Moscow residents to don masks, gloves next week

Moscow residents to don masks, gloves next week
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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:

— Moscow residents set to don masks, gloves next week.

— Turkey’s currency plunges to all-time low against dollar.

— Pompeo rebuffs German plea to reconsider WHO funding halt.

— Spain sees sharp drop in daily virus death toll from last month.

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MOSCOW — Moscow residents will be required to wear masks and gloves when using public transit and visiting public spaces starting Tuesday because of the coronavirus.

The announcement by Mayor Sergei Sobyanin comes after the decision to reopen industrial plants and construction sites in the capital on that same day.

“Allowing more people to work, we understand that it will increase passenger traffic on the transport, increase the number of people who come in contact with each other, and it somehow needs to be compensated for,” Sobyanin said Thursday in an interview on the state-run Rossia 24 TV channel.

He added that as many as 2.5% of Moscow’s 12.7 million population — some 300,000 people — may be infected with the coronavirus.

Moscow has so far registered almost 93,000 confirmed cases of the virus — more than half of the country’s total of 177,000 reported infections.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s currency has dropped to an all-time low against the dollar as the country struggles with the economic impact of the pandemic.

The Turkish lira fell to 7.26 against the dollar on Thursday, surpassing the previous record low of 7.24 reached during a currency crisis in August 2018.

The Turkish currency has lost 18% of its value against the dollar since the beginning of the year.

The country was hit by the pandemic as it was already grappling with slow growth, increasing unemployment and rising inflation.

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BERLIN — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has rebuffed a plea from Germany to reconsider halting funding for the World Health Organization over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

The German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported Thursday that Pompeo responded to a letter from his German counterpart, Heiko Maas, by insisting that the U.S. was “deeply committed to working with the international community to fight the coronavirus pandemic” despite the funding freeze.

Pompeo noted that the U.S. has been the largest single contributor to WHO over the years despite what he described as “a string of mismanaged pandemic responses” by the Geneva-based agency, which he accused of “public kowtowing to the Chinese Communist Party regime.”

Pompeo added that the U.S. has a “particular interest in (WHO’s) performance, transparency, and accountability,” stating “we need functional, reliable global institutions, not dysfunctional, inept bureaucracies.”

Germany’s Foreign Ministry confirmed an exchange of letters between Maas and Pompeo but declined to elaborate. The U.S. Embassy in Berlin said it would not comment on diplomatic communications.

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MILAN — Italian media are reporting the suicide of a businessman suffering the economic consequences of Italy’s lockdown to fight the coronavirus.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte expressed his condolences to the family of the furniture store owner near Naples. ‘’Sad news,’’ Conte told a meeting of an Italian entrepreneur network on Wednesday. ‘’We are facing a period of great suffering,’’ he added.

Italian news reports said the businessman had opened his furniture store days earlier and had expressed concern to friends about being able to pay his six employees.

Studies have shown that suicides in Italy have accelerated during past economic crises, notably starting with the 2008 global economic crisis. Conte’s government is expected to approve another round of economic measures this week, amid growing discontent over the slow pace of distributing money promised to businesses and individuals.

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NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus says it is screening 10% of migrants confined at the country’s two migrant reception centers for COVID-19.

Cypriot Interior Ministry senior official Loizos Michael told the Associated Press that health care workers this week began carrying out tests on just over 100 migrants.

Michael said on Thursday that so far there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 among migrants who were confined at the centers in line with a strict, countrywide lockdown.

The official said the migrants’ confinement will end in sync with a May 21 lifting on all restrictions on movement if the COVID-19 infection rate remains at the current, minimal level.

Cyprus has received some 3,000 migrants since the start of the year, with most arriving before the lockdown came into effect in late March. Cyprus to date counts almost 900 confirmed coronavirus cases and 15 deaths as a direct result of virus infection.

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MADRID — Spain’s daily virus death toll down by about 700 from last month.

The encouraging development comes a day after the government secured parliamentary support for a new two-week extension of its lockdown measures despite losing some important support from political rivals.

Spanish health authorities reported about 200 new fatalities on Thursday, taking the total death toll just over 26,000 since the start of the outbreak in Spain. That is down from over 900 deaths a day a month before. Spain has reported nearly 257,000 COVID-19 infections.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez salvaged a critical parliamentary vote on Wednesday to keep alive a state of emergency despite the loss of the backing of the main opposition party. The state of emergency that gives the government extraordinary powers to apply the lockdown that has successfully reined in the virus will now last until May 24.

Spain is slowly rolling back its restrictions. Children were allowed to go outside for short walks with parents on April 26 and adults followed last weekend with outings for exercise.

Spain’s government top virus expert said that any possible upticks in the contagion rate of that relaxation would be seen in the coming days.

“It is from here on that we should start to see if there are any effects,” Fernando Simón said.

