The Latest: Half of Spaniards to see restrictions eased
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:
— Half of Spain’s population to see restrictions eased.
— New York governor warns about potentially fatal condition in children.
— No immiment lockdown restrictions in hard-hit Britain.
— WHO says it has $1.3 billion funding shortfall for COVID-19 efforts.
MADRID — Spain’s health minister says the government will relax restrictions on the movement of just over half the country’s population next week.
Salvador Illa said Friday the areas that have met targets to ease an almost two-month national lockdown account for 51% of Spain’s about 47 million people.
Starting Monday, the places that qualify for the next phase of a gradual loosening of constraints will be allowed to reopen outdoor seating areas for smaller restaurants and bars, with 50% of their seating capacity made available.
Social gatherings of up to 10 people, family reunions, open-air markets, church services and museum openings will also be permitted, though with some limitations.
The Madrid region, which leads Spain with more than 64,000 confirmed cases from the virus, and most of Catalonia, with more than 51,000, did not qualify for the partial lifting of restrictions.
Spain has reported 26,299 deaths from COVID-19 and 260,177 confirmed cases.
ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the death of a 5-year-old boy who showed symptoms of a rare condition is challenging assumptions that children can’t be hurt by COVID-19 complications.
Cuomo did not provide details about the child who died Thursday. But the Democratic governor said said there have been 73 reported cases in the state of youngsters showing symptoms like those of Kawasaki disease — a rare inflammatory condition in children — and toxic shock syndrome.
New York is the hardest-hit U.S. state in the coronavirus pandemic.
Cuomo calls it “every parent’s nightmare” that a child could be affected by the virus.
Dozens of children elsewhere in the U.S. have been hospitalized with the condition, which scientists think may be linked to the coronavirus and has been seen in Europe. Symptoms include prolonged fever, severe abdominal pain and trouble breathing.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey reported 48 new deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours — the lowest number of daily fatalities in more than a month. The country’s total death toll now stands at 3,689.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca also announced 1,848 more confirmed cases, bringing the total number of infections to 135,569.
At least 86,396 COVID-19 patients have recovered, according to figures the minister posted Friday on Twitter.
Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry announced new guidelines for taxis. Drivers and passengers will be required to wear masks and the maximum number of passengers will be limited to three. The guidelines came as Turkey prepares to ease some restrictions and reopen malls, beauty salons, hairdressers and barber shops on Monday.
LJUBLJANA, Slovenia — Thousands of people are protesting against the center-right government in Slovenia for a third week in a row by riding their bicycles through the capital Ljubljana and other cities.
Blowing whistles and chanting “thieves,” the demonstrators on Friday streamed down the central streets of Ljubljana. Most of the people were wearing face masks in line with the measures against the spread of the new coronavirus.
Police have blocked access to the areas outside the government and parliament buildings.
The protests first erupted after a whistleblower revealed alleged political pressure in the purchase of protective equipment during the virus outbreak. Slovenia’s anti-corruption bodies opened an investigation as the government denied any wrongdoing.
Slovenia has started easing its lockdown after a fall in the number of infections.
Right-wing Prime Minister Janez Jansa’s government was formed shortly before the outbreak. Critics have accused him of attempts to consolidate power during the emergency situation.
LEWISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced that 13 more western counties, including much of the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, can shed his most restrictive pandemic orders on movement and businesses next week.
The counties announced Friday by Wolf comprise nearly 2.7 million residents.
The only western county held back, Beaver County, is home to perhaps the state’s worst nursing home outbreak, where dozens have died and a congressman is calling for an investigation.
Otherwise, the area of approximately 10,000 square miles (15,000 square kilometers) can undertake a limited reopening next Friday.
It will join people in 24 counties across a swath of primarily rural northern Pennsylvania who are the first to have pandemic restrictions eased under Wolf’s reopening plan, including Erie, Lewisburg, Williamsport and State College.
Those places began opening stores Friday that had been shut down since March under Wolf’s orders, while residents began leaving their homes. People in those parts of the state had been under a stay-at-home order since April 1.
GENEVA — The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief is pushing back against misinformation that heating or cooling the body can help fight the coronavirus.
Dr. Michael Ryan said Friday he’d heard “various stories” suggesting it might be important “to be very hot or be very cold” to fight COVID-19.
“This has no impact on the virus,” he said.
Ryan’s comments were the latest attempt to dispel urban legend and other speculation about how to defend against, counteract or seek miracle home remedy-style cures for the pandemic disease.
Ryan noted that viruses and infectious diseases often cause the body to have fevers.
“Having a temperature in itself is not necessarily a bad thing,” he said. “But also that temperature has to be carefully monitored, especially in children.”
“But the idea that temperature itself is affecting the way the virus will behave in the body is not true.”
LONDON — Britain’s minister for the environment, food and rural affairs says Prime Minister Boris Johnson won’t be announcing immediate changes to the country’s coronavirus lockdown when he addresses the nation on Sunday.
George Eustice said the U.K. is “not out of the woods” and that there “isn’t going to be any dramatic overnight change” to the lockdown. He said the government will be “very, very cautious” in loosening the restrictions.
Johnson is expected to set out a roadmap of how the U.K. can start easing the lockdown in the future. Only minor changes, such as allowing individuals to sunbathe in parks and removing the limit on one daily outing for exercise, are anticipated.
Eustice also revealed that another 626 people have died after testing positive for COVID-19 in all settings, including hospitals and care homes. That takes the U.K. total to 31,241, the second highest official death toll in the world behind the United States.
LONDON — The head of the World Health Organization says the agency needs $1.7 billion to fund its response efforts for COVID-19 for the rest of the year — and that it’s about $1.3 billion short.
Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump announced he was suspending funding to the U.N. health agency, saying WHO botched its response to the coronavirus pandemic and was acting as a public relations agency for China. WHO said previously it was conducting an assessment of what the loss of U.S. funding would mean for its operations.
In a press briefing on Friday, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said WHO’s COVID-19 strategic plan is focused on several objectives, including providing technical and logistical support to all countries, particularly those with fragile health systems. He said the estimated $1.7 billion “only covers WHO’s needs, not the entire global (community’s) needs.”
Tedros noted that Friday marked 40 years since the day smallpox was officially eradicated from the planet. “That same solidarity built on national unity is needed now more than ever to defeat COVID-19,” he said.
OLD ORCHARD BEACH, Maine — Parts of New England are slowly emerging from weeks of pandemic-induced restrictions.
Greenhouses, golf courses and barber shops are rolling out the welcome mat for customers eager to return to some sense of normalcy. But the partial reopening comes amid concerns about adequate testing, contact tracing and even protective gear for health care workers.
Maine is allowing the use of golf courses and most state parks; visits to dentists, barbers and hairdressers; and stay-in-vehicle religious services. New Hampshire is allowing the restricted reopening of restaurants, hair salons and other businesses throughout May. Vermont is gradually allowing more commercial activity and outdoor recreation for groups of 10 or fewer, including golf courses and tennis courts.
Rhode Island is taking its first step with a soft reopening Saturday, the day after a stay-at-home order expires. Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo envisions a plan in which more stores will be allowed to reopen but restaurants, bars and salons will remain closed.
ROME — The number of people in Italy who’ve died with COVID-19 infections has topped 30,000.
The Health Ministry registered 243 deaths on Friday, bringing the total of those who died in the country to 30,201. Italy was the first country in Europe with a major outbreak of the coronavirus.
Authorities say many more likely died with the infection at home or in nursing homes without being diagnosed.
With 1,327 more cases registered in the 24-hour period ending Friday evening, Italy now tallies 217,185 confirmed coronavirus infections. Some 11,000 more people have recovered from the illness than are currently positive for the infection.
Lombardy in the north continues to be the hardest-hit region, accounting for nearly one-half of the latest cases registered on Friday. Health and government authorities are concerned that partial easing earlier in the week of some lockdown measures, such as re-opening of public parks and gardens, could see an uptick in contagion if people ignore safety-distance rules.
GENEVA — The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief says Russia appears to be facing a “delayed epidemic” as it battles the coronavirus.
Dr. Michael Ryan credited the Russian government for having “really shifted its response into a much more aggressive mode” over the last week.
He pointed to large-scale public health and social distancing measures and increased lab testing in Russia, which has experienced a spike in cases long after those in the West and Asia.
“I think Russia is just in a different phase of the of the pandemic and can learn some of the lessons that have been learned at great cost in Asia and in North America and in Western Europe,” Ryan said.
MADRID — Spain’s army says it expects two more outbreaks of the coronavirus, according to an internal document seen by The Associated Press.
The army report predicts “two more waves of the epidemic” and Spain will take “between a year and a year-and-a-half to return to normality.”
It says the second wave would be in autumn or winter and possibly less serious than the initial outbreak due to higher immunity in the population.
It adds a possible third wave would be “greatly weakened” if there is a vaccine available next year.
The document was published by Spanish newspaper ABC on Friday and later confirmed as authentic by the AP.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has warned he it’s highly probable the virus will make comebacks until there’s a vaccine. The army report says “it would be extremely important” to develop a contact tracing method using mobile phone apps.
More than 26,000 Spaniards have died from the COVID-19 virus.
GENEVA — Swiss government officials have backed off plans to require restaurants and bars to take the names and phone numbers of patrons to help fight the coronavirus.
The government now says it’s “optional.”
The reversal comes after privacy advocates, restaurant owners and legal experts expressed concerns.
After nearly two months of closure, most schools, stores and businesses in Switzerland will reopen on Monday because case counts have declined in recent weeks.
Many countries are trying to balance public health, privacy and livelihoods amid the pandemic.
Health Minister Alain Berset says a Swiss “protection plan” asked bar and restaurants operators to seek personal details of at least one contact person per table so they could be reached if an infection turned up in the establishment. He says that information will be voluntary.
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Bosnia’s central government has agreed to temporarily lift coronavirus travel restrictions for its migrant workers who wish to return to their jobs in Belgium.
The government says a special direct flight for these workers will be organized over the weekend from the airport in the northeastern city of Tuzla to Ostend Airport in Belgium.
There were no details on the number of Bosnian workers allowed to return to work in Belgium or the air carrier.
CAIRO — Sudan’s committee to combat coronavirus says it will “renew and tighten” movement restrictions in the capital as the country’s case count increased to nearly 1,000 infections and 52 deaths.
Siddig Tawer Kafi, member of the ruling Sovereignty Council, says Sudan will extend the lockdown for Khartoum and its province for 10 days to May 19.
The government also extended the ban on communal praying in mosques through nearly the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Kafi promised Sudan’s transitional government will keep offering basics, such as bread and cooking gas, at reduced prices for struggling families.
WASHINGTON — U.S. health regulators approved the first saliva-based coronavirus test that allows people to collect their own sample at home.
The new at-home option is expected to expand use of the test developed by Rutgers University, which the Food and Drug Administration first authorized last month. People can use the plastic tube at home to provide a saliva sample and ship it to a laboratory for processing.
The test will be available through a New Jersey network of hospitals and testing sites affiliated with Rutgers. Initially, the government limited the test to health care facilities and testing sites with professional supervision.
Wide-scale testing is considered essential to containing the spread of COVID-19 and safely reopening businesses and schools. But many states are still struggling to reach the testing levels recommended by health experts.