The Latest: CDC will release coronavirus tests priorities

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.


— CDC will release new priorities for coronavirus tests, including testing asymptomatic individuals in high-risk settings.

— WHO’s emergencies chief: U.S. “well-positioned” to handle continuing pandemic.

— Italy has registered lowest day-to-day number of new cases since March 10.

— EU’s top economic official: new figures show growth in 19 nations using euro single currency will shrink markedly this year.


WASHINGTON — The CDC will release new priorities for coronavirus testing Monday, including testing asymptomatic individuals in high-risk settings.

And the White House is set to unveil what it describes as a comprehensive overview of its efforts to make testing for COVID-19 more widely available.

The White House is aiming for states to have enough tests and needed supplies to test at least 2.6% of their populations per month — a figure needed to catch asymptomatic spread.

The administration is also releasing a “testing blueprint” for states, outlining how they should prioritize testing as they devising their reopening plans.

It includes a focus on surveillance testing, as well as “rapid response” programs to isolate those who test positive and identify those they came in contact with.

The administration aims to have the market “flooded” with tests for the fall, when COVID-19 is expected to recur alongside the seasonal flu.


LONDON — The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief says the U.S. is “well-positioned” to handle the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and said states may have different strategies because they’re at different points in their respective outbreaks.

In a news briefing on Monday, Dr. Michael Ryan said that although the U.N. health agency issues epidemic control recommendations to all its member countries, it’s up to countries to decide whether or not to follow such guidance.

“I believe the federal government and the system of governors are working together to move America and its people through this very difficult situation with public health and other scientific leaders,” Ryan said in Geneva, adding that the American plan for exiting lockdowns appears to be based on several parameters, including a downward trajectory in cases and sufficient health care capacity.

He added that the U.S. had a “superb” public health infrastructure able to manage the transition once restrictive measures are loosened.

WHO’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said all countries should have heeded the agency’s warning when it declared COVID-19 to be a global emergency on Jan. 30, when there were only 82 cases of the disease beyond China.


LONDON — British Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the National Health Service will start to restore services put on pause to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Hancock said at the government’s daily briefing that as “the number of hospitalizations from coronavirus begins to fall,” the NHS will on Tuesday start to get back to normal. “starting with the most urgent, like cancer care and mental health support.”

Alongside the fall in the number of people being hospitalized with the coronavirus, there has been a steady fall in the number of people dying in U.K. hospitals from COVID-19 when measured on a seven-day rolling average.

Hancock said another 360 people died in U.K. hospitals taking the total to 21,092. That is the lowest daily increase since late March.

The government’s chief medical adviser, Professor Chris Whitty, said that number is likely to rise in the coming days as Monday’s increase may have been artificially depressed by weekend reporting limitations.

Hancock also announced a 60,000-pound ($74,000) life assurance plan for families of front-line staff who die with coronavirus. He said 82 NHS workers and 16 social care staff had died so far.


ROME — Fiat Chrysler has reopened one of its truck plants after installing dozens of temperature monitoring cameras, 130 hand sanitizer dispensers and other safety measures to prevent coronavirus infection.

The Sevel plant in Atessa, a joint venture with French carmaker PSA Group, was closed March 17, about 10 days before the government idled all non-essential production.

Fiat negotiated a reopening with unions and health experts and says most of the 6,000 employees at Sevel returned to work Monday.

Pietro Gorlier, FCA’s regional chief operating officer, said: “Obviously this will not be a restart like turning on a switch,” but rather a gradual reopening as plants implement standards of hygiene and social distancing.

All employees were given kits that will be replaced daily with surgical masks, gloves and goggles. There’s an extra set of masks for those who use public transport to get to and from work, FCA said.

Premier Giuseppe Conte on Sunday outlined how other industry can begin reopening next week, once they implement necessary virus-prevention measures. Some plants were allowed to reopen starting Monday.


ROME — Italy has registered its lowest day-to-day number of new cases of COVID-19 since practically the first day the nation was put under lockdown to contain what would become one of the world’s worst outbreaks.

According to data from the Italian health ministry, 1,739 cases new cases were confirmed in the 24-hour period ending Monday evening. The previous time the nation saw such a low daily number occurred on March 10, when 77 new cases were registered. Italy now has 199,414 known cases. It registered 333 deaths since Sunday evening, raising to 26,977 the number of known deaths in the country, which has Europe’s highest death toll in the pandemic.

Some of Italy’s lockdown rules will be partially eased on May 4, but many restrictions on retail shops, museums and other businesses will last two or more weeks beyond that date.

