The Latest: S. Korea pushes QR registration for risky venues

International News

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, wearing a mask for protection against the coronavirus, arrives to inaugurate a new hospital in Istanbul, Friday, May 29, 2020. Worshippers in Turkey have held their first communal Friday prayers in 74 days after the government reopened some mosques as part of its plans to relax measures in place to fight the coronavirus outbreak. The partial opening of the mosques follows a slowdown in the confirmed COVID-19 infections and deaths in the country. (Can Erok/DHA via AP)

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:

— Cases steadily rising around South Korean capital.

— US sends Brazil malaria drug unproven for COVID-19 treatment.

— Egypt reports its highest number of infections, deaths.

— Turkey opens COVID-19 hospitals.

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South Korea is reporting a steady rise in cases around the capital as officials push to require entertainment venues to register their customers with smartphone QR codes so they could be easily located when needed.

The 35 new cases of COVID-19 reported Monday include 30 around Seoul. The figures released by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention brought national totals to 11,503 cases and 271 deaths.

Officials have reported 238 infections over the past five days, most of them in the Seoul metropolitan area where around half of South Korea’s 51 million people live, causing alarm in a country that had eased up on social distancing and started to send millions of children back to school. Hundreds of infections have been linked to nightspots, restaurants and a massive e-commerce warehouse near Seoul.

From Monday, a designated group of businesses in Seoul, Incheon and Daejeon will begin collecting the personal details of their customers with smartphone QR codes in a trial run before the requirement is expanded nationwide on June 10.

While local governments can enforce the QR codes on “high-risk” facilities such as nightclubs, bars, karaoke rooms, gyms and concert venues, Health Minister Park Neunghoo expressed hope that the technology would be expanded to churches, libraries, hospitals and restaurants.

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BEIJING — China on Monday reported a spike in daily confirmed coronavirus cases to 16, all in newly arrived travelers.

Eleven were people arriving in the southwestern province of Sichuan, three in the northern region of Inner Mongolia and two in the southeastern manufacturing heartland of Guangdong. No new deaths were reported and just 76 people remain in hospital for treatment.

Another 400 were in isolation while being monitored for showing signs of COVID-19 or having tested positive for the disease without showing symptoms.

China has reported a total of 4,634 deaths among 83,017 cases.

With local transmissions having fallen to virtually zero, much of the country has reopened for business and Monday saw the further restart of classes in middle and high schools that had previously only allowed those preparing for graduation exams to return to campus. Kindergartens, and fourth- and fifth-graders will be allowed back next week as part of a staggered opening to prevent the further spread of the virus.

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MANILA, Philippines — Traffic jams and crowds of commuters are back in the Philippine capital, which shifted to a more relaxed quarantine in a high-stakes gamble to slowly reopen the economy while fighting the coronavirus outbreak.

Commuter trains, taxis, Grab cars, special shuttle buses and motorcycles rumbled back on the road in metropolitan Manila Monday but were only allowed to carry a small fraction of their capacity as a safeguard. Public transport is still limited by the relaxed quarantine rules, which forced the government to deploy dozens of buses but many commuters still waited for hours to get a ride.

“Many people are now allowed to go out and many industries are reopening so you’ll see a lot of vehicles … but the situation remains abnormal,” said police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, warning police would still go after violators who would not wear face masks and observe physical distancing.

Classes remain suspended for the next two weeks. Barber shops and beauty salons can open next week at a third of their capacity. The Philippines remains a Southeast Asian hot spot for the COVID-19 disease, with more than 18,000 infections and 957 deaths.

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. has sent to Brazil more than 2 million doses of a malaria drug touted by President Donald Trump as potentially protecting against and treating the coronavirus, even though scientific evidence has not backed up those uses.

No large, rigorous scientific studies have found the drug, hydroxychloroquine, safe or effective for preventing or treating COVID-19, and some smaller studies have indicated worse outcomes from those taking the drug.

Brazil, now Latin America’s hardest-hit country, continues to see a surge in virus cases, and last week Trump announced that the U.S. was restricting travel from the country to prevent travelers from spreading the virus in the U.S.

