TOKYO —Experts on a special government panel have approved a plan to remove a coronavirus state of emergency from Tokyo and four other remaining prefectures, paving the way for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to declare entirely ending the measure to allow businesses to gradually resume.

Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters that experts on a government-commissioned panel approved the plan to end the state of emergency that has lasted for more than a month and a half.

Abe is to officially declare the end of the state of emergency later Monday after endorsement from parliamentary committees.

Nishimura said lifting of the emergency does not mean the end of the pandemic. He said the goal is to minimize next possible recurrences of infections while balancing preventive measures and the economy.

Abe declared the state of emergency on April 7, first in parts of Japan including Tokyo, expanded it to the entire nation later in the month and extended it until the end of May. Unlike a European-style hard lockdown, Japan’s state of emergency is soft and largely a request for people to stay at home and for non-essential businesses to close or operate shorter hours, a strategy aiming at minimizing the economic damage.

Tokyo and its three neighboring prefectures are to reopen schools, public facilities and businesses in phases in coming weeks while watching any signs of a resurgence of infections.

Nishimura said recent data suggest that the infections have slowed enough and the medical systems are under less pressure and that it’s time to gradually resume social and economic activity. Tokyo and Hokkaido, where more than a dozen new cases have been reported Sunday, still need to remain extra-cautious, he said.

(asterisk)We cannot completely eliminate the coronavirus to zero,” Nishimura said. “Even after the state of emergency is lifted, we must firmly take preventive measures based on our new lifestyles.”

Japan has 16,580 confirmed cases and 830 deaths, according to the health ministry.

Millions of children in Australia return to schools

CANBERRA, Australia — Millions of children in Australia have returned to schools in the states of New South Wales and Queensland as numbers of COVID-19 patients in hospitals across the country fall.

The two states on Monday joined the less populous Western Australia and South Australia states and the Northern Territory in resuming face-to-face learning, instead of studying from home online.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Monday students and teachers had to observe one key message: Stay home if sick.

“We’re not out of the woods yet. We have to take each day as it comes, each week as it comes and we keep our fingers crossed that Queenslanders will continue to flatten that curve,” Palaszczuk said.

The remaining jurisdictions — Victoria and Tasmania states and the Australian Capital Territory — plan to send students back to school in stages through early June.

While New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, and Queensland, the third-most populous state, agree on reopening schools, they differ on reopening their common border.

New South Wales has recorded 50 of Australia’s 102 COVID-19 deaths and wants all state borders reopened. Queensland has recorded only six deaths and has no plans to open its borders.

South Australia and the Northern Territory also have no active cases and have closed borders. The Australian Capital Territory has not had a case in three weeks and has left its borders open like the worst-effected states, New South Wales and Victoria.

White House bans travel to the U.S. from Brazil

WASHINGTON — The White House has announced a ban on travel to the U.S. from Brazil due to the spread of coronavirus in Latin America’s hardest-hit country.

Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany says in a statement Sunday evening that the ban applies to foreign nationals who have been in Brazil in the 14 days before they sought to travel to the United States.

McEnany cast it as a move by President Donald Trump “to protect our country.”

Trump has already banned travel from the United Kingdom, Europe and China, all of which have been hit hard by the virus. Trump had said last week that he was considering imposing similar restrictions on Brazil.

Brazil had reported more than 347,000 COVID-19 cases, second behind the U.S. in the number of infections, according to a Johns Hopkins University count.

Brazil also has recorded more than 22,000 deaths, fifth-most in the world. There have been more than 97,000 U.S. deaths.

Read the full story here.

Navajo Nation coronavirus cases rise by 56 to nearly 4,700

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — On the Navajo Nation, which sprawls across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, the number of coronavirus cases rose by 56 Sunday to 4,689, the Navajo Department of Health said.

The total number of deaths on the reservation as of Sunday was 156. The Navajo Nation’s current 57-hour weekend lockdown remains in effect. It includes the closure of all businesses to deter traveling and help prevent the further spread of the coronavirus.

Police respond to hundreds gathered at Daytona Beach

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Hundreds of people gathered at a popular Florida beach boardwalk during Memorial Day weekend and were seen partying and dancing despite social distancing restrictions imposed by the state, authorities said Sunday.

Police responded, attempting to disperse the crowds along a beachside road in Daytona Beach that were there for an annual gathering not authorized by the local government this year.

