The Latest: Philippines to ease lockdown in Manila next week
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:
— Philippine president relaxing lockdown in Manila next week.
— South Korea reports 58 new virus cases, China none.
— Hurricane season will present challenges amid pandemic.
— Italy's education minister says students back in school in September.
— U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell preaches importance of wearing masks.
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine president is relaxing a lockdown in the capital, the country’s epicenter of coronavirus infections, in a tightrope move amid an economic downturn and massive government spending to help feed millions of poor families restricted to their homes.
President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday night that metropolitan Manila will be placed under a more relaxed quarantine Monday after more than two months of police- and military-enforced lockdown that restrained public mobility and most economic activities. The economy contracted in the first quarter in its weakest run in two decades.
Under the new arrangement, more work and business operations, along with public transport, will be allowed to resume, but physical distancing, face masks and other safeguards will continue to be required. Classes will remain suspended.
Duterte made the televised announcement hours after the Department of Health reported a single-day spike of 539 infections, more than 60% of them in the congested capital. That brought the total number of infections to 15,588, including 921 deaths.
Duterte warned the danger is far from over.
“Remember that the entire nation is still under quarantine,” Duterte said. “The state has every right to control your movement if you pass on a contagion to the population.”
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 58 new cases of the coronavirus, all in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, as officials scramble to stem transmissions linked to a massive e-commerce warehouse near the capital.
The figures announced Friday by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention brought national totals to 11,402 infections and 269 deaths.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun called for officials to examine working conditions at warehouses of online shopping companies, which have seen orders surge during the pandemic, and other congested workplaces where infection risks may be high.
Health authorities on Thursday said they found at least 82 infections linked to workers at a warehouse operated by local e-commerce giant Coupang in Bucheon, near Seoul. Officials had planned to complete testing on 4,000 workers and visitors to the warehouse.
South Korea has reported 177 new COVID-19 cases over the past three days, a resurgence that threatens to erase some of its hard-won gains against the virus and worsen a massive shock to the country's trade-dependent economy.
BEIJING — China on Friday again reported no new coronavirus cases or deaths.
Just 70 people remain hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19 and another 414 are being isolated and monitored as possible cases or after testing positive without showing symptoms. China has reported 4,634 deaths from the disease among 82,995 cases.
CAIRO — Yemen’s Houthi rebels have acknowledged for the first time that the coronavirus has spread to multiple governorates under their control.
The Houthi health ministry buried the admission in a muted statement Thursday, saying only that authorities are working to trace and isolate infected cases that have been recorded in the capital, Sanaa, and several provinces across the war-torn country.
The rebels have officially reported just four cases, including one fatality, and have muzzled doctors and journalists who try to speak out about a dramatic surge in deaths among those with COVID-19 symptoms.
The statement accused the World Health Organization of sending “inaccurate” and deficient tests, and said it would reveal the results in the coming days.
Yemen’s internationally recognized government has reported 278 cases and 58 deaths. A major outbreak is threatening to overwhelm the country’s health system, which has been devastated by five years of war.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday announced the end of a 10-week stay-at-home order meant to stem the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
The Democrat said that on Friday the state will move to the third phase of his five-stage recovery plan, meaning manufacturing and retail business will resume and there will be outdoor dining and small social gatherings.
Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city, which has been battered by the pandemic, will move more slowly. Mayor Lori Lightfoot says restrictions will be loosened next week, with city offices, parks and libraries to reopen in coming weeks.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — A state lawmaker’s decision to keep his COVID-19 diagnosis a secret is dividing the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
Democrats say the Republican legislator needlessly put people’s health at risk.
The fight spilled onto the House floor on Thursday as Democrats denounced how it was handled by the lawmaker and the majority Republican leadership.
Republicans defeated a Democratic effort to end the legislative session so there would be time to change policies on disclosing illnesses. And the state attorney general declined requests by fellow Democrats to criminally investigate how the diagnosis was handled. He urged lawmakers to “demonstrate common decency.”
