TOKYO — Train stations and airports in Japan were filled with people over this “Silver Week” holiday weekend running through Tuesday, in a sign of recovering local travel amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The surge of domestic travel is a contrast to previous holidays, such as the summer Obon. Pressures were high for people living in urban congested areas not to visit families or play tourist in areas, where cases have been far fewer, with some regions having zero or a handful. The daily new cases of coronavirus infections in Tokyo have recently fluctuated at around 200 people. Japan does not have widespread testing and so many cases are likely going undetected. Baseball games, stores and theaters are back open in recent weeks with social distancing, mask-wearing, hand sanitizers and temperature checks.
A government-backed “GoTo” discount campaign at hotels and restaurants to encourage travel within Japan began in July, but Tokyo was left out. It’s still unclear whether that gets lifted from next month, as proposed. Travel agencies and tourist spots have started taking reservations, with cancellation guaranteed at no extra cost if Tokyo fails to quality.
A study by mobile carrier NTT DoCoMo showed crowd size at a terminal for domestic flights at Tokyo’s main Haneda airport, as well as train stations and shopping districts nationwide, on Saturday was basically at pre-pandemic levels, just a tad lower, according to Kyodo News service. It had fallen by about a third, as of earlier this month.
Japan, which has about 1,500 deaths related to COVID-19 so far, has banned visitors from almost all countries, and requires quarantine and virus checks for returning Japanese.
Silver Week includes this weekend and two national holidays, Respect for the Aged Day and the Autumn Equinox. Japanese have a reputation as workaholics because of a rigid work culture and fears about job loss, but younger and more individualistic Japanese are starting to take extended time off.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK
— Police clash with anti-lockdown protesters in London
— India adds 93,337 new confirmed infections in past 24 hours
— 2 more college football games postponed because of coronavirus
— Director of the University of Colorado’s football operations cited for violating coronavirus-related public health orders after a team practice involved 108 people on a mountain hike.
— Some Romanian families protest mandatory use of masks in school. Like other countries in Europe, the number of virus cases has spiked in recent days in Romania.
— The official Oktoberfest is cancelled in Munich, so 50 of the German city’s beer halls are hosting their own, smaller parties conforming to coronavirus guidelines.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
PARIS — Coronavirus infections tipped the scales again in France on Saturday with nearly 13,500 new infections in 24 hours. Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire is among them.
He announced Friday in a tweet that he had tested positive with no symptoms and was working during self-isolation. The high-profile Le Maire is the fourth French minister to test positive since March.
It was the second day in a row that new COVID-19 cases in France were above 13,000. The French health agency said Friday’s big jump was the result of one hospital in the Essonne region south of Paris belatedly reporting numerous cases. It wasn’t clear whether that kind of add-on effect was at play on Saturday.
For health authorities, it is clear that France needs to worry about the spread of the coronavirus, with over 1,000 clusters detected. There have been 31,274 deaths since the start of the pandemic — among the highest death tolls in Europe — and 26 deaths in the last 24 hours.
In Paris, the Prefecture de Police warned in a tweet that there will be no more tolerance for bars and restaurants where rules to counter the virus aren’t respected, like standing at counters or failing to respect social distancing. Police “are intensifying” checks that can lead to closing establishments, it said. In one Paris district, 13 establishments were formally notified that they risk being shut down and 16 others were fined, the prefecture tweeted.
WATERBURY, Conn. — Connecticut U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes says she and all of her staff will be quarantining after one of her aides tested positive for the coronavirus.
The first-term Democratic congresswoman, who represents much of western Connecticut, said in a Twitter post Saturday that she did not have any symptoms and was awaiting an appointment to get tested.
“I have been in close contact with the staffer (who tested positive) and I have worked in both my CT and D.C. offices over the last week,” Hayes said. “All of my staff has been notified and directed to quarantine and get tested. I will quarantine until I have the test and receive the results.”
Hayes says all of her staff in Connecticut and Washington will be working remotely until further notice.
PHOENIX — Arizona health officials on Saturday reported 610 additional coronavirus cases and 16 deaths, increasing the statewide totals to 213,551 confirmed cases and 5,467 deaths.
According to Johns Hopkins University data analyzed by The Associated Press, the seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Arizona rose over the past two weeks, from 575 new cases on Sept. 4 to 774 on Friday.
The increase followed the state Department of Health Service’s recent changing of its case-counting methodology to adopt an updated national standard that includes “probable” results from less-accurate antigen testing.
The counting change resulted in big bulges of additional cases Thursday and Friday as the department updated its records to include more than 1,300 probable cases from September and previous months.
Meanwhile, the seven-day rolling average of daily deaths dropped during the past two weeks, going from 32 deaths on Sept. 4 to 23 deaths on Friday.
TEL AVIV, Israel — Dozens of Israelis held a beach demonstration against a new lockdown prompted by a surge in coronavirus cases.
The protesters Saturday relied on a loophole in the national closure’s guidelines that allows people to travel beyond the one square kilometer limit if they are to participate in a demonstration. The three-week nationwide lockdown began Friday as Israel celebrates Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year.
The demonstrators gathered on the beach of the central city of Tel Aviv, wearing swimsuits, raising black and pink flags connoting various protest movements.
Some protesters carried pictures of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been the target of weekly protests during the summer for his corruption charges and failure to handle the pandemic.
Israel has largely contained the virus in the spring, but the abrupt reopening of the economy in May worsened the outbreak. The protests against Netanyahu also were fueled by business owners who say the government failed to offer proper compensation in the first lockdown.
The government decided to impose a second lockdown because health authorities are recording thousands of cases a day, with a confirmed death toll of about 1,200.
ATHENS, Greece — Greek authorities announced 240 coronavirus cases Saturday and four deaths.
