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Tuesday, August 04, 2020, 22:49
Moscow cracks down on mask avoiders as COVID-19 cases rise
By Agencies
Tuesday, August 04, 2020, 22:49 By Agencies

Persons wearing protective mask ride an escalator in the Komsomolskaya subway station in Moscow on August 3, 2020. Authorities in Moscow have issued sweeping fines for violating face mask and glove requirements in recent weeks as the city looks to enforce coronavirus safety rules. (KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP)

CHICAGO / UNITED NATIONS / BRASILIA / BERLIN / LONDON / PARIS / MADRID / BANJUL / LISBON / MOSCOW / WARSAW / MINSK / COPENHAGEN - Moscow has begun to enforce its rules on wearing masks more vigorously amid an uptick of new coronavirus cases over the last three weeks.

Police this week started issuing 5,000 ruble (US$68) fines to metro passengers in the Russian capital for failing to wear protection, state-run Tass news service reported

Police this week started issuing 5,000 ruble (US$68) fines to metro passengers in the Russian capital for failing to wear protection, state-run Tass news service reported, citing an unidentified person in law enforcement. Stores also have begun demanding customers wear masks after city hall stepped up inspections.

Moscow has had a mandatory mask policy in place since May 12, when it began easing a lockdown aimed at stemming the spread of the epidemic. While the rules on masks were relaxed on July 13, they remained compulsory on public transport, in medical centers and in shops. However, the requirements are widely flouted, with restaurants and shops full and few locals bothering to wear protection in public.

“The requirements for businesses to comply with protection measures weren’t canceled,” city hall spokeswoman Gulnara Penkova said Tuesday. Moscow continues to enforce the mask regime, she said.

The city is the epicenter of coronavirus infections in Russia, with 28 percent of the country’s total. The number of new daily cases in Moscow has steadily increased since a July 16 low of 531, and 691 new cases were reported Tuesday.

City hall has issued over 300 million rubles in fines to stores for violations of the mask policy, Tass reported last week, citing the head of Moscow’s trade department Alexei Nemeryuk.

The fines are coming as Moscow is preparing to open schools on Sept. 1. The capital has already returned to pre-pandemic levels of activity, according to a self-isolation index based on location data gathered by internet company Yandex.

Russia reported 5,159 new cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday, pushing its national tally to 861,423, the fourth largest in the world.

The country's coronavirus crisis response centre said 144 people had died in the past 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 14,351.

The situation in the country is stabilizing, though “there are no grounds for complacency,” President Vladimir Putin told officials at a July 29 meeting on preparing the health-care system for the autumn and winter.

Global tally

Global coronavirus cases topped 18.3 million while the global death toll surpassed 694,000 on  Tuesday, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.

The United States is the worst-hit country with the highest number of confirmed cases and deaths, followed by Brazil. 

Besides the two countries, other nations with more than 400,000 cases include India, Russia, South Africa, Mexico and Peru, according to the CSSE. 

A boy wearing a face mask is seen amid a demonstration by waiters and waitresses of hotels and restaurants in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on Aug 3, 2020. (ORLANDO SIERRA / AFP)

UNICEF: C. America, Caribbean kids see virus and storm threats

Across Central America and the Caribbean, the more than 70 million children impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic could soon face another threat - catastrophic hurricane storms, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) warned on Monday.

While acknowledging that displacement, infrastructure damage and service interruptions caused by storms - particularly in coastal areas - could make individuals more vulnerable to the disease and its impacts, UNICEF expressed special concern that a powerful storm could severely undermine ongoing efforts to stem COVID-19.

The coronavirus could spread easily in crowded emergency shelters or displacement sites where physical distancing would be difficult to ensure, according to UNICEF

The coronavirus could spread easily in crowded emergency shelters or displacement sites where physical distancing would be difficult to ensure, according to the UNICEF. At the same time, existing control measures like handwashing could falter if water, sanitation and health infrastructure were to be damaged or destroyed.

"This is the perfect storm we fear for the Caribbean and Central America," said Bernt Aasen, UNICEF regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Across the region, UNICEF is working to support hurricane preparedness efforts and public health responses to COVID-19 through education, community outreach and technical support.

