The Latest: US concerned Tanzania not releasing virus data
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:
— Tiny nation of Lesotho has virus, last of 54 African countries.
— Spain reports slight increase in daily virus infections.
— Wuhan to test all residents after handful of new infections.
JOHANNESBURG — The United States says Tanzania has not publicly released any data on COVID-19 in two weeks as concerns rise about the true number of cases there.
The World Health Organization also has openly worried about Tanzania, whose president has questioned his own government’s virus testing and refused to close churches in the belief that the virus can’t survive in the body of Christ.
A new U.S. Embassy statement warns that the risk of being infected in Tanzania’s commercial hub Dar es Salaam is “extremely high” and says many hospitals in the city have been overwhelmed.
It says “all evidence points to exponential growth” in cases in the East African nation. The country has more than 500 confirmed cases and 21 deaths, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
LISBON, Portugal — Portuguese health authorities have published plans for the resumption of preschool next week.
Nursery schools must reduce the number of children they normally have in a room and place them far apart.
Staff members will be dedicated to a single group, and groups should be kept in separate rooms.
Parents’ groups have expressed concern it will be impossible to ensure social distancing at school between small children. Experts say its required to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.
School classes for students ages 16-18 also are expected to resume next week.
Portugal has officially recorded just over 28,000 cases and 1,175 deaths from the coronavirus.
ANKARA, Turkey — A lawyer in Turkey has filed a lawsuit against China on behalf of a private company, seeking compensation for financial losses due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Lawyer Melih Akkurt says he filed the lawsuit at the Ankara Court of First Instance on behalf of a company that was forced to suspend operations during lockdowns. He says it is the first commercial lawsuit in Turkey against China, where the coronavirus pandemic began.
The lawyer wouldn’t name the company. The lawsuit holds China responsible for economic losses, accusing of failing to provide timely and accurate data to the World Health Organization, concealing information on the virus’ infectiousness, silencing doctors and not preventing its spread.
China rejects accusations of a coverup or not responding to the outbreak in a timely manner.
VIENNA — Austria’s agreed to a plan to open its border with Germany and expects something similar soon with Switzerland and Liechtenstein, but Chancellor Sebastian Kurz says it’s too early to talk about such measures with Italy.
Italy has been one of the European countries hardest hit by the coronavirus with more than 220,000 infections and 30,000 deaths.
Austria already announced an agreement with Germany to open their border from June 15. Kurz says work is under way on a similar solution with its other Western European neighbors, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
Austria has recorded some 16,000 coronavirus infections and more than 600 deaths.
Lesotho -- Southern Africa’s tiny mountain kingdom of Lesotho has confirmed its first positive case of COVID-19, making it the last of 54 African countries to report the disease.
The Lesotho health ministry says one person, who recently arrived in the country, had tested positive without showing signs of illness. The patient is isolated.
Lesotho, a country of 2 million people, is surrounded by South Africa, which has the highest confirmed cases in Africa at 11,350.
The coronavirus has been slow to spread in Africa, but cases are rising. More than 69,500 cases have been confirmed and more than 2,400 deaths, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
TOKYO — Japan is considering a partial lifting a coronavirus state of emergency, currently in place nationwide through May 31.
Prime Minister Abe Shinzo is expected to make an announcement Thursday.Abe declared a monthlong state of emergency on April 7 in Tokyo and six other urban prefectures and later expanded it nationwide.
Japanese media says lifting is expected in more than 30 prefectures where new cases of COVID-19 have decreased. Restrictions will remain in place in Tokyo and its neighboring areas, as well as Osaka, where medical systems are still under pressure.
Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura says work from home should continue and residents should avoid trips after the state of emergency is lifted.
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike says it is too early for people to put their guards down, even though the number of new cases in the capital has decreased. She says it is unknown when the second wave of infections will occur and whether the ongoing wave of infections has subsided.
Meanwhile, Japan’s health ministry approved a new type of coronavirus test. Antigen test kits developed by Fujirebio can detect virus proteins in samples swiped inside the nose of a suspected patient, with results in 30 minutes. Ministry officials and experts say it is faster than the PCR test, which takes several hours.
Japan has nearly 16,000 confirmed cases and more than 680 deaths.
