The Latest: Spain declares 10-day mourning period for dead

By The Associated Press 27 May 2020, 12:00AM

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.


— Spain declares 10-day mourning period for for nearly 27,000 dead.

— WHO warns that 1st wave of pandemic not over; dampens hopes.

— Britain’s medicines agency authorizes use of remdesivir for COVID-19 patients.

— Kremlin spokesman positive for virus returns home from hospital.


MADRID — The Spanish government is declaring a 10-day mourning period to pay tribute to nearly 27,000 confirmed deaths from the coronavirus.

Starting Wednesday until June 5, flags will be at half-mast in more than 14,000 public buildings across the nation as well as on the navy’s vessels, the government announced on Tuesday. King Felipe VI, as Spain’s head of state, will preside over a solemn ceremony to honor the dead once the country emerges from its strict lock-down rules.

The victims were “men and women whose lives have been suddenly cut short, leaving friends and family in great pain, both from the sudden loss and from the difficult circumstances in which it has occurred,” the Spanish government’s spokeswoman, Minister María Jesús Montero, said.

Opposition parties had criticized the left-wing coalition of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez for not paying homage to the victims. Health officials on Monday corrected the pandemic’s official death toll, reducing 1,918 official deaths, saying some unconfirmed deaths had been erroneously counted.


MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin says the military parade marking the 75th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II will take place on June 24.

“We will do this... on the day of the legendary, historical victory parade in 1945,” Putin said during a videoconference with Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Putin last month postponed the parade, traditionally held May 9 on the iconic Red Square in Moscow, because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Russia has passed the peak of the outbreak, “according to specialists,” Putin said. He tasked Shoigu with ensuring safety at the event and minimizing risks of infection.

Russia reported more than 360,000 confirmed coronavirus cases on Tuesday and more than 3,800 deaths.


BANGKOK — Thailand’s Cabinet has agreed to extend until the end of June a nationwide state of emergency that was imposed to combat the spread of COVID-19.

The extension proposed by the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration was approved amid mounting criticism that its real purpose is to curb political activity.

The emergency decree giving the government powers above those normally granted under law started March 26.

Political and human rights activists have warned the broad powers authorized under the emergency decree, such as limitations on speech and gatherings, could be used to silence critics of the government.

Thailand has had single-digit increases in virus patients for several weeks and gradually eased restrictions on gatherings and travel. On Tuesday, it announced two new cases, bringing the total to 3,042 and 57 deaths.


BRUSSELS — A top European Union official says now is not the time to examine the actions of the World Health Organization in response to the coronavirus, but a review should be launched when the worst is over.

European Council President Charles Michel says, “right now we are in the crisis and we think that we will need some time, in the next weeks, in the next months, in order to make a review.”

U.S. President Donald Trump wants an immediate review and is threatening to make permanent a temporary freeze on U.S. funding for the WHO unless it commits to “substantive improvements” within the next 30 days. He has repeatedly criticized the agency’s early response to the outbreak and its praise for China.

Michel acknowledged “it’s important to have clarity and to see how it is possible to learn the lessons.”


ZAGREB, Croatia — A cruise ship has docked in Dubrovnik after being stranded at sea for weeks because of the coronavirus.

Croatian media says the Carnival Breeze cruise ship has the capacity of 3,700 passengers. It has carried crew members from various countries, including 93 Croats.

Wearing face masks, Croatian port authority workers greeted those who disembarked from the cruiser amid waving and cheers of those still on the ship.

The transfer of foreign nationals from the cruiser will be organized to their home countries.


MOSCOW — Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has resumed his duties after treatment for the coronavirus in a Moscow hospital.

Peskov thanked the staff and says he’s self-isolating and working from home after being discharged on Monday.

The 52-year-old Peskov was hospitalized after testing positive for the virus two weeks ago. He was later diagnosed with a double-side pneumonia. He was the fifth senior Russian official to contract the virus. Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin announced on April 30 that he was infected. Three cabinet ministers tested positive as well.

The announcement of Peskov’s hospitalization came a day after President Vladimir Putin said Russia was slowing down the outbreak and announced easing of some nationwide lockdown restrictions.

Russia has reported more than 360,000 confirmed coronavirus cases on Tuesday and 3,800 deaths.


