The Latest: China says it’s time to cooperate against 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:

— Countries and U.S. states are moving to reopen gradually amid warnings that acting too quickly could enable the virus to come back with a vengeance.

— Serbia lets elderly outside for the first time in more than a month.

— South Africa to spend big to fight the socioeconomic effects of the new coronavirus.

— Netherlands to allow elementary school children to return to classrooms.

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UNITED NATIONS — China said this is a time for solidarity and cooperation, not “finger-pointing” and “politicization” as its top diplomats in New York officially handed over a donation of medical supplies to hard-hit New York City to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

Consul-General Huang Ping recalled at Tuesday’s online ceremony that China’s President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump “called for anti-epidemic cooperation between our two nations and the world” in their last phone call on March 17.

After weeks of elaborate praise of president Xi’s performance in the pandemic, Trump has turned to blaming China and halting U.S. contributions to the World Health Organization, accusing it of parroting misinformation from Beijing.

Huang said the American people helped China “without hesitation” when it was in great difficulty, and its consulate and U.N. mission have donated 25,000 N95 masks, 2,000 protective suits, and 75,000 pairs of medical gloves, which reached New York last weekend.

According to incomplete estimates, Huang said, China has also donated 1,000 ventilators, 6,550,000 masks, 310,000 pairs of surgical gloves, 150,000 goggles and 32,000 protective suits to the United States, much of it to New York.

“As the two biggest economies in the world, China and the United States need to lead the effort to fighting the coronavirus,” Huang said.

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SALEM, Ore. — The White House told governors their leadership is critical in testing for the coronavirus, providing a map showing that Oregon is among four states with the lowest testing capacity in the United States.

Oregon, Montana, Oklahoma and Maine are able to test fewer than 30 in 1,000 people a month, according to an email sent Monday by the White House coronavirus task force.

The states with the highest monthly testing capacity — more than 90 in 1,000 people — are Wyoming, Utah and Vermont, the email said.

Rapid and efficient testing is needed to identify where the virus is emerging and allow authorities to track people who may have been exposed, according to the email, which Gov. Kate Brown’s office released after a public records request by The Oregonian/OregonLive. Testing also gives states a tool as they decide when and how to start lifting stay-at-home orders.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said the number of testing machines is only part of the equation to get full capacity.

“All the machines in the world won’t make a difference if we can’t get the test kits and other supplies needed to run the tests,” Bullock said.

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee said the White House email “does nothing to answer the repeated calls from governors” to address the lack of supplies and personnel needed to take advantage of lab capacity.

The White House acknowledged those shortages in the email and said it was working to address those issues.

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico’s health secretary has revised the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases after acknowledging double counting last week.

Lorenzo González said Tuesday that the number of cases dropped to 915 from 1,298 as revisions continue. This means the U.S. territory’s coronavirus fatality rate has increased with at least 64 deaths reported. Officials note that more than 1,700 test results are pending.

Puerto Rico has the lowest per capita testing rate compared with any U.S. state, with some 11,800 people tested on the island of 3.2 million inhabitants.

González also said he expects the nearly two-month lockdown that expires May 3 will be extended to June 1, although with some modifications amid pressure from business owners. The governor is expected to make a formal announcement in upcoming days.

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LONDON — The British government is providing funding for studies of potential vaccines against the new coronavirus, one of which will start Thursday.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said at the government’s daily press briefing that the U.K. is at the “forefront of the global effort” to find a vaccine and will provide financial assistance for the research being conducted at Oxford University and Imperial College London.

The project at Imperial will receive 22.5 million pounds ($28 million) while Oxford’s will be granted 20 million pounds ($24.5 million). The Oxford study is slated to start with healthy volunteers on Thursday.

Hancock also said that the government will invest in manufacturing capacity in the event any of the vaccine candidates work.

However, he cautioned about the prospects of success, saying the process of vaccine development is one of “trial and error and trial again.”

Several studies of other vaccine candidates already are underway in the U.S. and China.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Hundreds of people frustrated with Gov. Roy Cooper’s stay-at-home order designed to blunt COVID-19 marched on Tuesday around his home, demanding that he cancel it now to unleash the state’s economy.

Carrying placards and banners and chanting, the protesters gathered in a parking lot before being escorted by Raleigh police motorcycles to walk through streets downtown, including those surrounding the Executive Mansion. The final participants in the ReopenNC crowd, while raucous at times, ultimately dispersed peaceably about three hours later.

Cooper’s current order expires April 29, but the governor has said expanded widespread testing and supplies, extensive contact tracing and slowed case and hospital rates are needed before movement and commerce restrictions can ease. Cooper told reporters later Tuesday that the state hasn’t done that yet. He said that he would release more specifics this week about the goals that must be met to loosen the controls.

“I know that many people are frustrated, anxious and eager to get back to work and school. I also know that many people want to make sure that their families are as safe as possible from this virus,” Cooper said.

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MADISON, Wis. — Republicans who control the Wisconsin Legislature asked the state Supreme Court on Tuesday to block an order from the Democratic governor’s administration extending a stay-at-home order from Friday until May 26.

Republicans argued in the lawsuit that the state health secretary, acting under the direction of Gov. Tony Evers, does not have the legal authority to issue the order that closes most nonessential businesses.

