The Latest: Robot staff greet Tokyo governor at virus hotel
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:
— Virus worries for workers demanding rights on May Day.
— Japan to extend its state of emergency another month.
— Spain field hospital releases its last patients.
— French president thanks workers on Labor Day holiday.
TOKYO — Robot staff debuted at a Tokyo hotel for mild coronavirus patients under a plan to free up beds at overburdened hospitals.
Pepper, a popular semi-humanoid talking robot, greeted Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike as she walked into a downtown hotel during Friday’s demonstration. Pepper, wearing a white surgical mask, also reminds patients to check their daily temperature and encourages them to rest.
Doctors and nurses are staffed at the hotels. Guest patients can also access health management applications on computers and tablets to record their body temperatures and symptoms. “Whiz” a cleaner robot, operates in hotel lobbies where patients come to pick up meals to reduce infection risks.
The robots, made by SoftBank Robotics, will be deployed at other hotels rented by Tokyo’s government for patients with no or mild symptoms. So far, Tokyo has secured five hotels with 1,500 to 2,800 rooms.
Japan has 14,281 confirmed cases and 432 deaths, according to the health ministry tally.
BANGKOK — Domestic airlines in Thailand are resuming some regular flights, with half the country’s provincial airports reopened.
Department of Airports Director-General Tawee Kaysisam-ang says 14 of the 28 airports his agency oversees reopened Friday. Domestic flights also resumed at airports that serve as international gateways, including Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports and Chiang Mai Airport in the north.
International passenger flight arrivals remain banned.
All airports must implement social distancing measures. Passengers should wear masks and stand in designated spots to check in. The airlines are supposed to sell only one in three of each flight’s seats to keep passengers apart.
A spokesman for Don Mueang Airport says it would service 150 arrivals and departures carrying 3,000-4,000 passengers Friday, compared to the four or five flights a day in recent weeks.
VALLETTA, Malta — Malta’s government has announced the relaxation of some coronavirus restrictions.
Prime Minister Robert Abela says starting Monday, nonessential shops will be allowed to reopen. Health services, not related to coronavirus infections, will be resumed.
Bars and restaurants will remain shuttered. The government says it will review its position in three weeks.
Malta’s airport and ports will remain closed indefinitely. People in groups of more than four persons in public places will be fined.
Malta has 467 confirmed coronavirus cases and four deaths.
TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says the coronavirus state of emergency to end next week will be extended about a month.
Abe, citing a report by experts on a government task force, says Japanese medical systems are still under severe pressure with the number of confirmed cases far exceeding 10,000. Japan has averted the explosive of infections in many other countries and the spread of the infections has somewhat slowed under the ongoing state of emergency.
Abe says, “We still need you to continue cooperating, and that’s the experts’ view.” He says he instructed Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is tasked with the coronavirus measures, to extend the measures “for about a month.” Abe says he will announce details Monday.
Shigeru Omi, deputy chair of the panel and a public health expert formerly with the World Health Organization, says the infections have not slowed as much as experts had hoped. He says, “If the resurgence occurs, medical systems will be quickly overburdened.”
Japan has more than 14,000 cases and over 400 deaths, according to the health ministry. However, experts say there could be several times more patients.
MADRID — Spain is shuttering the massive field hospital that that its army helped set up in a Madrid convention center at the height of the coronavirus outbreak.
The field hospital established inside Madrid’s IFEMA convention center released its last patients on Friday, as local politicians held a ceremony to close its doors.
Nearly 4,000 patients have been treated at the IFEMA field hospital. Its installations will be kept intact for weeks in case the virus makes a rebound.
Spain has nearly 25,000 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 after almost 300 new fatalities were reported on Friday.
Spain has over 215,000 confirmed coronavirus infections following a daily increase of more than 1,100 cases.
The country is preparing for its largest rollback of lockdown measures on Saturday when people of all ages will be allowed to leave their homes for short walks or exercise for the first time since March 14.
The lockdown has succeeded in reducing daily case increases of over 20% to under 1%. More than 114,00 Spaniards have been treated for the virus and released from care.
PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron has led the country’s Labor Day holiday with a message of thanks to workers saving people’s lives during the coronavirus crisis.
Forgoing his usual televised address, Macron tweeted out a prerecorded speech Friday recognizing that “the nation is holding on” thanks to the life-saving “dedication of our caregivers, civil defense personnel, law enforcement (and) armies.”