MILOS, Greece — Greece will reduce prices for ferry tickets from the mainland to the Greek islands on June 1, with a sales tax cut aimed at stimulating domestic tourism.

Giannis Plakiotakis, the merchant marine minister, says the sales tax rate on ferry tickets would be lowered from 24% to 13%.

Ferry travel was opened Monday with strict capacity limits and distancing guidelines. On the island of Milos, a popular resort with Italian and French tourists, local business owners say Greek travelers still appear cautious.

“Very few people came yesterday and that’s to be expected because the circumstances are so different,” Filio Grili, who runs a local holiday apartment booking service, told the AP.

He says the summer season will be tough and hopes “the state helps us with an ad campaign.”

Greece will open for international tourism on June 15. Domestic tourism is likely to decline, with 27% of Greeks saying they will skip their summer vacation this year, according to a poll published Monday by an Athens-based consumer group.


TALLINN, Estonia — Estonia has started piloting a digital immunity passport that enabes a person to share one’s COVID-19 status with a third party, such as an employer or authorities.

The ImmunityPass mobile and web application collects coronavirus testing data. It’s created by a non-governmental organization supported by Estonian start-up entrepreneurs and medical officials.

Developers say on the app’s webpage it is compliant with Estonian and international data privacy regulations but acknowledge “we are well aware of possible ethical, societal and other bottlenecks and why this solution could not work” in some countries.

The World Health Organization has warned against issuing such immunity passports to people who have recovered from COVID-19 because there is no evidence they’re protected from a second infection.


BERLIN — German sex workers are calling for the government to allow brothels to reopen.

Prostitution is legal in Germany, but sex work has been banned since mid-March as part of nationwide measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

German states have begun to reopen restaurants, shops, swimming pools and massage parlors. Some lawmakers wrote a letter this month urging state governors to extend the ban on brothels indefinitely, warning that prostitutes and their mostly male customers could become “super spreaders” of the virus.

“The spread would be quickly be introduced from the customers to their partners, families, friends and colleagues. This contact would often be kept secret in tracking the infection,” the lawmakers wrote.

In an open letter to the lawmakers published Tuesday, Germany’s Federal Association of Sex Services objected to the characterization and says it has presented proposals for the safe reopening of brothels and other establishments.


LONDON — Britain’s medicines agency has authorized the use of the experimental drug remdesivir for COVID-19 patients, in a move that may shorten the time some patients spend in the hospital.

Clinical trials testing the antiviral to determine whether or not it is effective are still under way globally, but initial results have suggested it can speed up the recovery time for people infected with the new coronavirus.

In a statement on Tuesday, the U.K.’s Medicines and Health Regulatory Agency said it would support the use of remdesivir, made by Gilead, to treat adults and teenagers hospitalized with severe COVID-19.

“We are committed to ensuring that patients can have fast access to promising treatments for COVID-19,” said Dr. June Raine, the agency’s chief executive.

Remdesivir will be provided to patients free of charge by Gilead and will be for patients with “high, unmet medical need” under a doctor’s supervision.

A study last month of more than 1,000 people severely sickened by the coronavirus found those who got the drug were discharged from the hospital several days earlier than those who got a placebo.


PRAGUE — The Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia are set to start reopening their borders for their citizens to travel.

The Czech Republic and Slovakia announced on Monday a deal for their citizens to travel across their common border and not to face a mandatory quarantine and tests for the coronavirus if they return in 48 hours.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said Tuesday Hungary is joining the Czechs and Slovaks to allow free travel among them for that limited period of two days.

The measure will become effective on Wednesday.

The Czech Republic with another neighbor, Austria, previously said they are planning to reopen their common border for travelers in the middle of June.


MOSCOW — Restaurants and cafes reopened in Sakhalin in the Russian Far East on Tuesday as the region moved to ease coronavirus-related lockdown restrictions in place since April 1.

According to local officials, restaurants are required to accommodate no more than 50 people, place tables 1.5 meters (5 feet) away from one another and allow just two seats at each. Buffets and big parties are not allowed.

Last week, malls and shops reopened in the region as well. Sakhalin authorities have so far reported 75 confirmed coronavirus cases among the region’s 488,000 population and zero deaths.

