The Latest: WHO renews praise for China in response to virus

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:

— World Health Organization officials renew praise for China in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

— World Health Organization said that it will temporarily drop hydroxychloroquine from its global study into experimental COVID-19 treatments.

— Missouri health director issues warning after revelers seen at lake.

— British PM’s aide says he did nothing wrong with long drive during lockdown.

— Japan’s prime minister says vaccines, treatments are priorities for Olympics.

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GENEVA — World Health Organization officials have renewed praise for China in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, citing its “openness” to the prospect of scientific inquiries involving foreign experts into the origins of the novel coronavirus.

Dr. Michael Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies chief, pointed to “day-to-day” discussions with colleagues in China. He said the U.N. health agency and many governments are eager to understand the animal origins of the virus, “and I am very pleased to hear a very consistent message coming from China, which is one of openness to such an approach.”

U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized the WHO leadership, once calling it a “pipe organ” for China in the handling of the outbreak. He has also pointed to unspecified intelligence suggesting the virus originated in a lab in the Chinese city of Wuhan, a claim denied by lab officials.

At a Geneva news conference Monday, Ryan said he didn’t believe a date had been set for an international mission to be sent to China to explore the origin of the virus, “but we look forward to doing that as soon as possible.”

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted an agreement with China was struck in February into having international experts visit the country. That has not happened yet.

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MADRID — In a surprise announcement, Spain has corrected its official death toll from COVID-19, saying that almost 2,000 fewer people than previously thought have died from the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

A Health Ministry statement Monday said the death toll stands at 26,834 — down from the death toll published a day earlier of 28,752.

Fernando Simón, the director of Spain’s health alerts and emergency center, said the discrepancy was detected as officials sifted through and corrected data collected since the pandemic reached Spain.

Officials have deleted deaths counted twice and deceased people who were not cases confirmed by tests, for example. The quality of data being gathered has improved considerably, he said, adding that automated data collection had introduced errors.

However, the figures do not include the thousands of people who are believed to have died, especially in nursing homes, with symptoms attributable to the coronavirus, though unconfirmed.

Spanish regions have reported that the number of deaths in nursing homes, of both confirmed and suspected coronavirus cases, is close to 19,000.

The Health Ministry said 50 people died Monday, one of the lowest daily tolls in weeks.

Spain has officially recorded 235,400 cases, 246 of them new.

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New Yorkers are marking Memorial Day with car convoys and small ceremonies instead of big parades as the coronavirus reshaped the solemn holiday, blending tributes to virus victims and frontline workers with the traditional remembrance of the nation’s war dead.

In a year that marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, veterans wore masks and saluted Monday while standing at social-distancing intervals at observances shrunk by virus precautions.

At the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in Manhattan, Gov. Andrew Cuomo honored both veterans and essential workers on a Memorial Day he called “especially poignant and powerful.”

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Authorities in Argentina erected barriers to control entry into an impoverished neighborhood on the outskirts of Buenos Aires on Monday after growing alarm at a rash of more than 50 apparent COVID-19 cases there.

Barriers were placed around Villa Azul and an emergency committee of health and security services set up checkpoints to monitor those entering or leaving. Officials also set up: two distribution centers for food and other essential supplies.

Some residents of the area had complained that neighbors had been gathering to play soccer for hours at a time on a small field.

Argentina has registered 11,620 confirmed infections of the new coronavirus and 456 deaths. The overwhelming majority are in the greater Buenos Aires area.

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BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovak citizens will be allowed to travel to eight countries, and not to face a mandatory quarantine and tests for the coronavirus if they return in 48 hours.

Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic says the move will become effective on Wednesday.

Those countries include the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, Germany and Switzerland.

Previously, the Slovaks had to return in 24 hours if they traveled to those countries.

Matovic said Monday that Slovakia has been negotiating with those countries reciprocal deals to enable the Slovaks travel there without a negative test on the coronavirus or get quarantined and the citizens of the eight countries would also be able to travel to Slovakia without restrictions.

