WASHINGTON — The White House is again rejecting calls for a national mask-wearing mandate.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows says in an appearance on “Fox and Friends” Monday morning that the president sees the issue as a “state-to-state” matter.
He says that, “certainly a national mandate is not in order” and that “we’re allowing our local governors and our local mayors to weigh in on that.”
New Jersey’s Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy has said he’d like to see a national strategy on the coronavirus, including a mask requirement. He says his state is seeing “small spikes in reinfection” from residents coming back from Florida, South Carolina and other virus hotspots, and the U.S. is “as strong as our weakest link right now.”
Vice President Mile Pence has also rejected the idea of a national mandate, saying that’s up to governors and local health officials.
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Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel has weighed into the country’s debate over wearing masks in public, after some governors suggested ending the requirement.
Merkel’s spokesman told reporters in Berlin on Monday that “the chancellor and the whole German government has a very clear stance on this,” saying that masks are an “indispensable means” of keeping infections low.
“Whether on the bus, in the subway or in stores, the requirement to wear masks should remain,” Steffen Seibert said.
He said the wearing of simple masks, which have been shown to reduce virus-carrying droplets exhaled by the wearer, is part of the trade-off for being able to travel freely again.
The general secretary of Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union, Paul Ziemiak, laid out his party’s position more bluntly Monday, telling reporters at a news conference: “Wearing masks is sexy.”
MADRID — Health experts say that only one in 20 residents in Spain has been exposed to the new coronavirus, according to the final results of a nationwide survey on the prevalence of antibodies released Monday.
The final round of the random blood tests has confirmed that antibodies were present in 5.2% of the more than 68,000 participants surveyed three times over the past three months. The sample is meant to be representative of the country’s 47 million residents.
Only residents in hard-hit nursing homes and patients at hospitals have been excluded from the survey because, according to the experts, separate specific research would be needed to map the impact there.
Marina Pollán, director of the National Epidemiological Center, said the results confirm that Spain is far from having developed the “herd immunity” that scientists had hoped for as a shield for future spread of the virus.
She also said that the fact that there has been no significant change from previous versions of the survey was a result of the strict lockdown that kept most Spaniards at home for over two months.
As in the previous two rounds, important differences have been detected between regions depending on whether they were more or less hit by the pandemic, with the area around the Spanish capital and the provinces of Soria and Segovia showing more than 11.7% of infections. The Balearic and Canary islands had under 2% of prevalence, according to the survey, which found no significant differences based on gender, age, nationality or income.
Partial lockdowns were brought back over the weekend to two northern counties after significant spikes in infections. Spain has recorded at least 28,300 deaths with the new coronavirus.
BERLIN — A German company working on a potential vaccine for COVID-19 is to get a 75 million-euro ($84 million) loan from the European Investment Bank.
CureVac said Monday that the loan will support its development of vaccines, including the one against the coronavirus, and help it speed up the completion of a new production site in Tuebingen, Germany. The loan will be paid out in three tranches.
Last month, the German government said it was taking a 23% stake in CureVac via a 300 million-euro investment by the state-owned KfW development bank. That decision underlined its determination to keep key industries in the country.
BERLIN — The Austrian government says the number of people with active cases of COVID-19 has risen above 1,000 for the first time since mid-May.
The Health Ministry’s official dashboard listed 1,012 people “currently ill” on Monday and a total of 18,279 positive cases since the start of the pandemic.
The Alpine country was one of the first in Europe to order a swift lockdown, but has gradually reopened again in recent months.
Over the weekend, Austrian media reported small outbreaks of coronavirus cases at three slaughterhouses.
ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s government has announced that direct flights from the United Kingdom to all airports in Greece can resume on July 15.
Government spokesman Stelios Petsas said Monday the decision was made “in cooperation with the British government and after the recommendation of experts.” Greece had previously banned all flights from Britain due to the extent of the coronavirus spread there.
Britons are among the top tourist visitors to Greece, and the country is eager to ensure it can salvage whatever it can from this year’s summer tourism season. The sector accounts for around 20% of Greece’s economy.
Direct flights from Sweden have also been banned until at least July 15. Petsas said Greece was still “watching the epidemiological data” from Sweden, and would make announcements depending on how the situation there evolves.
MADRID — Traffic controls are in place Monday into and out of two northern Spanish counties that have renewed lockdowns to contain significant spikes in coronavirus infections.
The restrictions to leave or enter these areas unless it’s for work or extenuating reasons affect some 70,000 residents in the northwestern county of A Mariña, in the northern Atlantic coast, and over 200,000 in northeastern Catalonia’s Segrià county around Lleida.
The latter is particularly worrying because it affects migrant laborers harvesting fruit who are considered highly vulnerable to contagion.
Catalonia’s regional health authorities are warning that residents could be asked to stay at home if the outbreak there doesn’t subside.
The small-scale lockdowns come two weeks after Spain ended a national state of emergency that enable the national government to lock down the entire country and prohibit travel between provinces or certain areas since mid-March.
