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Monday May 17th, 2021 3:59PM

The Latest: Belarus president tested positive for virus

By The Associated Press
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MOSCOW — The president of Belarus says he tested positive for the coronavirus and is asymptomatic.

President Alexander Lukashenko made the announcement Tuesday at a meeting with security officials, the state news agency Belta reported. He had previously dismissed concerns about the coronavirus as “psychosis.”

“Today you are meeting with a person who managed to survive the coronavirus on his feet. Doctors made such a conclusion yesterday: asymptomatic,” he said.

Belarus took no comprehensive measures against the coronavirus, such as lockdowns or ordering social distancing.

The country has about 67,000 confirmed cases of infection and 543 reported deaths.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Sweden's open approach keeps virus cases trending downward

— British PM Johnson says ‘duty’ to protect UK from virus

— Madrid tightens coronavirus restrictions amid outbreaks

— President Donald Trump is back to pushing unproven claims that an anti-malaria drug is an effective treatment for the coronavirus. He’s also lobbing new attacks on the credibility of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert.

— Britain’s effective ban on travel to Spain following an upswing in coronavirus cases in the country’s northeast has hammered home the l ack of a comprehensive, Europe-wide approach to suppressing the virus.

— Dr. Anthony Fauci says the Miami Marlins’ coronavirus outbreak could endanger the Major League Baseball season but he doesn’t believe games needs to stop now.

Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

ATLANTA — Georgia’s governor said he’s withdrawing a request for an emergency hearing in a lawsuit that aims to block the state’s largest city from ordering people to wear masks in public.

Gov. Brian Kemp this month sued Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the City Council, who want to enforce a mask order for the city. The Republican governor argues local leaders cannot impose measures that are more or less restrictive than those in his executive orders.

The two sides met for court-ordered mediation Monday. Kemp spokesman Cody Hall announced Monday night the governor wanted “to continue productive, good faith negotiations” and had decided to withdraw the request for a hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

However, that doesn’t withdraw the underlying lawsuit.

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ATHENS, Greece — The Spanish Foreign Minister says the country is in “dialogue” with the United Kingdom to ease travel restrictions imposed by Britain.

Arancha Gonzalez Laya says in a visit to Athens: “Spain does have the situation under control, including in areas where the number of coronavirus cases are higher.”

She says Spanish officials are explaining the data from two island regions and the “rate of infection in those areas is much lower than in the United Kingdom.”

U.K. officials on Monday told citizens to avoid non-essential travel to the Spanish mainland, including the Balearic and Canary Islands.

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TIRANA, Albania — Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj says he tested positive for the coronavirus and is self-isolated at home.

He says he’s experienced no symptoms and no one from his staff has tested positive.

“None of us is immune from the virus so PLEASE don’t forget to wash hands as often as possible and wear a mask to protect yourself and your family members,” Veliaj wrote in a tweet.

The country’s parliament building was disinfected after three lawmakers recently tested positive. The leadership decided not to cancel the last sessions planned in the next two days, but debate time will be reduced.

There's been an increase of the new daily cases after Albania ended its two-month lockdown in May. Sport activities are held without fans and entertainment and cultural events have been cancelled.

Albania has reported 4,997 confirmed virus cases and 148 deaths.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — While coronavirus cases increase in Europe, Sweden continues a downward trend after a much-debated approach kept large parts of society open.

Sweden’s chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell says “the curves go down, and the curves over the seriously ill begin to be very close to zero. As a whole, it is very positive.”

Swedish officials declined to implement strict lockdown measures widely adopted in Europe. Large gatherings were banned, but restaurants and schools for young children have stayed open. The Swedish government has urged social distancing, and citizens have largely complied.

Sweden on Tuesday reported two new deaths, bringing the confirmed toll to 5,702. There have been nearly 80,000 cases in the country of 10 million people.

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MADRID — Drinking a beer in the streets of Barcelona or elsewhere in the Catalonia region could result in a fine from 3,000 euros ($US 3,500) to 15,000 (US $17,600).

That is the new maximum fine as authorities crack down on street parties, mostly frequented by young people and widely blamed for a spate of coronavirus outbreaks in the northeastern region of Spain.

