TOP OF THE HOUR: — New Orleans begins reopening. — Doctor ailing with COVID-19 dies in Brazilian plane crash. — Italy's death toll down to lowest since early March. — Spain prime minister wants to extend state of emergency 1 month.
New Orleans began taking its first steps Saturday toward loosening two months of restrictions on businesses, restaurants and houses of worship.
The city is restricting buildings to 25% of capacity and requiring restaurants, nail salons and other businesses to only take customers by reservation. Malls and retail stores can reopen, but casinos, video poker, live entertainment and bars are still closed.
Officials are still urging people to stay home as much as possible and requiring people to wear masks in public unless exercising.
The coronavirus struck New Orleans so quickly in March there were worries the pandemic would overwhelm the state health system. Hospitalizations have been going down for nearly a month, but officials warned a spike in cases or deaths could lead to putting restrictions back in place.
Just days after announcing it would end hazard “hero” pay to front-line workers, Kroger says it will give them extra “thank you” bonuses.
That’s according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. The move comes after an outcry from the grocery store’s union, which said workers are still risking their lives by coming to work.
The bonus is $400 for full-time workers and $200 for part-time workers, to be paid in two installments, Kroger announced. Hazard pay was a $2-per-hour supplement.
The Cincinnati-based grocer estimates the new bonus will provide $130 million to its workers.
United Food and Commercial Workers International estimates that nationwide at least 65 grocery workers have died at Kroger and other retailers after contracting the coronavirus.
RIO DE JANEIRO
A small plane carrying a doctor sick with COVID-19 crashed in the Brazilian state of Ceara on Friday night, killing all four people on the aircraft, according to online news site G1, citing the state’s firefighters.
The sick doctor was being transferred to an intensive care unit in his home state of Piaui. Two medical staffers treating him, as well as the pilot, were also on the plane.
The Ceara Fire Department and Sao Bernardo municipality, where the plane crashed, did not immediately respond to requests for information.
Italy recorded the lowest number of deaths in a 24-hour period since early in its coronavirus lockdown at just 153.
That brings the total in the epidemic to 31,763, the civil protection agency reported on Saturday. The last time the death count was that low was March 9, the day after the nationwide lockdown was announced.
The number of confirmed new infections rose by 875 for a total of 224,760, while the number of currently infected dropped to just over 70,000.
Nepal reported its first confirmed coronavirus death.
The Health Ministry says a new mother fell sick and died Thursday at a hospital near Kathmandu. Hospital results showed she tested positive for the virus.
The 29-year-old woman had given birth on May 8 in Kathmandu and returned home. She was brought to a hospital after felling sick. Authorities have sealed the hospital, her village and are contacting people she met in the past few days.
Nepal has 281 confirmed coronavirus cases. A lockdown on March 24 has been extended several times and scheduled to end Sunday.
All flights and ground transport have been halted and people are prohibited from leaving their houses. All schools and most markets are closed.
Greek authorities have announced two new deaths from COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 162.
There were nine new confirmed cases, with the total at 2,819.
The relaxation of quarantine measures continued Saturday, with 515 organized beaches opened across the country amid a heatwave with temperatures approaching 100 degrees. On Monday, people will be allowed to travel to all destinations in mainland Greece and the island of Crete.
Health authorities have approved opening bars, cafes and restaurants on May 25.
Hungary’s government says coronavirus restrictions will gradually lift in Budapest starting next week.
Because of more infections, the capital city trails the rest of the country, where restrictions were eased May 4.
In Budapest, all stores will be allowed to open from Monday, though the use of face masks or scarves will remain mandatory in stores and on public transportation.
Between 9 a.m. and noon, food stores and pharmacies will continue to serve only those over 65. Parks and playgrounds will open, along with the Budapest Zoo and outdoor pools. Restaurants can serve customers only outdoors, on terraces or in gardens.
While universities will be allowed to open Monday, schools across the country remain closed.
Hungary has registered 3,473 coronavirus cases and 448 deaths.
Pakistan reopened its two key border crossings with Afghanistan to allow for trade and movement of people between the two countries.
The announcement comes about six weeks after the government closed the borders with neighboring Afghanistan and Iran to help contain the spread of the coronavirus. So far, no decision has been to reopen the border with Iran, which has been hard hit by the virus.
The government says those traveling between Pakistan and Afghanistan must follow social distancing guidelines.
