The Latest: Veteran, 99, walks 100 laps and raises millions

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.


— China, Europe show that restarting virus-hit economies is not easy.

— 99-year-old veteran walks 100 laps to raise money for the National Health Service.

— The European Union will reshape its budget to focus on tackling the new coronavirus.

— The Danish government suspends mandatory order for handshakes.


LONDON — A 99-year-old military veteran has completed his quest to walk 100 laps of his garden to raise funds for the National Health Service.

Capt. Tom Moore raised some 12 million pounds ($14 million) to support health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

As he reached his goal, he shuffled through a guard of honor from the 1st Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment and said he was glad to be “surrounded by the right sort of people.”

Moore, who uses a walker, sought to walk 100 laps in his 25-meter (82-foot) garden before he turned 100 on April 30. But his simple act captivated the nation in a time of crisis.

Celebrities, fellow veterans, health workers and many other Britons have rallied behind Moore after the World War II veteran appeared on national television.


BRUSSELS — A top European Union official says the 27-nation bloc will reshape its next trillion-euro budget to focus on tackling the coronavirus and funnel much of the spending into the first few years.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told EU lawmakers Thursday that the new 7-year budget set to enter force in January “will be the mother-ship of our recovery.”

Von der Leyen, whose institution is drafting a new spending package, says the budget “must be different to what we have imagined” given the way the virus is ravaging Europe’s economies.

She says “we will use the power of the whole European budget to leverage the huge amount of investment we need to rebuild the single market after corona. We will front-load it, so we can power that investment in those crucial first years of recovery.”

Talks on the budget, which accounts for just over 1% of the gross national income of member countries, have been blocked for almost a year.

Some countries are reluctant to pay more to plug the roughly 75-billion-euro ($81 billion) hole left by Britain’s departure from the EU.


COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Danish government says it is suspending with immediate effect the mandatory handshake as required by a law saying that nationalized Danes are to be shaking hands with official representatives at citizenship ceremonies.

Immigration and integration minister Mathias Tesfaye, a Social Democrat, said Thursday that an upcoming law proposal to renew the 2018 law will not make it mandatory for would-be Danes to shake hands, citing the coronavirus and advice from health authorities not to infect others by giving hand.

The law, presented by the previous center-right government that had a hardliner approach to immigration, is widely seen as aimed at some Muslims who for religious reasons decline to touch members of the opposite sex.

“I cannot say when we will give hand to each other again. But we cannot allow thousands of applicants to wait indefinitely to become citizens,” said Tesfaye, a member of the Social Democratic Party which initially had opposed the law but reverse its stand and maintained it when they got to power last year.

“They meet all other requirements. Therefore, we will pause the rule of handshake. I think that’s common sense.”


SINGAPORE — Singapore officers patrolling the city-state to enforce safe distancing measures have met some nasty response.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said criminal force has been used by recalcitrant citizens against a number of officers on the frontline.

He said an enforcement officer was slapped Wednesday by a man who didn’t comply with safe distancing measures, while a volunteer Safe Distancing Ambassador was punched after advising an errant member of the public to wear his mask properly. He wrote in a Facebook post that these were but two cases that the police will investigate.

Masagos warned that such behavior was unacceptable and that action would be taken against these individuals. He said authorities have set up a mobile app for members of the public to flag instances of such misbehavior and send other feedback on the safe distancing measures.

Enforcement officers were Thursday given special passes and red armbands for the public to identify them.

Singapore has reported 1,167 new coronavirus cases in the past three days to take its tally to 3,699, with 10 deaths. Most of the new cases are linked to foreign workers living in cramped dormitories, who now account for about half of total infections.

The city-state of under six million people has imposed a partial lockdown until May 4 and made it mandatory for people to wear masks outside their homes.


PRAGUE — No one died of COVID-19 in the Czech Republic’s hospitals on Wednesday, the first day without a fatality since March 23.

Seventy five people needed intensive care in hospitals, a number dropping for the fourth straight day.

The labs detected 160 new cases of people infected with the coronavirus, the first time over 100 after three days with less than a hundred cases.

A total of 6,303 people have been tested positive in the Czech Republic, according to Health Ministry figures released on Thursday, 166 have died.

Due to the relatively positive development, the government has unveiled a plan to gradually relax some restrictions imposed to contain the pandemic.


LJUBLJANA, Slovenia — Slovenia has announced easing of some of the lockdown measures following a slowdown in a number of infections with the new coronavirus in the Alpine nation.

Starting this weekend, thousands of Slovenians who own holiday homes will be allowed to leave their municipalities of residence to visit the properties in the countryside and spend time there.

