Boris Johnson Dismisses Anti-Vaxxers as ‘Nuts’

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures during a Friday visit to Tollgate Medical Centre in Beckton, East London. (Jeremy Selwyn/Pool Photo via AP)

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has dismissed campaigners who oppose vaccinations, describing anti-vaxxers as “nuts.”

Johnson asked staff at a London medical center what they thought of anti-vaxxers, then added: “There’s all these anti-vaxxers now. They are nuts, they are nuts.”

Johnson was touring the east London center to promote a campaign for flu vaccinations before winter.

The anti-vaccination movement was fueled by a discredited article in the medical journal Lancet by Andrew Wakefield, who claimed the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine was linked to autism. The article was later retracted and Wakefield lost his medical license.

Here is more news from around the world about the pandemic, which has infected 15.6 million people and killed 637,000.

Spain Cites Fears for and From Farmworkers

MADRID — Spain’s farm minister says authorities are pressing agricultural employers to provide decent accommodation and transport for seasonal migrant workers, amid fears that poor living conditions are creating coronavirus hot spots.

Farm Minister Luis Planas said Friday that “infections in rural areas don’t happen on farms or in fields, they happen in transport and accommodation.”

He said that as in Germany and France, officials are concerned that the movement of tens of thousands seasonal workers spreads Covid-19. He said in an interview with Cadena Ser radio that employers must provide “dignified living conditions.”

Spain’s Health Ministry on Thursday reported 971 new coronavirus infections over the previous 24 hours — the country’s biggest daily increase since a lockdown ended.

Planas’ comments came on the same day that a United Nations report demanded that Spain improve the “deplorable” living conditions that some of its seasonal workers endure.

3-Year-Old Dies of Covid in Belgium

BRUSSELS — Belgian health authorities say a 3-year old girl has died after testing positive for the coronavirus amid a surge of infections in the country.

The announcement Friday came a day after Belgium decided to reinforce restriction measures to slow the spread of the virus, including mandatory masks in crowded outdoor public spaces.

The girl suffered from several severe associated diseases, according to a statement released by health authorities. She is believed to be the youngest person to die from Covid-19 complications in Belgium after a 12-year-old died in March.

Belgium has been hard hit by the coronavirus, with 64,847 cases and 9,812 deaths.

The average infection rate has increased over the past two weeks and the number of new infections went up 89% from the previous week from July 14-20.

German Slaughterhouse Outbreak Continues

BERLIN — The company that runs a German slaughterhouse that was at the center of a major outbreak last month says 30 employees have tested positive for the coronavirus in new tests — but most of them were old cases.

Authorities have linked more than 2,000 cases to the outbreak at the Toennies slaughterhouse in the western town of Rheda-Wiedenbrueck, which led to a partial lockdown of the surrounding area in June. Those restrictions have been lifted and the facility has reopened after a four-week closure.

Toennies spokesman Andre Vierstaedte said Friday that the 30 employees and all other workers, were tested on their return to work and sent into quarantine when the results arrived.

The company said that in most cases the employees had previously tested positive for the coronavirus and it was still detectable, news agency dpa reported. In the case of eight employees, it had yet to be determined whether they had previously been infected.

No Herd Immunity Likely

LONDON — The chief scientist at the World Health Organization estimates that 50% to 60% of the population will need to be immune to the coronavirus for there to be any protective “herd immunity” effect.

Herd immunity is usually achieved through vaccination and occurs when most of a population is immune to a disease, blocking its continued spread.

During a social media event on Friday, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said that studies done from some countries hit hard by Covid-19 show that about 5% to 10% of people now have antibodies, though in some countries it has been as high as 20%.

She said: “As there are waves of this infection going through countries, people are going to develop antibodies and those people will hopefully be immune for some time, so they will also act as barriers and brakes to the spread.”

Other experts have estimated that as much as 70% to 80% of the population need to have antibodies before there is any herd immunity effect.

In the pandemic’s earlier stages, countries including Britain proposed achieving herd immunity as an outbreak response strategy. But Swaminathan said that achieving this effect with a vaccine is much safer than letting the virus rip through the population.

She said that to achieve herd immunity through natural infection, it is necessary to suffer several waves, including the morbidity and mortality already ravaging the world.

Mandatory Mask Rules in England

LONDON — New rules on wearing masks in England have come into force, with people going to shops, banks and supermarkets required to wear face coverings.

Police can hand out fines of 100 pounds ($127) if people refuse, but authorities hope that peer pressure will prompt compliance.

The move had been controversial, with the government offering mixed signals on the matter for weeks before coming up with a policy.

Guidance was issued Thursday, which says people should “assume” it is standard to wear a face covering when visiting a hospital, care home or community healthcare setting.

John Apter, the national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said officers will be available as a last resort but that he hopes the public “will continue to do the right thing and wear face coverings in stores to help protect fellow citizens to minimize the spread of the virus.”

