The Latest: Italy’s new coronavirus cases remains steady

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:

—Germany experts say vaccine, herd immunity vital.

—Italy doubles ventilators for possible second wave.

—Switzerland to open shops, schools on May 11.

—As lockdowns ease, health officials urge virus vigilance.

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ROME — Italy’s day-to-day increase in new cases of COVID-19 is nearly the same as the previous day’s number.

The health ministry said there were 2,086 new cases in the 24-hour period ending Wednesday evening, compared to an increase of 2,091 registered a day earlier. Italy’s overall total of known coronavirus infections now stands at 203,591.

Italy has the most deaths of persons with COVID-19 of any European country. On Wednesday, 323 deaths were reported, giving Italy an overall toll of 27,682.

Italy is in its eighth week of national lockdown, with some partial easing of restrictions on everyday life slated to take effect on Monday.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey announced 89 new deaths from the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, as the number of daily fatalities continued to decrease.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca also reported 2,936 new infections, bringing the total to 117,589. The total number of deaths now stands at 3,081.

At least 5,231 people were released from hospitals in the past 24 hours, raising the number of patients who have recuperated to 44,022, according to data shared by the minister.

The country hasn’t reported a daily increase of deaths above 100 since April 16.

However, Koca warned against a relaxation of measures that could lead to a “wave of a second peak.”

“We are seeing a declining trend but it is important that this is sustained,” Koca told reporters earlier.

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CAIRO — Sudan’s Health Ministry has reported the country’s highest one-day tally of coronavirus infections since the first case was confirmed over two months ago, with 57 new COVID-19 patients and three fatalities.

Wednesday’s figures took the country’s tally to 375 confirmed cases, including 28 fatalities. A total of 32 were discharged after their recovery, the ministry said.

Most of the country’s COVID-19 patients were in the capital, Khartoum where authorities earlier this month imposed round-the-clock curfew for three weeks to slow the spread of the virus.

Sudan’s health care system has been weakened by decades of war and sanctions. The country of 43 million people is still reeling from last year’s uprising that toppled longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greek authorities say the use of face masks will be compulsory — on pain of a 150-euro ($163) fine — in public transport and shops from May 4, when the country starts to ease its lockdown restrictions. But they’ll be optional in schools when secondary school children start returning to class from May 11.

Classes will have no more than 15 children kept 1.5 meters (about 5 feet) apart, while larger classes will be split up and attend lessons on alternate days, Education Minister Niki Kerameos says.

Coronavirus task force chief Sotiris Tsiodras said it’s important for children to return to normal life as far as possible, adding that while transmission of the virus from children to adults can’t be ruled out, “it seems to be unusual.”

Health officials have reported one new death and 10 new COVID-19 infections in the previous 24 hours, bringing the country’s total to 139 deaths and 2,576 infections.

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SOFIA, Bulgaria — Authorities say all schools in Bulgaria will remain closed and students will continue to use distance learning until the end of the school year.

Schools will open only for the end-of-year exams for seventh-grade students, needed for admission in high school, and the graduation tests for the 12th-grade students, the education minister says.

The Balkan country of 7 million has declared a nationwide state of emergency until May 13 to contain the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. Bulgaria has recorded 1,447 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 64 deaths.

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BERLIN — Four leading scientific research organizations in Germany say some measures imposed to curb the rate of coronavirus infections will need to remain in place until a vaccine is found or herd immunity is achieved.

They say in a joint statement that their mathematical models independently show the reproduction rate of the outbreak has been below 1 in Germany since the end of March. This means every person confirmed with COVID-19 infected fewer than one other person over the past month.

The Fraunhofer Society, the Helmholtz Association, the Leibniz Association and the Max Planck Society say the drop in new cases in Germany was thanks to restrictions and behavior changes. But they warned “the situation is not stable, even a small increase in the reproduction rate would lead us back into a phase of exponential growth.”

They say striving for herd immunity, where so many people acquire immunity that the virus is effectively stopped from spreading through the population, would require “several years” and some restrictions would need to be maintained. Experts say a vaccine likely won’t be available until next year.

The institutions urged a focus on three areas: continued hygiene measures; expanded testing and tracing capacity; and adjusted contact restrictions.

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CAIRO — The war-torn Yemen has reported five new confirmed cases of coronavirus in the southern city of Aden, bringing the tally in the poorest Arab country to six.

Health authorities announced the cases Wednesday in a tweet. The first case was for a 73-year-old Yemeni national who works at the port of al-Shahr in Hadramawt province. He was a confirmed COVID-19 patient on April 10.

Yemen is a dangerous place for the coronavirus to spread. Repeated bombings and ground fighting over five years of war have destroyed or closed more than half its health facilities. Deep poverty, dire water shortages and a lack of adequate sanitation have made the country a breeding ground for disease.

The U.N. health agency said Tuesday that 8.8 million require health care in Yemen, making them more susceptible to contracting infectious diseases like COVID-19 due to compromised immune systems.

Dr. Ahmed al-Mandhari, the World Health Organization regional director, says more than 13 million people a month are dependent on food assistance and 2.5 million children under 5 require nutritional support.

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WASHINGTON — Federal authorities are giving cleaning and disinfecting tips for schools and workplaces to help deal with the coronavirus.

The Environmental Protection Agency and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the cleaning guidelines Wednesday.

The guidelines urge Americans to draw up plans to clean areas with soap and water and disinfectant. Recommendations include ensuring custodians have proper protective gear.

EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler says the cleaning guidelines will “help the country reopen as safely as possible.”

