The Latest: WHO members OK evaluation of virus response
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:
— Russian prime minister returns to work after bout of coronavirus.
— Shakespeare’s Globe theater in London may be shuttered due to virus.
— As United States, Europe reopen more, big nations see rising virus toll.
GENEVA — Member states of the World Health Organization have unanimously passed a resolution brought by European Union members, African nations and others calling for an independent “comprehensive evaluation” of the international response to the COVID-19 outbreak coordinated by the U.N. health agency.
The United States has sharply criticized the agency and its relationship with China, where the outbreak erupted.
Overnight, U.S. President Donald Trump listed concerns and criticism about the WHO to its director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Nations rallied around the resolution that calls on the director-general to initiate “at the earliest appropriate moment” an evaluation that would “review experience gained and lessons learned from the WHO-coordinated international health response to COVID-19.”
It was not immediately clear how, when or by whom that evaluation will be conducted.
The resolution pointed to the “role of extensive immunization against COVID-19 as a global public good,” and called on international organizations to “work collaboratively” to produce safe, effective and affordable medicines and vaccines.
BELGRADE, Serbia — Top officials from Bulgaria, Greece, Romania and Serbia have discussed reopening of borders and economic recovery amid a slowdown in the coronavirus outbreak.
A statement from Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic’s office says participants at Tuesday’s video meeting agreed that opening of borders would help speed up the economic revival after the virus lockdown.
Vucic says Serbia agrees borders can open on June 1 with implementation of precautions against the coronavirus. The statement quotes Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis saying Greek borders will open for tourists on June 15.
The meeting is part of a regional initiative among the four countries aimed at boosting cooperation. Bulgaria, Greece and Romania are members of the European Union, while Serbia is seeking entry.
SAO PAULO — A study shows the number of COVID-19 cases in Brazil could reach 1 million if unconfirmed cases are taken into consideration.
The study conducted for the Estado de S. Paulo newspaper by researchers in the Brazilian Navy and universities in Rio de Janeiro and France says the number of cases is expected to peak this week. It could start stabilizing at the end of July after reaching nearly 370,000 confirmed infections.
Brazil this week became the world’s third worst-hit country with more than 250,000 confirmed cases despite limited testing. The United States has the most cases, followed by Russia.
The governor in the northeastern state of Pernambuco said Monday he has COVID-19, becoming the fifth state governor to announce being infected.
Most Brazilian states haven’t implemented strict lockdown measures to contain the virus that has already killed nearly 17,000 people in the South American nation.
The Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and the University of Bordeaux helped conduct the study.
BRUSSELS — The European Union is supporting the World Health Organization. The EU is urging all countries to back the U.N. agency after President Donald Trump threatened to permanently cut U.S. funding.
European Commission spokeswoman Virginie Battu-Henriksson says global cooperation is “the only effective and viable option to win this battle.”
She says “this is the time for solidarity. It is not the time for finger pointing or undermining multilateral cooperation.”
In a letter to WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Trump wrote the agency’s “repeated missteps” in its response to the pandemic have proven “very costly for the world.”
Trump’s threatened to cut U.S. WHO funding unless it commits to “substantive improvements” in the next 30 days.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — This year celebration for the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan will be muted in Indonesia’s capital as authorities extended the enforceable restrictions.
Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan announced that a large-scale social restriction, initially slated to end Friday, will be extended to June 4.
He urged Muslims to suspend communal gathering, including religious activities in mosques, during Eid-al Fitr celebration because the risk of new waves of coronavirus remains high.
Eid-al Fitr is one of Islam’s two major religious holidays. It marks the end of Ramadan, the holiest month for Muslims, who fast from dawn to sunset. It’s expected to fall on May 24 after Islamic clerics agreed on the sighting of the moon.
Muslims usually congregate for Eid prayers in mosque and fields and share meals among communities while forgiving one another.
Jakarta has become the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in Indonesia. It recorded 6,155 confirmed cases with 470 deaths as of Tuesday. Nationwide, there’s been 18,496 cases and 1,221 deaths.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Long-haul carrier Etihad Airways says it has fired staff because of fewer flights during the coronavirus.