On May 11, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced ending the nationwide lockdown in place since late March, leaving the decision of which restrictions to lift and which to keep in place up to regional governors. Some have since started to gradually reopen certain businesses in their regions.

Russia has reported over 360,000 infections and 3,807 deaths on Tuesday.


JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia will deploy 340,000 security forces to enforce disciplinary of health protocols in place as the world’s fourth most populous nation prepares to reopen its economy.

Indonesia’s military chief Air Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto told a news conference in Jakarta that soldiers and police would be deployed gradually starting Tuesday in 1,800 locations such as markets, public transportation facilities and malls, ensuring the public observe health guidelines such as social distancing and wearing a mask.

Shopping centers and other economic sectors were expected to be able to resume operations in Jakarta on June 4.

President Joko Widodo on Tuesday inspected preparations for reopening subway in Jakarta and a shopping mall in its satellite city of Bekasi. He told reporters the goal is to remain productive but safe from the threat of COVID-19.

Indonesia has reported more than 23,000 COVID-19 cases with about 1,400 deaths, the most fatalities in Southeast Asia.

Health experts have warned that reopening the economy prematurely could trigger a second wave of infections. The government, nevertheless, has insisted the country must be ready to get back to normal by the end of July amid growing economic pressures.


BERLIN — International public broadcasters are highlighting their role in combating misinformation about the coronavirus.

In a joint statement Tuesday, seven public service media from the United States, Europe, Canada, Japan and Australia said “the fight against the proliferation, particularly on social networks, of fake news about the disease and its treatments has mobilized all our editorial offices.”

The broadcasters — France Médias Monde, Deutsche Welle, the BBC World Service, NHK World, CBC Radio-Canada, ABC Australia and the U.S. Agency for Global Media, whose networks include Voice of America and Radio Free Asia — said they have seen strong audience increases during the pandemic.

The seven outlets say they reach an audience of more than one billion people through their websites, TV and radio broadcasts every week.


LONDON — A junior British government minister has quit over Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s failure to fire his top aide for breaching lockdown rules.

Johnson has stood by Dominic Cummings over his decision to drive 250 miles (400 kilometers) to his parents’ house, despite a national order for people to remain at home. Cummings says he traveled so that extended family could care for his 4-year-old son if he and his wife, who both had suspected coronavirus, fell ill.

But many Britons say Cummings made a mockery of the sacrifices of people who followed the rules even when it meant staying away from loved ones.

Scotland Minister Douglas Ross said in a resignation letter that “the vast majority of people” did not agree with Cummings’ interpretation of the rules.

He said “I have constituents who didn’t get to say goodbye to loved ones; families who could not mourn together; people who didn’t visit sick relatives because they followed the guidance of the government. I cannot in good faith tell them they were all wrong and one senior adviser to the government was right.”


MADRID — Spain’s Foreign Minister says that European Union members should agree to a common approach to open borders, reestablish freedom of travel in the Schengen Area and define which countries outside it should be considered safe to travel from and to.

Arancha González Laya told Cadena SER radio that restarting cross-border travel should be decided collectively even if countries in the EU are phasing out lockdowns at different dates.

“We have to start working with our European partners to retake the freedom of movement in European territories,” González Laya said on Tuesday, adding that she would like to see a European definition of which countries should be deemed as safe.

The minister said that Spain is eager to welcome tourists to shore up an industry that amounts to 12% of the country’s GDP but that it plans to do it with “health, sustainability and safety.”


MOSCOW — The Russian government has reported a record daily spike of 174 deaths on Tuesday, which brought the country’s death toll to 3,807.

Russia’s coronavirus caseload surpassed 360,000 on Tuesday, with almost 9,000 new infections registered in the past 24 hours.

The country’s comparatively low mortality rate raises questions among experts both in Russia and in the West, with some suggesting the government may be manipulating the statistics and underreporting virus-related deaths.

Russian officials vehemently deny the allegations and attribute the low numbers to the effectiveness of the measures taken to curb the spread of the outbreak.


NEW DELHI — For a seventh consecutive day, India has reported its biggest jump in coronavirus cases.