Pakistan reported 31 more deaths from the coronavirus Saturday, raising virus-related deaths to 834.
Pakistan has nearly 39,000 confirmed cases.
The Ohio prison system plans to resume accepting inmates from county jails to begin their prison sentences, a practice suspended during the coronavirus pandemic to reduce overcrowding.
On Monday, the state will take up to 50 inmates a day at the Correctional Reception Center in central Ohio. Authorities will hold inmates a minimum of 35 days before transferring them to facilities around the state based on their security level and other factors.
The agency needs to resume housing inmates as Ohio courts reopen, says JoEllen Smith, spokeswoman for the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
“Reopening the reception process will be done in a gradual controlled manner while we continue to carefully monitor county jail operations,” Smith said.
The announcement comes even as positive cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Ohio prisons along with inmate deaths. More than 4,500 inmates system-wide have tested positive or nearly one in 10. Some 60 inmates have died across seven institutions.
British authorities have reported 468 more COVID-19 deaths in their latest daily update, bringing the country’s overall death toll to 34,466.
The deaths include those in hospitals, nursing and care homes and the wider community.
The health department says Saturday another 3,451 people have tested positive for the coronavirus, putting the total at 240,161.
Britain has Europe’s highest death toll and most confirmed cases.
Hundreds of beaches in France reopened with restrictions, including no sunbathing.
Local authorities will decide which beaches would reopen after the French government gave the green light as part of its staggered plan to end a strict two-month lockdown that began March 17 to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, visiting a beach in Normandy, warned “we won’t hesitate” to close beaches if rules aren’t respected.
Beachgoers can take a dip but cannot lay in the sun or picnic in the sand. Social distancing rules must be maintained and groups must be limited to no more than 10 people.
Some regions, like the Pas de Calais and Le Nord, gave the go-ahead for boats, with restrictions. Those living in Marseille must wait until the start of June to enjoy the 21 beaches in the area.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says he’ll ask Parliament for what he hopes will be the last extension of the state of emergency.
Sánchez says he’ll seek the support of the legislature to support a one-month extension of the state of emergency that gives his government extraordinary powers to maintain the nation’s two-month lockdown. Previously, Sánchez received parliamentary support for two-week extensions to the state of emergency that took effect on March 14 and expires May 24.
Health authorities reported 102 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 on Saturday, taking Spain’s death toll to 27,563. Over a month ago Spain, had more than 900 deaths a day before the lockdown measures for an outbreak that’s infected a confirmed 276,505.
Support for Sánchez’s minority, left-wing coalition government has been waning with each vote to extend the state of emergency. But the Socialist leader managed to salvage a key vote two weeks ago by striking last-minute deals with two smaller parties.
The U.N. children’s agency says it is concerned about alleged police abuse of an Albanian teenager who apparently violated the coronavirus curfew.
UNICEF commented on the incident shown on social media of four police officers beating a 15-year-old boy on Friday in Tirana.
“Violence committed by those who are mandated to protect the law and order is truly disturbing,” says UNICEF in a statement, urging “an investigation and adequate steps by the responsible state structures.”
Police suspended the officer involved and is investigating the case.
“State police strongly denounce such acts which violate the police image among the citizens,” says State Police spokesman Gentian Mullai.
Albania has imposed a curfew since mid-March that continues in the capital of Tirana, which is the most virus-affected area. Individuals can go out for two hours with online permission and not after 5.30 p.m.
Albania is in total lockdown with all its borders shut. Next week it will relax rules for most of the businesses but not public transportion, sports, cultural and entertainment activities.
Albania has 933 confirmed virus cases and 31 deaths
Greece reopened organized public beaches under strict social distancing measures during a heat wave.
City dwellers flocked to the beaches while temperatures reached 98 degrees, hoping for a refreshing swim less than a week after full lockdown measures were lifted.
Easing beach restrictions is seen as key to salvaging the tourism industry over the summer in a country expected to have the worst recession in the European Union as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Saturday, swimming and sun loungers were permitted but no group sports or food operations. The government issued strict beach guidelines, with businesses facing fines of up 20,000 euros ($21,650) and a three-month closure for violations.
The number of beachgoers cannot exceed 40 people per 1,000 sq. meters (10,764 sq. feet) and two beach umbrellas must be 1.5 meters (5 feet) apart. The distance between groups must be 4 meters (13 feet).