Macron also thanked the commitment of French farmers and public servants who have enabled many to continue to work from home.
Labor Day has, since after World War II in France, been an occasion to campaign for and celebrate workers’ rights.
He said “the spirit of solidarity between workers, has perhaps never been so powerful” as now.
However, a midday musical protest against Macron’s handling of the epidemic is taking place from the balconies and widows of confined citizens to the tune of the rebel’s anthem Bella Ciao, in the French spirit of keeping their leaders in check.
CGT Union chief Philippe Martinez raised specific concerns on France Inter radio Friday, critiquing plans for some schools to open on May 11 and that teachers could refuse to return to work “if the health of school employees is not ensured, and that of the children.”
ROME — Italy’s May Day traditions, which pay tribute to the role of workers in society, have been upended by lockdown rules forbidding gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic.
Italy’s May Day commemoration have been rallies led by union leaders, followed by an evening rock and pop music concert in Rome, drawing crowds sometimes topping 100,000 in the square outside St. John in Lateran Basilica.
This year, musical artists will take turns performing solo in venues without anyone in the audience. Their music will be broadcast on TV and by state radio, with the evening’s theme being, “Working in safety to build a future.”
Unions have been demanding scrupulous attention to safety measures, including social distancing at work stations and assembly lines, hygiene and sanitizing before factories can reopen in Italy, where Europe’s devastating outbreak of COVID-19 began.
Right-wing political opposition leader Matteo Salvini has accused the center-left government of pandering to union demands in slowly getting the country’s economy moving again.
On Monday, some lockdown restrictions will be eased, with some 3 million Italians expected to return to workplaces, many in factories.
MADRID — Spain’s government expects that the Eurozone’s fourth largest economy will shrink by 9.2% this year and unemployment will reach 19% of the working-age population.
Deputy Prime Minister Nadia Calviño announced the grim forecast on Friday when she explained Spain’s economic stability plan that it has presented to the European Union.
This comes a day after Spain’s government said that the nation’s economy had shrunk by 5.2% in the first quarter of 2020, ending 25 consecutive quarters of positive economic activity dating back to 2013.
Calviño said the government expects the economy to rebound strong, with a growth of 6.8% in 2021.
Hundreds of thousands of workers have been furloughed since Spain applied strict stay-at-home rules on March 14 when it declared a state of emergency that is still in effect.
The government unveiled this week a complex series of guidelines it will follow to reactivate the economy and social life of the country over the coming weeks and months as long as there is not another jump in COVID-19 infections.
Spain has over 24,000 confirmed deaths from the new virus.
ATHENS, Greece — Hundreds of protesters gathered in central Athens and the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki to mark May Day, despite appeals from the government for May Day marches and commemorations to be postponed until next Saturday, when some lockdown measures will have been lifted.
Hundreds of members of the Communist Party-backed PAME union gathered in both cities Friday morning, wearing masks and gloves and standing two meters apart. The union released photos showing organizers using measuring tape and square colored stickers to lay out the exact positions where protesters could stand for the rally in central Athens, outside Parliament.
This year, May Day is being celebrated “under the special, difficult circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic, but with our sight turned to the day after,” Communist Party head Dimitris Koutsoumbas said during the rally. The main issue for after the pandemic, he said, was the dilemma of “socialism or barbarity. We answer socialism. A new, fair society is needed, with the working classes, the people, truly in power.”
Dozens of other unions also planned marches or commemorations, with demonstrators generally using masks and maintaining distance from each other.
Separately, police were out in force Friday to ensure Greeks don’t head out to the countryside, a tradition for May Day. Lockdown measures are to be eased on Monday, but remain in force for the holiday weekend. Violators face 150 euro fines.
JOHANNESBURG — A holiday atmosphere enlivened South Africa’s streets as the May Day public holiday is also when the country has begun easing its strict lockdown.
For the first time in five weeks, people were permitted to walk outside for exercise between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m., and thousands, with mandated facemasks and keeping distance, were out walking through the streets.
Some South Africans will be able to return to work in small batches and many businesses will resume limited operations. Many factories can resume operations in phases, starting with only a third of employees allowed to return and must abide by distancing and other guidelines.
Public transport, including trains and buses, will begin operating with a restricted number of passengers. Even with the easing, South Africa’s lockdown remains strict, with no sales of liquor and cigarettes permitted.
Ordinarily, South Africa marks May Day with rallies by trade unions and political parties, but these are not possible because of the lockdown regulations.
