The Latest: Belarus hosts military parade despite virus

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:

— Belarus hosts a large military parade despite sharply rising coronavirus infections

— Germany says Europe must acknowledge it wasn’t well-prepared

— Russia observes scaled-down commemoration of WWII anniversary

— Seoul shuts down nightclubs, bars and discos after spread of virus linked to clubgoers

— Federal judge deals blow to Kentucky’s ban on mass gatherings

— Pakistan begins lifting weeks-long lockdown despite another big jump in virus cases

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MINSK, Belarus — Tens of thousands of people have turned out in the capital of Belarus despite sharply rising coronavirus infections to watch a military parade celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.

Belarus has not imposed wide-ranging restrictions to halt the virus’ spread and authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko has dismissed concerns about it as a “psychosis.”

At Saturday’s parade of some 3,000 soldiers, Lukashenko said Belarus’ ordeal in the war “is incomparable with any difficulties of the present day.”

Some aged war veterans in the stands at the parade wore masks, but in general there were few masks to be seen in the throng of spectators. Belarus, a country of about 9 million, has recorded more than 21,000 cases of coronavirus infection.

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BERLIN — German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas says Europe must acknowledge that it “wasn’t well-prepared” for the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement marking Europe Day, Maas said that initially most countries, including Germany, were focused on coping with the outbreak at home.

While defending the national response as “necessary, in order to safeguard our ability to act and then also help other,” Maas said the European Union had “grown in the crisis.”

The EU’s sluggish response has given way to cross-border medical aid, a massive financial support package and coordinated scientific research programs.

Maas called the solidarity provided by EU member states “unique in the world,” adding that Germany wants the bloc to emerge from the crisis stronger. Berlin takes over the six-month rotating presidency of the 27-nation EU on July 1.

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MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has marked the anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II in a ceremony shorn of its usual military parade and pomp by the coronavirus pandemic.

Putin laid flowers at the tomb of the unknown soldier just outside the Kremlin walls and gave a short address honoring the valor and suffering of the Soviet army during the war.

Victory Day is Russia’s most important secular holiday. This year’s observance had been expected to be especially large because it is the 75th anniversary. The Red Square military parade and a mass procession called The Immortal Regiment were postponed as part of measures to stifle the spread of the virus.

The only vestige of the conventional show of military might was a flyover of central Moscow by 75 warplanes and helicopters.

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SEOUL, South Korea — Seoul has shut down more than 2,100 nightclubs, hostess bars, and discos after dozens of infections were linked to clubgoers who went out last weekend as the country relaxed social distancing guidelines.

The measures imposed by Mayor Park Won-soon on Saturday came after the national government urged entertainment venues around the nation to close or otherwise enforce anti-virus measures, including distancing, temperature checks, keeping customer lists and requiring employees to wear masks.

Park said that the entry bans on the facilities will be maintained until the city concludes the infections risks as meaningfully lowered.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier said 18 fresh cases were reported in the 24 hours to midnight Friday, all but one of them linked to a 29-year-old man who visited three clubs in Seoul’s Itaewon district last Saturday before testing positive on Tuesday.

But Park said 16 more cases were confirmed in Seoul alone in the following hours since. He said this brought the total number of infections linked to clubgoers to 40 — 27 in Seoul, 12 in neighboring Incheon and Gyeonggi province towns, and one in the southern port city of Busan.

The KCDC, which complies data from local governments, couldn’t immediately confirm Park’s numbers.

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FRANKFORT, Ky. — A federal court has halted the Kentucky governor’s temporary ban on mass gatherings from applying to in-person religious services.

The temporary restraining order issued Friday prevents Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration from enforcing the ban on mass gatherings at “any in-person religious service which adheres to applicable social distancing and hygiene guidelines.”

The ruling sided with the Tabernacle Baptist Church, but applies statewide. Two other federal judges had previously ruled the ban was constitutional. But also on Friday, one of those judges in a separate order granted Maryville Baptist Church an injunction allowing in-person services at that specific church.

Beshear had previously announced that places of worship could hold in-person services starting May 20, as part of a broader plan to gradually reopen the state’s economy. Earlier Friday, he outlined reopening requirements, including limiting attendance at in-person services to 33% of building occupancy capacity.

Beshear’s office had not issued a statement on the injunctions as late Friday

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan has begun lifting the weeks-long lockdown that was enforced to curb the spread of the coronavirus, as authorities reported another big jump of 1,637 cases which rose to 27,474 with 24 new fatalities.