"As we continue to take precautions to keep families safe from COVID-19, efforts to prepare for hurricane now are vital to mitigate the spread of virus among the most vulnerable communities," Aasen said.

ALSO READ: WHO chief: There might be no 'silver bullet' for COVID-19

Algeria

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune announced Monday that the country "is reviewing the possibility to reopen mosques for the public," the official APS news agency reported.

The president made the remarks during a meeting of the High Security Council attended by top military and security officials as well as cabinet members to assess the COVID-19 epidemic inside the country.

Tebboune instructed Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad to come up with a plan for the gradual reopening of mosques.

He added that the first phase of the plan will be limited to 1,000 large mosques in the country, which "will be able to allow the essential physical distancing with the imperative wearing of masks by all".

Algeria has so far reported 31,972 confirmed cases and 1,239 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Belarus

Belarus reported 84 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, taking its total to 68,250, according to the country's health ministry.

There have been 220 new recoveries in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 63,163, the ministry added.

So far, 574 people have died of the disease in the country, including three over the past 24 hours, it said.

As of Tuesday, over 1,325,000 tests for the virus have been conducted across the country, including 1,962 over the past 24 hours, according to official figures. 

Brazil

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's chief of staff, Army General Walter Souza Braga Netto, has tested positive for COVID-19, his office said on Monday, becoming the seventh Brazilian minister to have contracted the disease.

Braga Netto is doing well and has no symptoms, the office said in a statement. He will remain in isolation until a new  examination and medical evaluation is carried out, and will continue to work remotely.

On Monday, Bolsonaro told reporters he was fine and was already cured, after the president last week reported that he had "mold" in his lungs and was taking antibiotics. He did not give more details about his medical condition.

Brazil has the second-worst coronavirus outbreak in the world after the United States. On Monday, the country recorded 16,641 new cases to push its tally to 2,750,318 while deaths rose by 561 to 94,665.

READ MORE: Next big COVID-19 treatment may be manufactured antibodies

Bulgaria

Bulgaria's COVID-19 death toll has risen to 404 after a record high of 16 deaths was reported in the last 24 hours, the health ministry said Tuesday.

The previous daily record of 13 deaths was reported last Thursday.

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed infections rose by 204 to 12,159, the ministry said.

Another 264 people have recovered, raising the total number of recoveries to 6,684, the ministry said.

Chile

Chile on Monday reported that the country has tallied a total of 361,493 confirmed cases, with 9,707 deaths.

According to a daily report by the health ministry, 1,762 new cases and 99 deaths were reported in the past 24 hours.

Health officials said that 17,810 cases were currently considered active while 333,976 people have recovered.

Colombia

The Colombian Ministry of Health on Monday said the country's COVID-19 tally has risen to 327,850, with 11,017 deaths.

According to the authorities, 10,199 new infections were detected and 367 deaths were recorded in the past 24 hours.

Currently, 142,430 cases are considered active in Colombia. A total of 173,727 people in the country have recovered so far.

Denmark

Denmark should not reopen further as it battles to contain the coronavirus outbreak, its state epidemiologist was quoted saying on Tuesday by Danish technology journal Ingenioeren.

“It is not something that I can recommend from a healthcare perspective that you go ahead with,” Kare Molbak, director of the State Serum Institute, told the journal.

Denmark, which has had 577 coronavirus-related deaths, was the first in Europe to relax its lockdown in April after seeing infection rates steadily decline, but the number of weekly infections has risen in the past couple of weeks.

Last week 494 Danes tested positive, up from 246 the week before, according to data from the Institute.

Molbak, who said in May a second wave of coronavirus was “very unlikely”, replied “Yes” when asked whether Denmark should halt the reopening, Ingenioeren reported.

“There is a great deal of risk associated with it, and whether you want to run that risk from a political side, that is a political decision,” he said.

The government and parliament are due to begin discussing the fourth phase of reopening, which includes music venues and nightclubs, on Aug 12.

