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Greece bars Serbian visitors as Balkans cases rise

Greece has banned all but essential travel from Serbia as infection numbers steadily rise in the Balkan country.

For a week from Monday morning, all entry points are closed to Serbian travellers, Greek officials said.

It comes days after Serbian authorities re-imposed lockdown restrictions in the capital Belgrade.

In the last 24 hours there have been another 302 infections reported in Serbia, with more than 16,000 total cases and a death toll of 311.

In May, there were about 50 new cases reported daily.

Currently, Serbia is on a list of 15 countries whose citizens are allowed to enter the EU, after the bloc partially reopened its external borders on 1 July. Individual member states are not, however, bound by the list and make their own decisions on border controls.

Serbia is also on a list of countries whose citizens do not need to quarantine on arriving in England.

But there has been a significant rise in cases throughout the Balkans recently.

Montenegro recorded a record daily rise in infections on Sunday, while Kosovo has brought back a nightly curfew in the capital Pristina as cases rise.

Austria issued a travel warning for six Balkan nations on Tuesday, including Serbia and Montenegro. And Croatia has reinstated 14-day quarantines for travellers from Bosnia, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia after it saw a spike in infections late in June.

What’s happening in Serbia?

Authorities have declared a state of emergency in several major cities and towns in Serbia, including Belgrade, Kragujevac and Novi Pazar.

Gatherings are restricted, opening hours for cafes and restaurants have been shortened, sporting events are banned and masks are compulsory on public transport and in indoor public spaces.

Novi Pazar is particularly badly affected, with local media reporting a lack of medical equipment there – allegations which the authorities have denied. Prime Minister Ana Brnabic was booed on a visit to the city last week.

After imposing one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns in March, Serbia lifted its nationwide restrictions in May. Since then the country has held football matches with spectators, religious festivals and even parliamentary elections in June.

But cases have risen substantially since then. Last week a number of high-ranking officials in the ruling coalition tested positive for Covid-19 after attending an election victory party.

In June, the Balkans Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) issued a report alleging that Serbia had underreported cases and deaths during the outbreak.

President Aleksandar Vucic criticised that article on Thursday, alleging their data was “not authentic”.

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What makes bars and restaurants potential COVID-19 hot spots

NYC restaurants will take longer to bounce back: Union Square Hospitality CEO

Union Square Hospitality CEO Danny Meyer discusses the postponement of indoor dining in New York City, taking an entrepreneurial approach to reopening restaurants and feeding the hungry.

Public-health experts and government officials say they are worried bars and restaurants are playing a significant role in increasing Covid-19 case counts across parts of the U.S.

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These spaces pose particular challenges for transmission control because of both human behavior and the way the coronavirus spreads most efficiently—indoors through close, prolonged contact without protection. Potentially risky behavior includes loud talking, not wearing masks and drinking alcohol, which can make people less risk-conscious, scientists said.

To limit transmission, public-health experts recommend people stay 6 feet apart, wear masks, practice good hand hygiene and avoid touching their faces.

Waiter with a mask and gloves and client at the table of an outdoor bar (iStock)

“It’s much harder to do those four things in a bar or restaurant than in a workplace,” said Lisa Lee, an infectious-disease epidemiologist and associate vice president at Virginia Tech. In work and office settings, it can be easier to socially distance, control who is present and wear masks continuously, plus people aren’t normally drinking, she said. “Generally, office work will be much less risky than a bar kind of situation.”

At least 138 new cases of Covid-19 were recently traced back to a bar in East Lansing, Mich., according to Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail. Based on case investigations and contact tracing, health officials found that as of July 1, 119 of those cases were people who contracted the virus while at the bar. The other 19 were secondary infections—people who were infected by someone who caught the disease at the bar.

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The bar’s owners told Ms. Vail that they were operating at 45% capacity, but video on social media showed many patrons lined up outside were clustering together, without masks. Ms. Vail said her office got complaints of overcrowding and inconsistent mask-wearing by staff inside; many patrons weren’t wearing masks inside, some complaints said.

