The Latest: Turkey eases lockdowns for seniors, children

National News

Patrons stand in a line to enter the Louis Vuitton shop at the upmarket shopping mall Siam Paragon in Bangkok, Thailand, Sunday, May 17, 2020. Thai authorities allowed department stores, shopping malls and other businesses to reopen from Sunday, selectively easing restrictions meant to combat the coronavirus. (AP Photo/ Gemunu Amarasinghe)

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:

— Turkish senior citizens allowed to leave home for second time since lockdown.

— Malls reopen in Thailand as virus recedes.

— Spain registers first daily death toll of under 100 since declaring state of emergency.

— British PM says there might never be a vaccine for COVID-19.

___

ISTANBUL — Turkey’s senior citizens were allowed to leave their homes for a second time as the country continues to ease some coronavirus restrictions.

People above 65 — the age group most at risk of COVID-19 — can be outside for six hours on Sundays, but their lockdown on other days continues. The health minister urged them to wear masks and practice social distance.

Turkey has instituted partial lockdowns, with people above 65 and under 20 ordered to stay home. The measures for senior citizens took effect on March 21 and were relaxed for the first time last Sunday.

Children and teenagers were also allowed out this week on different days for several hours.

The latest statistics from the health ministry put confirmed infections in Turkey at 148,067 and the death toll at 4,096.

___

LONDON — Britain has hired most of the 18,000 contact tracers it needs for a testing and tracking program it plans to roll out next month when lockdown restrictions are eased further.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove told the BBC on Sunday that 17,200 people had been recruited, allowing the government to meet its hiring goal by next week.

The contact tracers will track down anyone who has been in close contact with those testing positive for COVID-19. They’re part of program authorities plan to launch in June, when some students will be allowed to return to school and shops can start reopening in phases. Authorities have also been testing a smartphone tracing app to help with the effort.

The tracers are a mix of people who have clinical training and those who can provide a call center service, Gove said. Britain has Europe’s highest death toll and number of confirmed virus cases.

___

BANGKOK — Thais have been streaming into shopping malls as the country eases another restriction imposed to fight the threat of the coronavirus.

The government decided to allow the malls to reopen as Thailand’s number of new COVID-19 cases dwindled to single digits for all but one day over more than two weeks.

Malls had been closed since March as a measure to combat the spread of the virus. The government will watch to see whether the infection rate remains low before deciding on the next phase of the plan to restore normality.

___

MADRID — Spain has registered its first daily death toll of fewer than 100 confirmed fatalities since declaring a state of emergency to fight the coronavirus two months ago.

Spain’s health minister says regional authorities have reported 87 new deaths, the lowest daily count since March 16. Spain reported over 900 deaths a day at the height of the outbreak.

The country of 47 million has had 27,650 deaths and 277,719 infections from COVID-19.

Spain is easing its strict lockdown measures that succeeded in slowing the spread of the virus but have also brought its economy to a halt.

___

LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says there might never be a vaccine for COVID-19 despite the huge global effort to develop one.

The British government is giving 93 million pounds ($110 million) in funding to speed up the opening of the new Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Center. Johnson said Britain also is supporting research into drug treatments to help people recover quickly from the virus.

Johnson wrote in the Mail on Sunday newspaper “there remains a very long way to go, and I must be frank that a vaccine might not come to fruition.”

Johnson says “we need to find new ways to control the virus,” including testing people who have symptoms and tracing contacts of those infected people.

The British government relaxed some restrictions on outdoor activities in England last week and plans to continue easing rules over the next few months.

Johnson says “I know this will not be easy — the first baby steps never are.”

___

ATHENS, Greece — Churches throughout Greece have opened their doors to the faithful after two months.

They limited the number of congregants and dispensed disinfectant outside, but communion was given using the same spoon.

Those who flocked to churches for Sunday Mass sat three chairs apart and observed social distancing of at least 1.5 meters (5 feet) from each other. The number of people attending was limited to 1 per 10 square meters (108 sq ft). Many were left outside, but avoided crowding, and churches used loudspeakers to broadcast Mass.

Some churches performed Mass two or three times to accommodate the number of people who showed up.

Greece is gradually easing strict quarantine measures which were imposed in March and have helped limit fatalities from COVID-19 to 162. There have been fewer than 3,000 confirmed cases.

Greeks will be able to travel freely in the mainland and on the island of Crete starting Monday. Bars, cafes and restaurants will reopen March 25.

___

SEOUL — South Korea’s top anti-disease official says it’s too early to have an optimistic view that recent coronavirus outbreaks linked to nightlife spots in Seoul could be suppressed.

Jung Eun-kyeong, director of South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, made the comments hours after her agency reported 13 additional cases — the second straight day that the country’s daily jump was below 20.

Jung says the recent outbreaks haven’t so far showed “explosive” surges in infections. But she says the incubation periods for those who recently visited night clubs in Seoul’s Itaewon entertainment haven’t ended and a large number of people who came in contact with those clubgoers were still under quarantine.

She says authorities need about a week to assess a prospect for the outbreaks.

Jung says 168 new patients have so far been found linked to Itaewon clubs. Of those, 89 visited the establishments and 79 came in contact with them.

She says five of the 13 new cases reported Sunday were associated with Itaewon clubs.

___

UNITED NATIONS — United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is warning of the increasing vulnerability of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people during the COVID-19 pandemic on the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.

The U.N. chief said in a message marking Sunday’s commemoration that the day comes at a time of great challenge when the world needs to protect the LGBTI community.

