The Latest: UK to review 2-meter social distancing rule
LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered a review of the government’s two-meter (6.5-feet) social distancing rule, saying the falling number of coronavirus cases gives the government “more margin for manoeuvre” in easing the guideline.
Johnson said that “probably” fewer than one in 1,000 people now have the virus, and the chance of coming in contact with someone who’s infected are increasingly remote.
Treasury chief Rishi Sunak said that officials will be drawing on advice on the issue from economists as well as the government’s scientific and medical advisers.
Conservative lawmakers and businesses have been putting increasing pressure on the government to ease the two-metre rule, arguing that it will make it extremely difficult for many pubs and restaurants to operate.
They say that the government in the U.K. can follow other countries and ask people to socially distance at one meter or 1.5 meters.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Russia’s low virus death toll still raises questions in West.
— China, Korea, Egypt report rise in virus cases as curbs ease.
— Europe opens its borders to Europeans, but not Americans, Asians.
— Thai entrepreneur connects Michelin bistros to those in need.
— Bars are being allowed to reopen in party-loving New Orleans after a long shutdown prompted by coronavirus fears.
— Workers who agreed to live at a Georgia nursing home to keep its residents safe from the coronavirus are back with their loved ones.
— Major League Baseball appears headed to its shortest season since the 1870s.
Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING TODAY:
MILAN — Italy added 44 deaths from coronavirus on Sunday, with nearly half of those in hardest-hit Lombardy.
While most Italian regions counted fewer than 10 new confirmed cases in the last 24 hours, with eight regions at zero, Lombardy’s count remained stuck in the triple digits, numbering 244, according to the civil protection agency.
The next highest number was in neighboring Piedmont, at 30. As of Sunday, more than a month after a gradual easing of lockdown started and nearly two weeks since regional borders opened, the number of people currently positive for the virus is 26,274 — with 3,800 being treated in the hospital.
ATHENS, Greece — Greece has announced zero new fatalities for the fifth consecutive day, the longest such run since mid-March.
Thus, fatalities remain at 183, while nine new confirmed cases over the past 24 hours have pushed the total to 3,121.
Thirteen patients remain hooked up to ventilators, while 116 have exited intensive care units, authorities said Sunday.
On Monday, Greece is opening a second airport to international traffic, in Thessaloniki, the country’s second-largest city, part of an attempt to ease into the tourist season. Depending on the country of origin, arriving passengers will either be tested at random or will follow the existing protocol, which mandates that all aboard an arriving flight be tested.
Flights will be allowed only from European Union countries, at least until June 30. But while routes from France, Italy and the Netherlands to Athens will resume Monday, the ban remains in Thessaloniki.
Also, land travel with Bulgaria, the only neighboring country that is also an EU member, will be permitted from Monday.
Greece’s museums reopen Monday, after a three-month shutdown. Masks, social distancing and limits to groups will be enforced.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey is “moving away from the target,” the country’s health minister warned Sunday as the daily number of new coronavirus cases rose above 1,500 following the relaxation of restrictions.
Fahrettin Koca tweeted that 1,562 new cases were recorded over the previous 24 hours, the highest daily figure since June 3.
Reporting 1,330 recoveries, he said: “Our number of recovered patients fell below the number of new cases. The need for intensive care and respiratory equipment is rising.”
Koca also reported 15 deaths due to coronavirus, taking the total since the first case on March 11 to 4,807. Turkey has recorded a total of 178,239 coronavirus cases.
At the start of June, the government authorized cafes, restaurants, gyms, parks, beaches and museums to reopen and eased stay-at-home orders for the elderly and young.
A weekend curfew that was due to be implemented last week was canceled, ending the series of part-time lockdowns in place since April.
Koca called for people to switch to a period of “controlled social life” from Monday to halt the rise in cases.
CAIRO — Egypt says it will resume international flights starting July 1 with countries that will open its airports.
Minister of Civil Aviation Mohammed Manar told a news conference on Sunday that all of the country’s airports will be reopened allowing travelers around the world to return to parts of the country less hard-hit by the coronavirus.
Antiquities and Tourism Minister Khaled el-Anany also says the government will open three provinces to tourists starting July 1.
Those include the southern part of the Sinai Peninsula, home to the major resort and beach destination of Sharm el Sheikh, the Red Sea resort areas of Hurghada and Marsa Alam, as well as Marsa Matrouh, on the Mediterranean coast.
The government hopes to draw tourists to popular yet remote attractions that have been spared the ravages of the virus.
The decision comes even as the pandemic surges in the Arab world’s most populous country, which has at least 1,484 deaths among 42,980 confirmed cases.
PARIS — France is opening its borders with other European countries at midnight for the first time since shutting them amid virus fears three months ago, and will start opening up to visitors from other continents July 1.
It’s among several European countries opening borders first thing Monday — though it’s not clear how many Europeans are ready to travel again.
The French government has urged fellow EU members to coordinate their border rules, and is sticking to calendar recommendations from the European Commission last week.
“Given the favorable evolution of the health situation in France and in Europe,” the French government said in a statement it’s opening its borders to all arrivals from the EU and countries in the border-free Schengen zone Monday.
People arriving from inside Europe won’t need to undergo quarantine. But France will apply different rules to visitors from Spain and Britain because those countries established different reopening schedules.
France will gradually allow visitors from outside Europe starting July 1, based on the virus situation in countries of origin.
The French government promised to ease entry for foreign students in particular ahead of the new academic year.
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — El Salvador’s president says that a stringent quarantine imposed to fight COVID-19 has legally expired and a gradual reopening of the economy will begin Tuesday.
The Central American nation’s Supreme Court ruled that the strict measures decreed by President Nayib Bukele were unconstitutional and Bukele said Saturday night that he is going to veto the alternative restrictions passed Friday by the National Assembly.
As a result, he acknowledged, by law the region’s most restrictive legal lockdown has ended, though he asked citizens to continue in quarantine voluntarily until Tuesday, when phased measures to reactivate economic life would begin.
Under Bukele’s stay-at-home decrees, violators were sent to government-run containment centers for month-long stays. He had resisted loosening the orders, arguing that the country’s medical system could be quickly overwhelmed, resulting in much greater loss of life.
Health Minister Francisco Alabí said that the nation’s health system is already strained, with 90 of its 105 available intensive care beds already occupied. He said he expected to see an increase in COVID-19 cases with the end of restrictions.
The country of nearly 6.5 million people has reported 3,603 confirmed cases of the disease, with 72 deaths.
SKOPJE, North Macedonia — Authorities in North Macedonia have reported a new record day of fatalities from the coronavius.
The Health Ministry announced Sunday nine deaths from COVID-19 and 162 new cases over the past 24 hours, which brings the total number of infected to 4,064 with 188 deaths.
The figures place the small Balkan nation of about 2 million people at the top of the list of infections and deaths in the region.
Despite the spike, North Macedonia has lifted a state of emergency as of midnight Saturday. It has also adopted a protocol for visitors transiting through the country, either through the land crossings with neighboring Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Kosovo and Serbia, or through the international airport in the capital Skopje. Transiting visitors are allowed to remain in the country for five hours maximum and will be obliged to fill out a form upon entry in North Macedonia and to hand it over to the border police at the exit as proof of the duration of transit.
Macedonian citizens can leave the country, but they are obliged to sign a statement at the exit that, if they are infected with COVID-19 while abroad, they will pay for their treatment. Upon re-entry, they must present to border authorities the results of a diagnostic test taken within the past 72 hours.
MADRID — Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says Spain will open its borders to travelers from Europe’s Schengen travel areas except Portugal on June 21, moving up the original date by 10 days.
Spain will drop its requirement for people arriving from abroad to stay in quarantine, either at home or in a hotel, for 14 days on arrival, when it reopens on that day.
Sánchez said Sunday that Spain and Portugal will keep their border closed to non-essential crossings until July 1.
Spain’s government had already announced that on June 21 it will end the nation’s state of emergency to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. From then on, Spaniards will be able to move freely around the country without restrictions, but face masks will remain obligatory in public transport and crowded spaces.
On Monday, Spain’s Balearic Islands test their reopening strategy by accepting the first flights from Germany of tourists who will be exempt from a quarantine. The islands plan to welcome up to 10,900 Germans during the trial.
Over 27,000 Spaniards have died in the country’s pandemic.
