The Latest: Pope greets people in St. Peter's Square
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:
- Pope greets people in St. Peter's Square
- German engineer tests positive in China
- Russia sees over 9,000 new virus cases
- Pakistan sees single-day high of 88 virus deaths
- India records more than 8,000 new infections in a day
VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis cheerfully greeted people in St. Peter's Square on Sunday, as he resumed his practice of speaking to the faithful there for the first time since a coronavirus lockdown began in Italy and at the Vatican in early March.
'Today the square is open, we can return to it with pleasure,'' Francis said.
Instead of the tens of thousands of people who might have turned out on a similarly brilliantly sunny day like in pre-pandemic times, perhaps a few hundred came to the square on Sunday, standing well apart from others or in small family groups.
Until June 3, people aren't allowed to travel between regions in Italy or arrive from abroad for tourism, so the people in the square came from Rome or places in the region.
Francis cited those who have been infected by the virus or who died in the Amazon region, especially the 'particularly vulnerable' indigenous people. He prayed that no one in the world lack medical assistance, especially due to economic priorities.
'Persons are more important than the economy,' Francis said.
Noting this was the first time he could greet people in the square for weeks, Francis said that 'one doesn't emerge from a crisis the same. You either come out better or you come out worse.' He said he'd be back to greet them next Sunday in the same place at noon, smiling and pointing down to the vast square far below his studio window.
BEIJING - A German engineer who flew to China on a special charter flight Saturday has tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Tianjin city government said in a social media post that the 34-year-old man from Blaustein, Germany, had a body temperature of 36.3 Celsius (97.3 Fahrenheit) and no COVID-19 symptoms. It did not give his name. He has been transferred to a hospital where he will be kept for medical observation.
About 200 people arrived on the chartered Lufthansa A340 from Frankfurt. A second flight is scheduled to depart on Wednesday for Shanghai.
China has banned most foreigners from entering the country to try to prevent the introduction of new infections, but agreed to allow the two German flights to bring back businesspeople as it tries to revive economic growth after the coronavirus shutdowns.
MOSCOW - Russia reported 9,268 new cases of the coronavirus on Sunday, the first time in a week that the daily tally exceeded 9,000, but the lowest death toll in several days: 138.
Overall, Russia has recorded 405,843 cases and 4,693 deaths from COVID-19. The relatively low mortality rate compared with other countries has prompted skepticism domestically and abroad.
In a bid to dispel suspicions that authorities are trying to lower the death toll for political reasons, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova explained last week that Russia's count contains only those confirmed to have died directly of the infection, but she also gave figures for people who tested positive for the virus but died of other causes.
ISLAMABAD - Pakistan's daily death toll from the coronavirus is climbing, hitting a new high of 88 overnight, amid reports of acute care bed shortages and near daily warnings from health professionals to tighten lockdown measures.
The government, however, has kept mosques open, urging safe distancing but not enforcing the rules.
In the latest reduction of restrictions, the government has withdrawn the limits on congregations in mosques and churches in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where minorities make up less than 5% of the population of 220 million.
Pakistan has confirmed 69,496 cases of the coronavirus, including 1,483 deaths.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Tens of thousands of mosques across Saudi Arabia have reopened for the first time in more than two months.
Worshipers have been ordered to follow strict guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Islam's holiest site in Mecca remains closed to the public.
Also Sunday, the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem that had been closed since mid-March reopened for prayers. Worshipers waited outside the gates, many wearing surgical masks. As they entered, they were stopped to have their temperature taken.
The new measures come as Saudi Arabia and other countries around the world begin to loosen restrictions following weeks of curfews and lockdowns.
BRISBANE, Australia - COVID-19 restrictions are easing in most of Australia, but authorities say they'll be watching carefully to ensure the country's success in containing the pandemic remains on track.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth says the lifting of restrictions is a balancing act between the socio-economic benefit from their removal and the public health risk.
'We're taking a deliberately safe and cautious approach,' Coatsworth said. 'Most importantly we're taking the time to gather the data over the coming weeks to determine whether it's safe to move to the next round of lifting restrictions.'
Coronavirus cases remain low in Australia by international standards, with 7,180 infections and 103 deaths.
The more flexible restrictions, which differ across the states, will mean more movement in public places, including pubs, cafes, and restaurants. But authorities have renewed their call for safe hygiene and social distancing measures to remain.
NEW DELHI, India - India has recorded more than 8,000 new cases of the coronavirus in a single day for the first time as the infection tally surged to 182,143.
