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:
– France health minister wants limits on use of malaria drug to treat virus.
– Some English beach communities urge people to say away over holiday.
– New cases in India top 6,000 for second straight day.
– Several thousand followers of Spainâ€™s far-right Vox party protest in Madrid.
PARIS – Franceâ€™s health minister wants to limit use of a popular malaria drug as a coronavirus treatment after a new study found it ineffective and warned of increased health risks.
Olivier Veran tweeted Saturday that he asked Franceâ€™s public health council to draft new rules for prescribing hydroxychloroquine and other treatments within 48 hours.
He specifically cited a study of 100,000 patients worldwide, published Friday in the Lancet, saying hydroxychloroquine and related drug chloroquine were ineffective against the virus and were tied to a greater risk of death and heart rhythm problems.
Prominent French virologist Dr. Didier Raoult drew international attention â€“ including from U.S. President Donald Trump â€“ for his research early in the pandemic suggesting hydroxychloroquine reduced virus symptoms. Raoultâ€™s office didnâ€™t comment on the ministerâ€™s move.
France included the drug in a trial of multiple treatments and allowed its use for hospitalized patients.
ALBANY, N.Y. – Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave New Yorkers a reprieve from cabin fever by easing the stateâ€™s ban on gatherings in time for the Memorial Day weekend.
The governor signed an order Friday allowing people to assemble in groups of 10 or fewer if they maintain social distance or wear masks when they canâ€™t.
New York City beaches are also open this weekend, but no swimming is allowed, and masks must be worn. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said the swimming ban is to curb the spread of the coronavirus by keeping people off public transportation.
BERLIN – A German health official says more than 40 people have tested positive for the coronavirus after a church service in Frankfurt.
Rene Gottschalk, the head of the cityâ€™s health office, told news agency dpa most arenâ€™t too ill and only one is in a hospital.
The deputy head of the Evangelical Christian Baptist congregation, which held the service, says it took place on May 10. He says the community had complied with hygiene rules set by authorities for the resumption of religious services.
Authorities say at least 16 infected are from nearby Hanau. They decided as a precaution to call off Muslim prayers planned for a stadium in Hanau on Sunday.
MADRID – Prime Minister Pedro SÃ¡nchez says Spain will reopen its borders to foreign tourists in July.
SÃ¡nchez also announced plans to declare 10 days of national mourning for the thousands of Spaniards who have died from the pandemic.
Spainâ€™s tourism sector has been grounded since the government declared a state of emergency to fight the pandemic in March, halting international travel and shuttering hotels.
Spain receives more than 80 million visitors each year. The tourism industry represents 12% of Spainâ€™s GDP and employs 2.6 million people. Its economic importance is even greater on Spainâ€™s Canary and Balearic Islands.
Thereâ€™s been more than 28,000 confirmed deaths in Spain from the virus, the fourth highest total behind the United States, Britain and Italy.
LONDON – Beachside communities along Englandâ€™s coast are urging people to stay away on the first holiday weekend since the easing of some coronavirus restrictions.
England on May 13 allowed people to drive any distance for exercise or recreation, though they must remain 2 meters (6 1/2 feet) apart from others. Rules remain tighter in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Thousands of people have flocked to English beaches during sunny spring weather since the rules were changed, to the concern of police and local authorities.
Authorities in the south coast town of Brighton issued a statement saying, â€œWish you were here — but not just yet,â€ stressing that hotels restaurants, bars and non-essential shops remain closed. Another major resort, Bournemouth, urged people to avoid the beach if it got busy.
More than 36,000 people with COVID-19 have died in the U.K., the second-highest confirmed total after the United States.
MOSCOW – Russia has reported 9,434 new cases of coronavirus infection in the past day.
The figures come after several days of daily increases below 9,000, but the count is lower than the more than 10,000 daily cases recorded earlier in the month.
Total cases in Russia now stand at 335,882 with 3,388 deaths, according to the national coronavirus task force and tally by Johns Hopkins. There were 139 deaths recorded over the past day. On Friday, Russia reported 150 deaths, its highest one-day toll.
Russiaâ€™s comparatively low mortality rate has raised eyebrows in the West, with some suggesting the countryâ€™s government may be underreporting virus-related deaths and manipulating the statistics.
Russian officials deny the allegations and attribute the low numbers to the effectiveness of the measures taken to curb the spread of the outbreak.
The United States leads the world with a reported 1.6 million cases and more than 96,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.
ROME – Inmates at several Italian prisons will soon be making masks for themselves, penitentiary personnel and others.
