The Latest: Official describes ‘great job’ opening US safely
WASHINGTON — The acting U.S. homeland security secretary says he thinks the Trump administration is doing a “great job” with reopening the country during the coronavirus epidemic despite infections rising in key states.
Chad Wolf told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that the White House coronavirus task force has been working with governors to make sure the United States “can open up this economy in a safe and reasonable way” and “I think that’s what we’re seeing.”
About 120,000 Americans have died from the new virus, and reported cases have been increasing in the South and West of the U.S..
Wolf said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that the White House task force is “on top of all of these outbreaks,” including in Arizona, Texas, Florida and other states that “are having hot spots.”
He says the Trump administration has sent medical equipment, staff and Department of Homeland Security personnel to many areas to assist with reopening efforts.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Spain has reopened its borders for European tourists
— Pope Francis encourages grassroots movements to protect the environment after lockdowns reveal “the beauty of so many places”
— Trump suggests US slow virus testing to avoid bad statistics
— Zimbabwe’s health minister has appeared in court to face allegations of illegally awarding a multi-million-dollar contract for COVID-19 medical supplies to a shadowy company that sold the government $28 face masks and other materials at inflated prices.
— Capt. Brett E. Crozier won’t be getting his job back as skipper of the USS Theodore Roosevelt. The Navy has upheld the firing of the aircraft carrier captain who urged faster action to protect his crew from a coronavirus outbreak.
— South Korea has reported 48 new cases of COVID-19 as health authorities struggle to contain a resurgence that’s erasing some of the country’s hard-won gains against the virus. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says nearly 200 infections so far have been linked to employees of a door-to-door sales company in Seou that mostly hired people over age 60.
Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
WASHINGTON — White House trade adviser Peter Navarro says U.S. President Donald Trump was being “tongue in cheek” when he claimed at a campaign rally in Oklahoma that he asked officials to slow down coronavirus testing.
Navarro said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that Trump made the comment in a “light moment.”
During Saturday’s rally in Tulsa, Trump explained that the “bad part” of widespread testing is that it leads to logging more virus cases. New cases have recently spiked in several U.S. states, but not just due to testing.
The United States has tested over 25 million people for the novel coronavirus. The country has reported more than 2.2 million confirmed cases and about 120,000 COVID-19 deaths. according to a count by Johns Hopkins University. The real numbers are believed to be higher.
In response to Trump’s remarks, Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden criticized Trump for putting politics ahead of the safety and health of Americans.
ATHENS, Greece — Authorities say Greece had 10 new COVID-19 cases and no virus-related deaths between Saturday and Sunday.
The daily update brought the country’s total confirmed cases to 3,266, including 190 deaths.
Greek authorities say the median age of the infected people who died is 76 and all of those under age 70 had suffered from serious conditions unrelated to the virus.
JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his government will weigh possible steps to halt the spread of the coronavirus after Israel saw a major uptick in new confirmed cases in recent days.
Israel has over 20,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with new cases jumping by more than 300 in recent days. At least 305 people have died with COVID-19 since the country’s outbreak began in March.
Netanyahu said at the start of the government’s weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday, “If we don’t change immediately our behavior regarding wearing masks and keeping distance, we will bring upon ourselves, against our will, a return to lockdowns. None of us wants this.”
LONDON — No new coronavirus deaths have been recorded in Scotland or Northern Ireland in the past 24 hours, according to official figures, more evidence that the spread of COVID-19 is slowing in the U.K.
The government said Sunday that 43 deaths were recorded in all settings across the U.K. in the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s official pandemic death toll to 42,632.
The daily COVID-19 mortality figure is one of the country’s lowest on record, though numbers often fall on weekends because of delays in registering deaths.
The British government says it will lay out this week its plans for the next stage in lifting a nationwide lockdown, which could see cafes, restaurants and pubs in England reopen on July 4.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the government is likely to ease a rule requiring people to stay 2 meters (6 ½ feet) apart, something that would help venues reopen. Hancock said it might be possible for people to be closer if they took other measures, such as wearing face masks.
