The Latest: German court suspends blanket self-quarantine

May 12, 2020 - 9:51 am

FILE - In this April 17, 2020, file photo, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence listen as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. The Trump administration’s leading health experts on safely dealing with the novel coronavirus will be testifying in a Senate hearing by a videoconference after three of them and the committee's chairman were exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

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.


— Dr. Fauci hopes for vaccine in advanced trials by early winter.

— More than 8,000 died in British nursing homes in 2 months.

— U.S. donates 1,000 ventilators to South Africa.

— Expert warns many countries are driving blind as they reopen.


WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci says the government is working on several potential vaccines for COVID-19.

“We have many candidates and hope to have many winners,” he told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension committee. “In other words, it is many shots on goal.”

Despite the rapid pace of work on vaccines, Fauci was offering no guarantees. He says, “The big unknown is efficacy.”

Fauci heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and is the government’s leading expert on the pandemic. He says he hopes to have a vaccine in advanced trials by late fall or early winter.


ROME — Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte says six women are joining a key committee advising the government about how the country can safely emerge from lockdown.

That comes after female researchers, scientists and lawmakers noted women weren’t represented in Italy’s management of the pandemic.

The premier’s office says Conte made the appointments “out of the need to guarantee gender representation” in the delicate phase. Since Italy’s devastating COVID-19 outbreak began, the 20-member technical-scientific committee had been all-male.

Among the female experts who now join the committee are a biologist with expertise in immunology and an expert on safety in the workplace. Conte also added five women to a separate ad hoc advisory body that is headed by a male Italian industrialist and made up mainly of men. Among the women joining that advisory body will be a sociology professor and a founder of Italy’s first university center dedicated to fighting domestic violence.

Earlier this month, female lawmakers lodged a Parliamentary motion calling on Conte to remedy gender imbalance on the advisory panels. For weeks, Italians had been briefed daily by only male doctors, epidemiologists and other experts about developments in the pandemic.


BEIRUT — Lebanon’s government decided to reinstate a national lockdown for four days after a spike in reported cases of infections and complaints from government officials of lax implementation of social distancing measures.

It called on citizens to stay home starting Wednesday night until Monday morning, avoiding outings except for emergencies. Lebanon began a phased plan to relax a national lockdown late last month that allowed small businesses and restaurants, among other things to reopen, and shortened a nighttime curfew.

But after a few days of single-digit cases detected, there was a spike of reported infections this week, including among Lebanese returning home during repatriation programs who didn’t observe quarantine measures.

Lebanon, a country of more than 5 million, has recorded only 870 infections and 26 deaths after imposing early lockdown measures. A nationwide testing campaign helped traced the virus.


PARIS — France’s prime minister Edouard Philippe says newly elected local officials will take office next week, after the election process was suspended for over two months amid the coronavirus crisis.

Phillipe says 30,000 out of 35,000 municipalities in France have elected officials on the first round of local elections held on March 15, just two days before the country entered into lockdown.

Elections were suspended and outgoing officials maintained in their former position.

As the country reopens this week, most municipal councils will take office on May 18, Philippe says. They will have until May 28 to elect their mayors.

No decision has been made yet for about 5,000 municipalities, including Paris and other big cities, where a second round is needed. It is “too soon” to decide on sending voters back to the polls, Philippe says.


BERLIN — A court in one German state has suspended rules requiring people arriving in the country after a stay abroad to self-quarantine for 14 days.

The decision announced Monday night by the upper administrative court in Lower Saxony applies only to that northern region. Judges acted on a complaint by a man who owns a holiday house in southern Sweden.

The court found there were no grounds for a blanket requirement for all people arriving from all countries to go into quarantine.

It found the law would allow a quarantine requirement for specific groups of people, such as those who are sick or suspected of being infectious or for those arriving from areas designated as risky.

Germany last month imposed a requirement for all people arriving in the country to go straight home and stay there for 14 days, except those who were on short trips, commuting to jobs, transporting goods or some other essential function.


LONDON — Britain’s Treasury chief extended a job retention plan to the end of October but says starting in August the government might pay less than the current 80% of workers’ salaries during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rishi Sunak told the House of Commons he wouldn’t give up on people who relied on the program. Sunak says 7.5 million jobs had been furloughed, jobs that would have been lost if not for the program.