Scientists advising the government are concerned the contagion rate will start soaring again when Italians start moving around more with newly regained freedoms. Premier Giuseppe Conte has decided that re-opening society will come gradually, since there is no vaccine against COVID-19.


ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his government is working on a detailed plan to normalize life by easing restrictions, adding that “there is light at the end of the tunnel for Turkey.”

Erdogan said however, that weekend lockdowns would most likely continue until after next month’s Eid holiday which marks the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan. In a televised address following a weekly Cabinet meeting, Erdogan said this week’s curfew would start on Friday — May 1 Labor Day — which is a public holiday in Turkey.

The vice president will evaluate recommendations from the country’s COVID-19 advisory council to decide “which steps will be taken in which fields and on which date,” Erdogan said.

His announcement on the gradual easing of restrictions comes amid a decline in the number of daily deaths and infections.

On Monday, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced 95 deaths in the past 24 hours, the lowest since April 11. The total death toll now stands at 2,900, with 112,261 confirmed infections.

The government has refrained from imposing a total lockdown, fearing its negative impact on the already fragile economy. It has opted for piecemeal measures instead, including weekend curfews and banning people above the age of 65 and below the age of 20 from leaving their homes.


BRUSSELS — The European Union’s top economy official says new figures show that growth in the 19 nations using the euro single currency will shrink markedly this year and more than during the previous financial crisis.

Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni told EU lawmakers Monday that “that a deep recession is unavoidable in Europe this year” due to the impact of the coronavirus.

Gentiloni says the “very sharp contraction” will be “worse than the one during the global financial crisis.” with the euro area shrinking by numbers similar to those predicted by the IMF of about 7.5%.

The European Commission is due to publish its spring economic forecast on May 7. Gentiloni did not provide exact figures.

He says that “everywhere the crisis will increase unemployment and social and economic divides between those who have secure jobs and good housing conditions and those who are less protected.”

EU institutions and member countries have already freed up around 3.4 trillion euros ($3.7 trillion) to help resuscitate virus-hit economies, but Gentiloni says “an unprecedented set of actions” is still necessary.


ATHENS, Greece — Greek health authorities have announced 17 newly confirmed coronavirus infections and two new deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s total death toll to 136, and the confirmed number of infections to 2,534.

The new figures also showed a continued reduction in the number of critically ill patients intubated in intensive care units, which fell to 43, from 46 the previous day. The numbers come a day before Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is to issue a televised address to the nation describing how the country will emerge from its lockdown after current restrictions expire on May 4.

Health Ministry spokesman for the coronavirus crisis, infectious diseases specialist Sotiris Tsiodras, warned the gradual relaxing of the lockdown measures harbored a risk of a resurgence of the virus.

“It is a very difficult phase,” Tsiodras said in his daily briefing.

Earlier, government spokesman Stelios Petsas outlined how restrictions will be gradually released, with hair salons and retail shops expected to open first. They will be followed gradually by schools, hotels and restaurants.

Authorities have said the openings will be spaced out to allow for time to assess their effects.


UNITED NATIONS — United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is warning that extremist groups are taking advantage of COVID-19 lockdowns to intensify social media efforts to spread hatred and recruit young people who are spending more time online.

He said even before the coronavirus pandemic one of every five young people was not getting an education, training or working, and one of every four was affected by violence or conflict. And he lamented that every year, 12 million girls become mothers.

Guterres told a U.N. Security Council meeting Monday on youth, peace and security that “these frustrations and, frankly, failures to address them by those in power today, fuel declining confidence in political establishments and institutions.”

And he said “when such a cycle takes hold, it is all too easy for extremist groups to exploit the anger and despair, and the risk of radicalization climbs.”

But despite these challenges, the U.N. chief said young people “are still finding ways to engage, support each other, and to demand and drive change” — including in the fight against COVID-19.

Guterres pointed to young people in Colombia, Ghana, Iraq and several other countries joining humanitarian workers in delivering supplies to front-line health workers and people in need, keeping communications open within communities while maintaining social distancing. He said young people are also supporting his March 23 call for a cease-fire in all conflicts in the world.


BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania’s president says the country’s kindergartens, schools and universities will remain closed until the end of the school year. Distance learning will continue until the mid-June summer break.

President Klaus Iohannis said Monday that only students in the 8th and 12th grades will return to the classrooms in early June to take national exams amid strict distancing rules. That will include a maximum of 10 students per classroom.

Romania’s state of emergency because of the new coronavirus pandemic is currently scheduled to be in place until May 15.

Romania has reported 11,339 coronavirus cases and 631 deaths.


