The Latest: Tajikistan reports first coronavirus deaths.
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:
— Central Asian nation of Tajikistan reports first coronavirus deaths.
— Nightingale Hospital in London to be on standby once current patients are discharged.
— Estimated 1.5 million South Africans return to work after five weeks in lockdown.
— Hong Kong’s economy shrinks by 8.9% — worst performance since 1974.
MOSCOW — The Central Asian nation of Tajikistan has reported its first coronavirus deaths.
The Health Ministry of the ex-Soviet country that borders Afghanistan to the north said Monday that three people infected with coronavirus have died.
Tajikistan reported its first 15 coronavirus cases on April 30. The number of infections climbed to 230 Monday, nearly half of them in the capital, Dushanbe.
Tajikistan is one of the poorest ex-Soviet nations and its healthcare system could be hard pressed to cope with the contagion.
LONDON — Scotland leader Nicola Sturgeon has hinted that the coronavirus lockdown in her country will last at least a few more weeks beyond this Thursday’s scheduled review.
The first minister said at the Scottish government’s daily press briefing that it is “very unlikely” any changes will be announced to lockdown measures when they are reviewed.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has recovered from COVID-19, is widely expected to announce a further extension as the U.K.’s coronavirus-related death toll heads towards becoming Europe’s highest.
The four constituent nations of the U.K. are England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and they have coordinated through the coronavirus outbreak. That included issuing lockdown orders together on March 23.
Sturgeon said she understands the need for people to see “light at the end of the tunnel.”
However, she said the virus’ reproduction rate was still too high to ease the lockdown despite “real and significant progress.”
LONDON — A vast temporary hospital built in days at a London convention center to house coronavirus victims is being mothballed after treating only a few dozen patients.
The British government says the Nightingale Hospital will be placed “on standby” once the current patients have been discharged.
The London facility could have handled 4,000 patients. Nightingale and half a dozen other hospitals around the country were built with military assistance amid fears Britain’s hospitals would be overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients.
But the number of patients never exceeded the available beds, and the temporary hospitals have largely stood empty.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman James Slack said they had “absolutely not” been a waste of money.
He said “we view the fact that the Nightingales have not had to be used in a significant way as something that is positive.
TOKYO — Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike says Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision to extend the coronavirus state of emergency until the end of May is unavoidable because the new cases of the infections in the city is slow to decline.
“We just have to go the extra mile toward putting an end to it,” Koike said.
Tokyo had 87 new cases of the infections to a prefectural total of 4,655, about one-third of a national total.
Since Abe declared the state of emergency on April 7, Tokyo took tougher measures than many other areas. That included requests for schools and non-essential businesses to close, in addition to a stay-at-home instructions for residents.
Many business owners abiding by the shutdown request and individuals have faced income losses or pay cuts, and keeping the measures in place for another month would add to their difficulty.
Koike said Tokyo will consider additional support to secure businesses and employment, though she did not give further details.
Japan has more than 15,000 cases, with 510 deaths.
JOHANNESBURG - An estimated 1.5 million South Africans returned to work Monday as the country slightly eased lockdown conditions that have been in effect for five weeks.
The mining, manufacturing and selected retail sectors began reopening with up to 30% of their workforce. Additional workers will be added gradually depending on safety precautions and South Africa’s statistics on the spread and severity of COVID-19 in the country.
South Africa currently has the most confirmed cases of the disease in Africa with 6,783 and 131 deaths.
Community health workers have screened more than 7 million people and more than 245,000 people have been tested
HONG KONG — Hong Kong’s coronavirus-battered economy shrank by 8.9% over a year earlier in the first quarter, its worst performance since quarterly reporting began in 1974.
The government said Monday the Chinese territory’s economy already was struggling before the pandemic due to weak global trade and anti-government protests that began in June and depressed tourism.
Exports fell 9.7% in the first quarter from a year earlier, the government reported. Exports of services plunged 37.8% and consumer spending declined 10.2%.
Even though virus cases might be subsiding, trade tensions are heating up again and protests are resuming, said Iris Pang of ING.
“A longer recession is expected,” said Pang in the report.
TOKYO — Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe saysan extension of the state of emergency is to prepare for “new normal” in the era of the coronavirus. He urged people to adopt new lifestyles based on physical distancing.
The current state of emergency Abe declared on April 7 was due to end Wednesday but Abe said the measure has to stay in place until the end of the month.
Citing experts on a government-commissioned panel, Abe said the number of new infections has not decreased enough to safely lift the measures. He said ending the state of emergency too soon would only trigger rapid resurgence of the infections.
Abe said Tokyo and a dozen other high-risk prefectures such as Osaka and Fukuoka will still have to keep the ongoing strict social distancing measures, but the rest of the country with relatively few cases can gradually ease restrictions on businesses and small meetings.
He said museums, libraries, parks and other facilities can resume with ample preventive measures.
Abe said he will convene experts in 10 days to evaluate if there is enough progress to possibly lift the measures before the end of the month.
