THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The latest on the coronavirus pandemic. Black Press Media posted these files assembled from the Associated Press at 8:30 a.m., Monday, April 27.
TOP OF THE HOUR:
- Spain’s interior minister pleased as parents comply with social distancing rules as children go outside.
- Norwegian children return to school and hair salons reopen.
- Public transportation resumes in the Croatian capital of Zagreb.
- Beef production plant in Green Bay closes due to coronavirus infections among employees.
Social distancing works as children allowed out for the first time in weeks
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 Sanchez 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.
Denmark: Children go to school, politicians get haircuts
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 cellphone “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 parlours and beauty salons through Norway also reopened Monday.
Croatia launches phased easing of restrictions
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 centre 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.
About 200 infections linked to shut down beef plant
GREEN BAY, Wis. — A beef production plant in Green Bay has become the latest to shut down due to 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.
U.K.: Public now can ask questions at press conferences; P.M. back at work
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.
Germany makes 300 million euros available for worldwide humanitarian aid
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.
India cancels orders for antibody test kits over quality issues
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 cancelled 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.
Portugal to ease some restrictions
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 neighbouring Spain’s more than 23,500.
U.K.: Calls to domestic violence hot-line surge 49 per cent
LONDON — British lawmakers are urging the government to take urgent action to tackle domestic violence after a report found that calls to the national domestic abuse helpline surged 49% during the coronavirus lockdown.
The Home Affairs Committee also cited research that estimated at least 16 domestic abuse killings of women and children took place between Mar. 23 when lockdown measures were announced and April 12. It is double that of an average 21 day period in the last decade.
Yvette Cooper is chair of the committee and said Monday urgent action is needed to protect victims.
The committee called for new emergency funding for social services to protect vulnerable women and children, and measures to ensure victims can access urgent help during lockdown.
Italy seeks EU aid
BRUSSELS — Italy has become the first European Union country to apply for financial aid from a 800-million euros fund set up by the 27-country bloc to tackle the crisis triggered by the new coronavirus pandemics.
Italy has been the hardest-hit EU country by the deadly virus so far with some 26,000 fatalities.
The fund initially was designed to help countries hit by natural disasters. Now it can be used in health emergencies like the COVID-19 crisis after the European Council and the EU Parliament approved a proposal from the bloc’s executive arm.
The European Commission said Monday that member states can request aid until June 24. Applications will then be assessed by the Commission, which will submit a proposal for financial aid to the Council and the Parliament.
The Commission will deal with all applications in one single package, not on a first come first served basis.
Shops start to re-open in Switzerland
GENEVA — Businesses like hair salons, tattoo parlours, veterinarians’ offices and garden shops are reopening up across Switzerland.
It is part of a multi-tiered reopening as the Alpine country gradually eases restrictions aimed to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.
Requirements from Swiss authorities say businesses must provide individual clients an average of at least 10 square meters in their shops and offices, set up lines outside their buildings and regularly clean their equipment and surfaces.
Service-providers like barbers and masseurs who come within 2 metres of customers were advised to wear masks and transparent-plastic face screens, and wash or disinfected hands before and after each client.
Pet-owners were expected to drop off their animals outside the vet offices, only to pick them up after the visits are over.
Long-lines snaked outside large garden shops and hardware stores in some areas as the easing took place on Monday.
Swiss authorities for weeks have forced the closure of all non-essential shops and services. Schools and a wider array of businesses are to resume operations on May 11, followed by a vastly expanded reopening on June 8.
No date has been set for the resumption of large gatherings such as sporting events and concerts.
In Greece, haircuts are at the top of the list for re-opening
ATHENS — Greece will announce detailed plans to ease coronavirus-related restrictions on Tuesday but authorities have already promised haircuts will be among the first services available.
Hair salons and barbershops will be included in the first stage of reopening businesses when restrictions begin to ease on May 4.
A recent opinion poll found that going to the hairdressers was top of Greeks’ post-lockdown wish list, followed by domestic travel, and buying clothes.
Strict lockdown measures have helped keep the spread of COVID-19 relatively contained in Greece. The death toll in Greece is 134, and there are 2,517 confirmed cases.
But police have reported an increase in violations in recent days as public anxiety over the pandemic eases and the weather improves.