The Latest: Pakistanis stranded in India return home
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:
— 4 new cases in South Korea, China show work on containment.
— Pakistanis stranded in India due to the coronavirus are allowed to return home.
— Hong Kong to relax some of its social distancing measures in two weeks.
WAGAH, India — Nearly 200 Pakistanis stranded in a nationwide coronavirus lockdown on the other side of the border in India have been able to cross back home.
Border security forces allowed on Tuesday masked passengers in private vehicles with luggage strapped to roofs to cross the Attari-Wagah border that separates the sprawling Punjab region split between Indian and Pakistan. The border opened on Tuesday for the first time since the ongoing lockdown began.
Wahid Khan, a 55-year-old from Lahore, Pakistan’s second-largest city, said he and five family members were in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh visiting relatives when the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a near-total lockdown to curb the spread of the virus on March 24. Khan said authorities were helpful and extended his family’s visas without incident.
India has recorded nearly 45,000 cases and more than 1,500 deaths. The lockdown was partially lifted on Monday to allow some employment for the millions of daily wage workers who found themselves jobless overnight and have survived only on donated food. But the pace of infection is growing and experts say the virus still hasn’t reached its peak in India.
HONG KONG — Hong Kong on Tuesday said it would relax some of its social distancing measures, allowing certain businesses such as gyms, cinemas and beauty salons to reopen and doubling the number of individuals allowed at public gatherings to a maximum of eight.
Businesses must continue to observe social distancing measures, said Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam in a press conference.
Schools will resume from May 27, with students in the more senior grades at secondary schools returning to schools first, while some younger pupils will follow suit in June.
Lam said Hong Kong’s social-distancing measures will remain in place for two more weeks, until May 21.
All Hong Kong residents will receive a locally-developed reusable mask, and each household will also receive a packet of 10 disposable masks. Schools, and homes for the disabled and vulnerable populations will also receive face masks from the government.
Hong Kong has seen no local transmissions of the coronavirus for 16 consecutive days, and its total COVID-19 cases stand at just over 1,000, with four reported deaths.
MADRID — The Spanish government says that the halting of most economic activity during April’s strict confinement shot up unemployment to a total of 3.8 million, the highest figure in nearly four years.
Altogether 282,891 people registered as jobless in April, or 8% more than a month earlier, data published on Tuesday by Spain’s Labour Ministry shows.
More than 300,000 people had already gone jobless the previous month, after authorities enacted a state of emergency on March 14 that provided the legal framework to confine Spaniards at home and deal with a pandemic that has killed at least 25,000.
The jobless statistics don’t include the millions of workers in Spain that have been furloughed or seen a temporary reduction in the number of hours that they are working.
The government wants to prolong the state of emergency for two additional weeks to May 23, although opposition parties argue that the government doesn’t need special powers during the lockdown roll back and are threatening to block the extension when the bill reaches parliament on Wednesday.
CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s prime minister still suspects the new coronavirus originated in a Chinese wildlife market despite U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo advocating a theory that it began in a laboratory.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Tuesday that he had written to Group of 20 government leaders calling for a “proper assessment” of the origins of and government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pompeo, who has backed Australia’s call for an independent review, told ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” that there is “enormous evidence” that the virus began in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The institute, which is run by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, is about 8 miles (13 kilometers) from a market considered a possible source of the virus.
Asked about the lab theory, Morrison told reporters Australia works closely with the United States and cannot rule out potential origins. But he said a wet market was “most likely” the origin of the pandemic.
China has dismissed calls for an international inquiry independent of the World Health Organization and has accused Australia of parroting the United States.
WASHINGTON — On board the coronavirus-stricken USS Theodore Roosevelt, the crew is getting the aircraft carrier ready to head back out to sea.
For the ship’s commander, Capt. Carlos Sardiello, the road to recovery has been a challenge. For the crew sidelined in Guam for more than a month, it’s been an emotional roller coaster.
Sardiello was a former Roosevelt captain when he abruptly returned to the ship in early April to take command after Capt. Brett Crozier was fired for urging faster action to stem the virus outbreak onboard.
More than 4,000 crew members went ashore last month. While more than 2,000 are back on board, at least 1,000 are still testing positive for the virus and remain on land. And the close to 700 crew members who had been protecting and running the Roosevelt and systems aboard have now moved into hotels and other facilities on the island for their quarantine.
When it’s time to return to the ship, boarding takes place in slow, meticulous waves. Wearing gloves and masks, the crew members climb onto sterile buses only after they’ve had two negative tests for the virus. They are screened and checked when they get on the bus and again before they board the ship. Even a simple sniffle can get them turned back.
Those who had stayed on the ship did deep cleaning four times a day.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The leaders of Australia and New Zealand say they’re committed to resuming travel between the two countries as soon as they can do so safely.
The announcement Tuesday came after New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern took the unusual step of joining Australian counterpart Scott Morrison and his National Cabinet for a discussion by video link. Morrison said he’d been talking to Ardern for several weeks about creating a safe travel zone between the countries.
“It is still some time away,” Morrison said. “But it is important to flag it because it is part of the road back.”
Both countries have experienced success in suppressing their coronavirus outbreaks. New Zealand reported no new cases Tuesday for the second consecutive day, while Australia reported 25 new cases.
TEHRAN, Iran — The new coronavirus pandemic has brought back something unseen in Iran since its 1979 Islamic Revolution: a drive-in movie theater.
Once decried by revolutionaries for allowing too much privacy for unmarried young couples, a drive-in theater now operates from a parking lot right under Tehran’s iconic Milad tower, showing a film in line with the views of hard-liners.
Workers spray disinfectants on cars that line up each night here after buying tickets online for what is called the “Cinema Machine” in Farsi. They tune into the film’s audio via an FM station on their car radios.
With stadiums shut and movie theaters closed, this parking-lot screening is the only film being shown in a communal setting amid the virus outbreak in Iran, one of the world’s worst. Iran has reported more than 98,600 cases with over 6,200 deaths, though international and local experts acknowledge the toll is likely far higher.