The Latest: Singapore loosens coronavirus restrictions
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:
— Singapore loosens coronavirus restrictions.
— South Korea reports 27 new cases, scrambles to test thousands who visited Seoul nightspots.
— China reports 1 new coronavirus case as re-opening continues.
— Trump insists administration has “met the moment” and “prevailed” on testing.
SINGAPORE — Singaporeans will be able to get a haircut at the barber or pop in to their favorite bakery Tuesday as the government loosens coronavirus restrictions three weeks before a partial lockdown ends.
Despite an upsurge in cases due to an outbreak among foreign workers staying in crowded dormitories, the government says transmission in the local community has dropped and it plans a phased reopening of the economy. Barbers and hairdressers, food manufacturers and outlets, and laundry shops are among selected businesses that can open with strict health measures in place Tuesday after five weeks of shutdown.
Barbers are open by appointment only and notices outside shops call for face masks before entry. Officials reminded citizens not to rush out or loiter outside.
Singapore has reported 23,822 infections, the most in Asia after China, India and Pakistan. But it has a low fatality rate of 21 deaths. About 90% of cases are linked to foreign workers’ dorms, which have all remained locked down as testing continues.
SEOUL, South Korea — The mayor of the South Korean capital of Seoul says the number of coronavirus cases linked to the city’s clubs and other nightspots has surpassed 100.
Park Won-soon said in a virus briefing that 64 of the 101 cases detected as of 10 a.m. Tuesday came from Seoul, which is requesting that anyone who visited any clubs or bars in the Itaewon entertainment district between April 24 and May 6 get tested for COVID-19. He said more than 7,200 people have been tested so far.
More than 8,500 police officers have been deployed nationwide to track down thousands of people who were listed as customers of the Itaewon clubs and bars linked to infections but have been out of contact, according to Health Ministry official Yoon Tae-ho.
Health workers are also using credit card and telecommunications records to track down Itaewon visitors. Park said the city sent text messages to some 10,900 people urging them to get tested after receiving data from police and mobile phone operators that showed they used their devices in the area.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 27 new cases of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours.
Figures released by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday brought national figures to 10,936 cases and 258 deaths. At least 1,138 infections have been linked to international arrivals, but such cases have declined after the country strengthened border controls in April, enforcing two-week quarantines on all passengers coming from abroad.
The recent transmissions linked to club goers have alarmed a country that had eased up on social distancing and scheduled a reopening of schools, which was pushed back by a week to May 20.
MANILA, Philippines — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said the massive lockdown that has restricted millions to their homes will be eased, but he warned that people who want to return to work must follow safeguards to avoid more deaths and a second wave of COVID-19 outbreaks.
The Philippine economy contracted in the first quarter and the finance secretary reported that up to 1.5 million jobs have been lost during the lockdown on Luzon island, the country’s most populous region, which includes the capital, Manila.
Duterte made the announcement in videotaped remarks shown on nationwide television Tuesday. He said his spokesman will later disclose which regions will remain under lockdown and which areas would be released based on the scale and speed of infections. The two-month lockdown was supposed to last until May 15.
“Don’t gamble with COVID,” Duterte said.
The Philippines has reported more than 11,000 infections, including 726 deaths.
BEIJING — China reported just one new coronavirus case Tuesday as the government presses ahead with reopening measures, including allowing Beijing middle school senior students to return to class and Shanghai Disneyland to open its gates again to a limited number of visitors.
Other measures have included permitting Beijing’s ancient Forbidden City to expand its visitor numbers, as long as they book online first, show evidence they are healthy and wear a mask while touring the massive complex that was home to generations of China’s emperors.
Also on Tuesday, the National Health Commission said 115 people remain in treatment and 763 are being isolated and monitored as either suspected cases or after testing positive for the virus without showing symptoms.
China has not reported a new death from the virus in almost a month. In total, it has recorded 4,633 deaths among 82,919 cases since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan last year.
The single new case Tuesday follows double-digit increases over the previous two days that had set off renewed warnings from officials for citizens to avoid becoming overconfident and prompted the suspension of train service to one affected county in the northeastern province of Jilin.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand health authorities reported no new coronavirus cases Tuesday, the third day since early last week the country of 5 million people has recorded zero additional cases.
The news came as New Zealand prepared to relax many of the restrictions imposed since the outbreak began. Most businesses, including retail stores, malls, restaurants and gyms, can reopen Thursday and schools will reopen Monday. Bars will be able to start serving customers again May 21.
