The Latest: Catholic celebrations go on without worshippers

By The Associated Press
Posted 5/14/20

The Latest on the 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 …

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The Latest: Catholic celebrations go on without worshippers

Posted

The Latest on the 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:

— Wuhan to after handful of new infections.

— Annual celebrations at the Catholic shrine at Fatima in Portugal held without worshippers.

— Children under age 14 allowed to go outside in Turkey.

— Spain reports slight increase in daily virus infections.

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FATIMA, Portugal — The Catholic shrine at Fatima in Portugal has held its annual celebrations without worshippers for the first time in its more than 100-year history.

Hundreds of thousands of people traditionally hold candles as they attend masses at the small town’s huge shrine on the night of May 12 and morning of May 13. The ceremonies mark the day when three illiterate shepherd children first reported seeing visions of the Madonna.

Like the shrine at Lourdes, France, Fatima draws about six million pilgrims from around the world every year to give thanks to Our Lady of Fatima, or to pray for help.

Authorities this year asked people not to travel to Fatima due to the coronavirus outbreak. Police cordoned off roads leading to the shrine.

Ceremonies were broadcast live and streamed. The dean of the shrine asked people to place a lighted candle in a window of their home and “make a pilgrimage of the heart.”

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ANKARA, Turkey — Parks filled with the sound of children as Turkey allowed kids aged 14 and under to leave homes for the first time in 40 days.

The country’s youngest population were allowed to venture out for four hours between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm on Wednesday as Turkey eased some restrictions in place to fight to coronavirus outbreak. Youngsters aged between 15 and 20 will be able to leave homes for a few hours on Friday, while senior citizens were briefly allowed out for the first time in seven weeks on May 10.

In the capital Ankara’s main park, Kugulu Park (or Swan Park), young children wearing masks took turns down slides while some elder kids took selfies.

The government has announced a “normalization plan” as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases have dropped, but warned of tougher measures if infections go up again.

Turkey has recorded more than 140,000 cases of the virus and nearly 4,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19, according to a tally by John Hopkins University. The true number is likely much higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with displaying symptoms.

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MADRID — Spain is reporting a slight increase in new daily coronavirus deaths and infections, as officials watch closely the curves to see if the relaxation of confinement rules is leading to a significant rebound.

Spain’s recorded fatality toll has surpassed the 27,000 mark on Wednesday with 184 new deaths in the past 24 hours, eight more than Tuesday’s increase.

There were also about 400 new coronavirus cases confirmed by the most reliable laboratory tests on Wednesday, bringing the country’s total over 228,600. At least 42,000 more infections have emerged with tests that track antibodies that appear after the contagion.

More than 140,000 have overcome the COVID-19 illness.

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BERLIN — The German government is recommending that a requirement for people arriving from other countries in Europe to self-quarantine for 14 days be dropped.

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

A court in the northern state of Lower Saxony suspended the rule for that region this week.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said Wednesday he is recommending that state governments, which are responsible for quarantines, drop the requirement for travelers from other European countries but maintain it for arrivals from other nations such as the United States and Russia.

The comment came as Seehofer said Germany will start loosening checks on its borders with some neighbors this weekend — though he said controls will be stepped back up if infections rise strongly in neighboring countries.

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BERLIN — Germany’s foreign minister says his country will be able to lift a blanket warning against foreign travel for European destinations before other places, but he isn’t specifying when.

Germany’s warning against all nonessential tourist travel abroad is currently set to run until at least June 14.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Wednesday that “it will certainly be possible to lift the travel warning earlier for Europe than for other destinations — so long as the current positive trend in many countries solidifies.”

Maas said in a statement that “freedom to travel is part of the foundation of the European project, but in times of corona Europe must ensure more: the freedom to travel safely.”

He said European Union guidelines presented Wednesday are an important basis for talks with other European countries. Maas plans to invite many of his colleagues in the coming days to participate in a “neighbourhood dialog” on how to lift restrictions safely.

He said that Europe must coordinate as well as possible even if the situation differs from country to country — “we don’t all have to proceed at the same speed, but we also shouldn’t do it as a race, and we should do it in such a way that we don’t tread on each other’s feet.”

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BERLIN — The coronavirus reproduction factor in Germany has again dropped below 1, after three days above the key number.

The Robert Koch-Institute, Germany’s public health agency, reported Wednesday that the so-called R-rate had dropped to 0.94 — meaning that for every 100 people infected, they would infect another 94 people, indicating a slowing of the pandemic spread.

Though health authorities focused closely on the R-rate early on in the pandemic, they say now that daily infections in Germany are quite low so it has to be viewed in context with other factors. That’s because there is a lag in the data for the R-rate and with very few new cases it is particularly volatile, with even small increases or decreases in the daily numbers causing it to jump up or down.

Germany is watching the numbers very carefully, after embarking on a plan in late April to relax restrictions in stages.

The RKI said Germany registered almost 800 new cases overnight for a total of over 171,000 total infections. At the same time, some 1,500 people were added to the recovered total, which is now almost 150,000. About 100 people died from the virus, for a total over 7,600.

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BERLIN — Germany plans to start loosening its border controls this weekend after two months of restrictions.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said Wednesday that checks on the border with Luxembourg will be dropped after Friday. On the borders with France, Switzerland and Austria, all border crossings will be opened — rather than selected ones at present — and authorities will switch to spot rather than systematic checks.

