The Latest: UN, Red Cross call for ‘people’s vaccine’
The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 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.
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement are urging governments, the private sector, international organizations and civil society to unite to scale up efforts to develop, test and produce “a people’s vaccine” against COVID-19 that is available to all people around the world.
They said in a joint statement Wednesday that COVID-19 affects people everywhere, with a disproportionately higher impact on vulnerable groups and individuals, and “the spirit of global solidarity must prevail: no one should be left behind.”
The U.N. and Red Cross and Red Crescent said “a people’s vaccine” should protect the affluent, the poor, the old and young, stressing that this is “a moral imperative that brings us all together in our shared humanity.”
Their appeal came ahead of Thursday’s global vaccine summit in London organized by the Global Vaccine Alliance, known as GAVI, which is seeking to mobilize billions of dollars of funding for a COVID-19 vaccine.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— The World Health Organization recommends that hydroxychloroquine clinical trials resume.
— U.S employment report for May will put the economic impact of the virus into stark relief.
— Italy has opened its borders, but many of its neighbors see the move as premature.
— Sweden’s chief epidemiologist acknowledges regrets over handling of pandemic.
— Wuhan has finished a mass testing effort of nearly all its 11 million people, resulting in 300 being put in isolation.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING TODAY:
LAS VEGAS — After 58 days of historic quiet, cards will be cut, dice will roll and jackpots can jingle again at 12:01 a.m. Thursday in casinos in Las Vegas and Nevada.
There will be big splashes — even amid ongoing protests over the death of a man in police custody in Minnesota that resulted in tear gas on the neon-lit Las Vegas Strip. There are big hopes for recovery from an unprecedented and expensive shutdown prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Officials are balancing health concerns against the economic loss of billions of dollars per month in gambling revenue and 475,000 newly unemployed workers.
LONDON — A senior member of the British government is being tested for the coronavirus after falling ill in the House of Commons.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma has been tested and is heading home to self-isolate after becoming unwell while delivering a speech on the Corporate Governance and Insolvency Bill, his office said.
Several senior officials and government ministers fell sick with COVID-19 in March and April — most seriously including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who spent three nights in intensive care at a London hospital.
Sharma was seen wiping his brow in Parliament on Wednesday, a day after lawmakers voted to end a system of remote voting that had allowed them to work from home during a nationwide lockdown.
The government said members of Parliament should be setting an example by returning to the office as the country gradually eases restrictions imposed to stem the outbreak. Social distancing measures have been introduced around the vast neo-Gothic building.
SKOPJE, North Macedonia — North Macedonia has reintroduced stringent movement restrictions in the capital Skopje and another three parts of the country, after registering a record number of new COVID-19 infections.
Health Minister Venko Filipce says an almost blanket curfew will be imposed from 9 p.m. Thursday till 5 a.m. on Monday in these areas. People will be allowed out to visit hospitals or pharmacies.
The health ministry said 101 new infections — a record since the country’s first case in late February — and four deaths were recorded in the previous 24 hours. That brings the total of infections to 2,492, with 145 deaths.
More than half the new infections were in Skopje.
Filipce said the tiny Balkan country of 2.1 million people is seeing new infections as a result of people ignoring warnings to wear protective masks and gloves, and to adhere to social distancing.
SALEM, Ore. – Oregon’s phase 2 coronavirus reopening plan will begin as early as Friday and includes loosening current restaurant restrictions, opening pools and expanding outdoor gatherings to 100 people.
Gov. Kate Brown on Wednesday discussed the next steps to ease restrictions from her stay-at-home directives.
Thus far, 20 counties in Oregon are under review by the governor’s office to enter phase 2. Under phase 2, gatherings will be increased to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. As of Tuesday, at least 157 people in Oregon have died from the coronavirus and more than 4,300 in the state have tested positive for the disease.
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations chief says the COVID-19 pandemic is hitting the most vulnerable people the hardest, especially millions of people on the move such as migrants and refugees forced to flee their homes because of violence or disasters.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a video message accompanying a policy briefing on Wednesday that refugees, displaced people and migrants “face three crises rolled into one.”
First, he said, they face a health crisis and the threat of becoming exposed to the coronavirus in crowded conditions where social distancing is “an impossible luxury.” Guterres said people on the move also face a socioeconomic crisis, especially those working in the informal economy without any social safety nets.
He says their third difficulty is “a protection crisis.” Guterres pointed to the more than 150 countries that have imposed border restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Guterres said fear of the virus has led “to skyrocketing xenophobia, racism and stigmatization” and greater risks of gender-based violence.
Despite these challenges, the U.N. chief said refugees and migrants “are contributing heroically on the front lines in essential work” during the pandemic. He noted that one in eight nurses globally work outside their home country.
