The Latest: Washington state records record unemployment
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:
— Washington State unemployment at record high.
— Germany not cutting foreign aid.
— Ford plant resumes production after shutdown due to COVID-19.
OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state’s unemployment rate shot up to 15.4% in April and the state’s economy lost 527,000 jobs in the month as a result of the economic downturn from the coronavirus pandemic.
That’s the highest jobless rate the state has seen since it started keeping records in the 1970s. The previous record was 12.2% in November 1982, said Paul Turek, an economist for the state’s Employment Security Department.
April’s rate, released Wednesday, is a significant jump from March’s 5.1%, though officials had warned April’s numbers would more truly reflect the widespread closing of restaurants and other businesses, which began in mid-March.
February’s unemployment rate was 3.8%.
BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the country won’t be cutting foreign aid due to the coronavirus pandemic, and further relief for poor nations is needed.
Speaking Wednesday after a video meeting with heads of the World Bank, the International Monetary fund and three other global economic bodies, Merkel noted last month’s agreement to freeze poor countries’ debt obligations and said that “as far as the sustainability of debt is concerned further steps need to follow.”
Merkel didn’t spell out whether Germany would go so far as agreeing to debt relief.
CHICAGO — Production of the Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator resumed Wednesday morning after two shutdowns due to the novel coronavirus.
Ford temporarily halted production at its Chicago SUV factory twice on Tuesday after two workers tested positive for the disease.
The company says the workers contracted COVID-19 outside the factory, triggering protocols that included production halts to sanitize equipment and isolate employees who came in contact with the affected workers.
One worker tested positive on the day shift and a second worker tested positive on the night shift, causing shutdowns for several hours, spokeswoman Kelli Felker said.
The shutdowns came just a day after Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler restarted their U.S. factories after being idle for about two months due to the disease.
GENEVA — The head of emergencies at the World Health Organization says an end to U.S. funding for the U.N. health agency would have a “major implication for delivering essential health services to the most vulnerable people in the world.”
Dr. Michael Ryan was responding to questions from reporters about a letter sent by U.S. President Donald Trump threatening an end to funding from the United States, its biggest donor, unless the agency reforms.
The comments came on a day when a total of 106,000 COVID-19 cases were reported to WHO over a 24-hour period, the most in a single day since the outbreak began.
Ryan said the U.S. funding that reaches the WHO emergencies program was “on the order of $100 million a year” and much of it goes to “humanitarian health operations all over the world, in all sorts of fragile and difficult settings.”
Ryan expressed concern about any such funding cuts and said, if necessary, the agency would have to work with other partners to make sure the money is there.
MILAN — More than two weeks into Phase II of gradual reopening in Italy, the number of reported new coronavirus infections grew by 665 on Wednesday to 227,364, with nearly half in the northern region of Lombardy that has been the epicenter for Italy’s epidemic.
Five regions reported no new cases of COVID-19 and nine regions reported no deaths, according to the civil protection agency.
Deaths in the country rose by 161 to 32,330, the lion’s share in Lombardy, and pressure on hospitals continued to ease, with 400 fewer beds occupied with COVID-19 patients, including 40 in ICUs.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s health minister does not expect a second wave of infections in the country in the coming months, but says his ministry is monitoring the possibility of a risk in September or October.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday following a weekly meeting of the country’s scientific advisory council, Fahrettin Koca said the country is preparing to open to domestic travel next month by introducing a system of certification that will allow passengers with no health issues to travel on planes and trains. The system will also allow health authorities to easily track travelers and anyone they came into to contact with if they fall ill, he said.
The country is also preparing to accept travelers from 31 nations who want to visit Turkey for medical purposes, Koca said.
The announcement came as the number of confirmed infections and deaths in the country continued to drop. Turkey registered 23 COVID-19 deaths and 972 new confirmed cases in the most recent 24-hour period, the first time the number of infections was below 1,000 in two months. The total number of confirmed infections now stands at nearly 153,000 with 4,222 deaths.
ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s long-awaited tourist season will begin on June 15 with the opening of seasonal hotels.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis says international flights will begin heading directly to tourist destinations on July 1. In a televised address to the nation on Wednesday, Mitsotakis says visitors would be subject to sample coronavirus testing and “our general health protocols will be adhered to.”
The government imposed a lockdown early in Greece’s outbreak, which has been credited with keeping the number of deaths and critically ill people at low levels.
Mitsotakis announced a reduction in consumer taxes on transportation from 24% to 13%, which will lead to cheaper boat, plane and bus tickets during the tourist season. There’s also a cut on tax on coffee, soft drinks and open-air movie theater tickets.
Health authorities announced one death Wednesday and 10 new confirmed coronavirus cases. That brings the total confirmed cases to 2,850 and 166 dead in the country of nearly 11 million people.
MADRID — Spain has registered a fourth consecutive day of fewer than 100 deaths from the coronavirus.
That’s down from more than 900 fatalities a day at the height of its outbreak in early April.
The Spanish Health Minister reported 95 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 Wednesday, taking the overall death toll to 27,888.
The health ministry also reported 416 new infections over the last 24 hours confirmed by laboratory tests. More than 232,000 infections have been confirmed by laboratory tests, and 49,600 Spaniards have tested positive from an antibody test.
Spain is edging toward reactivating its economy, and wearing a face mask is mandatory while outside the home.
BERLIN — Germany hopes to reach agreement with fellow European countries on rolling back travel restrictions in time for the summer holiday season.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas says “we hope to be able to lift the worldwide travel warning at least for the European Union after June 14 and replace it with lower level travel advice.”
