The Latest: Macron confident US will join vaccine pledge

International

Indians line up to buy liquor outside one the liquor shops which was reopened Monday after six weeks lockdown in New Delhi, India, Monday, May 4, 2020. India’s six-week coronavirus lockdown, which was supposed to end on Monday, has been extended for another two weeks, with a few relaxations. Locking down the country’s 1.3 billion people has slowed down the spread of the virus, but has come at the enormous cost of upending lives and millions of lost jobs. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

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’s Macron confident that the U.S. will join a global pledge for research to find a vaccine.

— World Health Organization says it has no evidence that the coronavirus originated at a Wuhan laboratory.

— Number of people currently positive for coronavirus has dropped under 100,000 in Italy.

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PARIS — French president Emmanuel Macron said he is confident that the United States will join a global pledge for research to find a vaccine against the new coronavirus.

World leaders, organizations and banks on Monday pledged to give 7.4 billion euros ($8 billion) during a videoconference summit hosted by the European Union. The U.S., along with Russia, were notably absent from the event.

Macron, who donated 500 million euros on behalf of France, noted that the U.S. “are on the sidelines” but added that it doesn’t compromise or slow down the initiative.

Speaking from the Elysee palace, he said he discussed the issue with President Donald Trump and is convinced that the U.S. will at some point join the initiative, consisting in finding a vaccine as quickly as possible and making it available to all countries.

Macron added that his government is in a permanent dialogue with the Trump administration and with American companies.

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GENEVA — The World Health Organization says it has received no evidence or data from the U.S. government to back up claims by President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that they have seen evidence that the coronavirus have originated at a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

“From our perspective, this remains speculative,” WHO emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan said. “But like any evidence-based organization, we would be very willing to receive any information that purports to the origin of the virus.”

Ryan reiterated that the evidence and advice that the U.N. health agency has received suggest that the novel coronavirus is of natural origin. Pompeo and Trump say they have seen evidence suggesting that it could be from the Wuhan Institute of Virology lab.

“If that data and evidence is available, then it will be for the United States government to decide whether and when it can be shared,” Ryan told reporters in Geneva. “But it’s difficult for WHO to operate in an information vacuum in that specific regard.”

On Sunday, Pompeo told ABC’s “This Week” program that there was “a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan.”

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MILAN — The number of people currently positive for coronavirus has dropped under 100,000 in Italy — Europe’s hardest-hit country.

As the country began a gradually reopening from a two-month-long lockdown on Monday, the number of deaths rose by 195 to 29,079.

Italy also registered the lowest number of new positives since the day the lockdown took effect, at 1,221, bringing the total of coronavirus cases to 211,938 since the first case of domestic transmission of the virus was detected on Feb. 21.

Pressure on Italian hospitals continued to ease, with 419 fewer people hospitalized and 22 fewer in intensive care units. Three regions — Umbria, Basilicata and Molise — registered no new cases, while most were well under 100.

Lombardy, the densely populated northern region that has borne the brunt of the virus, was responsible for nearly half of all new cases in the past 24 hours.

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RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is extending an executive order mandating that some nonessential businesses close for another week, until May 15.

Northam announced at a news conference Monday that the state is seeing positive trends in data related to spread and treatment of the coronavirus pandemic, but he said more time is needed before restrictions can be eased.

His executive order, which forces closed some businesses and severely restricts how others operate, was set to expire May 8. His order also bans gatherings of 10 or more in public or private.

The governor, a Democrat, has come under increasing pressure from Republican lawmakers and others to reopen the state as some other Southern states have done.

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BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia’s president Aleksandar Vucic has set June 21 as the date of a parliamentary election which has been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The vote was originally scheduled for April 26 but was put on hold after a nationwide state of emergency was proclaimed in mid-March.

Most of Serbia’s democratic opposition parties plan to boycott the vote because of Vucic’s firm control of media and the electoral process.

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LONDON — One of the British government’s main advisers during the coronavirus epidemic says the number of positive cases in the country remains too high, a signal that lockdown measures will be extended this week.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer, said at the government’s daily briefing that “new cases need to come down further.”

That reinforces expectations that the lockdown will be extended when it is reviewed Thursday.

However, Van-Tam said there has been a “slow and consistent decline” in the numbers of deaths after government figures showed another 288 new deaths in all settings. That’s the lowest daily increase in the U.K. since late March and takes the total to 28,734, just shy of Italy’s 29,079.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock cautioned that Monday figures have tended to be artificially low because of weekend lags.

Hancock also unveiled details of a pilot “test, track and trace program” on the Isle of Wight from Tuesday and urged residents on the island, which is just a few miles off the coast of southern England, to download the associated app.

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PRAGUE — The Czech government has decided to lift its ban on international train and bus travel amid easing its restrictive measures imposed to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Trade and Industry Minister Karel Havlicek says trains and busses will be allowed to cross the country’s borders again as of May 11.

The Czechs returning home will have to present a negative test on the coronavirus that is not older than four days, or to be quarantined for two weeks.

Additionally, workers from not European countries will be allowed to entry the Czech Republic to be employed at temporary jobs in the agriculture or health sectors on condition they have a negative test on the virus.

Also, the Czech government will send 500,000 face masks from its reserves as help to Italy, one of the hardest-hit countries by the pandemic of the new coronavirus.