NASHVILLE, Tennessee — A small county in the northwest corner of Tennessee is once again leading the U.S. in active coronavirus cases per capita after an outbreak at a state prison.
An analysis by The Associated Press on Wednesday shows Lake County, with a population of just over 7,500, has reported 352 new cases over the past seven days. Online records posted by the state showed Lake with 360 active cases on Wednesday morning.
Health Department spokesperson Shelley Walker said in an email that the high case count is attributable to an outbreak at the Northwest Correctional Complex there, although online records for the prison show only 230 inmates as positive for the virus.
Walker and a spokesperson for the Correction Department were not able to immediately explain the discrepancy.
Last month, Tennessee’s Trousdale County had the highest per-capita coronavirus infection rate in the U.S. and Bledsoe County had the fifth, according to an Associated Press analysis. In both counties, the high infection rates were attributable to their local prisons.
LARAMIE, Wyoming — University of Wyoming officials have drafted a plan to resume classes on campus with a modified schedule next school year.
Under the proposal, classes would begin Aug. 24 and end Dec. 4, but students wouldn’t return to campus after Thanksgiving. Courses would shift entirely online after Nov. 23. Final exams would be given remotely.
The Laramie Boomerang reports the spring semester would start Jan. 25, a week later than planned, and spring break would be eliminated. School officials say they want to discourage students from leaving school for periods when they could contract the coronavirus and bring it back to campus.
HARARE, Zimbabwe — A Zimbabwean judge has ordered the government to improve conditions at mandatory quarantine centers, where people returning to the country are kept for 21 days to confirm they are not carrying the coronavirus. The conditions are so bad that scores are escaping.
The southern African nation has reported more than 200 cases of coronavirus, with the majority recorded at the quarantine centers. More than 100 people have escaped from the centers, leading the health minister to describe them as “our source of danger.”
The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, which took the matter to court, described conditions at the centers as “deplorable” and putting “seriously at stake” the lives of people living there, health professionals and security agents enforcing the isolation.
People detained at the centers are forced to share “some few dirty ablution and bathing facilities while others have no access to medication,” said the association in its court application. Social distancing is nonexistent, the doctors said.
High Court Judge Philda Muzofa granted the application, and ordered Zimbabwe’s ministry of health to improve conditions by supplying running water and providing “segregated sanitary and hygienic conditions with proper control and protection.”
TALLAHASSEE, Florida — Florida bars, bowling alleys and theme parks will be part of the next phase of reopening the state in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday.
DeSantis made his announcement at Universal Parks and Resorts, which opened to passholders for Wednesday and Thursday, and will open to the public on Friday.
“Universal did a great job, had a great plan, and I think as you’ve seen, they’re taking safety very seriously to keep their guests safe,” DeSantis said.
Friday is also the day where Phase 2 of the reopening will begin, with bars allowed to open at 50% capacity with social distancing and sanitation.
“You’re seated to get served. People go, enjoy, have a drink, that’s fine, We want to kind of not have huge crowds piling in,” DeSantis said.
Phase 2 applies to 64 of Florida’s 67 counties. The hardest hit — Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach — will have to submit plans for the next step in their reopening.
Florida allowed restaurants and retail shops to open at 25% capacity on May 4 and expanded that later in the month.
Movie theaters, bowling alleys and pari-mutuel betting facilities also have a path to reopen if they submit a plan for social distancing and sanitizing, DeSantis said.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s health minister says Turkey and Russia have agreed to cooperate in the development of a coronavirus vaccine and plan to carry out joint clinical trials.
Fahrettin Koca said Wednesday that scientific advisers from both countries are scheduled to hold a second round of talks on the cooperation later this week.
A total of 22 Turkish universities and research are working to develop a vaccine and four of them have advanced to the animal testing stage, he said.
The minister also said that Turkey has seen the benefit of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and will continue to administer it to COVID-19 patients, despite concerns raised over the drug.
Koca said unlike other countries, Turkey has been administering the drug to treat COVID-19 patients at the early stage of the disease.
MADRID — Spanish lawmakers have voted to extend for two additional weeks the state of emergency that allows the government to restrict movement and other rights as part of its fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says Spain has “overcome the worst of the pandemic” and declared that he won’t seek further extensions beyond the end date of the special powers at midnight on June 21.
The extension was passed Wednesday with 177 votes in the 350-seat Congress of Deputies. There were 155 votes against it, while 18 lawmakers abstained.
Sánchez also said that a new government decree next week will set out procedures to handle any resurgence of the outbreak after most of the restrictions, first imposed on March 14, are lifted.
Spain has recorded 27,128 COVID-19 deaths and just over 240,000 confirmed infections.
MOSCOW — Russia’s second-largest city, St. Petersburg, says the number of deaths there in May was about one-third higher than the same month last year.