People wait to be tested for COVID-19 in the Gym of the Unidad Educativa Quitumbe school, which has been enabled by the municipality as a triage unit and to help hospitals that are operating at the limit of their capacity during the new coronavirus pandemic in Quito, Ecuador, Aug 3, 2020. (DOLORES OCHOA / AP)

Ecuador

Ecuador's Ministry of Public Health on Monday said that the country has tallied 87,041 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 5,767 deaths.

According to the ministry's daily report, 809 new cases and 31 more deaths were reported in the past 24 hours.

Another 3,512 deaths suspected of being related to COVID-19 were also registered.

Egypt

Egypt reported on Monday 157 new COVID-19 cases, the lowest daily increase since April 22, bringing the tally to 94,640, the Health Ministry said.

Another 23 deaths were reported, raising the death toll to 4,888, while 1,611 others were cured and discharged from hospitals, taking the number of recoveries to 44,066, the ministry's spokesman Khaled Megahed said in the statement.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia's confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 19,289 after 583 new cases were confirmed on Monday, the Ministry of Health said.

The ministry said in a statement that 26 more people have died, raising the death toll to 336, while another 330 people have recovered, taking the number of recoveries to 7,931.

Finland

Finland on Monday began piloting a new mobile app to combat COVID-19, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) announced.

The new app, which came after a previous one that started testing in June in Vaasa, western Finland, will be launched for public use in September, said the THL.

As of Monday afternoon, Finland has confirmed 7,466 COVID-19 infections and 329 deaths, according to THL. An estimated 6,950 people have recovered, accounting for over 90 percent of the reported cases.

France

A second wave of the coronavirus epidemic is "highly likely" to hit France in the autumn or winter, the government's top scientific body warned on Tuesday, as authorities seek to contain an increase in new cases over the past two weeks.

"France has the situation under control but it is precarious with a surge of virus circulation this summer. The short term future of the pandemic mainly lies in the hands of the population," the scientific committee on the disease said in a statement published by the Health Ministry's website.

French authorities have already started to tighten public hygiene rules, with cities such as Lille and Nice ordering people to wear masks in busy pedestrian streets.

France has reported 3,376 new confirmed COVID-19 cases over the last three days, the country's health department said on Monday, while the number of people being treated in ICUs for the disease is creeping higher.

The seven-day moving average for new cases has held above the 1,000 threshold for the fifth day in a row, meaning the country is experiencing levels not seen since a two-month lockdown. France's tally now stands at 191,295.

The number of people in intensive care units for COVID-19 stood at 384 on Monday, versus 371 on Friday, the second time in a week that figure has increased after declining for 16 weeks.

Another 29 deaths were recorded, raising the death toll to 30,294.

French police officers advise people to wear face masks in Biarritz, southwestern France, July 3, 2020. (BOB EDME / AP)

Georgia

Georgia confirmed three new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing its tally to 1,182.

Among the new cases, two are imported, while the source of infection of the third case has not been identified, the National Centre for Disease Control and Public Health said.

As of Tuesday, 962 people have recovered while 17 have died, the center said.

Germany


Germany is already contending with a second wave of the coronavirus and risks squandering its early success by flouting social distancing rules, the head of the German doctors' union said in a newspaper interview published on Tuesday.

The number of daily confirmed coronavirus cases has ticked up steadily in recent weeks, with health experts warning lax adherence to hygiene and distancing rules among some of the public is spreading the virus across communities.

Susanne Johna, president of Marburger Bund, which represents doctors in Germany, told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper that there was a danger that a longing to return to normality and a suppression of containment measures would fritter away the success Germany had achieved so far, urging people to stick to social distancing and hygiene rules and wear masks.

Germany recorded an increase in new coronavirus cases, with infections rising by 891 to 212,111 in the 24 hours through Tuesday morning. 

According to data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious disease, the number of confirmed cases increased by 879 to 211,281 while the reported death toll rose by eight to 9,156.

The infection rate edged lower on Monday, though it remains above the key threshold of 1.0.

Ghana

Ghana's COVID-19 cases have increased to 37,812 after 798 new infections were confirmed on Monday, said the Ghana Health Service (GHS).

