The Latest: US could extend period for border restrictions

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:

—Military member near Trump tests positive for virus.

—Japan approves remdesivir for coronavirus treatment.

—Moscow lockdown extended until end of month.

—British await ‘very limited’ easing of restrictions.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. officials say fewer illegal immigrants are trying to enter the country from Mexico amid new enforcement rules imposed in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Acting U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan says agents are encountering about half the number of migrants along the southwest border than in the month before President Donald Trump authorized the rapid expulsion of migrants under a March 21 public health order.

Total encounters in April were about 16,700.

The public health order was initially renewed for 30 days and is scheduled to expire this month. But Morgan and Deputy Commissioner Robert Perez suggested Thursday that the public health restrictions may have to stay in place longer even as the U.S. starts to ease quarantine restrictions.

Morgan also said border agents have encountered their first two migrants with confirmed cases of COVID-19. The first was from India and was captured near Calexico, California, on April 23. The second was a man from Mexico captured this week as he tried to enter the U.S. to seek medical attention for his illness.

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JUNEAU, Alaska — Gyms, pools and bars will be allowed to open with limitations starting Friday under the next phase of Alaska’s plan to reopen parts of the economy that had been forced to shut down amid efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Other businesses that were allowed to reopen April 24 — including retail stores, restaurants for dine-in services, salons and other businesses that were classified as nonessential — will be able to boost their capacity from 25% to 50% under plans announced Wednesday.

Starting Friday, bars, gyms, libraries, theaters and other entertainment venues can reopen with limited capacity, state health Commissioner Adam Crum said.

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NEW YORK — The New York Philharmonic has canceled its summer schedule, including concerts in the parks, a tour to China and a residency in Vail, Colorado.

The orchestra had been scheduled for its 55th season of concerts throughout New York City’s Parks in June and for performances at in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong in July. The China tour has been postponed until summer in 2021.

The Bravo! Vail Music Festival had been scheduled to feature the New York Philharmonic for the 18th straight year.

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MADRID — The health chief for the Madrid region has quit, a day after the region’s Cabinet voted unanimously to try and accelerate the end of its coronavirus lockdown.

Yolanda Fuentes, a doctor, tendered her resignation Thursday, private Spanish news agency Europa Press and other national media reported.

The Madrid region has Spain’s highest number of coronavirus cases, with 63,870 out of more than 221,000 nationally.

Spain is slowly rolling back its restrictions on movement, but Madrid’s move to ask the central government to be included in the next phase of the rollback surprised many.

The spread of the coronavirus in the Madrid area has slowed considerably, with an increase of just 86 cases from Wednesday.

The central government has said a decision will be made in coming days.

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LOS ANGELES — California restaurants have drafted a plan to allow the industry to reopen for sit-down dining with an array of safeguards while avoiding possible requirements imposed in other states that customers have their temperature taken or the number of tables be dramatically limited.

The recommendations, obtained by The Associated Press, are to be submitted to Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday. They envision a changed world within dining rooms, as an industry built on face-to-face contact and crowded tables looks for ways to safely conduct business and avoid the spread of coronavirus.

Tables would be limited to no more than 10 people. Buffets, salad bars and shared bread baskets would be out. Salt and pepper shakers could be replaced by bottles of hand sanitizer. And meals could arrive from food servers sheathed in face masks.

Restaurant dining rooms were shuttered in California in March as part of broad orders to deter the spread of the virus, though takeout and delivery remained. The move devastated the industry and sent droves into unemployment lines in a state with an internationally known food culture.

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ROME — Italy’s center-right parties have lodged a parliamentary no-confidence motion against the justice minister after more than 375 convicted Mafiosi were transferred from prisons to house detention during the pandemic.

Lawyers had successfully argued that their clients risked being infected with COVID-19 in the country’s overcrowded prisons. Justice Minister Alfonso Bonafede of the populist 5-Star Movement told lawmakers on Wednesday that the government would soon issue a decree to put the mobsters back behind bars.

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PARIS — The French prime minister has given the green light to start ending a strict two-month lockdown throughout France on Monday, even though the coronavirus is still circulating in four regions, including Paris.

Laying out a sort of how-to manual for the progressive reopening of France, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe says a balance must be struck between restarting life and the economy while guarding against a second wave of the pandemic, which has left more than 26,000 people dead in France since March 1.

Philippe held out the possibility that backsliding in fighting the pandemic could mean back-pedaling on the freedom from confinement starting next week.

Important restrictions will remain in place — particularly for travel, urban public transport and schools — until the situation is reassessed in early June. Restaurants and bars are to remain closed for now, along with most beaches.

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LONDON — Britain’s foreign secretary is stressing that any changes to social distancing and lockdown measures will be “modest and incremental” to avoid a second peak, as the country’s total death toll reaches 30,615.

Asked about changes to lockdown rules expected to be announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday, Dominic Raab says “It’s a very dangerous moment, we need to proceed with caution.”

He said the R-rate, the rate of infection, is between 0.5 and 0.9. National statistician Ian Diamond added that the lowest R-rate is “probably in London.”

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ANKARA, Turkey —Turkey has reported 57 new COVID-19 deaths in the past 24 hours and 1,977 new infections.

The total number of fatalities in the country has reached 3,641, while there are 133,721 confirmed cases, according toHealth Minister Fahrettin Koca.

The country has conducted 1.27 million tests since the start of the outbreak.

Also Thursday, an official says a total of 153 senior citizens residing in 426 nursing homes across Turkey have died of the new coronavirus.

Turkey is preparing to gradually ease measures that were introduce to curb the infection rates as of next week, by reopening malls, beauty salons, hairdressers and barber shops.

