The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 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:
— Epidemiologist forcasts ‘relatively flat’ summer cases in U.K.
— Slovenian 3rd-graders quarantined after classmate tests positive.
— Cases surpass 35,000 in South Africa, most around Cape Town .
LONDON — A leading epidemiologist whose work heavily influenced Britain’s lockdown measures said the coronavirus outbreak in the U.K. is unlikely to worsen during the summer but that the outlook from September was “very unclear.”
Professor Neil Ferguson from Imperial College London said he expects levels of coronavirus transmissions and cases to “remain relatively flat between now and September, short of very big policy changes or behavior changes in the community.”
He told a committee of lawmakers in the House of Lords on Tuesday that the “real uncertainty” will be in September, a time of year when respiratory viruses tend to start transmitting more forcefully.
Ferguson resigned from his position as a government adviser last month after revelations that he broke social distancing rules.
Ferguson leads a team which modeled the spread and impact of the coronavirus. The team’s data was instrumental in prompting Prime Minister Boris Johnson to impose the lockdown on March 23.
The lockdown is being eased across the U.K., most quickly in England, raising concerns among many health officials of a potential second spike in infections.
LJUBLJANA, Slovenia — Health authorities in Slovenia say the first primary school pupil has tested positive for the coronavirus since children started returning to school two weeks ago.
A school in the city of Maribor said Tuesday that the 3rd-grader’s 17 classmates and teacher have been placed under a two-week quarantine.
Health authorities say the child with the virus likely acquired the virus from within the family and that contact tracing is underway.
The official STA news agency says it’s the first confirmed virus case since April 30 in Slovenia’s second-largest city.
Slovenia has declared an end to its outbreak and started easing anti-virus restrictions in mid-May.
The small European Union nation has reported 1,475 confirmed cases and 109 deaths since early March.
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s total confirmed coronavirus cases have jumped to more than 35,000 while the province anchored by Cape Town remains a worrying hot spot with more than 23,000.
South Africa has the most confirmed virus cases of any nation in Africa. The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the total number across the continent is now above 152,000.
South Africa took another step in easing lockdown restrictions on Monday with alcohol sales allowed again. Authorities have warned that the rate of new cases is expected to quicken.
South Africa has seen cases double roughly every 12 days while cases in the Western Cape have been doubling every nine days.
A major test lies ahead this weekend as places of worship are allowed to operate with a limit of 50 people, despite warnings from some religious leaders about the risk of spreading the virus.
MOSCOW — The two main Russian Orthodox cathedrals in Moscow have reopened their doors as officials take more steps to ease the country’s coronavirus lockdown.
The Christ the Savior Cathedral and the Epiphany Cathedral at Yelokhovo welcomed parishioners again on Tuesday.
The move was coordinated with federal and city officials. Church-goers are supposed to wear medical masks and maintain a proper distance from others during services.
Other churches in the Russian capital are scheduled to reopen on Saturday. Moscow churches have been closed to parishioners since April 13.
Orthodox churches in many other regions across the vast country already have reopened as provincial authorities started lifting restrictions intended to stem the outbreak.
Russian officials say that the nation is now past the peak of contagion, making it safe to gradually ease lockdown measures. Some experts warn that with new confirmed cases increasing by about 9,000 daily, lifting restrictions quickly is dangerous.
CODOGNO, Italy — Italy’s president has laid a wreath of remembrance in the cemetery of the Lombardy region town where Italy’s first domestically transmitted case of coronavirus was confirmed on Feb. 21.
President Sergio Mattarella expressed solidarity with the families of people who have died during the pandemic, saying their ’’’wounds can only be healed with memory, recalling names, faces, stories.’’
He said a way must be found to preserve their memories.
Mattarella traveled to the town of Codogno on the occasion of Italy’s Republic Day celebration. Earlier Tuesday, he laid a wreath at the Victor Emmanuel II Monument in Rome, which functions as the nation’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Italy, the first western nation struck by the virus, has recorded 33,475 deaths and 233,197 confirmed cases.
JOHANNESBURG — Africa’s coronavirus cases have surpassed 150,000 while the World Health Organization says the continent of 1.3 billion people is still the region least affected.
Concerns remain high as some of Africa’s 54 countries struggle with when to reopen schools and parts of their economies.
Rwanda, the first nation in sub-Saharan Africa to impose a lockdown, this week slowed the easing of it after reporting its first COVID-19 death.
More than 4,300 deaths have been confirmed across the continent as local transmission of the virus increases and testing materials and medical equipment remain in short supply in many places.
Britain’s statistics agency says the number of coronavirus-related deaths in the U.K. up to the week ending May 22 was 48,106.
The updated figures from the Office for National Statistics come after it recorded a weekly 2,589 deaths involving the coronavirus in England and Wales. Although that was the lowest in the past seven weeks, the virus still accounted for 21.1% of all deaths.
The daily figures provided by the government have COVID-related deaths at just above 39,000. Those figures are based on initial cause of death assessments whereas those from the statistics agency are collated from death registrations, which can take a few weeks to be issued.
