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:
- South Korea reports 27 new virus cases, including 21 from Seoul
- Colombia to shut down Bogota neighborhood amid rising virus cases
- Greece won’t limit tourists but will do testing.
- Alaska to require COVID-19 testing for air travelers coming into the state.
- New York governor signs bill granting death benefits to families of health workers and other public servants who have died from COVID-19.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 27 new cases of the coronavirus, including 21 from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where officials have been scrambling to stem transmissions linked to club-goers and warehouse workers.
The figures announced by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday brought national totals to 11,468 cases and 270 deaths. Twelve of the new cases were linked to international arrivals.
South Korea was reporting about 500 new cases per day in early March but had seemed to stabilize its outbreak with aggressive tracking and tracing, which allowed authorities to ease social distancing guidelines.
But cases in the greater capital area have been rising steadily again since May amid increased public activity, causing alarm as millions of children have begun returning to schools.
On Saturday, KCDC senior official Kwon Jun-wook said at least 108 infections were linked to workers or visitors at a warehouse of local e-commerce giant Coupang, which has seen orders spike amid the epidemic.
Around 270 other infections have been linked to nightclubs and other entertainment venues, which saw huge crowds in early May amid the relaxed atmosphere on social distancing.
BOGOTA, Colombia - The mayor of Colombia’s capital is planning to shut down one of the city’s largest neighborhoods as cases there continue to rise.
Mayor Claudia Lopez said Saturday that starting June 1st the working-class Kennedy area – home to nearly 1.5 million people – will be under a strict quarantine.
Police and military will enforce the lockdown and no one will be allowed out, except to seek food or medical care or in case of an emergency.
Businesses like manufacturing that had been allowed to operate will be ordered closed. Lopez said that testing for the virus will be doubled.
The Kennedy area was inaugurated by late U.S. President John F. Kennedy, who visited Bogota in 1961 as part of the Alliance for Progress.
The area today has more nearly 2,500 cases and hospitals there are reaching maximum capacity.
Lopez said that in the rest of Bogota no new sectors of the economy will be allowed to reopen until at least the middle of June.
ATHENS - Greek officials said Saturday said that the country will not limit incoming tourists to those from a list of 29 nations, but travelers from countries not on the list will be subject to mandatory testing on arrival and a period of quarantine depending on test results.
The policy will only be applied during the final two weeks of June, although Greek authorities left open the prospect of additional restrictions after that date.
The list announced Friday includes Albania, Australia, Austria, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Estonia, Japan, Israel, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lebanon, New Zealand, Lithuania, Malta, Montenegro, Norway, South Korea, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Finland.
Arrivals from those countries will be tested randomly.
The list was drawn up based on a document from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy says travelers to Alaska will have to be tested for COVID-19 before boarding a plane to the state, or submit to a 14-day quarantine upon arrival.
Out-of-state travelers will need to show proof of testing within 72 hours of boarding and fill out paperwork. If either test results or paperwork are lost, travelers will be subjected to another test at the airport or quarantine for two weeks.
Dunleavy also extended the state’s 14-day quarantine rule until the new policy begins Friday.
Further policy changes are expected to be clarified Monday.
NEW YORK - New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill Saturday granting death benefits to the families of police officers, public health workers and other front-line workers who have died of the coronavirus.
The bill passed by state lawmakers provides an accidental death benefit that is more substantial than the regular death benefit that public workers’ families receive. Dozens of police officers, public health workers, transit workers and paramedics have died of COVID-19 in the months since New York became the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States.
Cuomo said 67 people died of COVID-19 in the state on Friday, the same number as Thursday and a steep drop from the height of New York’s outbreak in April, when more than 700 people were dying of the disease daily.
ISTANBUL - Disinfection teams swept Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar and the resumption of domestic flights was announced Saturday as Turkey prepared to lift many remaining coronavirus restrictions.
