- Norwegian cruise ship passengers, crew test positive for coronavirus.
- France imposes new rules requiring outdoor masks.
- Pakistan imposes lockdown to contain COVID-19 after Eid al-Adha holiday.
- Curfew imposed in Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne.
- Philippine capital returning to lockdown as virus surges.
- Task force doctor warns COVID-19 now ‘extraordinarily widespread’ in U.S.
- Rollout of COVID-19 Alert app faces criticism over accessibility.
Norwegian cruise line Hurtigruten is halting all of its so-called expedition cruises until further notice following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus on one of its vessels last week, the company said on Monday.
At least 40 passengers and crew from the MS Roald Amundsen cruise liner have so far tested positive for the coronavirus, with hundreds more awaiting test results, public health officials said on Sunday.
“A preliminary evaluation shows a breakdown in several of our internal procedures,” chief executive Daniel Skjeldam said in a statement.
“Our own failure, as well as the recent rise in infections internationally, has led us to halt all expedition cruises in Norwegian and international waters.”
Four crew members on the MS Roald Amundsen were hospitalized on Friday when the ship arrived at the port of Tromso, and later diagnosed with the respiratory illness. Tests showed another 32 of the 158 staff were also infected.
Among the infected crew, 32 were from the Philippines while the rest were of Norwegian, French and German nationality.
While foreign crew members were tested for the coronavirus before leaving their home countries, they were not tested in Norway and did not quarantine before starting work on the ship, the company said.
So far, four of the combined 387 passengers travelling on the ship on two separate cruises since July 17 have been found to carry the virus, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) and the Tromsoe municipality said.
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The MS Roald Amundsen had been scheduled to sail around the British Isles in September, docking at ports in England and Scotland.
What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada
As of 9:30 a.m. ET on Monday, Canada had 116,884 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 101,574 of the cases as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting indicates that 8,980 Canadians have died.
Starting Monday, Quebec will loosen its coronavirus restrictions to allow group gatherings of up to 250 people. The new rule will apply to indoor spaces, including movie theatres, sporting events and places of worship. People are still asked to keep a safe distance and wear a mask.
Many Canadians are changing the way they celebrate holiday long weekends due to the pandemic. Vancouver’s Pride week wrapped on Sunday with festivities broadcast online. Only a few people took to the streets to celebrate.
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One long weekend is all it can take to spark a new outbreak, as was the case with the Canada Day celebrations in Kelowna, B.C. Indoor gatherings in the tourist hot spot were thought to have resulted in at least 130 new cases of the coronavirus in the region.
With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing people to change their travel plans, boat sales are increasing as Canadians look for ways to vacation closer to home.
“Sales are at a record high,” said Chris Perera of Kingston, Ont., who runs a website that lists new and used boats for sale across the country.
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Meanwhile, the federal government is facing criticism over the download requirements for its COVID-19 notification app.
There are complaints that some Canadians are being restricted from accessing and using the technology.
The free “COVID Alert” app, which became available on Friday, is designed to track the location of phones relative to each other, without collecting personal data anywhere centrally.
However, the application requires users to have Apple or Android phones made in the last five years, and a relatively new operating system.
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Christopher Parsons, a senior research associate at Citizen Lab, part of the Munk School of Global Affairs and Policy, says that makes the app inaccessible for older Canadians and other marginalized groups.
Marit Stiles, an Ontario MPP, says her parents weren’t able to download the app and questioned its wider accessibility for vulnerable and senior Canadians.
What’s happening in the rest of the world
In France, various communities are starting to impose rules requiring people to wear masks outdoors to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Starting Monday, 69 towns in the Mayenne region of western France imposed such rules, as did parts of the northern city of Lille and coastal city of Biarritz in French Basque country.
The new rules are on top of a nationwide decree last month requiring people to wear masks in all stores and other indoor public places. Pressure is growing on the government to mandate outdoor mask use on a national level, too, due to hundreds of new clusters of cases in recent weeks.
France has reported 7,000 new cases in the last week, after bringing the virus nearly under control with a strict two-month nationwide lockdown, and has confirmed 30,265 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began.
Pakistan’s government on Monday announced a new countrywide lockdown through Aug. 17, with grocery stores and pharmacies allowed to remain open. Mosques and churches will also be allowed to stay open, but with physical distancing and mask requirements.
The country reported one of its lowest daily infection rates for the virus on Monday as the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha was ending. But now officials want to avoid a repeat of the spike in new cases that followed the holiday of Eid ul Fitr in June.
In Australia, the streets of Melbourne were deserted Sunday night as a six-week curfew, from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., went into effect for the city’s five million residents.
Premier Daniel Andrews declared a state of disaster for Victoria province and announced new measures after seven deaths and 671 new cases were reported since Saturday. Victoria, with Melbourne as its capital, announced on Monday 429 new infections and 13 more deaths overnight.
Starting late Wednesday, non-essential businesses will close in Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, to try to curb the outbreak.
In the Philippines, health officials reported a jump of more than 3,200 confirmed coronavirus cases on Monday, bringing the country’s total to 106,330, including more than 2,100 deaths. The Philippines has the second-highest number of confirmed cases in Southeast Asia after Indonesia, and has had more reported infections than China, where the pandemic began late last year.
President Rodrigo Duterte relaxed the country’s lockdown on June 1 in an effort to restart the stalled economy, but on Monday he agreed to place the capital and outlying provinces back under a lockdown after medical groups warned the country was waging “a losing battle” against COVID-19.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said metropolitan Manila and five densely populated provinces will revert to stricter quarantine restrictions for two weeks starting Tuesday. The move will again prohibit non-essential travel outside of homes.
The United States has the world’s largest number of confirmed cases at 4.6 million, or one-quarter of the total, and 154,860 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. More than 1,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 in each of the past six days.
White House coronavirus task force leader Dr. Deborah Birx said on Sunday that the virus had entered a “new phase” in the U.S. as it has rapidly spread in rural and urban America.
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“What we are seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread,” Birx told CNN’s State of the Union as she urged Americans to wear face masks and observe physical distancing measures.