The Latest: Shops, schools reopening in Germany, Denmark

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.


— Lockdown tensions grow as people seek to resume work or play.

— Germany begins restarting public life after four weeks of lockdown.

— Denmark takes another step in easing lockdown measures.

— Singapore reports record day in tally of new coronavirus cases.


BERLIN — Some shops are reopening in much of Germany as Europe’s biggest economy takes its first tentative step toward restarting public life after a four-week shutdown.

Shops with a surface area of up to 800 square meters (8,600 square feet) are being allowed to reopen on Monday, along with auto showrooms, bike shops and bookshops of any size, under an agreement reached last week between the federal and state governments.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, Helge Braun, told n-tv television that big shops “draw large numbers of people into the city center, they have high customer numbers and that isn’t possible in the first step.”

State governments are responsible for imposing and loosening shutdown measures, and there are regional variations. Berlin and neighboring Brandenburg are expected to reopen small shops later this week. The eastern state of Thuringia is waiting until next Monday. So is Bavaria, although it is allowing DIY and garden shops to reopen Monday.

The eastern state of Saxony is the only one so far to require that people wear face masks in shops and on public transport.

A few states also are starting high school finishing exams, though schools aren’t expected to start reopening on a larger scale for another two weeks.


COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Denmark took another small step toward reopening society when hair salons, dentists, physiotherapists, tattoo parlors and driving schools, among others, were allowed to reopen Monday.

Social distancing, removal of magazines in the waiting area, possibility for both staff and customers to wash their hands, thorough cleaning and shifted work times were key to the reopening, business minister Simon Kollerup said, adding “It goes without saying that you cannot avoid contact with a masseur or hairdresser. But the new guidelines need to reduce our infection.”

Earlier, the Scandinavian country had allowed some classes — from preschool to the fifth grade — to return to school with similar precautions.

In neighboring Norway, preschools that had been shut down since March 12 reopened while classes above were expected to restart before the summer break, Norwegian news agency NTB reported.

Dentists, physiotherapists and opticians were also allowed to start again Monday, NTB wrote.


SINGAPORE — Singapore’s virus infections shot up to nearly 8,000 after a record 1,426 cases were reported Monday.

The tiny city-state now has the highest number of cases in Southeast Asia at 7,984, a massive surge from just 200 on March 15. Authorities say most of the new cases were again linked to foreign workers, who account for over a million of Singapore’s workforce.

More than 200,000 low-wage workers from Asia live in tightly-packed dormitories, that became virus hotspots after they were overlooked earlier by the government. Over half of the registered 43 dormitories have been declared ″isolated areas” with workers quarantined, while several thousands have been moved out to alternative sites to reduce crowding.

The government has said cases are expected to rise amid ongoing testing at the dorms, but hope that a partial lockdown until May 4, mandatory wearing of masks and strict social distancing measures will help curb the spread of the virus.


WASHINGTON — The Trump administration and Congress expect an agreement Monday on an aid package of up to $450 billion to boost a small-business loan program that has run out of money and add funds for hospitals and COVID-19 testing.

As talks continued, President Donald Trump said there’s a “good chance” of reaching a bipartisan agreement with Democrats.

“We are very close to a deal,” Trump said Sunday at the White House.

Along with the small business boost, Trump said the negotiators were looking at “helping our hospitals,” particularly hard-hit rural health care providers.

The Senate is scheduled for a pro forma session Monday, but no vote has been set.

The House announced it could meet as soon as Wednesday for a vote on the pending package, according to a schedule update from Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.


TOKYO — A Japanese professor of infectious disease says he is “very pessimistic” the postponed Tokyo Olympics can open in 15 months.

“To be honest with you, I don’t think the Olympics is likely to be held next year,” Kentaro Iwata, a professor of infectious disease at Kobe University, said Monday while speaking in English on a teleconference. “Holding the Olympics needs two conditions; one, controlling COVID-19 in Japan, and controlling COVID-19 everywhere.”

Toshiro Muto, the CEO of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, expressed similar reservations 10 days ago. Since then, the organizing committee and the International Olympic Committee have said there is no “Plan B″ other than working for the Olympics to open on July 23, 2021.

“I am very pessimistic about holding the Olympic Games next summer unless you hold the Olympic Games in a totally different structure such as no audience, or a very limited participation,” Iwata said.

“You have to invite so many athletes from many, many places, which is not very compatible with this COVID-19 infection that is causing a pandemic. Japan might be able to control this disease by next summer. And I wish we could. But I don’t think that will happen everywhere on earth.”

Japan was spared during the initial stage of the coronavirus outbreak. But cases are now spiking, particularly in Tokyo and other large cities, As of Monday, there were about 12,000 detected infections in Japan and about 250 deaths.


NEW DELHI — India has recorded its biggest single-day spike in coronavirus cases as the government eases one of the world’s strictest lockdowns to allow some manufacturing and agricultural activity to resume.

An additional 1,553 cases were reported over 24 hours, raising the national total over 17,000. At least 543 people have died from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus.

The shelter-in-place orders imposed in India on March 24 halted all but essential services. But beginning Monday, limited industry and farming were allowed to resume where employers could meet social distancing and hygiene norms, and migrant workers can travel within states to factories, farms and other work sites.

However, government surveys in the central Indian state of Maharashtra, the worst-hit area, have suggested few companies eligible to restart operations Monday would be able to do so because of a requirement to transport and shelter workers.

However, government surveys in the central Indian state of Maharashtra, the worst-hit area, have suggested few companies eligible to restart operations can do so because they are required to transport and shelter workers as a virus-prevention measure.


KABUL, Afghanistan — At least 20 employees at Afghanistan’s presidential palace have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a senior government official who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to comment on the subject.

It wasn’t clear whether President Ashraf Ghani had been in contact with any of the employees or whether he had been tested himself. The presidential palace has refused to comment.

Ghani has reportedly been self-isolating, although he still meets daily with some senior officials. At 70 and a cancer survivor, Ghani is considered in the higher risk category.

Afghanistan has reported only 993 positive cases even as the International Office of Migration, which monitors the movement of refugees, says more than 200,000 Afghans have returned from Iran in the last two months. Iran is one of the hardest-hit countries in the region with more than 82,000 confirmed cases and over 5,000 deaths.

Many of the returning refugees scattered throughout Afghanistan without testing, generating widespread fears of an outbreak of cases that could overwhelm the country’s war-ravaged health care facilities.

The United Nations has called for cease fires to conflicts around the world but, still the war goes on in Afghanistan as both sides in the conflict — the Taliban and the Afghan administration — squabble over details in an agreement signed between the United States and the Taliban in February.

— By Rahim Faiez


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