Recoveries rose by 958 to 34,313 while the death toll climbed by nine to 191, the GHS said.

Currently, there are 3,308 active cases, according to the GHS.

Latvia


The Latvian government is preparing to lift some more COVID-19 restrictions, particularly in the catering sector, unless the planned resumption of in-person schooling triggers a new wave of infections, Health Minister Ilze Vinkele said on public radio Tuesday.

The phased relaxation of the restrictions is intended to help people adapt to and live in the situation where COVID-19 still remains part of their daily reality, the minister said.

Latvia's 14-day COVID-19 incidence is currently 2.6 cases per 100,000 population, which makes it a fairly safe country in comparison with many other European states.

If this figure remains stable, the Health Ministry next week will propose lifting the restrictions that were imposed in July on restaurants, bars and cafes after several COVID-19 outbreaks were traced down to people attending certain catering establishments.

Restaurants and cafes, which are currently required to close by midnight, might be allowed to remain open until 2 a.m. and the number of people allowed to sit at one table indoors might be increased to eight from four, the minister said.

If the epidemiological situation does not deteriorate after kids return to school in September, the government might also revise limits on public gatherings, increasing the number of people allowed to assemble indoors to 5,000 from the current 500.

However, if new outbreaks occur, the government will "roll back the restrictions, and this is what reality will be until we have a vaccine," the health minister said. 

Libya

The National Center for Disease Control of Libya on Tuesday reported 226 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the tally in the country to 4,063.

According to the center, up to 625 recoveries and 93 deaths have so far been reported in the country.

The capacity for testing, tracing and treating people remains extremely low across the country and continues to be concentrated in Tripoli and eastern Benghazi.

Health authorities in Tripoli have dispatched a shipment of 20,000 swabs to Sebha in response to the severe shortages of swabs for testing in the south, Farhan Haq, the deputy spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said. The UN and its humanitarian partners are at the forefront supporting national authorities with its COVID-19 response, particularly in the provision of health supplies and personal protective equipment, Faq said.

Mexico

Mexico's health ministry on Monday reported 4,767 newly confirmed coronavirus cases and 266 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 443,813 cases and 48,012 deaths.

The government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

Morocco

Morocco registered 659 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, raising the tally of infections in the North African country to 26,196, the health ministry said.

Recoveries rose by 533 to 18,968 while the death toll climbed by 19 to 401 in the last 24 hours, said Mouad Mrabet, coordinator of the Moroccan Center for Public Health Operations at the Ministry of Health, at a press briefing.

Peru

The novel coronavirus pandemic could raise the level of poverty in Peru by up to 10 percent, President of the Council of Ministers Pedro Cateriano warned on Monday.

"Preliminary projections estimate that poverty could rise between 8 percent and 10 percent. That would set the country back 10 continuous years in its fight against poverty," Cateriano told Congress, where he asked for a vote of confidence in the cabinet he has been heading since July 15.

READ MORE: COVID-19: WHO expects long-term response efforts

Lockdown measures designed to control the spread of the virus and save thousands of lives, have led to unemployment and a rise in poverty, he noted.

"This crisis could lead to more than 868,000 households not having enough income to pay for the basic food basket and services," he said.

To tackle the crisis, the government plans to spend some US$2.285 billion on welfare programs to help these families, he said. He also announced several infrastructure projects aimed at reactivating the economy.  

Peru has reported 428,850 confirmed cases and 19,614 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Poland

Poland on Tuesday reported its fourth record daily increase in coronavirus cases in a week, with more than 30 percent of cases coming from the Silesia region in the south, which has been grappling with another outbreak among coal miners.

The daily record, with 680 new infections and six deaths, comes as Poland considers introducing stricter restrictions, including mandatory testing for travelers returning to Poland and quarantine for those coming from certain countries.

More than 220 cases were reported in Silesia, where a rapid spread of infections led to a temporary reduction of coal output and work in 12 mines in June. The situation then stabilized, but has now deteriorated again.

Last week, new cases were detected in three mines, including Chwalowice, which was among those where work was cut back to a minimum in June. The state assets ministry said all 2,700 miners in Chwalowice would be tested on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Sanitary services said last week the resurgence of COVID-19 among miners was a result of easing restrictions and of the working conditions in the mines, where it is difficult to enforce social distancing.

