The Latest: Switzerland to lift travel limits on EU, UK
BERLIN — Switzerland says it plans to lift restrictions on travel from European Union countries and Britain on June 15.
The Swiss government previously had announced that it would completely reopen the country’s borders with three of its neighbors -- Austria, Germany and France – in mid-June.
On Friday, a government statement said “in view of the current epidemiological situation” it can now expand that to all countries in the EU and the European Free Trade Association, as well as Britain.
Switzerland is not a member of the EU but is part of Europe’s usually passport check-free Schengen travel area.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Despite nations reopening around the world, some jobs lost to the virus are gone for good
— Surgical or homemade, wearing masks in public in Western nations marks a major shift in thinking
— Saturday’s D-Day anniversary will be one of the loneliest remembrances ever for the June 6, 1944 landings in Normandy. The coronavirus pandemic is keeping almost everyone away — from world leaders to frail veterans who might not get another chance for a final farewell to their comrades.
— Japan has kept its deaths from the new coronavirus low despite a series of missteps that beg the question of whether it can prevent future waves of infections. Authorities have conducted only a fraction of the tests needed to find and isolate patients.
— Navy carrier sidelined by virus is back operating in Pacific.
Go to https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak for updates throughout the day.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING TODAY:
KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s government has announced a 35 billion ringgit ($8.2 billion) stimulus to bolster short-term economic recovery as the country emerges from more than two months of virus lockdown.
The package, which is in addition to a $60 billion stimulus announced earlier, centers on increasing employment, wooing foreign investment and revitalizing key sectors of the economy.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said Friday it included 10 billion ringgits ($2.3 billion) in wage subsidies, training programs and supporting small and medium-sized enterprises. Tax breaks and rebates have been given to bolster the manufacturing, real estate auto, palm oil, airline and tourism sectors.
He said this includes a zero tax rate for up to 15 years for foreigners investing more than 500 million ringgits ($117 million) in manufacturing and fixed property sector. Malaysia, which has nearly 8,300 infections and 116 deaths, eased virus restrictions last month.
BERLIN — German authorities say a Catholic priest who came into contact with many people during church services in several cities has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.
The dpa news agency reported Friday that health authorities in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania said the priest was involved in services in Demmin, Stralsund and Grimmen, among other places.
Regional church authorities said on their website that all church services in Demmin and Stralsung were being called off until June 21 while authorities seek out anyone who had contact with the priest. So far one other person has tested positive for the virus and many others are still awaiting the results.
Results for 130 tests are expected by Saturday at the latest and so far 12 people have been told to isolate themselves at home as a precaution.
BERLIN — Germany’s foreign minister has told his Italian counterpart that Berlin is determined to leave no European country behind as the continent tries to recover from the economic damage of the coronavirus crisis.
The two sought to put tensions from the early phases of the pandemic in Europe behind them. Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio — making his first trip abroad since the lockdown — thanked Germany for having agreed to take in 40 critical patients to help relieve pressure on Italy’s overloaded intensive care units.
During the first weeks of Italy’s outbreak, both national and local authorities complained at what they said was a lack of EU solidarity in Italy’s time of need. The leader of hard-hit Lombardy at one point wrote a letter to the German health minister challenging him to make good on promises to help out by freeing up for export German-made ICU machines and protective equipment.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said it’s true in retrospect of Germany and others that “some things could have been more quickly and less bureaucratically.” But he focused on the future, pledging solidarity in the economic restart.
Maas said: “We built Europe as it is together, so we are firmly determined now not to leave any country in Europe behind – particularly those that were hit particularly hard by the pandemic.”
LONDON -- Luxury British carmaker Bentley is to cut up to 1,000 jobs and has warned of more to come as it tries to limit the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The company, which is part of Germany’s Volkswagen Group, said it is looking to make the initial job cuts under a voluntary scheme but that future job cuts may be on a compulsory basis. It said that with “deepest regret,” it has informed its 4,200 workers of a programme to significantly reduce the size of the organization.
Bentley said the pandemic has derailed its growth plans and that “an urgent reduction in the workforce was unfortunately required.”
Union Unite said the announcement was “another heavy blow” for the automotive industry.
On Thursday, Aston Martin said it was cutting up to 500 jobs while car dealership Lookers plans to shed another 1,500 jobs.
BERLIN - Factory orders in Germany plunged even more than anticipated in April, underlining the effect the coronavirus pandemic has had on Europe’s largest economy.
The Economy Ministry said Friday that industrial orders dropped 25.8% in April over the previous month, in figures adjusted for seasonal and calendar effects.
Economists had been predicting a 19.9% drop for April, which is thought to have been the worst month of the economic deterioration ascribed to the pandemic and lockdown measures meant to slow its spread.
The decline followed a 15% drop already in March, and suggests lean times ahead for German industry.
Germany is already in a recession and the government’s economic advisers are predicting a contraction of between 6% and 7% in 2020.
PRAGUE — The unemployment level in the Czech Republic has been moderately growing amid the pandemic of the coronavirus.
