The Latest: WHO says COVID-19 spread in Europe accelerating

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GENEVA – The World Health Organization says there has been a “further acceleration” in the speed of COVID-19’s spread in Europe, which was responsible for about half of the globe’s new cases reported last week.

The U.N. health agency said in a weekly report published late Tuesday that European countries also recorded a 46% increase in deaths compared with the previous week. Although deaths also rose in the Americas, the rate of increase there was only 2%.

In Europe, France, Italy and the U.K. reported the highest numbers of new cases while Andorra, the Czech Republic and Belgium reported the highest rate per capita.

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

– Pope Francis urges people to follow public health recommendations

– Denmark’s prime minister to be tested for COVID-19

– India’s capital reports a record high 6,725 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours

– South Korea approves single test for COVID-19 and flu

– Hungary’s foreign minister tests positive for the coronavirus after arriving in Thailand

– Michigan’s largest county postpones jury trials until January due to surge in COVID-19 cases

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Follow AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/virus-outbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

ROME – Pope Francis is urging people follow recommendations from government and public health authorities to prevent coronavirus infections as he held his weekly general audience in private amid a surge of infections in Europe.

The Vatican announced last week that Francis was suspending public audiences and would celebrate all upcoming liturgies without throngs of faithful present, after someone who attended his Oct. 21 audience tested positive.

Francis held his audience Wednesday in his private library with around 10 priests on hand to translate summaries of his catechism lesson. The livestreamed audience is the same setup Francis used during the Vatican’s nearly three-month COVID-19 lockdown in the spring and summer.

In his opening remarks, Francis said “unfortunately” it was necessary to return to the library for the audience to prevent infections.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen will be tested for the coronavirus because she attended a meeting with Justice Minister Nick Haekkerup, among others, who later tested positive.

She attended a meeting Friday “where all guidelines for distance, etc. were followed,” the prime minister’s office said.

Frederiksen, who will be tested as soon as possible, “is currently showing no symptoms of COVID-19 and will, as far as possible, continue her work with virtual meetings,” her office said.

Several government members, including the foreign, finance, defense and health ministers, also took part in Friday’s meeting. At least five other ministers have self-isolated after another meeting Friday attended by a lawmaker who later tested positive.

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NEW DELHI – India’s capital reported a record 6,725 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, hit by its worst wave of infections since March.

New Delhi had previously reported a high of 5,891 cases on Oct. 30, averaging more than 5,200 cases a day this past week. It now has 403,096 confirmed cases and 6,604 deaths reported.

India’s overall positive caseload rose by 46,253 in the past 24 hours after dipping to 38,310 on Tuesday. The Health Ministry on Wednesday reported another 514 fatalities in the past 24 hours across the country, raising the overall death toll to 123,611.

The ministry has attributed the surge in New Delhi to the festival season and warned that the situation can worsen due to people crowding markets for festival shopping.

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SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea approved a new test that’s designed to detect both COVID-19 and seasonal influenza from the same samples, which they say would help prevent disruption at hospitals as the pandemic stretches into the flu season.

The country has struggled to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which some experts say could spread more broadly during cold weather when people spend longer times indoors.

“It’s not easy to distinguish between COVID-19 and seasonal influenza as they share similar symptoms, but this test could diagnose them both in three to six hours,” senior Health Ministry official Yoon Taeho said during a briefing.

The new test, which targets genes that are specific to both COVID-19 and seasonal flu, is an evolved version of PCR.

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BANGKOK – Hungary’s foreign minister tested positive for the coronavirus after arriving in Thailand for an official visit, officials said Wednesday.

Peter Szijjarto and his 12-member delegation were tested after their arrival Tuesday from Cambodia, but only the foreign minister was found to be infected, Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said.

He said Szijjarto, who was tested twice, was sent to Thailand’s Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute for treatment pending his planned evacuation later Wednesday by plane back to Hungary. The 42-year-old foreign minister will return on one plane and the other members of his party in a separate aircraft, Anutin said.

The Hungarian delegation was supposed to have a two-day visit aimed at strengthening ties, especially in economic matters.

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DETROIT – Michigan’s largest county is postponing jury trials until January.

Coronavirus cases are on an “upward spiral,” making it unsafe to hold trials, said Tim Kenny, chief judge at Wayne County Circuit Court.

Trials had resumed in late September.

In the Grand Rapids area, Kent County also has halted jury trials until January.

“It is important that we do not expose any people when our numbers are as high as they are right now,’’ Judge Mark Trusock said last week.

Kent County prosecutor Chris Becker said cases are piling up. There hasn’t been a jury trial since March.

“The backlog is tremendous. … They’re coming into the system, but they’re not necessarily going out,” Becker said.

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HUDSONVILLE, Michigan – A judge on Tuesday ruled in favor of local health officials in western Michigan in a dispute with a school over masks and a coronavirus infection.

Libertas Christian School in Hudsonville sued to stop the Ottawa County health department from closing the school. But U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney declined to upset the agency’s orders.

The health department said Libertas refused to make masks mandatory and had failed to supply information about a virus case involving a teacher.

“The county has established that such measures are a necessary tool to slow the spread of the virus,” Maloney said.

The judge, however, declined to rule on the school’s challenge to the mask order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration.

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