Regional government spokesman Meritxell Budó says the measure banning alcohol consumption outside licensed venues takes effect Tuesday.

Regional authorities last week shut nightclubs to help stop a spike in outbreaks. Young people subsequently started gathering at night to drink together in squares, parks and on beaches.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch public health institute says 1,329 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in the last week, an increase of 342 from the previous week.

Nine people died, two more than the previous week. The death toll since the start of the outbreak stands at 6,145, though the true number in most countries is likely higher because of a lack of testing and data collection.

The institute says the number of tests carried in the last seven days rose by nearly 23,000, and the percentage of positive tests was unchanged at 1%. There are concerns in the Netherlands about new clusters of infections, particularly in the country’s second most populous city of Rotterdam.

The public health institute registered 133 active clusters in the country with an average size of nearly six people. It says, “the number of infection clusters as a result of contact with family members, friends, (at) parties, at work or through other leisure activities is rising.”

The government’s coronavirus outbreak management team is discussing whether to advise more widespread use of face masks. Currently, masks are only mandatory on public transportation.

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LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says it is the government’s “duty” to protect the U.K. from a second coronavirus spike as he defended the decision to recommend against all but essential travel to Spain.

He says the government must “take swift and decisive action” where it thinks risks are “starting to bubble up again.”

He adds: “Let’s be absolutely clear about what’s happening in Europe, amongst some of our European friends, I’m afraid you are starting to see in some places the signs of a second wave of the pandemic.”

The decision to toughen the travel advice for Spain has prompted widespread dismay among some British. Spain is traditionally the most popular summer holiday destination.

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MADRID — The Madrid regional government is making the wearing of face masks mandatory in all public areas, limiting how many people can gather in one place and targeting young people in a drive to stamp out new outbreaks of the coronavirus.

Regional government head Isabel Díaz Ayuso announced Tuesday that no more than 10 people can be present at private gatherings.

Nightlife venues must close their doors at 1 a.m. — much earlier than usual in Spanish summertime — and customers will have to give their identification details to get in.

Díaz Ayuso said an information campaign will focus on young people, who are largely blamed for spreading the coronavirus through their social life. She said young people “have it in their hands to reverse the trend.”

The regional government is also launching a scheme of certificates that certify that a person has immunity.

Madrid, along with Catalonia, is one of Spain’s wort-hit regions. It has recorded more than 74,000 cases, with almost 1,900 new infections in the past two weeks.

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BERLIN — German authorities are advising against tourist trips to Catalonia and two other Spanish regions in light of rising coronavirus infections.

A note posted by the foreign ministry on Tuesday advises against “nonessential tourist travel” to Catalonia, its western neighbor, Aragón, and Navarra in northern Spain. It cites a rise in infection figures and “local closures.”

Germany’s advice comes after moves of varying severity by other European countries. Over the weekend, Britain imposed a 14-day quarantine on travelers arriving from Spain, Norway ordered a 10-day quarantine for people returning from the entire Iberian peninsula, and France urged its citizens not to visit Catalonia.

Spain, like most other countries in the European Union, is not on Germany’s list of high-risk countries. That means that travelers arriving from Spain are not subject to quarantine.

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GENEVA — The U.N.’s humanitarian aid coordinator has unlocked another $100 million from its emergency fund to help 10 under-resourced countries in Africa, the Middle East and the Americas meet pressing needs made worse by the pandemic.

The injection from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs brings the total to $225 million released to help 20 countries this year, a record allocation from its Central Emergency Response Fund. Yemen, which the agency says is facing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, is to receive $35 million, the most of any country.

Other top beneficiaries include Afghanistan, Colombia, Mozambique, Nigeria and Pakistan.

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JOHANNESBURG — The International Monetary Fund has approved a $4.3 billion emergency loan to South Africa as it reels under the coronavirus pandemic.

The country has the world’s fifth largest virus caseload, and confirmed cases are approaching half a million.

The fact that Africa’s most developed country for the first time approached the IMF for a loan is the latest sign of pain. Unemployment is above 30% and rising, and major state-owned enterprises were already in poor shape.