Some state and local governments are winding back reopening plans and renewing restrictions on bars, restaurants, movie theaters, zoos and museums after seeing record numbers of daily coronavirus infections. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis ordered bars and nightclubs to stop in-person service. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the state’s coronavirus crisis was driven in part by people congregating in bars. He closed bars and capped restaurant capacity at 50%. In California, where cases are also rising, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday ordered restaurants to close for indoor dining and shut down bars in much of the state.

Deep Sushi restaurant employees Jordan Arrowood, left, cleans the bar top as Carrie Souza enters an order at the sushi restaurant. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

In New York City, restaurants are open for dining, but can only serve patrons outdoors, where transmission risk is lower. Air flow dilutes the amount of virus hanging around.

“We have to think about this in terms of relative risk. There’s no absolutes,” said Thomas Russo, professor and chief of infectious disease at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Buffalo.

There is a general pecking order to risk in dining out, he said. The safest route is simply getting food through a drive-through or takeout. Outdoor dining comes next, with caveats: Tables need to be spaced out, and the farther the better. Least safe is dining indoors at a restaurant.

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This echoes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, which note that drive-through, delivery, takeout and curbside pickup carried the lowest risk of transmission because they limited the number and duration of interactions among potentially infected individuals. On-site dining, indoors and outdoors, represented the highest risk if capacity wasn’t reduced and tables weren’t spaced at least 6 feet apart.

Indoor dining is particularly dangerous in crowded settings where ventilation and air filtration are poor, experts say, because viral particles can build up in the air. In January, an infected diner who wasn’t yet symptomatic transmitted the virus to five others while eating in a restaurant in Guangzhou, China. Some researchers looking at the case noted that ventilation was poor. They hypothesized that aerosolized virus from the patient’s breathing or speaking built up in the air over time, while strong airflow from an air-conditioning unit helped recirculate particles.

People sit outside Suprema restaurant in the West Village as New York City moves into Phase 2 of re-opening. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

Even the safer option of outdoor dining has risks, experts say. Viral particles dissipate more outdoors, lowering the risk of coming into contact with enough virus to get infected. On a population level, being outdoors lowers the risk of a superspreader event. But on an individual level, experts say, if someone is outside and sitting or standing next to an infectious person, there isn’t as much dilution. The likelihood of breathing in what they are breathing out is high, especially if they aren’t wearing masks and are talking and sharing food for a prolonged period.

“That creates the greatest risk for a transmission,” said Rachael Jones, a University of Utah occupational-health and safety expert.

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In crowded urban settings like New York City, tables might be crammed together on a sidewalk, exposing people to diners outside their own party. “It’s difficult to maintain separation,” Dr. Jones said. “You can’t wear a mask while you eat.”

Bars are “logarithmically worse” than restaurants, Dr. Russo said. People in bars tend to be clustered together, he said, and are more likely to be moving around. That means one person who has the virus can spread it to many more than if the individual was seated at a table eating a meal.

Another thing to keep in mind, infectious-disease experts said: When people drink, they become more relaxed and sometimes their risk tolerance is higher. Even if they start off well-intentioned, wearing masks and social distancing, they are likely to be more lax about those things as the drinks progress. People in bars are also more likely to shout, spraying respiratory droplets into the air, the experts said.

Guests dine in-house at a restaurant in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York,File)

Transmission among younger people, who tend to experience a milder form of Covid-19, is on the rise, in states including Florida.

“I think it’s important for us to get the younger people to understand that it’s imperative that they take this seriously,” said Charlie Latham, mayor of Jacksonville Beach, Fla. He said the city didn’t see an appreciable increase in cases when restaurants reopened at 25% capacity and then expanded to 50%, but did experience one when bars reopened. As of June 26, Florida bars can’t sell alcohol for consumption on-site.

New York City has delayed the start of indoor dining, citing concerns over the spread of coronavirus around the country. On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio cited the East Lansing situation, as well as case clusters in Texas and Florida that could be tied back to bars and restaurants, as reason for concern. “We cannot go ahead at this point in time with indoor dining in New York City,” Mr. de Blasio said later in the week.

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The National Restaurant Association has issued reopening guidelines based on CDC recommendations, encouraging the use of face coverings for employees, socially-distanced seating, mobile payments and limits on the number of employees in break rooms. Temperature checks for staff are at management’s discretion.

