The Latest: Study: Most ethnic groups at greater virus risk

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:

— British study: Most ethnic groups at greater virus risk

— Moscow residents set to don masks, gloves next week.

— Pompeo rebuffs German plea on WHO funding halt.

— Acropolis, other ancient Greek sites to reopen May 18

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LONDON — A new study into ethnicity and the coronavirus by Britain’s national statistics agency suggests that people from almost all minority ethnic groups — except Chinese and those identifying as “mixed” — are at greater risk of a coronavirus-related death than the white population.

In particular, the analysis said that after accounting for age, black men are 4.2 times more likely than white men to die after contracting the virus, and black women are 4.3 times more likely to die compared to women of white ethnicity.

The Office for National Statistics said people of Bangladeshi and Pakistani, Indian, and mixed ethnicities also had an increased risk of Covid-19 deaths.

The office said Thursday a “substantial part of the difference” is explained by social-economic circumstances, but they do not explain all the difference.

The findings echoed data from the National Health Service and other studies.

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ATHENS, Greece — The Acropolis and other ancient sites in Greece will reopen May 18 and museums will end their lockdown June 15.

Culture Minister Lina Medoni said visitor limits would be imposed at most of the reopened sites, including open-air cinemas, which will start operating on June 1 and will keep about half the available seats empty.

Seating changes, she said, will also be introduced at the ancient theaters of Epidaurus, in southern Greece, and Herodes Atticus in Athens where open-air concerts and performances are held each summer.

“In each case, special measures will be taken to protect staff and the public,” Medoni said.

With its vital tourism industry heavily affected by the pandemic, Greece is expected to sink back into deep recession in 2020 and is hoping to salvage some of the holiday season with an expected tourism boost.

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s prime minister has announced plans to lift the government lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus in phases starting Saturday.

But Imran Khan warned in a televised speech Thursday he will reimpose the lockdown if people do not adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Khan said several economic sectors and business activities will be allowed to reopen first, while schools will remain closed until July 15. It was not immediately clear whether the government will end the ban on domestic and international flights.

The announcement came hours after Pakistan reported 38 new deaths since Wednesday, raising the total fatalities to 564 among more than 24,000 confirmed cases.

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LONDON — Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon say the coronavirus lockdown restrictions in her country need to be extended because any easing now would be “very risky indeed.”

The first minister said at her daily press conference that the restrictions will be reviewed again in three weeks on May 28, but the Scottish government can enact changes before then if the evidence suggests it is safe to do so.

However, she said Scotland’s virus transmission rate remains too high and potentially above levels elsewhere in the U.K., partly because Scotland recorded its first cases later.

Sturgeon said her preference is that all four nations of the U.K. — England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — move at the “same pace” on easing the lockdown in order to present a “consistent” message.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce some minor easing of the lockdown for England on Sunday.

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MOSCOW — Moscow residents will be required to wear masks and gloves when using public transit and visiting public spaces starting Tuesday because of the coronavirus.

The announcement by Mayor Sergei Sobyanin comes after the decision to reopen industrial plants and construction sites in the capital on that same day.

“Allowing more people to work, we understand that it will increase passenger traffic on the transport, increase the number of people who come in contact with each other, and it somehow needs to be compensated for,” Sobyanin said Thursday in an interview on the state-run Rossia 24 TV channel.

He added that as many as 2.5% of Moscow’s 12.7 million population — some 300,000 people — may be infected with the coronavirus.

Moscow has so far registered almost 93,000 confirmed cases of the virus — more than half of the country’s total of 177,000 reported infections.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s currency has dropped to an all-time low against the dollar as the country struggles with the economic impact of the pandemic.

The Turkish lira fell to 7.26 against the dollar on Thursday, surpassing the previous record low of 7.24 reached during a currency crisis in August 2018.

The Turkish currency has lost 18% of its value against the dollar since the beginning of the year.

The country was hit by the pandemic as it was already grappling with slow growth, increasing unemployment and rising inflation.

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BERLIN — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has rebuffed a plea from Germany to reconsider halting funding for the World Health Organization over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

The German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported Thursday that Pompeo responded to a letter from his German counterpart, Heiko Maas, by insisting that the U.S. was “deeply committed to working with the international community to fight the coronavirus pandemic” despite the funding freeze.

Pompeo noted that the U.S. has been the largest single contributor to WHO over the years despite what he described as “a string of mismanaged pandemic responses” by the Geneva-based agency, which he accused of “public kowtowing to the Chinese Communist Party regime.”

Pompeo added that the U.S. has a “particular interest in (WHO’s) performance, transparency, and accountability,” stating “we need functional, reliable global institutions, not dysfunctional, inept bureaucracies.”

Germany’s Foreign Ministry confirmed an exchange of letters between Maas and Pompeo but declined to elaborate. The U.S. Embassy in Berlin said it would not comment on diplomatic communications.

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MILAN — Italian media are reporting the suicide of a businessman suffering the economic consequences of Italy’s lockdown to fight the coronavirus.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte expressed his condolences to the family of the furniture store owner near Naples. ‘’Sad news,’’ Conte told a meeting of an Italian entrepreneur network on Wednesday. ‘’We are facing a period of great suffering,’’ he added.

Italian news reports said the businessman had opened his furniture store days earlier and had expressed concern to friends about being able to pay his six employees.

Studies have shown that suicides in Italy have accelerated during past economic crises, notably starting with the 2008 global economic crisis. Conte’s government is expected to approve another round of economic measures this week, amid growing discontent over the slow pace of distributing money promised to businesses and individuals.

