The Latest: UK is 2nd nation after US with 40K virus deaths

The U.K. has become the second country to officially record more than 40,000 coronavirus-related deaths as more than 100 scientists wrote to the British government to urge it to reconsider lifting virus lockdown restrictions.

The government said Friday that another 357 people who had tested positive for the virus have died in the U.K. across all settings, including hospitals and care homes. That takes the total to 40,261, the world’s second-highest pandemic death toll behind the United States.

The U.K.’s actual COVID-19 death toll is widely considered to be higher as the total only includes those who have tested positive for the virus.

In an open letter, the scientists urged the government to postpone further easing of the lockdown given the still-high level of daily virus-related deaths and new infections.

“Despite a two-month lockdown, we are still experiencing unacceptable daily numbers of deaths, still in the hundreds, and an estimated 8,000 new infections a day in England alone,” they wrote.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— WHO widens recommendations for use of masks.

— Despite nations reopening around the world, some jobs lost to the virus are gone for good

— Expert says fear over virus may help account for thousands of unexplained deaths

— The coronavirus pandemic has forced missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to do their outreach online. The church hastily brought home more than 26,000 young people from overseas missions aimed at recruiting new members. Many are taking their work to social media in their own countries.

— Saturday’s D-Day anniversary will be one of the loneliest remembrances ever for the June 6, 1944 landings in Normandy. The coronavirus pandemic is keeping almost everyone away — from world leaders to frail veterans who might not get another chance for a final farewell to their comrades.

— Japan has kept its deaths from the new coronavirus low despite a series of missteps that beg the question of whether it can prevent future waves of infections. Authorities have conducted only a fraction of the tests needed to find and isolate patients.

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Go to https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak for updates throughout the day.

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING TODAY:

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota has dropped plans to test an anti-malaria drug to prevent COVID-19, the partners in the study announced Friday.

The statewide tests were called off after a University of Minnesota study found that the drug hydroxychloroquine had no benefit over a placebo as a way to prevent COVID-19 in people exposed to the coronavirus.

Hydroxychloroquine has attracted controversy after U.S. President Donald Trump promoted it as an antidote to COVID-19, but the drug was shown in studies not to help in some studies even to be harmful to people hospitalized with the virus.

Sanford Health, Avera Health and Monument Health were collaborating on the tests, which were sponsored by the state of South Dakota. The South Dakota trial was in the early stages and had just recently opened for enrollment.

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MADRID — Spain’s top government virus expert says that fear of being infected with the coronavirus may have played a role in the huge spike in deaths that has yet to be explained.

Spain’s Health Ministry reports just over 27,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths. They were people who tested positive for the virus before the died.

But Carlos III University, which runs the nation’s mortality observatory, has registered more than 43,000 deaths since March beyond the number expected based on the rates in recent years. Spain’s National Institute of Statistics says 48,000 more people have died in Spain in 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

Coordination Center for Health Alerts and Emergencies Director Fernando Simón said Friday that the discrepancies between the Health Ministry’s number and the mortality figures could be due to other factors indirectly related to the virus.

He said one could be “those people with chronic illnesses who were too scared or waited too long to go to the hospital” when they needed care at the height of the outbreak in Spain.

Simón acknowledged that Spain’s actual COVID-19 death toll could be higher than the current official count. Spain, like most hard-hit countries, had enormous difficulties in providing virus tests to all the sick at the start of the its outbreak.

But he said: “I don’t think it is sensible, given that they are different possible causes of death, to think that the 43,000 have died of the coronavirus.”

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MILAN — No deaths were recorded in nine Italian regions on Friday as the coronavirus’s grip on Italy continues to ease. The number of deaths nationwide grew by 85 in 24 hours, in line with recent days, for a total of 33,774.

New data from the civil protection agency showed a sharp increase in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases — with 518 new positives, more than double a day earlier, bringing Italy’s total to date to 234,531.

The increase was attributed to huge jump in the number of tests in Lombardy to more than 19,000 in one day, up from just over 3,400 a day earlier. That revealed more than 400 new positives in the region that has born the brunt of Italy’s epidemic.

Pressure on hospitals continued to ease with 200 fewer people hospitalized and 22 fewer people in intensive care. Officials say most intensive-care patients are long-standing cases that have proven hard to treat.

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BERLIN — German-based travel company Tui aims to roughly halve its Tuifly airline’s fleet of planes as it deals with the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis.

News agency dpa reported that the company said Friday it has presented its plans to employees, and they would also involve closing bases such as those in Cologne, Bremen and Muenster-Osnabrueck.

Tuifly previously planned to operate 39 Boeing 737 jets.

The company said talks between management and employee representatives will address how many jobs are affected. Tuifly has about 2,000 full-time posts.

Tui is being supported in the crisis by a government-backed loan.

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SKOPJE, North Macedonia — North Macedonia has registered a new record number of daily coronavirus infections for the third consecutive day, with more than half the country’s 2.1 million people under an 80-hour near-total lockdown.

Health Minister Venko Filipce announced that 180 newly infected people and two deaths were recorded over the past 24 hours, a new record since the first case was registered in late February. The total confirmed cases in the country now stand at 2,790, and 149 people have died.

