The Latest: Israel pledges $60 million for virus research

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.


— Israel pledges $60 million on research into the new coronavirus.

— Two more Northern California counties allow many businesses to reopen.

— Washington D.C. health officials announce 154 positive new COVID-19 infections.


JERUSALEM — Israel’s prime minister says the country will spend $60 million on research into the new coronavirus. Benjamin Netanyahu made the pledge in a call Monday with leaders from Europe and elsewhere.

Israel joins other leaders who have promised hundreds of millions of dollars toward scientific research to combat the virus.

He said Israel hopes to “leverage our unique abilities to find solutions that will benefit everyone.”

Israel has begun reopening its economy after weeks of stringent health restrictions. While it has reported more than 16,200 cases and 234 deaths, Israel has so far managed the crisis without having its hospitals inundated and has slowed its infection rate.


YUBA CITY, Calif. — Two more counties in Northern California have allowed many businesses to reopen in defiance of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s orders intended to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Yuba County and adjacent Sutter County on Monday followed last week’s move by Modoc County amid pressures to restart California’s economy even as hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 continue.

Newsom’s six-week-old order requires nearly 40 million residents to remain mostly at home.

Businesses not deemed essential were ordered closed until COVID-19 testing, hospital and death rates indicate the state outbreak is beginning to ease. Millions have been unable to work.


ATHENS, Greece — Greeks are once again allowed to swim in the country’s beaches following a six-week lockdown. But people must maintain social distancing and organized beaches offering services to paying visitors will remain closed.

A government decision published Monday, when the country started to ease its lockdown, also allows fishing from the shore. Officials said fishing from small boats will also be allowed.

Authorities said Monday that the new coronavirus epidemic is “under control” in the country, although care is required to avoid a resurgence.

Only six new cases were recorded over the past 24 hours and two new deaths, bringing the total of recorded infections to 2,632 and deaths to 146.


WASHINGTON — Washington D.C. health officials have announced 154 positive new COVID-19 infections. That brings the total up to 5,170 with seven new deaths for a total of 258.

Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a state of emergency on March 11 and issued a stay-home order on March 30 for Washington’s approximately 700,000 residents.

Bowser has also announced plans to turn Washington D.C.’s convention center into a 1,500-bed field hospital.


PARIS — French prime minister Edouard Philippe urged public transport companies to open May 11 as the country will start lifting confinement measures.

Heads of France’s biggest public transports companies, including national railway SNCF and Paris metro RATP, have voiced concerns over lack of human and material resources to ensure travelers’ safety.

In a speech to French senators, Philippe said they need to “find the right answers to complex questions” because it is necessary to provide public transports “in a controlled way” next week to help the economy recover after two months of strict lockdown in the country.

Philippe reaffirmed that people will be allowed to travel no further than 100 kilometers (62 miles) with exceptions only for compelling familial or professional reasons.

He said reservations will be mandatory to halve the number of passengers in long-distance trains.

Heads of public transports companies called for police to help them regulate passengers flows in an open letter and warned of potential disruptions during rush hour.

Starting May 11 all French businesses will be allowed to resume activity and schools will start gradually reopening.


NEW DELHI, India — India will facilitate the return of its stranded citizens abroad in a phased manner beginning May 7.

The Ministry of Home Affairs on Monday said Indian Embassies and High Commissions are preparing a list of distressed Indian citizens who will be brought back on naval ships separate from the non-scheduled commercial aircraft.

The stranded citizens would have to pay for the transport. Only those who are asymptomatic will be allowed onboard.

It was not immediately clear how many Indians the government plans to bring back to the country.

India brought back hundreds of Indians from China and Iran in March. However, after it suspended domestic and international flight operations over the growing number of coronavirus cases in the country, the operation was halted.

On Monday, India relaxed some coronavirus lockdown restrictions even as the pace of infection picked up and reopenings drew crowds. The near-total 5-week lockdown achieved a slowdown in the spread of the virus but has caused immense hardship for India’s legions of poor people.

Some degree of lockdown will continue at least until May 18.

India reported 42,835 virus cases, 11,761 recoveries and 1,389 deaths. The country says it had tested more than a million samples by Monday.


CLEARWATER BEACH, Fla. — Clearwater Beach officially reopened to the public before sunrise Monday morning.

Police removed “closed” signs from barricades at 7 a.m. to the cheers of the 50 or so people waiting to step on the freshly groomed sand. Clearwater police have a large presence patrolling the beach and urging people to socially distance.

Monta Burnett of Clearwater Beach prayed as she stood in the chest-deep water moments after the beach reopened.

Mike McKown drove about two hours from Auburndale to set up his beach umbrella and chair.

The Beach Shanty Cafe on Gulf Boulevard set up two tables outside for people to enjoy breakfast.

Few, if any, people walking on the beach or along the boutique stores on Gulf Boulevard wore protective masks.


BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia’s government is accelerating its steps to lift restrictive measures adopted to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Prime Minister Igor Matovic says all stores, except shopping malls, can reopen Wednesday. That is two weeks before originally planned due to a more positive development of the outbreak in the country than expected.

