The Latest: Slight increase in hospitalizations in France

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:

— Hospitalizations in France because of the virus rose slightly.

— Italy has 531 new infections in the past 24 hours.

— UK leader Boris Johnson stands by aide over 250-mile lockdown trip.

— Task force coordinator warns about lack of social distancing.

— U.S. likely to ban travel from hard-hit Brazil.

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PARIS — The number of people hospitalized with the virus in France rose slightly Sunday, the first daily increase since mid-April when France’s infections peaked.

The rise — from 17,178 people hospitalized Saturday to 17,185 Sunday — comes almost two weeks after France started gradually relaxing its confinement measures.

The number of people in intensive care with the virus dropped again Sunday for the 46th consecutive day to 1,655, down from more than 7,000 in mid-April.

The figures were released by the national health agency DGS, which did not release an updated death toll Sunday.

France is one of the hardest-hit nations by the virus, with some 28,000 deaths in hospitals and nursing homes.

Protests are planned Monday at nursing homes accused of mishandling the virus crisis.

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MILAN — The number of confirmed new infections in Italy rose by just 531 in the past 24 hours, with half in the populous northern region of Lombardy that has borne the brunt of Italy’s epidemic.

The civil protection agency on Sunday reported just 50 deaths but officials said that Lombardy had not updated its toll.

More than half of Italy’s regions reported new cases in the single digits — with the caveat that tests are being administered only to those who are hospitalized, have symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who is positive for the virus.

The number of people in intensive care dropped to 553.

Italy is in the first full week of loosened restrictions, with bars and restaurants open as well as beaches and parks.

Mayors in many cities have complained about nightlife spilling out into streets and piazzas with many showing a casual attitude toward physical distancing and lax mask habits.

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LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is standing by his top aide, who is accused of breaking lockdown rules by traveling 250 miles (400 km) to his parents’ house while coming down with COVID-19.

Johnson told a news conference that Dominic Cummings acted “responsibly, legally and with integrity.”

Cummings made the cross-country trip in late March, after the government imposed a lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus, telling people to stay home and not visit anyone outside their household. Cummings says he was seeking to ensure his 4-year-old son would be cared for if he and his wife both became ill.

Several lawmakers from Johnson’s Conservative Party have joined opposition politicians in calling for his resignation.

But Johnson defended the aide who masterminded both Brexit and the prime minister’s December election victory. He said Cummings “followed the instincts of every father and every parent and I do not mark him down for that.”

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MADRID — Spain is preparing to reopen some of its beaches for sunbathing on Monday, when restaurants and bars in Madrid and Barcelona will serve clients at outdoor seating as the country relaxes its virus lockdown.

On Monday, customers will be able to occupy 50% of the space assigned for outdoor seating at restaurants and bars in the Spanish capital and Barcelona.

The two cities are the hardest hit areas by the pandemic in Spain, accounting for more than 15,00 of the nation’s 28,752 confirmed deaths from COVID-19.

Travel between provinces will remained prohibited until late June and international tourists won’t be allowed to come until July.

Spain reported an eighth straight day with fewer than 100 confirmed deaths from the virus on Sunday, when health authorities said 70 people had died in the past 24 hours. At the height of the outbreak in early March more than 900 Spaniards died a day.

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CAIRO — Egypt’s health ministry Sunday reported 29 new deaths from COVID-19, taking the tally in the Arab world’s most populous country to 764 fatalities since the first confirmed case of coronavirus detected in February.

The ministry said in a statement that there were 752 new infections in the past 24 hours. It said the total infections climbed to 17,265. Similar to other countries in the world, officials and experts believe that the true number of infections is much higher than reported.

The ministry said a total of 4,807 patients were recovered and discharged from quarantine.

The Egyptian government has tightened restrictions during the Eid al-Fitry, which is marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, traditionally a time of gathering and family visits.

It said that during the week-long holiday, which started Sunday, a nighttime curfew will be in place from 5 p.m. until 6 a.m. All public and private transportation will be also be halted until May 29. Schools, mosques, churches, parks and beaches are also closed.

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JOHANNESBURG — South Africa is further loosening its lockdown starting June 1, allowing most sectors of the economy to return to activity.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced the news during a national address while warning that coronavirus cases “have now started to rise sharply.”

One-third of the country’s more than 22,000 cases have been recorded in the past week, and “the risk of a massive increase in infection is now greater than ever.”

Economic pain for millions, however, has been a pressure to allow more business to resume. Schools will resume for two grades, 7 and 12.

Alcohol sales will resume on specified days and times, but cigarette sales remain banned. People can exercise at any time. Shops will be fully open but restaurants will be pick-up or delivery only.

National borders will remain closed except for shipments of goods. Gatherings remain prohibited except for funerals and work meetings with no more than 50 people.

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PODGORICA, Montenegro — Montenegrin health authorities say the Balkan country has no reported cases of the new coronavirus at the moment.

The Public Health Institute said Sunday that all of the 140 tests in the past 24 hours were negative and that there are no people currently sick with the virus.

The first case of infection in Montenegro was recorded 68 days ago. The Balkan country of some 620,000 people then imposed strict lockdown measures to curb the outbreak.

A total of 324 cases have been recorded while nine people have died.

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ISTANBUL — Turkey’s health minister announced 32 new deaths from COVID-19, bringing the total to 4,340.

