ORLANDO, Fla. — The union representing actors at Walt Disney World said Thursday that the company should postpone welcoming back guests at its Florida parks, which are scheduled to reopen next month after being closed since March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Actors’ Equity Association said it was unclear how Disney World could “responsibly” reopen as coronavirus cases continue to soar in the Sunshine State. The union represents about 600 actors at Disney World, out of a total workforce of 77,000 employees at the resort. It said it also was concerned that not enough testing was planned for the actors, who are unable to use face masks when doing their jobs.
The plea came a day after Disney said it would delay reopening its California theme parks.
Disney World representatives didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Florida reported having more than 114,000 confirmed cases on Thursday, a jump of about 5,000 cases over the previous day. The state has had at least 3,327 coronavirus-related deaths.
Disney World’s four theme parks are slated to start opening July 11. The resort has already reopened some hotels and its restaurant and shopping district.
Orlando’s other major theme park resorts — Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando — started welcoming back visitors earlier this month.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Actors union wants Walt Disney World to delay opening Florida resorts.
— U.N.’s World Food Program needs cash for the rest of the year to deliver medical supplies and aid.
— France to test some 1.3 million near Paris. The Eiffel Tower reopens to visitors after 104 days.
Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
JOHANNESBURG — African countries are urging governments around the world to “remove all obstacles” to swift and equitable distribution of any successful COVID-19 vaccine, including making all intellectual property and technologies immediately available.
A communique ending a continental conference on COVID-19 vaccines points out the “barriers” intellectual property posed in the past to affordable vaccines in developing countries. The communique issued under the African Union says there is an urgent need for countries to “make full use of legal measures … to ensure monopolies do not stand in the way of access to COVID-19 vaccines.”
UNAIDS chief Winnie Byanyima told the conference there’s evidence of “some rich countries making deals with pharmaceutical companies to jump the queue” and obtain potential vaccines.
The pandemic on the continent is growing rapidly, with more than 337,000 recorded infections.
PHOENIX — Arizona reported 3,056 additional COVID-19 cases on Thursday, the fourth day in a week in which the state had daily increases of over 3,000 cases.
The state Department of Health Services said the additional cases raised the statewide total to 63,030 with 1,490 deaths, including 27 reported Thursday.
The department reported that a record 2,453 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 as of Wednesday, including 611 in intensive care beds and a record 415 on ventilators.
Arizona has become a national hot spot for the coronavirus since Republican Gov. Doug Ducey lifted stay-at-home restrictions in May. Health officials have attributed the rising number of cases to both increased testing and community spread of the disease.
LAS VEGAS — Nevada reported more than 500 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, the biggest one-day increase yet as cases in the state climb.
The 507 new cases mark the fifth time in the past 10 days Nevada had a new record for single-day jumps in new cases. The state also reported one new death from COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing deaths from the disease to 495. Nearly 14,900 people have tested positive for the virus since the outbreak began.
Gov. Steve Sisolak on Wednesday night announced face masks will be required in public spaces starting Friday. Nevada has also seen eight days of increases in the rate of positive COVID-19 tests.
The increasing coronavirus numbers have come since casinos and other businesses reopened a month ago.
AMMAN, Jordan — The U.N. agency that flies crucial medical supplies and aid in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic will be forced to ground its planes in a month if it does not receive a large injection of cash, its head said Thursday.
David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Program, told The Associated Press that his agency needs $965 million for the flights through the end of the year. He said it only has about $150 million, enough to keep flying until the third week of July.
Beasley repeated an earlier estimate that the number of people pushed to the brink of starvation could double by the end of the year, to 265 million, and said that number could get worse. He said his agency reaches about 100 million people, and about one-third are solely dependent on food aid.
BRUSSELS — The World Health Organization chief expects the number of COVID-19 cases to hit 10 million and the death toll from the disease to reach 500,000 by next week.
Speaking Thursday during a videoconference with European Parliament members, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that although the crisis has improved across Europe, “globally, it’s still getting worse.”
Tedros said more than 4 million cases of the disease have been reported in the last month.
JOHANNESBURG — Testing in Africa for the novel coronavirus is expected to increase significantly in the coming weeks, the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control said Thursday.
John Nkengasong pointed to a new continental platform that African nations set up to negotiate cheaper prices for urgently needed medical equipment amid intense global competition.
African leaders have said that China will ensure the supply of 30 million testing kits and 10,000 ventilators each month for purchase on the platform by Africa’s 54 nations. Each country has a quota based on its population and number of virus cases, and a line of credit is available.
About 4.3 million tests have been conducted in Africa, or about 3,200 tests per million people, far short of the ideal on a continent of 1.3 billion people.
AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Greg Abbott again halted elective surgeries in Texas’ biggest counties in a bid to free up hospital beds after the number of patients admitted with COVID-19 has more than doubled in two weeks.
Texas has emerged as one of the nation’s hotspots, reporting more than 11,000 new cases in the past two days.
By re-imposing a ban on elective surgeries, Abbott is returning to one of his first actions when the virus emerged in Texas in March. He later rescinded the order during an aggressive reopening of the state in May, which lifted lockdown orders ahead of most of the U.S.
This week, Abbott has taken a newly urgent tone about the worsening trends and is telling the public they should stay home. On Thursday, the number of hospitalizations climbed to more than 4,700 patients, setting a record for a 13th consecutive day.
The surgery ban applies to Dallas, Harris, Travis and Bexar counties, which includes the Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio areas.
KATHMANDU, Nepal — Nepal is increasing quarantine facilities and testing at border points to prepare for the expected return of thousands of workers from neighboring India.
