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:
— UN forecasts pandemic will shrink world economy by 3.2% this year.
— Spanish health officials say large-scale testing has demonstrated there is no herd immunity in the country.
— Los Angeles County reopens its beaches.
— New York City launching public service campaign to inform parents about rare syndrome thought to be linked to COVID-19.
— FBI cyber division warns against Chinese hackers.
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations is forecasting that the coronavirus pandemic will shrink the world economy by 3.2% this year, the sharpest contraction since the Great Depression in the 1930s.
The U.N.’s mid-year report released Wednesday said COVID-19 is expected to slash global economic output by nearly $8.5 trillion over the next two years, wiping out nearly all gains of the past four years.
In January, the U.N. forecast a modest growth of 2.5 percent in 2020.
The United Nations World Economic Situation and Prospects report said the pandemic is also “exacerbating poverty and inequality,” with an estimated 34.3 million people likely to fall below the extreme poverty line in 2020 — 56 percent of them in Africa.
It said an additional 130 million people may join the ranks of people living in extreme poverty by 2030, dealing a “huge blow” to global efforts to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by the end of the decade.
The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief said it’s possible the new coronavirus may be here to stay, warning it’s impossible to predict when the pandemic might be controlled.
“This virus may never go away,” said Dr. Michael Ryan, in a news briefing on Wednesday. He said that the number of people infected by COVID-19 so far is relatively low.
Without a vaccine, he said it could take years for the population to build up sufficient levels of immunity to it.
“I think it’s important to put this on the table,” he said. “This virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities,” he said, noting that other previously novel diseases such as HIV have never disappeared, but that effective treatments have been developed to allow people to live with the disease.
Ryan said there remains hope that an effective vaccine will be developed, but even then, it would require a huge amount of work to produce the shots and distribute them worldwide to people willing to be immunized.
“Every single one of those steps is fraught with challenges,” he said.
Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for COVID-19, added that she recognized some people were “in a state of feeling quite some despair,” but pointed out that stopping the virus even without medical interventions was possible.
“The trajectory of this outbreak is in our hands,” she said. “We have seen some countries bring the virus under control.”
MADRID — Spanish health officials say large-scale testing for the new coronavirus has demonstrated there is no herd immunity in the country.
The head of the National Epidemiology Centre, Marina Pollán, says that a major, ongoing survey shows so far that about 5% of the population — around 2 million people — have been infected by the virus.
Officials presented Wednesday preliminary results from the survey, which started in the last week of April and is scheduled to last eight weeks, of 30,000 households which were tested for the virus.
Authorities hope the survey will reveal the true scale of the outbreak, help them monitor its dynamics and steer health policy.
Pollán, said it has revealed deep regional differences, with the worst-hit areas showing a number of infections five times higher than in the least-affected parts of the country.
She said no great difference in infection rates has been detected between age groups or sexes.
Spain has recorded at least 27,000 COVID-19 deaths and almost 229,000 cases.
LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County has reopened its beaches in the latest easing of coronavirus restrictions that have closed most California public spaces and businesses for nearly two months.
County beaches and many city-owned beaches along the 75 miles of coastline reopened Wednesday but with social distancing rules. The move comes as California tentatively eases some stay-at-home restrictions.
Gov. Gavin Newsom last week permitted many retail businesses to reopen under restrictions. On Tuesday, he said some business offices can reopen. Meanwhile, seven rural Northern California counties have received state permission to reopen their economies more quickly.
NEW YORK — New York City is launching a public service campaign to inform parents about a rare syndrome that is thought to be linked to COVID-19 and has been diagnosed in more than 80 children in the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
Digital ads alerting parents to the symptoms of the inflammatory condition in children will start Wednesday, de Blasio said, and ads on radio and TV, on bus shelters, and in community newspapers will follow.
“We have to rapidly inform families all over the city,” the mayor said. The syndrome affects blood vessels and organs and has symptoms including prolonged fever, abdominal pain and vomiting.
Three children diagnosed with the syndrome have died in New York state, including one in New York City. Of the 82 children diagnosed in the city with what the medical world is calling pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, 53 have tested positive for COVID-19 or its antibodies, de Blasio said.
ROME — The Italian government has approved a massive package of tax cuts and financial aid to help citizens ranging from hotel and restaurant owners to working parents who are struggling with the economic devastation of the pandemic.
Said Premier Giuseppe Conte, addressing the nation, after a cabinet meeting Wednesday night: “Your cry of alarm didn’t escape us.”
The relief measures, aimed at reducing the damage to Italy’s economy, which was already stagnant before the COVID-19 outbreak, have been estimated to cost some 55 billion euros ($60 billion).
Under the package, parents would receive 1,200 euros ($1,325) to pay for babysitting or for summer recreation centers, since schools have been shut since March by lockdown for contagion containment and won’t reopen till September.
With Italy’s major tourism industry devastated by travel bans, hotel owners and beach establishments won’t have to make the next payment of real estate taxes, and restaurants and cafes will be allowed to use more sidewalk space for tables in line with safety distancing rules without having to pay taxes for occupying public property.
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Access to the southern half of Yellowstone National Park will resume Monday by way of Wyoming.
Park officials are also talking with Montana officials about reopening the rest of the park following a seven-week closure because of the coronavirus.
Superintendent Cam Sholly announced the partial reopening Wednesday as several national parks begin or prepare to open.