Social distancing rules will still apply and social gatherings will be limited to 10 people.
CANBERRA, Australia — Prime Minister Scott Morrison says Australia is winning the battle against the coronavirus but it “still has the great potential to do enormous harm to the livelihoods of Australians.”
New South Wales, the most populous state, recorded no new cases of coronavirus for the first time since health authorities began documenting a daily total of infections in February.
Australia has reported nearly 7,000 cases, with fewer than 770 active. The national death toll is 97, with New South Wales recording the highest number of fatalities at 46.
The federal government has announced a three-phase easing of coronavirus restrictions in the coming months, with states and territories to determine the timing. The initial phase will include the reopening of cafes, restaurants and shops, plus allowing outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people.
Social distancing and hygiene measures will stay in place.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is insisting his administration has “met the moment” and “prevailed” on coronavirus testing.
The president addressed a Rose Garden audience filled with mask-wearing administration officials on Monday after two known cases of COVID-19 were reported among staffers in one of the most-protected complexes in America.
Trump said anew that everyone who wants a test can get one, though officials later clarified that to everyone who “needs” a test.
Trump commented even as the White House itself became a potent symbol of the risk facing Americans everywhere by belatedly ordering everyone who enters the West Wing to wear a mask.
LANSING, Mich. — A commission that oversees Michigan’s Capitol has delayed a decision on banning guns from the building before a planned protest against the governor’s coronavirus restrictions.
Monday’s meeting later ended abruptly due to racist and threatening messages posted in Zoom, which is how the public could participate.
The State Capitol Commission voted to form a subcommittee to seek input from the Legislature, which is controlled by Republicans, and Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has a ceremonial office in the Statehouse. The decision to further study the issue was criticized by the governor and Democratic lawmakers.
It came less than two weeks after some lawmakers said they felt intimidated by armed demonstrators who entered the building openly carrying, including in a public gallery overlooking the Senate.
Another protest is scheduled for Thursday.
NEW YORK — Major League Baseball owners gave the go-ahead Monday to making a proposal to the players’ union that could lead to the coronavirus-delayed season starting around the Fourth of July weekend in ballparks without fans, a plan that envisioned expanding the designated hitter to the National League for 2020.
Spring training could start in early to mid-June, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the plan were not announced.
MLB officials are slated to make a presentation to the union on Tuesday. An agreement with the players’ association is needed, and talks are expected to be difficult — especially over a proposal for a revenue split that would be unprecedented for baseball. Players withstood a 7 1/2-month strike in 1994-95 to fight off such a plan.
— By Ronald Blum
LAS VEGAS — Governors and legislative leaders from five western states coordinating their response to the coronavirus outbreak are asking Congress to send $1 trillion to state and local governments across the U.S. in the next federal aid package.
The elected officials from California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington sent the letter Monday to leaders in the U.S. House and Senate. They said they will have to make deep budget cuts unless states receive more aid. The minority leader in the California Assembly was the lone Republican to sign the letter.
Democrats are making new moves toward a virtual presidential nominating convention this August.
Party officials are preparing to grant convention organizers in Milwaukee the authority to design a convention that won’t require delegates to attend in person.
The influential Rules & Bylaws panel will start the process Tuesday with a resolution that grants “maximum flexibility” to the convention organizing committee to set up a gathering that “guarantees every delegate can accomplish their official business without putting their own health at risk.”
The resolution underscores how much the COVID-19 pandemic has upended the 2020 presidential election and every aspect of American life.
WASHINGTON — The White House is requiring everyone who enters the West Wing to wear a mask or face covering after coronavirus scares near President Donald Trump.
A memo sent to all staff outlined the new directive Monday after two staffers last week tested positive for COVID-19.
The memo says: “We are requiring everyone who enters the West Wing to wear a mask or facial covering.”
Staff will be allowed to remove their face coverings if they sit at least six feet apart from their colleagues.
The directive is meant to protect the president, who has refrained from wearing a mask in public and in private.
WASHINGTON — Senior administration officials said the federal government will begin distributing $11 billion from the latest relief bill to boost state testing efforts.
The funds will be allocated based on states’ population size and how heavily they have been impacted by the outbreak.
For weeks the White House has resisted calls to set specific testing goals or metrics. And President Trump has reiterated that governors are responsible for testing.
Administration officials said the federal government is providing states with enough supplies to meet their testing goals.