The are some exceptions to the new rules, with venues including restaurants, pubs, gyms and hairdressers exempt.

Other exemptions to face coverings include children younger than 11, people with breathing problems and people who can’t wear a mask because of a disability.

German Virus Tracing App Updated

BERLIN — The German government says a new update to the country’s coronavirus tracing app has addressed a problem on many smartphones that resulted in some users receiving infection warnings late or not at all.

Germany’s Corona-Warn-App has been downloaded more than 15.5 million times since its launch in June. If someone using it tests positive for Covid-19, they can inform others who were in close proximity for at least 15 minutes that they, too, might be infected.

On Thursday evening, the Bild newspaper reported that automatic warning notifications didn’t work properly on some Android phones in the first five weeks because the app’s background update function switched off automatically to save power when the app wasn’t open.

The Health Ministry said Friday that the latest version of the app allows users to activate the background update function more easily.

Humanitarian Workers Bring Covid to Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodia’s Health Ministry on Friday confirmed four new cases of the coronavirus, all members of a Cambodian military force that had been stationed in the African nation of Mali on a peacekeeping mission for the United Nations.

The three men and a woman were members of a team that cleared land mines. They were among 80 members returned to Cambodia on July 10. The four were confirmed on Thursday to be infected.

Cambodia since 2006 has sent more than 6,000 soldiers to participate in demining and engineering work in U.N. peacekeeping operations in the Middle East and Africa. Officials describe the deployments as gratitude for a massive 1992-1993 U.N. peacekeeping operation in Cambodia that oversaw a transition from civil war to political stability.

Cambodia has confirmed 202 cases of coronavirus with no deaths. There have been no recent cases of local transmission. All new cases have involved arrivals from abroad, virtually all of them Cambodians, but including two U.S. diplomats.

Indian Death Toll Exceeds 30,000

NEW DELHI — India has surpassed 30,000 deaths and its Covid-19 fatalities are now sixth in the world.

The Health Ministry on Friday added 740 deaths due to Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, increasing the toll to 30,601. The total now exceeds that of France, according to Johns Hopkins University.

India registered a record 49,310 new cases, taking the country’s tally to 1,287,945, third most in the world behind the United States and Brazil.

More than 60% have recovered.

As cases surge, the Home Ministry advised all government offices, states and officials to avoid congregations for Aug. 15 Independence Day celebrations.

South Korea Open Baseball Stadiums

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea will allow baseball fans to return to the stands beginning Sunday as health authorities outlined a phased process to bring back spectators in professional sports during the Covid-19 epidemic.

Senior Health Ministry official Yoon Tae-ho said fans will be allowed at professional soccer games starting Aug. 1. However, professional golf tournaments will continue without galleries at least until late August, he said.

Baseball and soccer teams will initially be allowed to sell only 10% of seats for each game and fans must register with smartphone QR codes for contract-tracing purposes if necessary. Fans will be banned from eating food and drinking beer, and discouraged from excessive shouting, singing and cheering during the game.

South Korea’s baseball and soccer leagues returned to action in May without fans in the stands. Seats have been covered with cheering banners, dolls or pictures of fans as teams try to mimic a festive atmosphere.

South Korea reported 41 new virus cases Friday, 28 of them local infections and 13 from overseas. South Korea has been reporting roughly 20 to 60 cases every day since it eased rigid social distancing rules in early May.

Australia Enlists Military to Trace Contacts

MELBOURNE, Australia — The premier of Australia’s Covid-19 hot spot, Victoria state, says the military will be used to bolster contact-tracing efforts.

Premier Daniel Andrews said Friday that if someone who is a newly diagnosed coronavirus case does not answer after being telephoned twice, soldiers will accompany a health official to the infected person’s home for a contact-tracing interview on the doorstep.

Anyone who is not at home will likely be fined for failing to home quarantine while awaiting a negative test result. Previously, failure to contact an infected person by phone was not followed up with a house call.

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said all states and territories had eradicated community transmission except for the most populous, New South Wales and Victoria states.

“There will always be cases that come because Australia has not completely shut itself off from the world. To do so would be reckless,” Morrison said.

Victoria recorded 300 new cases on Friday and New South Wales seven, both declines from the previous day.

Infections on Verge of Containment in China

BEIJING — Chinese officials have reported two confirmed coronavirus cases in a northeastern province as China continues to see infection clusters develop even though it has largely contained the virus in most of the country.

Authorities in Liaoning province have closed theaters, night clubs and indoor tourist attractions trying to stem further infections.

The Liaoning infections are China’s latest cluster after one in the far northwestern region of Xinjiang this month. That outbreak, focused on the regional capital of Urumqi, has infected dozens of people and officials have curbed travel and ordered widespread testing.

Elsewhere, China has largely contained the virus, with major cities including Beijing and Shanghai opening up to increased economic activity and social interaction.

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