The Latest: Protesters in Greece gather for May Day


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.


– May brings reopenings around the globe as virus toll climbs.

– Protesters gather in Greece for May Day.

– Australian business leaders rattled over China’s threat of trade repercussions over virus probe.

– Ryanair looks to slash jobs and close bases due to the coronavirus pandemic.


ATHENS, Greece – Protesters have begun gathering in central Athens for traditional May Day marches, despite authorities’ pleas to unions to move their demonstrations to next week, after lockdown measures begin easing.

More than 100 people from the communist party-affiliated PAME union gathered in Athens’s main Syntagma Square, outside Parliament. Holding banners and red flags, and most wearing masks and gloves, the protesters stood roughly two meters (6.5 feet) apart from each other as they waited for the march to begin.

“The symbolic events for May Day being organized as always by the labor unions, with all necessary protection measures, with them wearing masks and maintaining the necessary distance between them, do not constitute a danger for everything the people have won until today by adhering to the restrictive measures” of the lockdown, the Communist Party said in an announcement.

Greek authorities have repeatedly warned people that this year, May Day will have to be different, saying the lockdown measures due to be partially lifted starting Monday are still very much in effect. Civil Protection Deputy Minister Nikos Hardalias has stressed Greeks will not be able to go on countryside trips as they frequently do, and he appealed to trade unions to transfer their usual May Day marches to the first Saturday after lockdown restrictions have been eased.

“We welcome May Day with truly spring weather. Like during Easter, we will spend (the day) differently,” Hardalias said during his daily briefing Thursday. “Either at home, or with a walk near it …. I repeat that trips far from our permanent residence is not allowed. We are not allowed to go to our country home, certainly not to our village.”

But unions were to go ahead anyway with more than a dozen marches or commemorations planned, especially in central Athens.


CANBERRA, Australia – China’s warning of trade repercussions from Australia’s campaign for an independent inquiry into the coronavirus pandemic has rattled Australian business leaders as U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration urges other governments to back such a probe.

China has accused Australia of parroting the United States in its call for an inquiry independent of the World Health Organization to determine the origins of COVID-19 and how the world responded.

Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye used an Australian newspaper interview this week to warn that pursuing an inquiry could spark a Chinese consumer boycott.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has defended Australia and urges other countries to demand transparency.


LONDON – Ryanair has announced plans to slash as many as 3,000 jobs and close bases in Europe amid the collapse of travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group announced a restructuring program Friday that included plans for unpaid leave and pay cuts of as much as 20%.

The budget airline says will operate less than 1% of its flights from April to June and that passenger numbers will not return to 2019 levels “until summer 2022 at the earliest.’’

The airline group also says it is “active negotiations” with Boeing to cut the number of planned aircraft deliveries over the next 24 months.


NEW DELHI – India has registered another daily high in coronavirus cases, with nearly 2,000 recorded in the past 24 hours.

India’s Health Ministry said Friday the 1,993 new cases and 73 more deaths bring the country’s totals to 35,043 with 1,147 deaths.

The government is due to decide the future of its 40-day lockdown on Sunday. It allowed migrant workers and other stranded people to resume their journeys on Wednesday, as well as some shops to reopen and manufacturing and farming to resume.


ISLAMABAD – The speaker of Pakistan’s lower house of parliament has confirmed he tested positive for the new coronavirus.

The announcement by Asad Qaiser comes as the poverty-stricken country recorded 24 more deaths from COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, in the last 24 hours.

Qaiser, speaker of the National Assembly, announced Thursday on Twitter that he had quarantined himself at home.

Qaiser is the highest-ranking official in Pakistan to publicly acknowledge testing positive for the virus.

As of Friday, there were nearly 17,000 confirmed cases in Pakistan, including 383 fatalities.


TOKYO – Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, tasked with Japan’s coronavirus measures, met with a panel of experts Friday and said social distancing efforts under the state of emergency should be kept in place for a while to prevent a resurgence of infections.

Nishimura quoted experts on the government-commissioned task force as saying the spread has slowed – but not enough.