Filipce said about 90% of newly infected people are members and relatives of 15 families, and that the second wave of the epidemic in North Macedonia was the result of people ignoring the ban on mass gatherings. More than a half of the new cases are from the capital, Skopje.

North Macedonia’s government has imposed almost a near-complete curfew in four regions that started at 9 p.m. Thursday and will end at 5 a.m. Monday. People can only leave their houses to go to a hospital or pharmacy. Supermarkets and food stores are closed.

Filipce said he is confident that the new spike in infections is under control and announced that authorities would discuss on Sunday the next steps for dealing with the epidemic.

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LONDON — The World Health Organization is changing its recommendations for the use of masks during the coronavirus pandemic and is now recommending that in areas where there is widespread transmission, people should wear masks when social distancing is not possible, such as on public transport and in shops.

In a press briefing on Friday, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also said people over age 60 or those with underlying medical conditions should wear a medical mask in situations where social distancing cannot be maintained. WHO has previously only recommended that health care workers, those sickened by COVID-19 and their care givers wear masks.

Tedros emphasized that “masks on their own will not protect you from COVID-19” and emphasized the importance of hand-washing, social distancing and other measures. He added that health workers in areas with widespread transmission should now wear medical masks in all areas of health facilities and not just those with confirmed COVID-19 patients, saying that doctors working in cardiology or other wards, for example, should continue to wear a medical mask even if there are no known coronavirus patients.

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BAGHDAD — The number of confirmed coronavirus cases reported daily in Iraq has reached 1,000 for the first time and the country has seen its cases more triple in the last two weeks due to increased testing.

A Health Ministry statement issued on Friday said at least 1,006 new coronavirus cases had been reported in the previous 24 hours, bringing the nationwide total to 9,846. Ministry figures showed the death toll remained at 285.

Health Ministry teams have been doing random virus tests of the population, and Iraqi officials have said that is why confirmed cases are spiking. Iraq has conducted nearly 10,000 tests per day in recent days.

But the rising numbers are concerning for health workers who cite a scarcity of medical supplies and trained staff. Officials have said a flareup in the number of cases could be catastrophic for the country’s floundering health sector.

Doctors have told patients who have tested positive to stay at home unless their symptoms worsen.

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BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana’s bars, spas and tattoo shops can begin restarting operations nearly three months after they were closed because of the coronavirus.

The state continued to loosen its virus-related restrictions Friday.

Gov. John Bel Edwards issued the revised regulations for businesses based on the Phase 2 reopening guidance issued by the White House.

The changes allow retailers, restaurants, salons and churches to serve more customers at a time and let other shuttered businesses reopen with limitations.

However, they won’t take effect in New Orleans. Officials in the state’s original virus hot spot want more time to evaluate when to ease restrictions there.

Bars that don’t have a food permit, massage facilities, bowling alleys, recreational pools and tattoo shops will be able to reopen with specific conditions.

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BERLIN — Switzerland says it plans to lift restrictions on travel from European Union countries and Britain on June 15.

The Swiss government previously had announced that it would completely reopen the country’s borders with three of its neighbors — Austria, Germany and France – in mid-June.

On Friday, a government statement said “in view of the current epidemiological situation” it can now expand that to all countries in the EU and the European Free Trade Association, as well as Britain.

Switzerland is not a member of the EU but is part of Europe’s usually passport check-free Schengen travel area.

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KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s government has announced a 35 billion ringgit ($8.2 billion) stimulus to bolster short-term economic recovery as the country emerges from more than two months of virus lockdown.

The package, which is in addition to a $60 billion stimulus announced earlier, centers on increasing employment, wooing foreign investment and revitalizing key sectors of the economy.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said Friday it included 10 billion ringgits ($2.3 billion) in wage subsidies, training programs and supporting small and medium-sized enterprises. Tax breaks and rebates have been given to bolster the manufacturing, real estate auto, palm oil, airline and tourism sectors.

He said this includes a zero tax rate for up to 15 years for foreigners investing more than 500 million ringgits ($117 million) in manufacturing and fixed property sector. Malaysia, which has nearly 8,300 infections and 116 deaths, eased virus restrictions last month.

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BERLIN — German authorities say a Catholic priest who came into contact with many people during church services in several cities has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

The dpa news agency reported Friday that health authorities in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania said the priest was involved in services in Demmin, Stralsund and Grimmen, among other places.

Regional church authorities said on their website that all church services in Demmin and Stralsung were being called off until June 21 while authorities seek out anyone who had contact with the priest. So far one other person has tested positive for the virus and many others are still awaiting the results.

Results for 130 tests are expected by Saturday at the latest and so far 12 people have been told to isolate themselves at home as a precaution.

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LONDON — Luxury British carmaker Bentley is to cut up to 1,000 jobs and has warned of more to come as it tries to limit the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The company, which is part of Germany’s Volkswagen Group, said it is looking to make the initial job cuts under a voluntary scheme but that future job cuts may be on a compulsory basis. It said that with “deepest regret,” it has informed its 4,200 workers of a programme to significantly reduce the size of the organization.

Bentley said the pandemic has derailed its growth plans and that “an urgent reduction in the workforce was unfortunately required.”

Union Unite said the announcement was “another heavy blow” for the automotive industry.

On Thursday, Aston Martin said it was cutting up to 500 jobs while car dealership Lookers plans to shed another 1,500 jobs.

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Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Categories: National & International News