The Latest: EU countries express concern over Venezuela
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:
—Putin extends Russia’s shutdown to May 11.
—Britain working on virus contact tracing app.
—France aims for 700,000 tests each week starting May 11.
—France, Spain reveal lockdown exits.
UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council has taken no action after discussing the humanitarian situation in Venezuela behind closed doors, but its European Union members are warning the coronavirus pandemic “risks having a devastating human impact in a country grappling with an already grave economic, social and humanitarian situation.”
A statement by France, Germany, Belgium, Estonia and former council member Poland issued after Tuesday’s meeting reiterated their concerns “about the sharply deteriorating crisis in Venezuela and its destabilizing effects across the region, including its severe humanitarian consequences.”
The members noted the European Union is the largest donor to Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis, “providing more than half of all funding,” and they called for stepped up efforts to respond to the country’s underfunded humanitarian emergency.
WASHINGTON — The Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs departments are defending their response to the coronavirus outbreak.
In a joint statement, the agencies say they have worked with FEMA to ship 4.3 million respirator masks and 1 million surgical masks along with 1.5 million gloves and 14,000 face shields to VA facilities across the country. They say an additional 1 million surgical masks will ship this week.
The VA also has made 1,500 acute and intensive care hospital beds available to non-veteran patients and is helping to provide support to state Veterans homes and private nursing homes.
LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County has reported 59 new COVID-19-related deaths, raising the total to 1,000.
“LA County has hit the tragic milestone of 1,000 people dying from COVID-19,” county public health director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “Please know that if you are grieving the loss of loved ones who have died from COVID-19, our thoughts and prayers are with you, your family, and your friends.”
Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous with 10 million residents, also reported 597 new cases, raising its total to 20,976.
The number of deaths in institutional settings rose to 462 and the majority were residents of skilled nursing facilities, the county said.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — After waiting more than a month to have their unemployment application processed, many Floridians were shocked this week to find their eligibility rejected even when they thought they had met the requirements.
The state’s CONNECT website to check status of claims was down for maintenance over the weekend, further frustrating thousands waiting for assistance after losing their jobs because of business closures caused by the coronavirus outbreak. It functioned erratically Monday, with many users getting repeated error messages.
Many who filed on the state’s outdated website in March have been waiting five or six weeks with their claim stuck in pending status. Many were deemed ineligible this week, despite believing they had met requirements, including proofs of prior income.
BOSTON — Nearly 70 residents sickened with the coronavirus have died at a central Massachusetts home for aging veterans. State and federal officials are trying to figure out what went wrong in the deadliest outbreak at a long-term care facility in the U.S.
While the death toll at the state-run Holyoke Soldiers’ Home continues to climb, federal officials are investigating whether residents were denied proper medical care while the state’s top prosecutor is deciding whether to bring legal action.
Sixty-six veteran residents who tested positive for the virus have died, officials said Monday, and the cause of another death is unknown. Another 83 residents and 81 staff have tested positive.
The home’s superintendent, who’s been placed on administrative leave, has defended his response and accused state officials of falsely claiming they were unaware of the scope of the problem there.
NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya’s Interior minister Fred Matiangi has announced a ban on movement into and out of two of Africa’s largest refugee camps in a measure to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The minister’s statement did not provide details, but aid organisation CARE said the camps have no capacity to deal with a possible outbreak of the virus.
CARE said in a statement that Dadaab refugee camp, in Kenya’s east, has a quarantine facility for 2,000. It has more than 270,000 refugees mainly from Somalia, and a further 20,000 refugees living with the host community.
Kakuma camp in Kenya’s north hosts 60,000 refugees mainly from South Sudan.
AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine will begin reopening its economy in phases this week on a schedule that is more ambitious than most of the rest of the hard-hit Northeast.
The state will extend its broad stay-at-home order until May 31 but also begin lifting restrictions Friday, said Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat. The first stage will give residents access to personal services like barbers and drive-in churches. Later phases, to spread across the summer, will reopen restaurants, hotels, summer camps and bars.
Maine has reported over 1,000 cases of the virus and more than 50 deaths.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California schoolchildren could return to their classrooms as early as July though there likely will be modifications.