Over 28,000 people are confirmed to have died from the virus in Spain.
PAMPLONA, Spain — Residents in Spain’s northern Pamplona are dressing up in white clothes and donning a traditional red scarf in a nostalgic move to mark that their annual San Fermin festival has been canceled this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Known for the races with bulls running along cobbled streets, the festival was popularized by Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel “The Sun Also Rises” and was last called off during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.
With more than 28,000 deaths for the novel virus and an economy in the doldrums following a strict nationwide lockdown, local authorities say there is little to celebrate.
Some 400 people gathered at noon on Monday at a central square where in normal times more than 12,000 would witness the launch of a rocket known as “Chupinazo” to open the nine-day festival, bathing each other with red wine and champagne.
Instead of the rocket, a large sign from the city hall’s facade displayed the slogan #WeWillExperienceThem, which is meant to invite locals and the hundreds of thousands of visitors that Pamplona usually hosts to come back for next year’s celebrations.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Children 6 years old and above must wear masks at school, while children of all ages will undergo temperature checks at school gates, cannot participate in festivals, concerts or field trips and must be spaced 1.5 meters apart in classrooms, according to new guidelines issued by Dubai for private schools when they reopen.
Teachers, who must also wear some form of masks, are encouraged to use clear face shields that show their facial expressions, but meetings with parents should be held online.
Only one parent, wearing a mandatory mask, is allowed to drop off and pick up their children with staggered timings to avoid crowding. Students’ bags and shoes must be sprayed with sanitizer when arriving at school, while common areas and shared computers must be sanitized throughout the day.
In addition to designating an isolated room for suspected cases of the virus, schools will not be allowed to open their pools or hold sports tournaments, and showers and changing rooms must remain closed.
Schools in Dubai were closed to students in March due to the coronavirus. Most students in Dubai, who are majority foreigners, attend private schools and will be impacted by the guidelines issued Sunday.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s Minister of State for Health Zafar Mirza tested positive for the coronavirus, the latest high profile government minister to contract the virus.
Foreign Minister Moahmood Qureshi announced Friday that he too tested positive for the virus.
The two men say their symptoms are mild. In a tweet on Monday, Mirza said he is self-isolating.
Pakistan has recorded 231,813 infections and 4,762 deaths. Prime Minister Imran Khan has refused to impose strict lockdowns, easing many restrictions, but ordering people to wear masks and social distance, though most people, especially among the poor and in the congested cities are not able to keep their distance.
The government has sealed hundreds of markets throughout the country where large numbers of infections have been discovered.
BERLIN — Germany’s MTU Aero Engines says it plans to cut staffing by 10-15% by the end of next year due to the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on aviation.
The Munich-based engine manufacturer said Monday that the reduction in “personnel capacities” will be carried “largely through individual agreements” such as the increased use of partial and early retirement. It will also use measures already initiated such as an extensive hiring freeze and a reduction in work hours.
CEO Reiner Winkler said in a statement that it will be years before air traffic returns to pre-crisis levels. He said that the company has “no interest in compulsory redundancies” and will coordinate its approach with its employee council.
The company had more than 10,000 employees as of last year.
LONDON — The British government has announced a big pot of money to help the country’s renowned arts and cultural institutions recover from the coronavirus pandemic, after some theaters and music venues warned that without support they might never open again.
The 1.57 billion-pound ($1.96 billion) package for museums, galleries, theaters, cinemas, heritage sites and music venues includes almost 900 million pounds in grants and more than 200 million pounds in loans.
Details of how the money will be distributed have not been released, but leaders of arts organizations breathed a sigh of relief. Tamara Roja, artistic director of the English National Ballet, said “this package gives our sector a fighting chance of survival.”
Some U.K. arts institutions are starting to open their doors after more than three months of lockdown, starting with the National Gallery in London, which reopens Wednesday.
But theaters and concert venues have not been told when they can admit audiences, and several have already announced they will close permanently.
BERLIN — Calls to drop rules in Germany requiring people to wear masks in shops are being rejected by the country’s health minister and other senior politicians.
German states, which are responsible for setting and lifting lockdown rules, made masks on public transport and in shops compulsory in late April. On Sunday, the state economy minister in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania — the state least affected by the coronavirus pandemic — said he sees no need to keep the rule in shops if infections remain so low.
Health Minister Jens Spahn told Deutschlandfunk radio on Monday that it’s important “not to be too careless.”
He added: “I totally understand the wish to return to everyday life as it was before, I understand the impatience — wearing masks isn’t always pleasant. But we see that in enclosed spaces in particular, and where a minimum distance isn’t always ensured, everyday masks can make a difference.”
The co-leader of the Social Democrats, the junior partner in the national coalition government, said he and Chancellor Angela Merkel agree that the mask-wearing rule should stay. Norbert Walter-Borjans told the Bild daily that “we should exercise caution here.”
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