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Thursday May 28th, 2020 3:32PM

The Latest: Tyson Foods closes 2 poultry plants for cleaning

By The Associated Press
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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:

— FDA investigating virus test used at White House for false negatives.

— Russian doctors say woman contracted virus twice.

— Europe is relaxing coronavirus restrictions, but cases flare in Mexico.

— Macron says mistakes were made in reforms of healthcare system.

___

WILKESBORO, N.C. — Tyson Foods is temporarily closing two plants at a North Carolina complex for cleaning amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Tyson Foods spokesman Derek Burleson says in an email one of two fresh meat plants and a food-service plant at the Wilkesboro complex are closed from Thursday to Tuesday. A third Wilkesboro plant, which also processes fresh poultry, will continue limited operations.

The closures, following another temporary closure for cleaning, will allow “additional deep cleaning” due to sick workers and quarantine-related absences.

The company says staff will have additional virus testing, protective gear, symptom screening and access to nurse practitioners. The complex employs approximately 3,000 people.

It wasn’t clear exactly how many workers were sick. Wilkes County reported 286 residents testing positive overall, including 20 hospitalizations and one death. Earlier in the week, county officials said the plant was linked to most of its cases.

The Winston-Salem Journal reported health officials in nearby Forsyth County have said at least 70 cases there are either Tyson workers or people who were in contact with them.

Statewide, health officials reported more than 1,600 virus cases as of Thursday at meat-processing plants in 17 counties. The state has declined to release plant names, citing a health confidentiality law. But officials at Smithfield, Mountaire Farms and Butterball have confirmed positive cases at North Carolina plants.

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ISLAMABAD — A leading Pakistani pharmaceutical company has reached an agreement with the U.S.-based Gilead Sciences Inc., for mass-production of an experimental drug that showed promising signs in treating patients with COVID-19.

Health official Zafar Mirza says at a news conference, attended by the country’s prime minister Imran Khan, the antiviral drug Remdesivir will be exported to 127 countries. He hoped the drug will soon be available in this country of 220 million people, where 803 people have died because of coronavirus since February.

Mirza says authorities will train 100,000 Pakistani front-line health workers to ensure their safety and better treatment of COVID-19 patients.

Earlier, Khan defended his recent decision of easing the nationwide lockdown imposed in March to contain the coronavirus. He says he had to ease restrictions so people don’t die from hunger in Pakistan, where 150 million people were affected by the lockdown.

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BELGRADE, Serbia — Hungary’s prime minister says he’ll give up the extraordinary powers to rule by decree on matters related to the pandemic granted by Parliament in March.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban says he expects to do so near the end of May. He’s been criticized by international observers, the European Parliament and domestic opposition because no time limit was set on the state of emergency that granted him the vast powers.

Orban says during a visit to neighboring Serbia that he was convinced countries that gave their leaders “good powers” during the pandemic where more successful in combating the coronavirus than those that “could not step out of the usual political decision-making mechanism.”

He says once he returned his “special authorization,” he’d give his critics “the opportunity to apologize to Hungary for the false accusations.”

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GENEVA — Christian Bock, the director of the Swiss federal customs administration, says the governments of Switzerland, Germany and Austria have agreed to open their borders in a coordinated manner.

That will give some people authorization to cross, particularly those with a “self-declaration” such as for family gatherings.

“We are going to open all the border passage points with Germany and Austria,” Bock said in Bern, emphasizing crossings for shopping, gasoline, tourism and other unauthorized journeys are still banned.

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PARIS — France’s eight-week lockdown against the coronavirus worked wonders on air pollution and traffic fatalities.

Pollution watchdog Airparif says the French capital’s air quality improved markedly. Airparif registered a 30% drop in ultra-fine particles in the air. The decrease was less significant with slightly larger particles.

Depending on the week, Airparif also noted decreases of 20% to 35% for levels of pollutants from traffic, including nitrogen dioxide.

The stay-home rules from March 17 to May 11, which required people to have permits to go out, took most traffic off the roads.

The government says there were 103 road deaths in April, which was 130 fewer deaths than in the same month last year. Injuries were down by 76%.

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STOCKHOLM — The Baltic countries have launched when they’ve called a “travel bubble” that lifts restrictions on movement between Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Latvia’s foreign minister attributed the move to efforts by health workers in all three countries to bring the epidemic under control. The region of six million inhabitants has seen fewer deaths than its Nordic neighbors, with about 130 deaths.

“Because of the discipline, because of the dedicated work, we are reaching the point where we can open up our travel, internal Baltic travel, we can open up our borders,” said Edgars Rinkevics, Latvia foreign minister.