In a joint statement with the Brazilian government on Sunday, the White House said the doses of hydroxychloroquine had been sent to Brazil as a prophylactic for front-line health workers and as a therapeutic for those who may come down with the virus. The White House said it was also delivering 1,000 ventilators to Brazil.

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CAIRO — Egypt’s Health Ministry reported its highest-ever number of infections and deaths from the coronavirus.

The ministry said Sunday there were 46 deaths in the last 24 hours, jumping from 34 the previous day. There were also 1,536 confirmed cases.

Egypt, a country of 100 million people, has seen a surge in infections in the past week. It has the highest announced deaths from COVID-19 in the Arab World, and the third in the Middle East behind Iran and Turkey, according to a tally by The Associated Press.

Sunday’s figures have taken the tally in the Arab World’s most populous country to 24,985 confirmed cases and 959 deaths. The ministry says over 6,000 patients were discharged from quarantine after their recovery.

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Alaska on Sunday reported 27 new coronavirus cases, the largest one-day increase reported since the start of the pandemic.

Cases have spiked since Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy loosened restrictions put into place to guard against the virus’ spread. The state on April 24 began easing restrictions on businesses.

Most restrictions on businesses were lifted May 22, though some local governments opened later. Dunleavy said at the time that he expected case numbers would rise and that the state would respond to any spikes or clusters.

Sunday’s count was the most single-day cases since 22 were reported April 6. The state now has 460 total cases.

The state’s death count remains at 10, and a death attributed to COVID-19 hasn’t been recorded since May 5.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Two hospitals for coronavirus patients were opened in Istanbul as Turkey’s daily number of new cases fell to its lowest since the peak of the outbreak.

“Thank God, we prevented the spread of the pandemic even without needing the additional capacity we created here,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday as he opened a 1,008-bed hospital, built over 45 days on the site of the former Ataturk airport.

Turkey recorded 839 cases over the previous 24 hours, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted, taking the total to 163,942 since the first infection was announced on March 11. There were 25 coronavirus-related deaths over the same period, bringing the toll to 4,540.

Turkey ranks 10th worldwide for the number of virus cases, according to John Hopkins University, although experts believe the rate of infections globally could be much higher than reported.

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YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, California — Yosemite National Park has been closed to the public for nearly three months and a few dozen lucky children have had it mostly to themselves.

They are student journalists who put out the Yosemite Valley School newspaper.

Their parents are Yosemite’s essential staff who live in a residential area of the park and are watching over it while it’s closed.

The pandemic hasn’t stopped the presses on the school year’s last edition of “The Yosemite Eye.” The publication has charmed its community and has a circulation of 5,000.

Naturally, the upcoming June edition will feature some stories on coronavirus, from the children’s perspective.

Talleulah Barend, a fifth grader, is writing about how video games are helping people socialize. There is a story on making masks, and a word search featuring coronavirus keywords, like “Zoom.” Graduating eighth graders who are leaving to attend a high school outside the park usually get to give speeches. The paper will publish those.

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ROME — Italy registered 355 new coronavirus cases and 75 deaths, some of the lowest such numbers since the nation’s lockdown against the pandemic began in early March. Italy now totals 233,019 known cases of COVID-19 and 33,415 deaths.

But health experts say many people with no or mild symptoms likely didn’t get tested and note that many died in residences for the elderly or in their own homes also without being tested for the virus.

The latest figures from the health ministry come three days before Italy lifts a lockdown rule against travel for tourism between Italian regions and from most European countries.

This prospect has made some governors nervous in regions which have been relatively less hard hit in the pandemic.

Sicily’s governor, Nello Musemeci told the Corriere della Sera daily that if vacationers come from places such as northern Lombardy, Italy’s most stricken region, they should be prepared to indicate “day-by-day” whereabouts so they can be traced while visiting the Mediterranean island in case of infection.

For 10 days straight, Lombardy has been the only region in the country with daily increases of cases in the three digits, registering 210 confirmed infections in patients in the 24-hour period ending Sunday.

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JOHANNESBURG — South African President Cyril Ramaphosa says that China has pledged to make available 30 million COVID-19 testing kits per month to African countries, which are facing a shortage of the materials to test for the disease.