The IMF says South Africa is seeing a “sharp economic contraction,” though authorities responded swiftly to this latest crisis. The government weeks ago announced a historic $26 billion economic relief package.

Other African nations are watching how the country of 57 million responds to the pandemic as cases begin to climb in many parts of the continent.

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MADRID — An economic downturn in Spain amid the coronavirus pandemic wiped out more than 1 million jobs in the second quarter of this year.

The country’s official statistics agency, INE, said Tuesday 1.07 million fewer people were in work compared with the first quarter. The number does not include furloughed workers.

The biggest job losses were in the service sector, the INE said. The worst-hit areas were Catalonia, Andalusia and Madrid, with all age groups affected amid a strict lockdown.

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JOHANNESBURG — South Africa is closing in on a half-million confirmed coronavirus cases as the country posted nearly 300 deaths in a single day.

South Africa now has 452,529 cases and 7,067 deaths, making up more than half the reported cases on the African continent. It has the fifth highest caseload in the world.

Like many others, the country has struggled with trying to ease lockdown restrictions and then seeing cases rise. But businesses have expressed frustration as unemployment is now above 30% and likely to keep increasing.

And corruption related to pandemic aid is a problem as the president has warned that now, more than ever, persistent graft puts people’s lives at risk.

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s daily COVID-19 infections has dropped below 1,000 for the first time in three months.

The country on Tuesday counted 936 new cases reported in the last 24 hours throughout the country of 220 million people

Dr. Zafar Mirza, special assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan, tweeted praise for Khan urging Pakistanis to wear masks as the "most effective practice to reduce the transmission of the disease.”

Khan on national television Monday demonstrated the proper use of masks and explaining that shutdowns will result if the disease spikes again. Medical professionals and Khan’s political opponents have criticized him for reopening the economy. He has said a total shutdown would hurt the poorest and instead pursued what he called “smart” lockdowns narrowly targeted at the hot spots of infection.

Still Mirza warned there was no room for complacency particularly as Pakistan readies to celebrate the Muslim holiday of Eid al Adha at the end of the month.

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HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnam has locked down its third-largest city for two weeks after 15 cases of COVID-19 were found in a hospital.

Public transport into and out of the central city of Da Nang was cancelled. Over the weekend, thousands of mostly Vietnamese tourists had to end their summer holidays in the popular beach destination.

Authorities estimated several thousand people would be stranded by the transportation shutdown and asked hotels to shelter them.

The government on Sunday had ordered social distancing and closing nonessential businesses in the city of 1.1 million population.

The outbreak was detected in patients and health workers at Da Nang hospital.

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Australia’s coronavirus hot spot Victoria state is restricting non-urgent surgeries so that hospital nurses can be transferred to aged care homes where most COVID-19 deaths are occurring, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said.

Victoria reported 384 new infections and six deaths on Tuesday, down from a record 532 cases on Monday.

Andrews said aged care residents would be moved to hospitals if they were not being adequately protected from the pandemic.

“Some of the stories we’ve heard, some of what’s gone on in some of these settings is simply not acceptable,” Andrews said, without elaborating.

“Where there is no confidence in infection control, where there is no confidence that care can be provided to a suitable standard, then we will do everything we can to move those residents out,” he added.

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BEIJING — New coronavirus cases continue to rise in China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang, with 57 reported on Tuesday.

The capital Beijing also reported its first case of domestic transmission in more than two weeks, while the northeastern province of Liaoning added another six cases in its local outbreak. Another four cases were found among Chinese travelers arriving from outside the country, bringing the daily total over the past 24 hours to 68.

Despite the new clusters, China appears to have largely contained the virus and the death toll remains at 4,634 among 83,959 cases. Hospitals are treating 391 people for COVID-19, with another 307 being monitored in isolation for showing signs of infection or for having tested positive for the virus without displaying symptoms.

Xinjiang’s outbreak has centered on the region’s capital and largest city of Urumqi, where authorities have restricted public transport, isolated some communities and ordered testing among those considered at risk of infection.

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