Teams scrubbed the floors of the 15th century bazaar, which has been closed since March 23, ahead of Monday’s return to business. The chair of the bazaar’s board of directors said shoppers would have their temperatures checked on entry and visitor numbers would be restricted.
The transport minister said the first air routes between Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Antalya and Trabzon would restart Monday, with others following gradually.
On Saturday evening Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced 983 new cases of coronavirus over the previous 24 hours, taking Turkey’s total number of cases to 163,103. In a tweet, he said there had been 26 deaths from the virus over the same period, bringing the overall death toll to 4,515.
A weekend lockdown was reimposed in 15 provinces, including Istanbul and Ankara. A stay-at-home order for people aged 65 and older and minors also remained in place.
ROME - Italy added 111 new victims to the country’s official death toll from the new coronavirus and 416 new infections as it prepares to relax travel restrictions next week.
The increases bring the official death toll to 33,340 and are in line with recent daily tallies, suggesting the contagion is under control nearly four weeks after the country began gingerly loosening a strict lockdown in what has been the epicenter of the European pandemic.
On Friday, the Health Ministry said the crucial weeklong, region-by-region monitoring had shown no critical problems, giving the go-ahead for relaxation on travel starting Wednesday.
Some regional governors, however, are insisting on restrictions for visitors from hard-hit Lombardy, or for tourists to certify they are negative. The regional affairs minister has said such measures are unconstitutional since the Italian constitution prevents any region from inhibiting the free circulation of people.
ATHENS - No new deaths from COVID-19 have been reported in the past 48 hours in Greece, and there have been just seven new infections since Friday afternoon, health authorities said Saturday.
The total number of confirmed infections is now 2,915, with 175 fatalities.
There are 14 patients on ventilators, while 106 have exited intensive care units.
Authorities have tested 178,316 people for the new coronavirus.
BUCHAREST, Romania - Romania’s prime minister has paid fines totaling about $600 for smoking indoors and holding a meeting in a government building where several Cabinet ministers and other participants did not follow social distancing rules.
In a photograph published in Romanian media, Prime Minister Ludovic Orban and others can be seen smoking with food and bottles of alcohol on a table. No one in the photo wore a mask or maintained the required spacing.
Orban told the Mediafax news agency that the picture was taken on May 25, his birthday. The foreign minister and economy minister of Romania were among those attending.
Romania has registered 19,133 confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,259 deaths.
SKOPJE, North Macedonia - North Macedonia has decided to extend a state of emergency for another two weeks because the coronavirus pandemic shows no sign of slowing down.
President Stevo Pendarovski announced the extension of on Saturday following a meeting of the National Security Council.
The country’s health authorities reported five new deaths and 35 infections in the previous 24 hours, days after the government allowed bars, cafes and restaurants to reopen.
The government does not plan to make the establishments close again.
North Macedonia had a total of 2,146 confirmed virus cases as of Saturday, including 131 deaths.
VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis is reciting a special prayer for the end of the coronavirus pandemic surrounded by a representative sampling of people on the front lines.
Francis held his biggest post-lockdown gathering by far on Saturday evening. He was joined in the Vatican Gardens by a doctor, a nurse, a hospital chaplain, a pharmacist, a journalist and a civil protection official.
A recovered COVID-19 patient, a person with a relative who died during Italy’s outbreak, and the parents of a baby born during the emergency also were among the pope’s more than 100 guests for the prayer at the grotto dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
In March, the Vatican followed Italy in locking down and halting all public worship. Many in the crowd on Saturday wore protective masks; Francis didn’t.
The Marian prayer is celebrated each year at the end of the Catholic Church’s monthlong tribute to Mary in May. This year, the Vatican said the pope’s recitation of the Rosary was being done simultaneously at more than 40 Marian shrines around the world.
NEW DELHI - India is extending its ongoing lockdown in designated coronavirus containment zones until June 30 but will allow all economic activities to restart in a phased manner outside those areas as cases continue to rise in its major cities.