Ramaphosa, currently the chairman of the African Union, told journalists that Chinese President Xi Jinping had pledged that Chinese companies would make available the testing kits as well as 10,000 ventilators per month and 80 million masks per month to African countries.

Ramaphosa didn’t specify if the equipment would be donated or sold to African countries. South Africa, which has the continent’s highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 at 30,967 and 643 deaths, has faced a shortage of testing kits and other equipment.

The shortage of testing materials and ventilators has been a problem for all the countries of Africa, which have had to compete with richer countries for the equipment. The coronavirus is spreading steadily but relatively slowly across Africa, with the continent’s 54 countries reporting 141,535 cases and 4,069 deaths, according to figures provided Sunday by the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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LONDON — Britain has announced new plans to help the homeless, pledging to provide 6,000 new “supported homes’’ as the country moves to lift the lockdown put in place to stall COVID-19.

The measure builds on the work of a task force that succeeded in bringing 15,000 homeless people off the streets and into hotels during the pandemic.

The head of task force, Louise Casey, warned that “the pandemic is not over” and vulnerable people must still be protected.

But she praised the “absolutely extraordinary response” from charities and businesses. She says it has been “a heartening example of what we can do when we need to do it, and the best of Britain in this time of crisis.”

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said Sunday that the government is offering 433 million pounds ($534 million) for the new accommodation.

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MADRID — Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says he will ask Spain’s Parliament for a final two-week extension of the nation’s state of emergency that has allowed the government to take lockdown measures to control its coronavirus outbreak.

Sánchez says this will be “the last, definitive extension of 15 days.”

The current state of emergency is set to expire on June 7. The government will ask for the extension in the coming days.

The lockdown measures have succeeded to reining in a COVID-19 outbreak that has claimed at least 27,000 lives in Spain.

Sánchez says this final stretch of the lockdown will include the handing back of control over health care to the regions that have shown the most progress in containing the virus.

“We have almost reached safe harbor,” Sánchez said.

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis cheerfully greeted people in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, as he resumed his practice of speaking to the faithful there for the first time since a coronavirus lockdown began in Italy and at the Vatican in early March.

“Today the square is open, we can return to it with pleasure,’’ Francis said.

Instead of the tens of thousands of people who might have turned out on a similarly brilliantly sunny day like in pre-pandemic times, perhaps a few hundred came to the square on Sunday, standing well apart from others or in small family groups.

Until June 3, people aren’t allowed to travel between regions in Italy or arrive from abroad for tourism, so the people in the square came from Rome or places in the region.

Francis cited those who have been infected by the virus or who died in the Amazon region, especially the “particularly vulnerable” indigenous people. He prayed that no one in the world lack medical assistance, especially due to economic priorities.

“Persons are more important than the economy,” Francis said.

Noting this was the first time he could greet people in the square for weeks, Francis said that “one doesn’t emerge from a crisis the same. You either come out better or you come out worse.” He said he’d be back to greet them next Sunday in the same place at noon, smiling and pointing down to the vast square far below his studio window.

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BEIJING — A German engineer who flew to China on a special charter flight Saturday has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Tianjin city government said in a social media post that the 34-year-old man from Blaustein, Germany, had a body temperature of 36.3 Celsius (97.3 Fahrenheit) and no COVID-19 symptoms. It did not give his name. He has been transferred to a hospital where he will be kept for medical observation.

About 200 people arrived on the chartered Lufthansa A340 from Frankfurt. A second flight is scheduled to depart on Wednesday for Shanghai.

China has banned most foreigners from entering the country to try to prevent the introduction of new infections, but agreed to allow the two German flights to bring back businesspeople as it tries to revive economic growth after the coronavirus shutdowns.

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s daily death toll from the coronavirus is climbing, hitting a new high of 88 overnight, amid reports of acute care bed shortages and near daily warnings from health professionals to tighten lockdown measures.

The government, however, has kept mosques open, urging safe distancing but not enforcing the rules.

In the latest reduction of restrictions, the government has withdrawn the limits on congregations in mosques and churches in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where minorities make up less than 5% of the population of 220 million.

Pakistan has confirmed 69,496 cases of the coronavirus, including 1,483 deaths.

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Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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