The Latest: Infection rate stubborn in one Italian region
The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.
TOP OF THE HOUR:
— Infection rate remains stubborn in Italy’s Lombardy region.
— British businesses to start paying some wages of furloughed workers.
— Spain to provide impoverished families minimum monthly income.
— New Zealand near eradication, but virus has grim global hold.
MILAN — As Italy decides whether to open regional borders as planned next week, hard-hit Lombardy remains an outlier.
The civil protection agency reported 345 confirmed new infections in the region on Friday. That brings Lombardy’s total cases to 88,500, nearly 40% of Italy’s total.
Nearly half of Italy population of known positives are in Lombardy, and 80% of those in isolation at home, not requiring hospital care.
The Italian government had announced internal borders would open on June 3, but the stubborn infection rate in Lombardy has put that in question. Officials are considering whether delay the regional border opening by a week — a decision that is meant also to help Italy’s moribund tourist industry.
Italy’s total cases of confirmed COVID-19 rose by 516 to 232,248 on Friday, and deaths increased by 87 to 33,229. Only five other regions showed double-digit increases.
LONDON — Britain’s government has announced that starting in August, businesses must start sharing the costs of a job retention program that has effectively placed workers furloughed amid the coronavirus pandemic on the government payroll.
The unprecedented program has so far covered the wages of some 8.5 million people and has cost 15 billion pounds ($18.4 billion). It has covered 80% of wages up to 2,500 pounds per worker each month.
Treasury chief Rishi Sunak said from July, businesses can decide to bring furloughed workers back part-time if they want. In September and October, employers will need to contribute 10% and 20% of furloughed wages respectively.
Sunak also announced he is extending a support program for self-employed workers. From August, those eligible can claim an extra grant capped at 6,570 pounds each. The program has so far seen 2.3 million claims worth 6.8 billion pounds.
LONDON — The World Health Organization and 30 countries and partners are starting an initiative aimed at making diagnostics, drugs and vaccines for the new coronavirus available to everyone who needs them.
In a press briefing on Friday, WHO and partners, including President Carlos Alvarado of Costa Rica, said they were officially launching the COVID-19 “Technology Access Pool,” an information-sharing platform. Among other goals, the initiative is intended to encourage countries to freely share genetic sequences of the virus and to license any potential treatment or vaccine to the Medicines Patent Pool, a U.N. backed body that works to increase access to and develop medicines for people in low and middle income countries.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, science has been at the heart of WHO’s efforts to suppress transmission and save lives,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, calling for more countries and organizations to commit to making tests, drugs and vaccines available globally.
Some pharmaceutical executives have questioned whether drugmakers will be willing to sign up to the project, since many of their profits hinge on patents.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The University of Virginia says its campus will reopen for some in-person classes in August, with the face-to-face instruction ending by Thanksgiving.
Students will be allowed to return for the fall semester on Aug. 25, according to a statement from the university.
Administrators say on-campus classes will end by Nov. 26 and students won’t return until January to limit travel amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Large classes and those taught by professors with health concerns will remain online. The university says most classes offered in-person also will be offered remotely, allowing students to choose whether they will stay home or return.
SKOPJE, North Macedonia — Health authorities in North Macedonia have announced an increase in coronavirus cases, just days after the government decided to end a two-month curfew and allow bars and restaurants to reopen.
Health Minister Venko Filipce says 52 new infections and four deaths were reported in the last 24 hours. Authorities have recommended wearing protective masks and maintaining social distance.
Half of the new cases were recorded in five municipalities of the capital Skopje. Filipce says those areas will be quarantined if the number of new infections doesn’t fall in the next few days.
North Macedonia has recorded 2,129 confirmed cases and 126 deaths. A state of emergency declared in mid-March in the country is still in effect.
BERLIN — Switzerland is ordering its army to largely stand down from coronavirus duty.
The Swiss government says up to 5,000 soldiers supported civilian authorities across the Alpine country and in neighboring Liechtenstein nation over the past 10 weeks. Switzerland’s army is composed mainly of conscripts.
The government says about 1,000 soldiers will assist with border controls and provide other technical support until mid-June.
Switzerland and Liechtenstein have recorded 30,828 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic and 1,657 deaths.
