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Tuesday May 18th, 2021 10:00AM

The Latest: U.N. chief warns of historic levels of famine

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.

— U.N. chief warns of historic levels of famine.

— South Africa eases bans on alcohol sales, church services.

— Moscow tries to dispel doubts over nation's low virus deaths.

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UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations chief is warning world leaders that the COVID-19 pandemic will cause “unimaginable devastation and suffering around the world,” with historic levels of hunger and famine and up to 1.6 billion people unable to earn a living unless action is taken now.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a high-level meeting Thursday that COVID-19 could also lead to “a loss of $8.5 trillion in global output, the sharpest contraction since the Great Depression of the 1930s.”

Guterres called for Immediate and collective action in several critical areas: enhancing global financial liquidity; providing debt relief; engaging private creditors; promoting external finance; plugging leaks in tax evasion; money-laundering; and corruption. He also wants to make sure the recovery tackles the climate crisis.

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PARIS — France is reopening its restaurants, bars and cafes starting next week as the country eases most restrictions amid the new coronavirus crisis.

All city parks will reopen and more children will be accommodated in schools with classes capped at 15 students.

French Prime minister Edouard Philippe also pledged to revive “cultural and sport life.”

Although life is returning closer to normal, public gatherings larger than 10 people are still banned, contact sports are not allowed, and night clubs will remain closed.

France, one of the world’s hardest-hit countries, has reported at least 28,596 coronavirus-related deaths.

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ROME — Italy registered 593 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, nine more than the previous day-to-day figure from the Health Ministry.

Lombardy in the north registered 382 new cases, nearly the same as a day earlier. All other regions registered far fewer than 100 new cases, most with fewer than a dozen.

There were 70 deaths in the 24-hour period ending on Thursday evening, raising the nation’s overall known death toll to 33,142. Italy has logged 231,732 known cases of COVID-19.

Lombardy’s situation is concerning health experts ahead of a looming government decision on whether Italians can resume travel between regions and if people can arrive from abroad without having to quarantine.

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STORM LAKE, Iowa — A rural Iowa county that's home to two meatpacking plants has seen an increase of nearly 500 coronavirus cases in the past few days.

The state health department reported 697 cases Thursday in Buena Vista County, where Tyson Foods has pork and turkey processing plants. Health officials say the number of coronavirus cases in the county had jumped from around 250 on Tuesday as more testing has been done.

A Tyson pork processing plant in Storm Lake has had more than 550 employees out of more than 2,500 test positive, said Iowa Department of Public Health Deputy Director Sarah Reisetter.

Tyson Foods is in the midst of testing all employees at the two plants. Company officials say they plan to release results once the testing of the roughly 3,100 employees is completed sometime in the next week.

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LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced another easing of the coronavirus lockdown restrictions in England,.

Johnson said Thursday at the government’s daily press briefing that schools will start reopening Monday. He also said that some outdoor-based businesses can reopen, but social distancing guidelines have to be observed in all the changes.

Johnson said the limited changes are possible because the government’s five tests on easing the lockdown, in effect since March 23, have been met. Those include a sustained and consistent fall in virus infections and the daily death rate.

Though the number of people dying after testing positive for COVID-19 has fallen since the peak in early April. the U.K. still recorded another 377 deaths, taking the total to 37,837.

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CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- The South African government says it will allow people to buy alcohol and attend church services starting Monday as part of its phased relaxation of the coronavirus lockdown.

Both activities will be subject to restrictions in a country with the highest number of cases in Africa.

Alcohol sales, banned since March 27, will be allowed four days a week. No alcohol can be purchased on Fridays and over the weekend and bars remain closed. Alcohol may be consumed only at home.

Churches can reopen but must limit congregation size to 50 people. Churchgoers and officials must wear masks and maintain social distancing. For those entering church, hand sanitizing and screening will be compulsory.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, also said cigarette sales remain banned but a national night curfew will be lifted, and outdoor exercise will be allowed at any time.

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MILAN -- The governor of Sardinia is urging Italy’s government to back a coronavirus testing regime that would give domestic tourists a greater sense of safety.

Borders between Italian regions are to reopen Wednesday after three months, and Sardinia is one of Italy’s most popular tourist destination. Italy’s minister for regional affairs opposes such a system of ‘’immunity passports,’’ saying none of the tests so far offers clarity.

But Gov. Christian Solinas said Thursday that while neither nasal tests to determine if someone is positive nor antibody tests indicating exposure offer ‘’certainty,’’ the island region would like an alternative ‘’to nothing.’’ He said testing arriving tourists’ body temperatures was not enough.

Sardinia’s insistence on a standardized testing regime has rubbed some the wrong way, with Milan’s mayor saying when he considers where to go for a break he will look elsewhere.

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BERLIN -- Authorities in northern Germany say at least 72 workers at a UPS center near Hannover have tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Officials said Thursday that COVID-19 cases at a daycare center and a school in Hannover were also linked to the outbreak at the logistics center.

Separately, authorities in Frankfurt say the number of COVID-19 cases linked to a Baptist church service on May 10 has grown to 200.