Currently 1,043 coal miners are infected, mostly from Poland’s biggest coal producer PGG, data cited by state-run news agency PAP showed on Tuesday.

The pandemic has added to numerous problems faced by the coal industry. The government, PGG representatives and trade unions have agreed to work out a restructuring plan by the end of September.

Poland now has a total of 48,149 recorded coronavirus cases and 1,738 deaths.

Sittings of the upper and lower houses of parliament were pushed back, with the lower house meeting moving from Aug 7 to Aug 14, after one senator tested positive on Saturday. Members of parliament and senators have since undergone testing.

The government is also considering additional restrictions for weddings, officials said this week.

Portugal

Portugal reported no coronavirus-related deaths on Monday from a day earlier for the first time since mid-March, when a lockdown was put in place, and the lowest number of new infections in almost three months.

"It has been very difficult in recent times - we are very happy this happened," the secretary of state for health, Antonio Sales, said as he teared up during a news conference.

Portugal's total confirmed cases rose by 106 from Sunday to 51,569, with 62 percent of new infections reported in and around Lisbon, where localized outbreaks on the outskirts have worried authorities for the past two months.

The death toll remained unchanged at 1,738.

South Africa


Health Minister Zweli Mkhize assured South Africans on Tuesday that the COVID-19 virus has not been found in breastmilk.

Research evidence has shown that the virus is not transmitted through breastmilk or by giving breastmilk that has been expressed from a mother who is confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19, Mkhize said in a statement commemorating the World Breastfeeding Week which started on August 1.

"This year we continue to commemorate World Breastfeeding Week under the difficult challenge in dealing with the COVID-19 global pandemic," said Mkhize.

He said there has been growing concern over the possible transmission of the COVID-19 virus through breastfeeding.

Under the current circumstances, families, mothers, caregivers and even some healthcare workers in particular are worried and asking many questions whether the coronavirus can be passed on through breastmilk and how can they protect themselves and their babies, said Mkhize.

Academic experts in South Africa have established a pregnancy register to evaluate potential harm to pregnant women and/or their babies caused by COVID-19 infection, according to Mkhize.

Excellent progress has been made in studying mothers and babies who have been affected by COVID-19 and the issue of breastfeeding in the context of COVID-19 came into sharp focus, Mkhize said.

Based on these studies, mothers who have suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are encouraged to continue breastfeeding while practicing good respiratory hygiene such as wearing a mask, washing hands frequently with soap, water or hand sanitizer, and routinely cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, said Mkhize.

A baby's immune system is not yet fully developed and requires the immune protection from breastmilk, he said.

South Africa’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 have crossed half a million, its health ministry said on Saturday, while cases in Africa as a whole approached a million.

Africa’s most industrialized nation recorded 10,107 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, pushing the total to 503,290, the ministry said.

Spain

Spain on Monday reported 968 new coronavirus infections in the past day, showing a slower pace of contagion than last week when the country reported more than 1,000 new cases for three days in a row.

Cumulative cases, which also include results from antibody tests on people who may have recovered, increased to 297,054 from 288,522, the health ministry said.

The number of active clusters grew to 560 from 483 on Thursday, when they were last disclosed.

Spain aims to roll out a COVID-19 contact-tracing app across the country in September after saying Monday that a pilot showed it could detect almost twice as many potential infections as human trackers during a simulated outbreak on La Gomera, an island next to the tourist hotspot of Tenerife in the Canary archipelago.

The government aims to offer it to regional health authorities who could have it ready by mid-September, and from Aug 10 to tourism-dependent areas or places where cases are rising, said Carme Artigas, head of the state digital and artificial intelligence unit.

Sweden

Researchers from Karolinska Institutet (KI) in Sweden on Monday recommended the use of face masks to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, as their latest findings showed that cloth face masks can reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Sweden has so far reported 5,744 deaths and 81,012 infections in a population of over 10 million. Despite that, Sweden has neither imposed a lockdown -- even during the peak of the pandemic -- nor asked people to wear masks in public, quoting a lack of support in research.