He says there would be no changed through July. However, from August to October, the government will ask employers to start “sharing with the Government the cost of paying people’s salaries.’’

Unions tweeted their support for the extension of the plan. The Trades Union Congress tweeted it would be a “big relief to millions of working families.”


PRAGUE — Church bells were tolling across the Czech Republic for one minute at noon to thank health personnel on International Nurses Day for their work amid the coronavirus pandemic.

There’re some 80,000 nurses in the Czech Republic, and more than 340 have been infected with COVID-19.

Health Minister Adam Vojtech says, “All who belong to the health care system are our heroes in the crisis situations.”

The daily increase in COVID-19 cases has been under 80 for 11 straight days in the Czech Republic, according to Health Ministry figures released on Tuesday. A total of 283 have died.


OSTROG MONASTERY, Montenegro — Police say hundreds of people who have flocked to a monastery in western Montenegro have respected rules for the coronavirus.

The visitors stood in two rows to keep distance and were offered face masks and hand sanitizers.

The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, Bishop Amfilohije, held a service to mark the day of St. Basil, the patron saint of the Ostrog monastery.

The remains of St. Basil are kept in a small, remote church at the monastery situated high on a narrow cliff. The complex is a pilgrimage site for Orthodox Christian believers.

A country of some 620,000 people, Montenegro has reported nine deaths from the coronavirus and 324 infected.


LONDON — More than 8,000 people died with the coronavirus in British nursing homes since the first recorded death from March 2 to May 1.

The U.K.’s Office for National Statistics says in the two-month period there were 8,312 recorded deaths in care homes in England and Wales that mentioned COVID-19 on the death certificate. The figure doesn’t include deaths in Scotland or Northern Ireland, which would add several hundred to the total.

In all, there were 35,044 deaths involving the coronavirus in England and Wales to May 1.

The figure is higher than the official government toll, which stood Monday at 32,065, because it includes cases in which COVID-19 was suspected but not confirmed by a test.

The number of deaths among people with the virus, both in hospitals and elsewhere, is starting to fall. Nick Stripe, head of health analysis at the statistics office, says the total number of weekly deaths is declining but remains well above average for the time of year.


VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is urging governments hire more nurses and invest in their training and working conditions, saying the COVID-19 pandemic has shown a “number of deficiencies” in the way governments provide medical care for their people.

Francis hailed the “courage and sacrifice” of nurses and says their “fundamental importance” had been reaffirmed during the pandemic. He issued the message on the World Health Organization’s International Nurses Day and the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

Francis noted many nurses have died during the pandemic. He asks world leaders "to invest in health care as the primary common good, by strengthening its systems and employing greater numbers of nurses, so as to ensure adequate care to everyone, with respect for the dignity of each person.”


PARIS — Farmers markets reopened around Paris as the country gradually lifts two months of coronavirus confinement.

Signs warned customers not to touch the produce, and vendors chatted with shoppers through plastic shields amid strawberries, asparagus and sea snails. Marie Claude Polichoik, a 70-year-old Parisian shopper, says she missed the markets and hoped to “keep local trade on its feet.”

In eastern France, the European Parliament’s headquarters in Strasbourg transformed its emptied halls into a mass virus testing center that opened Tuesday. The surrounding region was the first major virus hotspot in France, which has reported more than 26,000 deaths from the pandemic.


HELSINKI — The Finnish national airline Finnair will require passengers and cabin crew to wear face masks on all flights effective May 18 through at least the end of August.

Piia Karhu from Finnair’s customer experience unit says, “we want everyone to be able to fly with confidence.”

She adds passengers of Finnair, which is heavily focused on flights to Asia, would board a plane with their own mask and wear it throughout the flight. Finnair says face masks would be available at its main hub, Helsinki Airport, and other Finnish airports.

The Finnish airport operator Finavia says the use of mouth-nose protectors is required for all airport employees in Finland working with customers. It recommended passengers wear one as they move through airports.

Finland, a nation of 5.5 million, has registered 5,984 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 271 deaths.


WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci says he intends to warn the nation Tuesday that “needless suffering and death” will result from a rushed reopening of the economy.

Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will appear before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension committee at a hearing assessing reopening plans.

In an email to the New York Times, Fauci says his major message will concern the danger of trying to open the country.