Despite loosening numerous restrictions amid falling case numbers, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Wednesday that “we are still living at the start of the pandemic.” She cited the cluster linked to the church service as an example of “how quickly infections can break out again.”

Germany’s Robert Koch Institute, the country’s disease control center, said there have been almost 180,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic and 8,411 deaths.

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LONDON — Since March, Britons have stood on balconies, doorsteps and sidewalks once a week to applaud care workers on the front lines of the pandemic.

But Thursday’s 10th weekly “Clap for Our Carers” could be the last. The woman who founded the ritual says that “to have the most impact I think it is good to stop it at its peak.”

Annemarie Plas, a 36-year-old Londoner, was inspired by an idea from her native Netherlands. The event quickly took off, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and members of the royal family taking part, and news channels broadcasting the applause live from around the country.

But there was criticism as some people broke social distancing to take part. And some say the gesture deflects attention from serious government failings in providing testing and protective equipment to medics and care workers.

Plas also was concerned the gesture was becoming “politicized.” She hopes it will become an annual event on the last Thursday in March each year.

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NICOSIA, Cyprus -- Cyprus is advising doctors to curtail the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine on some coronavirus patients amid renewed concerns the drugs could trigger heart problems and put lives at risk.

The Health Ministry urged doctors Thursday to be “particularly vigilant” and to even stop administering the drugs to COVID-19 patients with pre-existing heart conditions.

The announcement came after the World Health Organization said it would temporarily drop hydroxychloroquine from its global study into experimental COVID-19 treatments.

Cyprus’ health minister said last month the country was among the first nations to approve use of the anti-malaria drug to treat COVID-19 patients.

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MOSCOW -- Health officials in the Russian capital have updated numbers on coronavirus deaths, trying to dispel doubts about the nation’s remarkably low COVID-19 mortality.

Moscow’s Health Department said Thursday the coronavirus mortality index for April varies from 1.4% to 2.8% depending on the calculation. The results are significantly lower than those from London, New York and other capitals.

On top of previously reported 636 deaths directly caused by the coronavirus, it added 756 deaths of those who tested positive for the virus but died of other causes and 169 deaths of those who tested negative but likely died of the virus according to autopsies.

Previously, the department counted only deaths directly resulting from the virus, leaving other “excess” deaths that represented a hike over the same period last year unexplained.

That has drawn suspicions from Russian and Western experts, who contend authorities in Moscow and other parts of Russia may have been under-reporting coronavirus deaths for political needs.

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ZAGREB, Croatia -- Croatia plans to reopen borders for the citizens of 10 European Union nations as part of efforts to revive tourism after the new coronavirus lockdown.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said at a government session Thursday that travel restrictions will be lifted for citizens of Austria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. He says the list of countries will be expanded.

Croatia, with one of the weakest economies in the EU, is largely dependent on tourism along the country’s stunning Adriatic Sea coast. The country hopes to salvage as much as possible the summer tourism season after suffering losses the past months.

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MOSCOW -- Residents of Russia’s capital will be able to go for a stroll under relaxed coronavirus regulations, but they’ll have to check an online map to find out when they can do it.

The mayor’s office said Thursday that it is developing an interactive for the walks that can start on June 1. It says a resident will have to enter his home address and the map will show days and times that walks are allowed.

Under current restrictions, residents are supposed to stay home except for going to grocery stores, pharmacies, doctors or jobs that require their presence.

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LONDON -- British police say Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s adviser Dominic Cummings likely violated rules by traveling from home during lockdown, but the force has “no intention” to pursue the matter.

Cummings has acknowledged driving 250 miles (400 km) to his parents’ house in Durham, northeast England, during the lockdown, and later taking another drive to a scenic town 30 miles (50 kms) away.

Durham Constabulary said Thursday that the second drive, to the town of Barnard Castle, was probably a “minor breach” of lockdown rules that would have “warranted police intervention had he been caught in the act.” But police say there is “no intention to take retrospective action.”

Johnson has resisted calls to fire Cummings for apparently flouting restrictions the government imposed on the rest of the country.

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NEW DELHI -- India’s top court has ordered free train rides and food and water for hundreds of thousands of migrant workers returning to villages in blazing heat after losing city jobs because of the pandemic.

The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered that state governments shall oversee the registration of migrant workers and ensure that they board the train or bus at an early date.

Television images have shown desperate and hungry migrants looting food carts on railroad stations and highways. Several migrants have died while travelling on the trains this week, with day temperatures rising to 113 degrees (45 Celsius).

After imposing a countrywide lockdown March 25 to contain the spread of COVID-19, the government stopped trains, buses and other transit.

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NAIROBI, Kenya -- Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said he scolded one of his sons for violating curfew by going out at night and endangering his grandmother’s health.

Kenyatta’s son is staying at his home in Mombasa. The coastal city, the nation’s second largest, is a center of infections, with a dusk-to-dawn curfew and ban on social gatherings.

The president told local media he asked his son if he would able to live with his actions if his grandmother became ill with COVID-19. Kenyatta said that as the East African country considers lifting restrictions, everyone must exercise responsibility.

Other Kenyans have not escaped curfew punishment lightly. At least 18 people have been killed by police for violating curfew, according to human rights activist Wilfred Olal of the Dandora Community Justice Center.

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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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