At a minimum, the White House wants all states testing at least 2% of their populations, though the administration has declined to elaborate on how that number was reached.
The U.S. is still struggling to increase testing to the levels that most public health experts say are essential to safely reopen offices, schools, churches, restaurants and other parts of the economy.
Last week, Harvard researchers projected that the nation must conduct 900,000 daily tests by May 15 to be able to track new cases and contain new flare ups. That’s more than three times the country’s current daily testing rate of about 275,000.
Organ transplants have plummeted as COVID-19 swept through communities. Surgeons are wary of endangering living donors and too often unable to retrieve possibly usable organs from the dead.
International researchers reported Monday transplants from deceased donors dropped by about half in the U.S. and 90% in France from late February to early April.
Separate U.S. data shows living donations had a similarly staggering decline. Transplants have begun inching back up again in recent weeks as U.S. hospitals determine how to get desperately needed new organs to the thousands waiting for them despite the virus threat.
FREMONT, Calif. — Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirmed on Twitter that the company has restarted its California factory in violation of local government orders.
In the Monday afternoon tweet, Musk said he would be on the assembly line and asked that he be arrested if authorities take anyone into custody.
The plant in Fremont employs 10,000 workers and had been closed since March 23 due to orders to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Early Monday, the parking lot was nearly full at the massive plant and semis were driving off loaded with vehicles that may have been produced before the shutdown.
DENVER — Health officials closed a Colorado restaurant that opened for full service on Mother’s Day in defiance of state rules banning in-person dining.
A video showed a packed house and no social distancing at C&C Breakfast and Korean Kitchen.
One of the owners told KCNC-TV he wanted to stand up for small businesses and get the attention of lawmakers. Gov. Jared Polis said Monday the restaurant “is causing an immediate health hazard,” and its business license will be suspended until the restaurant is no longer a threat.
Its license was suspended indefinitely. Health officials say the license could be revoked if the restaurant owners refuse to remain closed.
CHICAGO — Twitter announced it will warn users with a label when a tweet contains disputed or misleading information about the coronavirus.
The company will take a case-by-case approach to how it decides which tweets are labeled, company leaders said.
Some tweets will run with a label underneath that directs users to links with additional information about COVID-19.
Other tweets will be covered entirely by alerts that tell users the information is in “conflict with guidance from public health experts.”
The new rule is just the latest in a string of stricter policies that tech companies are rolling out to confront virus misinformation on their sites.
UNITED NATIONS — The World Health Organization chief says there are around seven or eight “top” candidates for a vaccine to combat the novel coronavirus.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a U.N. Economic and Social Council video briefing on Monday that “we have more than a hundred candidates, and we are focusing on the few candidates we have which can bring probably better results and accelerating those candidates with better potential.”
He did not identify the top candidates for a vaccine against COVID-19.
Tedros said the original thinking two months ago was that it may take 12 to 18 months for a vaccine, but an accelerated effort is under way, helped by 7.4 billion euros ($8 billion) pledged a week ago by world leaders, organizations and banks for research, treatment and testing.
He said the $8 billion will not be enough, and additional funds will be needed to speed up the development of a vaccine, but more importantly to produce enough “to make sure that this vaccine reaches everyone — (and) there’s no one left behind.”
Tedros stressed that COVID-19 is “very contagious and it’s a killer,” with more than 4 million cases now reported to WHO and almost 275,000 lives lost.
While new cases are declining in Western Europe, they are increasing in Eastern Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, the eastern Mediterranean and other regions, he said.
NEW YORK — New York City’s death toll from the coronavirus may be thousands of fatalities worse than the official tally kept by the city and state, according to an analysis released Monday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Between mid-March and early May, about 24,000 more people died in the city than researchers would ordinarily expect, based on the season, the report said.
That’s about 5,300 more deaths than had been previously attributed to the coronavirus during that time period.
These so-called “excess deaths” could have been caused by byproducts of pandemic, the report found, including “the demand on hospitals and health care providers and public fear related to COVID-19” prompting delays in people seeking or receiving lifesaving care.
The report, based on data compiled by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, underscored the challenges authorities face in assessing — and quantifying — the human toll of the crisis.
Through Sunday, New York City had recorded nearly 14,800 deaths confirmed by a lab test and another nearly 5,200 probable deaths where no test was available, but doctors are sure enough to list the virus on the death certificate.
In its analysis, the report released Monday said the 5,293 excess deaths were on top of both confirmed and probable fatalities.