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:
— Italy has 531 new infections in the past 24 hours.
— UK leader Boris Johnson stands by aide over 250-mile lockdown trip.
— Task force coordinator warns about lack of social distancing.
— U.S. likely to ban travel from hard-hit Brazil.
MILAN — The number of confirmed new infections in Italy rose by just 531 in the past 24 hours, with half in the populous northern region of Lombardy that has borne the brunt of Italy’s epidemic.
The civil protection agency on Sunday reported just 50 deaths but officials said that Lombardy had not updated its toll.
More than half of Italy’s regions reported new cases in the single digits — with the caveat that tests are being administered only to those who are hospitalized, have symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who is positive for the virus.
The number of people in intensive care dropped to 553.
Italy is in the first full week of loosened restrictions, with bars and restaurants open as well as beaches and parks.
Mayors in many cities have complained about nightlife spilling out into streets and piazzas with many showing a casual attitude toward physical distancing and lax mask habits.
LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is standing by his top aide, who is accused of breaking lockdown rules by traveling 250 miles (400 km) to his parents’ house while coming down with COVID-19.
Johnson told a news conference that Dominic Cummings acted “responsibly, legally and with integrity.”
Cummings made the cross-country trip in late March, after the government imposed a lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus, telling people to stay home and not visit anyone outside their household. Cummings says he was seeking to ensure his 4-year-old son would be cared for if he and his wife both became ill.
Several lawmakers from Johnson’s Conservative Party have joined opposition politicians in calling for his resignation.
But Johnson defended the aide who masterminded both Brexit and the prime minister’s December election victory. He said Cummings “followed the instincts of every father and every parent and I do not mark him down for that.”
MADRID — Spain is preparing to reopen some of its beaches for sunbathing on Monday, when restaurants and bars in Madrid and Barcelona will serve clients at outdoor seating as the country relaxes its virus lockdown.
On Monday, customers will be able to occupy 50% of the space assigned for outdoor seating at restaurants and bars in the Spanish capital and Barcelona.
The two cities are the hardest hit areas by the pandemic in Spain, accounting for more than 15,00 of the nation’s 28,752 confirmed deaths from COVID-19.
Travel between provinces will remained prohibited until late June and international tourists won’t be allowed to come until July.
Spain reported an eighth straight day with fewer than 100 confirmed deaths from the virus on Sunday, when health authorities said 70 people had died in the past 24 hours. At the height of the outbreak in early March more than 900 Spaniards died a day.
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa is further loosening its lockdown starting June 1, allowing most sectors of the economy to return to activity.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced the news during a national address while warning that coronavirus cases “have now started to rise sharply.”
One-third of the country’s more than 22,000 cases have been recorded in the past week, and “the risk of a massive increase in infection is now greater than ever.”
Economic pain for millions, however, has been a pressure to allow more business to resume. Schools will resume for two grades, 7 and 12.
Alcohol sales will resume on specified days and times, but cigarette sales remain banned. People can exercise at any time. Shops will be fully open but restaurants will be pick-up or delivery only.
National borders will remain closed except for shipments of goods. Gatherings remain prohibited except for funerals and work meetings with no more than 50 people.
ISTANBUL — Turkey’s health minister announced 32 new deaths from COVID-19, bringing the total to 4,340.
Fahrettin Koca also tweeted Sunday there were 1,141 new infections confirmed in the past 24 hours. The total number of infections has reached 156,827. Turkey ranks ninth in a global tally by Johns Hopkins University but experts believe the number of infections could be much higher than reported.
More than 118,000 people have recovered, according to the health ministry statistics.
The Muslim holiday marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan was marked by a nationwide lockdown, the first of its kind in Turkey to combat the novel coronavirus. Previous weekend and holiday lockdowns affected a maximum of 31 out of 81 provinces.
Senior citizens above 65 were allowed out for a few hours for a third Sunday. People under 20 and above 65 have been under full lockdown but days and times outside have been allotted according to age groups as part of easing efforts.
WASHINGTON — White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx says she’s “very concerned” that people going outdoors for the Memorial Day weekend aren’t maintaining 6 feet of social distancing.
She was responding to reports showing people crowding at beaches.
Noting that people with no symptoms could unwittingly spread the coronavirus, Birx said people need to wear masks in public if they don’t socially distance because “you don’t know who’s infected.”
As states loosen stay-at-home orders, Birx also declined to say whether the country may need to close down again if the U.S. is hit by a second wave of infections in the fall. President Donald Trump insisted last week “we are not closing” again.
On Sunday, Birx said: “We’re trying to understand during this period of coming out of the closure: How do we maintain openness and safety? And I think that’s what we’re going to be learning through May, June and July.”
She spoke on “Fox News Sunday” and ABC’s “This Week.”
WASHINGTON — The U.S. government is expected to announce a ban on travel from Brazil due to the spread of coronavirus in Latin America’s hardest-hit country.
National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien says the U.S. wants to take “every step necessary” to protect the American people.
President Donald Trump already has banned travel from the United Kingdom, Europe and China, all of which have been hit hard by the virus. On Wednesday, Trump said he was considering barring entry to flights from Brazil.
O’Brien said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that he expects any ban would be temporary.
Brazil reported more than 347,000 COVID-19 cases as of Friday, second behind the U.S. in the number of infections, according to a Johns Hopkins University count.
Brazil also has recorded more than 22,000 deaths, fifth-most in the world. There have been more than 96,000 U.S. deaths.
LA PAZ, Bolivia — Ousted Bolivian Health Minister Marcelo Navajas was sent to jail on Sunday while officials investigate allegations he paid nearly triple the going rate for hospital ventilators.
A judge ordered Navajas held for three-month preventative detention.
President Jeanine Áñez fired Navajas on Thursday after reports the ministry had paid a Catalan company $4.7 million for 170 ventilators to treat COVID-19 patients. The company’s Bolivian representative has said that was triple the actual price.
The 62-year-old had served in the Cabinet for 45 days. His attorney, Rosario Canedo, has said he is innocent.
The judge also ordered six month’s detention for Fernando Velenzuela, the fired legal director for the ministry.
Meanwhile the Inter-American Development Bank, which financed the purchase, said it was carrying out its own investigation.
JOHANNESBURG — A South African gold mine has halted operations after 164 people tested positive for the coronavirus.
AngloGold Ashanti says in a statement that it conducted 650 tests after the first case at its Mponeng mine in Gauteng province was detected last week.
The company says the “vast majority” of people infected are asymptomatic.
The company had been operating at 50% capacity amid South Africa’s lockdown, which began in late March. The country has the most virus cases in Africa with more than 22,000.
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — As Yellowstone and other national parks end a two-month shutdown because of the coronavirus, park officials want visitors to take precautions, such as washing their hands, keeping a safe distance from other people and wearing masks in public.
It’s unclear whether tourists who often disobey park rules will comply. If not, popular national parks known for drawing shoulder-to-shoulder summer crowds could become the next U.S. hot spots.
Park officials say the plan is to let folks guard themselves against COVID-19, just as they do for the usual national park dangers that range from altitude sickness to grizzly bears.
Other national parks that have reopened include Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina, where park officials urge visitors to arrive early at popular spots.
LAS VEGAS — High schools across the country have added pomp to their circumstances to make graduations special amid the coronavirus pandemic.
They’re going beyond virtual and instead holding drive-thru processions, in-person ceremonies spacing students apart in big auditoriums with limited guests, or in one town in New Hampshire, sending seniors off with a mountaintop graduation, accessible by chairlift.
High school seniors in Las Vegas will pick up their diplomas from their cars at the finish line of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway before driving a celebratory lap, while Missouri seniors will be ferried in a parade of Jeeps.
