The Latest: SKorea requires QR codes at ‘high-risk’ venues

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A member of Indonesia Red Cross sprays disinfectant in an attempt to help curb the spread of the new coronavirus inside a classroom at a school in Jakarta, Indonesia Tuesday, June 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 50 new cases of COVID-19 as officials begin requiring nightclubs, karaoke rooms and gyms to register their customers with smartphone QR codes so they could be easily located when needed.

The figures from the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday brought national totals to 11,902 cases and 276 deaths. At least 41 of the cases were reported from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where officials have struggled to trace transmissions linked to entertainment venues, church gatherings and low-income workers who couldn’t afford to stay home.

Since late May, the country has been reporting around 30 to 50 new cases per day, a resurgence that has threatened to erase some of the hard-won gains against the virus as people begin to ease on distancing.

The nationwide requirement of QR codes at “high-risk” venues come after a week-long trial run in the cities of Seoul, Incheon and Daejeon, where some 300 businesses used an app developed by internet company Naver to collect the information of some 6,000 customers. The government is also encouraging churches, libraries, hospitals and movie theaters to voluntarily adopt the technology.

South Korea has aggressively mobilized technological tools to trace contacts and enforce quarantines.

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

— World Health Organization expert clarifies remarks on transmission by people with virus but no symptoms

— The sudden easing of lockdown rules in Moscow has made Kremlin critics suspicious.

— The U.K. government acknowledges that not all young children will be back in school before summer break.

— Experts worry that a further surge of the coronavirus in under-developed regions with shaky health systems could undermine efforts to halt the pandemic. Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, India and Pakistan are among the countries easing lockdown restrictions before their outbreaks have peaked and without detailed surveillance and testing systems in place.

— Some cruise lines are hoping to set sail this summer even with images of coronavirus-ravaged ships still fresh in many potential passengers’ minds. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has prohibited cruises in U.S. waters through July 24. Operators in Europe and Asia could sail sooner. But most big cruise lines are using this time to upgrade their ships and figure out how to operate safely in the choppy business waters.

— The pandemic marks the debut of Chinese companies as global humanitarian donors. As the coronavirus spread, the world’s richest communist dug into his deep pockets. Jack Ma, founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, helped to pay for 1,000 ventilators delivered to New York in April. Ma’s foundation also is giving ventilators, masks and other supplies in Africa, Latin America and Asia.

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING TODAY:

BEIJING — With much of the country re-opened under safety measures, China has announced three new confirmed cases of coronavirus, all brought from outside the country.

No new deaths were reported Wednesday and just 55 people remain in treatment for COVID-19, while another 157 were being monitored in isolation for showing signs of having the virus or having tested positive for it without showing symptoms.

China has reported a total of 4,634 deaths among 83,046 cases of COVID-19 since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

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NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans is getting ready to let the good times roll in casinos and bars again — with restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.

The city was once a major hot spot for the disease caused by the new coronavirus. But the city began easing restrictions restaurants and other businesses in May.

And on Tuesday, Mayor LaToya Cantrel, outlined plans to lift more restrictions this coming Saturday. That means bars and casinos can open — although at only 25 percent capacity.

Another New Orleans cultural touchstone — live indoor music — will remain off limits.

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CHICAGO — Chicago officials have canceled summer festivals through Labor Day including Lollapalooza over coronavirus concerns.

The city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events announced Tuesday that it had scrapped all permitted special events including the Taste of Chicago, the Chicago Air and Water Show and the Chicago Jazz Festival through Sept. 7.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot says allowing massive crowds to congregate in downtown “’makes no sense” given how COVID-19 spreads. She acknowledges that it means a big revenue loss for the city, which now projects a $700 million budget shortfall.

Meanwhile, another major trade show has also been canceled.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration has ordered the closure of a small stock-car track that’s allowed large crowds to gather repeatedly for weekend races, declaring it an “imminent hazard” for COVID-19’s spread.

The order signed by Cooper’s health secretary says Ace Speedway in Alamance County, located 65 miles (105 kilometers) northwest of Raleigh, is violating the governor’s executive order limiting outside mass assemblies to 25 people.

Media outlets have reported crowds at the speedway exceeding 2,000, including one last Saturday even after the Democratic governor’s office wrote a letter stating the speedway’s actions were in “open defiance” of the health restrictions.

The action came after Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson announced on Monday he wouldn’t issue a misdemeanor citation to the speedway.

“North Carolinians are making huge sacrifices to protect their families and neighbors. This virus is highly contagious and very dangerous,” Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said in a news release Tuesday. “Bad actors who flagrantly violate public health orders put all of our families and loved ones at risk.”