No formal decisions have been made, but Gov. Gavin Newsom is acknowledging there have been “learning losses” as parents have sought to teach their kids from home. Most schools and classrooms have been closed since March, when Newsom issued a statewide stay-at-home order to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Districts and families have struggled to adapt to at-home learning. Starting the new school year earlier would make up for some of that lost time, Newsom says.
But schools may look radically different than before. Newsom previously said schools may launch with staggered start times to limit the number of students in the school at one time and make changes to recess, lunch and other normal school gatherings that draw large groups of students together.
SALEM, Oregon — Facing steep budget shortfalls, the state of Oregon is furloughing workers in order to save money.
A state economist predicted that Oregon’s leaders will have to grapple with “balancing limited revenues with increased need for programs to help Oregonians” impacted by the economic shutdown to stem the coronavirus pandemic.
“Things won’t bounce back overnight” after the restrictions are lifted, Josh Lehner, who is helping produce Oregon’s economic and revenue forecast, said on a webcast.
Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle announced late Monday that managers in the agency she directs, the Bureau of Labor and Industries, must take one unpaid furlough day per month through June 2021, the end of the budget cycle.
“The coronavirus pandemic has collapsed our economy,” Hoyle said.
MOSCOW — Russian opposition activists have staged an online protest against lockdowns.
Participants in Tuesday’s video call charged that the government has used the coronavirus outbreak to impose illegal restrictions violating people’s rights.
Opposition politician Dmitry Gudkov denounced an electronic pass system introduced in Moscow as a “digital concentration camp.” He also criticized the Kremlin for failing to offer tangible support to private businesses.
A partial economic shutdown ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin has kept most Russians home since late March. The measure was to expire Thursday, but Putin extended it through May 11.
Russia has recorded 93,558 coronavirus cases and 867 deaths.
MOSCOW — Russia’s prison service says it has registered more than 300 coronavirus cases.
The Federal Penitentiary Service says 271 of its personnel and 40 inmates have tested positive for the new coronavirus. It says it has conducted nearly 19,000 tests.
The announcement marked the first official acknowledgement of the contagion in Russia’s sprawling prison system that holds more than 600,000 inmates. Activists have warned the outbreak could quickly engulf Russia’s overcrowded prisons, noting the authorities’ failure to observe the necessary precautions and the lack of protective gear.
The prison service insisted in Tuesday’s statement that it has conducted extensive medical checks of prison personnel and inmates and quarantined new arrivals.
PRAGUE — The lower house of Czech Parliament has agreed to extend the state of emergency at the request of the government amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The lawmakers approved the extension to May 17. The government argued it needed the expansion until May 25 because its last restrictive measures to contain the pandemic will expire by that date. But the opposition said it didn’t properly explain its demand.
The state of emergency gives the government extra powers to respond to the outbreak, including a power to limit basic rights.
Almost 7,500 people have been tested positive for the coronavirus in the Czech Republic, according to government figures released on Tuesday, 225 have died.
FRANKFORT, Ky. — It’s no joke — Tupac Shakur lives in Kentucky and needs unemployment benefits to pay his bills.
The Lexington man’s name was brought up by Gov. Andy Beshear on Monday night as he spoke about how the state is trying to process all unemployment claims filed in March amid the coronavirus pandemic by the end of April.
According to Beshear, a few “bad apples,” including a person who filed an unemployment claim under the name of the late rapper Tupac Shakur, are responsible for slowing down the state’s unemployment processing.
But the Lexington Herald-Leader reports Tupac Malik Shakur, 46, who goes by Malik, lives in Lexington and worked as a cook before restrictions to stop the spread of the coronavirus shut down restaurants.
He filed for unemployment March 13 and has been waiting to receive his first check.
“I’ve been struggling for like the last month trying to figure out how to pay the bills,” Shakur said.
Beshear called Shakur personally on Tuesday to apologize and Shakur said he appreciated the gesture and forgave Beshear.
LONDON — The parent company of British Airways says the airline plans to make up to 12,000 workers redundant.