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NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus says it is screening 10% of migrants confined at the country’s two migrant reception centers for COVID-19.

Cypriot Interior Ministry senior official Loizos Michael told the Associated Press that health care workers this week began carrying out tests on just over 100 migrants.

Michael said on Thursday that so far there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 among migrants who were confined at the centers in line with a strict, countrywide lockdown.

The official said the migrants’ confinement will end in sync with a May 21 lifting on all restrictions on movement if the COVID-19 infection rate remains at the current, minimal level.

Cyprus has received some 3,000 migrants since the start of the year, with most arriving before the lockdown came into effect in late March. Cyprus to date counts almost 900 confirmed coronavirus cases and 15 deaths as a direct result of virus infection.

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MADRID — Spain’s daily virus death toll down by about 700 from last month.

The encouraging development comes a day after the government secured parliamentary support for a new two-week extension of its lockdown measures despite losing some important support from political rivals.

Spanish health authorities reported about 200 new fatalities on Thursday, taking the total death toll just over 26,000 since the start of the outbreak in Spain. That is down from over 900 deaths a day a month before. Spain has reported nearly 257,000 COVID-19 infections.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez salvaged a critical parliamentary vote on Wednesday to keep alive a state of emergency despite the loss of the backing of the main opposition party. The state of emergency that gives the government extraordinary powers to apply the lockdown that has successfully reined in the virus will now last until May 24.

Spain is slowly rolling back its restrictions. Children were allowed to go outside for short walks with parents on April 26 and adults followed last weekend with outings for exercise.

Spain’s government top virus expert said that any possible upticks in the contagion rate of that relaxation would be seen in the coming days.

“It is from here on that we should start to see if there are any effects,” Fernando Simón said.

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LONDON — The British government says a shipment of personal protective equipment from Turkey intended to help ease supply problems is sitting in a warehouse because it does not meet U.K. standards.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said the 400,000 medical gowns are not “of the quality that we feel is good enough for our frontline staff” treating coronavirus patients.

The shipment has become an embarrassment for the British government since a minister announced on April 18 that it would arrive the next day. It was four days before a Royal Air Force plane was able to fly the cargo to the U.K.

Like many other countries, the U.K. has struggled to maintain a constant supply of protective equipment amid unprecedented global demand. The Department of Health said “this is a global pandemic with many countries procuring PPE, leading to shortages around the world, not just the U.K.”

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BERLIN — Germany’s public health agency has cautiously welcomed the ‘emergency brake’ agreed to by federal and state authorities should coronavirus cases rebound, but warned that the pandemic is far from over.

Lars Schaade, deputy head of the Robert Koch Institute, said Thursday that setting a level of 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants for reimposing lockdown measures was a “pragmatic threshold that I believe in principle is sensible.”

But he noted that Germany remains “at the start of the pandemic,” adding that “it can last many months and it will probably continue into the next year.”

Germany has managed to sharply reduce the rate of new infections to about 1,000 nationwide per day, prompting calls for restrictions to be eased. On Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel and governors of the 16 states agreed to further loosen the rules, albeit with a fallback clause.

The Robert Koch Institute reported more than 166,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 by Thursday — about 26,000 of them still active — and more than 7,000 deaths. Germany has a population of about 83 million.

Schaade said that only about a third of Germany’s massive test capacity of almost 1 million a week is now being used, and only about 3.8% of the roughly 318,000 tests conducted last week was positive.

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LONDON — The head of the World Health Organization’s Europe office said the agency is “deeply troubled” by reports of increasing domestic violence against women, men and children in countries including Belgium, Britain, France, Russia, Spain and others amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In a press briefing on Thursday, Dr. Hans Kluge said that although data were scarce, countries across Europe are reporting up to 60% of women are suffering domestic violence, noting that calls to help hotlines have jumped about five times. He warned that continued restrictive measures needed to suppress COVID-19 could have a devastating impact on vulnerable women and children.

“If lockdowns were to continue for six months, we would expect an extra 31 million cases of gender-based violence globally,” Kluge said, citing data from the UN Population Fund. “Evidence shows that interpersonal violence increases during every type of emergency,” he said. Kluge said authorities should consider it a “moral obligation” to ensure help services are available to communities.

He said that some countries have already responded to the emerging crisis, noting Italy’s development of an app where people can request help without making a phone call, and programs in Spain and France where pharmacists can be alerted to problems by people using code words. Kluge said the reported numbers were still only a small measure of the actual problem since people suffering from abuse often decline to report it.

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BEIJING — China is firing back at U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s claim that there is “enormous evidence” that the coronavirus originated in a Chinese laboratory, accusing him of “making up lies and covering up a lie by fabricating more lies.”

The strong language from Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying at a Thursday briefing came as U.S. President Donald Trump and his allies have continued to express confidence in an unsubstantiated theory linking the origin of the outbreak to a possible accident at a Chinese virology laboratory.

U.S. officials say they are still exploring the subject and describe the evidence as purely circumstantial. But Trump, aides say, has embraced the notion to further highlight China’s lack of transparency.

Pompeo told ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” that there is “enormous evidence” that the virus began in the Wuhan Institute of Virology in the city where the outbreak was first detected.

“Under the situation that no scientists and experts can even draw any conclusions, why did Secretary Pompeo want to rush to the conclusion to hold the Wuhan laboratory accountable? Where is his evidence?,” Hua told reporters, while defending the integrity of the Wuhan lab.

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Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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