A review by KI and McMaster University in Canada showed that cloth face masks provide clinically useful levels of filtration, which has the potential to reduce the spread of viruses such as the coronavirus, according to a press release issued by KI .

Tthe materials that appeared to offer the best protection were muslin, cotton and flannel, preferably in three to four layers and with a thread count of at least 100 threads per inch (TPI), the researchers said.

The Gambia

Three cabinet ministers in The Gambia have tested positive for COVID-19, the presidency said, in a further sign the virus is ripping though the corridors of power after the nation's vice-president tested positive last week.

President Adama Barrow is in self isolation for the next two weeks, the presidency said last week, after Vice-President Isatou Touray tested positive.

Now, Finance Minister Mambureh Njie, Energy Minister Fafa Sanyang and Agriculture Minister Amie Fabureh have also been infected by the virus, the presidency said in a statement late on Sunday. No detail on the state of the ministers' health were provided in the statement.

The Gambia, mainland Africa's smallest country, has recorded 498 cases with nine related deaths, the lowest totals in West Africa.

The Netherlands


Cases rose at a faster pace last week in the Netherlands compared with the seven days prior, the RIVM Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment said on Tuesday. In the week ending Aug. 4, 2,588 new cases were confirmed, up almost double from 1,329 the week prior.

Fatalities have risen at a slower pace, rising to 6,169 Tuesday morning from 6,164 a week earlier, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge will hold a news conference and announce, if necessary, “additional, regional support measures,” according to RVD, the Dutch government information service.

UK

Britain faces a second wave of COVID-19 this winter twice as widespread as the initial outbreak if it reopens schools without a more effective test-and-trace system in place, according to a study published on Tuesday.

Researchers from University College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine modelled the impact of reopening schools either on a full- or part-time basis, thus allowing parents to return to work, on the potential spread of the virus.

They concluded a second wave could be prevented if 75 percent of those with symptoms were found and tested and 68 percent of their contacts were traced, or if 87 percent of people with symptoms were found and 40 percent of their contacts tested.

“Our modelling results suggest that full school reopening in September 2020 without an effective test-trace-isolate strategy would result in R rising above 1 and a resulting second wave of infections that would peak in December 2020 and be 2.0-2·3 times the size of the original COVID-19 wave,” reads the study, published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health.

“Importantly, what we find is that it is possible to avoid a second epidemic wave if enough people with symptomatic infections can be diagnosed. Their contacts can then be traced and effectively isolated,” said Jasmina Panovska-Griffiths, the lead author of the study.

Britain's health ministry reported 938 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, the second-highest daily total since June, taking the cumulative number of positive test results to 305,623.

US

Coronavirus cases in the US increased 0.9 percent Monday as compared with the same time Sunday to 4.69 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. The increase was lower than the average 1.4 percent daily gain over the past week. Deaths rose 0.2 percent to 155,124.

Arizona, Florida, California and Texas saw declines in new cases. Californian Governor Gavin Newsom said intensive care unit admissions were down in his state but it was too early to celebrate.

Cases nationally fell for a second week in a row but rose week-over-week in 20 states, including Missouri, Montana and Oklahoma.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US government's top infectious disease expert, said in an interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association that states with spiraling case numbers should consider re-imposing lockdown restrictions on residents and businesses.

The White House is mandating random coronavirus tests for staffers after President Donald Trump's national security adviser Robert O'Brien and several others working in the White House complex tested positive for the virus last month, local media reported on Monday.

In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy reduced indoor limits to 25 people per room from 100 due to an increase in new cases in recent days

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner instructed police in the fourth-largest US city to begin issuing warnings and citations to anyone not wearing a mask in public. A fine of US$250 will be issued to those who violate the mask-wearing order.

Meanwhile, teachers at dozens of school districts protested from their cars on Monday over plans by some US governors to resume in-class instruction during the pandemic.

Separately, the top Democrats in the US Congress and White House negotiators said they had made progress in talks on a new coronavirus relief bill, though the administration said President Donald Trump could act alone if no deal is reached.

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