Guterres said many LGBTI people who already face bias, attacks and murder “simply for who they are or whom they love … are experiencing heightened stigma as a result of the virus, as well as new obstacles when seeking health care.”

He said: “There are also reports of COVID-19 directives being misused by police to target LGBTI individuals and organizations.”

“As the pandemic unfolds, the United Nations will continue to highlight these and other injustices, as well as the need for everyone to be protected and included in the response to the crisis,” the secretary-general said. “Together, let us stand united against discrimination and for the right of all to live free and equal in dignity and rights.”

The International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia is observed on May 17 to commemorate the U.N. World Health Organization’s decision to remove homosexuality from the international list of diseases on that date in 1990. The founders urge countries around to world to take actions to raise awareness of LGBT rights and violations.

___

SEOUL — South Korea has reported 13 new cases of the coronavirus over a 24-hour period, raising hopes that a new outbreak linked to nightclubs in Seoul may be waning.

The additional figures released Sunday by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention brought the national tally to 11,050 with 262 deaths.

The agency says 9,888 of them have recovered and that 17,660 were under tests to determine whether they’ve contracted the virus.

After weeks of a slowdown of new cases, South Korea’s daily jump marked an average of about 30 for several days, mostly associated with nightclubs in Seoul’s Itaewon entertainment district. But the daily increase marked 19 on Saturday.

The disease control agency didn’t immediately say how many of the 13 new cases were linked to nightlife spots in Itaewon.

___

OROVILLE, Calif. — A person who attended a religious service on Mother’s Day has tested positive for the coronavirus, possibly exposing it to more than 180 members of a congregation.

The church in Butte County, north of Sacramento, chose to open its doors despite rules banning gatherings of any size, county public health officials said in a statement Friday.

“Moving too quickly through the reopening process cancause a major setback and could require us to revert back to more restrictive measures,” the statement said.

Most people with the virus experience fever and cough for up to three weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems can face severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The vast majority recover.

___

SYDNEY — Opera singer Jane Ede will perform Monday for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of live shows, but in an unusual location.

Ede, Opera Australia’s principal soprano, will join several other musicians for about 450 guests who have spent two weeks in government-ordered hotel quarantine after returning from overseas locations.

The audience, on their last night in quarantine, will be able to watch the courtyard performance from their balconies, or on their in-room televisions or devices.

“It’s really just to sort of bring everyone together and it will be quite an uplifting concert to sort of have a moment of connection and celebration before they end their quarantine,” Ede said.

For the soprano, who has starred in productions of The Marriage of Figaro, La Boheme, Don Giovanni and Falstaff among many others, it will be her first live performance since March.

“It will be lovely just to have a really good sing again,” Ede said.

___

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela is reporting its biggest one-day increase in confirmed coronavirus cases since the pandemic hit the South American nation.

Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said Saturday that the 45 new cases bring Venezuela’s total to 504 illnesses, with 10 resulting in death. Officials have reported a relatively low number of cases since the first were discovered in mid-March.

While Venezuela has reported relatively few cases so far, health experts say its hospitals are especially vulnerable to being overwhelmed. Venezuela is in a deep political and economic crisis that has left its health care system in a shamble.

President Nicolás Maduro ordered a nationwide lockdown shortly after the first cases, and he recently extended it until mid-June, hoping to contain the virus’ spread.

Officials say that 35 of Saturday’s cases involved people returning to Venezuela, including several on a flight from Peru.

___

BEIJING — China on Sunday reported five new cases of coronavirus, as the commercial hub of Shanghai announced the restart of classes for kindergarteners, first-, second- and third-graders from June 2.

Also, airlines say they have seen a revival of flights.

Of the new cases, two were imported and three were domestic infections in the northeastern province of Jilin that has seen a small spike in cases of unknown origin.

In Shanghai, students retain the option of continuing to follow classes online rather than facing virus testing and social distancing measures to be imposed at schools. As in Beijing and other cities, Shanghai has already re-started classes for middle and high school students preparing for exams.

No new deaths have been reported for the past month, but Jilin added one fatality retroactively, bringing China’s total to 4,634 out of 82,947 cases reported since the outbreak was first detected in the central city of Wuhan late last year. Just 86 people remain hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19 while another 519 people are in supervised isolation for showing signs of the virus or having tested positive without displaying symptoms.

China now has the capacity to perform 1.5 million nucleic acid tests per day, National Health Commission Guo Yanhong told reporters Saturday. The commission is placing a new emphasis on bio-safety, management of laboratories and training of personnel, Guo said.

Meanwhile, the number of domestic flights has returned to 60 percent of pre-outbreak levels, exceeding 10,000 per day for the first time since Feb. 1, the country’s civil aviation regulator reported. The number of flight hit 10,262 on Friday, up from a low of 3,931 flights on Feb. 13, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said. No passenger numbers were given.

With the summer holidays approaching, numerous tourist sites have re-opened, including Beijing’s storied Forbidden City palace complex and Shanghai’s Disneyland resort, although with strict social distancing measures still in place.

___

ATLANTA — Outdoor exhibits along a one-way flow for visitors at Zoo Atlanta opened Saturday for the first time since mid-March, but indoor habitats, rides, playgrounds and other attractions remain closed because of COVID-19.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the zoo is limiting the number of visitors by requiring them to make reservations with specific times to enter the park.

Zoo employees had to answer a health survey and have their temperatures taken before returning to work.

Zoo Atlanta deputy director Hayley Murphy says disinfectant is used on the grounds every 60 to 90 minutes and every hour in restrooms.

___

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.

Don't Miss

More Don't Miss