The Latest: Vatican postpones swearing-in for Swiss Guards
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:
— Italy eases long lockdown, leaders push vaccine effort.
— Swearing-in ceremony for new Swiss Guards is postponed.
— Bangladesh extends national lockdown until May 16.
— Portugal eases confinement and isolation measures.
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is postponing the annual swearing-in ceremony for its new crop of Swiss Guards, a commemoration usually held each May 6 to honor the guardsmen who died while protecting the pope during the 1527 Sack of Rome.
The Swiss Guards said Monday that due to the ongoing coronavirus emergency, the pomp-filled ceremony will now be held Oct. 4. Other commemoration will go ahead May 6, including a Mass in a Vatican church, but it will be celebrated with only a restricted few guests present.
Vatican City, a small city state in the center of Rome, has been implementing its own version of lockdown that mirrors the measure imposed in Italy, the European epicenter of the pandemic.
Pope Francis has been celebrating daily Mass to empty pews, and on Monday prayed for victims of domestic violence. Italian officials have said calls to domestic violence hotlines have declined during the lockdown, not because assaults are slowing but because victims are less able to call and get help.
Francis said: “Let’s pray for families, may they go ahead with creativity, peace and patience in this quarantine.”
DHAKA, Bangladesh — The government has extended a nationwide lockdown by nearly two weeks to May 16 in Bangladesh to check the spread of coronavirus as the South Asian nation crosses the 10,000 mark of infections, authorities said Monday.
The government had imposed a lockdown for all public and private offices and businesses from March 26, and later that restriction was extended to May 5.
All essential services and vehicles carrying goods and medicine have remained out of the purview of the closure, while garment factories and pharmaceuticals and other export-oriented manufacturing units are also operating.
Health Directorate official Nasima Sultana said Monday Bangladesh confirmed almost 700 new cases, taking the total to 10,143, including more than 180 deaths.
LISBON, Portugal — Portugal is easing its confinement and isolation measures, but authorities say people have a “civic duty” to keep working from home through the end of May if they can.
After a state of emergency ended last weekend, on Monday small stores were allowed to open.
Hair salons and some government departments could also be visited by appointment. Commuters were let on to public transport only if they wore masks.
People are also able to practice sports in the open air, but not in groups of more than 10. Beaches remain closed but watersports, such as surfing, are permitted.
Family members can now attend funerals.
The progressive relaxation of limitations is due to occur every two weeks and could be reversed if there is a spike in new cases.
Portugal has reported just over 1,000 deaths and more than 25,000 cases of the new coronavirus.
MADRID — For a second day in a row, Spanish health officials are reporting 164 new confirmed deaths from the coronavirus, the lowest daily death toll in six weeks, to a total of 25,428.
The figures came as a respite for a country that has spent seven weeks under a strict lockdown and that on Monday entered the first stage of its 4-phase lockdown rollback, expected to span over nearly two months.
People ventured out for the first time for haircuts, buying glasses or food take-outs, activities that are allowed on the condition of a pre-existing appointment. Many small shops were still closed, as business owners worked on preparing to meet the strict health and hygiene guidelines that the government only published on Sunday.
Face masks are also mandatory on public transport and the government is distributing 14 million of them at major transportation hubs.
Political tension in the country is on the rise as opposition parties critical of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s handling of the crisis threaten to block extending further the state of emergency in a parliamentary vote later this week.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — The Indonesian government has stepped up measures in anticipation of the influx of migrant workers returning home from abroad to celebrate Islamic holiday with families to mark the end of Ramadan.
During a virtual cabinet meeting on Monday, President Joko Widodo has raised concerns over possible imported COVID-19 cases from migrant workers returning home from abroad and has ordered regional leaders to take preventive measures to curb the spread of contagious disease.
Widodo asked for strict health screenings for every migrant worker who returns and they should undergo a 14-day quarantine.
Indonesia, which is home to nearly 270 million people has reported nearly 12,000 COVID-19 cases as of Monday, including almost 900 deaths.
Government data showed the flow of returning Indonesian citizens from several countries, especially from Malaysia, may potentially involve more than 1.8 million migrant workers.
MOSCOW — Russian officials are reporting a steady rise in the number of the new coronavirus infections that raises pressure on the nation’s healthcare system.
The government’s headquarters dealing with the outbreak reported more than 10,500 new cases Monday, including nearly 6,000 in Moscow.
That has brought the nation’s total to over 145,000, including almost 1,400 deaths.
The number of cases has risen quickly over the past few days, fueling concerns that the nation’s hospitals could be overwhelmed. Authorities have charged that broader testing has contributed to a surge.
Russia’s economy has been partially shut down since late March, and the lockdown measures have been extended through May 11.
TOKYO — Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Monday that the ongoing coronavirus state of emergency will be extended for about a month until the end of May.
