The Latest: Italy’s day-to-day new cases lowest since March

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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:

– Italy has registered lowest day-to-day number of new cases since March 10.

– Blue Angels and Thunderbirds will do flyovers to honor health care workers.

– Italian governors contend nation’s partial easing of lockdown rules is too tame.

– Washington D.C. announces 51 new positive COVID-19 infections.

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ROME – Italy has registered its lowest day-to-day number of new cases of COVID-19 since practically the first day the nation was put under lockdown to contain what would become one of the world’s worst outbreaks.

According to data from the Italian health ministry, 1,739 cases new cases were confirmed in the 24-hour period ending Monday evening. The previous time the nation saw such a low daily number occurred on March 10, when 77 new cases were registered. Italy now has 199,414 known cases. It registered 333 deaths since Sunday evening, raising to 26,977 the number of known deaths in the country, which has Europe’s highest death toll in the pandemic.

Some of Italy’s lockdown rules will be partially eased on May 4, but many restrictions on retail shops, museums and other businesses will last two or more weeks beyond that date.

Scientists advising the government are concerned the contagion rate will start soaring again when Italians start moving around more with newly regained freedoms. Premier Giuseppe Conte has decided that re-opening society will come gradually, since there is no vaccine against COVID-19.

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BRUSSELS – The European Union’s top economy official says new figures show that growth in the 19 nations using the euro single currency will shrink markedly this year and more than during the previous financial crisis.

Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni told EU lawmakers Monday that “that a deep recession is unavoidable in Europe this year” due to the impact of the coronavirus.

Gentiloni says the “very sharp contraction” will be “worse than the one during the global financial crisis.” with the euro area shrinking by numbers similar to those predicted by the IMF of about 7.5%.

The European Commission is due to publish its spring economic forecast on May 7. Gentiloni did not provide exact figures.

He says that “everywhere the crisis will increase unemployment and social and economic divides between those who have secure jobs and good housing conditions and those who are less protected.”

EU institutions and member countries have already freed up around 3.4 trillion euros ($3.7 trillion) to help resuscitate virus-hit economies, but Gentiloni says “an unprecedented set of actions” is still necessary.

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ATHENS, Greece – Greek health authorities have announced 17 newly confirmed coronavirus infections and two new deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s total death toll to 136, and the confirmed number of infections to 2,534.

The new figures also showed a continued reduction in the number of critically ill patients intubated in intensive care units, which fell to 43, from 46 the previous day. The numbers come a day before Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is to issue a televised address to the nation describing how the country will emerge from its lockdown after current restrictions expire on May 4.

Health Ministry spokesman for the coronavirus crisis, infectious diseases specialist Sotiris Tsiodras, warned the gradual relaxing of the lockdown measures harbored a risk of a resurgence of the virus.

“It is a very difficult phase,” Tsiodras said in his daily briefing.

Earlier, government spokesman Stelios Petsas outlined how restrictions will be gradually released, with hair salons and retail shops expected to open first. They will be followed gradually by schools, hotels and restaurants.

Authorities have said the openings will be spaced out to allow for time to assess their effects.

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UNITED NATIONS – United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is warning that extremist groups are taking advantage of COVID-19 lockdowns to intensify social media efforts to spread hatred and recruit young people who are spending more time online.

He said even before the coronavirus pandemic one of every five young people was not getting an education, training or working, and one of every four was affected by violence or conflict. And he lamented that every year, 12 million girls become mothers.

Guterres told a U.N. Security Council meeting Monday on youth, peace and security that “these frustrations and, frankly, failures to address them by those in power today, fuel declining confidence in political establishments and institutions.”

And he said “when such a cycle takes hold, it is all too easy for extremist groups to exploit the anger and despair, and the risk of radicalization climbs.”

But despite these challenges, the U.N. chief said young people “are still finding ways to engage, support each other, and to demand and drive change” – including in the fight against COVID-19.

Guterres pointed to young people in Colombia, Ghana, Iraq and several other countries joining humanitarian workers in delivering supplies to front-line health workers and people in need, keeping communications open within communities while maintaining social distancing. He said young people are also supporting his March 23 call for a cease-fire in all conflicts in the world.

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ANKARA, Turkey – Turkey’s president says his country will send personal protective equipment to the United States to help it combat the coronavirus outbreak.

In a televised addressed on Monday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkish military planes, carrying N-95 masks, hazmat suits, goggles, facial shields and disinfectants, would leave for the United States on Tuesday.

Erdogan did not provide details on the quantities being sent, or say whether Turkey is selling or donating the equipment.