The Abu Dhabi-based, state-owned carrier says in a statement “it is clear the demand for travel in the near future will be significantly reduced and as a result we must make difficult decisions to ensure Etihad will weather this storm.”
The airline offered no figures for the number of employees let go. Etihad competes with Dubai-based Emirates and Qatar Airways for long-haul flights from East to West.
Since 2016, Etihad has lost a total of $5.62 billion after its failed strategy of aggressively buying stakes in airlines from Europe to Australia.
In February, Etihad announced it would sell 38 aircraft to an investment firm and a leasing company in a deal valued at $1 billion.
MOSCOW — Russia’s prime minister has fully resumed his duties after recovering from the coronavirus.
Mikhail Mishustin, 54, announced he was infected on April 30.
On Tuesday, Mishustin’s office says he's checked out of the hospital and returned to his duties in the Cabinet headquarters. He's set to take part in a video conference with President Vladimir Putin later in the day.
Several Cabinet ministers and Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov also have been infected. Peskov says he had double pneumonia caused by the virus. He noted he hadn’t met with Putin in person for more than a month.
Putin has limited public appearances and held most of his meetings online during the virus pandemic.
LONDON — Shakespeare’s Globe theater, one of London’s major tourist attractions, says it could be forced to close because of the coronavirus pandemic.
All of Britain’s theaters have been shut since March, when the government imposed a nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of the virus.
While some venues receive government subsidy, the Globe gets 95% of its revenue from ticket sales. The theater says the blow from the pandemic “has been financially devastating and could even be terminal.”
Parliament’s culture committee told the government that the Globe was “part of our national identity.” It says, “for this national treasure to succumb to COVID-19 would be a tragedy.”
The Globe is a reconstructed Elizabethan playhouse beside the River Thames modeled on the theater where many of Shakespeare’s plays were first performed. It opened in 1997 and draws hundreds of thousands of people a year to its open-air productions.
BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia’s state television says police have arrested the manager of a nursing home in eastern Serbia following an outbreak of the new coronavirus at the institution.
The outbreak at the Radost, or Joy, nursing home in the eastern town of Negotin last month killed six people and infected 49, including the manager herself.
She is suspected of failure to implement measures against the new coronavirus to protect the nursing home, the RTS report says.
Last month, police also arrested the head of a nursing home in the southern city of Nis after 139 people were infected with the coronavirus at the institution.
Serbia has reported nearly 11,000 cases while over 200 people have died.
GENEVA — A spokeswoman for the World Health Organization says the U.N. health agency doesn’t have an immediate reaction to a letter from U.S. President Donald Trump that listed his complaints, including “an alarming lack of independence” from China in its response to the coronavirus outbreak.
WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib says she's seen the letter.
“I don’t have any reaction, we have been busy trying to finalize our agenda for the World Health Assembly,” she said, referring to health agency’s annual meeting, which has been shortened and will end later Tuesday because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“I am sure in the course of the day we will have more clarity and reaction to this letter,” she said at a regular U.N. briefing in Geneva.
Trump posted a letter to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, dated Monday, on his Twitter page overnight.
Among other things, Trump pointed to his decision to suspend U.S. contributions to the WHO pending a review of its actions in response to the outbreak. He faulted its “repeated missteps” in the response to the pandemic, saying they have proven “very costly for the world.”
LONDON — Prince Charles is urging the public to join a national effort to help farmers bring in the harvest, comparing the need to pick fruit and vegetables with World War II era programs that fed the nation.
The heir to Britain’s throne offered his support to a government’s initiative to bring UK workers and farmers together to ensure crops are not left to rot in the fields.
Travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 crisis have impeded the travel of seasonal workers who have done the hard work in the past.
The prince, who runs an organic farm, says in a video “if the last few weeks have proved anything, it is that food is precious and valued, and it cannot be taken for granted.’’
He says food doesn't happen by magic and made no effort to gloss over the effort that would be required.
He says “it will be hard graft but is hugely important if we are to avoid the growing crops going to waste.”
PRAGUE — The Czech Republic’s foreign minister says his country and Austria are aiming at reopening their common border that was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic in the middle of June.
Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek says the Czech citizens will be allowed to travel to Austria and back without presenting a negative test on the coronavirus.
Petricek said Tuesday the plan depends still on the development of the outbreak in the two countries.