Army soldiers who manned roadside checkpoints along with police since late March when the lockdown was enforced, were seen leaving for their barracks in the capital, Islamabad and elsewhere in the country on Saturday.

The latest development comes two days after the prime minister Imran Khan said he was ending the lockdown in phases because his government was unable to financially help those millions of people who rely on their daily earnings to survive and feed their families.

Khan says he tried to financially help the country’s poor amid the pandemic, but he was unable to support all those who lost their jobs due to the lockdown. So far, Khan has bowed to pressure from the country’s powerful clerical establishment by allowing mosques to remain open, even as the number of new cases has recently increased.

So far, Pakistan has reported 618 coronavirus-related deaths, although it had its first case in February.

Pakistan has warned that it will reimpose the lockdown if people do not adhere to social distancing guidelines, which experts say could cause a peak later this month. Although Pakistan has lifted curbs on several economic sectors and allowed business activities to reopen, schools will remain closed until July 15

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MANAUS, Brazil — A funeral home business leader for Brazil’s state that covers much of the Amazon region says emergency coffin shipments have started to arrive for people who have died of COVID-19.

Manuel Viana is president of the Amazonas Union of Funeral Companies and said Friday that more than 500 coffins were delivered by ship to Manaus, the largest city in Amazonas state.

He says hundreds more are on the way and will be distributed in Manaus and other cities in the region.

Manaus is one of the hardest hit Brazilian cities for coronavirus deaths and Viana says there are predictions that the city of more than 2 million could have more than 4,300 deaths in May.

A Johns Hopkins University count says there have been more than 10,000 COVID-19 deaths so far in Latin America’s largest and most populous country.

A Brazil funeral home association last week requested an airlift of coffins to Manaus.

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SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea says leader Kim Jong Un sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on the 75th anniversary of the allied victory in World War II and wishing Russia success in fighting its coronavirus outbreak.

The report by Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency on Saturday came a day after it reported Kim sent a personal message to Chinese President Xi Jinping to praise what he described as China’s success in getting its COVID-19 epidemic under control.

Some experts say the North could intensify its diplomatic outreach to neighbors, particularly China, as it seeks economic help after closing its border for months to fend off the virus.

KCNA says Kim’s message “sincerely wished the president and people of Russia sure victory in their struggle to build a powerful Russia by carrying forward the tradition of the great victory in the war and to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus infection.”

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HONOLULU — Hawaii is reporting no new cases of the coronavirus for the first time in nearly two months.

The state Department of Health said the number of positive cases remained at 629. The last time there was no new case was on March 13. At that point, Hawaii had a total of just two cases.

Hawaii has been under a statewide stay-at-home order since the last week of March to slow the spread of the virus. Gov. David Ige has begun relaxing some restrictions.

Hawaii also requires those arriving in the state and traveling between the islands to observe 14 days of quarantine.

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ASHLAND, Ore. — The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, a major tourist draw in southern Oregon, is cancelling its fall season due to the coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement the festival noted Oregon Gov . Kate Brown recently said that large gatherings wouldn’t happen in the state until at least late September. The company’s season was to begin Sept. 8. The festival urged 2020 ticketholders to donate tickets or consider a voucher for use in 2021.

The Tony Award-winning Oregon Shakespeare Festival is among the oldest and largest professional nonprofit theaters in the nation. It prides itself on offering outdoor showings of Shakespeare’s plays performed in a venue similar to what his contemporary audiences would have experienced, but it also offers other types of theater in indoor performance halls.

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NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana’s governor says the state will have 250 workers in place by the end of next week to contact people infected with the new coronavirus and track down people they have been in close contact with.

Such “contact tracing” is a key factor in whether the state will be able to start easing restrictions and closures of businesses.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards is under increasing pressure from Republican officials to restart Louisiana’s economy. Increased testing is also a factor, and Edwards said the state plans to complete a total of 200,000 tests for the month of May.

Edwards said the state has signed contracts with two companies that will establish the contact tracing system. That will bolster the 70 contact tracers currently working. The state expects to eventually hire as many as 700 contract tracers if needed.

Edwards’ current emergency order, banning gatherings of more than 10 people and closing many nonessential businesses, expires May 15. He plans to announce Monday whether the restrictions will be extended.

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Categories: National & International News