WARSAW, Poland — U.S. and Polish defense officials say an element of the DEFENDER-Europe 20 exercise in Poland will move from May to June 5-19 to ensure the safety of the troops during the coronavirus pandemic.
A communique by the U.S. Army Europe command and Poland’s Defense Ministry says the decision to move the Allied Spirit exercise was taken “after careful assessment and planning.” The exercise at the test range in Drawsko Pomorskie has been modified from its original design.
The deployment exercise will involve some 4,000 U.S. troops and 2,000 Polish troops in an airborne operation and a division-size river crossing.
Some 5,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Poland to enhance security at a time of increased military activity by neighbor Russia.
FATIMA, Portugal — The Catholic shrine at Fatima in Portugal has held its annual celebrations without worshippers for the first time in its more than 100-year history.
Hundreds of thousands of people traditionally hold candles as they attend masses at the small town’s huge shrine on the night of May 12 and morning of May 13. The ceremonies mark the day when three illiterate shepherd children first reported seeing visions of the Madonna.
Like the shrine at Lourdes, France, Fatima draws about six million pilgrims from around the world every year to give thanks to Our Lady of Fatima, or to pray for help.
Authorities this year asked people not to travel to Fatima due to the coronavirus outbreak. Police cordoned off roads leading to the shrine.
Ceremonies were broadcast live and streamed. The dean of the shrine asked people to place a lighted candle in a window of their home and “make a pilgrimage of the heart.”
ANKARA, Turkey — Parks filled with the sound of children as Turkey allowed kids aged 14 and under to leave homes for the first time in 40 days.
The country’s youngest population were allowed to venture out for four hours between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm on Wednesday as Turkey eased some restrictions in place to fight to coronavirus outbreak. Youngsters aged between 15 and 20 will be able to leave homes for a few hours on Friday, while senior citizens were briefly allowed out for the first time in seven weeks on May 10.
In the capital Ankara’s main park, Kugulu Park (or Swan Park), young children wearing masks took turns down slides while some elder kids took selfies.
The government has announced a “normalization plan” as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases have dropped, but warned of tougher measures if infections go up again.
Turkey has recorded more than 140,000 cases of the virus and nearly 4,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19, according to a tally by John Hopkins University. The true number is likely much higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with displaying symptoms.
MADRID — Spain is reporting a slight increase in new daily coronavirus deaths and infections, as officials watch closely the curves to see if the relaxation of confinement rules is leading to a significant rebound.
Spain’s recorded fatality toll has surpassed the 27,000 mark on Wednesday with 184 new deaths in the past 24 hours, eight more than Tuesday’s increase.
There were also about 400 new coronavirus cases confirmed by the most reliable laboratory tests on Wednesday, bringing the country’s total over 228,600. At least 42,000 more infections have emerged with tests that track antibodies that appear after the contagion.
More than 140,000 have overcome the COVID-19 illness.
BERLIN — The German government is recommending that a requirement for people arriving from other countries in Europe to self-quarantine for 14 days be dropped.
Germany last month imposed a requirement for all people arriving in the country to go straight home and stay there for two weeks, except those who were on very short trips, commuting to their jobs, transporting goods or in some other essential functions.
A court in the northern state of Lower Saxony suspended the rule for that region this week.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said Wednesday he is recommending that state governments, which are responsible for quarantines, drop the requirement for travelers from other European countries but maintain it for arrivals from other nations such as the United States and Russia.
The comment came as Seehofer said Germany will start loosening checks on its borders with some neighbors this weekend — though he said controls will be stepped back up if infections rise strongly in neighboring countries.
BERLIN — Germany’s foreign minister says his country will be able to lift a blanket warning against foreign travel for European destinations before other places, but he isn’t specifying when.
Germany’s warning against all nonessential tourist travel abroad is currently set to run until at least June 14.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Wednesday that “it will certainly be possible to lift the travel warning earlier for Europe than for other destinations — so long as the current positive trend in many countries solidifies.”
Maas said in a statement that “freedom to travel is part of the foundation of the European project, but in times of corona Europe must ensure more: the freedom to travel safely.”
He said European Union guidelines presented Wednesday are an important basis for talks with other European countries. Maas plans to invite many of his colleagues in the coming days to participate in a “neighbourhood dialog” on how to lift restrictions safely.