Austria is the first neighboring country that has such an agreement with the Czech Republic. Petricek said the Czechs hope that another neighbor, Slovakia will join the two countries and reopen the borders with them by the same date.
More talks with Slovakia and with other neighboring countries, including Germany and Poland on the issue are yet to be held.
WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s national carrier PLL LOT says it is extending its ban on international flights for two more weeks, until June 14, but is resuming some domestic flights June 1.
The airline says on Twitter the ”current pandemic situation and the continuing lockdown of borders in many countries” was behind the decision to ground international flights for 14 more days.
Domestic daily flights will resume June 1 between cities with a “stable epidemiology situation,” and will link Warsaw with Gdansk, Krakow, Wroclaw, Poznan, Szczecin Rzeszow and Zielona Gora. There will also be a daily flight between Krakow and Gdansk.
LOT says for security reasons, the passengers will be obliged to wear masks during the flight, the crew will be wearing masks and gloves, and snacks will be served in individual packages. The aircraft have been equipped with High Efficiency Particulate-Air filters and will be disinfected on a regular basis.
In line with recommendations from international flight authorities, passengers will have their temperature taken upon entering terminals and will be obliged to keep social distancing in the terminal and during boarding. Shops and boutiques will remain closed. Online check-in is expected to be made obligatory.
BEIJING — China supports an eventual review of the global response to the coronavirus pandemic, but not an immediate probe as Australia and others have proposed.
China had long rejected the idea of an investigation into the origins and response to the pandemic but its attitude appeared to soften at the World Health Assembly on Monday.
On Tuesday, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian says Chinese would agree to a probe “after the global epidemic is under control, summing up experience and making up for deficiencies.” The U.N.’s World Health Association should lead that work with a “scientific and professional attitude ... in the principle of objectivity and fairness."
He rejected Australia’s call for an independent body to launch the inquiry following complaints the WHO has shown favoritism toward China.
LONDON — Official statistics show that more than 11,000 people have died with the coronavirus in British nursing homes.
The U.K.’s Office for National Statistics says there were 9,980 deaths in care homes in England and Wales that mentioned COVID-19 on the death certificate that occurred up to May 8. Care homes in England reported another 1,411 coronavirus deaths in the week to May 15.
The figures do not include deaths in Scotland or Northern Ireland, which would add hundreds more to the total.
While the death toll in nursing homes continues to mount, the outbreak is slowing. The statistics office says weekly coronavirus-related deaths in care homes fell by 31% in the week to May 8 from the previous seven days.
Official statistics from various sources put Britain’s coronavirus death toll at well over 40,000, the highest in Europe. There were 39,071 deaths involving the coronavirus in England and Wales up to May 8, according to the statistics office, and more than 3,000 further deaths reported by authorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The tally is higher than the official government toll for the whole U.K. of 34,796, because it includes cases in which COVID-19 was suspected but not confirmed by a test.
ALGIERS, Algeria — Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune asked Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerrad Monday evening to tighten the lockdown for Eid al-Fitr this weekend, but held off from specifying any concrete measures.
A presidential statement Monday said Djerrad will look into the “hourly duration” of the curfews that are in place nightly, suggesting that curfew could be set earlier for the Muslim holy festival. Measures are expected to be detailed later.
In Muslim-majority Algeria, because of the coronavirus measures, Eid will not be celebrated with the traditional collective prayer, hugs and pilgrimage to cemeteries to remember the dead.
In the North African country, there have been more than 500 COVID-19 fatalities.
ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s government says revenue from its vital tourism industry has been hammered as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown measures, adding that detailed guidelines on how the season will operate will be announced Wednesday.
“Our country, the Greek economy, has direct revenue of some 19 billion euros ($20.7 billion) annually from tourism. So you have to understand that with less than 1 billion ($1.1 billion) in the first five months of this year, we’re starting from scratch,” government spokesman Stelios Petsas told private Antenna television Tuesday.
Greece has reopened beaches, mainland travel, and ancient sites over the past three days as part of preparations for the holiday season, while restaurants will reopen Monday.
Officials have confirmed that they are studying possible options to avoid quarantine orders for many travelers in discussions within the EU, but also in country-to-country talks.