Japan has more than 15,000 cases with 510 deaths. The number of cases detected in Tokyo accounts to about one-third of the national total.
PARIS — France says it will not quarantine travelers arriving from the European Union and Britain after an earlier conflicting announcement prompted confusion.
The quarantine won’t apply to people coming from Europe’s border-free area which includes Switzerland, Norway, Lichtenstein and Iceland.
The French presidency clarified the measure after the government suggested Saturday it was planning to impose a 14-day mandatory quarantine on all travelers entering France, including French citizens.
For people arriving in France from other regions of the world, the rules will be detailed in the coming days.
The measure is part of a new bill that extend a “state of health emergency” until July 24 to limit the spread of coronavirus. The measure is being debated at parliament this week.
France is one of the world’s hardest-hit countries with at least 24,895 deaths from the COVID-19 and is preparing to ease lockdown measures on May 11.
BELGRADE, Serbia — Residents of the Serbian capital have flocked to outdoor cafes and restaurants as they enjoyed further easing of restrictions implemented nearly two months ago to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic has said the formal lifting of a state of emergency imposed in mid-March will take place later this week. That means the long curfews and a near-total lockdown for people older than 65 will no longer be in force.
Shopping malls were also allowed to be opened, as well as partial reestablishment of rail and bus connections between the Serbian towns.
Not all of the cafes and eateries were opened on Monday since strict distancing guidelines make it hard for many to turn a profit. They are one of the top tourist attractions in Serbia.
The Serbian president said that the lifting of the state of emergency was made possible because the rate of coronavirus infections has decreased sufficiently.
Serbia has recorded over 9,000 coronavirus cases and 193 deaths.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s president says the country is starting preparations for easing its coronavirus lockdown.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy says some of the restrictions could be lifted starting from May 11. Ukraine has been in lockdown since March 12 and authorities have said it would be extended until May 22.
But the Cabinet has allowed some retailers, hairdressers, beauty parlors, car dealers and other businesses to reopen on May 11 on condition that they strictly observe social distancing and other precautions. Walks in parks will also be allowed.
Ukraine has registered 12,331 coronavirus cases including 303 deaths.
LISBON, Portugal -- The dean of the Catholic shrine at Fatima in Portugal has asked pilgrims not to head there for annual celebrations this month, asking them instead to “make a pilgrimage of the heart.”
Hundreds of thousands of worshippers traditionally attend ceremonies on May 12 and 13, when three illiterate shepherd children first reported seeing visions of the Madonna just over 100 years ago.
Like the shrine at Lourdes, France, Fatima draws about six million pilgrims from around the world annually to give thanks to Our Lady of Fatima, or to pray for help.
Fr. Carlos Cabecinhas appealed Monday for people to stay away from the shrine, which will be cordoned off, and to follow broadcasts of the ceremonies.
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is postponing the annual swearing-in ceremony for its new crop of Swiss Guards, a commemoration usually held each May 6 to honor the guardsmen who died while protecting the pope during the 1527 Sack of Rome.
The Swiss Guards said Monday that due to the ongoing coronavirus emergency, the pomp-filled ceremony will now be held Oct. 4. Other commemoration will go ahead May 6, including a Mass in a Vatican church, but it will be celebrated with only a restricted few guests present.
Vatican City, a small city state in the center of Rome, has been implementing its own version of lockdown that mirrors the measure imposed in Italy, the European epicenter of the pandemic.
Pope Francis has been celebrating daily Mass to empty pews, and on Monday prayed for victims of domestic violence. Italian officials have said calls to domestic violence hotlines have declined during the lockdown, not because assaults are slowing but because victims are less able to call and get help.
Francis said: “Let’s pray for families, may they go ahead with creativity, peace and patience in this quarantine.”
DHAKA, Bangladesh — The government has extended a nationwide lockdown by nearly two weeks to May 16 in Bangladesh to check the spread of coronavirus as the South Asian nation crosses the 10,000 mark of infections, authorities said Monday.
The government had imposed a lockdown for all public and private offices and businesses from March 26, and later that restriction was extended to May 5.
All essential services and vehicles carrying goods and medicine have remained out of the purview of the closure, while garment factories and pharmaceuticals and other export-oriented manufacturing units are also operating.
Health Directorate official Nasima Sultana said Monday Bangladesh confirmed almost 700 new cases, taking the total to 10,143, including more than 180 deaths.
LISBON, Portugal — Portugal is easing its confinement and isolation measures, but authorities say people have a “civic duty” to keep working from home through the end of May if they can.
After a state of emergency ended last weekend, on Monday small stores were allowed to open.
Hair salons and some government departments could also be visited by appointment. Commuters were let on to public transport only if they wore masks.
People are also able to practice sports in the open air, but not in groups of more than 10. Beaches remain closed but watersports, such as surfing, are permitted.
Family members can now attend funerals.
The progressive relaxation of limitations is due to occur every two weeks and could be reversed if there is a spike in new cases.
Portugal has reported just over 1,000 deaths and more than 25,000 cases of the new coronavirus.