The first such deal between Slovakia and the neighboring Czech Republic becomes effective on Wednesday, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said.

Slovakia has only a total of 1,511 positive cases while 28 people died of COVID-19.

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ISTANBUL — Turkey’s health minister announced 29 new deaths from COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 4,369.

Fahrettin Koca also tweeted Monday 987 new infections were confirmed in the past 24 hours.

The total number of infections has reached 157,814.

More than 120,000 people have recovered and people needing intensive care continued on a downward trend, according to the health ministry statistics. The ministry has said its treatment protocol includes the early use of antivirals hydroxychloroquin and favipiravir, as well as the antibiotic azithromycin, along with high frequency oxygen.

Turkey ranks ninth in a tally by Johns Hopkins University, but experts believe the number of infections globally could be much higher than reported.

Turkey’s 83 million citizens are on the third day of a four-day nationwide lockdown.

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LONDON — The World Health Organization said that it will temporarily drop hydroxychloroquine — the malaria drug U.S. President Trump said he is taking — from its global study into experimental COVID-19 treatments, saying that its experts need to review all available evidence to date.

In a news briefing on Monday, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that in light of a paper published last week in the Lancet, that showed people taking hydroxychloroquine were at higher risk of death and heart problems than those that were not, there would be “a temporary pause” on the hydroxychloroquine arm of its global clinical trial.

“This concern relates to the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine in COVID-19,” Tedros said, adding that the drugs are accepted treatments for people with malaria or auto-immune diseases.

Other treatments in the study, including the experimental drug remdesivir and an HIV combination therapy, are still being pursued.

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MILAN — The number of confirmed new cases of coronavirus in Italy jumped by just 300 in the past 24 hours while deaths rose by 92, according to new figures by the civil protection agency on Monday.

Only hard-hit Lombardy, the epicenter of Italy’s epidemic, reported new cases in the triple digits, but significantly lower than recent days at 148, and with just 34 deaths. Five regions had no new cases at all.

The numbers of confirmed cases in Italy are believed to be a fraction of the actual, as the testing regime covers only those hospitalized, those who show severe symptoms or those who have been in contact with someone who tested positive.

The number of known people currently positive is 55,300. It will be at least another week until it is seen if Italy’s easing of the lockdown — with restaurants, bars and shops open now for the second week — will provoke any new outbreaks.

Mayors in many major cities have complained of lax distancing practices and mask habits among people indulging in their newly reclaimed freedoms.

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BALTIMORE — President Donald Trump is mourning America’s fallen service members and noting that Memorial Day this year is different from years past.

Marking the holiday at Baltimore’s historic Fort McHenry, Trump notes that tens of thousands of service members and national guard personnel are currently “on the frontlines of our war against this terrible virus.”

The U.S. leads the world with more than 1.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases and is approaching 100,000 deaths.

Trump says brave warriors from the nation’s past have shown that “in America, we are the captains of our own fate.”

Fort McHenry is where a poem written during the War of 1812 became “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The fort is closed to the public because of the pandemic.

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O’FALLON, Mo. — Missouri’s health director issued a dire warning Monday after photos and video showed Memorial Day weekend revelers partying close together.

One video on social media showed a crammed pool at Lake of the Ozarks, with people lounging and playing close together, without masks.

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Director Randall Williams said in a statement that behavior like what was seen at the lake could have “long-lasting and tragic” results.

The lake draws people from as far away as Arkansas and Iowa. It’s also an especially popular spot for travelers from St. Louis city and county, which combined account for more than half of Missouri’s 11,988 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and more than two-thirds of the 681 deaths.

Bars, restaurants and hotels at Lake of the Ozarks also had big crowds, and they weren’t alone. In Hannibal, Mark Twain’s hometown and a popular regional tourist attraction, people could be seen sitting shoulder-to-shoulder inside and out at downtown bars and restaurants over the weekend.