The death toll climbed to 5,164 after 193 fatalities were recorded in the last 24 hours, according to the health ministry data. This week has been the deadliest in India, with cases of infections and deaths reaching a new high almost every day.
Overall, more than 60% of the country's virus fatalities have been reported from only two states - Maharashtra, the financial hub of India, and Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The new cases of infections are also largely concentrated in six Indian states, including the national capital New Delhi.
Public health experts have criticized the Modi government's handling of the outbreak. A joint statement by the Indian Public Health Association, Indian Association of Preventive and Social Medicine and Indian Association of Epidemiologists, which was submitted to Modi's office on May 25, said it was 'unrealistic' to eliminate the virus at a time when 'community transmission is already well-established.'
India has denied of any community transmission of the virus even though new cases have continued to mount significantly.
The health experts said that the infections were rising exponentially despite India's 'draconian lockdown' which began on March 25. The restrictions have slowly been relaxed in the months since with the government announcing on Saturday a phased 'Unlock 1' plan from June onwards which allows more economic activities to restart.
The restrictions in so-called containment zones - areas that have been isolated due to coronavirus outbreaks - will, however, remain through June 30.
Experts warn that the pandemic is yet to peak in India.
SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea has reported 27 new cases of the coronavirus, including 21 from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where officials have been scrambling to stem transmissions linked to club-goers and warehouse workers.
The figures announced by South Korea's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday brought national totals to 11,468 cases and 270 deaths. Twelve of the new cases were linked to international arrivals.
South Korea was reporting about 500 new cases per day in early March but had seemed to stabilize its outbreak with aggressive tracking and tracing, which allowed authorities to ease social distancing guidelines.
But cases in the greater capital area have been rising steadily again since May amid increased public activity, causing alarm as millions of children have begun returning to schools.
On Saturday, KCDC senior official Kwon Jun-wook said at least 108 infections were linked to workers or visitors at a warehouse of local e-commerce giant Coupang, which has seen orders spike amid the epidemic.
Around 270 other infections have been linked to nightclubs and other entertainment venues, which saw huge crowds in early May amid the relaxed atmosphere on social distancing.
BOGOTA, Colombia - The mayor of Colombia's capital is planning to shut down one of the city's largest neighborhoods as cases there continue to rise.
Mayor Claudia Lopez said Saturday that starting June 1st the working-class Kennedy area '" home to nearly 1.5 million people '" will be under a strict quarantine.
Police and military will enforce the lockdown and no one will be allowed out, except to seek food or medical care or in case of an emergency.
Businesses like manufacturing that had been allowed to operate will be ordered closed. Lopez said that testing for the virus will be doubled.
The Kennedy area was inaugurated by late U.S. President John F. Kennedy, who visited Bogota in 1961 as part of the Alliance for Progress.
The area today has more nearly 2,500 cases and hospitals there are reaching maximum capacity.
Lopez said that in the rest of Bogota no new sectors of the economy will be allowed to reopen until at least the middle of June.
ATHENS - Greek officials said Saturday said that the country will not limit incoming tourists to those from a list of 29 nations, but travelers from countries not on the list will be subject to mandatory testing on arrival and a period of quarantine depending on test results.
The policy will only be applied during the final two weeks of June, although Greek authorities left open the prospect of additional restrictions after that date.
The list announced Friday includes Albania, Australia, Austria, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Estonia, Japan, Israel, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lebanon, New Zealand, Lithuania, Malta, Montenegro, Norway, South Korea, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Finland.
Arrivals from those countries will be tested randomly.
The list was drawn up based on a document from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy says travelers to Alaska will have to be tested for COVID-19 before boarding a plane to the state, or submit to a 14-day quarantine upon arrival.
Out-of-state travelers will need to show proof of testing within 72 hours of boarding and fill out paperwork. If either test results or paperwork are lost, travelers will be subjected to another test at the airport or quarantine for two weeks.
Dunleavy also extended the state's 14-day quarantine rule until the new policy begins Friday.
Further policy changes are expected to be clarified Monday.
NEW YORK - New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill Saturday granting death benefits to the families of police officers, public health workers and other front-line workers who have died of the coronavirus.
The bill passed by state lawmakers provides an accidental death benefit that is more substantial than the regular death benefit that public workers' families receive. Dozens of police officers, public health workers, transit workers and paramedics have died of COVID-19 in the months since New York became the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States.
Cuomo said 67 people died of COVID-19 in the state on Friday, the same number as Thursday and a steep drop from the height of New York's outbreak in April, when more than 700 people were dying of the disease daily.
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