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:
— FDA investigating test with false negatives.
— Europe is relaxing coronavirus restrictions, but cases flare in Mexico.
— Macron says mistakes were made in reforms of healthcare system.
— Britain says 27% of deaths in care homes had confirmed or suspected coronavirus infections.
WASHINGTON — Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Steve Hahn says it will be up to the White House to determine whether it continues to use a coronavirus test that has falsely cleared patients of infection.
Hahn Told CBS on Friday the FDA will keep “providing guidance to the White House regarding this test” but whether to keep using the test “will be a White House decision.”
The test is used daily at the White House to test President Donald Trump and key members of his staff, including the coronavirus task force. The FDA said late Thursday it was investigating preliminary data suggesting Abbott Laboratories’ 15-minute test can miss COVID-19 cases, producing false negatives.
Hahn told CBS the test is on the market and the FDA continues to “recommend its use or to have it available for use.” But he suggested if doctors or patients suspect they’ve received a false negative, they should do another test.
JOHANNESBURG — A South African court has ordered the suspension of the soldiers and police officers who allegedly assaulted a man to death while enforcing the country’s lockdown.
Collins Khoza died in Alexandra township in Johannesburg in the early weeks of a lockdown that began in late March. His family alleged the officers entered their home after noticing a half-full cup of beer in the yard and accused Khoza and a friend of violating regulations. Alcohol sales are banned but people may drink at home.
A judge says citizens are entitled to their rights during lockdown, including the right to life, and has ordered investigations into Khoza’s death. South African law enforcement agencies have faced criticism for being heavy-handed in lockdown enforcement.
ATHENS, Greece — Police say dozens of protesters in the central Greek city of Larissa have lit fires in the street after extra lockdown measures were imposed due to an outbreak of the coronavirus.
Tests of 637 people resulted in 35 positive cases after the virus reportedly spread during the funeral of a resident who died of COVID-19. Those who tested positive were to be quarantined in a health facility Friday, but they refused to be moved.
Police were called and media reported about 200 protesters in the streets, some throwing stones at reporters on the edge of the settlement.
Earlier Friday, Greece’s Civil Protection Authority announced a nighttime curfew for the settlement for the next 14 days, and masks were compulsory for those leaving their homes.
Authorities have gradually lifted lockdown measures, which began nearly two weeks ago.
On Thursday, authorities announced 10 confirmed positive cases and one death. The total stands at 2,770 confirmed cases and 156 deaths in a country of nearly 11 million.
ANKARA, Turkey — Teenagers left their homes for the first time in 42 days, taking their turn for a few hours of respite from Turkey’s coronavirus lockdowns.
People over 65 and younger than 20 have been under curfew for the past several weeks. This week, the government began allowing them to go outdoors for a few hours as part of a program of reduced controls.
Youth filled parks and main streets and outside malls Friday as the curfew was lifted between 11 am and 3 p.m. Some played basketball or soccer or flew kites in parks, HaberTurk television reported.
Senior citizens were permitted out Sunday and young children 14 and below left homes Wednesday.
The government has announced a “normalization plan” as the number of coronavirus cases dropped last week. However, it also warned of tougher measures if infections increase.
Turkey has registered nearly 145,000 confirmed cases and some 4,000 deaths.
TOKYO — The governor of Tokyo, one of several prefectures still under a coronavirus state of emergency, says that she plans to reopen businesses in three phases in the Japanese capital as it prepares for a possible end to the restrictive measures later this month.
Yuriko Koike said Friday that Tokyo will be able to ease restrictions once new cases per day fall below 20, among other indicators. If figures deteriorate, social and economic activity will have to be scaled back again, she said.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the end of the state of emergency in all but eight of the country’s 47 prefectures. Restrictions are still in place, for example, in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hokkaido, where experts say risks remain.
Abe said he will have another experts’ meeting next week to decide if the emergency can be removed entirely.
Under the roadmap, business activities will resume in three steps, starting with the lowest-risk facilities like museums and libraries, Koike said. In phase two, theaters will be allowed to reopen and business hours for restaurants and bars will be extended. The final phase will apply to all but cluster-prone facilities such as night clubs.
Japan has registered about 16,200 coronavirus cases and 710 deaths.
PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron has acknowledged mistakes in reforming the national hospital system, which has faced years of cost cuts and whose once-renowned facilities have struggled to treat tens of thousands of virus patients.
