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The Latest: Thailand worries about weekend holiday trips

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BANGKOK — Thai authorities are urging vigilance as the country celebrates its first long holiday weekend after lifting most COVID-19 restrictions.

The break will see Thais returning en masse to their rural family homes from the cities where many work.

A spokesman for the COVID-19 center, Taweesin Witsanuyothin, said the risk of spreading the virus during the weekend “is our real concern.”

The Transport Ministry says it’s preparing for 7.6 million people traveling between provinces.

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As part of the easing of restrictions, Bangkok’s elevated Skytrain no longer requires that sitting passengers keep an empty seat between them and that all keep a meter (3.2 feet) from each other.

Thailand has had 3,180 confirmed cases of COVID-19 including 58 deaths. For more than five weeks, the small number of new cases has been limited to infected Thais returning from abroad.

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

— Confirmed coronavirus cases are rising in 40 of 50 states

Kim Jong Un urges North Koreans to keep up virus fight

South Africa’s hospitals bracing for surge of virus patients

Pubs in England can reopen on Saturday for the first time since they were closed on March 20 as part of the coronavirus lockdown. Those that reopen will have to make sure they are safe for staff and customers alike.

— With coronavirus-related restrictions being eased and temperatures climbing, people are flocking back to the Jersey Shore. And with the July Fourth holiday on the horizon, that’s making some people nervous.

— Nearby South American countries are grappling with uncontrolled spread of the novel coronavirus, but Paraguay appears to be controlling the disease. It’s had just a few thousand confirmed cases and a few dozen deaths.

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

LONDON — British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says anyone arriving to England from around 60 countries or overseas territories will not have to self-quarantine for 14 days from July 10.

Shapps confirmed on BBC radio that four countries — France, Germany, Italy and Spain — will be on that initial list. The United States will remain on the “red list” because of still high levels of coronavirus infections.

Other countries where travelers will not face a requirement to quarantine on their return are expected to include a number of European nations and the likes of New Zealand, which reduced the incidence of the coronavirus dramatically.

The full list is expected to be published later.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson Johnson said that “it’s right we should open up cautiously” and that the U.K. cannot have infections from abroad.

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TOKYO — Japan’s capital has reported 124 new coronavirus cases, exceeding 100 for the second straight day, as the governor asked residents to stay away from night spots linked to half of all infections.

Gov. Yuriko Koike said the increase reflected a larger number of people proactively taking tests, but she did raise concern about a significant number of untraceable cases.

She says, “We need to raise our caution against the further spread of the infections and to prepare for a second wave.”

The latest rise began in late June, weeks after Japan lifted a state of emergency that allowed Tokyo to gradually return to business.

Koike said the majority of recent cases were younger people in their 20s and 30s linked to nightlife establishments. She urged them to avoid such spots or choose places with adequate safety measures.

Koike said closing businesses is a possibility if another emergency is declared, but it would apply to specific establishments or districts instead of the entire prefecture.

Japan has had 19,068 cases with 976 deaths. Tokyo accounts for about a third of the total.

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ISLAMABAD — The U.S. government has donated 100 ventilators to Pakistan to help the country respond to COVID-19.

The U.S. Embassy says the ventilators deliver on President Donald Trump’s “generous offer of these critically needed supplies.” The new ventilators are valued at $3 million.

The announcement comes days after Pakistan said it had started producing locally designed ventilators. The government now says it has enough ventilators to tackle the crisis.

Pakistan reported 78 more deaths from the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, raising virus-related fatalities to 4,551.

Pakistan has had 221,896 confirmed cases of the virus and new infections have begun decreasing amid reduced testing.

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JOHANNESBURG — South Africa on Friday confirmed another record high number of daily virus cases with 8,728 as anxiety grows in Johannesburg, the country’s latest hot spot.

The city has more than 22,000 cases and Gauteng province, which also includes the capital, Pretoria, now has nearly 30% of the country’s cases.

South Africa has Africa’s most confirmed cases with more than 168,000.