Police said a shooting also was reported outside a nearby convenience store, with two people taken to the hospital with gunshot wounds and four injured by shrapnel. Officers were not involved.

The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office released helicopter images showing the large crowds surrounding a car outside a beachfront mall as a man stood on the sunroof and other men hung out the windows throwing money around and blocking traffic.

Officials said they were criticized for not making use of force against the crowds and declining to make arrests for social distancing violations.

Coronavirus social distancing rules in the state state that people must be in groups of 10 or fewer.

Beaches elsewhere in Florida also saw large Memorial Day weekend crowds.

Hospitalizations in France because of the virus rose slightly

PARIS — The number of people hospitalized with the virus in France rose slightly Sunday, the first daily increase since mid-April when France’s infections peaked.

The rise — from 17,178 people hospitalized Saturday to 17,185 Sunday — comes almost two weeks after France started gradually relaxing its confinement measures.

The number of people in intensive care with the virus dropped again Sunday for the 46th consecutive day to 1,655, down from more than 7,000 in mid-April.

The figures were released by the national health agency DGS, which did not release an updated death toll Sunday.

France is one of the hardest-hit nations by the virus, with some 28,000 deaths in hospitals and nursing homes.

Protests are planned Monday at nursing homes accused of mishandling the virus crisis.

Italy has 531 new infections in the past 24 hours

Italy has 531 new infections in the past 24 hours

MILAN — The number of confirmed new infections in Italy rose by just 531 in the past 24 hours, with half in the populous northern region of Lombardy that has borne the brunt of Italy’s epidemic.

The civil protection agency on Sunday reported just 50 deaths but officials said that Lombardy had not updated its toll.

More than half of Italy’s regions reported new cases in the single digits — with the caveat that tests are being administered only to those who are hospitalized, have symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who is positive for the virus.

The number of people in intensive care dropped to 553.

Italy is in the first full week of loosened restrictions, with bars and restaurants open as well as beaches and parks.

Mayors in many cities have complained about nightlife spilling out into streets and piazzas with many showing a casual attitude toward physical distancing and lax mask habits.

UK leader Boris Johnson stands by aide over 250-mile lockdown trip

LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is standing by his top aide, who is accused of breaking lockdown rules by traveling 250 miles (400 km) to his parents’ house while coming down with COVID-19.

Johnson told a news conference that Dominic Cummings acted “responsibly, legally and with integrity.”

Cummings made the cross-country trip in late March, after the government imposed a lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus, telling people to stay home and not visit anyone outside their household. Cummings says he was seeking to ensure his 4-year-old son would be cared for if he and his wife both became ill.

Several lawmakers from Johnson’s Conservative Party have joined opposition politicians in calling for his resignation.

But Johnson defended the aide who masterminded both Brexit and the prime minister’s December election victory. He said Cummings “followed the instincts of every father and every parent and I do not mark him down for that.”

French sunbathe on beach in marked areas

LA GRANDE MOTTE, France — Grateful French families flocked to the beach at La Grande Motte on the Mediterranean shore Sunday, swimming and sunbathing in areas carefully marked to keep them a safe distance from others.

Cordons of ropes and wooden stakes were neatly spaced out across the sand, giving each visitor or group an 8-square-meter (86-square-foot) space of their own.

Reservations are free but required, and there is already a two-day waiting list. Those lucky enough to get a spot for the four-day weekend around Thursday’s Christian holiday Ascension relished the opportunity, frolicking beneath a summer-like sun.

Elsewhere in France beaches have also reopened, but only for individual sports or walks, and visitors are not allowed to sit or lie down. La Grande Motte says it was the first town to put in place new social distancing measures allowing other activities to resume.

In the French capital this weekend, Parisians soaked up the sun along the embankments of the Seine River and lounged on ledges outside the Tuileries Gardens, still shuttered like all of the city’s parks as the city gradually emerges from confinement.

German governor’s plans to scrap restriction draws mixed response

BERLIN — A German state governor’s proposal to scrap blanket coronavirus restrictions in his region is drawing a mixed response.

Bodo Ramelow, the governor of the eastern state of Thuringia, said Saturday that he hopes to lift the remaining statewide lockdown rules on June 6 and replace them with “a concept of recommendations and fighting COVID-19 locally if infection figures rise.”

