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:
— Restart or re-stop? Economies reopen but chaos abounds.
— First chartered train of care workers from Romania arrives in Austria.
— Fearing disconnection, crowds gather at reopened offices of Greece’s main power company.
— Malls allowed to reopen in Denmark.
VIENNA — The first charted train transporting care workers from Romania has arrived in the Austrian capital of Vienna.
The 80 Romanians arriving Monday are slated to help elderly people who need 24-hour care.
They now have to stay in a hotel at the Vienna airport to be tested for COVID-19. Once cleared, they’ll be allowed to travel to their final destinations in Austria.
Austrian EU minister Karoline Edtstadler says it took several weeks of negotiations to organize the train corridor to bring in the care workers.
She says: “it wasn’t quite so easy to get all the necessary permits for the trains – especially inside Romania. Now the time has come, and I expect that this opportunity will be used.”
Many care workers who have been stuck in Austria for weeks can now take this train to go back to Romania. Another train bringing more workers to Austria is expected for Thursday.
ATHENS, Greece — Police in Greece have intervened to ease crowding conditions outside offices of the country’s main power utility which reopened Monday.
Hundreds gathered outside the offices to pay their bills, worried that power would be cut off to their homes.
The state-controlled Public Power Corporation is urging customers to use online payment methods or newly-expanded call center services, but many elderly customers still pay their bills directly in cash.
The utility is currently undergoing a major reorganization after being threatened with financial collapse last year, largely due to bills left unpaid during the 2010-2018 financial crisis and austerity imposed during international bailouts.
PPC offices closed on March 23 as part of broader lockdown measures.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — As Denmark continues its reopening of society, shopping malls were Monday allowed to reopen.
Restaurants and cafes are scheduled to reopen as of May 18 at the same time as school children from fifth grade and up are to return to classes. Last month, lower classes and preschool returned.
Museums, zoological gardens and amusement parks have been ordered to remain shut. However, Copenhagen’s famed downtown Tivoli Gardens, the amusement park that inspired Walt Disney to create his theme parks, has been able to open its doors to children from the capital’s kindergartens and preschools so they can play.
Gatherings of more than ten people are still banned.
BERLIN — An emergency field hospital for COVID-19 patients has officially opened in the German capital, but so far there are no patients.
The clinic opened Monday on the site of Berlin’s convention center has a capacity of 500 beds that can be doubled if required.
But since Germany has managed to sharply lower the rate of infection since building began four weeks ago, the capital’s 50 hospitals have proved more than sufficient for treating all coronavirus patients.
Berlin’s top health official, Dilek Kalayci, said the clinic would serve as a “reserve hospital,” noting that the experience of Spain, Italy and New York had shown even well-equipped medical systems could become overloaded in a pandemic.
SEVILLE, Spain — Spain is reporting Monday the lowest numbers of coronavirus-related fatalities and infections in weeks, as half of the country steps into a softer version of the country’s strict lockdown.
There were 123 deaths in the past 24 hours, the lowest since March 17, bringing the country’s total death toll to almost 27,000. With nearly 400 new COVID-19 cases confirmed by the most reliable laboratory tests, the overall number of recorded infections rose to about 268,000.
Top health official Fernando Simón says figures show “in a clear and evident way that we are in the last phase of virus transmission,” but has warned against complacency because the experience of other countries, including South Korea and Germany, shows the risks of sudden rebounds.
Although Madrid and Barcelona remain in a stricter lockdown, roughly half of 47 million Spaniards are allowed from Monday to socialize with up to 10 people at the same time, shop in small establishments and enjoy a meal or a coffee in restaurants and bars with outdoor seating.
Hotels are also allowed to open as long as they don’t mix guests in public areas. But with people not allowed to travel outside of their provinces and few flights scheduled from overseas, Seville’s Doña María Hotel Manuel Domínguez says the business prospects were bleak.
“Unfortunately this year’s business is lost already, it’s going to be catastrophic,” says Domínguez.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s government plans to repatriate its 110,000 citizens who have been stranded in the Middle East and other countries since flights operations were suspended to contain the spread of coronavirus in March, adviser to prime minister on national security said.
Moeed Yusuf said special flights are being arranged to bring all those Pakistanis who want to return home.
He said all those Pakistanis who test negative upon their return will be allowed to go home but those testing positive will be quarantined at government facilities. Yusuf told a news conference that about 20,000 Pakistanis have already been repatriated from various countries.
He said the government will try to repatriate 10,000 Pakistanis every week and that the majority of those who wished to return home are stranded in the Middle East. His comments came as Pakistan reported another 28 deaths and nearly 1,500 cases of coronavirus, raising overall cases to almost 31,000 with close to 700 fatalities.
PARIS — Cars began slowly filling Paris’ wide Champs-Elysees Avenue in a sleepy start to post-confinement life in the French capital after two months of strict lockdown.
