The Latest: Merkel urges caution in restarting public life

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.


— Merkel urges caution in first steps to restarting public life.

— Serbia to ease curfew, allow elder citizens to go for walks.

— Demonstrators in Russia protest lockdown measures.


BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Germans not to be lulled into a false sense of security by the first steps to restart public life. She warns that a return to a full shutdown would be “inevitable” if coronavirus infections take off again.

Small shops started opening in much of Germany on Monday after a four-week shutdown. That followed a decision last week by federal and state governments, which has spawned a discussion about what other things can be opened and when.

Merkel made clear that discussion worries her and noted that it will take two weeks for the effect on infections of the first step to be seen.

She said she understands the wish of many people, business sectors and religious communities to start returning to normal, but insisted there is little “room for maneuver.”

Merkel said “it is very, very important that we are neither careless nor believe ourselves to be safe – we must remain vigilant and disciplined.”

She added that German officials and citizens agree that there should be no second full shutdown, “but that would of course be the consequence of a new exponential increase in infection figures – it would be inevitable.

“I believe very firmly that preventing a setback, in which we would have to return to tougher measures, is not just in the interest of fighting the pandemic but also in the interest of the development of our economy and social life,” she said.


WASHINGTON — Washington D.C. health officials say 134 positive new COVID-19 infections have been identified to bring the total up to 2,927.

There has also been an additional nine deaths, and 105 total. 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.

This week she extended the state of emergency through late May and announced that public school buildings would remain closed through the end of the school year.

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


BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia has announced easing some of the strict measures that have been in place for over a month to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

The daily curfew will be shortened for one hour beginning Tuesday and people over 65 will be allowed to leave their homes three times a week to go for a walk.

The government also says it will allow for the reopening of open air markets and some businesses, such as dry cleaners, auto mechanics or car or bicycle sellers.

Serbia has imposed some of the strictest anti-virus measures in Europe. An 84-hour curfew was in place over the weekend to prevent people from socializing during the Orthodox Christian Easter that was on Sunday.

Serbia’s government says all businesses and shops that reopen on Tuesday must respect protection measures such as face masks, gloves and regular disinfecting. The government urged construction companies to resume their work as soon as possible.

Serbia has reported 6,630 cases of infection with the new coronavirus while 125 people have died.

Health authorities have said the situation has stabilized in the past several days allowing for easing of some restrictions.


MOSCOW — Several hundred demonstrators in southern Russia have protested a strict lockdown amid the new coronavirus pandemic.

The protesters rallied Monday outside the regional government’s headquarters in Vladikavkaz, the regional capital of the province of North Ossetia in the North Caucasus mountains.

They booed a local official who spoke to the crowd and argued that the quarantine measures are necessary to stem the spread of infections.

Police detained several organizers of the rally.

Russia so far has 47,121 coronavirus cases, including 405 deaths.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a partial economic shutdown through April 30 and authorities in most of Russia’s 85 regions have introduced strict lockdown measures.


KATERINI, Greece — Police in northern Greece say seven people have been arrested and accused of planning to break into a church over the Orthodox Easter holiday weekend in violation of restrictions.

Authorities seized 11 gasoline bombs, a crowbar, and firecrackers outside the church in the northern city of Katerini, 350 kilometers (220 miles) north of Athens.

Police said Monday they tracked activity on social media where the attack was allegedly planned.

Greek authorities have banned public attendance of church services, including the popular liturgy for Easter at midnight Saturday, fearing religious gatherings could undermine the general success of restrictive measures credited with limiting the spread of COVID-19.

The death toll in Greece is at 113.

The arrests were made outside a church shortly before midnight Saturday. Police say they believed the gasoline bombs have been made to try and repel any intervention by the authorities.

Four more people are wanted for questioning.


COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Denmark will now test every person with symptoms of the new coronavirus.

Denmark’s Health Minister Magnus Heunicke says the nation has gotten control of the epidemic, but he says if a person has a dry cough, fever or respiratory problems, they should call the doctor to be tested.

Soeren Brostroem is head of the Danish Health Authority. He says it is up to the doctors to gauge whether a person should be tested. More precise guidelines will be issued later this week.

“There now is available capacity to test more people,”

Heunicke says Denmark has the capacity to increase testing and tests can be done in the tents that have been put up near hospitals in Denmark’s five regions.

Denmark reopened Monday hair salons and tattoo parlors, among others, and some school children have been able to return to class last week.

According to Danish official figures, 7,515 people have tested positive for the new coronavirus and 364 people have died.


SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — More than 28,000 residents and 9,000 employees in Puerto Rico’s long-term care facilities will be tested for COVID-19 as part of a federal and local initiative.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office says more than 1,000 facilities will be targeted in the next three weeks to help curb coronavirus cases in the U.S. territory.