“If we relax the measures with insufficient decrease, infections will immediately bounce back and our effort so far will entirely go to waste,” Nishimura said. “The experts recommended that the current measures should be kept in place.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a month-long state of emergency on April 7 in Tokyo and six other urban areas, requesting residents stay at home. He later expanded the guidelines to the entire country. Requests for nonessential business closures were also issued in Tokyo and several other prefectures.

Abe said Thursday he planned to extend the state of emergency beyond its scheduled end on May 6 because infections are spreading and hospitals are overburdened. He is expected to announce a decision within days.

Local governors in hard-hit areas and health experts concerned about the collapse of medical systems have called for a month-long extension.

Japan has 14,281 confirmed cases, up 182 from the day before, with 432 deaths, according to the health ministry tally Friday.


KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Malaysia will allow most economic sectors and business activities to reopen Monday, days before a two-month lockdown is scheduled to end.

After coronavirus infections fell sharply in recent weeks, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin says there is a need to revive the economy as the country has lost 63 billion ringgit ($14.7 billion) since a partial lockdown began March 18. It is due to end May 12, but Muhyiddin says most businesses, including restaurants, can open their doors beginning Monday with strict social distancing rules and health guidelines in effect.

That includes health screening for staff and customers, and registering details of visitors. In a televised May Day speech, Muhyiddin said mass gatherings will still be banned, which means places such as schools, cinemas and worship houses will stay shut, and group sports are prohibited.

Muhyiddin also said Muslims cannot return to their villages to celebrate the end of the fasting month, as interstate travel will remain banned. He urged Malaysians to embrace the new norm of life amid a cautious approach to ending the lockdown.

Daily infections have dropped to double digits in the past two weeks, with Malaysia now reporting 6,002 infections and 102 deaths.


TOKYO – Japan’s Emperor Naruhito marked the first anniversary of his enthronement Friday with a prayer at palace shrines for the people’s peace and happiness amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Naruhito, wearing a white surgical mask, greeted well-wishers on the sidewalk from a royal car on the way to the palace for the closed ritual.

Naruhito, 60, ascended to the Chrysanthemum throne on May 1 last year, the day after his father, Akihito, abdicated.

Some of Naruhito’s scheduled events, including part of his birthday celebration in February and a trip to Britain that was supposed to be his first overseas visit as the monarch, have been canceled due to the pandemic.

Naruhito and his wife, Emperor Masako, have been receiving information from coronavirus experts about the latest developments.


BEIJING – Beijing’s parks and museums, including the ancient Forbidden City, reopened to the public Friday after being closed for months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Forbidden City, past home to China’s emperors, is permitting just 5,000 visitors daily, down from 80,000. And parks are allowing people to visit at 30% of the usual capacity.

Large-scale group activities remain on hold and visitors must book tickets in advance online, according to Gao Dawei, deputy director of the Beijing Gardening and Greening Bureau.

Beijing on Thursday downgraded its level of emergency response to the virus from first to second tier, but temperature checks and social distancing remain in force.

The change comes at the start of the five-day May 1 holiday and in advance of China’s rescheduled gathering of the National People’s Congress on May 22.

China reported 12 new virus cases Friday, six brought from overseas, and no new deaths for the 16th consecutive day.


SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea has reported nine new coronavirus cases as infections continue to wane.

The figures released by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday brought national totals to 10,774 infections and 248 deaths.

None of the new cases were from the hardest-hit city of Daegu, where more than 6,800 people have been sickened since February.

The KCDC says at least 1,073 cases have been linked to passengers arriving from overseas, but such infections have also slowed in recent weeks amid stronger border controls.

The country was reporting around 500 new cases a day in early March, but it hasn’t seen a daily jump above 100 since April 1.

The slowing caseload has allowed the government to relax social distancing guidelines as it shifts focus to easing the shock on the economy.


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Children on bicycles cycle past the Gate of the ancient Roman agora in the traditional Plaka district of Athens, during lockdown measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, on Thursday, April 30, 2020. Greek authorities say the use of face masks will be compulsory on public transport and shops from May 4, when the country starts to ease its lockdown restrictions. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)