Overnight, restrictions were lifted on all movement among the three countries, although people must still follow health recommendations in case of illness. However, people arriving from outside the Baltic states still face 14 days of quarantine.

“The Baltic travel bubble means that we will have a secure zone of movement,” said Urmas Reinsalu, Estonia foreign minister during a press conference held in Riga, Latvia, and attended in person by all three foreign ministers.

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MOSCOW — Russian doctors say they are treating a woman who may have contracted coronavirus for the second time after recovering from it.

The woman was discharged from a hospital in the Siberian city of Ulan-Ude after receiving treatment for coronavirus and testing negative for it in early April. But two weeks later she started having respiratory symptoms again and tested positive for the virus for the second time.

She was readmitted to the hospital and is currently being treated, says its chief doctor Tatyana Symbelova.

“The question is whether it’s a re-infection, because 15-16 days passed between discharged and respiratory symptoms appearing, or the disease she had earlier coming back. It is not entirely clear for us at this point,” Symbelova says.

According to the World Health Organization, no studies have shown people who have recovered from the coronavirus are immune to becoming infected again.

Russia reported over 262,000 coronavirus cases on Friday and 2,418 deaths.

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PARIS — France’s national health agency announced a 9-year-old child had died in France with symptoms of a rare inflammatory condition likely linked to coronavirus.

Doctor Fabrice Michel of the La Timone hospital in Marseille, where the child was hospitalized, confirmed to Associated Press on Friday “the child had tested positive in serological tests to SARS-CoV-2,” the virus that causes COVID-19. But he says the child had not developed any symptoms of COVID-19.

The child died of brain damage relating to cardiac arrest with a form of Kawasaki disease. About 125 children in France have developed symptoms similar to those of Kawasaki disease and some French doctors believe it is linked to coronavirus.

Doctors in Britain, Italy and Spain have been warned to look out for this rare inflammatory condition in children. Last month, Britain’s Paediatric Intensive Care Society issued an alert to doctors noting there has been an increase in the number of children with “a multi-system inflammatory state requiring intensive care” across the country.

The group says there was “growing concern” that either a COVID-19 related syndrome was emerging in children or a different, unidentified disease might be responsible.

___

LONDON — Wales’s leader has urged people from England mulling a trip across the border this sunny weekend to reconsider.

The coronavirus lockdown rules between the two nations will remain different for at least another two weeks.

First Minister Mark Drakeford says, “now is not the right moment” for English people to travel to Wales and anyone doing so would be “on the wrong side of the law.”

Both nations are part of the U.K. but have slightly different lockdown restrictions. In England, people can travel anywhere in the country for recreation purposes. In Wales, they are not allowed to travel beyond their locality.

The full lockdown also remains in place in Scotland and Northern Ireland, the other two nations of the U.K.

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JAKARTA, Indonesia — Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan announced a ban on travel outside the greater Jakarta areas.

This regulation also applies to people who want to enter the greater Jakarta area. Baswedan says exceptions, including those who work in the fields of health, food, energy, communication and information technology, finance and others.

The exceptions include government employees and others involved in handling COVID-19. They’ll need documentation permitting travel outside or to enter greater Jakarta areas.

Jakarta has 5,774 COVID-19 cases among the total of 16,496 cases in Indonesia. There are 460 reported deaths in Jakarta and 1,076 in the nation.

___

WASHINGTON — Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Steve Hahn says it will be up to the White House to determine whether it continues to use a coronavirus test that has falsely cleared patients of infection.

Hahn Told CBS on Friday the FDA will keep “providing guidance to the White House regarding this test” but whether to keep using the test “will be a White House decision.”

The test is used daily at the White House to test President Donald Trump and key members of his staff, including the coronavirus task force. The FDA said late Thursday it was investigating preliminary data suggesting Abbott Laboratories’ 15-minute test can miss COVID-19 cases, producing false negatives.

Hahn told CBS the test is on the market and the FDA continues to “recommend its use or to have it available for use.” But he suggested if doctors or patients suspect they’ve received a false negative, they should do another test.

___

JOHANNESBURG — A South African court has ordered the suspension of the soldiers and police officers who allegedly assaulted a man to death while enforcing the country’s lockdown.

Collins Khoza died in Alexandra township in Johannesburg in the early weeks of a lockdown that began in late March. His family alleged the officers entered their home after noticing a half-full cup of beer in the yard and accused Khoza and a friend of violating regulations. Alcohol sales are banned but people may drink at home.

A judge says citizens are entitled to their rights during lockdown, including the right to life, and has ordered investigations into Khoza’s death. South African law enforcement agencies have faced criticism for being heavy-handed in lockdown enforcement.