Republican Gov. Mike Parson allowed Missouri businesses and attractions to reopen May 4, but the state order requires 6-foot social distancing through at least the end of May. The order leaves it up to local and state health officials to enforce social distancing. It wasn’t immediately clear if Camden County, the lake county that draws the biggest crowds, planned any action.

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LONDON — U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s aide Dominic Cummings says he was in an “exceptional situation” and broke no rules when he drove 250 miles (400 km) to his parents’ house during a nationwide lockdown.

In an exceptionally rare televised statement, Cummings gave a detailed account of his movements in late March and early April, which have caused an intense political storm.

Cummings said he traveled so that extended family could care for his 4-year-old son if he and his wife, who were infected with the coronavirus, both fell ill.

His trip came after the government imposed a strict “stay home” order, and Cummings is being accused of flouting the rules he helped impose on the rest of the country.

Cummings insisted that “the rules … allowed me to exercise my judgment.”

He said “I don’t regret what I did,” though he acknowledged that “reasonable people” might disagree with his actions.

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TOKYO — Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday said the swift development of vaccines and effective treatments for COVID-19 are priorities towards achieving the Tokyo Olympics next year.

Abe said recovery from the coronavirus pandemic only in Japan would not be enough to hold the Games, because it involves spectators and athletes from around the world.

Abe reiterated that the government hopes to hold the Tokyo Games “in a complete form” — with spectators — as a proof of human victory against the coronavirus.

In late March, when the coronavirus became a global pandemic, Japan and the International Olympic Committee agreed to postpone the Games by one year to July 2021.

Experts say developing an effective and safe vaccine by the Games next year would be difficult. Abe acknowledged Monday that the fight against the virus “would be an endurance battle.”

Abe made the remark at a news conference Monday as he declared an end to a state of emergency across the nation.

Japan, with about 16,600 confirmed cases and about 850 deaths, has so far avoided a large outbreak like those experienced in the U.S. and the Europe despite its softer restrictions.

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BEIJING — The Chinese city of Wuhan has conducted more than 6.5 million coronavirus tests over a 10-day period in a bid to test all its 11 million residents, state media said Monday.

The city’s health commission, in a post on its website, asked anyone who hasn’t been tested to come forward by the end of Tuesday.

No new COVID-19 cases have been reported since the 10-day campaign started, though some people with no symptoms tested positive. More than 3 million people had been tested prior to the campaign, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The campaign was launched after a cluster of six cases was discovered in one residential compound. Wuhan, where the global pandemic is believed to have started late last year, was by far the city hit hardest in China.

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RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinian prime minister says the West Bank will reopen on Tuesday after a dramatic slowdown in the spread of the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said shops, restaurants and mosques and churches would reopen on Tuesday, while government offices would reopen on Wednesday following the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

The Palestinian Authority, which administers autonomous areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, imposed a strict lockdown in March.

The Palestinians reported 368 cases of COVID-19 in the West Bank, with two deaths.

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TOKYO — Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says his government will compile a fresh stimulus package worth about 100 trillion yen ($930 billion) to provide financial support for companies hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Abe unveiled the new stimulus at a news conference Monday as he declared an end to a coronavirus state of emergency across the nation, as he removed the measure in five remaining prefectures including Tokyo.

Abe said a Cabinet approval of funding for the additional stimulus package is expected later this week.

The package would bring the amount of spending to more than 200 trillion yen ($1.9 trillion), he said. The government earlier compiled a 117 trillion yen stimulus package.

Japan, with about 16,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and about 850 deaths, has so far avoided a large outbreak like those experienced in the U.S. and the Europe despite its softer restrictions.

But the world’s third-largest economy is fallen into a recession, and public discontent over Abe’s handling of the coronavirus has sent his support ratings tumbling.

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Categories: National News