The Latest: Experts say HIV testing down in US amid pandemic

PARIS — ATLANTA — The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the fight against HIV. Across the U.S. South, clinics have stopped or limited testing for the AIDS virus and public health officials overwhelmed by demands to control COVID-19 have shifted staff away from tracking HIV patients.

Progress against the virus had already stalled in recent years. Now, health experts and advocates worry the country is at risk of backsliding, with a spike in new HIV infections because people don’t know they have the disease, aren’t aware if their treatment is working or aren’t getting a drug that can prevent them from getting HIV in the first place.

“We’re losing people who are doing HIV testing and focusing on HIV to the COVID-19 response,” said Ace Robinson, with the national nonprofit HIV eradication group, NMAC. “And that means that we’re not able to support people to maintain the care that they deserve.”

The issue is of particular concern in the South, which accounted for more than half of the country’s roughly 37,000 HIV infections in 2018 and has been a focus of the Trump administration’s goal of eradicating the disease by 2030. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fewer people in the South are aware that they have HIV compared with other regions in the U.S.

———

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

— In defiance of Nevada’s coronavirus restrictions and US guidelines, Trump holds indoor rally in front of largely maskless crowd

— To door knock or not? Candidates are evolving tactics of political campaigning in the coronavirus pandemic era

Teacher departures, some driven by health concerns, leave schools scrambling for substitutes

— First post-winter U.S. flight arrives in Antarctica, with scientists making extra effort to keep the continent free of coronavirus

— Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

———

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

MILAN — The number of new positive cases of coronavirus identified in Italy narrowed in the last 24 hours almost in proportion to the lower number of tests.

Italy reported 1,008 new positives on Monday, the first day of school in most of the country after breaks of six to seven months, down by 30% from the previous day. During the same period, testing dropped by 37% to just over 45,000, according to Health Ministry statistics.

The number of confirmed positives has edged up for the last six weeks, mostly discovered during testing of returning holidaymakers. Most are asymptomatic, although the number of people in the hospital and in intensive care units is also edging up, with 80 more hospitalized in the last 24 hours and 10 more in intensive care. Fourteen people died in the period, bringing the pandemic total to 35,624 known victims.

———

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia is imposing travel restrictions for anyone coming from the Czech Republic after its neighbor registered a record level of new confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Starting on Friday, travelers from the Czech Republic will have to present a negative coronavirus test that is not older than 72 hours or be quarantined for five days and then get tested.

Random checks will be conducted to make sure people comply with the requirements.

Exceptions include students, teachers, health personnel, some artists and athletes and some others.

The two countries that formed Czechoslovakia have closer ties with one another than with any other country.

The number of people infected in the Czech Republic in one day reached its highest levels last week with the record of 1,541 registered on Saturday.

———

LONDON — New rules preventing gatherings of more than six people go into effect in England, Scotland and Wales on Monday, in an effort to simplify directives meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

But a myriad of exceptions ensure that the public is likely to still find the rules hard to follow. For example, the rule applies to pubs but not to schools or workplaces.

The U.K. has suffered Europe’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak. It recorded more than 3,000 new cases of COVID-19 for the third day running on Sunday.

Though an increase in testing accounts for some of the new cases, it’s clear that the U.K. has seen the virus spread in recent weeks, stoking concerns about a second wave.

To try to halt the spread, authorities have tightened a number of restrictions on everyday life — and are hoping the public will assist the police in making sure the rules are followed. London’s Metropolitan Police pledged to take appropriate action, and say they will act to enforce the tighter restrictions across the capital.

———

LISBON, Portugal — Portugal’s armed forces chief of staff says 88 Portuguese soldiers deployed with a United Nations force in the Central African Republic have tested positive for the new coronavirus.

A statement Monday said the troops are well and are in quarantine at their base in Bangui, the country’s capital.

The other 92 soldiers in the Portuguese force have tested negative but are also confined to barracks.

The U.N. force includes more than 11,000 foreign troops.

———

WINTER PARK, Fla. — Police say a 70-year-old man was beaten after he asked a man who wasn’t wearing a mask to practice social distancing inside a central Florida gas station.

According to an Orange County arrest affidavit, the two men began arguing outside a Citgo gas station in Winter Park on Sept. 8. The older man paid for his items and went

The report said 24-year-old Rovester Ingram followed him outside and began kicking and punching the older man. The Orlando Sentinel reported that the man went back inside the gas station, and Ingram punched him again, grabbed him by the hair and dragged him back outside where the beating continued.

Winter Park police confirmed the victim’s account through eyewitness accounts and security footage. They found Ingram at his house.

Court records show he is charged with kidnapping/inflicting bodily harm as well as aggravated battery.

The victim was taken to a hospital for treatment.

———

PARIS — A global development agency said the world’s 20 major industrialized nations have seen their economies shrink in an unprecedented manner between April and June amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said Monday that the gross domestic product dropped by a record 6.9% in the second quarter of this year in the G-20 area.

This organization noted that is “significantly larger” than the 1.6% fall recorded in the first quarter of 2009 at the height of the financial crisis.

Between April and June this year, the GDP most dramatically fell by 25.2 in India, by 20.4% in the UK and by 17.1% in Mexico. It plunged by 9.1% in the United States.

The OECD said that China was the only G-20 country recording growth (11.5%) in that period. The organization said that reflects “the earlier onset of the pandemic in this country and subsequent recovery.”