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CONCORD, N.H. — How do you keep the members of a generously sized legislative body far enough apart to help contain the coronavirus, but still fit in one room?

The answer in famously well-represented New Hampshire: A hockey arena.

The 400 members of the House of Representatives plan to gather Thursday at Durham’s Whittemore Center Arena, home of the University of New Hampshire hockey team. It will be the first session since lawmakers suspended work in March as the pandemic bore down.

The chamber had to get creative to make sure its members are seated 6 feet apart to avoid infections.

Chairs now cover the arena floor, which at this time of year is free of ice. They will roughly correspond to the Statehouse seating arrangement. Anyone who cannot wear a mask for health reasons will be seated in a separate section. A different section is planned for people who refuse to wear one.

If duplicated at the federal level, the New Hampshire chamber’s ratio of representatives to residents would give the U.S. House of Representatives about 97,000 members.

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration has ordered the closure of a small stock-car track that’s allowed large crowds to gather repeatedly for weekend races, declaring it an “imminent hazard” for COVID-19’s spread.

The order signed by Cooper’s health secretary says Ace Speedway in Alamance County, located 65 miles (105 kilometers) northwest of Raleigh, is violating the governor’s executive order limiting outside mass assemblies to 25 people.

Media outlets have reported crowds at the speedway exceeding 2,000, including one last Saturday even after the Democratic governor’s office wrote a letter stating the speedway’s actions were in “open defiance” of the health restrictions.

The action came after Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson announced on Monday he wouldn’t issue a misdemeanor citation to the speedway.

“North Carolinians are making huge sacrifices to protect their families and neighbors. This virus is highly contagious and very dangerous,” Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said in a news release Tuesday. “Bad actors who flagrantly violate public health orders put all of our families and loved ones at risk.”

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SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele is again locked in battle with the country’s Supreme Court after its constitutional chamber ruled his government’s obligatory stay-at-home decree was unconstitutional.

The court suspended its ruling late Monday for four days to allow the Legislative Assembly to pass legislation that would give the government decree a legal foundation. But Bukele lashed out on Twitter early Tuesday, saying, “The court has just ordered us to murder dozens of thousands of Salvadorans within five days.”

Bukele has clashed repeatedly with the court and Legislative Assembly over his aggressive measures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in El Salvador. He has used the military and police to keep people off the streets for months.

The president’s popularity and approval ratings for his handling of the crisis remain impressively high, giving him little incentive to heed complaints that he is trampling the Constitution.

In question this time is the Health Ministry’s June 3 decree that extended the obligatory home quarantine to June 15. Residents are only allowed to go out to buy food at times determined by their national ID numbers.

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LONDON — The British government has confirmed that shops in England will be allowed to reopen on Monday in the latest easing of its coronavirus lockdown.

Just hours after the government scrapped the goal of getting all primary school children back into classroom by the summer, Business Secretary Alok Sharma said plans to reopen a crucial part of the economy had received the go-ahead.

Sharma said Tuesday that nonessential shops such as department stores and electronics retailers only will be allowed to open if they have completed a COVID-19 risk assessment and can implement social-distancing measures that keep customers 2 meters (6-1/2 feet) apart.

He says businesses such as pubs, restaurants and hairdressers will remain shut until July 4 at the earliest.

Sharma said reopening shops is the “latest step in the careful restarting of our economy and will enable high streets up and down the country to spring back to life.”

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PRAGUE — Hundreds of people have rallied in the Czech capital against Prime Minister Andrej Babis and his government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Wearing face masks and keeping a distance from one another in line with social distancing guidelines, the protesters filled the picturesque Old Town Square in the heart of Prague on Tuesday.

They protested what they said was insufficient help for the country’s struggling economy and the government’s handling of the public health emergency.

The organizers said protests also were held in 167 other locations.

They pledged to do all they can till next year’s parliamentary election to help oust Babis from power.

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UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. secretary-general is calling for immediate action to avoid a “global food emergency,” saying more than 820 million people are hungry, about 144 million children under the age of 5 have stunted growth, and the COVID-19 pandemic is making things worse.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said there is more than enough food to feed the world’s 7.8 billion people, but “our food systems are failing.”

He launched a policy briefing on the impact of COVID-19 on food security and nutrition on Tuesday, saying around 49 million more people may fall into extreme poverty because of the pandemic.

The U.N. chief warned: “The number of people who are acutely food or nutrition insecure will rapidly expand.”

Guterres said food and nutrition services must be designated as essential, and food workers must be protected.

He said countries must ensure access “to safe, nutritious foods, particularly for young children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, older people and other at-risk groups.”