WASHINGTON — Emergency management officials briefed President Donald Trump Thursday about the challenges of preparing for what is expected to be an above-average hurricane season amidst a coronavirus pandemic.
During an Oval Office meeting, officials reported that the Atlantic hurricane season is expected to have 13 to 19 named storms and six to 10 of those storms could develop into hurricanes.
Vice President Mike Pence says that when people are displaced by tropical storms or hurricanes, they are used to congregating at local schools or gyms. He says there will be “different challenges now” and that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has provided recommendations to local and state officials on how to respond to natural disasters during a pandemic.
Recommendations include encouraging evacuees to plan on staying with friends and families rather than end up in shelters.
SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco’s mayor has announced plans to reopen the city on June 15 for outdoor dining and indoor shopping, religious services, and sporting events without spectators.
Mayor London Breed says local coronavirus statistics are positive enough to restart the local economy, but she warned that residents must continue wearing masks and shelter in place.
Breed’s guideline allows for barbershops and hair salons to reopen in July, and nail salons, tattoo parlors, gyms and bars scheduled to reopen in August.
San Francisco is one of six Bay Area counties that coordinated a shutdown in mid-March. All reopening dates are tentative.
ATLANTA — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday announced plans to allow bars and nightclubs to reopen, overnight summer camps and summer schools to begin and professional and amateur sports to resume operations and practices, all with social distancing and sanitation restrictions in place.
The Republican also extended a public health state of emergency, describing the road ahead as a “slow and careful transition to a new normal.”
The continued easing of restrictions comes as public health experts warn that new daily confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in Georgia are ticking upward after weeks of decline.
CAIRO — Sudan’s public prosecutor says that another two senior officials of ousted autocrat Omar al-Bashir’s regime have contracted the coronavirus in detention.
The attorney general said that former vice president Ali Muhamed Taha and former defense minister Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein tested positive while imprisoned in the capital of Khartoum.
Both are in their 70s and are the latest of four former party leaders to be infected, raising fears the virus is spreading rapidly through the cells of Kober prison. They were transferred to isolation centers for treatment.
Officials have ramped up testing of other political figures who landed in jail after a sweeping protest movement toppled al-Bashir in April last year.
Sudan has released over 4,000 low-risk prisoners to prevent a major outbreak. But freeing former leaders could prove politically explosive as the country makes a fragile transition to democracy.
ROME — Italy’s education minister is promising students they will return to school in September.
Minister Lucia Azzolina told RAI state TV Thursday evening that come September all the nation’s school children “will hear the school bell ring” again. She said students older than six will have to wear protective masks at school and stay a safe distance apart from classmates.
Schools were closed as a safety measure after Italy started seeing hundreds of cases before the entire nation went into lockdown in early March. The COVID-19 outbreak in Europe began in Italy.
While the Italian government eased restrictions this month on many sectors of daily life, including allowing museums and all retail shops to open, restaurants to resume dining-in service and people to frequent parks, school buildings will stay shuttered for the rest of the school year. The only exception is high school students in their final year. They will return to school on June 17 to have individual oral exams needed for graduation.
BOGOTÁ, Colombia — The U.N. children’s agency is warning that Latin America could see a devastating jump in childhood poverty.
UNICEF and Save the Children warned Thursday that 46% of children in the region could be living in poor households by the end of the year as a result of the new coronavirus pandemic. That would make Latin America the second hardest hit region in the world.
An additional 16 million children are projected to live in poor households this year.
Monica Rubio, UNICEF ’s social policy adviser, says such a rise would “significantly reverse” gains made in reducing childhood poverty in the past two decades.
The United Nations estimates that the region’s economy could contract 5.3% this year, a downturn that would be worse than the Great Depression.
The World Food Program says upward of at least 14 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean could go hungry this year.
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina’s Democratic governor says his administration hasn’t received the written safety plan for the upcoming Republican National Convention that his health secretary asked for amid friction with President Donald Trump on the event’s capacity.