The government on Monday reported at least 63 deaths and more than 1,250 confirmed cases with 1,886 pending test results.

The island of 3.2 million people has the lowest per capita testing rate compared with any U.S. state with some 11,630 people tested.


WASHINGTON — The top infectious-disease expert in the United States has a message for protesters who are ignoring their governors’ stay-at-home orders and calling for him to be fired over his guidelines.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says the message is “this is something that is hurting from the standpoint of economics, from the standpoint of things that have nothing to do with the virus.”

He added on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that “unless we get the virus under control, the real recovery economically is not gonna happen. So what you do if you jump the gun and go into a situation where you have a big spike, you’re gonna set yourself back.”

Fauci says as painful as it is to follow guidelines of gradually phasing into a reopening “it’s gonna backfire. That’s the problem.”


MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin says Russia has slowed the outbreak of the coronavirus but warns the nation has yet to see the peak of infections.

Putin conferred with top medical officials in a Monday call and said the government would only move to ease a partial economic shutdown if medical experts rule it safe.

The Russian leader has ordered most businesses except essential industries shut through April 30, and most Russian regions have ordered rigid quarantine measures.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin says the tight lockdown and broader screening in the capital have helped prevent an explosive influx of patients in grave condition and reduced the load on the healthcare system.

Moscow has accounted for nearly two thirds of the nation’s total of 47,121 cases, including 405 deaths.


BERLIN — Germany says it has now treated more than 200 COVID-19 patients from other European Union countries at its hospitals and will pay for their treatment.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert didn’t specify the costs after a meeting Monday of top German officials. He says paying for the care was a matter of “European solidarity.”

Unlike those of some other European countries, Germany’s health system hasn’t been overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic. It has been taking in patients from elsewhere for weeks.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Christofer Burger says that Germany has taken in 229 patients from elsewhere in the EU so far. Of those, 130 are from France, 44 from Italy and 55 from the Netherlands.


BERLIN — Germany’s health minister says authorities will monitor changes in the course of the new coronavirus as it begins to slowly relax some restrictions across the country.

Germany began allowing smaller shops to reopen Monday after a weeks-long shutdown. Strict social distancing rules remain in place.

Health Minister Jens Spahn says officials will evaluate the consequences of the looser restrictions. The current phase runs through May 3 and officials will review the situation again on April 30.

Germany is also recommending people wear face masks on public transport and when shopping, and social distancing measures remain in place.

Spahn commended the country’s health care workers for their work and the public for following restrictions. The relaxation of the measures now is only possible because Germany had been able to successfully slow the spread of the virus and had the capacity to treat people who were infected.

German schools have been closed since mid-March and the government hopes to be able to reopen them in steps next month with the oldest students returning first.

Germany has confirmed more than 145,000 coronavirus infections. It has recorded more than 4,600 deaths.


DHAKA, Bangladesh — The total death toll from coronavirus in Bangladesh has passed 100 people and the total infections are at 2,948 .

Nasima Sultana is an additional director general of the Directorate General of Health Services. She says 492 people have tested positive over last 24 hours. That is the highest in a single day after the first case of infection was confirmed on March 8.

She says 10 people died in the last 24 hours to raise the total death toll to 101.

Since the first case, only 85 people recovered and returned home. A total of 26,604 samples have been tested for COVID-19 infections until Monday in the densely populated South Asian country of 160 million people.

Experts say community transmission has taken place because of lax enforcement of social distancing guidelines. A nationwide lockdown has been in place in the country until Apr. 25.


SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina – Several dozen people in Bosnia are on a hunger strike to protest being quarantined in a hotel on suspicion they might be carrying the new coronavirus.

The group of some 80 Bosnians work abroad and when they returned to the country they were placed under a 28-day quarantine in a hotel in the central town of Zenica. They began refusing food Monday to pressure authorities into allowing them to self-isolate in their homes.

The hunger strikers also say they will no longer allow health care professionals who visit the hotel daily to take their temperature.

“Here, we all mix in hallways and if one of us is infected, we will all get infected,”

Mirsad Susic told The Associated Press by phone that the group congregates in hallways and is a greater risk for catching or passing on the new coronavirus than they would be if they were allowed to self-isolate at home.


LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II’s husband has made a rare public statement praising those tackling the new coronavirus pandemic and keeping essential services running.

Prince Philip, who turns 99 in June, said he wanted to recognize the “vital and urgent” work of medical and science professionals.

He also gave thanks to key workers including people working in food production, garbage collection, and postal and delivery services.

The royal, who retired from public duties in 2017, signed off simply with “Philip.”

Philip has been staying with the queen at Windsor Castle with reduced staff for their safety.


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