Nepal has reported 11,162 cases and just 26 deaths in a population of 29 million. It was among the first countries in South Asia to report a case, but a lockdown imposed in March helped control the outbreak.
Deputy Prime Minister Ishwar Pokhrel says in an interview with The Associated Press that coronavirus cases are expected to increase as workers return home from India, where millions of Nepalese are believed to be employed and where coronavirus cases are surging.
“We are very aware of the number of coronavirus cases in India. That is why we are monitoring and controlling entry of people and at the same time increasing quarantine facilities and testing at border points,” Pokhrel says.
India has reported 473,105 cases and 14,894 deaths.
LANSING, Mich. — A federal appeals court ruled gyms and fitness centers will remain closed under Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s shutdown order from months ago.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 3-0 decision late Wednesday, granted an emergency stay sought by the governor. After a lawsuit was filed by indoor fitness facilities, District Judge Paul Maloney in Kalamazoo said last week that gyms could reopen at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.
The appellate judges said while the gym owners who sued bear the risk of losing their businesses, the governor’s interest in combating the coronavirus “is at least equally significant.”
“To date, the disease has infected thousands of Michiganders, and it has shown the potential to infect many more. That the public interest weighs in favor of a stay is apparent for the same reason,” they wrote.
Whitmer planned to let gyms, movie theaters and places like bowling alleys, which closed March 16, reopen in much of Michigan by July 4 if COVID-19 case trends remain favorable.
However, she won’t make an announcement this week, citing concerns about some outbreaks. In the less-populous northern part of the state, gyms and fitness centers could open June 10 if they reduced class sizes and made other changes.
RABAT, Morocco — Moroccans are reuniting with friends and family, attending cafés and restaurants open the first time in three months amid an easing of measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
The Moroccan government allowed cafés, restaurants, gyms, and salons to open with social distancing and at 50% seating capacity.
From the most reputable restaurants to the humblest small cafes in the Medina of Rabat, the social pulse of the capital is slowly beating back to life as customers return.
In Rabat, Hakim Tazi, the owner of Mazarine café greeted his customers with hand gels, paper tissues and with safety signs.
STOCKHOLM — The medical authority for northern Sweden says some of the 300 new cases reported since early June likely started in the mining town of Gallivare.
The town experienced a surge, but the situation has improved, according to Anders Nysted of Region Norrbotten.
“It boils down to the people’s ability to follow advice and guidelines,” like social distancing or staying at home if one has a cold, Nysted said.
The affected LKAB mining company has said it followed health authorities’ recommendations and emphasized individual responsibility. Health authorities have disagreed.
Last week, Gallivare shut down local bus lines and most non-essential public services like swimming pools, sport-halls, library and museum for the 8,500 inhabitants. The outbreak was reported in local retirement homes and among miners.
Sweden has declined to implement the strict lockdown measures used in Europe. Large gatherings were banned, but restaurants and schools for children have stayed open. The Swedish government has urged social distancing. Some 5,230 people have died from the virus.
JOHANNESBURG — The billionaire tasked with speeding up Africa’s access to critical medical supplies in the COVID-19 pandemic says he turned to China for testing kits after manufacturers in the West said the continent would have to wait months.
Strive Masiyiwa tells an African vaccine conference that testing kits “were available but only to the Western countries. … Abbott and them were saying, ‘You wait until September, wait until October.’ So I didn’t waste any time with them. I spent my time talking to the suppliers in China who were willing to supply immediately.”
Africa faces widespread shortages of medical supplies in the competition with richer countries. The pandemic on the continent is growing rapidly, with more than 335,000 cases.
The CEO of vaccines alliance GAVI, Seth Berkley, says “vaccine nationalism” is real. Initiatives in high-income countries are “essentially trying to corner the market in those countries.”
LONDON — The European Medicines Agency has granted its first approval for a drug to treat the new coronavirus — remdesivir, which has been shown in trials to speed the recovery time of people hospitalized with COVID-19.
The regulatory agency says it was granting a conditional marketing authorization for remdesivir to be used in treating adults and adolescents older than 12 with pneumonia who require oxygen.
“Remdesivir is the first medicine against COVID-19 to be recommended for authorization in the EU,” the agency says. Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted an emergency use authorization for the drug.
Although larger trials on remdesivir are still ongoing, preliminary results showed that patients hospitalized with severe illness were discharged quicker from the hospital than those who didn’t get the drug. No beneficial effect was seen in patients with mild or moderate disease.
ATHENS, Greece — Greece has recorded a widening budget deficit because of the coronavirus, with the negative balance at 7.49 billion euros ($8.39 billion) in the first five months of the year.
The Finance Ministry says the primary deficit figure for the state budget, the balance before debt servicing costs, stood at 4.84 billion euros ($5.41 billion).
Greece has delivered primary budget surpluses for the past five years as part of its commitments to European Union bailout lenders, but creditors have agreed to relax those conditions this year due to the virus.
With its strong reliance on tourism, Greece is headed back into a major recession in 2020. Finance Minister Christos Staikouras said Wednesday the government expected a contraction of 8% of gross domestic product in 2020, with a whopping 16% downturn in the second quarter of the year.
PARIS —The Eiffel Tower reopened to visitors after its longest closure in peace time: 104 days.
Tourists who are trickling back to Paris were delighted to find the landmark open while some other attractions remain closed. The Louvre Museum will open July 6.
“We’ve seen a lot Paris people enjoying their city, enjoying their parks without all the tourists,” said Annelies Bouwhuis, a 43-year-old visitor from the Netherlands.
Lifts that usually whisk visitors up the 324-meter (1,063-feet) tall wrought-iron Eiffel Tower remain closed, so people are taking the stairs. Of the tower’s three decks, only the first two reopened.