The Latest: Ohio prisons director says prisons must reopen

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:

— Ohio official says prisons must reopen even with high death toll.

— French sunbathe at La Grande Motte beach in cordoned-off spaces.

— Well-spaced faithful gather in St. Peter’s Square.

— Russia reports its highest single-day death toll but fewer infections.

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio has lost more inmates to COVID-19 than any other state, but the state prisons director says its prisons nonetheless must begin reopening to accommodate a slow return to business — and to crime.

The department has begun accepting new inmates from jails again and must soon resume the normal process of transferring inmates when necessary, Annette Chambers-Smith, head of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said in an interview this week.

“The whole of the community is reopening, so when you reopen the community, you’re going to have more laws broken also,” she said. “So really when you restart the community, the entire process restarts.”

More than 600 employees systemwide have tested positive, along with more than 4,500 inmates. Of those, 66 inmates have died of confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19, with deaths spread across eight institutions.

Two guards and two nurses have died.

Ohio has recorded the most deaths of prisoners from COVID-19 and ranks second only to Tennessee in cases per 100,000 inmates, according to an analysis by The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization. Ohio also has the fourth-highest prisoner death rate.

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BERLIN — Austria’s president has apologized after police found him at a Vienna restaurant later than restaurants are permitted to be open.

The Krone newspaper reported that police found President Alexander Van der Bellen and his wife in the Italian restaurant’s garden during a routine check after midnight on Sunday, with drinks on their table. Restaurants must close at 11 p.m. under rules that allowed them to reopen this month.

Police confirmed Van der Bellen’s presence.

The Austria Press Agency reported that Van der Bellen expressed regret. He said: “I went to eat with two friends and my wife for the first time since the lockdown. We were talking away and unfortunately lost sight of the time.”

He added: “I am truly sorry. It was a mistake.”

Austria’s president has a largely ceremonial role. The government of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz sets the coronavirus rules.

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BERLIN — A German official says the number of confirmed coronavirus infections following a Baptist community’s service in Frankfurt has risen to at least 107.

News agency dpa reported that Hesse state’s health minister, Kai Klose, said Sunday those infected live in Frankfurt and three other counties in the region.

The deputy head of the Evangelical Christian Baptist congregation has said that the service took place on May 10 and it complied with rules under which authorities allowed religious services to resume at the beginning of the month — including a 1.5 meter (5-foot) distance between worshippers and the provision of disinfectant.

Frankfurt health officials say most of those infected appear to have caught the virus after rather than at the service.

Germany started easing lockdown restrictions on April 20. So far, new coronavirus infections have continued to decline overall.

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LA GRANDE MOTTE, France — Grateful French families flocked to the beach at La Grande Motte on the Mediterranean shore Sunday, swimming and sunbathing in areas carefully marked to keep them a safe distance from others.

Cordons of ropes and wooden stakes were neatly spaced out across the sand, giving each visitor or group an 8-square-meter (86-square-foot) space of their own.

Reservations are free but required, and there is already a two-day waiting list. Those lucky enough to get a spot for the four-day weekend around Thursday’s Christian holiday Ascension relished the opportunity, frolicking beneath a summer-like sun.

Elsewhere in France beaches have also reopened, but only for individual sports or walks, and visitors are not allowed to sit or lie down. La Grande Motte says it was the first town to put in place new social distancing measures allowing other activities to resume.

In the French capital this weekend, Parisians soaked up the sun along the embankments of the Seine River and lounged on ledges outside the Tuileries Gardens, still shuttered like all of the city’s parks as the city gradually emerges from confinement.

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BERLIN — A German state governor’s proposal to scrap blanket coronavirus restrictions in his region is drawing a mixed response.

Bodo Ramelow, the governor of the eastern state of Thuringia, said Saturday that he hopes to lift the remaining statewide lockdown rules on June 6 and replace them with “a concept of recommendations and fighting COVID-19 locally if infection figures rise.”

It’s not entirely clear yet what that would mean. While Ramelow’s proposal draw some praise, there was criticism from the mayor of one of the state’s biggest cities, Jena, which was the first in Germany to require people to wear face masks in some situations.

Mayor Thomas Nitzsche compared the proposed change in a Facebook post to “entering a mine field.”

In Germany, the state governments are responsible for imposing and lifting lockdown restrictions. All 16 states currently have coronavirus rules.

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LONDON — Toilet experts say urinals may be consigned to history as part of measures to make public conveniences safe for the post-coronavirus world.

Raymond Martin, managing director of the British Toilet Association, says business and governments need to adapt public toilets to make them infection-resistant, adding technology such as foot-operated flushes and sensor-activated taps.

Hospitality industry groups in Britain have also proposed replacing rows of urinals with cubicle-only washrooms for both men and women.

Martin told the Sunday Times that transforming toilets would be expensive, but “we want to bring back life to this country, and toilets are a vital part of that.”

He said “tourist offices all over the country should be telling visitors: ‘Come see our castle, come see our beaches, come see our state-of-the-art toilets.’”

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VATICAN CITY — Well-spaced faithful have gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the first time in months for the traditional Sunday papal blessing.

They cast their gaze at the window where the pope normally addresses the faithful.

Pope Francis has been delivering the blessing from inside the Apostolic library during the epidemic.

Francis recalled his scheduled visit on Sunday to the Naples area to draw attention to environmental damage caused by toxic-waste dumping by the mob.