Abe, citing experts’ evaluation on the current situation on the infections, said that the measure, currently through Wednesday, should stay in place as the rise in the number of patients has not decreased significantly enough and hospitals are still overburdened.
He said there is a possibility of an early lifting of the measures if data at mid-May show improvement.
Abe declared the state of emergency on April 7, initially only for Tokyo and six other urban prefectures, but later extending it to the entire nation and requesting the people to reduce social interactions by up to 80%. He stopped short of issuing business closure requests.
Japan has more than 15,000 cases with over 500 deaths. The number of cases detected in Tokyo accounts to about one-third of the national total.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s COVID-19 rate is creeping up with more than 1,000 new cases emerging daily.
Dr. Rana Muhammed Safdar, who is heading Pakistan’s COVID-19 fight, says more than 80% of the new cases are community transmitted.
When the virus first surfaced in Pakistan, all new cases were traced to Pakistanis returning from Iran, Saudi Arabia, U.S. and United Kingdom, Safdar said. In mid-April, that began to change and now the vast majority of new cases are community transmitted.
Safdar said in an interview that the surveillance and monitoring system implemented in Pakistan has proven effective, even garnering praise from the World Health Organization.
Pakistan on Monday had recorded over 20,000 cases in a population of 220 million people. The virus death toll is more than 450.
Even as cases of COVID-19 continue to climb, Prime Minister Imran Khan has said Pakistan will consider emerging from its lockdown on May 9 and, despite pleas from the country’s medical professionals, has refused to close mosques during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, which began toward the end of April.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea says it’ll allow schools to have their students back in their classrooms, staring from next week, amid signs that the coronavirus outbreak in the country is waning.
Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae said Monday high school seniors will return to schools on May 13 and other lower grade students in phased steps from May 20.
She says about 5.4 million students in South Korea have been taking classes online since April 9 due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.
South Korea’s caseload has continuously been declining in recent weeks, prompting authorities to relax its social distancing rules. Earlier Monday, South Korea reported eight additional virus cases, taking its national tally over 10,800.
ROME — Italy began stirring again Monday after a two-month coronavirus shutdown, with 4.4 million Italians able to return to work and restrictions on movement eased in the first European country to lock down in a bid to stem infections.
Around the country, construction sites and manufacturing operations resumed, and restaurants and gelaterie scrubbed their floors in preparation for take-out service.
Sit-down service in bars and restaurants, as well as the reopening of commercial shops and hairdressers is still several weeks off and dependent on the implementation of social distancing and hygiene measures. Italians were told to wear masks in closed spaces and public transport.
Mourners were able to attend funerals for some of Italy’s nearly 29,000 dead, but the services were limited to 15 people and there was still no word on when Masses would resume. Professional athletes were allowed to get back to training and parks opened their gates to stir-crazy joggers, parents and children, though playgrounds were still off-limits.
Officials are well aware that the resumption of economic activity will lead to a rise in infections, and the gradual reopening has been predicated on regions taking measures to track infections, intervene quickly to isolate new clusters and ensure the health care system isn’t overwhelmed. The aim is to allow economic activity to gradually resume while keeping the contagion under control.
ATHENS, Greece — Greece has begun gradually lifting its restrictive measures after a 42-day lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
As of Monday morning, Greeks are no longer restricted as to why they can leave their homes, and don’t need to send an SMS or carry a self-written permit justifying being outdoors.
The first businesses have also opened as part of what authorities have said will be a staggered re-opening of the economy. Hair salons, barber shops and stores selling books, sporting goods, stationary, and other items can now open, albeit with strict hygiene and social distancing measures in place.
Masks are now compulsory for staff and passengers on public transport, staff in shops selling fresh food and in several other places, with violators facing fines. Authorities strongly recommend mask-wearing in all indoor public areas.
School students in the final grade of high school are to return to class as of next week, followed later in the month by those in the rest of junior high and high school grades.
Greece’s government imposed a lockdown early in the country’s outbreak, which has been credited with keeping the number of deaths and critically ill at low levels. Greece has reported nearly 150 virus deaths and over 2,500 infections. Almost 80,000 tests had been carried out as of Sunday.
NEW DELHI — India has relaxed some lockdown restrictions even as the pace of coronavirus infections has slightly accelerated.
Some economic activities resumed Monday after a nationwide halt that lasted nearly five weeks. Normal life, albeit with masks, social distancing and stringent hygiene standards, has started to return in low-risk areas with few or no cases, while constraints on movement and work continued elsewhere in the country.
In the capital of New Delhi, a designated hot spot, many lockdown restrictions remained. But more than 100 people — not all observing social distancing measures — stood in line ahead of the reopening of a liquor store.
India has about 42,500 virus cases, 11,706 recoveries and 1,373 deaths. The country had conducted more than a million tests by Monday. Still, at 758 tests per million people, India is among the nations testing the lowest fraction of their population. And experts warn the virus has yet to peak.
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