The Latest: N. Macedonia records new record daily infections

SKOPJE, North Macedonia — North Macedonia has registered a new record number of daily coronavirus infections for the third consecutive day, with more than half the country’s 2.1 million people under an 80-hour near-total lockdown.

Health Minister Venko Filipce announced that 180 newly infected people and two deaths were recorded over the past 24 hours, a new record since the first case was registered in late February. The total confirmed cases in the country now stand at 2,790, and 149 people have died.

Filipce said about 90% of newly infected people are members and relatives of 15 families, and that the second wave of the epidemic in North Macedonia was the result of people ignoring the ban on mass gatherings. More than a half of the new cases are from the capital, Skopje.

North Macedonia’s government has imposed almost a near-complete curfew in four regions that started at 9 p.m. Thursday and will end at 5 a.m. Monday. People can only leave their houses to go to a hospital or pharmacy. Supermarkets and food stores are closed.

Filipce said he is confident that the new spike in infections is under control and announced that authorities would discuss on Sunday the next steps for dealing with the epidemic.

___

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— WHO widens recommendations for use of masks.

— 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.

___

Go to https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak for updates throughout the day.

___

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING TODAY:

The World Health Organization is changing its recommendations for the use of masks during the coronavirus pandemic and is now recommending that in areas where there is widespread transmission, people should wear masks when social distancing is not possible, such as on public transport and in shops.

In a press briefing on Friday, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also said people over age 60 or those with underlying medical conditions should wear a medical mask in situations where social distancing cannot be maintained. WHO has previously only recommended that health care workers, those sickened by COVID-19 and their care givers wear masks.

Tedros emphasized that “masks on their own will not protect you from COVID-19” and emphasized the importance of hand-washing, social distancing and other measures. He added that health workers in areas with widespread transmission should now wear medical masks in all areas of health facilities and not just those with confirmed COVID-19 patients, saying that doctors working in cardiology or other wards, for example, should continue to wear a medical mask even if there are no known coronavirus patients.

__

BAGHDAD — The number of confirmed coronavirus cases reported daily in Iraq has reached 1,000 for the first time and the country has seen its cases more triple in the last two weeks due to increased testing.

A Health Ministry statement issued on Friday said at least 1,006 new coronavirus cases had been reported in the previous 24 hours, bringing the nationwide total to 9,846. Ministry figures showed the death toll remained at 285.

Health Ministry teams have been doing random virus tests of the population, and Iraqi officials have said that is why confirmed cases are spiking. Iraq has conducted nearly 10,000 tests per day in recent days.

But the rising numbers are concerning for health workers who cite a scarcity of medical supplies and trained staff. Officials have said a flareup in the number of cases could be catastrophic for the country’s floundering health sector.

Doctors have told patients who have tested positive to stay at home unless their symptoms worsen.

___

BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana’s bars, spas and tattoo shops can begin restarting operations nearly three months after they were closed because of the coronavirus.

The state continued to loosen its virus-related restrictions Friday.

Gov. John Bel Edwards issued the revised regulations for businesses based on the Phase 2 reopening guidance issued by the White House.

The changes allow retailers, restaurants, salons and churches to serve more customers at a time and let other shuttered businesses reopen with limitations.

However, they won’t take effect in New Orleans. Officials in the state’s original virus hot spot want more time to evaluate when to ease restrictions there.

Bars that don’t have a food permit, massage facilities, bowling alleys, recreational pools and tattoo shops will be able to reopen with specific conditions.

___

LONDON — Ireland’s leader says it is now safe for his country to move into the second stage of its plans to lift coronavirus lockdown measures.

Leo Varadkar said Friday that groups of six can start meeting indoors or outside starting Monday. Athletes can return to training and up to 25 people can attend funerals as of that day, too. Supervised playgrounds and public libraries also will be allowed to reopen.

Varadkar sounded a note of hope, saying: “Summer is not lost, and this can be a summer of hope if we keep the virus at bay.”

He plans to move the country to Stage 3 of its restriction-easing plan from June 29, when domestic tourism, bars and restaurants will be allowed to reopen.

___

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.

___

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.

___

Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Categories: National News