The Turkish leader said his country has already dispatched medical equipment to 55 countries “from the Balkans to Africa.”

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WASHINGTON – The Navy Blue Angels and the Air Force Thunderbirds will conduct a series of flyovers of cities starting Tuesday in honor of the nation’s health care workers and first responders.

The Pentagon is calling it a show of national solidarity in the face of the pandemic.

The two flight demonstration teams will fly over areas of the country hardest hit by COVID-19, as both joint and individual team flights until mid-May.

The first flights will be Tuesday over New York City, Philadelphia, and the New Jersey cities of Newark and Trenton.

The Air Force and Navy are working with local governments to help ensure spectators follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention social distancing guidelines. The Blue Angels are based at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, and the Thunderbirds are based at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas.

Both teams this year have canceled many performances in response to Department of Defense direction resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak.

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ROME – Some Italian governors are contending the nation’s partial easing of lockdown rules against COVID-19 is too tame.

Gov. Luca Zaia of Veneto, a region in northeast Italy, signed an ordinance on Monday that allows residents to travel within Veneto to reach second homes or docks where boats they own are moored to do maintenance.

Under the latest lockdown rules announced by Premier Giuseppe Conte on Sunday night, Italians starting May 4 can leave their town to visit relatives within their region but cannot travel to second homes.

The national decree allows Italians to exercise outdoors, including with a bicycle, anywhere within their towns starting May 4. Currently such exercise must be done near one’s residence.

Zaia announced he’s allowing Veneto residents to start doing that immediately.

The national decree allows retail stores to open on May 18, while barber shops, hair salons, restaurants and cafes, can open their doors on June 1.

Conte has insisted restrictions be loosened gradually to lower the risk of a second outbreak.

Attilio Fontana, governor of neighboring Lombardy, where Italy’s outbreak is the worst, also expressed dissatisfaction with the timetable. Both governors are from the opposition League party.

But even governors from parties in Conte’s center-left coalition were critical.

Emilia-Romagna Gov. Stefano Bonaccini said, “We’re disappointed about schools and how families must organize themselves.” Schools won’t reopen till September.

WASHINGTON – Washington D.C. health officials have announced 51 new positive COVID-19 infections have been identified.

Monday’s new number brings the total of confirmed cases to 3,892, with seven new deaths for a total of 185.

Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a state of emergency on March 11 and issued a stay-home order on March 30 for Washington’s approximately 700,000 residents.

Bowser has also announced plans to turn Washington D.C.’s convention center into a 1,500-bed field hospital.

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BUCHAREST, Romania – Romania’s president says the country’s kindergartens, schools and universities will remain closed until the end of the school year. Distance learning will continue until the mid-June summer break.

President Klaus Iohannis said Monday that only students in the 8th and 12th grades will return to the classrooms in early June to take national exams amid strict distancing rules. That will include a maximum of 10 students per classroom.

Romania’s state of emergency because of the new coronavirus pandemic is currently scheduled to be in place until May 15.

Romania has reported 11,339 coronavirus cases and 631 deaths.

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MADRID – Spain’s interior minister says an “overwhelming majority” of parents are complying with social distancing rules when taking their children outside for the first time in weeks.

But Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska noted occasional non-compliance since Sunday’s first day of the new measures. That included both parents going out with a child instead of just one parent, groups of children playing together and groups of parents chatting together.

The government plans to ease stay-at-home restrictions for more people, including the elderly, on May 2.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is scheduled to announce Tuesday details of how an easing of the lockdown will proceed in coming weeks. Spain has recorded more than 23,5000 deaths from COVID-19.

Health Minister Salvador Illa said Monday restrictions will be eased gradually and at different speeds across the country.

He said that the government is advising companies eager to reopen that they should still allow staff to work from home whenever possible, introduce flexible shift work and keep workplaces clean.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Norwegian children returned to school Monday while the country’s health and culture ministers went for haircuts as salons reopened.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg watched students from the first to the fourth grade return to classes at the Ellingsrudaasen school in Oslo.

Culture Minister Abid Raja told Norwegian news agency that the face recognition on his cell phone “almost didn’t recognize me” until his wife brought out the razor.

Bent Hoeie, his colleague from the health ministry said it was good to be back in the barber chair.

Tattoo parlors and beauty salons through Norway also reopened Monday.

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ZAGREB, Croatia – Public transport has resumed in the Croatian capital of Zagreb as authorities launched a phased easing of measures against the new coronavirus.