In western Maine, the rural Oxford Hills High School is making use of a twin-screen, drive-in movie theater in Bridgton for its graduation on June 21.
RIO DE JANEIRO — One of the architects of Brazil’s battle against the coronavirus pandemic has resigned.
The departure of epidemiologist Wanderson de Oliveira adds to turmoil in a Health Ministry whose recommendations for restrictions to limit the disease have often clashed with President Jair Bolsonaro’s calls to open the economy.
De Oliveira said he would leave his post on Monday. He had initially offered his resignation last month, but stayed on at the request of then-Minister Luiz Mandetta, who shortly afterward was fired by Bolsonaro.
Mandetta’s replacement, Nelson Teich, resigned on May 15 after less than a month on the job and on Saturday declined a request to serve as adviser to the new minister, Army Gen. Eduardo Pazuello.
De Oliveira had been one of the public faces of the campaign against the pandemic, presenting statistics and recommendations at daily news conferences.
ATHENS, Greece — There were no deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours and only two new confirmed cases, Greek authorities announced Sunday.
The total cases now stand at 2,878, with 171 fatalities.
Also, there are 19 patients on ventilators and 100 have left intensive care units.
Greek authorities have so far carried out a total of 153,963 tests.
The gradual relaxation of lockdown measures continues Monday with the opening of bars, cafes and restaurants after two months.
Greece, a large part of whose economy depends on tourism, also hopes to have the tourism season start in June. In a departure from the authorities’ caution so far, arriving tourists will not be tested for the virus.
CIUDAD VICTORIA, Mexico — Officials in a Mexican border city are tightening checks on travelers coming from Texas, saying they fear U.S. visitors may be helping feed a spike in COVID-19 cases.
Municipal and state officials in Matamoros, together with Mexico’s National Guard began setting up checkpoints Saturday at the three border crossings to question U.S. citizens and residents coming from Brownsville, Texas.
City official Jorge Mora Solaldine said only one person will be allowed per vehicle and people will have to prove they have essential business, such as work or medical care.
At least 180 people were turned back at a single point on Saturday, according to city officials.
Mexico and the U.S. announced in March that they were closing the border to non-essential business, but enforcement has been spotty in some places and there were few if any checks on those coming into Matamoros. Commercial traffic, critical to the economy on both sides of the border, has continued on a large scale.
The municipality of Matamoros, with a population of roughly 500,000, has reported 323 confirmed infections of the new coronavirus and 29 deaths, while Cameron County on the other side of the border has recorded about 700 cases and 32 deaths among its roughly 420,000 people.
SKOPJE, North Macedonia — North Macedonia has registered no new deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, with the total remaining at 113.
There were also 37 confirmed new infections, raising the total in the country of 2.1 million to 1,978.
The country remains in lockdown, and the government has ordered a new strict curfew from Sunday until Tuesday, as Muslims, about 25 percent of the population, celebrate the end of Ramadan.
Thousands of Muslims gathered at mosques at dawn on Sunday for early prayers after a month of fasting, ignoring government warnings to wear masks and keep a 2-meter social distance.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio has lost more inmates to COVID-19 than any other state, but the state prisons director says its prisons nonetheless must begin reopening to accommodate a slow return to business — and to crime.
The department has begun accepting new inmates from jails again and must soon resume the normal process of transferring inmates when necessary, Annette Chambers-Smith, head of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said in an interview this week.
“The whole of the community is reopening, so when you reopen the community, you’re going to have more laws broken also,” she said. “So really when you restart the community, the entire process restarts.”
More than 600 employees systemwide have tested positive, along with more than 4,500 inmates. Of those, 66 inmates have died of confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19, with deaths spread across eight institutions.
Two guards and two nurses have died.
Ohio has recorded the most deaths of prisoners from COVID-19 and ranks second only to Tennessee in cases per 100,000 inmates, according to an analysis by The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization. Ohio also has the fourth-highest prisoner death rate.