The government is considering opening bars and restaurants on May 25.
Local officials and tourism boards are discouraging people from visiting popular tourist spots on the first weekend since lockdown rules for England were eased.
The County Councils Network, which represents 36 rural and coastal authorities in England, says its concerned “day trippers” from cities and towns could raise the infection rate in counties and overwhelm parks and beaches.
Spokesman Julian German says, “Our coastal and rural areas will be there when this is over.”
The British government relaxed lockdown rules on Wednesday to allow people in England to spend more time outdoors. They can play golf and tennis, sunbathe, go fishing and have a picnic. Meeting one other person is allowed with social distancing.
Rules for the rest of Britain — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland —haven’t been eased.
British researchers are launching a trial to see whether dogs can use their noses to detect whether humans have COVID-19 before they show symptoms.
Britain’s health department said Saturday that disease control experts are looking into whether dogs which have been trained to sniff out certain cancers and malaria can potentially be used as a “non-invasive, early warning measure” to identify the coronavirus.
Researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Durham University are collaborating with the charity Medical Detection Dogs. The trial is getting 500,000 pounds ($600,000) of British government funding.
Six dogs, including Labradors and Cocker Spaniels, have started basic training for the trial. In the initial phase, researchers plan to gather odor samples from both people infected with the virus and those who aren’t.
The health department says the dogs will then undergo thorough training using the samples and will only be deployed if backed by strong scientific evidence.
Dozens of restaurant owners have protested outside of Milan’s main train station against the new rules for reopening Monday.
They say the rules remain unclear and the entire sector — including suppliers and food producers — is suffering.
They protested in front of signs reading: ‘’I won’t open today to close tomorrow,’’ and calling for an abolition to taxes and more concrete help.
The government posted rules Saturday for restaurants to reopen, including a distance of at least one-meter (three feet) between patrons, a requirement to take reservations and keep records for at least two weeks and a recommendation to use disposable or electronic menus that can be read on personal devices. It also recommends but does not require taking temperatures of diners as they arrive.
In Italy’s financial capital, 3,400 restaurants plan to open Monday along with 4,800 bars, 2,900 hairdressers, 2,200 clothing stores and 700 shoe shops.
The first Pakistani COVID-19 patient who was treated at a hospital with blood donated from a man who survived the disease has fully recovered.
The patient was treated at a hospital in the country’s southern Sindh province.
Several COVID-19 patients are currently undergoing the plasma therapy after authorities allowed 350 patients to undergo such a clinical trial across the country.
A Pakistani doctor who treated the patient has urged those who defeated coronavirus to donate blood for the treatment that uses plasma from people who have recovered to help seriously ill patients.
The development comes as Pakistan reported 31 more deaths from coronavirus, raising virus-related fatalities to 834.
Pakistan has 38,799 confirmed cases and the increase in infections also coincides with a growing number of daily tests being carried out in this country of 220 million.
ROME — The Italian government is easing travel restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic, allowing people to move freely inside the region where they live as of Monday, and between regions starting June 3.
The government decree announced early Saturday also permits international travel to and from Italy from June 3.
Italy imposed nationwide lockdown rules in early March after it became the first country outside Asia with a major outbreak of coronavirus. More than 31,000 people have died, leaving Italy with the highest death toll after the United States and Britain. But the government led by Premier Giuseppe Conte has gradually reopened the country as the rates of infections and deaths have fallen.
Social distancing rules are being implemented in the sectors of the economy that have reopened, including factories and some businesses. Schools remain closed and crowds are not permitted, though people will be allowed to attend Mass in churches with some restrictions starting next week.
NEW DELHI — India’s coronavirus infection cases have surpassed China’s with the health ministry on Saturday reporting the spike to 85,940 cases with 2,752 deaths.
In total, China has reported 4,633 deaths among 82,933 cases since the virus was first detected late last year in the central city of Wuhan.
The worst hit Indian states are Maharashtra with 29,100 cases, Tamil Nadu 10,108, Gujarat 9,931 and New Delhi 8,895.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is due to announce this weekend a decision whether to extend the 54-day-old lockdown. Early this month, it started gradually easing the restrictions to resume economic activity by allowing neighborhood shops to reopen and manufacturing and farming to resume. It also has resumed a limited train service across the country to help stranded migrant workers, students and tourists.
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