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ATHENS, Greece — Police say dozens of protesters in the central Greek city of Larissa have lit fires in the street after extra lockdown measures were imposed due to an outbreak of the coronavirus.

Tests of 637 people resulted in 35 positive cases after the virus reportedly spread during the funeral of a resident who died of COVID-19. Those who tested positive were to be quarantined in a health facility Friday, but they refused to be moved.

Police were called and media reported about 200 protesters in the streets, some throwing stones at reporters on the edge of the settlement.

Earlier Friday, Greece’s Civil Protection Authority announced a nighttime curfew for the settlement for the next 14 days, and masks were compulsory for those leaving their homes.

Authorities have gradually lifted lockdown measures, which began nearly two weeks ago.

On Thursday, authorities announced 10 confirmed positive cases and one death. The total stands at 2,770 confirmed cases and 156 deaths in a country of nearly 11 million.

___

ANKARA, Turkey — Teenagers left their homes for the first time in 42 days, taking their turn for a few hours of respite from Turkey’s coronavirus lockdowns.

People over 65 and younger than 20 have been under curfew for the past several weeks. This week, the government began allowing them to go outdoors for a few hours as part of a program of reduced controls.

Youth filled parks and main streets and outside malls Friday as the curfew was lifted between 11 am and 3 p.m. Some played basketball or soccer or flew kites in parks, HaberTurk television reported.

Senior citizens were permitted out Sunday and young children 14 and below left homes Wednesday.

The government has announced a “normalization plan” as the number of coronavirus cases dropped last week. However, it also warned of tougher measures if infections increase.

Turkey has registered nearly 145,000 confirmed cases and some 4,000 deaths.

___

TOKYO — The governor of Tokyo, one of several prefectures still under a coronavirus state of emergency, says that she plans to reopen businesses in three phases in the Japanese capital as it prepares for a possible end to the restrictive measures later this month.

Yuriko Koike said Friday that Tokyo will be able to ease restrictions once new cases per day fall below 20, among other indicators. If figures deteriorate, social and economic activity will have to be scaled back again, she said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the end of the state of emergency in all but eight of the country’s 47 prefectures. Restrictions are still in place, for example, in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hokkaido, where experts say risks remain.

Abe said he will have another experts’ meeting next week to decide if the emergency can be removed entirely.

Under the roadmap, business activities will resume in three steps, starting with the lowest-risk facilities like museums and libraries, Koike said. In phase two, theaters will be allowed to reopen and business hours for restaurants and bars will be extended. The final phase will apply to all but cluster-prone facilities such as night clubs.

Japan has registered about 16,200 coronavirus cases and 710 deaths.

___

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron has acknowledged mistakes in reforming the national hospital system, which has faced years of cost cuts and whose once-renowned facilities have struggled to treat tens of thousands of virus patients.

Senior doctors faced off Friday with Macron when he visited a leading Paris hospital, demanding more investment and a rethink of a medical system that found itself quickly overwhelmed by the virus crisis.

“For months I was asking for equipment, and we had three days to fight against the virus,” said Martin Hirsch, head of the Paris hospital network.

As the virus raced across France in March, Macron had to deploy the military to move patients and doctors around the country to relieve saturated hospitals.

Macron’s government announced a plan last year to address growing concerns about hospital job cuts and equipment shortages, but acknowledged Friday: “We undoubtedly made a mistake in the strategy.”

“It was a great strategy, but we should have done it 10 years ago,” he told frustrated doctors at Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital.

Macron promised to kick off a new investment plan while the virus crisis is still raging, without offering details.

French authorities say more than 27,000 people with the virus have died in hospitals and nursing homes.

___

LONDON — Official British statistics show that more than 12,000 residents of nursing homes have died with confirmed or suspected COVID-19.

The Office for National Statistics says 12,526 care home residents in England and Wales died with confirmed or suspected coronavirus infections between the start of the outbreak and May 1. That’s 27% of the 45,899 total deaths of care-home residents during the period.

Britain has struggled to get a full picture of the scale of the epidemic in nursing homes. At first, the government recorded only COVID-19 deaths that occurred in hospitals, though that has now changed.

The country’s official death toll stands at 33,614, the highest number of coronavirus deaths in Europe.

___

PARIS — The head of WHO’s Europe office, Dr. Hans Kluge, says the future of the pandemic will depend on everyone's actions.

“It’s very important to remind everyone that as long as there is no vaccine and effective treatment, there is no return to normal," he said on French radio Europe-1 on Friday. “This virus won’t simply disappear, so the personal behavior of each of us will determine the behavior of the virus.”

“Governments have done a lot (to limit the virus), and now the responsibility is on the people,” he added. “Before we said that public health is important for the economy. Now we have seen that without health there is no economy, there is no national security.”

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Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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