Also, museums, galleries, libraries and the outdoor seating at restaurants can return to service.

One person died of COVID-19 in Slovakia on Sunday for a total of 25. The day-to-day increase of the new positive cases reached 5 on Sunday, the ninth day below 10.

As previously scheduled, zoo parks, hairdressers, beauty parlors and taxi services can reopen as of Wednesday. Weddings and religious services are also allowed to take place again.


MADRID — The Spanish government is turning up pressure on opposition parties to approve another extension of the country’s state of emergency. The government says a failure to do so could “bring chaos.”

Transport and Mobility Minister José Luis Ábalos anticipates a tough debate in parliament on the issue Wednesday. He says the measure is “the most effective legal instrument” to fight the new coronavirus because it grants authorities the exceptional power to restrict freedom of movement.

Ábalos says that without it all the sacrifices made so far will have been “pointless.”

“There’s no Plan B, no alternative” to the state of emergency, Ábalos told a news conference in Madrid on Monday.

Health Minister Salvador Illa said it was “indispensable.”

Spain has managed to reduce the daily increase in the number of coronavirus infections from around 35% in mid-March to 0.16% because of a strict lockdown. More than 25,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the country.


ROME — Italy’s national statistics agency has released the first comprehensive data on the effect of the new coronavirus on Italy’s mortality rates. The data found 38.7% more people died through March 31 than the average over the past five years.

ISTAT calculated an increase of 25,354 excess deaths from the start of the outbreak Feb. 20 through March 31, compared to the average from 2015 to 2019.

But only 54% of those excess deaths were actually positive for the virus, meaning Italy’s official death toll of nearly 29,000 is likely off by at least 10,000. The report from ISTAT was released on the same day Italy began easing Europe’s first and longest lockdown restrictions.

The report provides data to back up the anecdotal evidence of the staggering toll COVID-19 has taken on some provinces in hardest-hit Lombardy region: Bergamo saw its mortality rate increase 568% compared to the five year average while Cremona’s increase was 391%.

The report was produced in conjunction with Italy’s Superior Institute of Health. It said while only 54% of the excess dead were actually positive for the virus, the others were likely either positive but never tested or died as an indirect result of the pandemic because of the “crisis of the hospital system and fear of going to the hospital.”

ISTAT’s figures are not complete. The report was based on death notices from only 87% of Italian cities, but marks the most comprehensive data available to date.


BRUSSELS — A European expert on the new coronavirus is warning that people must not be lulled into thinking their lives may soon return to normal as the spread of the disease drops and some citizens return to work.

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control Director Andrea Ammon told EU lawmakers Monday that “this is not going to end any time soon and people need to prepare mentally for it.”

Ammon said that the number of new positive cases is declining across Europe, and only Bulgaria has cases on the rise. Numbers in Britain, Poland, Romania and Sweden are steady.

More than 1.1 million cases had been recorded as of Monday across 31 European countries. More than 136,000 have died, according to the ECDPC.

Unclear cases, low testing rates and the strain on health care systems mean the true scale of the pandemic is surely greater.

Amman insists that “this virus will not go away as long as we don’t have a vaccine” and warns “we must not drop our guard.”


MINSK, Belarus — Belarus’ authoritarian leader says the presidential election will be held as planned this summer despite the coronavirus outbreak.

President Alexander Lukaxhenko has ruled the nation of 10 million with an iron hand for more than quarter century. He said Monday that Belarus’ constitution doesn’t allow putting off the vote.

Belarus has not imposed any lockdowns to stem the outbreak.

Lukashenko said that the election will take place “certainly in the summer,” but didn’t mention a specific date. The Belarusian leader has cracked down on dissent and independent media and is expected to easily win another term.

Despite the World Health Organization’s call for Belarus to ban public events as coronavirus cases rise sharply, Lukashenko has insisted that the country will have a parade on May 9 to mark the 75th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany.


MOSCOW — The Central Asian nation of Tajikistan has reported its first coronavirus deaths.

The Health Ministry of the ex-Soviet country that borders Afghanistan to the north said Monday that three people infected with coronavirus have died.

Tajikistan reported its first 15 coronavirus cases on April 30. The number of infections climbed to 230 Monday, nearly half of them in the capital, Dushanbe.

Tajikistan is one of the poorest ex-Soviet nations and its healthcare system could be hard pressed to cope with the contagion.


LONDON — Scotland leader Nicola Sturgeon has hinted that the coronavirus lockdown in her country will last at least a few more weeks beyond this Thursday’s scheduled review.

The first minister said at the Scottish government’s daily press briefing that it is “very unlikely” any changes will be announced to lockdown measures when they are reviewed.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has recovered from COVID-19, is widely expected to announce a further extension as the U.K.‘s coronavirus-related death toll heads towards becoming Europe’s highest.

The four constituent nations of the U.K. are England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and they have coordinated through the coronavirus outbreak. That included issuing lockdown orders together on March 23.

Sturgeon said she understands the need for people to see “light at the end of the tunnel.”

However, she said the virus’ reproduction rate was still too high to ease the lockdown despite “real and significant progress.”


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