TOP OF THE HOUR: — India’s trains get ready to roll again amid steep rise in infections. — New Zealand set to re-open economy and schools over next 10 days. — 1918 flu survivor battling COVID-19. — Shanghai Disneyland reopens with anti-virus controls.
— China reports 17 new coronavirus cases, South Korea 35.
NEW DELHI, India
India’s train network, one of the world’s largest, will gradually restart operations on Tuesday as the country eases its coronavirus lockdown amid a steep rise in infections.
The country reported 4,213 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, its biggest single-day spike. India has had more than 67,000 cases, including 2,206 deaths.
The rise in infections comes on a day when Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet various state heads to discuss the country’s lockdown exit strategy.
India’s train network, closed in late March when a strict nationwide lockdown was implemented, will be the first mode of transport to resume in the country of 1.3 billion people.
Passengers would have to wear masks and undergo health screenings before being permitted to board, the railway ministry has said. Only asymptomatic passengers will be allowed on trains, which will make fewer stops than usual.
The announcement comes after the government arranged for trains to transport thousands of migrant workers stranded in Indian cities back to their homes.
The railway system is often described as India’s lifeline, transporting 23 million people across the vast subcontinent each day, some 8.4 billion passengers each year.
India’s 54-day coronavirus lockdown is expected to end on May 17.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday announced a plan to re-open the economy and the nation’s schools over the next 10 days.
Life is expected to resemble what it was like before the coronavirus outbreak in many respects, although social distancing rules will still apply, and social gatherings will be limited to 10 people at events like weddings and funerals. The nation’s borders will also remain closed.
Under the plan, almost all businesses will be able to re-open beginning Thursday, including retail stores, malls, restaurants, hair salons and gyms. People will also be able to take flights around the country. Schools will then re-open starting next Monday. Bars will be the last businesses allowed to reopen, on May 21.
Ardern said bars pose a high risk: “We don’t want to be South Korea — to open our bars only to close them again,” she said.
New Zealand has been successful in reducing new cases of the virus to a trickle, including two days last week when no new cases were recorded. In total, the country has reported close to 1,500 cases and 21 deaths.
Ardern said New Zealanders need to remain cautious: “We may have won a few battles but we have not won the war,” she said.
A 105-year-old New Mexico woman who beat back the 1918 flu that killed millions, including her mother and infant sister, is battling COVID-19.
The Gallup Independent reports Lubica “Luby” Grenko, who will turn 106 in August, has been fighting the new coronavirus since being diagnosed April 29 at the Little Sisters of the Poor in Gallup, New Mexico.
Grenko was born when World War I began and survived the 1918 flu before enduring the Great Depression and World War II.
The flu took the lives of her mother, Marijeta Kauzlaric, 28, and younger sister, Annie Kauzlaric, 1 month old.
Grenko’s granddaughter, Misty Tolson, says her grandmother remembers her mother going into the hospital and never coming out.
Tolson says she doesn’t think her grandmother understands the current virus because she told one of the aides who walked in with protective gear on, “What the heck do you have on?”
Visitors wearing face masks streamed into Shanghai Disneyland as China’s most prominent theme park reopened Monday in a new step toward rolling back anti-coronavirus controls that shut down its economy.
The park, which closed Jan. 25, will limit visitors and is keeping some attractions closed in line with social distancing guidelines. Disney guests, many wearing Mickey Mouse ears, and children dressed as movie characters were checked for fevers at the gate, and decals were used to designate a safe distance between visitors.
China, where the pandemic began in December, was the first economy to shut down and the first to reopen in early March. Factories and shops have reopened but cinemas, karaoke parlors, gyms and other businesses remain closed.
China reported another rise in coronavirus cases Monday, amid government reminders for people to “remain alert and step up personal protection against the virus.”
The warning from Mi Feng, spokesperson for the National Health Commission, came as 17 new cases were reported, up from 14 the day before, which had represented the first double-digit increase in 10 days. Of the 17 new cases, seven were listed as imported, while five were in the city of Wuhan, where a strict lockdown was lifted last month.