The country’s health ministry reported 145,380 total infections, an increase of 6,535 from the day before, and 4,167 deaths.

Most of the cases are concentrated in two neighboring states in central India, Maharashtra, home to financial hub Mumbai, and Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state. An uptick in cases has also been reported in some of India’s poorest eastern states as migrant workers returning to native villages from India’s largest cities have begun arriving home on special trains.

India’s virus caseload has been climbing as lockdown restrictions have eased. Domestic flights resumed Monday after a two-month hiatus, though at a fraction of normal.


The above item has been corrected to show that India's health ministry reported 145,380 total infections, not new infections.


SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean rights groups have criticized government plans to require some businesses to register their customers with smartphone QR codes as part of new anti-virus measures.

They say the country’s technology-driven approach to COVID-19 has reached a point where an increase in state surveillance powers is a legitimate concern. South Korea’s Health Ministry has said beginning in June “high-risk” businesses such as bars, nightclubs, gyms, karaoke rooms and concert halls will be required to use QR codes to register their customers so they could be found more easily when transmissions occur.

In a joint statement Tuesday, groups including privacy watchdog Jinbo Net said such a move would be excessive.


CANBERRA, Australia — Tensions are rising between federal and state leaders in Australia over differing approaches to lifting pandemic restrictions.

Australia recorded nine new coronavirus cases in the latest 24-hour period. The nation has reported 7,118 infections, and 102 deaths.

Nearby neighbor New Zealand has had similar success in slowing the virus spread. New Zealand has gone four days without detecting a new infection and has recorded a single new case in the past week.

New Zealand has treated 1,504 cases, including 21 deaths.

Australia’s population is five times larger than New Zealand’s 5 million people.


MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine president has ordered about 24,000 workers who have lost their jobs abroad due to the COVID-19 pandemic to be transported by land, sea or air to their provincial homes and warned local officials not to refuse them entry.

The workers returned to the country in recent months but had to undergo two weeks of quarantine in hospitals, hotels and makeshift isolation centers in metropolitan Manila in a chaotic situation that delayed their trip home and sparked a myriad of complaints. Some had to wait weeks to be tested for the coronavirus and receive results.

President Rodrigo Duterte said in televised remarks Monday night that some provincial officials have refused entry to returning workers from abroad as a precaution and warned them of possible lawsuits. Authorities have been scrambling to unclog quarantine facilities in the capital with about 300,000 more displaced Filipino workers slated to come home soon.

“I’m ordering you to accept them, open the gates of your territories,” Duterte said. “Do not impede it. Do not obstruct the movement of people because you run the risk of getting sued criminally.”

Thousands of workers who have tested negative for the virus began boarding buses, ships and planes back to their provinces on Monday in homecomings that are expected to be completed in a week.


SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 19 new cases of the coronavirus, most from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where officials have been actively tracing transmissions linked to nightclubs and other entertainment venues.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday also reported two more deaths, bringing national totals to 11,225 cases and 269 fatalities. Officials linked three of the new cases to international arrivals.

South Korea has been reporting around 20 new cases per day over the past two weeks after health workers found hundreds of infections linked to club goers who went out in early May as the country eased social distancing measures.

The new infections in the greater capital area have caused concern as authorities proceed with a phased reopening of schools, which began with high school seniors last week.

Around 2.4 million high school juniors, middle school seniors, first and second graders and kindergarten students will be returning to school on Wednesday.

Health Minister Park Neung-hoo urged school officials to double check their preventive measures. He called for authorities to strengthen monitoring on some 390,000 undocumented foreign nationals who may have poor access to medical services and tests, but related measures weren’t immediately announced.


BEIJING — China reported seven new coronavirus cases Tuesday, all brought into the country by Chinese citizens returning from abroad.

Just 81 patients remain hospitalized with COVID-19, and another 408 are in isolation and being monitored for either suspected cases or after testing positive for the virus without showing any symptoms. China has reported a total of 4,634 deaths from the disease among 82,992 cases.

With the decline in numbers, students have gradually returned to class and some international schools in the capital Beijing are preparing to re-open on June 1. China is proceeding this week with the annual session of its ceremonial parliament, which is being held under social distancing restrictions.


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By The Associated Press 27 May 2020, 12:00AM

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