Domenico Arcuri, Italyâ€™s commissioner for the COVID-19 emergency, says it is part of a wider effort to ensure that everyone has access to masks. Despite pledges weeks ago by Arcuri that people in Italy can buy low-priced surgical masks at pharmacies throughout the countries, many pharmacists say they havenâ€™t received them.
Arcuri says the masks, which cost a fixed price of 50-euro cents apiece, were being supplied to 20,000 smoke-shops throughout Italy. Tobacconistsâ€™ shops in Italy are a common fixture, which also sell bus tickets and other items.
Arcuri says masks will be available by June 17 to teachers and other school staff. The government expects schools will open in September.
BERLIN – The governor of an eastern German state says he wants to end state-wide coronavirus restrictions in early June and switch to a system under which local authorities would take measures, if necessary.
German states started easing its measures on April 20 after a roughly monthlong lockdown. The countryâ€™s 16 state governments are responsible for imposing and lifting restrictions. They have been moving at different paces in recent weeks.
Bodo Ramelow, the governor of Thuringia state, was quoted Saturday as telling the regional Mediengruppe Thueringen newspaper group: â€œI would like to lift the general lockdown from June 6 and replace it with a package of measures in which local authorities are in the foreground.â€
It wasnâ€™t immediately clear what that would involve. The state government says a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday would discuss details.
MADRID – Several thousand followers of Spainâ€™s far-right Vox party have gathered in Madrid and other cities to protest the governmentâ€™s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
Vox called for protesters to come in their cars and motorbikes to skirt the current prohibition on social gatherings in effect under the nationâ€™s two-month long state of emergency.
â€œLet your desire be heard for the resignation of the government,â€ Vox leader Santiago Abascal said from the open-top bus leading the cars inching down a Madrid boulevard.
Vox called the protest the â€œCaravan for Spain and Liberty.â€
Most cars were decked with Spanish flags and there were also small groups of people who participated on foot, with some not respecting the two-meter social distancing rules.
More protests were held in Barcelona, Sevilla and other provincial capitals.
Over 28,000 Spaniards have been confirmed to have died from COVID-19.
The lockdown successfully reduced the daily contagion rate of over 20% at the height of the crisis to under 1% for the past week.
DAMASCUS, Syria – The Syrian government has announced the largest single day jump of recorded cases in the country, where so far testing has been limited.
The health ministry said Saturday that 11 people tested positive upon their return from Kuwait, and that they were among Syrians repatriated from the Gulf country.
It brings the total recorded infections in Syria to 70 and four deaths. The war-torn nation has limited testing capabilities and a heavily damaged health system.
Two regions in the countryâ€™s north with a population of nearly 8 million people are outside of government control, so testing there has also been even more limited.
Health authorities have reported no infections in the rebel-held northwest.
In the northeast, the Kurdish-led government began carrying out its own testing and has so far recorded three infections and one death.
NEW DELHI – New cases of the coronavirus in India topped 6,000 for a second consecutive day, marking another record jump for the South Asian country in a 24-hour period.
India reported 6,654 new cases on Saturday, bringing the nationwide total to 125,102, including 3,720 deaths.
The rate of infection in the country of 1.3 billion has risen as a two-month lockdown has eased.
States with relatively few cases have seen spikes in recent days as residents, including migrant workers traveling on special trains, have returned home.
Authorities in the northeastern border state of Assam introduced criminal charges on Saturday for quarantine violators after more than 100 people in state quarantine facilities tested positive for COVID-19.
BERLIN – A parish leader says that several members of a congregation have tested positive for the coronavirus after a church service in Frankfurt.
News agency dpa reported Saturday that Wladimir Pritzkau, the deputy head of the Evangelical Christian Baptist congregation involved, as saying the service took place on May 10. He did not say how many people were affected but said that most are at home and six are in hospital.
Religious services have been allowed in the region since May 1, with conditions that include a 1.5 meter (5-foot) distance between worshippers and the provision of disinfectant.
Pritzkau said rules were adhered to. The church has canceled all gatherings and is now conducting services online.
The head of the cityâ€™s health office wouldnâ€™t confirm or deny the case, citing medical confidentiality.
JERUSALEM – The Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem will open on Sunday for the first time in two months.
It is built on the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected,
Leaders of the three denominations sharing the site said in a statement Saturday that entrance will be limited to 50 people at a time.
Worshippers cannot enter if they have symptoms and must wear face masks and should keep a distance of 2 meters (six feet). They should also avoid touching or kissing stones and other objects at the holy site.
The church was closed in March along with most other sites in the Holy Land, in keeping with strict measures imposed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority to contain the outbreak.