Complicating Yellowstone’s reopening, Wyoming recently lifted a 14-day self-quarantine order for out-of-state visitors on nonessential business, but one remains in place in Montana. Sholly nonetheless describes Yellowstone’s approach as a good way to prepare for social distancing.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Republican leader of the Alabama Senate said that the state’s coronavirus relief funds will not be used to build a new statehouse, putting to rest the idea that drew an immediate backlash.
Spending $200 million for new statehouse was on a list, along with telemedicine and expenses related to the pandemic, that legislative leaders sent the governor of potential uses for the state’s $1.8 billion in CARES Act funding.
A spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said the idea is now off the table. Marsh spokesman Will Califf said in a statement they have guidance that makes it clear the money can’t be used for statehouse construction.
MOSCOW — Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says he has got double-sided pneumonia caused by the coronavirus.
Speaking in an interview with the business daily Kommersant, Peskov said that he initially had only a small fever and was undergoing treatment at home. He said he was hospitalized after he had a computer tomography that showed both of his lungs were affected.
The 52-year-old Peskov said Monday that he contracted the virus but didn’t give details of his condition.
He is the fourth senior Russian official to test positive for the virus. Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin announced that he was infected on April 30, and in the following days Construction Minister Vladimir Yakushev and Culture Minister Olga Lyubimova also tested positive.
It wasn’t clear when those officials last met with President Vladimir Putin, who has limited his public appearances and held most of his meetings online.
Russia has ranked second after the United States in the number of infections, with over 242,000 cases, including 2,212 deaths.
ROME — The number of those discharged from the hospital from COVID-19 infections in Italy has for days now been significantly more than those who are currently known to be positive for the illness.
According to Health Ministry data released on Wednesday, a total of 78,457 persons are positive for coronavirus infections, while 112,541 have recovered. There were 888 new cases registered in the past 24 hours, bringing to 222,104 the total of cases in Italy, where Europe’s outbreak began.
The real number of people in Italy who contracted the infection isn’t known because many with mild symptoms weren’t tested. Similarly, many residents of nursing homes died without being tested for COVID-19.
In the 24-hour period ending Wednesday evening, 195 deaths were registered. Italy’s toll of those who died with known infections stands at 31,106, with slightly more than half of those deaths occurring in Lombardy, the northern region which has been the worst hit in the pandemic.
BRUSSELS — Belgium’s residents will be able to get haircuts and visit some cultural attractions again next week when barber shops and museums are allowed to reopen.
But Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes warned following a national security council meeting that the ongoing threat from the coronavirus means there’s “probably not going to be a return to normal this summer.”
Wilmes announced that under the country’s lockdown exit plan, museums, historical buildings and zoos can reopen on May 18, but need to set up online ticketing systems and make arrangements to avoid big crowds.
A date has yet to be announced for the reopening of hotels, bars and restaurants in Belgium, which will remain closed until at least June 8. All sporting and cultural events remain suspended until June 30.
Belgium started lifting lockdown measures this week with the reopening of a range of shops and permission for residents to meet up with a maximum of four other people from a different household.
RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has submitted his COVID-19 test results to the Supreme Court after several appeals that landed in the country’s highest court.
The attorney general’s office said in an emailed statement that the tests show the president did not contract the virus, but the documents have yet to be published.
A standoff involving Bolsonaro’s tests began with a request from the O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper, and resulted in several judges ordering the far-right leader to present the results.
Citing medical privacy, Bolsonaro fought the orders until the Supreme Court sided with federal courts. He has consistently downplayed the coronavirus pandemic and shaken hands with supporters.
Bolsonaro said in the capital Brasilia that he would discuss with his health minister the expanded use of chloroquine in hospitals, an anti-malarial drug widely touted by the Brazilian leader as well as U.S. President Donald Trump for treating the new coronavirus.
The prior day, Health Minister Nelson Teich warned on his official Twitter account against chloroquine’s side effects.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s health minister says the country is considering testing visitors arriving from abroad as part of its plan to open the tourism season in June.
Fahrettin Koca told reporters Wednesday that the government is also contemplating screening people at arrival with the more sensitive molecular tests rather than with rapid testing methods.
“Concerning the arrivals from abroad, our inclination is to lead this early period in a controlled manner by conducting as many tests as possible,” the minister said, following a meeting with the country’s scientific advisory council.
The government had previously suggested that the tourism season would be opened for domestic travelers in June, followed by international visitors later in the season.
The government also plans to introduce a certification program, under which hotels and other establishments that adhere to a set of regulations to prevent infections would be certified as safe.
WASHINGTON — The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security’s cyber division are warning hackers backed by the Chinese government may be attempting to steal the work of U.S. researchers on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The two agencies issued a public service announcement of the potential threat on Wednesday. They issued a similar alert earlier this month.
A joint statement says China’s efforts pose a “significant threat” to the health care, pharmaceutical and research sectors.
The FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency says it would release technical details of the threat in the coming days and asked organizations to report any suspicious activity.
U.S. authorities have long complained that China has used hacking to steal academic and economic data to bolster its economy. This warning comes amid increased tensions between the two governments over the origins of the outbreak and China’s initial response.
LONDON — British media reports say a baby has died after his mother tested positive for coronavirus.
The BBC and others reported Coolio Carl Justin John Morgan, born on May 2, died three days later at a hospital in Swansea, Wales. The baby’s primary cause of death was due to lack of brain blood and oxygen and maternal Covid-19 was listed as a secondary cause.
No post-mortem examination was done. The coroner, Graeme Hughes, asked officials to investigate the circumstances of the death ahead of a final hearing next year.
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