Fahrettin Koca also tweeted Sunday there were 1,141 new infections confirmed in the past 24 hours. The total number of infections has reached 156,827. Turkey ranks ninth in a global tally by Johns Hopkins University but experts believe the number of infections could be much higher than reported.

More than 118,000 people have recovered, according to the health ministry statistics.

The Muslim holiday marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan was marked by a nationwide lockdown, the first of its kind in Turkey to combat the novel coronavirus. Previous weekend and holiday lockdowns affected a maximum of 31 out of 81 provinces.

Senior citizens above 65 were allowed out for a few hours for a third Sunday. People under 20 and above 65 have been under full lockdown but days and times outside have been allotted according to age groups as part of easing efforts.

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WASHINGTON — White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx says she’s “very concerned” that people going outdoors for the Memorial Day weekend aren’t maintaining 6 feet of social distancing.

She was responding to reports showing people crowding at beaches.

Noting that people with no symptoms could unwittingly spread the coronavirus, Birx said people need to wear masks in public if they don’t socially distance because “you don’t know who’s infected.”

As states loosen stay-at-home orders, Birx also declined to say whether the country may need to close down again if the U.S. is hit by a second wave of infections in the fall. President Donald Trump insisted last week “we are not closing” again.

On Sunday, Birx said: “We’re trying to understand during this period of coming out of the closure: How do we maintain openness and safety? And I think that’s what we’re going to be learning through May, June and July.”

She spoke on “Fox News Sunday” and ABC’s “This Week.”

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. government is expected to announce a ban on travel from Brazil due to the spread of coronavirus in Latin America’s hardest-hit country.

National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien says the U.S. wants to take “every step necessary” to protect the American people.

President Donald Trump already has banned travel from the United Kingdom, Europe and China, all of which have been hit hard by the virus. On Wednesday, Trump said he was considering barring entry to flights from Brazil.

O’Brien said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that he expects any ban would be temporary.

Brazil reported more than 347,000 COVID-19 cases as of Friday, second behind the U.S. in the number of infections, according to a Johns Hopkins University count.

Brazil also has recorded more than 22,000 deaths, fifth-most in the world. There have been more than 96,000 U.S. deaths.

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CHEYENNE, Wyo. — As Yellowstone and other national parks end a two-month shutdown because of the coronavirus, park officials want visitors to take precautions, such as washing their hands, keeping a safe distance from other people and wearing masks in public.

It’s unclear whether tourists who often disobey park rules will comply. If not, popular national parks known for drawing shoulder-to-shoulder summer crowds could become the next U.S. hot spots.

Park officials say the plan is to let folks guard themselves against COVID-19, just as they do for the usual national park dangers that range from altitude sickness to grizzly bears.

Other national parks that have reopened include Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina, where park officials urge visitors to arrive early at popular spots.

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RIO DE JANEIRO — One of the architects of Brazil’s battle against the coronavirus pandemic has resigned.

The departure of epidemiologist Wanderson de Oliveira adds to turmoil in a Health Ministry whose recommendations for restrictions to limit the disease have often clashed with President Jair Bolsonaro’s calls to open the economy.

De Oliveira said he would leave his post on Monday. He had initially offered his resignation last month, but stayed on at the request of then-Minister Luiz Mandetta, who shortly afterward was fired by Bolsonaro.

Mandetta’s replacement, Nelson Teich, resigned on May 15 after less than a month on the job and on Saturday declined a request to serve as adviser to the new minister, Army Gen. Eduardo Pazuello.

De Oliveira had been one of the public faces of the campaign against the pandemic, presenting statistics and recommendations at daily news conferences.

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CIUDAD VICTORIA, Mexico — Officials in a Mexican border city are tightening checks on travelers coming from Texas, saying they fear U.S. visitors may be helping feed a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Municipal and state officials in Matamoros, together with Mexico’s National Guard began setting up checkpoints Saturday at the three border crossings to question U.S. citizens and residents coming from Brownsville, Texas.

City official Jorge Mora Solaldine said only one person will be allowed per vehicle and people will have to prove they have essential business, such as work or medical care.

At least 180 people were turned back at a single point on Saturday, according to city officials.

Mexico and the U.S. announced in March that they were closing the border to non-essential business, but enforcement has been spotty in some places and there were few if any checks on those coming into Matamoros. Commercial traffic, critical to the economy on both sides of the border, has continued on a large scale.

The municipality of Matamoros, with a population of roughly 500,000, has reported 323 confirmed infections of the new coronavirus and 29 deaths, while Cameron County on the other side of the border has recorded about 700 cases and 32 deaths among its roughly 420,000 people.

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VATICAN CITY — Well-spaced faithful have gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the first time in months for the traditional Sunday papal blessing.

They cast their gaze at the window where the pope normally addresses the faithful.

Pope Francis has been delivering the blessing from inside the Apostolic library during the epidemic.

Francis recalled his scheduled visit on Sunday to the Naples area to draw attention to environmental damage caused by toxic-waste dumping by the mob.

The visit — canceled during the pandemic — was timed to mark the fifth anniversary of his ecological manifesto, and the pope announced a year of reflection on his 2015 environmental encyclical, ‘’Praised Be.’’

Francis came to the window and waved to the people in the piazza at the end of the blessing.

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Categories: National News