Shoppers and gawkers timidly walked down sidewalks, packed with crowds in pre-coronavirus times. Only half the shops on the famed avenue were expected to open Monday.
The notorious traffic jams of the Paris region were distinctly absent on the first day of deconfinement. Authorities have encouraged businesses to continue allowing employees to work from home and are promoting bicycles and other “soft” transport.
Still, people wearing required masks filled Paris’ St. Lazare station, a hub for western suburbs. Stickers marked train seats and floors to ensure social distancing, but in the station lobby crowds pressed together and scores of people were shoulder-to-shoulder reaching for masks being handed out.
In a busy commercial district of southern Paris the only businesses opening early were real estate office, without clients.
French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire stressed the importance of revving up the stalled economy by returning to work. Visiting a construction site in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, west of Paris, he said that “we’re living a very brutal recession.” The only responsible thing to do, he said on BFMTV, is to “get back to work.”
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine has started easing its coronavirus lockdown, allowing some shops, hairdressers, beauty parlors and other businesses to reopen.
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said that the reopening effective Monday is conditional on observing social distancing and other precautions.
Ukraine’s underfunded health care system has been quickly overwhelmed by COVID-19, even though it has reported a relatively low number of cases — about 15,000 infections and more than 400 deaths as of Monday.
Aware of the desperate situation in the health care system, authorities ordered a strict coronavirus lockdown on March 12, complete with police patrols and tight restrictions on using public transportation.
The government has faced a strong pressure to ease the quarantine that has badly bruised the nation’s economy. Doctors fear that relaxing the restrictions could trigger a new wave of contagion.
BEIJING — The spokesman for China’s National Health Commission says a rise in newly confirmed cases is a growing concern.
“In the past 14 days, there were seven provinces reporting new confirmed local cases,” Mi Feng told reporters at a briefing on Monday.
“The number of cases from local mass infections continues to grow. We must find out the origins of the infections and the routes of transmission. Also we must work hard on tracking management, isolated treatment and medical observation,” Mi said.
China on Monday announced 17 new cases, the second consecutive day of double-digit increases after more than a week when daily new cases were in the single-digits.
STOCKHOLM — A top Swedish official is saying lessons should be learned from tackling the coronavirus pandemic and Sweden could maybe have acted “a little faster.”
In a radio interview, Dan Eliasson, head of Sweden’s Civil Contingencies Agency told Swedish radio Monday that “when major crises occur, you will always look at it afterward. So comes the question, did we react fast enough?”
His comments come after Health Minister Lena Hallengren last month told Swedish television that “we failed to protect our elderly. That’s really serious and a failure for society as a whole. We have to learn from this.”
Swedish media in recent weeks have reported cases where retirement homes have seen a large death toll with staff continuing to work despite a lack of protective gear or despite exhibiting symptoms and potentially infecting residents. Some retirement homes also have been seen shortage of staff because employees either have refused to work and have been encouraged to stay home even with mild symptoms.
The Scandinavian country has taken a relatively soft approach that has caught international attention. Large gatherings were banned but restaurants and schools for younger children have stayed open. The government has urged social distancing, and Swedes have largely complied.
The country has reported more than 3,175 fatalities and 90% of those who had died as of April 28 were above the age of 70, according to official figures. Half were nursing home residents, and another quarter were receiving care at home.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has pushed back its reopening of schools by a week as health authorities scramble to isolate virus carriers and trace their contacts after finding dozens of coronavirus infections linked to club goers.
Before discovering the new transmissions, the country relaxed social distancing guidelines amid what had been a slowing caseload and scheduled the reopening of schools, starting with high-school seniors on Wednesday.
But Vice Education Minister Park Baeg-beom said in a briefing on Monday that the school openings for high-school seniors were pushed back to next Wednesday.
Local education authorities, including Cho Hee-yeon, superintendent of Seoul’s education office, earlier called for the government to postpone the reopening of schools, raising concerns that children could be exposed to larger infection risks.
The country’s elementary, middle- and high-schools have been providing remote learning since April.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A fire struck the site of Dubai’s Expo 2020 on Monday, though Emirati officials said no one was injured.
The blaze saw thick black smoke rise over the site of the world’s fair in the southern edge of Dubai, one of seven sheikhdoms in the United Arab Emirates.
Officials said in a statement the fire began in a pile of “construction debris” and was later extinguished. They did not immediately offer further details, though images of the site showed firefighters battling the blaze near a structure at the site bearing burn marks.
Earlier this month, a Paris-based body behind the events said that Expo 2020 world’s fair would be postponed to Oct. 1, 2021, over the new coronavirus pandemic. Dubai has bet billions of dollars on Expo 2020 to rejuvenate its troubled economy.
Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.
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