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ST. LOUIS — A top prescription benefit manager is partnering with drugmakers and pharmacies across the country to offer people who lose health insurance due to the COVID-19 pandemic big discounts on thousands of medicines.

Express Scripts, based in St. Louis, announced the new program, called Express Scripts Parachute Rx.

It offers a 30-day supply of thousands of generic drugs for common conditions for $25 at most. Also, more than 40 brand-name medications from companies including Astra Zeneca, Bayer, Eli Lilly, Merck, Pfizer, Sanofi and UCB will be available for $75 a month at most.

The drugs covered include ones for asthma, diabetes, glaucoma, heart disease, migraine, non-opioid pain management, reproductive health, seizures and thyroid disease. Additional medications may be added over time.

Details including eligibility requirements, participating pharmacies and medication prices are on the program’s site, www.express-scripts.com/parachuterx. The program is to run through year’s end.

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BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office says the German leader has discussed the coronavirus pandemic with Pope Francis in a phone conversation.

Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert says the chancellor and the pontiff advocated support for poor countries in the virus crisis during Thursday’s call. He says it centered on “the global humanitarian and political situation in view of the corona pandemic” and on the significance of solidarity in Europe and the world.

Merkel invited Francis to visit Germany when that is possible again.

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RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s economy minister warns there could soon be product shortages in supermarkets if state quarantine measures are allowed to continue.

Paulo Guedes told an audience at the Supreme Court, including its chief justice, that Latin America’s largest market is at risk of “collapse” similar to what happened in neighboring Venezuela. He was joined by President Jair Bolsonaro and a group of industry leaders, who together walked to the top court to make their case for rollback of restrictions on gatherings and activity even as Brazil’s COVID-19 cases continue to surge. The Supreme Court ruled last month that local governments, not the federal government, have jurisdiction to adopt such measures.

Bolsonaro told reporters after the audience that several states’ decrees went beyond what was required, causing millions of job losses.

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ROME — Italy’s confirmed coronavirus death toll is nearing 30,000.

The health ministry says there were 274 deaths in the 24-hour period ending Thursday evening, raising to 29,958 the number of people who have died with diagnosed COVID-19 infections.

Health authorities say the death toll is likely much higher, since some who died in nursing homes or in their own home, especially the elderly, might have had coronavirus infections but were never tested.

Italy registered 1,401 new cases, increasing the country’s overall count of confirmed COVID-19 infections to 215,858.

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BERLIN — German officials say they hope to launch an app to help trace coronavirus infection chains by mid-June.

The German government had initially suggested that such an app could be available by April, but the release was delayed in part by privacy and security concerns.

Federal officials, speaking on condition on anonymity because they weren’t authorized to be quoted by name, say the time frame was a “challenge” because of the “dynamic” nature of software projects, but “mid-June is a realistic time frame” for the release of a first version of the app.

Germany has tasked Deutsche Telekom and software company SAP with leading the project. The companies have said they will draw on Bluetooth technology being developed by Apple and Google to allow smartphones to register which other devices are in close proximity.

The app, which will be voluntary, can then be used to anonymously inform other smartphone users if they had close contact to someone who tested positive for the new coronavirus, giving them reason to also get a test.

—Frank Jordans reported.

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AUSTIN, Texas — Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has removed jail as a punishment for violating his coronavirus restrictions following outcry by conservatives over a Dallas salon owner who was jailed for refusing to keep her business closed.

Abbott says his new order should free Shelley Luther, who was booked in the Dallas County jail this week for keeping her salon open in defiance of the governor’s restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Luther refused to apologize for repeatedly flouting the order, leading a judge to find her in contempt of court and sentence her to a week behind bars.

The reversal reflects the increasing pressure Abbott is under to reboot the state’s economy at a much faster pace.

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WASHINGTON — A military member working in close proximity to President Donald Trump tested positive for the new coronavirus Wednesday. The White House says Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have since tested negative for the virus and “remain in good health.”

Spokesman Hogan Gidley says in a statement the military member works “on the White House campus” and tested positive Wednesday. The White House instituted safety protocols nearly two months ago to protect the nation’s political leaders, including frequent temperature checks. Last month it began administering rapid COVID-19 tests to all those near the president, with staffers being tested about once a week.

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TOKYO — Japan has approved Gilead Sciences’ antiviral drug remdesivir for coronavirus treatment in a fast-track review just four days after the U.S. company submitted an application.

The drug is the first approved in Japan for the coronavirus. It was originally developed for Ebola and could block the coronavirus from replicating itself in the human body.

It will mainly be used for seriously ill patients. It was authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for coronavirus treatment last Friday.

Japan is also testing a Japanese-made influenza drug, favipiravir, that is also designed to inhibit viral replication but could cause birth defects. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing for favipiravir and says he hopes to have it approved by the end of May for less serious patients.

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MOSCOW — Authorities in Moscow have extended a lockdown in the capital until the end of the month.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said while all industrial plants and construction sites in the city will be allowed to reopen starting Tuesday, other businesses will remain shut through May 31. Residents are allowed to shop at nearby stores, pharmacies, walk their dogs, visit doctors and make occasional trips for personal reasons.

Sobyanin said that reopening industrial plants and construction sites is essential to shore up the economy and preserve jobs, but emphasized that it’s too early to reopen retail stores, restaurants, hairdressers, beauty parlors and other enterprises in the services sector.

Moscow has registered 92,676 coronavirus cases, more than half of the nation’s total. But Sobyanin said that the real number of infections could be as high as 300,000 people, or about 2.5 percent of the city’s population of 12.7 million.

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

Categories: National & International News