WORLD The Latest: Austrian restaurants, churches to reopen in May

WORLD

The Latest: Austrian restaurants, churches to reopen in May

AP

20:17, April 21, 2020

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.

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People wear protective face masks as they walk in Westminster in London, as the country is in lockdown to help curb the spread of coronavirus, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (Photo: AP)

TOP OF THE HOUR:

— The United Nations urges the world to quickly scale up medicines and vaccines.

— Austria plans to open all shops at the beginning of May and restaurants and churches in mid-May.

— India advises states to not use rapid testing kits for the next two days, citing faulty, inaccurate kits.

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VIENNA — Chancellor Sebastian Kurz says Austria intends to go ahead with plans to open all shops at the beginning of May and restaurants in mid-May.

Austria allowed small shops to open a week ago. Kurz said Tuesday that coronavirus infections have continued to drop, so the government can move ahead with the reopening plan it already sketched out. He said the government will review the situation at two-week intervals, "so as always to have the opportunity to pull the emergency brake if that is necessary."

The plan calls for the remaining shops, along with services such as hairdressers and manicurists, to open at the beginning of May. Schools are scheduled to start opening in May and religious services resuming May 15.

The government also plans to allow the catering industry to restart on May 15, with all staff required to wear masks. There will be restrictions on how many customers can be present.

Kurz advised Austrians against "prematurely" expecting unlimited freedom to travel around Europe. He said that he will take his summer vacation in Austria, and "can only recommend to Austrians that they do the same."

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NEW DELHI, India — A day after India partially relaxed lockdown restrictions to allow India's poor to go back to work, the government was forced to advise states to not use rapid testing kits for the next two days.

The advice came after several states told the Indian Council of Medical Research, the apex medical research body, that the kits were faulty and inaccurate.

ICMR's Dr. R. R. Gangakhedkar said: "Too much variations were being reported in results of rapid test kits. In next two days, kits will be tested and validated in the field by our teams," adding that an advisory would be issued afterward.

India's health ministry says the country has 18,601 confirmed cases and 590 deaths.

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PRISTINA, Kosovo — The coronavirus pandemic has claimed the first pregnant woman in Kosovo, according to the Health Ministry.

A statement says the 40-year-old woman from the Gjakova city, 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of the capital, Pristina, died Tuesday after being treated for six days at the infectious clinic in Pristina.

The virus has infected 598 people in Kosovo and killed 16 as of Tuesday. Authorities claim the low figures are due to the restriction measures they have imposed to contain the virus's spread.

Kosovo has been in a total lockdown since mid-March, with all its land border crossing and air routes shut. Schools, cafes, restaurants and other small retail shops are closed and only those offering food and other basic items have remained open during the day.

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ATHENS, Greece — The heads of Greece's pandemic response effort are visiting a refugee shelter in the south of the country after authorities confirmed a high number of COVID-19 infections at the site.

The shelter at Kranidi hosts 470 asylum-seekers and was placed in isolation Monday after a pregnant resident tested positive for the new coronavirus during a hospital visit.

The government did not immediately confirm reports by state-run media that some 150 asylum seekers had since tested positive.

"It is a worrying development," government spokesman Stelios Petsas said Tuesday. "There has been a high number of cases given the (crowded) conditions that exist at the facility."

The outbreak at the shelter occurred after the government launched an effort to relocate some 2,380 asylum-seekers considered the most vulnerable to the virus from crowded camps on the Greek islands to smaller facilities on the mainland.

No cases of COVID-19 have so far been confirmed by Greek authorities at the island camps, which currently host some 40,000 migrants and refugees.

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ROME — Italy's extraordinary commissioner for the COVID-19 emergency says that for the first time during the pandemic the nation has more respirators than patients with coronavirus infections in intensive care beds. 

"This gives us the strength to go forward," Domenico Arcuri told reporters on Tuesday. There are currently some 2,500 patients receiving intensive care for coronavirus infections. 

Arcuri spoke of the "anguish, with which, each night, we had to decide where to send these instruments, which, in the end, save lives" when there weren't enough respirators for those all needing them. 

"I'll keep that with me for all my life, and I wouldn't wish anyone else to experience" the dilemma of choosing which hospital received them, he said. 

For several days running now in Italy, the number of patients in intensive care wards have been diminishing. Italy has Europe's highest number of deaths — more than 24,000 — in the outbreak, which in the early weeks overwhelmed hospitals, especially in the north where most known cases were registered.

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MADRID — Spain's famous running of the bulls in Pamplona is the latest major European event to be called off due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Pamplona city hall announced Tuesday that the nine-day San Fermin festival held in July won't take place this year.

It said in a statement that though the decision was expected, "it still brings sadness."

Pamplona mayor Enrique Maya is infected with the virus.

The San Fermin fiesta was made famous internationally by Ernest Hemingway in his 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises."

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A Dutch nursing home where a number of residents are infected with the coronavirus has been evacuated as a precaution due to smoke drifting from a nearby wildfire.

The organization that runs the Wellenshof nursing home in the southeastern town of Liessel says in a statement that the 24 elderly residents were evacuated Monday evening.

Coby Nogarede, chair of the board of directors of the foundation that runs the nursing home, told local broadcaster Omroep Brabant that the local health authority "organized special transport with all preventative measures so that clients and employees can't infect one another."

The fire in the Deurnese Peel nature reserve continued to burn Tuesday, fanned by strengthening winds. Two air force Chinook helicopters equipped with water-bombing equipment are helping fire crews tackling the blaze.