BERLIN — Austria’s president has apologized after police found him at a Vienna restaurant later than restaurants are permitted to be open.
The Krone newspaper reported that police found President Alexander Van der Bellen and his wife in the Italian restaurant’s garden during a routine check after midnight on Sunday, with drinks on their table. Restaurants must close at 11 p.m. under rules that allowed them to reopen this month.
Police confirmed Van der Bellen’s presence.
The Austria Press Agency reported that Van der Bellen expressed regret. He said: “I went to eat with two friends and my wife for the first time since the lockdown. We were talking away and unfortunately lost sight of the time.”
He added: “I am truly sorry. It was a mistake.”
Austria’s president has a largely ceremonial role. The government of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz sets the coronavirus rules.
BERLIN — A German official says the number of confirmed coronavirus infections following a Baptist community’s service in Frankfurt has risen to at least 107.
News agency dpa reported that Hesse state’s health minister, Kai Klose, said Sunday those infected live in Frankfurt and three other counties in the region.
The deputy head of the Evangelical Christian Baptist congregation has said that the service took place on May 10 and it complied with rules under which authorities allowed religious services to resume at the beginning of the month — including a 1.5 meter (5-foot) distance between worshippers and the provision of disinfectant.
Frankfurt health officials say most of those infected appear to have caught the virus after rather than at the service.
Germany started easing lockdown restrictions on April 20. So far, new coronavirus infections have continued to decline overall.
LA GRANDE MOTTE, France — Grateful French families flocked to the beach at La Grande Motte on the Mediterranean shore Sunday, swimming and sunbathing in areas carefully marked to keep them a safe distance from others.
Cordons of ropes and wooden stakes were neatly spaced out across the sand, giving each visitor or group an 8-square-meter (86-square-foot) space of their own.
Reservations are free but required, and there is already a two-day waiting list. Those lucky enough to get a spot for the four-day weekend around Thursday’s Christian holiday Ascension relished the opportunity, frolicking beneath a summer-like sun.
Elsewhere in France beaches have also reopened, but only for individual sports or walks, and visitors are not allowed to sit or lie down. La Grande Motte says it was the first town to put in place new social distancing measures allowing other activities to resume.
In the French capital this weekend, Parisians soaked up the sun along the embankments of the Seine River and lounged on ledges outside the Tuileries Gardens, still shuttered like all of the city’s parks as the city gradually emerges from confinement.
BERLIN — A German state governor’s proposal to scrap blanket coronavirus restrictions in his region is drawing a mixed response.
Bodo Ramelow, the governor of the eastern state of Thuringia, said Saturday that he hopes to lift the remaining statewide lockdown rules on June 6 and replace them with “a concept of recommendations and fighting COVID-19 locally if infection figures rise.”
It’s not entirely clear yet what that would mean. While Ramelow’s proposal draw some praise, there was criticism from the mayor of one of the state’s biggest cities, Jena, which was the first in Germany to require people to wear face masks in some situations.
Mayor Thomas Nitzsche compared the proposed change in a Facebook post to “entering a mine field.”
In Germany, the state governments are responsible for imposing and lifting lockdown restrictions. All 16 states currently have coronavirus rules.
VATICAN CITY — Well-spaced faithful have gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the first time in months for the traditional Sunday papal blessing.
They cast their gaze at the window where the pope normally addresses the faithful.
Pope Francis has been delivering the blessing from inside the Apostolic library during the epidemic.
Francis recalled his scheduled visit on Sunday to the Naples area to draw attention to environmental damage caused by toxic-waste dumping by the mob.
The visit — canceled during the pandemic — was timed to mark the fifth anniversary of his ecological manifesto, and the pope announced a year of reflection on his 2015 environmental encyclical, ‘’Praised Be.’’
Francis came to the window and waved to the people in the piazza at the end of the blessing.
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