He said that Europe must coordinate as well as possible even if the situation differs from country to country — “we don’t all have to proceed at the same speed, but we also shouldn’t do it as a race, and we should do it in such a way that we don’t tread on each other’s feet.”
BERLIN — Germany plans to start loosening its border controls this weekend after two months of restrictions.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said Wednesday that checks on the border with Luxembourg will be dropped after Friday. On the borders with France, Switzerland and Austria, all border crossings will be opened — rather than selected ones at present — and authorities will switch to spot rather than systematic checks.
Seehofer said that the aim is to restore free travel across those three borders on June 15, so long as coronavirus infections allow.
Germany imposed checks on its borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg and Denmark on March 16 and people “without a valid reason to travel” haven’t been allowed to cross. Eastern neighbors Poland and the Czech Republic closed their own borders.
Seehofer said Germany is prepared to relax controls on the Danish border, but Denmark is in the process of consulting with its other neighbors.
LONDON — Golf courses in England are reopening as part of some modest socially distanced easing of the coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
People in England can exercise more than once a day and with one person from outside their household, provided they stay two meters apart (around 6.5 feet). Outdoor tennis and basketball courts can be used, and people will also be able to swim in lakes and the sea.
Garden centers can also reopen, while potential house buyers can visit properties in person. And people who cannot work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, are being encouraged to return if they can do so in a COVID-secure way.
The lifting of some restrictions, first announced by U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday, applies only in England. The semi-autonomous governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are going more slowly and sticking with the “Stay Home” message.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia has reported more than 600 new cases of COVID-19 for the first time since the country confirmed its first cases in early March, making the national total exceed 15,000 on Wednesday.
There were 689 new confirmed cases in the past 24 hours to bring the total to 15,438. The cumulative figure includes about 1,000 deaths and nearly 3,300 recoveries.
The highest spike in a day came as the government is mulling over a plan to start easing social restrictions next month to allow businesses to resume operations gradually.
The plan, which is still under development, aims to restore “business as usual” by the end of July, where shopping malls will be allowed to resume limited operations on June 8, schools allowed to reopen on staggered schedules and exercising outdoors allowed with social distancing.
But the draft also stressed that the plan was contingent on fulfilling the public health metrics first, including flattening the daily curve of new COVID-19 cases.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Norway is opening its borders to allow people from other European countries enter the Scandinavian country if the have a residence there or have family they want to visit.
Justice Minister Monica Maeland said Wednesday that Norway, which is not part of the European Union, is opening up for citizens from the European Economic Area that includes EU member states, the United Kingdom, Iceland, Liechtenstein. The last three countries have together with Norway signed the agreement that gives EU non-members access to the EU’s huge single market.
Maeland said in a statement that it also means, among other things, that seasonal workers will have the opportunity to enter Norway.
BEIJING — A shorter-than-usual ban on drone use in the Chinese capital is being interpreted as a signal that China will curtail its major political meeting of the year because of COVID-19.
Beijing police announced Wednesday that the use of drones, balloons, gliders and other low-flying objects will be banned for nine days, from May 20 to May 28. Such bans are common during major events.
The National People’s Congress usually happens over two weeks in March but was postponed this year because of the coronavirus outbreak. It is scheduled to start on May 22, so the flying ban suggests it may last just one week.
Province-level meetings held in advance of the Congress were curtailed and with fewer delegates in attendance. Some participants in a recent preparatory meeting for the Congress joined by video conference, sparking speculation that some of the 3,000 delegates to the Congress may do so too.
BANGKOK — Health authorities in Thailand have reported no new confirmed cases of COVID-19 for the first time in more than two months.
There were also no new deaths reported Wednesday, leaving the country’s total just over 3,000 cases with nearly 60 fatalities, while almost 3,000 of the patients have recovered.
Since the beginning of May, Thailand has reported single-digit daily increases, with the exception of May 4, when a cluster pushed the number to 18.
The last time Thailand reported no new cases was on March 9, when there were 50 cases in total with a single death.
Thai authorities have been gradually and selectively easing restrictions meant to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Restaurants in Bangkok last week were allowed to reopen for sit-in dining under rules mandating social distancing, and the city’s popular shopping malls, whose supermarkets and drug stores have remained in operation, may get permission Friday to restart many of their other activities as soon as this weekend.