The Latest: Baltic nations reopen borders to each other
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:
— Virus hot spots flare, hospitals tested as economies reopen.
— Slovenia first European country to proclaim end to coronavirus epidemic.
— Britain says 27% of the people who died in care homes until May 1 had confirmed or suspected coronavirus infections.
— First virus case reported in crowded camps for Rohingya refugees.
VILNIUS, Lithuania — The prime ministers of the three Baltic nations said the first coronavirus wave is under control in their region. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania formally removed travel restrictions between them Friday.
“We are the first in the European Union to open our borders to each other’s’ citizens,” Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said. “But we remain cautious and responsible and are protecting the Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian space.”
In a joint video, Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins called it “a very important day” while his Estonian counterpart Juri Ratas said it was “another step toward our normal life.”
They spoke hours before the three former Soviet republics’ foreign minister gathered in the Latvian capital of Riga to sign a document, formally reopening the borders between the three EU members which are home to around six million inhabitants.
Baltic citizens and residents have been able to move freely between the three EU nations since Thursday midnight. People returning from countries outside the region will still be required to self-isolate for two weeks.
LONDON — Official British statistics show that more than 12,000 residents of nursing homes have died with confirmed or suspected COVID-19.
The Office for National Statistics says 12,526 care home residents in England and Wales died with confirmed or suspected coronavirus infections between the start of the outbreak and May 1. That’s 27% of the 45,899 total deaths of care-home residents during the period.
Britain has struggled to get a full picture of the scale of the epidemic in nursing homes. At first, the government recorded only COVID-19 deaths that occurred in hospitals, though that has now changed.
The country’s official death toll stands at 33,614, the highest number of coronavirus deaths in Europe.
PRAGUE — The Czech government is planning to further ease its restrictive measures adopted due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Health Minister Adam Vojtech said Friday that sports, cultural and other public events for up to 300 people will be allowed from May 25, up from the current 100.
Vojtech said that if outbreak developments make it possible, the number will increase to 500 on June 8 and to 1,000 on June 22.
Hotels and tourist camps are reopening also on May 25, along with public swimming pools and aqua centers, the same day when bars, restaurants and cafes can start serving customers inside.
Children's summer camps will be allowed under strict conditions, Vojtech said.
The Czech Republic has registered 8,352 coronavirus cases and 293 deaths. Since May 1, it has identified fewer than 100 new cases a day.
LJUBLJANA, Slovenia — Slovenia has become the first European country to proclaim an end to the coronavirus epidemic at home.
The European Union state’s government said Friday the COVID-19 spread is under control and there is no longer a need for extraordinary health measures.
The government says EU residents are free to cross into Slovenia from Austria, Italy and Hungary at predetermined checkpoints, while most non-EU nationals will have to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine in what is a major step for the small Alpine country as it accelerates the easing of restrictions.
The first coronavirus case in Slovenia was recorded on March 4, a returnee from neighboring Italy. The nationwide epidemic was proclaimed on March 12.
By May 13, there were 1,467 confirmed cases and 103 deaths in Slovenia.
DHAKA, Bangladesh — Authorities have reported the first coronavirus case in the crowded camps for Rohingya refugees in southern Bangladesh, where more than 1 million people are sheltered.
The person from the Rohingya community and a local person who lives in the Cox’s Bazar district who also tested positive have been isolated, Mahbub Alam Talukder, the country’s refugee commissioner, said Thursday.
Teams have been activated for treatment of the patients as well as tracing people they might have encountered and quarantining and testing of those contacts, Louise Donovan, a spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency, told The Associated Press.
Aid workers have been warning of the potential for a serious outbreak if the virus reached the camps. The dense crowding with plastic shacks standing side by side housing up to 12 residents each mean the refugees would be dangerously exposed to the virus.
PARIS — The head of WHO’s Europe office, Dr. Hans Kluge, says the future of the pandemic will depend on everyone's actions.
“It’s very important to remind everyone that as long as there is no vaccine and effective treatment, there is no return to normal," he said on French radio Europe-1 on Friday. “This virus won’t simply disappear, so the personal behavior of each of us will determine the behavior of the virus.”
“Governments have done a lot (to limit the virus), and now the responsibility is on the people,” he added. “Before we said that public health is important for the economy. Now we have seen that without health there is no economy, there is no national security.”
NEW DELHI — The World Bank has approved $1 billion in emergency response to support India’s efforts at providing social assistance to poor and vulnerable households severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A bank statement says the move will increase its total commitment to India to $2 billion. A $1 billion package was announced last month for India’s health sector.
An immediate allocation of $750 million will help scale-up cash transfers and food benefits to provide robust social protection for essential workers involved in coronavirus relief efforts and benefit migrants and informal workers, the bank statement said late Thursday.
A second influx of $250 million will deepen the social protection package in fiscal year 2021, it said.
Half of India’s population earns less than $3 a day. More than 90% of India’s workforce is employed in the informal sector, without access to significant savings or workplace-based social protection benefits such as paid sick leave or social insurance, the statement said.
On Tuesday, India’s federal government announced an economic rescue package of 20 trillion rupees ($260 billion) to tide over a massive economic crisis created by the pandemic. Millions of migrant workers have fled big Indian cities to their village homes as they could find no work.
BERLIN — Germany’s most populous state has lifted a requirement for people arriving from other European countries to self-quarantine for 14 days, and other regions are expected to follow.
The rule expired in the western region of North Rhine-Westphalia at midnight. The state government said in a statement that Germany’s states agreed with the federal government on Thursday to exempt travelers from other countries in the European Union, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Britain and that they will implement that decision over the coming days.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer recommended earlier this week that states lift the quarantine rule for travelers from Europe – but maintain it for those from elsewhere.