It’s not entirely clear yet what that would mean. While Ramelow’s proposal draw some praise, there was criticism from the mayor of one of the state’s biggest cities, Jena, which was the first in Germany to require people to wear face masks in some situations.

Mayor Thomas Nitzsche compared the proposed change in a Facebook post to “entering a mine field.”

In Germany, the state governments are responsible for imposing and lifting lockdown restrictions. All 16 states currently have coronavirus rules.

Experts say urinals may be thing of the past

LONDON — Toilet experts say urinals may be consigned to history as part of measures to make public conveniences safe for the post-coronavirus world.

Raymond Martin, managing director of the British Toilet Association, says business and governments need to adapt public toilets to make them infection-resistant, adding technology such as foot-operated flushes and sensor-activated taps.

Hospitality industry groups in Britain have also proposed replacing rows of urinals with cubicle-only washrooms for both men and women.

Martin told the Sunday Times that transforming toilets would be expensive, but “we want to bring back life to this country, and toilets are a vital part of that.”

He said “tourist offices all over the country should be telling visitors: ‘Come see our castle, come see our beaches, come see our state-of-the-art toilets.’”

Distanced faithful return to Vatican

VATICAN CITY — Well-spaced faithful have gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the first time in months for the traditional Sunday papal blessing.

They cast their gaze at the window where the pope normally addresses the faithful.

Pope Francis has been delivering the blessing from inside the Apostolic library during the epidemic.

Francis recalled his scheduled visit on Sunday to the Naples area to draw attention to environmental damage caused by toxic-waste dumping by the mob.

The visit — canceled during the pandemic — was timed to mark the fifth anniversary of his ecological manifesto, and the pope announced a year of reflection on his 2015 environmental encyclical, ‘’Praised Be.’’

Francis came to the window and waved to the people in the piazza at the end of the blessing.

Russia reports its highest one-day death toll

MOSCOW — Russia has reported its highest one-day coronavirus death toll but also the lowest number of new infections in three weeks.

The national coronavirus task force said Sunday that 3,541 people have died from the virus, an increase of 153. The previous high was 150.

The number of new infection cases was 8,599. Daily infection tallies of more than 11,000 were reported for several days in May. Overall, Russia has recorded 344,481 infection cases.

Russia’s comparatively low mortality rate has raised eyebrows in the West, with some suggesting the country’s government may be under-reporting virus-related deaths and manipulating the statistics. Russian officials deny the allegations and attribute the low numbers to the effectiveness of the measures taken to curb the spread of the outbreak.

Muslims gather while distanced for Eid prayers

PARIS — Some 2,000 Muslims gathered for Eid al-Fitr prayers Sunday at a sports complex in the Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret.

They were carefully spaced 1 meter apart and wearing masks, according to France-Info radio. Volunteers spread the faithful out around a football field and a track field, and traditional embraces were not allowed.

France announced Friday night it would allow religious services to resume for the first time since March, but France’s leading Muslim organization CFCM advised mosques to stay closed for Sunday’s celebrations marking the end of Ramadan.

The CFCM said the government decree didn’t give mosques enough time to procure enough masks and hand gel to ensure that gatherings don’t turn into super-spreading events.

Read the full story here.

China claims possible lawsuits have no basis

BEIJING — Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi says any lawsuits brought against China over the COVID-19 have “zero factual basis in law or international precedence.”

Wang told reporters at a news conference on Sunday that China was a victim of the global pandemic alongside other countries and had reached out to assist other governments in need.

“To our regret, in addition to the raging of the new coronavirus, a political virus is also spreading in the U.S. which is to take every chance to attack and discredit China,” Wang said.

“Some U.S. politicians, heedless of basic facts, have fabricated too many lies and plotted too many conspiracies,” Wang said.

Raising such lawsuits “tramples on the international rule of law and abandons the human conscience. It’s untrue, unjustifiable and illegal,” Wang said.

Those who would bring such litigation against China are “living in a daydream and will humiliate themselves,” Wang said.

Johnson aide’s trip spurs calls for resignation

LONDON — Lawmakers from Britain’s governing Conservative party are joining opposition calls for Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s top aide to quit for traveling 250 miles to his parents’ home during a nationwide lockdown while he was coming down with the coronavirus.

The government has defended Dominic Cummings after the revelation that he had driven from London to Durham, northeast England, with his wife and son at the end of March. A lockdown that began March 23 stipulated that people should remain at their primary residence, leaving only for essential local errands and exercise.

