deaths, has in recent days seen an increase in cases and there have been “some worrying signs that nursing homes may begin to be affected,” according to chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell.

Sweden has opted for a much debated COVID-19 approach of keeping large parts of the society open.

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BERLIN — The number of newly reported coronavirus cases in Germany has passed 5,000 for the first time since mid-April.

The country’s disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute, said Wednesday that a further 5,132 infections and 43 deaths from COVID-19 were recorded over the past day.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is meeting the governors of Germany’s 16 states Wednesday to discuss which measures to take in response to the growing case load.

Officials are particularly concerned that COVID-19 infections might increase among older people, who are more likely to suffer serious illnesses.

So far, some 620 people in Germany are receiving intensive care treatment for COVID-19.

Since the start of the pandemic, Germany has recorded a total of 334,585 coronavirus infections, of which almost 282,000 are considered to have recovered. There have been 9,677 deaths in the country from COVID-19.

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LONDON — Health officials are scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss whether to add areas of northern England, including Manchester and Lancashire, to the highest-risk tier, meaning additional anti-coronavirus measures such as closing pubs could soon be imposed there. Only Liverpool was placed in the highest-risk category when the plan was unveiled Monday.

The discussions come as the regional government in Northern Ireland prepares to announce even tougher measures, including a two-week school closure. Northern Ireland has the highest infection rate among the U.K.’s four nations.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is being criticized by all sides two days after announcing his three-tier approach to controlling the virus.

A report released Tuesday showed that the government’s science advisers have called for tougher measures, including a two- to three-week national lockdown. The opposition Labour Party has called for that advice to be followed, while members of Johnson’s Conservative Party say the measures already in place go too far and are damaging the economy.

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NEW DELHI — India has confirmed more than 63,000 new cases of the coronavirus, an increase of over 8,000 from the previous day but still far fewer than it was reporting a month ago, when the virus was at its peak in the country.

The Health Ministry reported 63,509 new cases on Wednesday, raising India’s total to more than 7.2 million, second in the world behind the U.S. The ministry also reported 730 fatalities in the past 24 hours, raising the death toll to 110,586. The country was seeing more than 1,000 deaths per day last month.

According to the Health Ministry, India’s average number of daily cases dropped to 72,576 last week from 92,830 during the week of Sept. 9-15, when the virus peaked. Over the last month, the country has been seeing a trend of declining cases on a week-to-week basis.

On Tuesday, India registered 55,342 new cases, its lowest single-day tally since mid-August.

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ZAGREB, Croatia — Croatia has reported a steep rise in new daily infections, which reached a record of 748 cases in the past 24 hours. Four people died of COVID-19 in the same period.

Health authorities on Wednesday said anti-virus measures must be implemented to stop the surge in infections. The previous record of 542 cases in 24 hours came earlier this month.

Croatia has introduced mandatory masks in closed spaces and limited gatherings and numbers of people in bars and restaurants to try and curb the spread of the virus.

The country has seen a rise in cases since the end of the summer, when hundreds of thousands of tourist visited the scenic Adriatic Sea nation of 4.2 million people.

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LJUBLJANA, Slovenia — Slovenia has reported an increase in daily new infections, which reached 707 cases on Wednesday compared to nearly 400 a day before.

Authorities say four people have died and additional 30 have been hospitalized. Wednesday’s number of new cases is the highest in the country of 2 million people since the start of the outbreak.

Slovenia’s government is expected to strengthen anti-virus measures later on Wednesday. Officials have said the measures could include lockdown of certain municipalities, closing of bars and restaurants and gyms.

Authorities could also ban religious ceremonies and weddings in certain municipalities.

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PAGO PAGO, American Samoa — An estimated 600 residents of the U.S. territory of American Samoa were away when the governor closed its borders in March to keep the cluster of Pacific islands free from the coronavirus. Most have not been allowed to return.

The governor has said he understands the plight of the stranded residents but has to protect against accidental virus transmission by people without symptoms. He is reviewing a petition by stranded residents demanding repatriation.

But amid a spike in coronavirus cases in Hawaii, he has asked the only air carrier with regularly scheduled service between Honolulu and Pago Pago to suspend flights through November.

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