At a Sunday news conference, Mi renewed calls for people to avoid social gatherings and to “seek medical advice or testing in designated hospitals if they exhibit symptoms such as fever, cough or fatigue.” Despite that, Beijing on Monday sent 82,000 third-year middle school students back to classes to prepare for their high school entrance exams.
Also on Monday, the National Health Commission said there had been no new COVID-19 deaths, extending that streak to almost a month, and 141 people remained hospitalized in treatment. Another 783 people were under isolation and observation for being suspected cases or for having tested positive without showing any symptoms.
China has reported 4,633 deaths from the virus among 82,918 cases.
SEOUL, South Korea
South Korea has reported 35 additional coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, the second day in a row its daily jump was above 30.
The figures released Monday by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pushed the country’s total to 10,909 cases with 256 deaths. The agency says 9,632 people have recovered and been released from quarantine.
The center says 29 of the 35 new cases were locally transmitted, while six came from overseas.
Worries about a second wave of virus infections are growing in South Korea after dozens of new cases linked to nightclubs in Seoul’s Itaewon entertainment district have been confirmed in recent days. South Korea on Sunday reported 34 additional cases, 24 associated with the Itaewon clubs.
Authorities in the Seoul metropolitan area subsequently ordered the temporary closing of clubs, discos and other nightlife establishments to guard against a possible new surge in virus outbreaks.
South Korean health authorities and police are combing through credit-card and mobile-phone records and security camera footage to track thousands of people who visited the popular entertainment district in recent weeks.
The slew of transmissions in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where about half of South Korea’s 51 million people live, have been a rude awakening to a country that had eased up on social distancing and could force officials to push back the reopening of schools.
Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said in a virus briefing Monday that 85 infections nationwide, including 51 cases in the capital, have so far been linked to people who went to clubs in the Itaewon district in recent weeks while the government was relaxing its social distancing guidelines.
Health workers have been attempting to contact some 5,500 people who visited clubs and other nightspots in Itaewon between April 24 and May 6, but more than 3,110 have been out of contact, Park said. He said every one of them should get tested regardless of whether they are exhibiting symptoms, and those who refuse to do so could face a 2 million won ($1,640) fine.
Sen. Lamar Alexander will not return to Washington this week and will self-quarantine in his home state of Tennessee after a member of his staff tested positive for COVID-19.
The Republican senator will be working remotely and will chair the Senate health committee hearing on Tuesday morning by video conference. Witnesses will include Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Robert Redfield, Dr. Brett Giroir and Dr. Stephen Hahn, according to Alexander Chief of Staff David Cleary.
Fauci, Redfield and Hahn have also self-quarantined after exposure to an infected staffer. The witnesses will testify from remote locations as well.
Cleary said the staff member tested positive Sunday and is home recovering, and doing well. Alexander consulted with his physician and decided not to go back to Washington. He will self-quarantine for 14 days “out of an abundance of caution.”
Cleary said almost all of the senator’s Washington staff are working from home, and there is no need for any other staff member to self-quarantine.
Vice President Mike Pence is self-isolating after an aide tested positive for the coronavirus last week.
An administration official says Pence is voluntarily limiting his exposure. He has repeatedly tested negative for COVID-19 since his exposure but is following the advice of medical officials.
Pence’s move comes after three members of the White House’s coronavirus task force placed themselves in quarantine after coming into contact with the aide, Pence spokeswoman Katie Miller.
Pence was informed of the positive test Friday morning before he left Washington for a day trip to Iowa.
“Vice President Pence will continue to follow the advice of the White House Medical Unit and is not in quarantine," said Pence spokesperson Devin O’Malley.
"Additionally, Vice President Pence has tested negative every single day and plans to be at the White House tomorrow.”
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a modest easing of the country’s coronavirus lockdown Sunday and outlined his government’s road map for further lifting restrictions in the coming months.
In a televised address to the nation, Johnson said people in Britain who can’t work from home, such as those in construction or manufacturing jobs, “should be actively encouraged to go to work” this week.
He said that starting Wednesday, a restriction limiting outdoor exercise to once a day will be lifted and that people will be able to take “unlimited amounts.”