The government said Cummings made the trip because he wanted to ensure his 4-year-old son was looked after while he and his wife were ill. But critics of the government expressed outrage that Cummings had broken stringent rules saying people should “Stay Home … Save Lives.”

Conservative lawmaker Steve Baker said Cummings must go for not “abiding by the spirit, at least, of the slogans which he has enforced on the rest of the country.” Another Tory legislator, Simon Hoare, tweeted: “With the damage Mr Cummings is doing to the Government’s reputation he must consider his position.”

France gradually relaxing border restrictions

PARIS — France is relaxing its border restrictions as the virus gradually recedes, allowing migrant workers and family visitors from other European countries – but is requiring quarantine for people arriving from Britain and Spain.

Starting Monday, France is abandoning border checks installed in March and switching to spot checks in various places, according to a government statement.

It is also broadening the categories of people allowed from other countries in Europe’s border-free travel zone to include migrant workers and people coming for family reasons.

However, since Britain and Spain are requiring quarantine for those arriving from elsewhere in Europe, France is doing the same. It will be a voluntary 14-day quarantine, based on reciprocity for measures taken by Britain and Spain in an “uncoordinated” manner, the French government said.

Travelers from outside Europe are still banned until at least June 15, except for French citizens.

Any traveler arriving in France must fill out a permission form justifying the trip and a signed paper declaring that they don’t have symptoms.

The government said France is working with other European countries on standard Europe-wide travel rules.

South Korea continues to see small scale outbreaks

SEOUL, South Korea __ South Korea has reported 25 additional cases of the coronavirus over a 24-hour period, amid a continuation of small-scale outbreaks in the country.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the additional figures released Sunday took the country’s total to 11,190 with 266 deaths. The agency says 10,213 of them have recovered and been released from quarantine.

It says 17 of the 25 new patients were locally infected while the rest eight came from overseas.

South Korea eased much of its strict social distancing rules in early May before it saw a sudden uptick in the number of cases associated with nightclubs in Seoul’s Itaewon entertainment district. Health authorities say they’ve confirmed a total of 225 cases linked to Itaewon cubs as of Sunday noon.

Hawaii plans relaxed restrictions on June 1

HILO, Hawaii — Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim says the Big Island will allow places of worship, restaurants, hair salons, barber shops and a variety of personal-service businesses to reopen starting June 1.

Kim says in his order that the establishments have to follow guidelines on sanitation and social distancing as outlined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Hawaii Health Department.

Restaurants can resume in-dining services as long as they follow the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Restaurants and Bars and National Restaurant Association Guidelines. The other personal services that are allowed to reopen are tutoring, music lessons, massages, yoga and personal training.

Montana outbreak tied to country club

HAMILTON, Mont. — An outbreak of COVID-19 in western Montana is tied to an exclusive golf and country club developed by financial executive Charles Schwab.

Stock Farm Club General Manager Steve Buck says the eight people who tested positive for COVID-19 in Ravalli County are employees of the club near Hamilton. One person had been hospitalized and seven others remained in isolation on Saturday.

The health department has said it was believed the first person who tested positive had contracted the respiratory virus outside the county.

Montana reported no new positive COVID-19 tests from samples run on Friday. The state has had 479 confirmed cases.

Alaskan league cancels baseball season

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Alaska Baseball League has canceled its summer season, as the future of sports worldwide remains uncertain during the coronavirus pandemic.

The summer league season was scheduled to begin on June 29. The league website says this season will be canceled to keep everyone safe from exposure to COVID-19.

KTVA-TV reported that if competition resumed on time there would have been travel and housing challenges during the seven weeks of play. The five-team league is made up of college players from mostly the Lower 48 but also from places as far away as Taiwan.

Pasta factory in Washington announces outbreak

SPOKANE, Wash. — A pasta company has announced there was a coronavirus outbreak at its Spokane factory as Washington state prepares to reopen parts of its economy.

The Spokesman-Review reported that Philadelphia Macaroni Company Inc. said in a statement Friday that 72 workers were tested for COVID-19 and 24 were positive. Health officials say there was an increase in Spokane County with 31 new positive cases between Thursday and Friday.

Company officials say all of the factory employees have since been tested and the facility was disinfected. The company is working with the Spokane Regional Health District to conduct contact tracing and determine further prevention measures.

 


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