“If we skip over the checkpoints in the guidelines to ‘Open America Again,’ then we risk the danger of multiple outbreaks throughout the country,” Fauci wrote. “This will not only result in needless suffering and death, but would actually set us back on our quest to return to normal.”

This puts Fauci at odds with President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly urged governors to lift business closings and stay-at-home orders.


JOHANNESBURG — The U.S. government has donated 1,000 ventilators to South Africa to help the country respond to COVID-19.

South Africa has the most confirmed cases of the disease in Africa with more than 10,600, including 206 deaths.

The new ventilators are valued at $14 million, and with accessories, service plans and shipping, the total donation is worth $20 million, said the U.S. embassy in a statement issued Tuesday.

The ventilators, produced in the United States, will help South Africa’s hospitals treat patients in intensive care units, and the U.S. Agency for International Development will work with the South African government to distribute the equipment across the country.

U.S. ambassador to South Africa Lana Marks was at Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo airport on Monday to receive the shipment.

“These ventilators are another example of the American spirit of generosity as we battle this virus at home in the United States and together abroad with our partner countries,” said Marks, in the statement.

The donation of ventilators brings the total U.S. government financial support to South Africa’s COVID-19 response to more than $41 million, according to the statement. In addition, the U.S. is supporting up to 5,400 community healthcare workers to assist with the South African government’s community COVID-19 screening campaign and provide HIV treatment support, through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).


WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s health authorities say the decision on the pace of lifting restrictions in the southern mining region of Silesia will depend on the results of thousands of coronavirus tests being done there among miners and their families.

Densely-populated Silesia, a region around the city of Katowice, had emerged as a hotbed of infections, especially in the mines. Some 15,000 miners are being tested there this week.

So far, some 600 infections have been reported, but in most cases the symptoms were only mild, Deputy Health Minister Janusz Cieszynski said Tuesday.

He said that depending on the final results and on recommendations from sanitary authorities a individual approach can be applied to regions with high rate of infections, including Silesia. Individual approach could mean that many of the anti-COVID-19 measures of social distancing and isolation could remain in force there, while they are being gradually lifted in other areas.

Two other regions with high infection rate are Masovia, around Warsaw, and the eastern region around the city of Poznan.

Silesia accounts for some 3,800 reported cases of infection, out of over 16,500 reported cases in Poland. Almost 830 people in the nation of 38 million have died.


BRUSSELS — Hard-hit by the coronavirus crisis, Belgium’s Brussels Airlines unveiled Tuesday a cost-cutting plan that will result in the reduction of 25% of its workforce.

The Lufthansa subsidiary, which employs 4,000 people, has suspended its flights as a result of the pandemic, which has put air travel at a halt. The carrier, which also suffered from the bankruptcy of travel operator Thomas Cook last year, plans to reduce its fleet from 54 to 38 aircraft as part of the restructuring.

Brussels Airlines says it is losing one million euro ($1.08 million) a day because of revenue losses, aircraft leasing and maintenance costs. The company has asked the government for €290 million ($314 million) in aid.

“While the turnaround plan is indispensable to overcome the crisis, the ongoing discussions with both the Belgian government and Lufthansa remain essential,” Brussels Airlines said. “The Belgian home carrier hopes for a positive outcome of the talks with the Belgian authorities on the financial support that is needed to overcome the consequences of this unprecedented crisis, while it seeks for assistance of Lufthansa for the restructuring costs.”

Brussels Airlines said it is confident it will “grow again in a profitable way” when air travel returns to normal.


MADRID — Spain is reporting 176 new confirmed deaths for coronavirus during the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s total death toll to 26,920.

New infections confirmed by laboratory tests are up on Tuesday by 426. The total contagion, including antibody tests, stands at 269,520.

The figures were slightly up from a day before, but records usually see an increase on Tuesday as unreported data over the weekend shows up in official statistics.

Nearly 140,000 people have recovered after contracting the virus, Spain’s Health Ministry says.

Roughly half of Spaniards are starting to enjoy a loser version of the country’s stringent lockdown adopted in mid-March.

On Tuesday, the government published a new set of rules requiring all incoming visitors from overseas to quarantine for two weeks if they arrive after May 15.