Cleaning workplaces and schools will be part of reopening after weeks and months of lockdown from the outbreak. The shutdown has thrown tens of millions of Americans out of work and sent the U.S. economy plunging.

The Trump administration has vacillated between prodding states to reopen businesses and schools to get the economy going and urging caution to try to limit the spread.

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MOSCOW — Russian officials say more than 40 coronavirus cases have been confirmed at the spaceflight training facility outside Moscow.

Yevgeny Barishevsky, the head of the Star City that is home to a spaceflight training center and residential quarters, says 41 people have been infected. He says six of them worked at the cosmonaut training center.

The Star City serves as the main hub for training of U.S., Russian and other crew of the International Space Station.

The station’s newest crew consisting of NASA’s Chris Cassidy and Russians Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner arrived at the orbiting lab this month. They had been in a tight quarantine for a month before the flight and have remained in good health.

Roscosmos director Dmitry Rogozin said Monday the Russian space corporation had 110 coronavirus cases, including three deaths.

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GENEVA — The Swiss government says shops, restaurants, museums, libraries and schools can reopen on May 11.

Switzerland’s executive Federal Council also announced measures to support airlines, allow resumption of sports practices and ease some immigration restrictions in place to slow the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Social distancing rules, such as limits to public gatherings to no more than five people, will remain. Restaurants that reopen will be required to maintain spacing of at least 2 meters between tables.

Officials say bans on large gatherings such as concerts and professional sporting events will remain in place.

Authorities say they plan to resume contact-tracing for all coronavirus infections starting May 11 to monitor the spread. Such tracing had been suspended amid a surge of cases last month.

“The crisis is not yet over, for now, we cannot return to the way we lived our lives before,” said Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga. “We are going to have to live with the virus for some time, and with the economic consequences,” she added. “There is no simple solution.”

Switzerland has recorded 29,407 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,408 deaths.

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MADRID — The head of a Spanish coastal town has apologized after “disinfecting” nearly 2 kilometers of sandy beach with watered-down bleach in a misguided effort to avoid the coronavirus spread.

Agustín Conejo, head of the local council of Zahara de los Atunes, told local media the bleaching was ordered with the goal of protecting children, who were allowed Sunday to play outdoors for the first time in weeks of mandatory confinement.

Three tractors used for fumigating farming land combed a stretch of the beach while spreading 1,000 liters of water with a concentration of 2% of bleach, the regional Diario de Cádiz reported.

Conejo says he failed to assess the environmental damage of his initiative, calling it “a mistake,” and adds he’s willing to accept any fines.

Regional environmental authorities have opened a disciplinary report that could lead to fining the town.

Spain, with 24,000 confirmed deaths from coronavirus, is slowly reopening after a strict lockdown in place since mid-March.

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NEW DELHI — India’s government will allow migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists, students and others stranded throughout the country to resume their journeys by road.

The decision announced by the Home Ministry will provide relief to hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who want to return to their villages from Indian cities and towns after they lost jobs following the imposition of the lockdown on March 25 to control the spread of coronavirus pandemic. Many can go back to farming in their villages during the current harvesting season in India.

They would be kept under watch with periodic health check-ups, a ministry statement said.

The government recently allowed reopening of neighborhood shops in cities and towns and resumption of manufacturing and farming in rural India to help millions of poor people who lost work.

The lockdown in India imposed March 25 is expected to end May 3. Prime Minister Modi will decide whether to extend or end restrictions or allow a gradual loosening in some areas.

India has reported more than 30,000 positive coronavirus cases and 1,008 deaths.

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ISLAMABAD — A top health official in Pakistan says as many as 480 health workers have tested positive for coronavirus across the country.

“The safety of our front-line health workers is a matter of grave concern for us,” said Zafar Mirza, who advises prime minister on health issues, at the military-backed National Command and Operations Centre in Islamabad.

The National Command and Operations Centre was set up by the government recently amid increasing cases of coronavirus, which stands at 15,289 recorded cases and 335 deaths.

Mirza says they have supplied the required personal protection equipment to doctors and other paramedical staff handling cases of coronavirus at government hospitals.

There are more than 220,000 doctors and about 144,000 nurses in Pakistan, but Mirza said they will provide personal protection equipment to only those who are handling patients of coronavirus. He says any health worker who dies because of handling patients of coronavirus will be given the status of “martyr” apart from financially assisting their families.

About 8,500 people are tested a day in a country of 220 million.

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BERLIN — Germany’s economy minister says the government is predicting a 6.3% drop in GDP this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, but a recovery in 2021.

Peter Altmaier says by the end of second quarter of 2020 the country was likely to see a contraction of about 11% of GDP due to the widespread lockdown measures meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

He says the country’s export-heavy economy has been significantly affected by the drop in demand for German products worldwide as other countries are also in deep recessions.

In 2021, Altmaier says Germany can look forward to economic growth of 5.2%, which will help make up much of the lost ground in 2020.

He says current projections are based upon Germany moving ahead with more economic activity in May and June.

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ROME — Italy’s head of the coronavirus pandemic strategy says the country is prepared for a second wave of infections “even bigger than the first” if its gradual reopening leads to a surge in new cases.

Domenico Arcuri told the lower Chamber of Deputies that Italy’s 20 regions now have twice as many ventilators than currently needed and the 5,200 intensive care beds Italy had before the pandemic had nearly doubled to 9,000.

Italy, the European epicenter of the pandemic with more than 27,000 dead, entered the crisis with a fraction of the ICU capacity compared to other developed nations.

Arcuri told lawmakers that beds in sub-intensive care had increased six-fold, the same increase in Italy’s bed capacity in infectious disease and pneumology wards.

Italy’s planned reopening begins May 4.

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