Seehofer said that the aim is to restore free travel across those three borders on June 15, so long as coronavirus infections allow.

Germany imposed checks on its borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg and Denmark on March 16 and people “without a valid reason to travel” haven’t been allowed to cross. Eastern neighbors Poland and the Czech Republic closed their own borders.

Seehofer said Germany is prepared to relax controls on the Danish border, but Denmark is in the process of consulting with its other neighbors.

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LONDON — Golf courses in England are reopening as part of some modest socially distanced easing of the coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

People in England can now exercise more than once a day and with one person from outside their household, provided they stay two meters apart (around 6.5 feet). In addition, outdoor tennis and basketball courts can be used, and people will also be able to swim in lakes and the sea. Garden centers can also reopen, while potential house buyers can visit properties in person. And people who cannot work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, are being encouraged to return if they can do so in a COVID-secure way.

The lifting of some restrictions, first announced by U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday, applies only in England. The semi-autonomous governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are going more slowly and sticking with the “Stay Home” message.

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JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia has reported more than 600 new cases of COVID-19 for the first time since the country confirmed its first cases in early March, making the national total exceed 15,000 on Wednesday.

There were 689 new confirmed cases in the past 24 hours to bring the total to 15,438. The cumulative figure includes about 1,000 deaths and nearly 3,300 recoveries.

The highest spike in a day came as the government is mulling over a plan to start easing social restrictions next month to allow businesses to resume operations gradually.

The plan, which is still under development, aims to restore “business as usual” by the end of July, where shopping malls will be allowed to resume limited operations on June 8, schools allowed to reopen on staggered schedules and exercising outdoors allowed with social distancing.

But the draft also stressed that the plan was contingent on fulfilling the public health metrics first, including flattening the daily curve of new COVID-19 cases.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Norway is opening its borders to allow people from other European countries enter the Scandinavian country if the have a residence there or have family they want to visit.

Justice Minister Monica Maeland said Wednesday that Norway, which is not part of the European Union, is opening up for citizens from the European Economic Area that includes EU member states, the United Kingdom, Iceland, Liechtenstein. The last three countries have together with Norway signed the agreement that gives EU non-members access to the EU’s huge single market.

Maeland said in a statement that it also means, among other things, that seasonal workers will have the opportunity to enter Norway.

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TOKYO — A 28-year-old Japanese sumo wrestler died Wednesday from the coronavirus.

The Japan Sumo Association said Shoubushi, whose real name was Kiyotaka Suetake, died of multiple-organ failure after developing COVID-19 pneumonia.

He is the first sumo wrestler known to die from the virus, and among the youngest victims in Japan.

The wrestler developed a fever on April 4 but could not get a test or find a hospital until four days later, when he was in worse condition, the association said. He was moved to an intensive care unit at a Tokyo hospital on April 19.

Japan, under a coronavirus state of emergency since April 7, is preparing to partially lift the measures amid signs of slowing infections. Experts, however, urge people to keep avoiding close contacts, which has been a challenge for sumo.

Wrestlers in Japan’s ancient sport of sumo traditionally live together like a big family, or a group known as “stables,” usually headed by retired champions, and they train and eat together and often share food, typically hot-pot dish called Chanko. Several other wrestlers have also been infected.

Although they still live in stables, they had to stop sharing food, and stop parts of training that involve physical contacts.

The Summer Grand Sumo Tournament scheduled to take place from May 24 to June 7 at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan was canceled earlier this month over fears of further spreading the virus.

Japan has recorded almost 16,000 cases of COVID-19 and 670 deaths, according to a tally by Japan’s health ministry.

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BEIJING — A shorter-than-usual ban on drone use in the Chinese capital is being interpreted as a signal that China will curtail its major political meeting of the year because of COVID-19.

Beijing police announced Wednesday that the use of drones, balloons, gliders and other low-flying objects will be banned for nine days, from May 20 to May 28. Such bans are common during major events.

The National People’s Congress usually happens over two weeks in March but was postponed this year because of the coronavirus outbreak. It is scheduled to start on May 22, so the flying ban suggests it may last just one week.

Province-level meetings held in advance of the Congress were curtailed and with fewer delegates in attendance. Some participants in a recent preparatory meeting for the Congress joined by video conference, sparking speculation that some of the 3,000 delegates to the Congress may do so too.

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BANGKOK — Health authorities in Thailand have reported no new confirmed cases of COVID-19 for the first time in more than two months.

There were also no new deaths reported Wednesday, leaving the country’s total just over 3,000 cases with nearly 60 fatalities, while almost 3,000 of the patients have recovered.

Since the beginning of May, Thailand has reported single-digit daily increases, with the exception of May 4, when a cluster pushed the number to 18.

The last time Thailand reported no new cases was on March 9, when there were 50 cases in total with a single death.

Thai authorities have been gradually and selectively easing restrictions meant to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Restaurants in Bangkok last week were allowed to reopen for sit-in dining under rules mandating social distancing, and the city’s popular shopping malls, whose supermarkets and drug stores have remained in operation, may get permission Friday to restart many of their other activities as soon as this weekend.

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