The agency also said there were 2,348 more deaths in England and Wales during the week than the five-year average. Excess deaths are widely considered to be the best gauge of the virus’s impact as they provide a clear guide over historical periods and include all-cause mortality.
Statistician Nick Stripe said there have been just under 62,000 excess deaths across the U.K.
BERLIN — Berlin’s top health official says she is appalled by a weekend gathering in support of the city’s shuttered clubs that brought up to 1,500 people together and which organizers ended because participants weren’t keeping to distancing rules.
The demonstrators gathered on a city canal Sunday in 300 to 400 small boats and on the banks, with loud music. The city’s health minister, Dilek Kalayci, said Tuesday she understands nightclubs’ financial difficulties but noted that aid is available and said the weekend event was “grossly negligent” while the pandemic continues. She said “this is not the time for parties.”
Germany started easing its coronavirus restrictions in late April and is continuing to do so despite some concern over local outbreaks linked to slaughterhouses, a church service and a restaurant.
In the latest case, at least 68 people tested positive in the central city of Goettingen after private family parties.
HARARE, Zimbabwe — State media say Zimbabwe has confirmed its first coronavirus cases in prisons, with four inmates and two guards testing positive.
The Herald newspaper says authorities declared the prisons in Plumtree, which borders Botswana, and in Beitbridge, which borders South Africa, as “no-go areas.” Authorities also have suspended movement out of prisons countrywide, resulting in some prisoners failing to attend court hearings.
Zimbabwe’s cases more than doubled in the past week to over 200, with most new infections at centers where people crossing the border are quarantined. Most are returning from Botswana and South Africa, which host millions of Zimbabweans who fled economic turmoil in recent years.
South Africa has more than 34,000 virus cases, the most in Africa. Zimbabwe’s health ministry says the returnees pose the biggest virus threat. Those arrested for illegal border crossings are put into the prisons in Plumtree and Beitbridge. Zimbabwe earlier released more than 4,000 prisoners to ease overcrowding in facilities where health systems are weak. About 18,000 people are still behind bars.
LAHORE, Pakistan — A leaked government document reveals authorities ignored experts who wanted a monthlong lockdown in Pakistan’s Punjab province and who estimated 670,000 might have been infected in the provincial capital of Lahore.
After media published the experts’ report Tuesday, residents criticized the government for easing the restrictions last month instead of heeding the recommendation.
The report was based on a sample survey done in Lahore, which had 245 deaths through May 15. Since then, Punjab has reported nearly 200 more fatalities related to COVID-19.
The document surfaced hours before Prime Minister Imran Khan relaxed more coronavirus restrictions implemented in March, saying Pakistanis must learn how to live with the virus since lockdowns don’t treat the disease.
Pakistan has registered 1,621 fatalities amid 76,398 cases.
SINGAPORE — Singapore has reopened 75% of its economy as part of a three-phase controlled approach to end a virus lockdown in place since early April.
Finance, electronics manufacturing and logistics are among sectors that resumed operations after a two-month closure with strict safety requirements. Schools will also reopen in stages this month. But most retail shops, personal services, dining in at restaurants and social gatherings are still banned.
“It feels like it has come back to where it should be. Like you know, people start to see people again, and working again. It feels good,” said Firman Hanif, who works in a security firm.
The affluent city-state has more than 35,000 cases, one of the highest in Asia. More than 90 percent of cases involved foreign workers living in crowded dormitories. The government says it will only lift further restrictions if infections remain low.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 38 new cases of COVID-19, all but one in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area.
The figures released by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday brought national totals to 11,541 cases and 272 deaths.
Hundreds of cases have been linked to workplaces, including call centers and a massive warehouse operated by local e-commerce giant Coupang, which officials say failed to properly enforce preventive measures. At least two dozen cases have been linked to churches near capital Seoul, including a death of a follower in his 70s.
Incheon, a port city west of Seoul, banned gatherings at more at some 4,200 churches and other religious facilities. Gyeonggi province, which surrounds the capital, issued an administrative order to shut down warehouses, funeral homes and wedding halls.
Health Minister Park Neunghoo during an anti-virus meeting on Tuesday pleaded churchgoers and employees of hospitals and nursery homes to avoid unnecessary gatherings to reduce infection risks for senior citizens and others who are medically vulnerable.
BEIJING — China is reporting five new cases of the coronavirus, all brought by Chinese citizens from outside the country.
No new deaths were reported on Tuesday while 73 people remain in treatment for COVID-19 and 373 are under monitoring and isolation for showing signs of the virus or having tested positive for it without showing symptoms. China has recorded a total of 4,634 deaths among 83,022 cases of the disease.
China further re-opened schools this week and much of the economy is back on a regular footing, albeit with social distancing and other measures in place to prevent a second wave of the virus outbreak that was first detected late last year in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
On Monday, China’s foreign ministry again defended the country’s handling of the outbreak against charges of incompetence from the Trump administration focusing on its failure to prevent people leaving Wuhan earlier than Jan. 23 when the city was put on lockdown.
“This statement is totally inconsistent with the facts, which is extremely disrespectful of the Chinese people’s tremendous efforts and sacrifice in the epidemic control and prevention,” ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters.
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