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:
— Romania’s prime minister fined over social-distancing lapse at meeting
— Pope welcomes more than 100 guests to Vatican prayer service.
— India extends lockdown in some areas, letting others reopen in phases.
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.
BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel will not personally attend a meeting in the U.S. with the leaders of the world’s major economies if President Donald Trump goes ahead with it, unless the course of the coronavirus spread changes by then, her office said Saturday.
After canceling the Group of Seven summit, originally scheduled for June 10-12 at Camp David, Trump said a week ago that he was again considering hosting an in-person meeting of world leaders because it would be a “great sign to all” of things returning to normal during the pandemic.
Immediately after that announcement, Merkel suggested that she had not yet made up her mind on whether to attend in person or by video conference, but her office told the dpa news agency that she has now made a decision.
“As of today, given the overall pandemic situation, she cannot commit to participating in person,” Merkel’s office said.
ISLAMABAD — Even as Pakistan recorded its single highest overnight death toll of 78 and its numbers of COVID-19 confirmed cases soared passed 66,000, the country’s Civil Aviation Authority announced international flights can resume in and out of Pakistan.
As of Saturday Pakistan had recorded 1,395 deaths from COVID-19 since mid March and daily counts of new cases showed a daily jump of nearly 2,500.
Still Pakistan has eased most of its lock-down measures and earlier this month the Supreme Court even ordered shopping malls to open. Despite pleas from the country’s medical profession, and dire warnings of more deaths from the spread of the coronavirus,
Prime Minister Imran Khan refused to close down mosques, bowing to Pakistan’s radical religious leaders, who threatened violent protests if mosques were closed. Pakistan has barely 3,000 intensive care beds throughout the country of 220 million people, who have paid little to no attention to government directions to social distance. Domestic flights resumed earlier this month.
NEW DELHI — India has registered another record single day jump of 7,964 coronavirus cases and 265 deaths, a day before the two-month-old lockdown across the country of 1.3 billion people is set to end.
The Health Ministry on Saturday put the total number of cases in India at 173,763 with 4,971 deaths. The total infections included 86,422 active cases and 82,369 recoveries.
More than 70% of coronavirus cases in India are concentrated in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, New Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan states.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an open letter on one year of the government’s second term, asserted that India was traversing on the path to “victory” in its battle against the virus. He said India will set “an example in economic revival” and asked the countrymen to show a “firm resolve.”
Modi also acknowledged the “tremendous suffering” of migrant workers and laborers who were the worse hit after India imposed a nationwide coronavirus lockdown in late March, forcing millions of them to flee cities after losing their jobs and make grueling and dangerous trips back to their hometowns.
The federal government is expected to issue a new set of guidelines this weekend, possibly extending the lockdown in worst-hit areas.
India started easing lockdown restrictions earlier this month, allowing reopening of shops and manufacturing and resumption of some trains and domestic flights and vehicles’ movement.
Metro services, schools and colleges, hotels and restaurants are shuttered nationwide.
India has surpassed China both in terms of confirmed cases and deaths from the disease.
BEIJING — Around 400 German managers, workers and family members have begun returning to China aboard charter flights as multinational companies in the world’s second-largest economy seek to get their operations running again at full speed.
A pair of flights from Frankfurt to the Chinese business hubs of Tianjin and Shanghai were organized by the German Chamber of Commerce in China in cooperation with Germany’s diplomatic missions and airline Lufthansa and are the first repatriation flights from Europe to China for foreign nationals. China has largely banned all foreigners from entering China because of the coronavirus outbreak.
“This is an important step to reconnect China’s and Germany’s economies,” Jens Hildebrandt, executive director of the German Chamber of Commerce in North China, was quoted as saying in a news release. “It is our common interest to contribute in helping the economy return to normalcy and pre-virus levels.” More than 5,200 German companies operate in China, employing more than 1 million people. “We know there is a huge demand in the German business community to get more foreign employees back to China,” Hildebrandt was quoted as saying.
The first flight with 200 passengers was due to arrive shortly before noon on Saturday in Tianjin, a port city just east of the capital Beijing. Another flight to Shanghai. The second flight was expected to arrive in Shanghai around midday on Thursday, June 4.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea reported 39 new cases of the coronavirus, most of them in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where officials have found more than a hundred infections linked to warehouse workers.
Figures from South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday brought national totals to 11,441 cases and 269 deaths. At least 12 of the new cases were linked to international arrivals.
KCDC director Jeong Eun-kyeong said during a virus briefing Friday afternoon that at least 102 infections have been linked to workers at a massive warehouse operated by Coupang, a local e-commerce giant that has seen orders spike during the epidemic.
The company has been criticized for failing to implement proper preventive measures and enforce distance between employees, with virus discovered on the safety helmets, laptops, keyboards and other equipment they share.
Health workers have also found at least 266 infections linked to nightclubs and other entertainment venues in the Seoul metropolitan area, which saw huge crowds in early May as officials eased social distancing guidelines.
The resurgence in infections have alarmed officials as millions of children have been returning to schools nationwide.
While shutting nightspots and public spaces to slow the spread of the virus, government officials have so far maintained the phased reopening of schools, expressing hope that the recent transmissions could be contained quickly.
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