BEIJING — The Chinese customs agency has suspended poultry imports from a Tyson Co. facility in the United States after coronavirus cases were confirmed among its employees.
The announcement Sunday gave no details of the facility’s location or how much meat might be affected.
Meanwhile, a PepsiCo Inc. facility in Beijing suspended production and was disinfected after a confirmed case was found there June 15, the company announced Sunday at a news conference held by the city government. It said 480 people were placed in isolation June 15 and tested negative for the coronavirus.
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is encouraging grassroots movements to protect the environment after coronavirus lockdowns have “revealed once more the beauty of so many places free from traffic and noise.”
Francis, speaking to a few hundred people gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, encouraged initiatives to care for the planet that began as a result of the pandemic, such as one on Sunday to clean up the banks of the Tiber River in Rome.
Francis has made environmental protection a hallmark of his papacy and just this past week, the Vatican released a guide on implementing his 2015 encyclical “Praised Be,” which blamed wealthy countries and corporate interests for destroying the Earth in search of profit.
Scientists around the world are studying the effects of lockdowns and industrial shutdowns on air and sea pollution as well as wildlife.
DHAKA, Bangladesh — Bangladesh’s state-run airline resumed international flights on Sunday after a suspension of more than two months due to the coronavirus.
Tahera Khandaker, a spokesperson for Biman Bangladesh Airlines, said a flight carrying 187 passengers left Dhaka for London on Sunday afternoon. She said a scheduled flight will leave Dhaka every week on Sundays and another will depart London for Dhaka on Mondays.
Bangladesh has confirmed 112,306 cases of the virus, including 1,464 deaths.
MADRID — Spain’s national state of emergency has ended after three months of restrictions on movement to rein in its COVID-19 outbreak.
As of Sunday, 47 million Spaniards will be able to freely move around the entire country for the first time since the government declared a state of emergency on March 14. The lockdown measures have been rolled back gradually over recent weeks.
“This freedom that we now have, that we don’t have to justify our journey to see our family and friend, this was something that we were really looking forward to,” 23-year-old Pedro Delgado said at Madrid’s airport.
Travelers from European countries, including Britain, can also enter Spain now without having to quarantine for 14 days. That quarantine rule still applies to non-Schengen countries, except for the U.K. Spain is hoping it can save part of its summer tourist season, which provides a huge part of its economic activity.
Spaniards are still obliged to wear face masks both indoors and outside when in public spaces where it is impossible to guarantee a distance of 1.5 meters (5 feet) from others. Regional governments are now in complete charge of putting limits on attendance in public places, from theaters, to weddings, to classrooms.
Spain’s lockdown succeeded in stopping the uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus, which authorities say has claimed at least 28,000 lives in the country.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan says it will reopen a key border crossing with Afghanistan to allow trade between the neighbors.
Trucks carrying fruits, vegetables and other items will start crossing the Ghulam Khan border in northwestern North Waziristan district from Monday.
Pakistan has already reopened its border with Iran.
On Sunday, Pakistan reported 119 more COVID-19 deaths and 4,951 new cases, raising its total to 176,617 cases including 3,501 fatalities.
Pakistan put its entire population of 220 million in lockdown in March, but the government last month eased restrictions, saying it was necessary to save the economy even though cases went up.
BEIJING — Chinese authorities reported 25 new confirmed cases — 22 in Beijing and three in neighboring Hebei province.
They say 2.3 million people have been tested in an effort to contain the outbreak in the capital that led to the closure of its biggest wholesale food market.
China, where the outbreak began in December, had eased controls on travel and business as new cases fell. But monitoring and some other restrictions have been reimposed following the recent jump in infections.
The Beijing health commission gave no details of where the latest cases might have originated. The Chinese capital’s biggest wholesale food market was closed June 13 after dozens of people who worked there tested positive.
The agency in charge of the Ming Tombs, a tourist site northwest of Beijing, said indoor areas will be closed as a safety precaution. Visitors are allowed in outdoor areas but are required to wear masks and be checked for fever.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea continues to struggle to contain a resurgence in the coronavirus that has seen some of the country’s hard-won pandemic gains erased since social distancing rules were eased in mid-April.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 48 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the national caseload to 12,421 infections, with 280 deaths.