ATHENS, Greece — Police in northern Greece say migrants at a holding site near the country’s border with Turkey have staged violent protests following weeks of delays in processing their asylum claims due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Authorities said the protests also involved unaccompanied minors at the closed facility which currently houses some 250 asylum seekers. No injuries were reported.

The asylum service’s operations have been scaled back due to the pandemic restriction measures that have affected many public services.

Greek authorities are struggling to cope with a spike in migrant crossings from Turkey, at the land border and islands, that occurred before the lockdown.

Greece and Turkey were also involved in a standoff at the border for more than two weeks in late February and early March — after Turkey’s government announced it would no longer prevent migrants trying to reach the European Union. Greece used police and its armed forces with assistance from the EU border protection agency Frontex to stop thousands of migrants trying to force their way over the border.


LONDON — Budget airline Ryanair will begin operating nearly 1,000 daily flights starting in July — assuming government restrictions on flights within Europe are lifted after the shutdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The carrier says it will restore 90% of its pre-COVID-19 route network. The airline has been operating with a skeleton schedule since mid-March, with some 30 flights daily between Ireland, the UK and Europe.

On the plane, lining up for toilets will be forbidden, though access to bathrooms can be made on request. Crew members will wear masks and offer limited services.

The airline also announced that passengers flying in July and August will be required at check-in to state how long their planned visit will be and what address they will use during their visit. The information will be given to governments in the event they want to monitor the passenger for isolation requirements.


COPENHAGEN, Denmark — A top medical official in Denmark said Tuesday that “it is very unlikely that another wave of corona will occur” in the Scandinavian country.

“But we may see changes in the reproduction rate,” said Kaare Moelbak of Statens Serum Institut, a government agency that maps the spread of the coronavirus in Denmark.

Currently the Danish so-called reproduction rate, which measures the average number of people a person with the virus infects, is at 0.7, down from a previous 0.9. It has been below 1.0 in the past weeks.

Moelbak said Denmark now had built up a test capacity and can now isolate infected people.

He spoke at a news conference with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen who announced that Denmark will create an agency to ensure the supply of protective equipment and testing facilities to “strengthen the preparedness” in the future.

“We don’t want to stand in a situation where we lack tests and protective equipment,” Frederiksen said.

Denmark started a lockdown March 11 and has in the past weeks slowly reopened society.


PARIS — French children start going back to school on Tuesday as the country is gradually lifting confinement measures, following two months of lockdown.

Authorities say 86% of preschools and primary schools are reopening this week.

Most schools across the country start accommodating children on Tuesday. In Paris, schools will reopen Thursday.

Classes are capped at 10 students at preschools and 15 elsewhere. Students are required to keep physical distance from each other and wash their hands several times a day. Teachers must wear a mask.

School attendance is not compulsory. The government has allowed parents to keep children at home amid fears prompted by the COVID-19, as France is one of the hardest-hit countries in the world.

Junior high schools in regions with fewer virus cases are expected to reopen next week. A target date hasn’t been scheduled yet for high schools.

As of Tuesday, French authorities reported nearly 140,000 people infected with the virus and more than 26,000 deaths.


PRISTINA, Kosovo — Kosovo’s acting prime minister has returned to his office after the person suspected of being exposed to the virus tested negative, his spokesman said Tuesday.

Acting Prime Minister Albin Kurti “has returned to the regular working regime” and he has not been tested of the virus because “the suspected person he had contacted resulted negative,” said Perparim Kryeziu, a government spokesperson.

A day earlier Kurti said he was quarantining himself at home following contacts with a possible virus-infected official.

Kosovo has eased some of its lockdown measures, but it is still with closed borders and many businesses remain shut.

As of Tuesday, Kosovo has had 28 confirmed virus deaths and about 900 confirmed cases.


JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia’s death toll from the coronavirus outbreak breached 1,000-mark on Tuesday, making it the country with the most COVID-19 deaths and the highest fatality rate in Southeast Asia.

The COVID-19 task force spokesman Achmad Yurianto confirmed 16 new deaths in the last 24 hours, taking the country’s death toll to 1,007.

The number of coronavirus fatalities become under scrutiny in recent days as media reports and medical experts said the national death toll was likely more than double the official figure of 1,007.

Indonesia has one of the lowest testing rates in the world and some epidemiologists say that has made it harder to get an accurate picture of the infections in the world’s fourth most populous country.


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