The country has the most developed health care system in sub-Saharan Africa and in places it’s already pushed near the limit, with more than 2,000 health care workers infected and beds in Gauteng’s public hospitals filling up.

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NEW DELHI — India reported another single-day record high of new virus cases Friday while its monuments like the Taj Mahal will reopen for tourists next week.

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The 20,903 new cases took the national total to 625,544. The Health Ministry also reported another 379 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking fatalities up to 18,213.

With the current rate of infections, India is expected to surpass Russia’s 660,000 cases in coming days and become the third worst-hit country after the United States and Brazil. It has the eighth-most fatalities in the world, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally, but both numbers are thought to be far higher than has been confirmed around the world.

After a strict two-month lockdown, India has eased its restrictions in most of the country except for the highest-risk areas.

The Culture Ministry decided to reopen all monuments Monday with a cap on the number of visitors and mandatory masks.

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AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas GOP is moving ahead with a three-day convention in Houston, one of the nation’s coronavirus hotspots, over opposition from doctors and some local party activists.

Party leaders voted Thursday night to stick with an in-person gathering starting July 16. The event is typically one of the largest political conventions in America, drawing thousands of attendees, and some supporters suggested that changing plans is not what President Donald Trump would want.

The vote came hours after Republican Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statewide mask order as COVID-19 hospitalizations in Texas set another high Thursday. Hospitals in Houston have warned they are becoming stretched and the Texas Medical Association has called for cancelling the convention, saying now was not the time to pack thousands of people indoors.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, has left the decisions about the convention up to the GOP. Abbott has also not taken a position on whether his party should go forward with meeting in person.

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Australian authorities are considering locking down more suburbs in Melbourne, where 66 new coronavirus cases were reported.

Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said suburbs with more than five cases and a high infection rate could be added to the 36 suburbs that have been locked down since Wednesday.

Sydney, Australia’s largest city, said a man who recently tested positive had been working in a Balmain supermarket.

Around 50 supermarket staff have gone into isolation. Health authorities have urged people who have visited the supermarket and show symptoms to be tested.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 63 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 as health authorities scramble to mobilize public health tools to the southwestern city of Gwangju, where more than 50 people were found sickened over the past week.

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The figures announced by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday brought the national caseload to 12,967 infections, including 282 deaths.

Thirty-one of the new cases were reported from the Seoul metropolitan area, which has been at the center of a virus resurgence since late May.

Six of the new cases came from Gwangju, where officials have raised concern over possible shortages in hospital capacities, while 13 of them came from the southeastern city of Daegu, which had been the epicenter of a major outbreak in February and March.

The municipal government of Gwangju, which had one of the smallest caseloads among major South Korean cities before this week, has shut hundreds of schools and banned gatherings at wedding halls, banquet facilities and senior welfare centers to stem the transmissions.

Neighboring provinces are providing dozens of hospital beds and planning to send medical personnel to help Gwangju deal with the spike of infections.

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SEOUL, South Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un urged officials to maintain alertness against the coronavirus, warning that complacency risked “unimaginable and irretrievable crisis,” state media said Friday.

Despite the warning, Kim reaffirmed North Korea’s claim to not have had a single case of COVID-19, telling a ruling party meeting Thursday that the country has “thoroughly prevented the inroad of the malignant virus” despite the worldwide health crisis.

Outsiders widely doubt North Korea escaped the pandemic entirely.

Describing its anti-virus efforts as a “matter of national existence,” North Korea earlier this year shut down nearly all cross-border traffic, banned tourists and mobilized health workers to quarantine anyone with symptoms. Experts say the country’s self-imposed lockdown is hurting an economy already battered by stringent U.S.-led sanctions over its nuclear weapons and missile program.

The Korean Central News Agency said Kim during the politburo meeting of the Workers’ Party “stressed the need to maintain maximum alert without a slight self-complacence or relaxation” as the virus continues to spread in neighboring countries.

The agency said Kim sharply criticized inattentiveness among officials and violations of emergency anti-virus rules and warned that a “hasty relief of anti-epidemic measures will result in unimaginable and irretrievable crisis.”

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