The visit — canceled during the pandemic — was timed to mark the fifth anniversary of his ecological manifesto, and the pope announced a year of reflection on his 2015 environmental encyclical, ‘’Praised Be.’’

Francis came to the window and waved to the people in the piazza at the end of the blessing.

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MOSCOW — Russia has reported its highest one-day coronavirus death toll but also the lowest number of new infections in three weeks.

The national coronavirus task force said Sunday that 3,541 people have died from the virus, an increase of 153. The previous high was 150.

The number of new infection cases was 8,599. Daily infection tallies of more than 11,000 were reported for several days in May. Overall, Russia has recorded 344,481 infection cases.

Russia’s comparatively low mortality rate has raised eyebrows in the West, with some suggesting the country’s government may be under-reporting virus-related deaths and manipulating the statistics. Russian officials deny the allegations and attribute the low numbers to the effectiveness of the measures taken to curb the spread of the outbreak.

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PARIS — Some 2,000 Muslims gathered for Eid al-Fitr prayers Sunday at a sports complex in the Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret.

They were carefully spaced 1 meter apart and wearing masks, according to France-Info radio. Volunteers spread the faithful out around a football field and a track field, and traditional embraces were not allowed.

France announced Friday night it would allow religious services to resume for the first time since March, but France’s leading Muslim organization CFCM advised mosques to stay closed for Sunday’s celebrations marking the end of Ramadan.

The CFCM said the government decree didn’t give mosques enough time to procure enough masks and hand gel to ensure that gatherings don’t turn into super-spreading events.

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BEIJING — Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi says any lawsuits brought against China over the COVID-19 have “zero factual basis in law or international precedence.”

Wang told reporters at a news conference on Sunday that China was a victim of the global pandemic alongside other countries and had reached out to assist other governments in need.

“To our regret, in addition to the raging of the new coronavirus, a political virus is also spreading in the U.S. which is to take every chance to attack and discredit China,” Wang said.

“Some U.S. politicians, heedless of basic facts, have fabricated too many lies and plotted too many conspiracies,” Wang said.

Raising such lawsuits “tramples on the international rule of law and abandons the human conscience. It’s untrue, unjustifiable and illegal,” Wang said.

Those who would bring such litigation against China are “living in a daydream and will humiliate themselves,” Wang said.

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MOSCOW — Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has released a video calling for divine help in overcoming the pandemic after Russian media reported he had been hospitalized for suspected COVID-19 symptoms.

But the video, posted Saturday on the Telegram messaging app and marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, does not show Kadyrov and uses only his voice, Russian news reports said.

However, state news agency Tass cited Akhmed Dudayev, the head of Chechnya’s broadcasting company, as saying Kadyrov took the video himself.

Russian news media last week cited unnamed medical sources as saying Kadyrov had been flown to Moscow for coronavirus treatment, but Chechen officials denied the reports.

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LONDON — Lawmakers from Britain’s governing Conservative party are joining opposition calls for Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s top aide to quit for traveling 250 miles (400 kilometers) to his parents’ home during a nationwide lockdown while he was coming down with the coronavirus.

The government has defended Dominic Cummings after the revelation that he had driven from London to Durham, northeast England, with his wife and son at the end of March. A lockdown that began March 23 stipulated that people should remain at their primary residence, leaving only for essential local errands and exercise.

The government said Cummings made the trip because he wanted to ensure his 4-year-old son was looked after while he and his wife were ill. But critics of the government expressed outrage that Cummings had broken stringent rules saying people should “Stay Home … Save Lives.”

Conservative lawmaker Steve Baker said Cummings must go for not “abiding by the spirit, at least, of the slogans which he has enforced on the rest of the country.” Another Tory legislator, Simon Hoare, tweeted: “With the damage Mr Cummings is doing to the Government’s reputation he must consider his position.”

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PARIS — France is relaxing its border restrictions as the virus gradually recedes, allowing migrant workers and family visitors from other European countries – but is requiring quarantine for people arriving from Britain and Spain.

Starting Monday, France is abandoning border checks installed in March and switching to spot checks in various places, according to a government statement.

It is also broadening the categories of people allowed from other countries in Europe’s border-free travel zone to include migrant workers and people coming for family reasons.

However, since Britain and Spain are requiring quarantine for those arriving from elsewhere in Europe, France is doing the same. It will be a voluntary 14-day quarantine, based on reciprocity for measures taken by Britain and Spain in an “uncoordinated” manner, the French government said.

Travelers from outside Europe are still banned until at least June 15, except for French citizens.

Any traveler arriving in France must fill out a permission form justifying the trip and a signed paper declaring that they don’t have symptoms.

The government said France is working with other European countries on standard Europe-wide travel rules.

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SEOUL, South Korea __ South Korea has reported 25 additional cases of the coronavirus over a 24-hour period, amid a continuation of small-scale outbreaks in the country.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the additional figures released Sunday took the country’s total to 11,190 with 266 deaths. The agency says 10,213 of them have recovered and been released from quarantine.

It says 17 of the 25 new patients were locally infected while the rest eight came from overseas.

South Korea eased much of its strict social distancing rules in early May before it saw a sudden uptick in the number of cases associated with nightclubs in Seoul’s Itaewon entertainment district. Health authorities say they’ve confirmed a total of 225 cases linked to Itaewon cubs as of Sunday noon.

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Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Categories: National News

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