TORONTO — Canada’s transport minister says large cruises will still be prohibited from operating in Canadian waters until at least Oct. 31 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau says it applies to cruises with overnight accommodations and more than 100 passengers and crew. The government previously restricted large cruise ships until July 1.
VIENNA — Vienna mayor Michael Ludwig switched on the Austrian capital’s giant Ferris wheel to celebrate the reopening of the country’s tourism industry.
The landmark attraction has been in use since World War II and closed due to the coronavirus.
Austrian hotels are allowed to host guests, though many European borders are still closed and tourists have been wary of traveling.
MADRID — The Spanish government will provide more money for the country’s most impoverished 850,000 families so they can reach a minimum monthly income in the nation’s first attempt to guarantee a basic salary.
The plan was approved by the ruling left-wing coalition led by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. The leader of the Spanish Socialist Party is under pressure to spur economic recovery and reduce the fallout from a two-month lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus that’s killed at least 27,000.
Citizens over 21 will be eligible for benefits if they don’t meet a minimum monthly income ranging from 461 euros ($513) to 1,015 euros ($1,130), depending on the number of family members. Migrants who have been in Spain for more than one year can apply.
Social Security Minister José Luis Escrivá says the measure intends to reduce poverty and inequality. He says 100,000 households will immediately benefit and the government aims to include 750,000 more in coming months. The total cost for Spain’s public coffers is estimated at 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) annually.
MONROE, N.C. — A school board in North Carolina voted to hold an in-person graduation ceremony for all its high schools that would be a violation of the state’s coronavirus safety orders.
The Union County Public Schools Board voted 5-4 Thursday to hold the ceremonies in an outdoor stadium where students would maintain social distancing, news outlets reported. But the ceremonies would still violate Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order limiting mass gatherings to 25 people in outdoor spaces.
“Obviously, we have a terrible lack of leadership from the governor of our state,” says Gary Sides, a school board member who issued the proposal. “We’re trying to fumble through and not deprive these kids of one of the most important events of their life.”
The board’s vote comes after students and parents held a protest outside Union County Public Schools Superintendent Andrew Houlihan’s home demanding an in-person ceremony.
LAGOS, Nigeria — The Nigerian government says it still hasn’t received ventilators from the United States a month after President Donald Trump promised to send hundreds to the West African country.
Trump said last week 1,000 ventilators had been provided to Nigeria. But the country’s information minister, Lai Mohammed, says, “To the best of my knowledge, they have not arrived. When they do arrive, it will be made public.”
Trump had offered to provide ventilators to Nigeria in late April during a telephone conversation with Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari.
Nigeria has recorded about 9,000 COVID-19 cases. However, testing has been limited, complicating efforts to track the full extent of the crisis in Africa’s most populous nation.
LONDON — People in Scotland can meet outside in groups of no more than eight as parts of the U.K. regain some freedom from coronavirus restrictions.
People are allowed to enjoy sunbathing and some non-contact sports such as golf and tennis.
In England, up to six people from different households will be allowed to meet outside in parks or gardens on Monday. In Wales, people from two households can start meeting outside starting Monday, but they must stay in their local area.
In Northern Ireland, the government plans to allow small outdoor weddings on June 8.
JERUSALEM — Israel’s Health Ministry is warning people not to “slip into complacency” about the coronavirus after recording a spike in new cases.
The ministry reported another 64 cases late Thursday after weeks of steady improvement when the total number of active cases dropped below 2,000. New outbreaks have been linked to schools, which recently reopened after weeks of lockdown.
Israel imposed sweeping restrictions on travel and movement in mid-March. It has reported about 16,900 cases and 284 deaths.
Authorities have lifted most of the restrictions in recent weeks. This week bars, restaurants, pools and hotels were allowed to reopen. Authorities are urging people to wear masks in public and practice social distancing, but in recent days many have appeared to ignore the rules.
MALE, Maldives — The Maldives has increased the number of hours people can spend out of their homes and opened some businesses in its first relaxation of restrictions since mid-April.
The government says three passes will be issued per family and each will allow two hours out twice every week. Only one family member had been allowed to go out every week for one hour, with most supplies home delivered.
