The Latest: Death toll of virus in Italy surpasses 33,000

News
Shinzo Abe

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a meeting of government and ruling party officials at his office in Tokyo Wednesday, May 27, 2020. Japan’s Cabinet has approved a proposed 32 trillion-yen ($296 billion) supplementary budget to help fund measures to cushion the blow to the economy from the coronavirus pandemic. (Kyodo News via AP)

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:

— Italy’s overall death toll surpasses 33,000.

— Walt Disney World set to open again in July.

— Moscow to ease some lockdown measures on June 1.

— Japan approves largest budget for combined $2.1 trillion.

___

ROME — Italy’s known death toll in the COVID-19 pandemic topped 33,000 on Wednesday, with 117 more deaths registered nationwide since the previous day.

But authorities acknowledge that the real number of deaths will probably never be known since many with coronavirus symptoms in care residences or in their own homes died without being tested in the past few months.

Lombardy, the northern region, which has registered more than a third of the entire nation’s known cases, confirmed 384 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, considerably more than the 73 registered in the next heaviest-hit region, Piedmont, also in the north.

Health Ministry and other government officials are closely monitoring regions for any jump in new cases following the May 18 easing of many lockdown restrictions, including allowing all retail stores to re-open and cafes and restaurants to resume in-house service.

Italians are waiting to learn if they will be able to freely travel among all regions starting on June 3, or only among some of them, in view of contagion rates.

Currently travel between regions is limited to strict necessity.

Italy registered 584 confirmed new cases on Wednesday, raising to 231,139 the total number of known coronavirus infections in the country, according to Health Ministry figures.

___

SeaWorld and Walt Disney World will reopen in Orlando, Florida, in June and July after months of being closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to plans a city task force approved Wednesday.

The proposals will now be sent to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for final approval.

The plan calls for SeaWorld to open to the public on June 11. Disney plans a tiered reopening, with Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom opening on July 11, followed by Epcot and Hollywood Studios on July 15.

Last week, Universal Orlando presented its plan to reopen on June 5. That plan also has been approved by the Orlando task force, which sent its recommendation to the governor.

Disney’s senior vice president of operations, Jim McPhee told the task force the parks would open with limited capacity, but he didn’t specify the number of guests who would be allowed in initially.

Disney World also plans smaller, soft openings prior to July 11, but no specifics were provided.

SeaWorld is planning an employee appreciation event on June 10 before opening to the public the next day, said Interim CEO Marc Swanson.

___

MEXICO CITY — Just hours after Mexican health officials reported record numbers of deaths and new coronavirus infections, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Wednesday he will resume his travel schedule next week, flying commercial to the beach destination of Cancun.

Prior to the pandemic, the president, who has yet to leave Mexico on an international trip, effectively operated as if he was still on the campaign trail, crisscrossing the country each week to hug and shake hands with his admirers.

Throughout two months of social distancing measures, López Obrador has fretted about the impact on the economy and stubbornly refused to halt his key infrastructure projects. One of the those, the Mayan Train, which is supposed to whisk tourists around the Yucatan Peninsula, will be the objective of his first scheduled trip since March.

“I’m going to be careful,” López Obrador said. “If the airline requires you to use a mask, I’m going to use it.” He said doctors are recommending that he limit his flying and travel more by car, so he planned to drive back to the capital from the Caribbean coast with stops in epidemic hotspots, including Veracruz and his home state of Tabasco.

He said he would restrict his events to no more than 50 people and maintain a healthy distance. It will be a dramatic change from his usual events, where crowds press close to him to pass letters or shout requests.

___

ATHENS, Greece — Greece says the United States is unlikely to be on a list of countries that will be allowed to resume direct flights to Greece in the coming weeks but could be added later in the summer.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Wednesday that Greece’s government was finalizing the list of countries that will be allowed to resume flights to Athens on June 15 and regional airports on July 1 and has already stated that Germany will be included.

“It is unlikely that the (U.S.) will be on our list, given the data that we currently have,” Mitsotakis told a web event hosted by the Brookings Institution and Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia.

“We will start with countries that have similar epidemiological data with Greece. And we expect to gradually ramp up direct flights to our islands.”

___

MADRID — A scientific study says Spain has registered 43,000 deaths more than average while it has been in the grip of the new coronavirus pandemic.

The hard-hit country’s official COVID-19 death toll stood at 27,118 on Wednesday, one more than the previous day, according to Health Ministry statistics.

The higher death toll is based on averages of recent years between March 15 and May 24, ascertained by Spain’s Carlos III University, which monitors Spain’s mortality rate. The data it provides is based on numbers of deaths submitted by public records offices around the country. The data does not include the cause of death.

As well as the roughly official coronavirus 27,000 deaths, experts estimate some 9,000 suspected but unconfirmed deaths from COVID-19 have occurred at nursing homes. That leaves around 7,000 excess deaths as unexplained.

Fernando Simón, the head of Spain’s emergency medical response, said Wednesday that many of the extra deaths likely can be put down to people who died at home or hospitals without having been tested, or who died of other illnesses, or people who did not go for treatment because hospitals were overwhelmed.

Spain officially recorded 231 new infections from Tuesday, 37 more than the previous day, to reach almost 237,000. Madrid and Barcelona accounted for about 75% of the new cases.

___

SAO PAULO — Sao Paulo state, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Brazil, will reopen some of its closed businesses starting June 1 despite a growing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Gov. João Doria said Wednesday that stay-at-home recommendations will remain in effect until June 15 for the state that’s home to 46 million people, but some economic activity will resume in less affected regions, including Sao Paulo city, as long as social distancing guidelines are respected.

More than 6,400 people have died because of the new coronavirus in Sao Paulo state, about one-fourth of all of Brazil’s deaths. Experts and even some authorities have said that represents a significant undercount because of insufficient testing.