Senior doctors faced off Friday with Macron when he visited a leading Paris hospital, demanding more investment and a rethink of a medical system that found itself quickly overwhelmed by the virus crisis.
“For months I was asking for equipment, and we had three days to fight against the virus,” said Martin Hirsch, head of the Paris hospital network.
As the virus raced across France in March, Macron had to deploy the military to move patients and doctors around the country to relieve saturated hospitals.
Macron’s government announced a plan last year to address growing concerns about hospital job cuts and equipment shortages, but acknowledged Friday: “We undoubtedly made a mistake in the strategy.”
“It was a great strategy, but we should have done it 10 years ago,” he told frustrated doctors at Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital.
Macron promised to kick off a new investment plan while the virus crisis is still raging, without offering details.
French authorities say more than 27,000 people with the virus have died in hospitals and nursing homes.
VILNIUS, Lithuania — The prime ministers of the three Baltic nations said the first coronavirus wave is under control in their region. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania formally removed travel restrictions between them Friday.
“We are the first in the European Union to open our borders to each other’s’ citizens,” Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said. “But we remain cautious and responsible and are protecting the Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian space.”
In a joint video, Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins called it “a very important day” while his Estonian counterpart Juri Ratas said it was “another step toward our normal life.”
They spoke hours before the three former Soviet republics’ foreign minister gathered in the Latvian capital of Riga to sign a document, formally reopening the borders between the three EU members which are home to around six million inhabitants.
Baltic citizens and residents have been able to move freely between the three EU nations since Thursday midnight. People returning from countries outside the region will still be required to self-isolate for two weeks.
LONDON — Official British statistics show that more than 12,000 residents of nursing homes have died with confirmed or suspected COVID-19.
The Office for National Statistics says 12,526 care home residents in England and Wales died with confirmed or suspected coronavirus infections between the start of the outbreak and May 1. That’s 27% of the 45,899 total deaths of care-home residents during the period.
Britain has struggled to get a full picture of the scale of the epidemic in nursing homes. At first, the government recorded only COVID-19 deaths that occurred in hospitals, though that has now changed.
The country’s official death toll stands at 33,614, the highest number of coronavirus deaths in Europe.
PRAGUE — The Czech government is planning to further ease its restrictive measures adopted due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Health Minister Adam Vojtech said Friday that sports, cultural and other public events for up to 300 people will be allowed from May 25, up from the current 100.
Vojtech said that if outbreak developments make it possible, the number will increase to 500 on June 8 and to 1,000 on June 22.
Hotels and tourist camps are reopening also on May 25, along with public swimming pools and aqua centers, the same day when bars, restaurants and cafes can start serving customers inside.
Children’s summer camps will be allowed under strict conditions, Vojtech said.
The Czech Republic has registered 8,352 coronavirus cases and 293 deaths. Since May 1, it has identified fewer than 100 new cases a day.
LJUBLJANA, Slovenia — Slovenia has become the first European country to proclaim an end to the coronavirus epidemic at home.
The European Union state’s government said Friday the COVID-19 spread is under control and there is no longer a need for extraordinary health measures.
The government says EU residents are free to cross into Slovenia from Austria, Italy and Hungary at predetermined checkpoints, while most non-EU nationals will have to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine in what is a major step for the small Alpine country as it accelerates the easing of restrictions.
The first coronavirus case in Slovenia was recorded on March 4, a returnee from neighboring Italy. The nationwide epidemic was proclaimed on March 12.
By May 13, there were 1,467 confirmed cases and 103 deaths in Slovenia.
DHAKA, Bangladesh — Authorities have reported the first coronavirus case in the crowded camps for Rohingya refugees in southern Bangladesh, where more than 1 million people are sheltered.
The person from the Rohingya community and a local person who lives in the Cox’s Bazar district who also tested positive have been isolated, Mahbub Alam Talukder, the country’s refugee commissioner, said Thursday.
Teams have been activated for treatment of the patients as well as tracing people they might have encountered and quarantining and testing of those contacts, Louise Donovan, a spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency, told The Associated Press.
Aid workers have been warning of the potential for a serious outbreak if the virus reached the camps. The dense crowding with plastic shacks standing side by side housing up to 12 residents each mean the refugees would be dangerously exposed to the virus.
PARIS — The head of WHO’s Europe office, Dr. Hans Kluge, says the future of the pandemic will depend on everyone’s actions.
“It’s very important to remind everyone that as long as there is no vaccine and effective treatment, there is no return to normal,” he said on French radio Europe-1 on Friday. “This virus won’t simply disappear, so the personal behavior of each of us will determine the behavior of the virus.”
