By The Associated Press
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:
— AP Exclusive: ER staff saves lives, suffers in hot spot.
— Britain’s death toll reaches more than 18,000.
— Greta Thunberg urges world leaders to cooperate on virus, climate.
— Germany to start trial for coronavirus vaccine.
ATLANTA — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to allow hair and nail salons, massage therapists and other businesses to reopen “really defies logic,” says Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
The mayor says the governor didn’t tell her before he announced the decision publicly on Monday.
“He did not tell me directly, and he’s the governor so I don’t always expect to receive a call directly from the governor,” she told NBC’s “Today” show on Wednesday. “But something of this magnitude, I would have expected at least a call from someone on his team.”
The mayor says with manicures, haircuts and massages, “the nature of the business is that you are in close contact with someone and that’s what’s most disturbing to me about the way this order has been lifted.”
PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron has visited a farm in western France to show support for the French agriculture and food industry amid the virus crisis.
Walking near rows of tomatoes in a farm in the village of Saint-Pol-de Leon, Macron thanked the farmers and employees who “may have been scared but came to work to feed the French.”
With the country under lockdown since March 17, many seasonal workers from Southern or Central Europe were unable to travel to French farms for the harvest. The French government has encouraged local people who lost their jobs due to the restrictions to work in the fields while keeping their unemployment benefits.
The government also asked people to eat more French food products to support farmers and fishermen who can no longer sell to restaurants, hotels and other closed venues.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The official Dutch COVID-19 death toll has passed 4,000, with the public health institute reporting a daily increase of 138.
The total dead rose to 4,054 and the number of confirmed infections with the coronavirus rose by 708 to 34,842.
Authorities say the true toll is higher as the official count only includes people who have been tested and many people have died without being tested.
However, authorities say the country is past its peak of infections and deaths. Hospital admissions coordinators say the number of patients treated in intensive care units fell by 37 to 1,050.
GENEVA — Switzerland’s government says it won’t require people to wear masks in public as it eases lockdown measures, diverging from neighbors Austria and Germany.
However, the Swiss seven-member executive branch, says the government next week will begin providing millions of masks to leading retail businesses across the country. The Federal Council says masks are mostly effective in protecting other people — not the people wearing them.
In Austria, people are required to wear masks in shops and public transportation, and Germany will do the same next week.
Switzerland hasn’t required people to stay home but banned gatherings of over five people in public and closed offices, schools, and nonessential shops across the country.
Switzerland, with 8.2 million people, has recorded 26,268 cases and 1,217 deaths.
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Bosnia’s top court has ruled that the country’s authorities were violating human rights of elderly and underage citizens by denying them freedom of movement amid the coronavirus outbreak
Authorities in Sarajevo and numerous other urban centers in Bosnia are banning people over 65 and under 18 years of age from leaving their homes. The 24-hour bans imposed over a month ago were eased just for a few days at the end of March to allow elderly to collect their pensions.
The Constitutional Court says the ban did not “meet the request of proportionality” as authorities didn’t consider more lenient measures or disclosed the basis for the assessment that the groups affected by it were carrying a greater risk of contracting or spreading the coronavirus.
Authorities were given five days to reconsider the controversial orders and bring them in compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights.
LONDON — The British government says 759 more people with the coronavirus have died in U.K. hospitals, taking the total to 18,100.
The daily increase reported was lower than the 823 in the previous 24-hour period.
The U.K.’s death toll is the fourth highest in Europe, behind Italy, Spain and France, all of whom have reported more than 20,000 deaths.
However, there has been increasing scrutiny of the U.K. figures in recent days for understating the actual number of people having died of COVID-19. The numbers don’t include those who have died in care homes or elsewhere in the community.
Earlier, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the country was at the “peak” but that it was too early to start considering a relaxation of the lockdown measures in place since March 23.
MADRID — Spain’s prime minister says confinement rules for the coronavirus outbreak will be relaxed gradually but according to scientific targets and not calendar dates.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez told parliament the government has been working on the plan for the past three weeks.
Sánchez foresees restrictions lifted at different speeds in different places, such as urban or rural areas, because the pandemic is “asymmetrical.”
Epidemiologists will help determine the pace, based on how the pandemic ebbs. Sánchez says the criteria include the capacity of the public health system in the area and the local number of infections and deaths.
Spain has recorded more than 208,000 infection cases and 21,700 deaths.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka is sending special flights to bring back hundreds of students stranded in India, Pakistan and Nepal.
SriLankan Airlines will operate special flights from Amristar and Coimbatore in India, Karachi and Lahore in Pakistan and Kathmandu in Nepal. The flights will bring back 433 students stranded in those cities.
The returnees will be sent to the military-run quarantine centers where they’ll stay for 14 days.
The airline earlier operated similar flights to bring home pilgrims and students stranded in countries such as China and India.
SriLankan Airline has suspended passenger flights until April 30 while operating cargo and special flights. Last month, Sri Lanka closed its international airport for inbound international commercial passenger flights.
STOCKHOLM — Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is urging world leaders to act together to cope with crises and to listen to science experts.
The 17-year-old Swede says the climate crisis “may not be as immediate as the corona crisis but we need to tackle this now otherwise it will be irreversible.” She calls the virus outbreak “a tragedy.”
She says world leaders must put differences aside and make decisions that “in the long run may be necessary.”
She spoke during a conversation with Johan Rockstrom, co-director of Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, in a live online event to mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.
Many large cities are smog-free after shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Major cities have seen reductions of deadly particulate matter from the previous year.
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is thinking ahead to a “Phase II” of the coronavirus pandemic and plans to resume normal activities starting early next month.