India’s Home Ministry said in a directive issued Saturday that a reopening phase set to start Monday is called Unlock 1.
The directive said religious sites and places of worship, hotels, restaurants and other hospitality services and shopping malls will be allowed to reopen outside all containment zones starting June 8.
Subways, schools and colleges will remain shuttered nationwide and only be allowed to reopen after further assessment of the situation in July, according to the directive.
India started easing lockdown restrictions earlier this month, allowing shops to reopen, manufacturing to resume, some trains and domestic flights to operate.
The country, which has a population of 1.3 billion, has reported 173,763 confirmed virus cases, including more than 4,970 deaths.
PARIS - The European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has urged the United States to “reconsider” its decision to break ties with the World Health Organization.
In a joint statement Vice-President Josep Borrell, von der Leyen says “global cooperation and solidarity through multilateral efforts are the only effective and viable avenues to win this battle the world is facing.”
She says the American decision to part ways with the United Nations health agency during the coronavirus crisis will “weaken international results” in fighting future pandemics.
Von der Leyen adds the European Union has already provided additional WHO funding.
For the WHO, to lead an international response in health emergencies, “the participation and support of all is required and very much needed.”
ROME - Italy’s foreign minister is warning that the European Union will “collapse” if governments treat Italians like lepers over the coronavirus and “black list” Europe’s one-time virus epicenter during the summer tourism season.
Luigi Di Maio posted a blistering Facebook message Saturday after Greece excluded Italians - as well as nationals from Spain, Britain and other countries with high infection rates - from the list of foreign tourists it will welcome this summer.
Di Maio said competition for tourism is one thing, but he insisted that it be healthy and fair in demanding a European response to the reopening of EU borders after virus lockdowns. He warned: “If you act differently and dislocated, the EU spirit will be lost. And Europe will collapse.”
Di Maio praised French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian for making his first post-lockdown visit to Italy on Wednesday. Di Maio said he would be traveling to Germany, Slovenia and Greece in the upcoming week to make the case that Italy is ready to receive foreign tourists. Tourism and its related industries account for some 13% of Italy’s GDP.
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Students are returning to high schools in the Palestinian territories for the first time in two months for final exams.
The Education Ministry said Saturday that 78,400 12th-graders are taking the exams in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Schools have been closed since March as part of Palestinian efforts to contain the coronavirus.
In Gaza, police and paramedics took students’ temperatures as they entered, and the students sat spaced apart in classrooms.
The Palestinian Authority, which governs parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, has reported more than 380 confirmed cases of the virus, including two deaths.
Authorities have reported 61 cases and one death in Gaza, which has been under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power in 2007. All the cases in Gaza have been detected inside quarantine facilities housing returnees from abroad.
MOSCOW - Russia has recorded nearly 9,000 new cases of the coronavirus, roughly consistent with the increases reported over the past two weeks.
The national coronavirus task force said Saturday that 4,555 Russians have died of COVID-19 and 396,575 infections have been confirmed overall.
The relatively low mortality rate compared with other countries has prompted skepticism domestically and abroad. In a bid to dispel suspicions that authorities are trying to lower the death toll for political reasons, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova explained Friday that Russia’s count contains only those confirmed to have died of the infection, but she also gave figures for people who tested positive for the virus but died of other causes.
If all categories are counted as COVID-19 deaths, the nation’s total toll for April would stand at 2,713, or nearly 60% more than the previously announced number.
CAIRO - Egypt on Saturday ordered its people to wear face masks in public, when taking private transportation, and inside government offices as it eases the partial lockdown imposed during the weeklong Muslim holiday of Eid- el-Fitr.
Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly said violators will be fined. He said the nationwide curfew will be 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. for another two weeks.
Egypt, the Arab World’s most populous country, has seen a jump of daily reported infections in the past week, with a total of 879 deaths among 22,082 confirmed cases. The country of 100 million people has the highest announced deaths from COVID-19 in the Arab World.
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