HONG KONG — Customs agents in the southern Chinese city of Hong Kong have seized 100,000 counterfeit face masks and arrested one person in what the government called the largest operation of its kind on record.
The masks were set to be shipped overseas and had a market value of almost $400,000, the government’s Information Services Department reported Friday.
The masks were seized at a storehouse in Hong Kong on Wednesday after agents received a tip-off, the department said, leading to a further raid on a trading company where a 71-year-old manager was arrested
“Initial investigations revealed that unscrupulous merchants intended to transship the batch of masks overseas for sale and profit. Customs is looking into the source of the face masks involved in the case. Samples have also been sent to a laboratory for safety testing,” the department said in a news release.
Customs agents launched an operation codenamed “Guardian” across the city in late January involving spot checks on common protective equipment such as masks, resulting in 80 arrests and the seizure of nearly 6 million face masks, along with other items, the department said.
Mainland China is a major source of personal protective equipment such as masks and bodysuits, some of which have been found to be counterfeit or of inferior quality.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— On virus, Trump and health advisers go their separate ways
— Japan crosses 100,000 cases, 9 months after 1st infection
— Coronavirus dims Mexico’s bright Day of the Dead celebration
— U.S. public health experts say the nation’s response to the crises has been marked by grave missteps and missed opportunities.
Follow AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
PARIS — People fleeing Paris before a nationwide lockdown took effect brought chaos to freeways around the French capital.
The four-week lockdown that went into force at midnight requires residents to stay home except for one hour of daily exercise or to attend medical appointments or to shop for essentials.
French media reported that logjams around the Paris region stretched for miles as many residents headed for country or family homes in search of more space than the typically cramped Paris housing. Many motorists also were leaving to celebrate this weekend’s All Saints’ Day holiday.
French President Emmanuel Macron said authorities would be “tolerant” about families returning from the holidays on Monday, but that inter-regional travel is otherwise strictly prohibited.
MADRID — The Spanish economy has rebounded a record quarter-to-quarter 16.7% from July to September, bringing the country out of the technical definition of recession.
Preliminary data released Friday by Spain’s National Statistics Institute showed that domestic demand over the summer was the main driver of the recovery. However, the third quarter growth did not offset the 17.8% GDP loss of the second quarter and the 5.2% loss in the first three months of the year, when the pandemic hit the country.
Output in Spain was down 8.7% in the third quarter compared to the same period a year before.
Nearly all Spaniards are facing a weekend with restrictions on leaving the regions where they live as authorities try to contain a sharp resurgence of reported coronavirus cases but refrain from a full lockdown to try to prevent further economic deterioration.
Although Spain’s official tally records 1.1 confirmed COVID-19 cases, the government has acknowledged that the true figure, including missed cases, could be at least three times higher. At least 35,000 people in Spain have died with the virus during the pandemic.
BUDAPEST, Hungary— The number of coronavirus-related deaths in Hungary rose to an all-time high on Friday, prompting the government to tighten oversight over compliance with regulations to stem the spread of infections.
Hungarian health authorities reported that 65 patients died over the past 24 hours, while the number of confirmed new cases jumped to 3,286 from 2,194 on Thursday.
The government has not announced new restrictive measures despite the steep rise in infections but Prime Minister Viktor Orban stressed Friday that authorities will hand out fines to everyone failing to wear a mask where required.
“I do not believe in multiplying the rules, but in enforcing existing ones,” Orban said in a radio interview.
Hungary’s chief medical officer announced Thursday that wearing masks will be mandatory in restaurants and bars as well except during consumption. Police will be authorized to close establishments that do not enforce the regulations.
The central European nation has recorded 71,413 confirmed infections since the start of the pandemic, including 1,699 deaths.
BRUSSELS — Belgian coronavirus cases continued their record rise on Friday before the government met to consider even tougher restrictions on movements that would amount to a quasi-lockdown.
After surpassing the spring record on Thursday, the number of patients in Belgian hospitals broke the 6,000-mark and stood at 6,187, a rise of 263 in a day.
After measures were beefed up earlier in the week, the government was to meet again later Friday to consider further restrictions. Non-essential shops are expected to face temporary closure.
Patients in intensive care units reached 1,057 from 993 the day earlier, and virologists have said that unless tougher measures having a quick impact the saturation point of 2,000 patients will be reached on Nov. 6. Hospital authorities stood first in line to demand action since they say the health system is at the point of collapse.
NEW DELHI — India has reported 48,648 new coronavirus cases, continuing a downward trend in infections even as the country’s caseload has crossed 8 million and is only behind the U.S.
The Health Ministry also reported 563 new fatalities in the past 24 hours, raising the overall death toll to 121,090 on Friday.
The slowdown in the pandemic in India has now lasted more than a month and the country has reported fewer than 60,000 cases for nearly two weeks. According to the Health Ministry, India has 594,386 active cases, which suggests that more people are recovering than those who are testing positive for the virus.
But even as cases are dropping nationwide, the capital New Delhi is facing what could be a third wave of infections.
The national capital, which recently became the worst-hit city in India, is among the few regions in the country that is increasingly seeing a spike in new infections from last week.
New Delhi has 30,952 active cases of the virus. It has been clocking more than 5,000 cases daily from the last three days. The surge in new infections comes at a time when pollution levels have started to soar in the capital, exacerbating respiratory illnesses among many.
TOKYO — Japan’s coronavirus cases has topped 100,000, nine months after a first case was found in mid-January, according to the health ministry figures released Friday.
The country confirmed 808 new cases on Thursday, bringing the cumulative COVID-19 cases to 100,334, including 712 cases found on a cruise ship earlier this year, according to the ministry figures.
About one-third of the cases come from Tokyo, where 221 cases were confirmed Thursday, bringing a prefectural total to 30,677, with 453 deaths. Nationwide, Japan has more than 1,700 deaths.
Experts say Japan has so far managed to avoid “explosive” infections as in Europe and the U.S. without enforcing lockdowns, most likely thanks to the common use of face masks and disinfectant, as well as other common preventive measures including social distancing.
Japan had a nationwide state of emergency in April and May, and experienced a less serious second wave in August, but has since been seeing a slight uptrend in new cases in northern Japanese prefectures, setting off concerns of a surge in the winter.
Experts have urged extra caution at dining and drinking parties and workplaces. According to health ministry data, nearly half of the new cases were in their 20s and 30s.
EL PASO, Texas — El Paso County officials ordered a two-week shutdown of non-essential activities Thursday after the area’s medical resources were overwhelmed by the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
County Judge Ricardo Samaniego announced the measure during a virtual news conference Thursday. Among the non-essential services ordered to be closed, effective at midnight Thursday, are tattoo, hair and nail salons, as well as gyms and in-person dining. He also appealed to residents to avoid all non-essential activities. Grocery and drug stores, funeral homes, health care services and government activities were among the activities deemed essential.
Samaniego said all election-related activities, including campaigns and voting, also were deemed essential activities.
“Our hospitals are at capacity, our medical professionals are overwhelmed, and if we don’t respond we will see unprecedented levels of death,” said Samaniego, the county’s top elected official.