“We ask all of our customers to help us keep our employees and their fellow diners safe by following all of the existing guidelines,” a spokesperson said.

While there are ways to make dining-out safer, there will always be some level of risk around other people, said Benjamin Chapman, professor and food-safety specialist at North Carolina State University, who has worked with state and industry officials to develop a best-practices training program for restaurants looking to reopen.

A woman uses a face mask as she sells drinks at a bar by the boardwalk in Asbury Park, New Jersey on May 24, 2020. (KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images)

He and other experts say restaurants should limit the number of patrons, move seating outdoors if possible, space customers apart and require staff and guests to wear face coverings. Restaurants also should enforce distancing and mask-wearing among people waiting in line, they say.

Servers should minimize interactions with patrons, Dr. Chapman said. That could mean using mobile ordering and having patrons pick up food from a counter, he said.

In Honolulu, Joey and Yana Cabell reopened their seaside restaurant for dine-in service in early June. Employees wear masks and gloves. Fewer staff frequent tables to cut down on interactions. Most of the dining room is well ventilated by natural air flowing through open floor-to-ceiling doors, Ms. Cabell said. The owners have installed partitions for booths and spread out seating. They are encouraging customers to make reservations to reduce crowding and have instituted mandatory temperature checks for employees.

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“We want people to feel as comfortable as possible in these strange times,” said Ms. Cabell, 56, a Covid-19 survivor. “There still are so many unknowns.”

Contact tracing will play a big part in dictating the pace of reopening restaurants, bars and other businesses, epidemiologists and infectious-disease experts said. As states reopen, it is critical to monitor the number of new infections and hospitalizations and re-evaluate which businesses can remain open and which should cut back, they said.

“The more we reopen, each increment—each thing you do—does increase the risk,” said Lisa Winston, vice chief for inpatient medical services and an epidemiologist at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, who works closely with the local health department. “As with most things, it’s a balance.”

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Gov. Jared Polis closes bars again after coronavirus cases increase

Gov. Jared Polis on Tuesday closed Colorado bars for in-person service — after allowing them to reopen at limited capacity on June 19 — due to the increasing spread of the novel coronavirus.

The move comes as Colorado has seen COVID-19 cases increase in the past two weeks. Other states experiencing surges in infections have also shut down bars. Polis announced the move during an afternoon press conference.

“Whether you personally go to bars or not, just understand that they are important for many people in our state… but there is not a way that we have found for them to be a reasonably safe part of people’s lives during the month of July in our state,” Polis said.

Bars will have 48 hours to close but can continue to sell alcohol to-go or by delivery. Bars that also sell food “and function as restaurants,” according to the Governor, can stay open for in-person service so long as they keep patrons seated at tables spaced six feet apart, without mingling.

Justin Anthony, who owns multiple Denver bars, had just finished putting the final touches on a patio expansion for one of his Larimer Street businesses, American Bonded, when he found out that bars and clubs would be closing again.

While some of his spots offer food and won’t be affected by the new round of closures, others will need to change their business model yet again to stay open.

“It is a daunting prospect to go through all of the planning… to set up something that is not just inviting but safe. All of the considerations that you’ve never had before, and what happens if the plug is pulled?” Anthony asked.

Over the nearly two weeks that bars and clubs have been allowed to reopen for in-person service, Anthony said he’s watched some fellow operators break the rules consistently.

“It’s so unbelievably frustrating to see some of my peers jamming people in, not paying attention to this stuff,” Anthony said. “I don’t think it occurs to these people, if they are just chasing the maximum profit… they are doing their colleagues in the industry a great disservice. It’s so shortsighted. And if you’ve got a patron base that is totally disregarding (rules)… it is going to prevent them from having places to go out to.”

“You are ruining it for the rest of us,” he said of these businesses and their customers.

This is a developing story and will be updated as new information becomes available.  

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Arizona shuts bars, theaters, parks amid coronavirus resurgence – The Denver Post

Arizona’s Republican governor shut down bars, movie theaters, gyms and water parks Monday and leaders in several states ordered residents to wear masks in public in a dramatic course reversal amid an alarming resurgence of coronavirus cases nationwide.