The total number of confirmed cases is 14,978 and 331 deaths.
Authorities say a second monk from the same Mt. Athos monastery, St. Paul’s, has tested positive. Both monks were tested outside the Mt. Athos monastic community. Doctors say the second became ill inside the community.
The monastery, which has about 30 monks, is not allowing visitors.
ROME — The Italian health ministry reported another 1,638 new cases of coronavirus and 24 deaths.
The deaths brought Italy’s official coronavirus toll to 35,692, second highest in Europe after Britain.
The health ministry says the new cases were based on a record 103,223 tests. While countries such as Germany have been processing more than double that number in recent days, Italy has been limited at around 100,000 tests.
Public health officials said in their weekly monitoring report that Italy’s seven-week uptick in cases represented a “slow and progressive worsening of the outbreak.” However, it’s not as bad as in other European countries where new daily cases have exceeded 10,000.
LONDON — Police in London have clashed with protesters at a rally organized by opponents of restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus.
Scuffles broke out Saturday as police moved in to disperse hundreds of demonstrators who gathered in central London’s Trafalgar Square. Some of the protesters formed blockades to stop officers from making arrests, and traffic was brought to a halt in the busy area.
The rally included dozens of people holding banners and placards and chanting “freedom.”
Britain recently imposed a ban on all social gatherings of more than six people this week in a bid to tackle a steep rise in coronavirus cases.
Britain has 338,420 confirmed cases and 41,821 deaths, the fifth-highest death toll in the world, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
ROME — Pope Francis is urging political leaders make sure coronavirus vaccines are available to the poorest nations.
He says in many parts of the world, there is a “pharmacological marginalization” of those without access to health care.
Francis met Saturday with members of an Italian aid group that collects donated medicines from pharmaceutical companies and distributes them to clinics and centers helping the neediest.
Francis says far too many people die in parts of the world for lack of drugs widely available elsewhere, and political leaders must take their plight into account.
“I repeat, it would be sad if in distributing the vaccine, priority was given to the wealthiest, or if a vaccine becomes the property of this or that nation and not for everyone,” the pope said.
Francis has previously called for universal access to the vaccine.
NEW YORK — New York City’s mayor says he is confident the city will meet a revised timeline to bring public school students back to classrooms within the next two weeks.
De Blasio recently delayed the reopening plan for the nation’s largest school district for the second time since it was announced in July, citing a shortage of staff and supplies.
Unions representing the city’s teachers said it wouldn’t have been safe to open all the school sites next week.
Under the revised timeline, most elementary school students will return to in-person learning starting Sept. 29, while middle and high school students will do the same Oct. 1.
The unions had pressed for more staff and additional protective equipment to protect against the virus. De Blasio promised to hire 2,500 more teachers in addition to the 2,000 additional teachers he had previously announced.
BOULDER, Colo. – The director of the University of Colorado’s football operations was cited for violating coronavirus-related public health orders after a team practice involved 108 people on a mountain hike.
Bryan McGinnis could face a maximum $1,000 fine, city spokeswoman Sarah Huntley says. Many were not wearing masks or social distancing.
The group also violated a city requirement that groups of 25 or more people get a permit to use open space and mountain park land owned by the city, Huntley says. Public health orders limit groups to 10 people to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
CU Athletic Director Rick George says all student-athletes are frequently tested for coronavirus and all players who took part in the hike had recently tested negative. The school has reported at least 670 coronavirus cases since classes began about a month ago.
University officials have expressed regret and say they’re taking steps to avoid similar occurrences.
NEW YORK — Two more college football games on Saturday have been postponed because of the coronavirus.
Baylor’s season opener against Houston and Florida Atlantic’s opener against Georgia Southern have been affected by positive tests. Baylor says its unable to meet the Big 12 roster threshold of a minimum of 53 players available to play.
There’s now been 16 Bowl Subdivision games postponed or canceled because of virus issues since Aug. 26.
The pandemic has impacted college basketball, with the start date delayed until Nov. 25. The marquee basketball tournament on Maui has been moved to North Carolina. Meanwhile, the Pac-12 is considering getting back into fall football.
BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need for massive upgrades of school technology around the country.
Merkel said Saturday during her weekly video podcast that teachers were left scrambling to teach courses virtually when schools closed at the start of the country’s outbreak. She says that underscored how important digital media and other tools are but also exposed widespread infrastructure failings.
The German leader said: “That is why we have to push ahead with the digitization of schools at full speed. We need this as an indispensable addition to face-to-face teaching.”
Merkel says the government is committing 6 billion euros ($7.1 billion) to support the development of digital learning and infrastructure in schools. She says all schools need high-speed internet access as soon as possible and teachers need computers suitable for providing digital lessons.
Germany’s schools have reopened and students have returned to in-class learning, but officials have cautioned that the country needs to be better prepared in case virus case numbers spike again.
NEW DELHI —India has maintained its surge in coronavirus cases, adding 93,337 new confirmed infections in the past 24 hours.
The Health Ministry on Saturday raised the nation’s caseload to more than 5.3 million out of the nearly 1.4 billion people. It said 1,247 more people died in the past 24 hours for a total of 85,619. The country has over a million active cases with about 80% recovery rate.
India has been reporting the highest single-day rise in the world every day for more than five weeks. It’s expected to become the pandemic’s worst-hit country within weeks, surpassing the United States.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has faced scathing criticism from opposition lawmakers in India’s Parliament for its handling of the pandemic amid a contracting economy leaving millions jobless.
More than 10 million migrant workers, out of money and fearing starvation, poured out of cities and headed back to villages when Modi ordered the nationwide lockdown on March 24. The migration was one key reason that the virus spread to the far reaches of the country while the lockdown caused severe economic pain. The economy contracted nearly 24% in the second quarter, the worst among the world’s top economies.