The lawsuit was filed as Vice President Mike Pence was touring a GE Healthcare manufacturing facility in Madison that is producing ventilators.

Pence thanked workers and their union during the tour, saying social distancing and other mitigation efforts were working to ensure the nation’s health care system doesn’t become overwhelmed, resulting in more demand for ventilators than there is capacity to provide.

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — Some South Carolina beaches reopened Tuesday and dozens of sunbathers quickly flocked to the sand.

Gov. Henry McMaster lifted his order from earlier in the coronavirus pandemic closing all public access to beaches at noon Tuesday, but left the decision whether to reopen to local coastal governments.

Many of them decided to wait, including the city of Myrtle Beach, which has one of the state’s most popular beaches.

But areas near Myrtle Beach decided to open with the only new rules being a statewide emergency order prohibiting gatherings of three or more people who are not related.

A South Carolina Education Television camera filmed dozens of people sunbathing or walking on the edge of the surf at Surfside Beach.

North Myrtle Beach also opened, but beachfront cameras showed fewer people.

Mayor Marilyn Hatley said she felt that reopening the beaches was needed for mental health so people could “enjoy some much-needed sun and recreation.”

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JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s president has announced an “extraordinary budget” of $500 billion rand ($26 billion) to address the huge socioeconomic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

President Cyril Ramaphosa in a national address says the amount is roughly 10% of the country’s GDP. He says the budget will be described more fully in the coming days but that the top priorities are combating the virus and relieving “hunger and social distress” as millions of South Africans struggle to survive.

One-tenth of the new special budget will go toward the country’s most vulnerable people over the next six months. Other priorities include the protection of companies and workers in a country where the economy had been struggling even before the pandemic.

Ramaphosa says the virus and measures to contain it will continue to take a severe toll “in the weeks and months to come,” with many people losing their jobs.

Unemployment already had been 29% in one of the world’s most unequal nations.

“Our country and the world we live in will never be the same again,” Ramaphosa says.

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WASHINGTON — Nine sailors from the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier have now been hospitalized and are being treated for the coronavirus as the ship continues to battle a growing outbreak.

According to the Navy, just 42 sailors have recovered from the virus since the ship docked in Guam about three and a half weeks ago. More than 4,100 of the ship’s 4,800 crew members have been moved ashore for quarantine, and 710 have tested positive.

The number of those sent to the hospital has increased very slowly, but steadily, over the past week.

None of the sailors is in the intensive care unit. One sailor has died as a result of the virus, which has taken the carrier out of service in the Pacific.

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MADRID — Spain’s government is stipulating maximum prices for sale to the public of protective health equipment amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Health Minister Salvador Illa said Tuesday a face mask, for example, cannot be sold for more than 0.96 euros ($1).

The measure was recommended by a government agency which monitors drug prices. Illa said it was designed to avoid “exploitative” pricing.

Spain’s official coronavirus death toll stands at more than 21,200, behind only the United States and Italy.

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BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia’s elderly ventured outside on Tuesday for the first time in more than a month as authorities eased some of the strict measures that have been in place against the new coronavirus.

The government now allows people over 65 years old to go out for a walk three times a week during a daily curfew when the rest of the population must stay indoors. Authorities say they want to keep the vulnerable elderly residents safe.

Serbia has introduced some of the toughest rules in Europe as part of efforts to curb the spread of the virus. People over 65 were only allowed to go shopping for groceries once a week and very early in the morning.

Most people who ventured out Tuesday evening were wearing face masks and some couples were holding hands. One man said he was out for the first time in 35 days.

Serbia has reported 6,890 cases of infection with the new coronavirus, while 130 people have died.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch government has taken the first tentative steps in relaxing its coronavirus containment measures, allowing elementary school children to return to their classrooms part-time beginning May 11 and allowing children to take part in sport training starting April 29.

High schools have been told to prepare for students to return to class on June 2.

At the same time, Prime Minister Mark Rutte extended a ban on all large-scale events, such as music festivals and professional soccer, until Sept. 1, while bars and restaurants will remain shut until at least May 20.

Rutte told the nation: “Caution now is better than regret later.”

The Netherlands has been in what Rutte calls an “intelligent lockdown” since mid-March that closed down schools, restaurants, bars and museums but stopped short of ordering people in the nation of 17 million to stay home.

Instead, they were urged to act responsibly to slow the spread of the virus — to work from home, stay home as much as possible and engage in social distancing if they venture outdoors.

The measures appear to be having an effect. Health officials said the number of coronavirus patients being treated in intensive care units across the country had dropped by 71 from a day earlier, the biggest single-day decline since the outbreak began.

The official Dutch death toll stands at 3,916, but that only includes people who tested positive. Authorities say the true toll is higher.

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ROME — Italy’s number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, including those in intensive care, has continued to decrease.

There was a day-to-day-increase of 2,729 confirmed cases, according to figures released on Tuesday by the Health Ministry, but the majority of Italy’s known coronavirus infections are isolated at home.

In all, Italy has nearly 184,000 confirmed cases since the outbreak began. There were 534 deaths from Monday evening to Tuesday evening, according to the latest figures, raising to 24,648 the number of people with COVID-19 infections who have died. Italy has the highest number of deaths in Europe during the pandemic.

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