The agency says 24 of the new cases are in the Seoul region, which has been the center of the country’s outbreak since late May. Ten of the new cases, however, are from the central city of Daejeon, indicating the virus is beginning to spread more broadly.
Some experts say the country should reimpose stronger social distancing guidelines, but officials are reluctant to do so in fear of hurting an already fragile economy.
TULSA, Okla. — President Donald Trump is suggesting to supporters that he has told members of his administration to slow the rate of coronavirus testing in the United States.
Speaking at a campaign rally Saturday night in Oklahoma, Trump said the United States has tested 25 million people, and far more than any other country. He also told the crowd that more testing leads to finding more cases of people who test positive.
Trump said that “so I said to my people slow the testing down, please.”
TULSA, Okla.— Teams of people wearing goggles, masks, gloves and blue gowns checked the temperatures of those entering the area where President Donald Trump is to hold a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma..
The Trump campaign had pledged to conduct temperature checks as rally-goers entered and to offer face masks. Some of the people entering wore masks while their temperatures were checked with handheld thermometers that appeared not to touch the skin.
Oklahoma’s The health department on Saturday reported 331 new virus cases to bring the total number of confirmed cases to 10,037, with 368 deaths due to COVID-19. The actual number is likely higher because many people have not been tested.
Tulsa County has both the most confirmed cases and virus-related deaths in Oklahoma. Trump’s rally is taking place at a 19,000-seat indoor arena in the city of Tulsa.
Tulsa Health Department director Bruce Dart had said he would have liked to see the rally postponed, noting that large indoor gatherings are partially to blame for the recent spread of the virus in Tulsa and Tulsa County.
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa has announced nearly 5,000 new coronavirus cases for a new daily record.
The country has recorded a total of 92,000 confirmed cases as of Saturday, which is about 30% of all cases across the African continent. More than half of South Africa’s cases are in Western Cape province and centered on the city of Cape Town.
But more than one-fifth are in Gauteng province, home to the economic hub of Johannesburg and to the South African capital of Pretoria.
Even as cases rise, President Cyril Ramaphosa this week announced a further loosening of what once was one of the world’s strictest lockdowns.
Casinos, beauty salons and sit-down restaurant service are among the latest businesses to be up and running again as South Africa’s feels the pain of the pandemic’s economic impact.
ATHENS — Greece has reported one more death from the coronavirus while the small neighboring country of North Macedonia reached a new daily record with 11 virus-related fatalities.
The deaths brought North Macedonia’s toll in the pandemic to 233 and confirmed cases to 5,005 as of Saturday. Infections began to climb there early this month after authorities lifted movement restrictions and ended a curfew.
Health Minister Venko Filipce said in a TV interview that cases are increasing because residents ignored recommendations to avoid family gatherings, to wear masks and to maintain social distance.
In Greece, authorities announced 19 new confirmed new cases Saturday from a day earlier. The country’s total number of confirmed cases now stands at 3,254, with 190 deaths.
Greek authorities said the median age of everyone who tested positive is 48 and 76 for those who died.
MADRID — Spain’s government is dropping the country’s 14-day quarantine requirement for British visitors when citizens of countries that are in Europe’s Schengen Area zone will be allowed to freely enter.
Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya told the BBC on Saturday: “We are doing this out of the respect for the 400,000 British citizens who have a second residence in Spain.”
González Laya says she hopes the British government will likewise drop the quarantine requirement for Spanish citizens traveling to the U.K.. Some 250,000 Spaniards have homes in the U.K., she said.
Spain’s three-month-long state of emergency over the coronavirus is ending on Sunday, which is when people from Schengen Area countries will be allowed into Spain without having to quarantine.
Face masks, however, will still be mandatory along with some other rules decided by regional authorities.
British travelers provide a big part of Spain’s tourism sector, which has been especially hard hit by the COVID-19 crisis. The U.K. wasn’t part of the Schengen Area even before it left the European Union on Jan. 31.