The Latest: More relief for Thai restaurants, but many fears
BANGKOK — Thailand’s battered restaurant sector has two reasons to celebrate as the country further eased its restrictions Monday against the spread of COVID-19.
Bangkok’s many eateries, which reopened in May after being shut down for more than a month, are now allowed to serve alcoholic drinks again, and there is no longer a curfew constraining late-night dining.
Restaurant owners whose slim profit margins made operating untenable without the sale of drinks are pleased, but still fearful that the ‘new normal’ may not make their businesses sustainable. A slow comeback may force many to close for good.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Beijing is reinstating virus controls as an outbreak connected to a food market grows. It underscores the continuing threat.
— Borders opened up across Europe after three months of closures that began so chaotically in March. But many restrictions persist, and it’s unclear how keen Europeans will be to travel this summer.
— Educators go sleuthing to ensure students thrown off track during distance learning don’t fall further behind.
— An ambulance driver ‘s daily rush to save lives is exhausting, never-ending task in hard-hit Mumbai, India.
Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
ROME — The head of Italy’s leading business lobby is denying that industrial interests opposed coronavirus lockdowns in the hard-hit Lombardy region, blaming instead mismanagement of the outbreak by political authorities.
Carlo Bonomi told reporters Monday that Confindustria was being scapegoated for political and ideological reasons and insisted that the lobby group always acted correctly. He said Confindustria’s main concern was how to reopen factories in safety, with protective gear and contact-tracing systems.
He said: “I’m sorry to see the production system being blamed when the reality it was the lack of management at the level of the public administration.”
Prosecutors in the Lombardy province of Bergamo are investigating the lack of lockdowns in the Bergamo towns of Alzano and Nembro, where positive cases were first recorded Feb. 23. The Superior Institute of Health recommended a lockdown on March 3, but no decision was taken until all of Lombardy was locked down March 7-8. The two towns are located in the industry-heavy Seriana valley.
MADRID — The Spanish government is launching a 3.7-billion-euro ($4.1 billion) aid package to shore up its automobile manufacturing industry in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
Details of the two-year package unveiled Monday include subsidies for the purchase of cars, plans to spur investment in the industry with the aim of producing more electric vehicles, and training for the workforce.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced the package on Sunday but the government presented the details on Monday during an event joined by representatives of workers unions and the automotive industry.
Car sales dropped during the strict lockdown imposed by the government. Just as the country was trying to go back to work, Japanese carmaker Nissan Motor Co. announced the closure of plants near Barcelona employing 3,000 people directly and more than 20,000 through suppliers. Central and regional authorities vowed to persuade Nissan to reverse the decision.
The car industry generates a tenth of the country’s GDP and nearly a fifth of its exports. Some 650,000 people work in the automobile manufacturing industry, according to official statistics.
BERLIN — Germany’s official disease control institute is recommending resuming contact tracing for people who shared a flight with someone who later tests positive for COVID-19.
The Robert Koch Institute said Monday that the likely increase in air travel and the current low number of cases mean contact tracing for plane passengers should be resumed. The practice was suspended in mid-March as air travel came to a virtual standstill due to pandemic lockdowns around the world.
Border checks for most Europeans were dropped overnight in Germany and the government lifted its travel warning for much of the rest of Europe.
The Robert Koch Institute reported 192 new cases of COVID-19 in Germany on Monday, taking the total tally in the country to 186,461 since the start of the outbreak. At least 8,791 people with the virus have died in Germany.
BERLIN — The German government is taking a 23% stake in a German company working on a potential vaccine for the coronavirus.
Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said Monday that the state-owned KfW development bank will buy 300 million euros ($337 million) in CureVac shares. He said the aim is to give CureVac “financial security.”
Altmaier stressed the government’s desire to keep key companies in various sectors in Germany.
In March, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, Helge Braun, said that German officials had had “very intensive contact” with Curevac and that there had been “thoughts of enticing it to the United States.” He didn’t elaborate on the nature of the U.S. interest.
THESSALONIKI, Greece — A line of cars roughly about 5 kilometers (3 miles) long formed on Monday morning at Bulgaria’s main border crossing with Greece, after Greece reopened its border to tourists.
Greece had announced it was reopening to visitors Monday, leading many to believe the border crossing would be open at midnight Sunday to Monday. Instead, the Promahonas crossing was due to reopen at noon, leading to a long backup of waiting cars.
Officials opened the border nearly an hour earlier due to the waiting travelers, and the line was easing shortly after midday, authorities said. Health officials were conducting randomized coronavirus tests on those entering, with roughly one person in every 15 checked.
Greece’s border with North Macedonia remains closed to tourists and is only open to those for travel deemed essential, leaving the Bulgarian crossing as the only convenient alternative for tourists from the Balkans to drive into Greece.
