Pakistani authorities have imposed a lockdown in the southern Sindh province amid an alarming increase in COVID-19 cases
The lockdown began Saturday and is set to last until Aug. 8, despite opposition from the federal government and the local business community.
Sindh’s chief minister Murad Ali Shah said Friday that a sudden rise in virus cases has flooded hospitals in Karachi, the provincial capital. The new surge appears linked to many of the crowd-attracting activities earlier this month during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
The Sindh provincial government is closing all markets, except for pharmacies, bakeries, gas stations and grocery stores, which still must close by 6 p.m. All transport between cities is halted and public busses aren’t operating. Private cars and taxis are limited to two people.
Ongoing examinations at schools and universities are also postponed until after the lockdown.
Nationwide, Pakistan on Saturday reported 65 deaths and 4,950 new virus cases in the past 24 hours. The South Asian country has reported 1,029,811 confirmed cases and 23,360 virus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
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— Canadian official warns 4th virus wave possible if steps not taken
— US passport delays lead to long lines of would-be travelers
— Find more AP coverage at http://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and http://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
DALLAS — An administrative court judge has ordered that anyone entering a Dallas County courthouse must be wearing a mask to be admitted.
The order Friday by Administrative District Judge Maricela Moore requires masks to be worn in the common areas of the George Allen Courthouse, which houses the county’s civil courts; the Frank Crowley Courthouse, which houses its criminal courts; and the Henry Wade Building, which houses its juvenile courts. Those refusing could be barred from entering the buildings.
The order comes after Gov. Greg Abbott repeated his order banning any mask mandates by any state, county or local government entity. However, it cites as its authority a Texas Supreme Court order “that confirms the judiciary’s authority to take reasonable actions to avoid exposing court proceedings and participants to the threat of COVID-19.”
Also cited is an opinion from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office upholding broad judicial authority to control orderly court proceedings.
The order is effective starting Monday. A message to Abbott’s office seeking comment was not immediately returned.
The order came as COVID-19 was on a renewed rampage across the state, fueled by the highly contagious delta variant. The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 15,893 new cases Friday, the most since Feb. 3. Of those, 726 new cases came from Dallas County. Over the past two weeks, the rolling average of daily new cases has risen by 183% to 5,100.
As of Thursday, the most recent day reported by state health officials, 5,846 people were in Texas hospitals with COVID-19, the most since Feb. 26. Fifty-seven new COVID-19 deaths were reported Friday, five of them in Dallas County.
Texas had almost 44% of its population fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Friday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s well below the national average of 57.2%.
HONOLULU — Hawaii officials announced 622 new COVID-19 cases, the highest number of confirmed infections since the start of the pandemic.
The total included cases from lab reporting delays from the past three days, officials said, but the number is still a significant spike for the state of about 1.4 million people. The seven-day positivity rate is now 5.1%, and officials said the average daily case count over the past three days is now over 300.
Previously, the record high total for confirmed cases in a single day was 355 set in August 2020.
Officials said the surge is associated with the highly contagious delta variant. Just over 60% of Hawaii residents are fully vaccinated.
ATLANTA — Local officials in Georgia are scrambling to increase vaccination rates even as more schools continue telling students and employees to wear masks in the face of rising COVID-19 infection rates.
At least 23 districts statewide, covering nearly a third of the public school population, now say they will require everyone to wear a mask. Dooly County had already started class on Wednesday, and someone at the 1,200-student district’s high school tested positive for the respiratory illness, prompting a mask mandate.
The Montgomery County school district on Friday delayed its start date by a week until Aug. 10, saying it had a staff shortage because too many teachers had been quarantined after exposure to COVID-19.
Districts have been shifting policy after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week advised universal mask use in schools.
Some parents are protesting mask mandates. Dozens of opponents gathered outside the administration building on Friday in Gwinnett County, Georgia’s largest school district.
NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell is implementing a mandatory indoor mask mandate regardless of vaccination status and requiring that all city employees and city contractors be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The mayor and top officials sounded the alarm during a quickly called Friday afternoon news conference, noting the alarming spike in coronavirus infections in a city that was an early hot spot for the pandemic.
“All of our people need to mask up when they are indoors,” Cantrell said.
The city has a little over 4,000 employees, and all will be required to get vaccinated, effective immediately, she said. Contractors wanting to work for the city must also get vaccinated.
Officials said the average daily case count in the city has nearly tripled, and six people have died in the last week. Especially concerning were the number of children falling ill, officials said.
“This touches everyone in our community,” said Cantrell. “Our children are dying.”
CHICAGO — There is now an indoor mask advisory in Chicago for everyone over 2 years old.
The action taken Friday comes as the Centers for Disease Control recommended people, even if vaccinated, wear masks indoor in areas where there is a high transmission of COVID-19.
Chicago’s health department has announced the city surpassed 200 new coronavirus cases per day on Friday.
Public health commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady says the step advising indoor mask use was made to prevent further spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.
The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 2,348 new confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19, the second time in three days the tally has topped 2,000.
TORONTO — The Public Health Agency of Canada says two travelers who arrived in Toronto from the U.S. have been fined close to CDN$20,000 (US$16,029.37) for providing fake COVID-19 proof of vaccination documents and lying about pre-departure tests.
The pair also didn’t comply with requirements to stay at a government-authorized hotel or to get tested upon arrival, the agency said in a new release Friday.
The travelers arrived last week and were handed four fines totaling CND $19,720 ( US$15,804.96) each.
“For all travelers coming to Canada, it is important to be informed and to plan in advance,” the release said. “It is the traveler’s responsibility to ensure they are eligible to enter Canada and that they meet all of the mandatory requirements.”
Canada eased quarantine requirements on July 5 for fully vaccinated Canadians and foreign nationals with an exemption to enter the country, but they must upload their proof of vaccination documents to the ArriveCAN app before entry.
Those who are not fully vaccinated are still required to stay for three days at a government-approved hotel, quarantine for 14 days and undergo tests pre-departure, post-arrival and eight days later.