DHAKA, Bangladesh — Bangladesh reported 3,141 new cases and 32 more deaths from the coronavirus on Sunday, raising its total caseload to 87,520, including 1,171 fatalities.
Nasima Sultana, additional director general of the Health Directorate, said a junior minister from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Cabinet and a former health minister and close aide to Hasina both died of the virus on Saturday in Dhaka, the capital.
Bangladesh’s main state-run hospitals are overwhelmed, with many critical COVID-19 patients being deprived of intensive care beds and ventilators.
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — The Yemeni Embassy in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, is shuttering indefinitely due to a number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus among staff.
The embassy made the announcement on Twitter late Saturday, but did not specify how many people had contracted COVID-19.
Similarly, the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh also announced that starting Sunday its office for labor affairs will close after a number of employees were tested for the coronavirus and six people were confirmed positive for the disease. The office is being sterilized and employees were working remotely, according to the embassy.
Despite taking early and unprecedented measures to curb the spread of the virus, Saudi Arabia’s numbers continue to climb by more than 3,000 cases daily with more than 123,000 confirmed cases overall.
BEIJING — China is reporting its highest daily total of coronavirus cases in two months after the capital’s biggest wholesale food market was shut down following a resurgence in local infections.
Officials say there were 57 confirmed cases in the 24 hours through midnight Saturday. That was the highest daily total since mid-April and included 36 new cases in Beijing.
The Xinfadi market on Beijing’s southeast side was closed Saturday and 11 neighboring residential compounds locked down after more then 50 people in the capital tested positive for the virus. They were the first confirmed cases in 50 days in the city of 20 million people.
China had relaxed most of its anti-virus controls after the ruling Communist Party declared victory over the disease in March.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has confirmed 34 more coronavirus cases in a continuation of an upward trend in new infections, mostly in the densely populated Seoul region.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Sunday that 30 of the 34 new cases are in the grater Seoul area, where half of the country’s 51 million people live.
The agency says South Korea has now recorded 12,085 virus cases. It says 10,718 have recovered, 1,090 remain in treatment and the other 277 died.
New cases have been linked to nightlife establishments, church services, a large-scale e-commerce warehouse and door-to-door sellers.
In late February and early March, South Korea reported hundreds of new cases daily, then a significant easing prompted authorities to ease social distancing rules.
CAIRO — Egypt’s Health Ministry has announced 1,677 new confirmed cases of coronavirus — the highest 24-hour infection total since the virus was first detected in the country in mid-February.
The ministry also reported 62 deaths from COVID-19, the disease that can be caused by the virus.
The figures announced Saturdays raise Egypt’s coronavirus totals to 1,484 deaths and 42,980 confirmed cases. The ministry says 11,529 patients have been discharged from quarantine after their recovery.
Egypt is the Arab world’s most populous country and it has the highest death rate from COVID-19 among Arab nations. It ranks third in the Middle East after Iran and Turkey.
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis celebrated Mass Sunday for about 50 socially distanced and masked faithful inside St. Peter’s Cathedral, the first time the pontiff said Mass with ordinary congregants since restrictions were put in place for the coronavirus epidemic.
The Mass marked the Corpus Christi holiday, celebrating the Roman Catholic belief that the Eucharist is the real body and blood of Christ. During lockdown, the faithful could follow Mass on television but were unable to receive communion, one of the church’s holy sacraments.
The faithful — standing at a safe distance from one another — also were present in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly Sunday blessing. The pope led a prayer for Libya, and urged political and military leaders to end hostilities and for the international community to take “to heart” the plight of migrants trapped in the lawless nation. “There is cruelty,” the pope said. “We all have responsibility. No one can feel exempt.”
PARIS — France’s highest administrative court says coronavirus concerns no longer justify banning public protests.
In a country that sees thousands of protests annually, the Council of State’s ruling Saturday night allows demonstrations to resume as long as health protections are respected and the events are declared in advance to authorities and not deemed a risk to public order.
The council says that “the ban on protesting is not justified by the current health situation” and the right to protest is a “fundamental freedom.”
The ruling came as an unauthorized protest against police violence and racial injustice wound down in Paris. Police stopped at least 15,000 protesters from marching through the city Saturday, citing virus restrictions on any gathering of more than 10 people.