Gov. Roy Cooper said during a Thursday afternoon briefing that his administration has yet to see plans for how the RNC envisions safely holding the convention in Charlotte in August amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trump threatened in a tweet Monday to move the convention unless Cooper could guarantee a full-capacity gathering. Trump reiterated the idea by saying he wanted an answer from Cooper within a week, or he’d be forced to consider moving the convention somewhere else.
Cooper said his administration required a similar written plan from NASCAR ahead of its recent race in the Charlotte area that was run without fans. He said he’s in similar discussions with other sports teams, including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.
OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma State Department Department of Education on Thursday approved Saturday classes in case of another surge of coronavirus cases.
The board approved a plan starting in the fall in which Saturday classes will be counted toward minimum attendance requirements. Saturday classes are currently prohibited by state law.
Health officials have warned of a possible second surge of coronavirus cases and state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister has said she wants schools to prepare multiple calendars for the fall in case of another outbreak.
Oklahoma schools canceled in-person classes and moved to distance learning in mid-March as the virus spread in the state.
OWENSBORO, Ky. — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday preached the importance of wearing masks in public as the nation’s economy reopens from the “cataclysmic” damage inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic.
During a tour of hospitals in his home state of Kentucky, the Republican leader stressed wearing masks in public and following social distancing guidelines.
“There should be no stigma attached to wearing a mask,” McConnell said during an appearance Thursday in Owensboro. “And even among age groups that are least likely to either contract this disease or die from it, you could be a carrier. So I think what we all need to do is say, ‘OK, I’m going to take responsibility not only for myself but for others.’”
McConnell, who is in his late 70s and is in the midst of his own re-election campaign, has worn masks at his appearances. On Thursday, he stuffed the face covering into his coat jacket to speak, then donned it again afterward.
President Donald Trump has refused to wear face coverings. Manw coronavirus epidemic, some two weeks ago. The country has been gradually lifting virus restrictions as the number of new cases fell to none or one or two daily.
MADRID — Spanish authorities are reporting no setbacks in the gradual easing of restrictions on movement over the past month as some regions prepare to further loosen limits starting Monday.
Fernando Simón, the head of Spain’s emergency medical response, said Thursday that the improving quality of data about the spread of the new coronavirus is allowing officials to act quickly to stamp out any resurgence. He said an outbreak this week in Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta is “perfectly manageable.”
Authorities in Ceuta say several “fiestas” and lax compliance with social distancing rules at bars and on restaurant terraces compelled officials to order the self-isolation of 271 people over the past week. They had been in contact with nine new cases there.
Different regions of hard-hit Spain are emerging at different speeds from a national lockdown as they meet targets stipulated by health officials.
Authorities on Thursday announced 182 new cases over the previous 24 hours, taking the official total to almost 238,000.
RIO DE JANEIRO — The new coronavirus has killed more nurses in Brazil than in any other country, according to the International Council of Nurses.
The group did not provide exact figures but said it is in the process of updating its data and will be releasing a new statement regarding the global situation early next week, Richard Elliot, the council’s communications director, said in an e-mail to the Associated Press.
Brazil has registered 157 deaths of nurses, nurse technicians and nursing assistants from COVID-19 so far, according to the Brazilian Federal Council of Nursing. The council said the trend is for the death toll among the workers to continue growing and warned its scale depends on several factors, including supply of personal protective equipment and the virus’ spread in the general population.
Brazil has reported about 411,000 infections and 25,000 deaths from the pandemic thus far, by far the hardest hit country in Latin America.
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations chief is warning world leaders that the COVID-19 pandemic will cause “unimaginable devastation and suffering around the world,” with historic levels of hunger and famine and up to 1.6 billion people unable to earn a living unless action is taken now.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a high-level meeting Thursday that COVID-19 could also lead to “a loss of $8.5 trillion in global output, the sharpest contraction since the Great Depression of the 1930s.”
Guterres called for Immediate and collective action in several critical areas: enhancing global financial liquidity; providing debt relief; engaging private creditors; promoting external finance; plugging leaks in tax evasion; money-laundering; and corruption. He also wants to make sure the recovery tackles the climate crisis.