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:
— Officials to keep watchful eye as restrictions easing in most of Australia
— South Korea reports 27 new virus cases, including 21 from Seoul
— Colombia to shut down Bogota neighbourhood amid rising virus cases
— Greece won’t limit tourists but will do testing.
— Alaska to require COVID-19 testing for air travellers coming into the state.
COVID-19 restrictions are easing in most of Australia, but authorities say they’ll be watching carefully to ensure the country’s success in containing the pandemic remains on track.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth says the lifting of restrictions is a balancing act between the socio-economic benefit from their removal and the public health risk.
“We’re taking a deliberately safe and cautious approach,” Coatsworth said. “Most importantly we’re taking the time to gather the data over the coming weeks to determine whether it’s safe to move to the next round of lifting restrictions.”
Coronavirus cases remain low in Australia by international standards, with 7,180 infections and 103 deaths.
The more flexible restrictions, which differ across the states, will mean more movement in public places, including pubs, cafes, and restaurants. But authorities have renewed their call for safe hygiene and social distancing measures to remain.
NEW DELHI, India — India has recorded more than 8,000 new cases of the coronavirus in a single day for the first time as the infection tally surged to 182,143.
The death toll climbed to 5,164 after 193 fatalities were recorded in the last 24 hours, according to the health ministry data. This week has been the deadliest in India, with cases of infections and deaths reaching a new high almost every day.
Overall, more than 60% of the country’s virus fatalities have been reported from only two states — Maharashtra, the financial hub of India, and Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The new cases of infections are also largely concentrated in six Indian states, including the national capital New Delhi.
Public health experts have criticized the Modi government’s handling of the outbreak. A joint statement by the Indian Public Health Association, Indian Association of Preventive and Social Medicine and Indian Association of Epidemiologists, which was submitted to Modi’s office on May 25, said it was “unrealistic” to eliminate the virus at a time when “community transmission is already well-established.”
India has denied of any community transmission of the virus even though new cases have continued to mount significantly.
The health experts said that the infections were rising exponentially despite India’s “draconian lockdown” which began on March 25. The restrictions have slowly been relaxed in the months since with the government announcing on Saturday a phased ‘Unlock 1’ plan from June onwards which allows more economic activities to restart.
The restrictions in so-called containment zones — areas that have been isolated due to coronavirus outbreaks — will, however, remain through June 30.
Experts warn that the pandemic is yet to peak in India.
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 neighbourhoods 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 travellers 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 travellers 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 travellers will need to show proof of testing within 72 hours of boarding and fill out paperwork. If either test results or paperwork are lost, travellers 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 totalling 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.
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The Associated Press