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Thursday May 28th, 2020 7:44AM

The Latest: Thousands protesting against Spanish government

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:

— New cases in India top 6,000 for second straight day.

— Several thousand followers of Spain’s far-right Vox party protest in Madrid.

— Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem to open again on Sunday.

— Vatican Museums will open to visitors again on June 1.

— Syrian government announces the largest single day jump.

— Parish leader says several members test positive after Frankfurt church service.

— Chancellor Angela Merkel defends Germany’s coronavirus restrictions.

— France allowing religious services to resume after a legal challenge to government ban.

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MADRID — Several thousand followers of Spain’s far-right Vox party have gathered in Madrid and other cities to protest the government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

Vox called for protesters to come in their cars and motorbikes to skirt the current prohibition on social gatherings in effect under the nation’s two-month long state of emergency.

“Let your desire be heard for the resignation of the government,” Vox leader Santiago Abascal said from the open-top bus leading the cars inching down a Madrid boulevard.

Vox called the protest the “Caravan for Spain and Liberty.”

Most cars were decked with Spanish flags and there were also small groups of people who participated on foot, with some not respecting the two-meter social distancing rules.

More protests were held in Barcelona, Sevilla and other provincial capitals.

Over 28,000 Spaniards have been confirmed to have died from COVID-19.

The lockdown successfully reduced the daily contagion rate of over 20% at the height of the crisis to under 1% for the past week.

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DAMASCUS, Syria — The Syrian government has announced the largest single day jump of recorded cases in the country, where so far testing has been limited.

The health ministry said Saturday that 11 people tested positive upon their return from Kuwait, and that they were among Syrians repatriated from the Gulf country.

It brings the total recorded infections in Syria to 70 and four deaths. The war-torn nation has limited testing capabilities and a heavily damaged health system.

Two regions in the country’s north with a population of nearly 8 million people are outside of government control, so testing there has also been even more limited.

Health authorities have reported no infections in the rebel-held northwest.

In the northeast, the Kurdish-led government began carrying out its own testing and has so far recorded three infections and one death.

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NEW DELHI — New cases of the coronavirus in India topped 6,000 for a second consecutive day, marking another record jump for the South Asian country in a 24-hour period.

India reported 6,654 new cases on Saturday, bringing the nationwide total to 125,102, including 3,720 deaths.

The rate of infection in the country of 1.3 billion has risen as a two-month lockdown has eased.

States with relatively few cases have seen spikes in recent days as residents, including migrant workers traveling on special trains, have returned home.

Authorities in the northeastern border state of Assam introduced criminal charges on Saturday for quarantine violators after more than 100 people in state quarantine facilities tested positive for COVID-19.

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BERLIN — A parish leader says that several members of a congregation have tested positive for the coronavirus after a church service in Frankfurt.

News agency dpa reported Saturday that Wladimir Pritzkau, the deputy head of the Evangelical Christian Baptist congregation involved, as saying the service took place on May 10. He did not say how many people were affected but said that most are at home and six are in hospital.

Religious services have been allowed in the region since May 1, with conditions that include a 1.5 meter (5-foot) distance between worshippers and the provision of disinfectant.

Pritzkau said rules were adhered to. The church has canceled all gatherings and is now conducting services online.

The head of the city’s health office wouldn’t confirm or deny the case, citing medical confidentiality.

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JERUSALEM — The Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem will open on Sunday for the first time in two months.

It is built on the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected,

Leaders of the three denominations sharing the site said in a statement Saturday that entrance will be limited to 50 people at a time.

Worshippers cannot enter if they have symptoms and must wear face masks and should keep a distance of 2 meters (six feet). They should also avoid touching or kissing stones and other objects at the holy site.

The church was closed in March along with most other sites in the Holy Land, in keeping with strict measures imposed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority to contain the outbreak.

It remained closed throughout Holy Week and Easter last month, when Jerusalem’s Old City is normally packed with tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists. Priests observed Holy Week rituals in small groups, mostly behind closed doors.

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VATICAN CITY — The Vatican Museums will open up again on June 1 with all visitors wearing face masks and having their temperature checked before entry.