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MADRID — The Spanish Cabinet has approved a decree that will govern life in the coronavirus era after Spain’s confinement rules are left behind on June 21.

The decree still needs parliamentary approval. It includes continuing to make face masks mandatory for everyone over age 6 on public transportation and in public spaces where a minimum distance of 1.5 meters (5 feet) can’t be maintained.

The new regulations also specify that nursing homes must have constant coordination with regional health authorities. Most of Spain’s official tally of 27,000 virus-related deaths involved nursing homes.

Health Minister Salvador Illa says that he trusts that with the current level of infections the whole country could go into what the government is referring to as “new normality” on June 21. He said the new rules will remain as long as the health crisis prevails.

A new cluster of 24 cases emerged this week in two hospitals in the northern Basque region. Medical workers, patients and visitors are among those who were sickened.

Spain has recorded more than 240,000 confirmed cases of the new virus.

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ROME — The majority of Italy’s regions continued to register a handful of or fewer new coronavirus infections over a 24-hour period.

Overall, the nation had 283 confirmed new cases registered on Tuesday, with two-thirds of those occurring in Lombardy, the northern region where Italy’s COVID-19 outbreak exploded in late February.

Italy now counts 235,561 confirmed cases in the pandemic, although experts say the number is certainly higher since many with mild symptoms of COVID-19 never received testing.

According to Health Ministry figures released Tuesday evening, Italy has 34,043 deaths of people with confirmed COVID-19 infections, although many ill residents who perished in nursing homes or elderly persons who died in their own homes didn’t get tested.

There were 79 deaths registered on Tuesday, but 32 of them referred to preceding periods and not in the last day, the Italian civil protection agency said. Italy’s number of new cases has been dramatically lower in recently weeks compared to the first weeks of the outbreak, prompting the government to lift travel restrictions between regions last week.

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GENEVA — A top World Health Organization expert has tried to clear up “misunderstandings” about comments she made that were widely understood to suggest that people without COVID-19 symptoms rarely transmit the coronavirus.

Maria Van Kerkhove, the U.N. health agency’s technical lead on the virus pandemic, insisted Tuesday that she was referring only to a few studies, not a complete picture, in the comments she made Monday. .

Van Kerkhove’s remarks on Monday raised confusion and questions among outside experts and health officials who have recommended and in some places required that people wear masks to try to prevent the virus from spreading.

The “clarification” she provided during a WHO social-media chat showed many questions remain about whether infected people who don’t show symptoms of illness such as fever, dry cough or difficulty breathing can transmit the virus to others.

Van Kerkhove said: “What I was referring to yesterday were very few studies, some two or three studies that have been published, that actually try to follow asymptomatic cases.”

“That’s a very small subset of studies,” she continued. “I used the phrase ‘very rare,’ and I think that that’s (a) misunderstanding to state that asymptomatic transmission globally is very rare. What I was referring to was a subset of studies.”

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PARIS — The chief prosecutor of Paris has opened a preliminary investigation of alleged criminal negligence by French government agencies for their handling of the coronavirus crisis.

In a written statement Tuesday, Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said 62 legal complaints alleging misconduct have been filed by individuals as well as trade unions and associations.

Heitz says the complaints focus on the criminal offenses of “endangering the life of others, failing to help someone in danger, voluntary abstention to fight a dangerous disaster, manslaughter and unintentional injuries.”

Some other legal complaints have been filed across France against care homes and are being investigated locally.

France has recorded the deaths of over 14,000 care home residents, or nearly half of the country’s total reported pandemic death toll of 29,209.

More than 70 complaints specifically targeting the government have been filed before the Court of Justice of the Republic, the French court in charge of offenses committed by sitting ministers.

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MADRID — The Spanish government says authorities in Morocco and other countries share its concern that the more than 3 million residents of Europe who visit North Africa every summer could contribute to a dangerous spread of the new coronavirus.

Government spokeswoman María Jesús Montero says Spain is discussing with other governments how to best approach public health and the passenger ferries that turn the Strait of Gibraltar into a busy gateway to and from Africa.

Montero said at the end of a weekly Spanish Cabinet briefing on Tuesday: “Africa is a vulnerable continent with quite a lot of poverty and a total absence of a health system.”

Over 3.3 million people, most of them Moroccans residing in Spain, France, Belgium, Netherlands and Italy, traveled last year in some 760,000 vehicles to visit relatives and friends back home during the summer holiday.

The southern Spanish port of Algeciras and northern Morocco’s Tangier, where Europe and Africa come closest, see most of the ferry traffic.

While countries around the world closed their borders to foreigners to keep out the virus, Morocco also barred its own citizens from returning home.

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