The prime minister, who spent a week in the hospital receiving treatment for COVID-19, stressed that social distancing guidelines still will have to be observed and said it would be “madness” to allow a second spike in infections.
Johnson also laid out a “conditional plan” for relaxing other lockdown restrictions in the coming months, including the possible return to school for some younger children on June 1. He said he hopes some of the hospitality industry can reopen a month later.
The World Health Organization has dismissed as “false allegations” a media report that it withheld information about the new coronavirus following pressure from China.
The U.N. agency said in a statement late Saturday that a German magazine’s report about a telephone conversation between WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Jan. 21 was “unfounded and untrue.”
Weekly Der Spiegel reported that Xi asked Tedros during the call to hold back information about human-to-human transmission of the virus and delay declaring a pandemic. The magazine quoted Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, BND, which declined to comment Sunday.
Der Spiegel also claimed that the BND concluded up to six weeks of time to fight the outbreak had been lost due to China’s information policy.
The U.N. agency said Tedros and Xi “have never spoken by phone” and added that “such inaccurate reports distract and detract from WHO’s and the world’s efforts to end the COVID-19 pandemic.”
It said that China confirmed human-to-human transmission of the new coronavirus on Jan. 20.
WHO officials issued a statement two days later saying there was evidence of human-to-human transmission in Wuhan, but more investigation was necessary. The global body declared COVID-19 a pandemic on Feb. 11.
U.S. President Donald Trump has been among the strongest critics of WHO’s handling of the pandemic, accusing it of deference to China and ceasing payments to the agency.
ROME — Italy has registered its lowest total of daily new COVID
19 cases since the start of the nationwide lockdown in early March.
According to Health Ministry data, 802 coronavirus infections were confirmed in the 24-hour period ending Sunday evening.
That’s also the first time daily new cases have dropped below 1,000 since very early in the country’s outbreak. Italy now totals 219,070 known cases.
There were 165 deaths because of the virus since Saturday evening, raising the number of known deaths of infected patients to 30,560.
Authorities say the real total is surely much higher, as deaths at home or nursing care facilities or personal residences aren’t counted if COVID-19 testing isn’t done, although many of those deceased may well have had the illness.
Helping to account for such a lower daily new case total was Lombardy, Italy’s most stricken region. That northern region registered 282 infections in the 24-hour period. In recent days it had registered several hundred fresh cases daily.
NEW YORK — New York nursing homes must start twice-weekly coronavirus testing for all staffers and will no longer be sent COVID
19 patients leaving hospitals, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced after facing growing criticism over the handling of nursing facility outbreaks.
Of the nation’s more than 26,000 coronavirus deaths in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, a fifth of them — about 5,300 — are in New York, according to a count by The Associated Press.
That’s the highest number of nursing home deaths in the country, though other states have also struggled to control the virus in nursing facilities.
New York nursing home residents’ relatives, health care watchdogs and lawmakers have said the state didn’t focus enough on the threat and then the devastating reality of COVID-19 in nursing homes.
Critics have faulted the state for taking weeks to release the number of deaths in individual nursing homes — and still not releasing the number of cases — and for not conducting or requiring widespread testing in the facilities.
All passengers traveling through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport will be required to wear cloth face coverings beginning May 18 to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The requirement also applies to airport workers, including Port of Seattle employees, and visitors who aren’t flying, according to The Seattle Times.
The move announced by the Port of Seattle on Saturday night exempts people who can’t tolerate facial coverings for medical reasons, as well as very young children.
It’s not yet clear how the Port of Seattle will enforce the requirement, but port spokesman Peter McGraw said the policy will be refined in the coming week.
Several major airlines and some airports also are requiring passengers to wear masks. Philadelphia International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport will require all passengers and visitors to wear masks starting Monday. Denver International Airport started requiring all passengers to wear face coverings this past week.
Some carriers, including Seattle-based Alaska Airlines, require passengers to wear face coverings when they are on the plane.
The Transportation Security Administration now requires workers at screening checkpoints to wear masks. At Sea-Tac, seven TSA employees have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.