IAG says the British flagship carrier, which employs some 42,000 people, will look into a “restructuring and redundancy program” until demand for air travel returns to pre-pandemic levels.
The proposals are subject to consultation but they will likely affect most of BA’s employees, the company said.
UNITED NATIONS — Human Rights Watch says medical supplies to prevent and treat the new coronavirus are not reaching northeast Syria because of restrictions imposed by the Syrian government and the Kurdish regional government.
The international rights organization urged the U.N. Security Council to immediately adopt a resolution reopening the Al Yarubiyah border crossing from Iraq into the northeast, where Syrian Kurds established an autonomous zone in 2012. The crossing, which was used primarily to deliver medicine and medical supplies, was closed in January at the insistence of Russia.
Louis Charbonneau, U.N. director for Human Rights Watch, stressed at a video press briefing that “this is not a political question, it’s a humanitarian question, (and) very easy for the Security Council to move quickly.”
MADRID — Spain’s prime minister says he hopes his country can scrap restrictions on movement because of the coronavirus by the end of June, after eight weeks of a phased relaxation of the rules.
But Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez warns the path to loosening limits will lead to a “new normal,” with safeguards such as wearing masks and strict hygiene rules staying in place until a vaccine is found.
In an address to the nation, Sánchez presented a blueprint for easing restrictions based on four phases. The process begins May 4 and there will be at least two weeks between each phase as experts assess the consequences.
It is “highly recommended” that people wear face masks until further notice, Sánchez said.
LUXEMBOURG — As part of its lockdown exit strategy, Luxembourg plans to test the whole of its population for COVID-19.
The Luxembourg government says tests will be conducted on a voluntary basis and aim at avoiding a second wave of infections. As of Tuesday, 3,741 people had tested positive for the coronavirus in the tiny country of 600,000 inhabitants, including 89 deaths.
The Grand Duchy government says 17 test stations will be set up across the country, where cross-border commuters can also be tested.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will sign an executive order meant to stave off a shortage of chicken, pork and other meat on American supermarket shelves because of the coronavirus.
The order will use the Defense Production Act to classify meat processing as a critical industry to ensure that production plants stay open.
The order comes after industry leaders warned that consumers could see meat shortages in a matter of days after workers at major facilities tested positive for the virus.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s health minister announced 92 new deaths from the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, raising the total death toll in the country to 2,992.
Fahrettin Koca also reported 2,392 new confirmed infections, bringing the total to 114,653.
At least 38,809 COVID-19 patients have recovered, according to data the minister posted on Twitter, including 5,018 who recovered in the past 24 hours. A total of 1,621 people are being treated in intensive care, including 844 intubated patients.
Turkish officials say that the number of daily infections is stabilizing and that the country could transition to normal life after a religious holiday at the end of May.
TIRANA, Albania — Albanian authorities have decided to keep schools closed as part of the virus containment efforts. Only high school seniors will follow a three-week teaching at schools.
Education Minister Besa Shahini says the virtual lessons would continue until the end of May.
High school seniors will go to schools from May 18 until June 5 while strictly observing social distancing. There will be 10 to 15 students per classroom and school buildings will be disinfected every day. Exams for reduced lessons will be held in June.
Universities may hold exams online.
Albania has been in a total lockdown following the first COVID-19 cases in March 9. So far the virus has killed 30 people and infected at least 750 persons.
LONDON — An official says the British government’s virus contact tracing app will be ready in two to three weeks.
Britain and many other countries are developing mobile apps to help reduce infections after they ease lockdown restrictions.
Matthew Gould, CEO of the National Health Service’s digital transformation unit, says a San Francisco-based software company Pivotal Labs has done most of the work building the app.
He told Parliament’s science and technology select committee the rollout will be part of a wider post-lockdown strategy that includes expanded testing.
The app will use Bluetooth signals to anonymously log when a user comes into close contact with others. The data is kept on devices. But if users later develop COVID-19 symptoms or get positive test result, they can choose to upload the data to a central server so those contacts can be alerted.
Gould says such an approach would maintain user privacy while allowing authorities to see any patterns in the movement of the virus.
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