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LONDON — The British government says a shipment of personal protective equipment from Turkey intended to help ease supply problems is sitting in a warehouse because it does not meet U.K. standards.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said the 400,000 medical gowns are not “of the quality that we feel is good enough for our frontline staff” treating coronavirus patients.

The shipment has become an embarrassment for the British government since a minister announced on April 18 that it would arrive the next day. It was four days before a Royal Air Force plane was able to fly the cargo to the U.K.

Like many other countries, the U.K. has struggled to maintain a constant supply of protective equipment amid unprecedented global demand. The Department of Health said “this is a global pandemic with many countries procuring PPE, leading to shortages around the world, not just the U.K.”

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BERLIN — Germany’s public health agency has cautiously welcomed the ‘emergency brake’ agreed to by federal and state authorities should coronavirus cases rebound, but warned that the pandemic is far from over.

Lars Schaade, deputy head of the Robert Koch Institute, said Thursday that setting a level of 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants for reimposing lockdown measures was a “pragmatic threshold that I believe in principle is sensible.”

But he noted that Germany remains “at the start of the pandemic,” adding that “it can last many months and it will probably continue into the next year.”

Germany has managed to sharply reduce the rate of new infections to about 1,000 nationwide per day, prompting calls for restrictions to be eased. On Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel and governors of the 16 states agreed to further loosen the rules, albeit with a fallback clause.

The Robert Koch Institute reported more than 166,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 by Thursday — about 26,000 of them still active — and more than 7,000 deaths. Germany has a population of about 83 million.

Schaade said that only about a third of Germany’s massive test capacity of almost 1 million a week is now being used, and only about 3.8% of the roughly 318,000 tests conducted last week was positive.

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JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia has posted its slowest growth in about two decades as the coronavirus crisis made its effects felt in exports, investment and consumption in the Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

Gross domestic product expanded by only 2.97 percent in January-March from the same period last year, the Central Statistics Agency announced on Thursday. This compares to a 4.99 percent expansion in the last quarter last year.

The last time Indonesia saw a lower growth was in the fourth quarter of 2001.

The first quarter reading might just be a sign of even more challenging times for the rest of the year.

Since the pandemic began, the government has revised its growth projection to 2.3 percent this year, down from its original target of 5.3 percent.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases rose by more than 300 in Indonesia on Thursday, to take the country’s total to almost 13,000.

The government also reported 35 people died within previous 24 hours, another highest spike in a day to bring the country’s death toll over 900.

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LONDON — The head of the World Health Organization’s Europe office said the agency is “deeply troubled” by reports of increasing domestic violence against women, men and children in countries including Belgium, Britain, France, Russia, Spain and others amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In a press briefing on Thursday, Dr. Hans Kluge said that although data were scarce, countries across Europe are reporting up to 60% of women are suffering domestic violence, noting that calls to help hotlines have jumped about five times. He warned that continued restrictive measures needed to suppress COVID-19 could have a devastating impact on vulnerable women and children.

“If lockdowns were to continue for six months, we would expect an extra 31 million cases of gender-based violence globally,” Kluge said, citing data from the UN Population Fund. “Evidence shows that interpersonal violence increases during every type of emergency,” he said. Kluge said authorities should consider it a “moral obligation” to ensure help services are available to communities.

He said that some countries have already responded to the emerging crisis, noting Italy’s development of an app where people can request help without making a phone call, and programs in Spain and France where pharmacists can be alerted to problems by people using code words. Kluge said the reported numbers were still only a small measure of the actual problem since people suffering from abuse often decline to report it.

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BEIJING — China is firing back at U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s claim that there is “enormous evidence” that the coronavirus originated in a Chinese laboratory, accusing him of “making up lies and covering up a lie by fabricating more lies.”

The strong language from Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying at a Thursday briefing came as U.S. President Donald Trump and his allies have continued to express confidence in an unsubstantiated theory linking the origin of the outbreak to a possible accident at a Chinese virology laboratory.

U.S. officials say they are still exploring the subject and describe the evidence as purely circumstantial. But Trump, aides say, has embraced the notion to further highlight China’s lack of transparency.

Pompeo told ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” that there is “enormous evidence” that the virus began in the Wuhan Institute of Virology in the city where the outbreak was first detected.

“Under the situation that no scientists and experts can even draw any conclusions, why did Secretary Pompeo want to rush to the conclusion to hold the Wuhan laboratory accountable? Where is his evidence?,” Hua told reporters, while defending the integrity of the Wuhan lab.

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JOHANNESBURG — About 850,000 people across Africa — population 1.3 billion — have been tested for the coronavirus since the pandemic began. That’s according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Director John Nkengasong again tells reporters that “we are not testing enough.” The Africa CDC last month said it hoped to test 1 million people within four weeks and 10 million within about six months. But the supply of testing kits remains a challenge.

“Without tests, we’ll be fighting blindly,” Nkengasong said. He added that “we are in for a very long fight, let me be clear with everyone.” Africa’s confirmed virus cases are now above 51,000.

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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 without permission.

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