The Vatican says its secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, met with the Holy See’s top officials on Wednesday to “reflect on a second phase of the COVID-19 emergency.”
Italy, the European epicenter of the pandemic, is planning a gradual reopening of some activity and services starting May 4. In a statement, the Vatican says it would follow suit, deciding on a “gradual reactivation of ordinary services, while keeping in place the health precautions aimed at limiting contagion.”
The Vatican closed its doors to tourists when Italy locked down in early March after recording its first domestic case Feb. 21. The Vatican has registered nine positive tests so far.
BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania’s president says people will be allowed to travel freely within the country after May 15, the same day that wearing of masks in closed spaces and public transport will become mandatory.
President Klaus Iohannis says other restrictions, including a ban on large gatherings, will remain in effect. Iohannis is scheduled to meet with education officials to examine how schools can gradually reopen.
A state of emergency because of the pandemic first declared March 16 was later extended until May 15. Romania has reported 9,710 coronavirus cases and 508 deaths.
BERLIN — Germany’s health minister has regulatory approval for the first trial in the country of a vaccine for the coronavirus.
Jens Spahn says the trial will involve 200 people ages 18-55. He cautioned the process of fully testing the vaccine would take months.
Germany’s regulatory authority, the Paul Ehrlich Institute, approved the trial for an RNA-based vaccine being jointly developed by BioNTech and Pfizer. Regulatory approval for trials is also being sought in the United States and China.
Numerous companies are racing to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus that has infected more than 2.5 million people worldwide and caused at least 178,000 deaths in the past four months.
LONDON — Acting British Prime Minister Dominic Raab says the government is still targeting 100,000 tests a day for coronavirus by the end of this month — even though it’s more than 80,000 short with just eight days to go.
In the first hybrid prime minister’s questions in the House of Commons with a maximum 50 lawmakers allowed in the legislature, Raab conceded there will need to be an “exponential” increase in tests in coming days.
The most recent daily figures show that only 18,206 tests were conducted, even though the government has ramped up capacity to a potential 40,000.
Raab is filling in for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson while he recovers from COVID-19.
Keir Starmer, the new leader of Britain’s main opposition Labour Party, criticized the government for being slow in putting Britain into lockdown and getting the necessary personal protective equipment for front-line staff.
WARSAW, Poland — Greenpeace activists marked Earth Day in Poland by unfurling banners before the main government office in Warsaw saying that a return to normal after the anti-COVID-19 stay-at-home measures will spell a crisis for the environment.
One of the red banners unfurled before the office of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki read, “Normal was a Problem. Future can be Better.”
Poland’s Environment Ministry has noted wild animals have ventured into space usually taken up by humans.
People have been under home isolation since March 16. The ban to enter woods and parks was lifted Monday. The nation of 38 million has reported over 10,000 COVID-19 cases and 404 deaths.
HANOI — Vietnam will loosen travel restrictions as the country lifts a nationwide shutdown after no new COVID-19 cases were reported the past week.
The government announced the confinement order will be lifted starting Thursday in most cities and provinces except in the capital Hanoi, which has nearly half of the country’s 268 infections. Vietnam is among a few countries with no reported deaths from the virus.
The government requests people carry on social distancing and bans public gathering of more than 20 people, in-dining restaurants and other nonessential business will remain closed. In several provinces where no infection was reported, schools will be reopened. Students will be scanned for temperature before entering the premises.
“We have basically contained the situation, but we must stay alert and take very careful steps when reopening the country,” deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam said.
Vietnam shut down its border with China in January, stopped international arrivals in mid-March and vigorously carried out contact tracing down to commune level.
KYIV, Ukraine — Police in Ukraine launched criminal cases against priests who defied quarantine regulations and allowed believers inside churches for the Easter services without face masks.
The country’s Interior Ministry says some 130,000 people attended Easter church services on Sunday. It says quarantine regulations were violated in 19 churches across 13 regions.
Five criminal cases have been launched against priests in two parishes of the Moscow-affiliated Orthodox Church in Ukraine. The priests may face up to eight years in prison.
Ukraine has registered 6,592 cases of the coronavirus and 174 deaths. The government ordered a strict lockdown in March, banning all public events, suspending most public transport and urging people to stay home.
BERLIN — A regional lawmaker in Berlin is proposing that a 1,000-bed field hospital being built in the German capital be used to treat coronavirus patients from Italy.
Catherina Pieroth-Manelli told public broadcaster rbb Wednesday the move would send a signal of solidarity to Italy, which has been hardest hit in Europe by the pandemic.
Pieroth-Manelli, a member of the Greens that are part of a three-party governing coalition in Berlin state, said the offer would depend on how the number of infections develop in Germany.
Even without the field hospital, which will be completed at the end of the month, only about a quarter of the existing hospital beds set side for COVID-19 patients in Berlin are currently in use. Germany currently has about 50,000 active cases, about 1,300 of them in Berlin.
Germany has already taken in more than 200 patients from other European countries, including Italy, France and the Netherlands.
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s president has told Parliament that he is deploying another 73,000 members of the national defense forces to help enforce a coronavirus lockdown and support other government efforts.
President Cyril Ramaphosa shortly before the lockdown began in late March deployed more than 2,500 troops.
Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula tells local radio station that the dramatic new increase is in part so defense forces can transport and bury bodies and even build mortuaries if South Africa’s death toll rises sharply. The country has the most virus cases in Africa with more than 3,400, including 58 deaths.
“What informs us is what we’ve seen in other countries,” the minister says. “If it doesn’t happen in South Africa, thank god.”
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