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Norway bans passengers from large cruise ships, Spain hails COVID app

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“A preliminary evaluation shows a breakdown in several of our internal procedures,” the company’s chief executive Daniel Skjeldam said in a statement on Monday.

“Our own failure, as well as the recent rise in infections internationally, has led us to halt all expedition cruises in Norwegian and international waters.”

Norwegian police said they would investigate whether any laws had been broken.

Foreign crew had been tested for the coronavirus before leaving their home countries, but did not quarantine before starting work on the ship, the company said.

Passengers were also allowed to disembark before anyone had been diagnosed, triggering a complex operation to trace them.

The MS Roald Amundsen had been scheduled to sail around the British Isles in September. Trips with two other vessels have also been suspended, the company said.

Tracing app twice as effective as human trackers: Spain

Spain aims to roll out a COVID-19 contact-tracing app in September after a pilot showed it could detect almost twice as many potential infections as human trackers.

In the absence of a vaccine or cure, states are deploying Bluetooth wireless technology to log contacts and alert people when someone they have been near tests positive.

Spain’s app was developed by Google and Apple and holds data on individual devices to ensure privacy. It was tested on La Gomera, an island next to the tourist hotspot of Tenerife in the Canary archipelago.

Now the government aims to offer the app to it to COVID hotspots and tourism-dependent areas from August 10, and to regional health authorities from mid-September.

A bar in the Moll de Gregal area of Barcelona, Spain. The country's tourism-dependent economy has been hit hard.

A bar in the Moll de Gregal area of Barcelona, Spain. The country’s tourism-dependent economy has been hit hard.Credit:Bloomberg

Some 3200 people downloaded the app during the test phase, just pipping a target of 3000.

For every virtual positive diagnosis, the app identified an average 6.4 contacts with others, compared with an average 3.5 contacts identified by human tracers in the Canary Islands.

The spread of the disease in Spain slowed as the government imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe, but new cases have started rising again, hitting a post-lockdown record of 1525 on Friday.

Spain on Monday reported 968 new coronavirus infections. The number of active clusters grew to 560 from 483 on Thursday, when they were last disclosed.

New London lockdown possible

The UK’s plans to contain further outbreaks of coronavirus allow for ministers to lock down London, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said on Monday.

The so-called ‘Contain Strategy’ sets out the possibility of restricting movement and closing down local transport networks, James Slack confirmed when asked whether the government had war-gamed sealing off the capital.

His remarks followed a report in the Sunday Times newspaper that ministers could curb travel on the M25 encircling London and ban overnight stays in the city if there was a surge in cases.

With cases ticking upwards, Johnson is caught between the competing goals of suppressing the spread of the virus and reopening the economy. Last week, ministers introduced fresh restrictions on more than 4 million people in the north of England and postponed the reopening of casinos, bowling alleys and ice rinks.

At the same time, Johnson is pushing ahead with efforts to revive the stalled UK economy, which is facing a potentially devastating recession.

On Monday, a month-long government program to encourage people to return to restaurants began. The Eat Out to Help Out program gives diners a 50 per cent discount on meals at participating restaurants from Monday to Wednesday throughout August.

‘Decisive action’ in Vietnam to contain virus

Widely praised for its mitigation efforts since the coronavirus appeared in late January, Vietnam is battling several new clusters of infection linked to the city of Danang after going more than three months without detecting any domestic transmission.

Danang is home to four factories – with a combined workforce of 3700 – that have reported cases.

The south-east Asian country of 96 million has confirmed at fewer than 1000 infections and six deaths.

Officials on Monday reported 22 new cases linked to Danang, in central Vietnam, where the country’s first domestically transmitted case in 100 days was detected on July 25.

“We have to deploy full force to curb all known epicentres, especially those in Danang,” official broadcaster Vietnam Television quoted Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc as saying. “Early August will be the decisive time within which to stop the virus from spreading on a large scale.”

The source of the new outbreak is unclear but it has spread to at least 10 places, including the capital Hanoi in the north and the business hub of Ho Chi Minh City in the south.

Vietnam does not plan to introduce a widespread lockdown beyond areas considered to be epicentres of the current outbreak. Instead, the government plans to test Danang’s entire population of 1.1 million people to help fight the outbreak.

Reuters, Bloomberg

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