Labor Minister Jana Malacova says the unemployment reached 3.6% in May, 0.2% more than the previous month. Malacova called it Friday “very decent figures” but added: “We haven’t won yet.”
A total of 266,144 Czechs were unemployed in May, 12,104 more than in April. Analysts have predicted that the unemployment might reach 10% later in the year.
LONDON -- British Airways is considering legal action against the U.K. government’s plans to force anyone arriving into the country to quarantine themselves for 14 days in order to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Willie Walsh, the chief executive of International Airlines Group, which runs the British flag carrier, told Sky News he is reviewing the situation with lawyers.
He said the “irrational” quarantine rules would “torpedo” the airline’s chances of flying in July.
Earlier this week, the government changed tack and said it would impose a blanket quarantine on anyone travelling to the U.K. from June 8.
Airlines, as well as much of the U.K.’s tourism sector, are clearly worried that the new rules will derail plans to get their businesses up and running as lockdown restrictions are eased.
The government has said it will review the policy every three weeks and is looking into creating ″international travel corridors″ between countries that are considered to be safe and which could avoid the need for quarantines.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has canceled an earlier decision to impose a new, two-day weekend curfew in 15 of the country’s provinces.
Erdogan said on Twitter Friday that the curfew would “lead to different social and economic consequences.”
He did not elaborate but the surprise announcement earlier Friday caused confusion, with many people scrambling to cancel train or air tickets or other weekend travel plans.
Erdogan said: “I did not find it in my heart to allow our citizens who started to reorganize their daily lives after a 2 1/2-month break, to suffer.”
He however urged people to wear masks, abide by social distancing and maintain good hygiene. This week, domestic air travel resumed, restaurants began welcoming sit-in customers and beaches, swimming pools, parks, gyms and museums reopened.
ISLAMABAD - Pakistani authorities backed by security forces shut down more than 3,000 shops and markets across the country in a series of raids for violating social distancing regulations, after COVID-19 cases surpassed those in neighboring China.
The virus has spread at a fast pace since Prime Minister Imran Khan eased a lockdown in May.
Pakistan on Friday reported 68 more coronavirus-related deaths, raising its overall fatalities to 1,838. As many as 4,896 more people tested positive in the past 24 hours, the highest single-day infections, bringing the overall to 89,249.
Medical workers are bracing for a surge of COVID-19 patients and some hospitals are turning back those with mild infections, asking them to quarantine themselves at home.
Critics blame Khan for easing restrictions prematurely. The government says the virus spread because people did not adhere to social distancing regulations.
LONDON -- Britain’s official human rights watchdog is to mount an inquiry into the racial inequalities exposed by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission said it was a “once-in-a generation” opportunity to tackle deep-seated inequalities and create a fairer country.
The move follows the publication of a government-commissioned report earlier this week, which found that people from ethnic minorities have died from COVID-19 in larger relative numbers in England than their white compatriots.
The report has faced criticism for not providing any recommendations after not accounting for an array of factors, including occupation, preexisting health conditions and household densities.
Though the government said it is backing further study, the commission said it will use its statutory powers to investigate.
Its chair, David Isaac, said this is “an important step towards ensuring that the deep-rooted inequality faced by ethnic minorities is meaningfully addressed as we rebuild.”
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey announced a new, two-day weekend curfew in 15 of the country’s provinces most affected by the coronavirus outbreak, even as it lifted a raft of restrictions earlier in the week.
The Interior Minister said the new stay-at-home order comes into effect at midnight on Friday and will end at midnight on Sunday in the 15 provinces that include Istanbul and Ankara. Grocery stores will remain open to allow residents to walk to shops for essential needs, the ministry said.
Last weekend’s curfew was expected to be the last and Friday’s announcement came as a surprise to many.
It followed reports of widespread complacency and breach of social distancing practices this week, after restaurants began welcoming sit-in customers and beaches, swimming pools, parks, gyms and museums reopened.
Fearing possible negative effects on the already troubled economy, Turkey has been imposing short weekend and holiday curfews, instead of total lockdowns. It has also banned people above the age of 65 and minors from leaving homes apart from certain days of the week.
Turkey has reported more than 167,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 4,630 deaths.
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa has seen its largest daily jump in new coronavirus cases.
The 3,267 new cases bring the country’s total to 40,792. More than 27,000 of those are in the Western Cape province centered on the city of Cape Town.
South Africa has the most virus cases in Africa, where the total number is now above 163,000.
The continent still represents less than 3% of the global total of cases but South Africa and Egypt are hot spots, and Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is another growing concern with more than 11,000 cases and relatively little testing for the virus.
Shortages of testing and medical equipment remain a challenge across the 54-nation continent, where just 1,700 tests are being carried out per 1 million people.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Muslims in Indonesia’s capital held their first communal Friday prayers as mosques closed by the coronavirus outbreak for nine weeks reopened at half capacity.
Authorities checked temperature and sprayed hand sanitizers at the entrance to the mosques, and police and soldiers ensured the faithful observed social distancing and wore masks.
