The Latest: Group concerned about COVID-19 aid for Syria
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 — 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.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey says retail stores, beaches and non-emergency medical procedures can resume later this week with limits.
Ivey says a “safer at home” order will take effect 5 p.m. Thursday evening when the current stay-home order expires.
The changes do not go as far as Georgia’s aggressive timetable for reopening. Alabama restaurants will remain closed for on-site dining. Hair salons, nail salons, tattoo parlors and other close-contact services will remain closed.
WASHINGTON — Business and health industry groups are urging lawmakers to shore up health insurance coverage for unemployed Americans in the next coronavirus bill.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Hospital Association and the insurance lobby America’s Health Insurance Plans are calling for lawmakers to put aside bitter political differences over “Obamacare” and provide support for keeping people insured as millions lose coverage in a shuttered economy.
The Trump administration has instead said it will reimburse hospitals for caring for uninsured COVID-19 patients, from a pot of money Congress approved.
The three groups wrote congressional leaders of both parties that more ambitious steps are needed to make sure re-opening the economy goes smoothly.
LONDON — Britain is ramping up its coronavirus testing efforts, with tests now being available to people over 65 as well as those who can’t work from home.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock says anyone over 65 and their households, and all workers who must leave their homes to work, are now added to the list of those eligible for tests as long as they show symptoms.
All hospital patients and staff, as well as nursing home residents and workers, also qualify even if they have no symptoms.
A government website where people can book coronavirus tests crashed last week after tens of thousands of eligible people rushed to apply.
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus’ Telecommunications Authority says arsonists have torched a second mobile telephone antenna despite government efforts to quell “groundless” fears that it’s moving to install a 5G mobile telephone antenna network.
CyTA says the latest arson attack targeted a 20-year-old installation in the coastal town of Limassol that has nothing to do with 5G. The first antenna that was set ablaze two weeks ago in the same town was also an older installation.
The telecoms authority urged authorities to get to the bottom of the attack.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades had condemned the first attack as a “criminal act” that endangered the lives of people with chronic ailments who rely on their mobile phones for medical assistance amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Anastasiades said Cyprus isn’t currently installing any new 5G network and that any decision to do so will be taken based solely on European Union directives and World Health Organization recommendations.
A small, but vociferous online campaign against 5G alleges in social media posts that emissions from the network’s antennas pose a serious health risk and may be linked to the spread of COVID-19 by weakening the human immune system.
ATHENS, Greece — Greek health authorities announced 32 new coronavirus infections and two new deaths, bringing the country’s total confirmed infections to 2,566 and the death toll to 138.
Of the new infections, the ministry said 13 were people who had been repatriated to Greece or were part of localized outbreaks.
The Health Ministry also announced a further fall in the number of critically ill patients intubated in intensive care units, to 40, three fewer than the previous day. Seventy people have been discharged from ICUs.
Greece implemented a strict lockdown early in its outbreak, which has been credited with keeping the country’s death toll and critically ill patients low. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis detailed a gradual easing of the lockdown measure earlier Tuesday, with restrictions starting to be lifted from May 4 and throughout June.
NEW YORK — Jets from Navy’s Blue Angels and the Air Force’s Thunderbirds flew over New York City in a tribute to the medical personnel, first responders and other essential workers involved in fighting the pandemic.
The planes from the two demonstration squadrons flew in formation over New York and Newark beginning at noon. The formation was set to fly over Trenton, New Jersey, and Philadelphia.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says his administration is talking to the airline industry about giving passengers temperature checks and testing them for the coronavirus.
Trump also says it “sounds like a good idea” for passengers to be wearing a face mask while on the plane.
The comments come as Trump meets at the White House with Republican Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida about that state’s plans for loosening restrictions on the economy put into place as a result of the pandemic.
Florida health authorities have attributed many of the state’s COVID-19 cases to people traveling from other hot spots, including Europe, Nile river cruises, the New York City area and Latin America.
DeSantis tells Trump that his state’s ability to test people for the virus exceeds current demand and that moving to the first phase of reopening the economy should not be a heavy lift.
SOAVE, Italy — Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte says the risk of a new contagion ‘’is concrete,’’ as Italy moves into a new phase of living ‘’alongside’’ the coronavirus with the loosening of some lockdown measures starting next Monday.
Conte has been visiting some of the hardest-hit communities in the northern region of Lombardy in a sign of institutional support for the sacrifices of medical personnel and solidarity with citizens in their eighth week of total lockdown. The number of people testing positive for the virus on Tuesday topped 200,000, while deaths rose by 382 to 27,359, according to civil protection agency figures. Those figures have been easing since the March 27 peak, but the virus continues to spread, in particular in the north.
BRUSSELS — A top European Union official says the bloc plans to work together with African countries to try to help secure them debt relief so their economies can better cope with the ravages of the coronavirus.
Speaking after talks with the leaders of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, European Council President Charles Michel says “we have agreed to lead this debate together.”
Michel says “there is a legitimate question: how is it possible to support the African countries by opening this political debate about the debt relief?”
He says the 27 EU countries will work together on the question with the five countries of northern Africa’s Sahel region and global partners like the International Monetary Fund.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish Airlines says it is further extending its suspension of international and domestic flights over the coronavirus pandemic until May 28.
The announcement comes a day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the country could begin to ease some restrictions after the Eid holiday, at the end of May.
Turkey has banned travel to and from 31 of the country’s most-populated provinces, where it has also declared weekend lockdowns. It has also imposed partial curfews for citizens above the age of 65 and below the age of 20.
The country has reported a total of 2,900 COVID-19 deaths and 112,261 confirmed infections.
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has extended the nation’s partial economic shutdown through May 11, saying the coronavirus outbreak is yet to reach a peak.
Speaking in a conference call with top officials Tuesday, Putin says the shutdown that began at the end of March and was to expire on April 30 has slowed contagion. Lockdowns imposed by Russian regions have kept most people, except those working in vital industries, at home.
Russia has recorded 93,558 coronavirus cases and 867 deaths. Moscow has accounted for about half of the cases.
Putin instructed the government to prepare a plan for gradually lifting the lockdown after May 11. He also promised new steps to support businesses and restore the economic damage from the outbreak.
ATHENS, Greece — Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has outlined the plan for a gradual lifting of the coronavirus lockdown.
“We accepted, as a society, the need for economic activity to be paralyzed in order to save human lives,” Mitsotakis said in a televised address to the nation Tuesday. “As we limited the first wave of the virus, we are ready to pass into the second phase of our plan: the gradual de-escalation of the measures.”
However, the prime minister noted, “nobody can rule out a possible rekindling of the threat.”
Mitsotakis says the lockdown would be lifted in stages starting May 4, when some retain stores reopen and Greeks won’t have to carry a self-written document certifying they are outdoors for one of six specific reasons. Travel restrictions outside of people’s home region will remain in place for two more weeks.
Churches will be accessible for private prayers and people can later attend services on May 17. Other retail businesses will reopen on May 11, with social distancing restrictions.
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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