———

YANGON, Myanmar — Authorities in Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon, are expanding coronavirus quarantine facilities as new confirmed cases rise.

The Myanmar Football Federation said work will be completed this week at a stadium to serve as a temporary quarantine center.

The Health Ministry announced 83 new confirmed cases of coronavirus on Monday, bringing the total to 3,015. It also reported six new deaths, for a total of 24.

Yangon General Hospital is expanding its wards and setting up tents to accommodate virus patients, and other hospitals are doing the same.

Myanmar reimposed tough virus-control measures on Friday, banning travel out of Yangon and grounding all domestic flights until Oct. 1.

———

BUCHAREST, Romania — Some 2.8 million Romanian schoolchildren have begun their academic year, with classes being held in classrooms, online or a combination of the two, depending on the intensity of the pandemic in a given region.

President Klaus Iohannis told children in a video message Monday that they have the opportunity to be superheroes by wearing masks, washing their hands and listening to their teachers to protect their parents and grandparents, those most at risk from the virus.

Prime Minister Ludovic Orban said he was confident that children would be safer in schools than on playgrounds or sports facilities.

Since Sept. 1, Romania has averaged about 1,225 new infections a day, slightly higher than during the last two weeks of August.

In all, Romania has confirmed 103,495 cases of COVID-19, with 4,163 deaths, since the pandemic began.

———

BERLIN — Berlin’s top health official has expressed concern about the rising number of coronavirus cases in Germany, particularly among young people.

Dilek Kalayci told public broadcaster rbb that experience showed young people could easily become “super spreaders” resulting in older, more vulnerable people becoming sick with COVID-19 too.

Germany’s disease control center on Monday reported 927 new cases across the country in the past day.

One county that’s seen the number of infections in a week rise above the threshold of 50 per 100,000 is Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria.

Locals there have reacted with anger to news that a 26-year-old American woman with symptoms had visited several local bars despite being told to quarantine while waiting for her test result.

As a result, all restaurants in the Alpine town must close at 10 p.m. for the next week.

———

STOCKHOLM — Sweden has removed Britain from its list of countries with travel warnings, allowing Swedes to travel to the United Kingdom.

At the same time, the Foreign Ministry in Stockholm said Sweden is now part of a group of countries for which the United Kingdom considers that the risks regarding the virus are lower and is no longer covered by Britain’s quarantine regulations.

Swedish authorities said the easing of restrictions implemented for Swedish travelers was taken into account when deciding to remove the travel warning for Britain on Monday.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that “this does not mean that the situation is as usual again.” It said local regulations, restrictions and requirements for quarantine that affect Swedish travelers can be reintroduced at short notice if the situation changes.

———

NEW DELHI — India reopened its Parliament after more than five months Monday even as the country continues to report the most daily new infections of the coronavirus in the world and daily virus deaths remain above 1,000.

Lawmakers must wear masks and follow other sanitization protocols, sit on seats separated by transparent plastic sheets and keep their meetings limited. The Question Hour, when lawmakers ask questions to ministers and hold them accountable for the functioning of their ministries, will not be allowed.

Opposition parties have protested the decision to do away with the Question Hour and are expected to grill the government over its handling of the pandemic, the nosediving economy and simmering tensions with China.

India’s Health Ministry reported a single-day spike of 92,071 confirmed coronavirus cases Monday and another 1,136 deaths. India has now reported more than 4.8 million infections and more than 79,700 deaths since the pandemic began.

———

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Main streets were less crowded as Indonesia’s capital began two weeks of social restrictions Monday to curb a rise of coronavirus infections that has pushed its critical-care hospital capacity to unsafe levels.

Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan announced the restrictions Sunday, to last from Monday to Sept. 27, to combat a virus outbreak he called an emergency situation.

Social, economic, religious, cultural and academic activities will be restricted, with 11 essential sectors, like food, construction and banking, allowed to operate with health protocols and 50% of usual staffing levels.

Medical facilities are filling with sick patients. Seven of 67 COVID-19 referral hospitals in Jakarta are 100% occupied, while 46 are more than 60% occupied.

Baswedan said last week the hospital capacity for isolation and intensive-care rooms has exceeded the safe limit and is estimated to reach the maximum capacity on Thursday.

Indonesia’s virus task force said more than 54,000 of the nation’s 218,000 cases of COVID-19 are in Jakarta. The city also has recorded 1,391 deaths of the nation’s toll of 8,723.

———

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported its lowest daily virus tally in about a month as it began easing its tough social distancing rules in the greater Seoul area.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said the 109 new cases took the country’s total to 22,285 with 363 deaths. The daily increase has stayed in the 100s for 12 straight days, but Monday’s increase was the lowest since mid-August.

The government on Sunday relaxed its physical distancing guidelines in the Seoul area, citing a downward trend in new infections and economic worries.

The rules effective Monday allow customers to eat and drink inside franchise cafes and bakeries and indoor gyms and after-school academics can reopen. A ban on late-night dining at restaurants was also lifted. Distancing and masks are still required.

———

CANBERRA, Australia — An Australian health official has revealed that she has been under police guard because of death threats and growing public anger over pandemic border restrictions.

Queensland state Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said Monday that she now traveled with a police escort because of the threats.

The Queensland state government has been under mounting criticism for making travelers spend two weeks in hotel quarantine when they cross the state border from other parts of Australia.

The restrictions have led to a number of high-profile incidents, including one last week in which a woman was not allowed out of quarantine to attend her father’s funeral.