Worshipers were asked to bring their own prayer rugs and were expected to stay at least 1 meter (3 feet) apart with no handshaking. Sermons were shortened.
Indonesia has reported 28,818 confirmed cases and 1,721 fatalities.
President Joko Widodo said his administration wants Indonesia’s economy back on track but safe from the virus. The government is gradually deploying 340,000 security personnel to enforce health rules as the country gradually lifts restrictions by the end of July.
PRAGUE — The Czech Republic is lifting all restrictions on travel to neighboring Austria and Germany and also Hungary.
Prime Minister Andrej Babis says the Czechs will be allowed into the three countries without a certificate that they’ve tested negative for the coronavirus and a quarantine when they return home.
The same applies to the citizens of the three countries entering the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic and Slovakia on Thursday canceled all restrictions on their common border.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Fiji has declared itself free of the coronavirus - at least for now - after all 18 people who tested positive have recovered.
Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said Friday that the South Pacific island nation had just cleared the last of its active patients.
He wrote on Twitter: “And even with our testing numbers climbing by the day, it’s now been 45 days since we recorded our last case. With no deaths, our recovery rate is 100%”
He added: “Answered prayers, hard work, and affirmation of science!”
Fiji, which has a population of 900,000, imposed a lockdown in certain areas in April and put in place ongoing border restrictions.
NEW DELHI: India on Friday registered more than 9,800 new cases of the coronavirus in another biggest single-day spike.
The Health Ministry said the total number of confirmed cases touched 226,770 with 6,348 deaths, 273 of them in the past 24 hours. The overall rate of recovery is around 48%.
There has been a surge in infections in rural areas following the return of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who left cities after the lockdown in late March.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also announced India’s contribution of $15 million to the international vaccine alliance during his address to the virtual Global Vaccine Summit hosted by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday.
Modi said the COVID19 pandemic has exposed the limitations of global cooperation and that for the first time in recent history, the world faces a clear common enemy.
MANILA, Philippines — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte says that he is glad “Filipinos are really law-abiding” and that the Philippines is not going through unrest like America, which would make the coronavirus quarantine enforcement formidable.
Duterte made the remarks during a televised meeting Thursday night with key Cabinet officials, where he used expletives to express disgust over a range of quarantine problems.
He particularly fumed over the delay in the delivery of promised financial help to the families of 32 health workers who died after getting infected with the virus.
Duterte renewed his threat to jail any officials who steal cash aid meant for the poor amid the pandemic. Officials say the Philippines’ unemployment rate has soared to a record 17.7%.
The Philippines has reported 20,382 coronavirus infections, including nearly 1,000 deaths.
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations chief says the coronavirus pandemic has compounded “the dire humanitarian and security situations” in Mali and Africa’s Sahel region.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says in a report to the Security Council obtained Thursday by The Associated Press that the deteriorating security situation “remains of grave concern with terrorist groups allied with al-Qaida and Islamic State competing for control over areas of influence.”
He says terrorist attacks on civilians, Malian and international forces are continuing in northern and central Mali, posing the most significant security threat in the north. He adds that clashes between al-Qaida and Islamic State have also been reported.
Guterres says that “the impact of COVID-19 is exacerbating the humanitarian crises” in Mali, where 3.5 million people are suffering from “food insecurity” and 757,000 are “severely food insecure.”
RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil has reported 1,473 more COVID-19 deaths, the biggest 24-hour increase in the country’s death toll since the outbreak began. That’s equal to more than one death per minute, and means the country now has the world’s third highest death toll.
For the second straight night, the health ministry delayed release of Thursday’s data until 10 p.m. local time, after Brazil’s widely watched evening news program ended. Thursday was the third straight day with a new daily high for Brazil’s coronavirus deaths.
Brazil has reported more than 34,000 deaths from the virus so far, meaning it surpassed the amount in Italy and trails only the U.K. and U.S. Experts consider the tally a significant undercount due to insufficient testing.
SEOUL, South Korea __ South Korea has reported 39 new cases of the coronavirus over a 24-hour period, a continuation of an upward trend in new infections in the Asian country.
The additional figures released Friday by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took the country’s total to 11,668 cases, with 273 deaths.
The agency says 34 of the additional cases were reported in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where about half of South Korea’s 51 million people live.
South Korea has seen a rise in the number of new cases after easing much of its rigid social distancing rules in early May. But the caseload hasn’t exploded, unlike when the country reported hundreds of new cases every day in late February and early March.
BEIJING — China is reporting five new confirmed coronavirus cases, all of them brought by Chinese citizens from outside the country.
No new deaths were reported Friday, continuing a trend stretching back weeks.
Chinese officials say just 66 people remain in treatment and 299 more are under isolation and being monitoring as suspected cases.
China has reported 4,634 deaths among 83,027 cases since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
China has drawn criticism of its initial handling of the outbreak and allegations it withheld crucial information, but it has repeatedly defended its record. On Thursday, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Beijing is committed to the “development of global public health.”