The local municipality reports that nobody has been injured by the blaze that had burned some 150 hectares (371 acres) of peat land by Tuesday morning.

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LONDON — Official statistics show that at least 1,500 more people with the new coronavirus have died in Britain than the 16,500 whose deaths have been announced by the government.

The Office for National Statistics says that 1,043 deaths in nursing homes in England and Wales up to April 10 involved COVID-19, with 826 of those deaths recorded in the final week of that period. More than 500 other people died in hospices and private homes.

Those are not included in the U.K. government's daily total, which only includes deaths in hospitals.

The figures show that the total number of deaths in the week to April 10 — 18,516 — was the highest weekly total in 20 years. About a third of all deaths involved the coronavirus.

The British government is under pressure to include nursing-home deaths in its daily coronavirus figures amid fears the number is being underreported.

Liz Kendall, social care spokeswoman for the opposition Labour Party, said "these awful figures are only scratching the surface of the emerging crisis in social care, because they are already 11 days out of date."

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PARIS — Paris police are facing a modest uptick of unrest in the oft-troubled suburbs of the now locked-down French capital, making a small number of arrests after fires were set and fireworks lobbed to shatter the calm imposed by stay-home measures to counter the coronavirus. 

A scattering of vehicle and trash-can blazes and firework explosions on successive nights on the outskirts of Paris this week have so far been far milder than previous outbreaks of violence. But the renewed tensions are also a reminder of policing difficulties that have long simmered in troubled neighborhoods of the city, before the virus lockdown forced most people indoors.

Paris police said officers arrested nine people in two suburbs overnight Tuesday. They were suspected of either possessing fireworks or gathering together to commit violence.

A possible trigger for the flare-up appears to have been a traffic accident this past weekend involving a police car and a motorcyclist who was injured. Police reported that projectiles were thrown at officers following the crash on Saturday evening.

The lockdown in place since March 17 has been particularly tough for families jammed together in small apartments in the poorer Paris suburbs. The stay-home orders and police patrols to enforce them have also disrupted underground economies centered around drug-dealing and other crime in unruly projects.

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STOCKHOLM — Sweden's state alcohol monopoly that runs a chain of liquor stores says it has put up signs in its shops to tell patrons that vodka, gin and other spirits meant for consumption doesn't work as hand sanitizer.

A spokeswoman for Systembolaget, Therese Elmgren, told Sweden TT news agency that they had received questions from customers — both in shops and online — after which they decided to put up the signs stating that strong alcoholic beverages don't work as sanitizer.

"It needs to have a higher percentage," Elmgren said.

Systembolaget was created to minimize alcohol-related problems. The stores that are found throughout Sweden, sell alcoholic beverages that contain more than 3.5% alcohol by volume. One must be above the age of 20 to buy there.

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MADRID — New deaths attributed to the new coronavirus in Spain are slightly up again on Tuesday, with 430 fatalities that bring the total death toll to 21,282 from a 4-week low of 399 daily deaths on Monday.

Spain is reporting nearly 4,000 new infections to a total of 204,178, a 2% day-to-day increase in line with the average for the past four days, health ministry data shows.

The government is assessing already how to roll back one of Europe's strictest lockdowns, starting from next Monday by allowing children to go out onto the streets for brief periods. Spain's center-left Cabinet is discussing details on how the measure will be implemented during Tuesday's weekly meeting.

An 8-week survey of 30,000 households that will be tested for the new virus is also expected to roll out on April 27, allowing authorities to gauge what's the level of immunization beyond hospitals and nursing homes, where testing has focused during the peak of the pandemic.

Authorities are also deciding on Monday on price caps for face masks, gloves, hand sanitizers and other protective equipment that has been in short supply.

According to a government special order issued on Sunday, the aim with controlling prices is for citizens to access in "non-abusive" economic conditions to the material that experts see as key to controlling future contagion.

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BERLIN — Germany's foreign minister says it's not yet possible to say when restrictions on travel in Europe and beyond will be loosened and a normal summer vacation season with full beach bars won't be possible this year.

Germany is currently warning against nonessential tourist travel anywhere abroad. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas acknowledged Tuesday that the issue is becoming "increasingly pressing" because many people are asking what the situation will be in the summer. The government will consider it at the end of the month.

Maas noted that "international aviation is grounded, many countries have entry bans and bans on going out — those are not conditions under which one can have a relaxing vacation."

He said "no one needs to be under any illusions" because efforts to curb the coronavirus pandemic will continue to limit freedom of movement.

Maas said that "it won't be possible to have a normal vacation season with full beach bars and full mountain huts this summer — that would not be responsible."

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SINGAPORE — Singapore has announced it would extend its lockdown by another four weeks after a sharp upsurge in cases in recent days. 

The city-state reported 1,111 new cases earlier Tuesday to take its total to 9,125, the highest in Southeast Asia. Foreign workers staying in crowded dormitories account for nearly 80% of infections. 

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said most of the new cases were due to aggressive testing of workers in the dorms, including those who are asymptomatic. Lee said in a televised speech that the clusters in the dorms have remained largely contained but circuit-breaker measures, that shut down nonessential businesses and schools until May 4, will be prolonged till June 1 until infections ease. 

Lee said the government would shut more workplaces so that only the most essential services will stay open. Lee said the "short-term pain" is crucial to stamp out the virus, and pledged to provide further help for businesses and workers.


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