Most shops and workshops will be allowed to open and taxis and trucks can operate. The government says the spread of the virus has reached a manageable level and its prepared to handle a spike.
There are 1,513 COVID-19 patients in this tiny archipelago state of 400,000 people and five reported deaths.
LJUBLJANA, Slovenia — Passenger traffic has resumed at the main airport in Slovenia after more than two months of suspension.
An Air Serbia flight from the capital of Belgrade on Friday was the first to land at the Ljubljana airport. Authorities say they expect most airlines to return by early July.
Traffic relaunch at the airport is set in stages: Lufthansa, Montenegro Airlines and a Polish carrier should return by mid-June, while Swiss Air, Air Brussels, Transavio and British Airways will come next.
The STA news agency says Finnair and Iberia have decided not to fly to Slovenia this summer season. The report says Fraport Slovenia operator of the Ljubljana airport has recorded only 15% of its regular revenue since passenger flying was halted in mid-March.
Slovenia has eased lockdown measures the past few weeks. The Alpine home country of U.S. first lady Melania Trump, Slovenia is a popular tourism destination, particularly for sport enthusiasts and nature lovers.
BERLIN — Russian-German pianist Igor Levit plans a marathon performance of Erik Satie’s “Vexations.”
Levit told German news agency dpa the virus outbreak and the resulting lockdowns have been “brutal for us artists — physically, mentally and emotionally.” Satie’s work fits on a single sheet of music and involves 840 repetitions.
The Berlin-based pianist says he’ll perform Saturday for about 20 hours. The concert will be streamed on various classical music sites and Levit’s Twitter and Instagram accounts.
BARCELONA, Spain — Employees in Spain of Japanese giant Nissan took to the streets for the second day in a row to protest the closure of three Barcelona plants as the carmaker scales down its global production.
Hundreds of workers have surrounded on Friday at least four of Nissan’s car dealerships in or around the northeastern city, covering their windows with leaflets reading “Nissan betrays 25,000 families” and “We will keep fighting” among others.
The closures by the end of the year would mean the loss of 3,000 direct jobs, and some 20,000 additional ones in the supply chain could be affected.
Both Spain’s central government and the regional authorities of Catalonia, where the affected factories are, have vowed to help unions revert the Japanese company’s decision. Industry Minister Reyes Maroto on Friday said that the proposal could be a “joint private-public partnership.”
Although Nissan had been mulling for months to scale down its production in Europe and other parts of the world, the company is suffering like many other automakers from a plunge in demand for vehicles amid the coronavirus pandemic.
ANKARA, Turkey — Worshippers in Turkey have held their first communal Friday prayers in 74 days after the government reopened some mosques as part of its plans to relax measures in place to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
Prayers were held in the courtyards of a select number of mosques on Friday, to minimize the risk of infection.
Authorities distributed masks at the entrance to the mosques, sprayed hand sanitizers, and checked temperatures for fever.
Worshippers were asked to bring their own prayer rugs, but some mosques offered disposable paper rugs which were placed 1.5 meters (5 feet) apart.
The partial opening of the mosques follows a slowdown in the confirmed COVID-19 infections and deaths in the country.
On Thursday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced plans to lift restrictions on movement between cities and reopen restaurants, cafes, sports centers, beaches and museums on June 1.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — The number of coronavirus cases in Indonesia has surpassed 25,000 with more than 1,500 virus-related deaths as authorities are stepping up to lift large-scale social restrictions next week.
Indonesia’s COVID-19 Task Force on Friday reported 678 new cases in the last 24 hours, taking the country’s total to 25,216 with 1,520 deaths, the highest death toll in Southeast Asia. It also reported 6,492 recoveries.
Jakarta, the first large city to enforce partial lockdown rules in the country, has hinted that the restriction policy would not be extended after June 4.
The State-Owned Enterprises Ministry has instructed state-run companies to allow its employees to return to work in mid-June by observing health guidelines amid a surge in cases and fears of a new wave of infections with the return of hundreds of thousands of people to cities after Islamic holidays.
The government’s data showed that nearly 50,000 people are under isolation and monitoring for possibly having the virus or after testing positive without showing any symptoms, while another 12,499 patients who remain in treatment are waiting for the lab-test results.
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