“We want to take this opportunity to pay special dedication to our frontline health workers who are confronting this virus on daily basis in this difficult time,” said Jacob Khawe, secretary in Johannesburg of the ruling African National Congress party.
MOSCOW — Russia registered almost 8,000 new coronavirus cases on Friday in yet another record daily spike, bringing the total to 114,431. The number of cases is likely to be much higher as not everyone gets tested, and tests in Russia were reported to be only 70-80% accurate.
In at least five Russian regions, health officials registered a surge of pneumonia cases. In Moscow, which accounts for half of all virus cases, all respiratory infections are likely to be caused by the coronavirus, according to the public health agency Rospotrebnadzor.
On Thursday, Russia’s Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin announced testing positive for the new virus and temporarily stepping back from running the Cabinet.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said Friday that “where we stand now means not everyone can return to work as they did before the corona crisis.”
The Scandinavian country has slowly reopened by allowing some classes to return to school and hairdressers, physiotherapists and tattoo parlors, among others, as well as courts of law to reopen. Frederiksen, a Social Democrat, said details of phase two of the reopening of Denmark would be announced “just before May 10.”
In neighboring Norway, Jonas Gahr Stoere, head of Norway’s Labour Party which is the opposition, said in a May Day speech that “instead of gathering in the squares around the country and proudly parade with flags and band music, many of us will sit in front of a screen and follow the May 1 events online.”
Gahr Stoere said “we are in the midst of a crisis that is hitting hard and wide.”
ATHENS, Greece — Protesters have begun gathering in central Athens for traditional May Day marches, despite authorities’ pleas to unions to move their demonstrations to next week, after lockdown measures begin easing.
More than 100 people from the communist party-affiliated PAME union gathered in Athens’s main Syntagma Square, outside Parliament. Holding banners and red flags, and most wearing masks and gloves, the protesters stood roughly two meters (6.5 feet) apart from each other as they waited for the march to begin.
“The symbolic events for May Day being organized as always by the labor unions, with all necessary protection measures, with them wearing masks and maintaining the necessary distance between them, do not constitute a danger for everything the people have won until today by adhering to the restrictive measures” of the lockdown, the Communist Party said in an announcement.
Greek authorities have repeatedly warned people that this year, May Day will have to be different, saying the lockdown measures due to be partially lifted starting Monday are still very much in effect. Civil Protection Deputy Minister Nikos Hardalias has stressed Greeks will not be able to go on countryside trips as they frequently do, and he appealed to trade unions to transfer their usual May Day marches to the first Saturday after lockdown restrictions have been eased.
“We welcome May Day with truly spring weather. Like during Easter, we will spend (the day) differently,” Hardalias said during his daily briefing Thursday. “Either at home, or with a walk near it …. I repeat that trips far from our permanent residence is not allowed. We are not allowed to go to our country home, certainly not to our village.”
But unions were to go ahead anyway with more than a dozen marches or commemorations planned, especially in central Athens.
CANBERRA, Australia — China’s warning of trade repercussions from Australia’s campaign for an independent inquiry into the coronavirus pandemic has rattled Australian business leaders as U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration urges other governments to back such a probe.
China has accused Australia of parroting the United States in its call for an inquiry independent of the World Health Organization to determine the origins of COVID-19 and how the world responded.
Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye used an Australian newspaper interview this week to warn that pursuing an inquiry could spark a Chinese consumer boycott.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has defended Australia and urges other countries to demand transparency.
LONDON — Ryanair has announced plans to slash as many as 3,000 jobs and close bases in Europe amid the collapse of travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The group announced a restructuring program Friday that included plans for unpaid leave and pay cuts of as much as 20%.
The budget airline says will operate less than 1% of its flights from April to June and that passenger numbers will not return to 2019 levels “until summer 2022 at the earliest.’’
The airline group also says it is “active negotiations” with Boeing to cut the number of planned aircraft deliveries over the next 24 months.
NEW DELHI — India has registered another daily high in coronavirus cases, with nearly 2,000 recorded in the past 24 hours.
India’s Health Ministry said Friday the 1,993 new cases and 73 more deaths bring the country’s totals to 35,043 with 1,147 deaths.
The government is due to decide the future of its 40-day lockdown on Sunday. It allowed migrant workers and other stranded people to resume their journeys on Wednesday, as well as some shops to reopen and manufacturing and farming to resume.
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