Loosening of some rules designed to curb the outbreak is accompanied by strict respect of social distancing measures and the use of protective gear and disinfectants.

In previous weeks, public transport lines were restricted.

Zagreb’s tram lines still have not resumed while buses won’t enter the old center that was damaged in an earthquake last month.

People using buses in Zagreb were entering only at the front door and sitting away from each other inside. They were wearing face masks and applying hand sanitizers.

Citizens expressed hope that the situation will not worsen with the easing of lockdown measures if everyone sticks to the recommendations set out by the authorities.

Croatia also on Monday allowed some business and shops to resume work and restored some boat lines toward the islands along the Adriatic Sea coast.

Croatia has reported 2,030 infections and 55 deaths.

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GREEN BAY, Wis. – A beef production plant in Green Bay has become the latest to shut down because of coronavirus infections among employees.

JBS USA announced Sunday that the JBS Packerland plant would be closed temporarily. The Green Bay Press Gazette reported that at least 189 COVID-19 infections had been linked to JBS Packerland as of Friday.

The state Department of Health Services says the number of confirmed new coronavirus cases in Brown County overall grew to 776 on Sunday.

The JBS Packerland plant employs more than 1,200 people and feeds nearly 3.2 million people per day. The company said employees will be paid during the closure.

JBS earlier closed plants in Souderton, Pennsylvania; Greeley, Colorado; and Worthington, Minnesota. The first two plants have since reopened.

JBS and other meat processors say they’ve taken a variety of steps to reduce the chances of workers spreading the virus to each other, including adding plexiglass barriers between workers, stressing social distancing and providing personal protective gear.

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LONDON – The British government is giving members of the public the chance to question ministers and scientists about the new coronavirus pandemic at daily televised news conferences.

The conferences feature a government minister alongside senior scientists inside 10 Downing St. Journalists ask questions by video link and the sessions have become a familiar feature of life during the outbreak.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson often led the press conferences before he contracted COVID-19 and was hospitalized earlier this month. He returned to work Monday after three weeks away.

People can submit questions on a government website starting Monday. One question from the public will be asked each day, with the selection made by polling agency YouGov.

The government says officials taking part in the news conference won’t be told the questions in advance.

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BERLIN – Germany’s Foreign Ministry says the country is making 300 million euros ($325 million) available worldwide for humanitarian aid related to the new coronavirus.

It is in response to a call for assistance from the United Nations and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent.

Foreign Minister Heiko Mass said Monday that people in war zones, refugee camps and in countries with overwhelmed health care systems are at particular risk during the pandemic.

Maas says “our solidarity is needed to help alleviate suffering,” adding that “only together will we permanently defeat the pandemic; otherwise there will always be new waves of infection.”

The funds will be targeted to a variety of organizations including the World Health Organization, International Organization for Migration, Red Cross and Red Crescent, World Food Program, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

It’s expected to be put to use to help with health-care projects, as well as water and sanitation measures.

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NEW DELHI, India – India’s main medical research organization has cancelled orders to procure rapid antibody test kits from two Chinese companies after quality issues and controversies over its price.

The order was canceled Monday after a New Delhi court revealed that the Indian government was paying more than twice what it cost to import them.

States in India had wanted rapid testing kits because they wanted to test and identify the actual spread of the virus within communities.

Experts point out that while the lockdown has slowed the rate of transmission, effectively scaling up testing remains key for India to get ahead of the virus.

India had imported almost one million kits from China to ramp up testing.

India’s health ministry says the recovery rate of COVID-19 patients in the country stands at 22% after reporting more than 27,000 cases of the new coronavirus, including 872 deaths.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi says the month-long ongoing lockdown has yielded positive results and that the country has saved “thousands of lives.”

Critics of the government and doctors say India needs to ramp us its testing abilities to fully tackle the coronavirus.

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LISBON, Portugal – Portugal’s prime minister says authorities are aiming to relax some of the measures devised to stem the spread of the coronavirus next month.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa says new rules on self-isolation and going back to work or school will be introduced every two weeks, as their impact is assessed.

The plan is due to be announced on Thursday.

Costa warned the changes don’t mean a return to normal and that will only happen once there is a vaccine.

Portugal was quick to enact a lockdown and has reported 903 deaths from COVID-19, far fewer than neighboring Spain’s more than 23,500.

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Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

A man walks by a giant murales of S. Gennaro, patron of the city, in Naples, Monday, April 27, 2020. Region Campania allowed cafes and pizzerias to reopen for delivery Monday, as Italy it is starting to ease its lockdown after a long precautionary closure due to the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
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