The government late on Wednesday also allowed some sport activities that do not entail close contact, such as yoga, cycling or tennis.

Slovenia’s official news agency STA said the government move presents the ‘first significant’ easing of anti-virus measures in the European Union country.

Authorities have said that Slovenia would cautiously proceed with the relaxation of measures to make sure the situation does not worsen.

Slovenia has reported 1,248 infections in the country of some 2 million people. The STA agency says most of the 61 fatalities have been nursing home residents.


ISLAMABAD — The International Monetary Fund warns Pakistan’s budget deficit could reach record levels hitting 4 trillion Pakistani rupees ($23.7 billion) this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, accounting for nearly 9.2% of gross domestic product.

The grim statistics were laid out in an IMF report released this week, just days after Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan issued a global appeal to the world’s richest countries and international lending institutions to provide debt relief to the developing world, already coping with devastated economies further crippled by the virus.

The IMF has already announced 25 countries would be given debt relief, but Pakistan was not among the 25.

Pakistan on Thursday recorded 6,505 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 124 deaths. Pakistan carries out roughly 3,200 tests daily, a small amount in a country of 220 million.


CANBERRA, Australia — Australia is planning a business-as-usual week of Parliament in May in an indication that the country is weathering the coronavirus pandemic better than the government had feared.

Parliament’s schedule was scrapped a week into March and a scaled-down Parliament has sat on only two days since to pass billions of dollars in emergency economic stimulus measures. After the Parliament sat last week, lawmakers were not expected to convene in the national capital Canberra again before August.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday he will discuss with the opposition and state leaders arranging for lawmakers to return to Canberra for a “trial week” in May to conduct the “normal business of Parliament.” The aim of the trial is for Parliament to sit on a regular basis.

Morrison told reporters: “That is an indicator of us trying to get back at least to some form of new normal.”

Obstacles include a shortage of domestic flights and most states demanding interstate travelers quarantine in hotels for two weeks.

Australia has recorded 6,457 cases of COVID-19, mostly infected overseas, but new detections have recently slowed to fewer than 50 a day. The death toll stands at 63 on Thursday with 42 patients in intensive care.


UNITED NATIONS — United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is urging stepped up efforts to prepare Africa for the expected spread of the coronavirus pandemic, warning that the continent “could end up suffering the greatest impacts.”

The U.N. chief told a video conference with African ambassadors to the United Nations in New York on Wednesday that COVID-19 “is in no way of Africa’s making.” But like the climate crisis, he said, Africa could he hurt most.

Guterres said the United Nations and African countries are working together in the fight against the pandemic, and he commended early efforts by governments to suppress transmission, control the spread of COVID-19 and prepare their economy for the virus’ impact.

As examples, the secretary-general cited Uganda’s rescheduling social security contributions to support businesses, Namibia offering emergency income grants to workers who have lost jobs, and Egypt expanding it social safety net, reducing taxation for industries and postponing taxation on agricultural land.


CANBERRA, Australia — The Australian foreign minister says she has spoken to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about the World Health Organization and agrees the international agency needs to be reviewed, but Australia continues to support WHO’s valuable work in the Pacific.

President Donald Trump has directed his administration to freeze WHO funding, claiming the agency didn’t deliver adequate early reports on the coronavirus and cost the U.S. valuable response time.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne told Seven Network television on Thursday: “We share some of the concerns of the United States and I do think there are areas of the operation of WHO that absolutely require review.”

Australia had made several decisions on the coronavirus’ spread based on its own health advice ahead of the WHO, Payne said.

“For example, in declaring coronavirus from our perspective as a pandemic, closing our borders, for example, in relation to travel from Wuhan, Hubei province, from mainland China very early and we were criticized by the WHO for doing that,” Payne said.

“That said, I don’t think that management issues perhaps in Geneva should have a negative impact on some of the very good work that we do in association with WHO in places like the Pacific and in Indonesia. Australia and New Zealand are currently in a very, very strong partnership with WHO in the Pacific out of their office in Suva to deliver support to the Pacific which is really, really important in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic like this and I would not like to see that thrown away.”

Australia contributed $67 million to WHO in the past two years, which is 0.75% of the organization’s total funding.


WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand reported just 15 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern began outlining what restrictions imposed during a strict four-week lockdown might be eased from next Wednesday.

Lawmakers will make a final decision on Monday on whether to proceed with easing the restrictions. Under Ardern’s plan, primary schools would reopen but attendance would be voluntary, and some business could reopen, including drive-through and delivery restaurants. Malls and retail stores would remain closed and large gatherings banned.

New Zealand has reported 1401 cases of COVID-19 and nine deaths. The number of new daily cases has dropped significantly over the past 11 days.


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