The Latest: Visitors tour Rome’s newly reopened landmarks
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:
— Protests spark virus fears in US; South Korea sees new cases.
— Visitors tour recently reopened landmarks in Rome.
— Moscow eases some restrictions on businesses.
— The Netherlands takes major step in relaxing its coronavirus lockdown.
ROME — A long line of masked visitors is snaking outside the Vatican Museums as one of Italy’s biggest tourist draws reopens after a three-month coronavirus shutdown.
Museum director Barbara Jatta popped out of the museum Monday and appeared to briefly greet visitors waiting on line, spaced apart, to have their temperatures taken before being allowed to tour the Sistine Chapel and other treasures.
Across town, Rome’s other big attraction — the Colosseum — also opened its ancient doors, but it appeared there were more television crews than tourists on hand.
Italy on Wednesday will further loosen travel restrictions in the onetime epicenter of Europe’s pandemic in a bid to reboot the tourism industry that accounts for some 13% of the national GDP. Italians will be allowed to freely move about the country and European Union visitors will be welcomed without quarantine requirements. Despite the government’s go-ahead, some regional governors are pressing for some ability to trace tourists or test them to make sure they aren’t bringing the virus with them.
MOSCOW — The Russian capital has eased the restrictions intended to stem the coronavirus outbreak, allowing all non-food retailers and some other businesses to reopen.
Monday’s reopening of retail stores along with dry cleaners and repair shops comes as the pace of contagion has stabilized in the Russian capital that has accounted for about half of the nation’s infections. Residents are also allowed now to walk in the parks and engage in sports activities with time restrictions. Restaurants, cafes, hairdressers and gyms remain closed and people are still required to obtain electronic passes for traveling.
Most Russian regions were in lockdown since late March, but many already have eased the restrictions to ease the economic pain.
Russia has registered nearly 415,000 infections, the world’s third-highest caseload behind the United States and Brazil. Some experts in Russia and abroad have voiced doubts about the nation’s relatively low death toll of 4,855, alleging that the authorities might have underreported coronavirus mortality for political reasons. Officials have rejected the claims, saying the low death toll reflects efficient preventative measures and broad testing.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Netherlands has taken a major step to relax the coronavirus lockdown, with bars, restaurants, cinemas and museums reopening under strict conditions.
The move happens on a major public holiday and with the sun out blazing, there were immediate fears for overcrowding like in popular beach resorts like Scheveningen close to The Hague.
Under the new rules, bars and restaurants will be allowed to cater to up to 30 patrons inside if they keep social distancing. There will be no standing room in the bars and reservations will be necessary. There are no crowd limits for terraces outside if distance is kept. Owners have been preparing for the move for weeks, after they missed out on over two months of income because of the crisis.
Museums, such as the world-famous Rijksmuseum will be reopening too but need to keep to strict rules on reservations and crowding.
Public transport will also be expanding to resume regular schedules as of Tuesday but will bar people sitting close to one another.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish airlines resumed limited domestic flights, restaurants welcomed sit-in customers and beaches and museums reopened as Turkey’s broadest easing of coronavirus restrictions came into effect.
A Turkish Airlines flight departed from Ankara airport for Istanbul on Monday as Turkey lifted a travel ban between 15 of its worst-affected provinces. The air routes between Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Antalya and Trabzon are the first start, with others scheduled to follow gradually.
Traffic congestion returned to Istanbul, Turkey’s most populous city, while intercity roads filled with people heading for hometowns or to holiday resorts.
Meanwhile, restaurants and cafes opened their doors to a limited number of customers after some two months of take-away services only.
Istanbul’s 15th century Grand Bazaar, museums, gyms, child care centers and nurseries were among other venues allowed to resume operations.
Businesses will be required to ensure social distancing is maintained as well as strict hygiene conditions.
Bars, nightclubs and hookah bars however, will remain closed. A stay-at-home order for people aged 65 and older and minors also remains in place.
The easing of restrictions follows a slowdown in confirmed COVID-19 infections and deaths in the country.
LONDON — Britain has begun cautiously easing lockdown restrictions despite warnings from some health officials that the risk of spreading COVID-19 was still too great.
Some schools are reopening and some social restrictions have been relaxed, allowing people to have limited contact with family and friends as long as it is done outdoors and with social distancing. Restrictions on some of society’s most vulnerable have also been eased as the government moves to restore some normalcy in daily life and to revive the economy.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma told the BBC that the government is taking action in phases to ease restrictions in place since March 23. He says “this is not a dash.’’
The Association of Directors of Public Health has warned that experts are worried that the government is moving too fast.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s top infectious disease expert has pleaded people over 65, pregnant women and other medically vulnerable individuals to stay at home as officials struggle to trace and stem the spread of the coronavirus amid increased public activity.
Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, made the comments on Monday while addressing 24 new cases linked to a group of churches near capital Seoul.
She also raised concern over the hundreds of transmissions linked to workplaces, including call centers and at least one massive warehouse.