Among those implementing the face-covering orders is the city of Jacksonville, Florida, where the mask-averse President Donald Trump plans to accept the Republican nomination in August. Less than a week after Mayor Lenny Curry said there would be no mask requirement, city officials announced that coverings must be worn in “situations where individuals cannot socially distance.”

Trump has refused to wear a mask during visits to states and businesses that require them.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s order went into effect immediately and for at least 30 days. Ducey also also ordered public schools to delay the start of the classes at least until Aug. 17.

“Our expectation is that our numbers next week will be worse,” he said.

Arizona health officials reported 3,858 more confirmed coronavirus cases Sunday, the most reported in a single day in the state so far and the seventh time in the last 10 days that daily cases surpassed the 3,000 mark. Since the pandemic began, 74,500 cases and 1,588 deaths stemming from the virus have been reported in Arizona.

Most Arizona bars and nightclubs opened after Ducey’s stay-at-home and business closure orders were allowed to expire in mid-May.

The state is not alone in its reversal. Places such as Texas, Florida and California are backtracking, closing beaches and bars in some cases amid a resurgence of the virus. Oregon and Kansas, meanwhile, announced Monday that everyone would be required to wear masks in public.

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday that he’s postponing the restarting of indoor dining because people have not been wearing face masks or complying with recommendations for social distancing. New Jersey has been slowly reopening, and on Monday indoor shopping malls were cleared to start business again.

In Texas, a group of bar owners sued on Monday to try to overturn Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s order closing their businesses. They contend Abbott doesn’t have the authority, and they complained that other businesses, such as nail salons and tattoo studios, remain open.

“Gov. Abbott continues to act like a king,” said Jared Woodfill, attorney for the bar owners. “Abbott is unilaterally destroying our economy and trampling on our constitutional rights.”

But New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that Abbott is on the right path, and he added that Trump should order the wearing of masks.

“States that were recalcitrant … are doing a 180, and you have the same states now wearing masks,” Cuomo said. “Let the president have the same sense to do that as an executive order, and then let the president lead by example and let the president put a mask on it, because we know it works.”

Governors in Oregon and Kansas on Monday said they were issuing executive orders requiring people to wear masks in public. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s order will require people to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces starting Wednesday. Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said she will issue an executive order mandating the use of masks in public starting Friday. She said details of the order would be forthcoming.

“The evidence could not be clearer — wearing a mask is not only safe, but it is necessary to avoid another shutdown,” Kelly said.

Idaho is moving in a different direction, at least when it comes to the elections. Despite the continuing spread of the virus, state elections officials said Monday that they would allow in-person voting — as well as mail-in ballots — for August primaries and the November general election, the Idaho Statesman reported. Idaho’s May 19 primary was the first statewide election held by mail only. The primary had record voter turnout.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has opposed a statewide mask requirement but said in response to Jacksonville’s action that he will support local authorities who are doing what they think is appropriate.

In recent weeks, the Republicans moved some of the convention pageantry to Jacksonville after Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina objected to the holding of a large gathering in Charlotte without social-distancing measures. The convention will be in late August.

Elsewhere around the world, Britain reimposed lockdown restrictions on the city of Leicester after a spike in cases, ordering the closing of schools along with stores that do not sell essential goods.

India set another record with a one-day total of 20,000 newly confirmed infections. Several Indian states have reimposed partial or full lockdowns after the total number of cases jumped by nearly 100,000 in one week to about 548,000.

In China, nearly 8.3 million out of about 21 million have undergone testing in recent weeks in Beijing after an outbreak centered on a wholesale market. The country reported just 12 new cases Monday, including seven in Beijing.

South Korean authorities reported 47 new cases as they struggled to curb outbreaks that have spread from Seoul to other regions. Officials said they are preparing to impose stronger social-distancing measures — including banning gatherings of more than 10 people, shutting schools and halting professional sports — if the daily increase in infections doubles more than twice in a week.

In the Philippines, a Southeast Asian coronavirus hot spot with more than 35,000 confirmed infections, local officials came under fire for allowing a street parade and dance during a weekend religious festival to honor St. John the Baptist despite prohibitions against public gatherings.