Health Minister Adam Vojtech announced the plan.

It’s the second time the Czechs have donated some protective equipment to its EU partners. In March, the Czech Republic transported 10,000 protective suits to Italy and the same amount to another badly hit country, Spain.

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SEATTLE — Hundreds of health care workers and dozens of first responders in Washington state have become sick with the coronavirus while on the job, according to workers’ compensation claims.

The new data provides some insight into how the coronavirus has impacted the health care community but underestimates how many doctors and nurses have tested positive.

That number is not known because state and federal health officials have failed to collect the information, and they’ve made no improvements since The Associated Press first reported the problem in April.

“Our data on occupations are not complete, so we do not report the information since it would not be reliable,” said Annie Johnson, a spokesperson for the Washington health department’s Joint Information Center.

Washington is not alone. States that reported coronavirus cases to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control only included occupational information for 16% of all reported cases, the agency said in a new report.

Experts say knowing how COVID-19 is impacting front-line workers in the health care system is vital in handling the crisis.

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ANKARA, Turkey — With the coronavirus deaths and infections falling in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a “normalization plan” to gradually ease restrictions but warned of tougher measures to come should the numbers rebound.

In a televised address following a cabinet meeting, Erdogan said people aged above 65 — who have been under a curfew for the past six weeks — will be allowed to leave homes at a walking distance for four hours on May 15. Children would be allowed to take walks for four hours on May 13 and teenagers on May 15, Erdogan said.

Shopping malls will be allowed to open on May 11 as will barber shops, hairdressers and beauty parlors — as long as they work on a system of appointment and accept customers at half-capacity.

Erdogan said that the government is also lifting entry and exit restrictions for seven cities where the coronavirus outbreak has been brought under control. The measure will remain for 24 other cities, including Istanbul and Ankara.

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TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey schools will remain closed for the remainder of the academic year because of the coronavirus outbreak, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday.

Teachers have been required to conduct remote instruction since schools shuttered in mid-March.

New Jersey is among the hardest-hit states in the country with 7,871 COVID-19 fatalities and more than 120,000 positive cases.

New Jersey has some 600 school districts and about 1.4 million students enrolled, according to the state Education Department.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greeks are once again allowed to swim in the country’s beaches following a six-week lockdown. But people must maintain social distancing and organized beaches offering services to paying visitors will remain closed.

A government decision published Monday, when the country started to ease its lockdown, also allows fishing from the shore. Officials said fishing from small boats will also be allowed.

Authorities said Monday that the new coronavirus epidemic is “under control” in the country, although care is required to avoid a resurgence.

Only six new cases were recorded over the past 24 hours and two new deaths, bringing the total of recorded infections to 2,632 and deaths to 146.

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PARIS — French prime minister Edouard Philippe urged public transport companies to open May 11 as the country will start lifting confinement measures.

Heads of France’s biggest public transports companies, including national railway SNCF and Paris metro RATP, have voiced concerns over lack of human and material resources to ensure travelers’ safety.

In a speech to French senators, Philippe said they need to “find the right answers to complex questions” because it is necessary to provide public transports “in a controlled way” next week to help the economy recover after two months of strict lockdown in the country.

Philippe reaffirmed that people will be allowed to travel no further than 100 kilometers (62 miles) with exceptions only for compelling familial or professional reasons.

He said reservations will be mandatory to halve the number of passengers in long-distance trains.

Heads of public transports companies called for police to help them regulate passengers flows in an open letter and warned of potential disruptions during rush hour.

Starting May 11 all French businesses will be allowed to resume activity and schools will start gradually reopening.

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NEW DELHI, India — India will facilitate the return of its stranded citizens abroad in a phased manner beginning May 7.

The Ministry of Home Affairs on Monday said Indian Embassies and High Commissions are preparing a list of distressed Indian citizens who will be brought back on naval ships separate from the non-scheduled commercial aircraft.

The stranded citizens would have to pay for the transport. Only those who are asymptomatic will be allowed onboard.

It was not immediately clear how many Indians the government plans to bring back to the country.

India brought back hundreds of Indians from China and Iran in March. However, after it suspended domestic and international flight operations over the growing number of coronavirus cases in the country, the operation was halted.

On Monday, India relaxed some coronavirus lockdown restrictions even as the pace of infection picked up and reopenings drew crowds. The near-total 5-week lockdown achieved a slowdown in the spread of the virus but has caused immense hardship for India’s legions of poor people.

Some degree of lockdown will continue at least until May 18.

India reported 42,835 virus cases, 11,761 recoveries and 1,389 deaths. The country says it had tested more than a million samples by Monday.

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BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia’s government is accelerating its steps to lift restrictive measures adopted to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Prime Minister Igor Matovic says all stores, except shopping malls, can reopen Wednesday. That is two weeks before originally planned due to a more positive development of the outbreak in the country than expected.

Also, museums, galleries, libraries and the outdoor seating at restaurants can return to service.

One person died of COVID-19 in Slovakia on Sunday for a total of 25. The day-to-day increase of the new positive cases reached 5 on Sunday, the ninth day below 10.

As previously scheduled, zoo parks, hairdressers, beauty parlors and taxi services can reopen as of Wednesday. Weddings and religious services are also allowed to take place again.

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