The country’s two main airports — one in Athens and one in the northern city of Thessaloniki — also reopened to tourists Monday, while international flights to regional airports will restart on July 1.
PARIS — Paris is rediscovering itself, as its cafes and restaurants reopen for the first time since the fast-spreading coronavirus forced them to close their doors March 14.
“Salut!” said a masked manager to a pair of regular customers as they entered Les Favoris brasserie in southern Paris on Monday for their shot of morning espresso.
The surprise permission to reopen came from France’s president, in a televised address to the nation Sunday night.
“We will rediscover … the art of living, our taste for freedom,” President Emmanuel Macron said, citing progress in fighting the virus. “We will rediscover France.”
Restaurants outside the Paris region opened earlier this month, and Paris cafes were allowed to serve people outside but not open their doors.
After three months of losses, some restaurateurs fear it will take a long time for business to come back. “People got in the habit of no longer going to restaurants,” chef Amandine Chaignot told Le Parisien newspaper.
MOSCOW — The number of coronavirus deaths in Russia has topped 7,000 as the nation’s caseload continues to increase steadily.
Russia’s anti-coronavirus task force reported Monday that the number of virus cases rose by 8,246 over the last 24 hours to reach a total of 537,210. Of those infected, 7,091 have died.
Russia has the world’s third-highest number of infections behind the United States and Brazil.
Russia’s way of counting coronavirus deaths has contributed to relatively low mortality — only the deaths directly caused by COVID-19 currently make the official count.
ATHENS, Greece — Greece is officially open to tourists as of Monday, with the first international flights expected into Athens and the northern city of Thessaloniki where passengers will not face compulsory coronavirus tests.
Seasonal hotels and museums are also opening, as are gyms in the latest step in Greece’s phased reopening of businesses. A ban on flights from Italy, Spain and the Netherlands has been lifted, although that on flights from Britain remains in place.
While some limited international flights had been allowed during Greece’s coronavirus lockdown, imposed in March, all arriving passengers were subject to compulsory coronavirus tests and quarantine.
Greece’s government imposed a strict lockdown early on in the country’s outbreak, a move credited with keeping deaths and serious illness from the virus low. The most recent official figures from Sunday show no daily coronavirus deaths in Greece for five days, with the total at 183 in this country of nearly 11 million people. Confirmed cases stand at 3,121.
The government is phasing Greece’s reopening to tourists, with visitors able to fly into the capital and the second largest city of Thessaloniki as of Monday. Direct international flights to regional airports, including Greek islands, will begin on July 1. Visitors will be subject to random coronavirus tests.
Greece’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism, which accounts for around 20% of gross domestic product, and the government has been keen to salvage what it can from the main summer season, particularly as Greece is still emerging from a decade-long financial crisis that led to three international bailouts and wiped out a quarter of the economy.
NEW DELHI — India’s home minister has offered 500 railway carriages for use as makeshift coronavirus hospital wards as the capital New Delhi struggles to contain a spike in cases.
Amit Shah, India’s second-most powerful politician after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was set to convene a meeting Monday with all major political parties represented on the deteriorating situation in the capital.
Delhi has about 9,000 beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients among public and private hospitals, but a state government panel of experts has said that Delhi will need at least 15,000 beds by the end of June.
India’s health ministry reported a jump of more than 11,000 new coronavirus infections nationwide for a third consecutive day, taking the total caseload to more than 332,000, including 9,520 deaths.
India is the fourth hardest-hit country by the pandemic in the world after the U.S., Russia and Brazil.
AMMAN, Jordan — Tens of thousands more children younger than 5 could die in the next six months in the Middle East and North Africa because of the knock-on effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the U.N. agency for children said Monday.
Young children face growing risks because the virus disrupts their access to primary health care, including treatment for severe malnutrition, pneumonia and neonatal sepsis, Ted Chaiban, the regional director of UNICEF, told The Associated Press.
The agency’s estimates are based on a May study by Johns Hopkins University which looked at the indirect effects of the pandemic on maternal and child mortality in low- and middle-income countries.
UNICEF presented forecasts for 10 countries in the Middle East and North Africa, with a combined population of 41 million children under 5.
“If we continue to see populations not trusting the health system, not accessing the primary health care system, we could over the next six months see 51,000 more deaths of children under the age of 5, which represents a 40% increase on previous projections,” he said.
In a “best-case scenario,” an additional 11,000 young children would die in the next six months because of the knock-on effects of the pandemic.
Particularly worrisome is the situation in Yemen, Sudan and Djibouti where health care systems were fragile even before the pandemic, he said.
UNICEF and the World Health Organization called on governments in the region to resume immunization campaigns and nutrition services and ensure access to primary health care centers.