The Vatican said Saturday that medical staff will be present and that, since reservations will now be required, advance ticketing fees of 4 euros ($4.50) are being waived.

On the Museums itinerary is the Sistine Chapel, with its ceiling frescoed by Michelangelo, while on Fridays and Saturdays thirsty visitors can reserve an aperitif at sunset in a Vatican courtyard.

Ticket sales and souvenir revenues are a major source of income for the Holy See. For now, the Museums are suspending the free-entry initiative on the last Sunday of each month.

Open bus tours of the manicured Vatican Gardens will be offered, and on weekends the public can tour the summer residence of popes in Castel Gandolfo, a hill town near Rome.

There have been 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in tiny Vatican City State or among its employees.

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BERLIN — Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden have put forward a counterproposal for a European coronavirus recovery fund with a two-year time limit and a concentration on loans.

The Austria Press Agency reported that the countries issued their position paper on Saturday. It follows a French-German proposal for a fund of 500 billion euros ($550 billion) that would make outright grants to help countries and endorses common borrowing.

The agency states that the four countries must not agree to “instruments or measures that lead to a mutualization of debt or significant increases" in the European Union’s budget.

The proposal didn’t put a figure on the aid that should be given, but APA reported that the Austrian chancellery said the money must be used for “the rebuilding and resilience of the health sector and the economy.” Research, innovation and climate-related investments could be backed.

The EU’s executive commission is expected to unveil its own proposal for a recovery fund next week, from which the EU member states must then find a compromise.

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BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel is defending her country’s coronavirus restrictions and calling on her compatriots to keep respecting social distancing rules.

Germany started loosening its lockdown restrictions on April 20 and since then has at least partly reopened many sectors. At the same time, the country has seen frequent protests against lockdown measures.

Merkel said in her weekly video message Saturday that the measures were necessary, and that officials must continue to justify why some restrictions can’t be lifted while ensuring that they are proportionate.

Merkel said that Germany has "succeeded so far in achieving the aim of preventing our health system being overwhelmed.”

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PARIS — France is allowing religious services to resume starting Saturday after a legal challenge to the government’s ban on such gatherings.

Religious leaders welcomed the decision but said it will take time to put the necessary safety measures in place.

To prevent further spread of the virus, visitors to French places of worship must wear masks, wash their hands upon entering, and keep a distance of at least one meter (three feet) from other people.

The French government had banned religious services until June 2 even though stores and other businesses started reopening last week. The Council of State, the country’s highest administrative body, struck down the ban, and the government published a decree Saturday allowing services to resume.

The French Bishops Conference said it would work with church leaders to prepare for reopening, notably for Pentecost Sunday services May 31.

The rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris said that it will not be ready to reopen for services Sunday marking Eid al-Fitr, the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

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BERLIN — Authorities say seven people appear to have been infected with the coronavirus at a restaurant in northwestern Germany, in what would be the first known such case since restaurants started reopening in the country two weeks ago.

The local government in Leer county said Friday night that the cases, reported between Tuesday and Friday, led to at least 50 people being quarantined.

Previously, no new cases had been confirmed in the area for over a week.

Germany started loosening its coronavirus restrictions on April 20 and that process has gathered pace recently. Lower Saxony state, where Leer is located, allowed restaurants to reopen May 11 with hygiene precautions.

Those currently include a 2-meter (6 ½-foot) distance between tables, masks for waiters and an obligation to take the name, address and phone number of guests so that possible infections can be traced.

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UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. disarmament chief says the COVID-19 pandemic is moving the world toward increased technological innovation and online collaboration, but “cybercrime is also on the rise, with a 600% increase in malicious emails during the current crisis.”

Izumi Nakamitsu told an informal meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Friday that “there have also been worrying reports of attacks against health care organizations and medical research facilities worldwide.”

She said growing digital dependency has increased the vulnerability to cyberattacks, and “it is estimated that one such attack takes place every 39 seconds.”

According to the International Telecommunication Union, “nearly 90 countries are still only at the early stages of making commitments to cybersecurity,” Nakamitsu said.

The high representative for disarmament affairs said the threat from misusing information and communications technology “is urgent.” But she said there is also good news, pointing to some global progress at the United Nations to address the threats as a result of the development of norms for the use of such technology.

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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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