A city government website said there were 6,427 deaths in May; 4,875 deaths were reported in May 2019. It was not clear if the sharply higher death toll was connected to the coronavirus pandemic.
Russia’s national coronavirus taskforce says 230 deaths due to COVID-19 have been recorded in the city. Russia’s comparatively low COVID-19 mortality rate — 5215 deaths out of more than 432,000 infections — has prompted skepticism at home and abroad. Russian officials say the count contains only those confirmed to have died directly of the infection, not those who tested positive for the virus but died of other causes.
LONDON — After suspending the hydroxychloroquine arm of a clinical trial of experimental COVID-19 drugs, the director-general of the World Health Organization said experts had reviewed the safety data and were now recommending the trial continue as planned.
The recommendation means doctors will soon be able to resume giving the drug to patients enrolled in the U.N. health agency’s study.
Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday that the WHO’s safety monitoring committee for the global trial had now examined all available mortality data about hydroxychloroquine. Some studies had suggested that people who were taking the drug for COVID-19 had a higher chance of dying than those who were not.
Tedros said: “The members of the committee recommended that there are no reasons to modify the trial protocol.”
U.S. President Trump has said he is taking hydroxychloroquine even though he has not tested positive for the coronavirus; there are no studies that have proven the drug is effective against COVID-19.
Tedros said the executive group running the WHO’s trial endorsed the continuation of all arms of the trial, including hydroxychloroquine. Other treatments being tested, including remdesivir and an HIV combination therapy drug, were unaffected.
Tedros said that to date, more than 3,500 people have been recruited into the trial in 35 countries.
ISLAMABAD — Health officials say two more Pakistani lawmakers have died after testing positive for the coronavirus amid an alarming spike in infections.
Mian Jamshed Kakakhel, a member of a provincial assembly in the northwest, and Shaukat Manzoor Cheema, who was a member of the Punjab Assembly, both died on Wednesday.
Another two lawmakers with the virus died at different hospitals in Pakistan on Tuesday, and one died earlier.
Pakistan recorded its highest single-day increase in infections on Wednesday, when 4,131 new cases and 67 deaths were confirmed in 24 hours.
Information Minister Shibli Faraz held a televised news conference in which he didn’t wear mask.
Faraz said: “You need to hold an umbrella when it rains, otherwise you will get soaked. Similarly, if you want to avoid getting infected, you must take the necessary precautions.”
Critics accuse Prime Minister Imran Khan of easing virus restrictions last month when there was a need to enforce a stricter lockdown.
Pakistan has recorded a total of 80,463 confirmed cases and 1,688 deaths since February.
MADRID — Spain has recorded its first COVID-19 death in three days as the coronavirus outbreak recedes in what has been one of Europe’s hardest-hit countries.
The Spanish Health Ministry on Wednesday reported one death and 291 new confirmed cases over the previous 24 hours.
Fernando Simón, head of the country’s medical emergency response, said wider testing is detecting more cases of people who are asymptomatic than before.
He said of Spain’s number of deaths and infections: “The trend is downwards,.
ROME — The majority of Italy’s regions had no or only a handful of new confirmed coronavirus cases in 24 hours as people were allowed to resume travel throughout the nation and tourists from Europe were permitted into Italy.
The easing of lockdown restrictions on Wednesday reflects the government’s decision to start rebooting many sector, especially the devastated tourist industry.
According to Health Ministry data, Italy registered 321 confirmed virus cases in the 24-hour period ending Wednesday, for a total of 233,836 cases overall. Two-thirds of the new cases were in Lombardy, the northern region where Italy’s coronavirus outbreak erupted in February.
Italy’s death toll increased by 71 during the same day-to-day period, bringing the country’s known total during the pandemic to 33,601. Authorities acknowledge that many people who died in Italy these past months likely had coronavirus infections but weren’t tested.
DAKAR, Senegal — A nonprofit biomedical research institute in Senegal that has been working on a rapid coronavirus testing kit says a number of its personnel have tested positive for the virus, including one who died.
Pasteur Institute of Dakar Assistant Director Camille Abbey said Wednesday that the cases were confirmed at different times and that none of the staff members who tested positive worked as virologists.
Measures to prevent the spread of the virus remain in place at the institute.
The research institute’s director, Dr. Amadou Sall, said both staff members and scientific collaborators had tested positive.
Sall said in a statement last week that researchers and their family members “face the same life risk and reality constraints that all Senegalese people share … The virus does not spare anyone.”
He did not specify how many people affiliated with the institute. Media reports in Senegal suggested about five.
The West African nation has confirmed 3,932 cases and 45 deaths.
The Pasteur Institute of Dakar is working with biomedical company Mologic to create a rapid coronavirus test that will only cost $1. Trials are underway at an infectious disease testing facility.
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