Maas says countries had gotten “a good bit closer” to that goal with Germany’s nine neighbors and an earlier round of negotiations with 11 other European countries this week.
Maas says Germany wants a “coordinated and transparent process” across the EU that avoids individual countries pressing ahead in a bid for income from tourism when the pandemic isn’t yet defeated.
MILAN — A study by Milan’s Polyclinic hospital indicates the coronavirus was circulating among a random sample of blood donors with no symptoms in Milan before the first domestically transmitted case was confirmed Feb. 21 in a town less than an hour away.
The study of blood samples by donors showed that 4.6% already had antibodies against the virus at the start of the epidemic. That percentage rose to 7% by the beginning of April, when Italy was under lockdown.
The study, involving researchers at the Polyclinic, Milan University, Sacco Hospital and the European Oncological Institute, was released in a preliminary form before being submitted to scientific journals for peer review.
They analyzed random blood samples from Feb. 8 to April 24 of 800 donors at the Polyclinic, which runs a transfusion center with more than 40,000 annual donors. The researchers say all donors who tested positive showed changes in the cell count and lipid profiles, which could provide clues to identifying asymptomatic carriers.
Studies are still underway to determine what antibody level would be needed for immunity. It’s also not yet known how long any immunity might last.
(This item has been edited to delete references to immunity levels; clarifies studies are underway to determine antibody levels needed for immunity.)
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Ethiopian health officials say 66 inmates of a prison in the capital, Addis Ababa, have tested positive for the coronavirus.
They say contact made between one inmate and his lawyer led to the mass infection. The country has just 389 cases, but health officials say the past two weeks has presented more cases than the previous months combined.
Officials say more people with no travel history are testing positive, indicating a rise in community spread.
KYIV, Ukraine — Authorities in Ukraine has announced further easing of lockdown restrictions in place since mid-March.
Heath Minister Maxym Stepanov says the country will move into “an adjustable lockdown” on Saturday, with authorities in different regions deciding which restrictions to lift.
Starting Saturday, public transportion will resume in cities and towns, hotels will reopen but not restaurants within), and churches will be allowed to conduct public services for a limited number of people. The new measures will allow sports competitions with no more than 50 participants and no spectators.
Kindergarten and subway in Kyiv and other cities are to reopen on Monday. Ukraine was one of the first ex-Soviet countries to impose a strict nationwide lockdown in March, when it had just a handful of coronavirus cases. It has reported 19,230 confirmed infections and just 564 deaths.
GENEVA — Switzerland’s government says it is adding more than 14 billion francs ($14.5 billion) into the state unemployment insurance system.
Requests from companies have poured in, seeking help for workers representing 37 percent of the country’s total workforce during the coronavirus pandemic.
Economy Minister Guy Parmelin says in the capital of Bern that “190,000 companies have requested indemnification and partial unemployment for more than 1.9 million workers.”
He says Switzerland’s unemployment rate, which is low by international standards, has risen to 3.4 percent from 2.5 percent in March, and is expected to top 4 percent next year.
“The good news is that the application for partial unemployment have since stabilized,” Parmelin says.
He says the government plans to gradually ease such support.
NEW DELHI — India says its testing for coronavirus infections has reached 100,000 people per day this week and it has so far covered more than 2.5 million people in the country.
Health Ministry official Lav Kumar says though the number of active coronavirus cases in India exceeded 100,000, the highest in Asia, only 6.39% required hospitalization.
On Wednesday, India reported the largest single day increase of 5,611 active cases. The country is still far from the peak in coronavirus infections.
The spike has come with tens of thousands of migrant workers moving across the country in trains, buses, trucks or walking to reach their village homes as they have lost jobs in cities and towns.
The total number of deaths in India has risen to 3,303, including 140 in the last 24 hours.
The Hague, Netherlands — The Dutch government has extended and expanded a multibillion-dollar support package for businesses hit by the coronavirus crisis.
The measures include loans, tax relief and help paying salaries. It’s worth more than 13 billion euros ($14 billion).
The government says the aim is to protect as many jobs as possible for Netherlands businesses reeling from the economic fallout of the global pandemic. It follows a package announced in mid-March that’s been tapped by hundreds of thousands of businesses.
The government says it cannot prevent all job losses and bankruptcies and adds recovery of some sectors of the economy will take a long time.
PARIS — French authorities say they observe no signs of increase in the numbers of people infected with the coronavirus 10 days after the country ended its lockdown.
French Health minister Olivier Veran says the number of COVID-19 patients arriving each day at hospitals is decreasing, along with people treated in intensive care units.
He cautioned “this doesn’t mean the virus isn’t there” as the country gradually lifts restrictions. New clusters of COVID-19 cases have been recently discovered among slaughterhouse workers in western France and police officers in northern France.
Veran also promised that health workers in hospitals and nursing homes will see their salary increase as part of a new government plan for the public health system.
France has reported at least 143,400 cases of the virus and more than 28,000 deaths.
LONDON — The leader of Britain’s House of Commons says members of Parliament should return to London to work in person on June 2.
Jacob Rees-Mogg told Parliament the decision recognizes “the need for business to continue,’’ and the lawmakers with underlying health conditions wouldn’t be forced to attend.
Not all lawmakers think it is a good idea during the coronavirus pandemic. Tommy Sheppard of the Scottish National Party says lawmakers were being forced to risk their own health in order to stand up for their constituents.
He says the position taken by Rees-Mogg “is reckless, cavalier and downright dangerous.’’
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