“We have been seeing an increased number of high-risk patients, who have been infected through family members or religious gatherings,” Jeong said. “There’s a particular need for people over 65 years in age, pregnant women and those with chronic medical conditions to be alert,” she added, recommending that they avoid face-to-face gatherings with others.
South Korea has so far reported more than 11,000 cases and around 270 deaths.
Christian churches have been campaigning for worshippers to return since authorities eased social distancing guidelines in mid-April, but the resurgence in COVID-19 cases in the greater capital area in past weeks has pushed officials to restore some controls.
Incheon, a port city west of Seoul, on Monday banned gathering at more at some 4,200 churches and other religious facilities. Gyeonggi Province, which surrounds the capital, issued an administrative order to shut down warehouses, funeral homes and wedding halls, but city officials didn’t immediately confirm how many businesses were affected.
YEREVAN, Armenia — Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and his entire family have been infected with the coronavirus.
In a Facebook statement on Monday, Pashinian said he didn’t have any symptoms, but decided to get tested ahead of visiting military units, and the test came back positive.
“I will be working from home,” the prime minister said, adding that he probably contracted the virus from a waiter who brought him a glass a water at a meeting without wearing gloves and later tested positive for the virus.
Armenia has so far reported over 9,000 confirmed cases of the virus among its population of nearly 3 million, with around 130 deaths. The country’s authorities declared a state of emergency in mid-March. Last week, Pashinian said the outbreak in Armenia was getting worse.
ATHENS, Greece — Greece on Monday lifted lockdown measures for hotels, open-air cinemas, golf courses, and public swimming pools as the country ramped up preparations for the tourism season starting in two weeks.
Primary school children also returned to classes in the country where strict public safety measures were believed to have kept the COVID-19 infection rate low, with the death toll at 175, according to Health Ministry figures announced Sunday.
International flights with relaxed screening procedures will resume to Athens and Greece’s second-largest city Thessaloniki starting June 15 and expanding to the rest of the country on July 1.
Screening for arriving passengers will be based on an assessment by a European Union flight safety authority, with arrivals from low-infection countries being subjected only to random testing.
Hotels with a 12-month operating license were allowed to reopen Monday but many chose to remain closed until closer to the start of the tourism season, citing low bookings.
Also allowed to restart Monday are campsites, wedding reception services, tattoo parlors, and dating agencies.
NEW DELHI — India has registered 230 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing its total to 5,394 as the country begins its three-stage reopening on Monday.
The lockdown is being eased in most places except for the containment zones now isolated due to coronavirus outbreaks.
The Health Ministry said India had 190,535 cases, which is the 7th most worldwide, exceeding Germany and France. More than 60% of India’s COVID-19 fatalities have occurred in just two states — Maharashtra, the financial hub and entertainment hub of India, and Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Experts say that although India’s cases are increasing rapidly, it is nowhere close to the peak of the outbreak. But the government is still easing the lockdown to ease some of the economic pain and hardship.
The railways will run 200 more special passenger trains from Monday and some states have opened their borders to vehicular traffic.
Maharashtra has allowed shops and offices to open outside containment zones and given a nod to the resumption of film shootings with some restrictions in place.
There are concerns that the virus may be spreading through India’s villages as millions of jobless migrant workers return home from cities during the lockdown.
DHAKA, Bangladesh — Public transportation across Bangladesh reopened Monday with both long-distance and city buses carrying fewer passengers after three months of suspension to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.
In the capital, Dhaka, magistrates from the country’s road transport authority were checking if the buses were operating under health guidelines set by the government. Domestic flight operations resumed on at least three routes and trains were resuming.
Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury, junior minister for shipping, said passenger ferries that connect the delta nation’s vast southern coastal region with Dhaka also started their operations.
The reopening of the public transport service came amid concern that the number of infections and deaths could increase significantly in the coming weeks in the overcrowded country that has reported 47,151 cases including 650 fatalities.
The country’s fragile healthcare system is already stressed with reports saying Dhaka hospitals have no beds left for severely ill patients who would require intensive care and ventilation.
The government says the gradual reopening is crucial to revive the economy since growth is likely to plunge, leaving millions jobless.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea is reporting a steady rise in cases around the capital as officials push to require entertainment venues to register their customers with smartphone QR codes so they could be easily located when needed.
The 35 new cases of COVID-19 reported Monday include 30 around Seoul. The figures released by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention brought national totals to 11,503 cases and 271 deaths.
Officials have reported 238 infections over the past five days, most of them in the Seoul metropolitan area where around half of South Korea’s 51 million people live, causing alarm in a country that had eased up on social distancing and started to send millions of children back to school. Hundreds of infections have been linked to nightspots, restaurants and a massive e-commerce warehouse near Seoul.
From Monday, a designated group of businesses in Seoul, Incheon and Daejeon will begin collecting the personal details of their customers with smartphone QR codes in a trial run before the requirement is expanded nationwide on June 10.
While local governments can enforce the QR codes on “high-risk” facilities such as nightclubs, bars, karaoke rooms, gyms and concert venues, Health Minister Park Neunghoo expressed hope that the technology would be expanded to churches, libraries, hospitals and restaurants.
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