A court in North Rhine-Westphalia’s northern neighbor, Lower Saxony, already suspended the rule for that state earlier this week.
On Friday night, Germany plans to end two-month-old checks on its border with Luxembourg and loosen them somewhat on its borders with Austria, Switzerland and France – though it doesn’t plan to restore free travel across its borders until mid-June.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan is resuming domestic flights starting Saturday, ending a ban that was imposed in March.
Abdul Sattar Khokhar, spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority, said no decision on international flights has been made.
Pakistan reported 33 more deaths from the coronavirus in the previous 24 hours, raising its fatalities to 803 amid more than 37,000 cases. It has experienced a steady increase in coronavirus-related deaths and infections since the government eased a lockdown on Monday.
Authorities say the increase in infections is mainly because many people have failed to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
BEIJING — China’s foreign minister says the country has brought the coronavirus outbreak under control and he lashed out at foreign politicians he accused of having “insisted on politicizing the epidemic, labeling the virus, and smearing the World Health Organization.”
Wang Yi’s comments carried by the official Xinhua News Agency appeared directed at the United States, where President Donald Trump’s administration has repeatedly castigated China for allegedly covering up the initial outbreak and has suspended payments to the WHO over what it calls a pro-China bias and failure to effectively deal with the pandemic.
Other countries, including Australia, have also urged an independent investigation into the origin of the pandemic, calls that China has furiously rejected.
Under head of state and ruling Communist Party leader Xi Jinping’s leadership, China has been able to “put the outbreak under control through arduous efforts and has been gradually resuming economic and social life while undertaking prevention and control measures on a regular basis,” Wang was quoted as saying in a phone call Thursday with the foreign ministers of Hungary, Estonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
China has “overcome its own difficulties, offered support and assistance to relevant countries, shared prevention and control experiences and treatments without reservation, and facilitated various countries’ purchase of anti-epidemic supplies in China,” Wang said.
Attempts to politicize the pandemic and smear the WHO are “a serious violation of international moral principles and undermine international anti-epidemic efforts,” Wang added.
SYDNEY — Many cafes and restaurants opened again Friday in Sydney as some coronavirus restrictions were lifted, although rainy weather and ongoing fears appeared to keep patronage relatively low.
Australia’s most populous state of New South Wales began allowing cafes, restaurants and places of worship to reopen with up to 10 people on the condition they adhere to social distancing rules. Pubs and clubs were also permitted to open, but only for dining.
State Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned people to take personal responsibility, saying that easing restrictions in some other countries had backfired.
“Let’s please do our part in keeping everybody safe so that all of us can keep moving forward so that we never, ever go backwards,” Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney. “That’s really, really critical.”
Many Catholic churches across the state opened for private prayer, confession and small-scale Masses.
BANGKOK — Authorities in Thailand are allowing malls and swimming pools to reopen and lifting other restrictions imposed in March to combat the coronavirus.
The reopenings on Sunday have conditions, including keeping cinemas closed and limiting use of public swimming pools to one hour per person.
Beauty parlors and art galleries and museums will also be allowed to reopen.
Curfew hours have been shortened by one hour to 11 p.m.-4 a.m., but travel between provinces remains discouraged and international commercial passenger flight arrivals remain banned.
Thailand earlier this month allowed an initial easing of restrictions, including the reopening of restaurants and parks. With one exception, the country had only single digit increases in new cases since April 27. It announced seven new cases on Friday, for a total of 3,025 including 56 deaths.
SINGAPORE -- An American cargo pilot who admitted to “poor judgment” in breaking a quarantine order to buy medical supplies became the first foreigner imprisoned in Singapore for breaching its restrictions meant to curb the coronavirus.
Lawyer Ronnie Tan said FedEx pilot Brian Dugan Yeargan was sentenced to four weeks after he pleaded guilty to leaving his hotel room for three hours to buy masks and a thermometer.
Singapore has the largest outbreak in Southeast Asia with 26,000 cases. More than 90% of those infected are foreign workers living in crowded dormitories, while the government recently began easing restrictions for the local population.
The tiny city-state has strict penalties for those who breach quarantine rules. The lawyer said Friday he would apply for the sentence to be shortened for good behavior.
LONDON — The British government has agreed to provide 1.6 billion pounds ($1.95 billion) in emergency funding for London’s vast public transit network, after the city’s mayor warned the system would collapse without a rescue plan.
Ridership on the city’s buses, trams, subways and local trains -- and income for operator Transport for London -- has plummeted since the country entered a lockdown on March 23 to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and TFL has cut back on services and closed some stations.
As the lockdown gradually eases, the government wants the network to run a full schedule again so that people can begin to return to work while observing social distancing.
The rescue plan, made up of a 1.1 billion pound ($1.3 billion) grant and a 500 million pound ($610 million) loan, comes with strings attached. The government says London Mayor Sadiq Khan must agree to hike fares, allow government representatives on the TFL board and allow the government to review TFL’s finances and structure.
Khan belongs to the opposition Labour Party and has often clashed with the Conservative government. He said “this was not the deal I wanted. But it was the only deal the government put on the table and I had no choice but to accept it to keep the Tubes and buses running.”
LONDON — The British government’s scientific advisors are to meet with teachers’ unions to discuss the gradual re-opening of schools in England in the coming weeks.
Teachers are worried about the phased re-opening of classes amid concerns that the risk of infection from COVID-19 is still too great. Other parts of Britain have no plans to re-start schools.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson arranged Friday’s meeting to brief teachers’ representatives on “the scientific advice underpinning our approach.’’
Williamson has tried to reassure teachers and parents that the return to classes would be “controlled and careful” and include protective measures, such as keeping class sizes small.