MADRID — Spain’s interior minister says an “overwhelming majority” of parents are complying with social distancing rules when taking their children outside for the first time in weeks.

But Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska noted occasional non-compliance since Sunday’s first day of the new measures. That included both parents going out with a child instead of just one parent, groups of children playing together and groups of parents chatting together.

The government plans to ease stay-at-home restrictions for more people, including the elderly, on May 2.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is scheduled to announce Tuesday details of how an easing of the lockdown will proceed in coming weeks. Spain has recorded more than 23,5000 deaths from COVID-19.

Health Minister Salvador Illa said Monday restrictions will be eased gradually and at different speeds across the country.

He said that the government is advising companies eager to reopen that they should still allow staff to work from home whenever possible, introduce flexible shift work and keep workplaces clean.


COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Norwegian children returned to school Monday while the country’s health and culture ministers went for haircuts as salons reopened.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg watched students from the first to the fourth grade return to classes at the Ellingsrudaasen school in Oslo.

Culture Minister Abid Raja told Norwegian news agency that the face recognition on his cell phone “almost didn’t recognize me” until his wife brought out the razor.

Bent Hoeie, his colleague from the health ministry said it was good to be back in the barber chair.

Tattoo parlors and beauty salons through Norway also reopened Monday.


ZAGREB, Croatia — Public transport has resumed in the Croatian capital of Zagreb as authorities launched a phased easing of measures against the new coronavirus.

Loosening of some rules designed to curb the outbreak is accompanied by strict respect of social distancing measures and the use of protective gear and disinfectants.

In previous weeks, public transport lines were restricted.

Zagreb’s tram lines still have not resumed while buses won’t enter the old center that was damaged in an earthquake last month.

People using buses in Zagreb were entering only at the front door and sitting away from each other inside. They were wearing face masks and applying hand sanitizers.

Citizens expressed hope that the situation will not worsen with the easing of lockdown measures if everyone sticks to the recommendations set out by the authorities.

Croatia also on Monday allowed some business and shops to resume work and restored some boat lines toward the islands along the Adriatic Sea coast.

Croatia has reported 2,030 infections and 55 deaths.


GREEN BAY, Wis. — A beef production plant in Green Bay has become the latest to shut down because of coronavirus infections among employees.

JBS USA announced Sunday that the JBS Packerland plant would be closed temporarily. The Green Bay Press Gazette reported that at least 189 COVID-19 infections had been linked to JBS Packerland as of Friday.

The state Department of Health Services says the number of confirmed new coronavirus cases in Brown County overall grew to 776 on Sunday.

The JBS Packerland plant employs more than 1,200 people and feeds nearly 3.2 million people per day. The company said employees will be paid during the closure.

JBS earlier closed plants in Souderton, Pennsylvania; Greeley, Colorado; and Worthington, Minnesota. The first two plants have since reopened.

JBS and other meat processors say they’ve taken a variety of steps to reduce the chances of workers spreading the virus to each other, including adding plexiglass barriers between workers, stressing social distancing and providing personal protective gear.


BERLIN — Germany’s Foreign Ministry says the country is making 300 million euros ($325 million) available worldwide for humanitarian aid related to the new coronavirus.

It is in response to a call for assistance from the United Nations and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent.

Foreign Minister Heiko Mass said Monday that people in war zones, refugee camps and in countries with overwhelmed health care systems are at particular risk during the pandemic.

Maas says “our solidarity is needed to help alleviate suffering,” adding that “only together will we permanently defeat the pandemic; otherwise there will always be new waves of infection.”

The funds will be targeted to a variety of organizations including the World Health Organization, International Organization for Migration, Red Cross and Red Crescent, World Food Program, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

It’s expected to be put to use to help with health-care projects, as well as water and sanitation measures.


NEW DELHI, India — India’s main medical research organization has cancelled orders to procure rapid antibody test kits from two Chinese companies after quality issues and controversies over its price.

The order was canceled Monday after a New Delhi court revealed that the Indian government was paying more than twice what it cost to import them.

States in India had wanted rapid testing kits because they wanted to test and identify the actual spread of the virus within communities.

Experts point out that while the lockdown has slowed the rate of transmission, effectively scaling up testing remains key for India to get ahead of the virus.

India had imported almost one million kits from China to ramp up testing.

India’s health ministry says the recovery rate of COVID-19 patients in the country stands at 22% after reporting more than 27,000 cases of the new coronavirus, including 872 deaths.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi says the month-long ongoing lockdown has yielded positive results and that the country has saved “thousands of lives.”

Critics of the government and doctors say India needs to ramp us its testing abilities to fully tackle the coronavirus.


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