The European Union is preparing a list of 15 countries whose citizens will be allowed to visit the bloc beginning Wednesday, Spain’s foreign minister, Arancha Gonzalez Laya, told the Cadena SER radio network. Because of the resurgence in the U.S., America may not be on that list.

“This is not an exercise to be nice or unfriendly to other countries. This is an exercise of self-responsibility,” she said.

Sourcing & Methodology

Lush reported from St. Petersburg, Florida, Kurtenbach from Bangkok. Associated Press reporters from around the world contributed to this report.

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Texas closes bars, scales back dining as new virus cases hit an all-time high in U.S. – The Denver Post

The governor of Texas ordered the closing of all bars again and scaled back restaurant dining Friday in the biggest retreat yet amid a surge across the South and West that has sent the number of confirmed new coronavirus infections per day in the U.S. to an all-time high of 40,000 — higher even than during the deadliest stretch in April and May.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott had pursued up to now one of the most aggressive reopening schedules of any state and had not only resisted calls to order the wearing of masks but had also refused until last week to let local governments take such measures.

“It is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars,” he said. “The actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and protect public health.”

Abbott joined the small but growing number of governors either backtracking or putting any further reopenings on hold. Some of the other worst-hit states, including Arizona, Florida and Arkansas, have Republican governors who have also resisted mask wearing and echoed President Donald Trump’s desire to quickly reopen the economy.

Amid the surge, the White House coronavirus task force, led by Vice President Pence, was scheduled to hold its first briefing in nearly two months on Friday afternoon. signaling the adminstration’s recognition that it cannot ignore the alarming increases.

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed new infections in the U.S. per day soared past the previous high of 36,400, set on April 24, during one of the deadliest stretches in the crisis so far, according to the count kept by Johns Hopkins University. The average number of new cases per day has risen about 60 percent over the past two weeks, according to an Associated Press analysis.

While the increase is believed to reflect, in part, greatly expanded testing, experts say there is ample evidence the virus is making a comeback, including rising deaths and hospitalizations in parts of the country, especially in the South and West.

Deaths from the coronavirus in the U.S. are down to around 600 per day, compared with about 2,200 in mid-April. Despite the rise in cases, some experts have expressed doubt that deaths will return to that level, because of advances in treatment and prevention and also because a large share of the new infections are in younger adults, who are more likely than older ones to survive.

The virus is blamed for 124,000 deaths in the U.S. and 2.4 million confirmed infections nationwide, by Johns Hopkins’ count. But U.S. health officials said the true number of Americans infected is about 20 million, or almost 10 times higher. Worldwide, the virus has claimed close to a half-million lives, according to Johns Hopkins.

In addition to scaling back restaurant capacity, Abbott shut down rafting operations and said any outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people will need approval from the local government. The move came as the number of patients at Texas hospitals statewide more than doubled in two weeks.

Texas reported more than 17,000 confirmed new cases in the past three days, with a record high of nearly 6,000 on Thursday. The day’s tally of over 4,700 hospitalizations was also a record.

On Thursday, Arizona put on hold any further efforts to reopen the economy, with Republican Gov. Doug Ducey saying the numbers “continue to go in the wrong direction.” Arizona reported over 3,000 additional infections Thursday, the fourth day in a week with an increase over that mark.

Nevada’s governor ordered the wearing of face masks in public, Las Vegas casinos included.

Elsewhere around the world, China moved closer to containing a fresh outbreak in Beijing. Another record daily increase in India pushed the caseload in the world’s second most populous nation toward half a million. And other countries with big populations like Indonesia, Pakistan and Mexico grappled with large numbers of infections and strained health care systems.

South Africa, which accounts for about half of the infections on the African continent with over 118,000, reported a record of nearly 6,600 new cases after loosening what had been one of the world’s strictest lockdowns earlier this month.

Italy, one of the hardest-hit European nations, battled to control an outbreak among Bulgarian seasonal crop pickers near Naples.

The governor of the southern Campania region insisted that the workers who live in an apartment complex with dozens of COVID-19 cases stay inside for just over two weeks, not even emerging for food — authorities will deliver groceries to them.

Smith reported from Providencd, Rhode Island; D’Emelio reported from Rome. Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.

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