It remained closed throughout Holy Week and Easter last month, when Jerusalemâ€™s Old City is normally packed with tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists. Priests observed Holy Week rituals in small groups, mostly behind closed doors.
VATICAN CITY – The Vatican Museums will open up again on June 1 with all visitors wearing face masks and having their temperature checked before entry.
The Vatican said Saturday that medical staff will be present and that, since reservations will now be required, advance ticketing fees of 4 euros ($4.50) are being waived.
On the Museums itinerary is the Sistine Chapel, with its ceiling frescoed by Michelangelo, while on Fridays and Saturdays thirsty visitors can reserve an aperitif at sunset in a Vatican courtyard.
Ticket sales and souvenir revenues are a major source of income for the Holy See. For now, the Museums are suspending the free-entry initiative on the last Sunday of each month.
Open bus tours of the manicured Vatican Gardens will be offered, and on weekends the public can tour the summer residence of popes in Castel Gandolfo, a hill town near Rome.
There have been 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in tiny Vatican City State or among its employees.
BERLIN – Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden have put forward a counterproposal for a European coronavirus recovery fund with a two-year time limit and a concentration on loans.
The Austria Press Agency reported that the countries issued their position paper on Saturday. It follows a French-German proposal for a fund of 500 billion euros ($550 billion) that would make outright grants to help countries and endorses common borrowing.
The agency states that the four countries must not agree to â€œinstruments or measures that lead to a mutualization of debt or significant increases” in the European Unionâ€™s budget.
The proposal didnâ€™t put a figure on the aid that should be given, but APA reported that the Austrian chancellery said the money must be used for â€œthe rebuilding and resilience of the health sector and the economy.â€ Research, innovation and climate-related investments could be backed.
The EUâ€™s executive commission is expected to unveil its own proposal for a recovery fund next week, from which the EU member states must then find a compromise.
BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel is defending her countryâ€™s coronavirus restrictions and calling on her compatriots to keep respecting social distancing rules.
Germany started loosening its lockdown restrictions on April 20 and since then has at least partly reopened many sectors. At the same time, the country has seen frequent protests against lockdown measures.
Merkel said in her weekly video message Saturday that the measures were necessary, and that officials must continue to justify why some restrictions canâ€™t be lifted while ensuring that they are proportionate.
Merkel said that Germany has “succeeded so far in achieving the aim of preventing our health system being overwhelmed.â€
PARIS – France is allowing religious services to resume starting Saturday after a legal challenge to the governmentâ€™s ban on such gatherings.
Religious leaders welcomed the decision but said it will take time to put the necessary safety measures in place.
To prevent further spread of the virus, visitors to French places of worship must wear masks, wash their hands upon entering, and keep a distance of at least one meter (three feet) from other people.
The French government had banned religious services until June 2 even though stores and other businesses started reopening last week. The Council of State, the countryâ€™s highest administrative body, struck down the ban, and the government published a decree Saturday allowing services to resume.
The French Bishops Conference said it would work with church leaders to prepare for reopening, notably for Pentecost Sunday services May 31.
The rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris said that it will not be ready to reopen for services Sunday marking Eid al-Fitr, the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
BERLIN – Authorities say seven people appear to have been infected with the coronavirus at a restaurant in northwestern Germany, in what would be the first known such case since restaurants started reopening in the country two weeks ago.
The local government in Leer county said Friday night that the cases, reported between Tuesday and Friday, led to at least 50 people being quarantined.
Previously, no new cases had been confirmed in the area for over a week.
Germany started loosening its coronavirus restrictions on April 20 and that process has gathered pace recently. Lower Saxony state, where Leer is located, allowed restaurants to reopen May 11 with hygiene precautions.
Those currently include a 2-meter (6 Â½-foot) distance between tables, masks for waiters and an obligation to take the name, address and phone number of guests so that possible infections can be traced.
UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. disarmament chief says the COVID-19 pandemic is moving the world toward increased technological innovation and online collaboration, but â€œcybercrime is also on the rise, with a 600% increase in malicious emails during the current crisis.â€
Izumi Nakamitsu told an informal meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Friday that â€œthere have also been worrying reports of attacks against health care organizations and medical research facilities worldwide.â€
She said growing digital dependency has increased the vulnerability to cyberattacks, and â€œit is estimated that one such attack takes place every 39 seconds.â€
According to the International Telecommunication Union, â€œnearly 90 countries are still only at the early stages of making commitments to cybersecurity,â€ Nakamitsu said.
The high representative for disarmament affairs said the threat from misusing information and communications technology â€œis urgent.â€ But she said there is also good news, pointing to some global progress at the United Nations to address the threats as a result of the development of norms for the use of such technology.
Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak