The Latest: US phases out emergency flights of supplies
WASHINGTON — U.S. officials say they are phasing out an emergency program of using cargo planes to quickly import huge quantities of critical medical supplies from around the world in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said the effort dubbed “Project Airbridge” will be wound down by the end of June after more than 200 flights of medical supplies since late March.
FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor and Adm. John Polowczyk of the federal supply chain task force told reporters Thursday that the government can now rely on traditional shipping methods for any needed supplies. The cargo flights were intended from the start to be a temporary solution to nationwide shortages of protective masks and other supplies as well as treatments and tests for COVID-19.
Members of Congress have criticized Project Airbridge, accusing FEMA and the task force of not providing enough information about how they decided to allocate medical supplies and accusing the administration of giving priority to politically connected people. Gaynor denied those allegations and said supplies were distributed to where they were needed most amid global shortages.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Europe sees a rash of new local outbreaks including hundreds of infections at a German meatpacking plant
— China says infections are waning, including at Beijing market
— Is it safe to stay in hotels as reopenings get underway?
— Study ties blood type to COVID-19 risk; O may help, A hurt
— Spain to inject $4.7 billion aid package into its beleagured tourism industry.
— Vice President Mike Pence says the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic is “a cause for celebration,” but a new poll finds more than half of Americans calling it fair or poor. The Gallup and West Health survey out Thursday shows that 57% of U.S. adults rate the national response to COVID-19 as fair or poor, particularly because America has the world’s most expensive health care.
— As work on potential coronavirus vaccines intensifies, rich countries are placing advance orders for the inevitably limited supply to guarantee their citizens are immunized first. That is leaving significant questions about how long it will take developing countries to get any vaccines.
Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
OWOSSO, Mich. — The state of Michigan has lifted the suspension of a barber’s license, but he still faces a hearing for cutting hair while shops and salons were closed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
An administrative law judge on Tuesday granted the state’s request to lift Karl Manke’s suspension. Regulators said an “imminent threat” to public health no longer exists at the Owosso barbershop.
Manke, 77, reopened his shop on May 4 in defiance of Whitmer’s order to keep barbershops and salons closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Manke’s barber and business licenses were subsequently suspended, but he still kept cutting hair.
He still faces a July 15 hearing on the formal May 12 complaint filed by the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is announcing a new national app that will notify users of exposure to the new coronavirus.
Trudeau says the app will be voluntary. He says if you test positive, other users who have the app and have been in proximity will then be alerted they’ve been exposed to someone who has tested positive.
The prime minister says the notification will encourage them to reach out to their local public health authorities. He says privacy will be respected.
Ontario will soon begin testing the app which is being developed with the help of Canadian technology companies Shopify and BlackBerry.
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina’s capital city is require that people wear face coverings to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin’s emergency proclamation takes effect Friday at 4 p.m., requiring that face coverings be worn over the mouth and nose when people come in contact with those who are not members of their household in both public and private spaces where it is not possible to stay at least six feet (2 meters) apart.
All restaurant, personal care, grooming, tattoo and retail employees also must wear face coverings while on duty. Children 12 and under and those with medical or religious exemptions aren’t required to comply.
Anyone in the city who chooses not to wear a mask would not be fined or arrested, but law enforcement officers are “strongly encouraged to educate and encourage voluntary compliance,” the mayor said.
QUETTA, Pakistan — Pakistan on Thursday announced that it is reopening its key southwestern Taftan border crossing with neighboring Iran to allow trade between the two countries.
Thursday’s move comes three months after the border in Baluchistan province was closed by Islamabad to contain the spread of the coronavirus in the country. However, the ban on movement of people will remain in place until further order.
Authorities say the border was being opened immediately to specially facilitate export of mangoes and other perishable food items to Iran.
The development comes despite a surge in COVID-19 deaths, as Pakistan reported 118 more deaths from the coronavirus Thursday.
It brought coronavirus-related fatalities to 3,093 and overall infections to 160,118.
KEY WEST, Fla. — Commissioners in Monroe County, in the Florida Keys, have voted to make facial coverings mandatory, effective immediately, to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
An ordinance now requires facial covering over the nose and mouth for all employees and customers in business and other public places where there is a roof overhead. Patrons in restaurants and bars are permitted to remove their masks to eat and drink.
Commissioners recommend that anyone 6 and older should carry a mask when they leave home, and to wear it “whenever they come within six feet of another person.”
The order applies to throughout the county and the city of Key West. Other municipalities may adopt ordinances with different requirements.
Violation of the mask order is punishable by fines, but not jail time, the commission said in a news release.
DAVIE, Fla. — A Jewish community center in South Florida closed its preschool camp after two staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
The child of one of the staff members also tested positive, Scott Ehrlich, CEO of the David Posnack Jewish Community Center in Davie told news outlets.
The preschool was closed from mid-March until June 1, when it reopened with daily cleanings. After the school year ended on June 12, the preschool camp opened Monday with 80 campers, ages three months to 5.
“We didn’t have to close the entire preschool, but we said let’s do it and get it done and then reopen in a reasonable amount of time,” Ehrlich told the Miami Herald.
A reopening plan will be developed and the entire school building will be cleaned and disinfected, he said.
BANGKOK— Dozens of people have gathered outside the prime minister’s office complex in Thailand to demand that the government scrap an emergency decree it enacted in March to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak.
The protesters believe Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s government no longer needs emergency powers to control the coronavirus, and instead is using them to harass its political opponents. Authoritarian leaders using the coronavirus crisis as an excuse to increase their power and quash dissent have become a concern in several countries, most notably in Hungary in Europe and the Philippines in Southeast Asia.
LONDON — Britain’s government is scrapping its existing coronavirus tracing smartphone app and switching to a model based on technology supplied by Apple and Google, the BBC reports.
The government’s app is being trialled on the Isle of Wight, and was expected to be rolled out in the rest of the country later. But the program, previously hailed as a fundamental pillar of the U.K. response to the pandemic, has been delayed.
On Wednesday, the official responsible for the app said it may not be ready until the winter and that it is not the “priority” at the moment.
The data gathered by the Apple-Google design is expected to be less centralized but it is said to have less privacy concerns than the government version.
The government was to brief reporters later Thursday about the next stage of development in the contact tracing app.
LISBON, Portugal — More COVID-19 flare-ups are keeping authorities busy in Portugal, where officials reported 417 new cases and one death Thursday.
Though the country’s overall number of hospitalizations has remained stable, fresh outbreaks in recent days have occurred at nursing homes and a major hospital, where officials have reported a total of more than 100 new infections and enacted emergency procedures.
Meanwhile, authorities say tracking, testing and surveillance systems are in place at hot spots in satellite towns around Lisbon and in the southern Algarve region, where around 40 new cases are linked to an illegal weekend party in the city of Lagos.
The Directorate for Health said 325 of the new cases announced Thursday were detected at communities in the Lisbon metropolitan area.
Portugal has recently been reporting on average more than 300 new cases each day. The country has officially recorded just over 38,000 cases and 1,524 deaths.
ZAGREB, Croatia — After Montenegro and Slovenia, Croatia is also reporting a spike in new coronavirus infections following the reopening of its borders.
Croatian health authorities said Thursday that 11 new cases have been recorded in the past 24 hours after weeks of very low results. In the northern Istria peninsula, a resurgence came after two months of no cases at all.
Authorities say most of the new cases have been imported. Croatia has reopened for visitors in hopes of salvaging its crucial summer tourism season along the Adriatic Sea coast.
Officials urged the citizens to respect protective anti-virus measures like social distancing and wearing masks. Croatia has had nearly 2,300 cases and 107 virus-related deaths.
BEIJING — A Chinese public health expert says an outbreak of the coronavirus in Beijing is under control and the number of new cases should drop in the coming days.
Wu Zunyou from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention told a news conference Thursday that such outbreaks are inevitable but that this one was larger than expected because it happened in a major market.
Authorities have confirmed 158 cases in Beijing in the past week. Most if not all have been linked to the city’s largest wholesale food market, where thousands of people work. Wu said workers in the seafood section were infected first and in greater numbers than those in the meat and vegetable sections.
Tests for the coronavirus in food imports, conducted across the country following the market outbreak, were all negative, a customs administration notice said.
A city transport spokesman said at the news conference that bus service between Beijing and other provinces would be suspended starting Friday to try to prevent the outbreak’s spread.
ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s government has announced a new system of fines and penalties for businesses that are found to be violating regulations imposed to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Under details published Thursday in the government gazette, fines for violations will range from 1,000 euros to 50,000 euros ($1,125 to $56,240). For bars and restaurants, offending businesses will be shut down for 15 days for the first violation, 30 days for the second violation and 60 days for the third if all three violations occur within three months.
Other retail businesses face similar penalties.
Regulations include limits on the number of people allowed into a business depending on its physical size, distances to be maintained between tables at cafes, bars, restaurants and outdoor movie theaters, and mandatory masks to be work by staff handling fresh food.
Greece imposed a lockdown early in its outbreak, a move credited with keeping overall numbers of deaths and seriously ill people low.
PRAGUE — A Czech car industry group says the car production in the country fell by 52.9% year-on-year in May as the industry’s crisis continues amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Czech Automotive Industry Association says the industry began slightly recovering in May after it was down by 88.5 % in April but remains under pressure due to a lack of demand.
The new car registration was down by 44.4% in May, it says.
Overall, a total of 399,681 cars were made in the country in the first five months of the year, down by 35.7% compared with the same period last year.
“The whole industry is now at a crossroad,” said Zdenek Petzl, the association’s executive director. “It’s key for the state to invest into its future prosperity as some other neighboring countries have done and support by that the economy’s recovery and employment.”
The Czech economy relies heavily on the car industry. Germany’s Volkswagen, South Korea’s Hyundai and Japan-France’s Toytota/PSA all have major plants in the country.