“Governments have done a lot (to limit the virus), and now the responsibility is on the people,” he added. “Before we said that public health is important for the economy. Now we have seen that without health there is no economy, there is no national security.”
NEW DELHI — The World Bank has approved $1 billion in emergency response to support India’s efforts at providing social assistance to poor and vulnerable households severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A bank statement says the move will increase its total commitment to India to $2 billion. A $1 billion package was announced last month for India’s health sector.
An immediate allocation of $750 million will help scale-up cash transfers and food benefits to provide robust social protection for essential workers involved in coronavirus relief efforts and benefit migrants and informal workers, the bank statement said late Thursday.
A second influx of $250 million will deepen the social protection package in fiscal year 2021, it said.
Half of India’s population earns less than $3 a day. More than 90% of India’s workforce is employed in the informal sector, without access to significant savings or workplace-based social protection benefits such as paid sick leave or social insurance, the statement said.
On Tuesday, India’s federal government announced an economic rescue package of 20 trillion rupees ($260 billion) to tide over a massive economic crisis created by the pandemic. Millions of migrant workers have fled big Indian cities to their village homes as they could find no work.
BERLIN — Germany’s most populous state has lifted a requirement for people arriving from other European countries to self-quarantine for 14 days, and other regions are expected to follow.
The rule expired in the western region of North Rhine-Westphalia at midnight. The state government said in a statement that Germany’s states agreed with the federal government on Thursday to exempt travelers from other countries in the European Union, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Britain and that they will implement that decision over the coming days.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer recommended earlier this week that states lift the quarantine rule for travelers from Europe – but maintain it for those from elsewhere.
A court in North Rhine-Westphalia’s northern neighbor, Lower Saxony, already suspended the rule for that state earlier this week.
On Friday night, Germany plans to end two-month-old checks on its border with Luxembourg and loosen them somewhat on its borders with Austria, Switzerland and France – though it doesn’t plan to restore free travel across its borders until mid-June.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan is resuming domestic flights starting Saturday, ending a ban that was imposed in March.
Abdul Sattar Khokhar, spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority, said no decision on international flights has been made.
Pakistan reported 33 more deaths from the coronavirus in the previous 24 hours, raising its fatalities to 803 amid more than 37,000 cases. It has experienced a steady increase in coronavirus-related deaths and infections since the government eased a lockdown on Monday.
Authorities say the increase in infections is mainly because many people have failed to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
BEIJING — China’s foreign minister says the country has brought the coronavirus outbreak under control and he lashed out at foreign politicians he accused of having “insisted on politicizing the epidemic, labeling the virus, and smearing the World Health Organization.”
Wang Yi’s comments carried by the official Xinhua News Agency appeared directed at the United States, where President Donald Trump’s administration has repeatedly castigated China for allegedly covering up the initial outbreak and has suspended payments to the WHO over what it calls a pro-China bias and failure to effectively deal with the pandemic.
Other countries, including Australia, have also urged an independent investigation into the origin of the pandemic, calls that China has furiously rejected.
Under head of state and ruling Communist Party leader Xi Jinping’s leadership, China has been able to “put the outbreak under control through arduous efforts and has been gradually resuming economic and social life while undertaking prevention and control measures on a regular basis,” Wang was quoted as saying in a phone call Thursday with the foreign ministers of Hungary, Estonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
China has “overcome its own difficulties, offered support and assistance to relevant countries, shared prevention and control experiences and treatments without reservation, and facilitated various countries’ purchase of anti-epidemic supplies in China,” Wang said.
Attempts to politicize the pandemic and smear the WHO are “a serious violation of international moral principles and undermine international anti-epidemic efforts,” Wang added.
SYDNEY — Many cafes and restaurants opened again Friday in Sydney as some coronavirus restrictions were lifted, although rainy weather and ongoing fears appeared to keep patronage relatively low.
Australia’s most populous state of New South Wales began allowing cafes, restaurants and places of worship to reopen with up to 10 people on the condition they adhere to social distancing rules. Pubs and clubs were also permitted to open, but only for dining.
State Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned people to take personal responsibility, saying that easing restrictions in some other countries had backfired.
“Let’s please do our part in keeping everybody safe so that all of us can keep moving forward so that we never, ever go backwards,” Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney. “That’s really, really critical.”
Many Catholic churches across the state opened for private prayer, confession and small-scale Masses.
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