Doria said Sao Paulo regions that reduce daily increases in their COVID-19 cases and have enough available intensive care beds can partially reopen stores, shopping malls, offices, car dealerships and real estate brokerages. Sao Paulo never imposed a lockdown, so non-essential industries and civil construction were never closed. Doria said the decision is based on scientific guidelines.

Doria has been frequently singled out for criticism by Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, who has opposed governors’ restrictions on activity.

___

BURLEY, Idaho — Health officials say dozens of workers at a meatpacking plant in southwestern Idaho have tested positive for COVID-19.

The South Central Public Health District said Tuesday that 44 employees at Ida-Beef in the small city of Burley tested positive.

Officials say none of the workers have been hospitalized and there are no fatalities linked to the outbreak.

It’s the second food processing plant in the region to be hit by the coronavirus in recent days.

About 50 workers with potato products company Rite Stuff Foods in nearby Jerome last week tested positive.

The plant has temporarily shut down despite an order by President Donald Trump in April requiring meat processing plants to stay open amid concerns over growing coronavirus cases and the impact on the nation’s food supply.

“It’s a slaughterhouse and Trump mandated that the slaughterhouses stay open, but we chose to close ours to get everybody healthy,” said Ida-beef CEO Allan Ward.

“We thought we’d give it 10 days plus the long weekend and get everybody healthy. And we’re hoping to get a good crew coming Monday morning to kill cattle.”

___

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations secretary-general says support for his March 23 call for a global cease-fire to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic has not been translated into “concrete action,” and in some cases warring parties have exploited the crisis to step up military action.

Antonio Guterres warned the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday that “civilians caught up in violence now face a new and deadly threat from COVID-19.”

He pointed to conflict-torn Libya where the U.N. mission documented at least 58 civilians killed and 190 injured between April 1 and May 18.

The U.N. chief told the council meeting on the protection of civilians in conflict that as the pandemic “rages on, causing enormous human suffering and additional stress to health systems,” people already weakened by years of fighting “are particularly vulnerable.”

___

WASHINGTON — The Army Reserve has identified the reserve soldier who died of complications from COVID-19.

It says Sgt. Simon Zamudio died Friday, making him the third member of the U.S. military to die from COVID-19.

Zamudio was assigned to the 371st Theater Movement Control Element at Fort Sheridan, Illinois, whose Army Reserve parent unit is the 646th Regional Support Group at Madison, Wisconsin.

He’s from Carpentersville, Illinois, according to Lt. Col. Simon B. Flake, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Reserve Command. Zamudio, who enlisted in the Army Reserve in 2015 and was promoted to rank of sergeant last month, was not on active duty at the time of his death, Flake said.

___

BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel says there’s still a great need for personal responsibility with Germany relaxing some restrictions.

Germany has more than 180,000 cases of coronavirus and a relatively low number of deaths at 8,400.

The number of daily new cases has been dropping. Merkel says to preserve the gains, “society will have to increase its vigilance, not decrease it. We have to again make clear, the pandemic is not gone, it is contained but the virus is still there.”

Merkel says that means people need to wear masks while using public transportation and in close contact, follow hygiene protocols and keep social distance.

Merkel says it’s the beginning of the pandemic and reminded, “we have no vaccination, we have no medication yet, but we have better control and I would like to thank the people for that.”

___

JOHANNESBURG — The head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says “we are in for a long, long haul” as shortages of testing materials and protective gear remain in short supply.

John Nkengasong says the African continent of 1.3 billion people has conducted less than 2 million coronavirus tests while it aims for at least 13 million. Just over 100 days have passed since Africa’s first virus case was announced and more than 119,000 cases have been confirmed.

The World Health Organization’s Africa chief, Matshidiso Moeti, says increased testing has not revealed a huge increase in cases on the 54-nation continent and rejects the idea of a “silent epidemic.” A high proportion of cases have been asymptomatic or a mild form of COVID-19, Moeti said.

There’s a shortage of protective gear , with more than 3,400 health workers infected as of last week.

___

MOSCOW — Moscow’s mayor announced easing lockdown restrictions in the city on June 1, сiting the slowing of the coronavirus outbreak in Russia’s capital.

Speaking at a teleconference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin says people can take walks at designated times after remaining under a stay-at-home order since March 30. He also announced plans to reopen non-food stores and services such as laundries, dry cleaners, and repair shops.

Moscow, with a total of 171,443 confirmed coronavirus cases, accounts for a little less than half of Russia’s caseload of 370,000. It’s about 55% of the country’s virus death toll.

Sobyanin says the number of new infections in the city and hospitalizations, has been going down in the past two weeks. On Wednesday, Moscow health officials announced 2,140 new cases, which is more than two times lower than two weeks ago.

Russia’s coronavirus statistics have raised multiple questions among experts, who suggest the numbers may be higher.

Russian authorities dispute that, hailing the effectiveness of the country’s lockdown measures.

___

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan is halting the use of the controversial malaria drug hydroxychloroquine for treating COVID-19 patients after a new study suggested it doesn’t work and poses health risks.

Zafar Mirza on Twitter announced a pause on the use of hydroxychloroquine after the World Health Organization indicated it will temporarily drop the malaria drug from its global study into experimental COVID-19 treatments.

Authorities say instructions had gone to all hospitals to put on hold the use of malaria drug for clinical trials.

Authorities have reported more than 59,000 cases and 1,225 deaths since the first case was reported in February.

___

TOKYO — Japan’s Cabinet approved the largest supplementary budget of 32 trillion yen ($296 billion) to fund stimulus projects aimed at softening the economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic.

The extra budget for fiscal year 2020 is the second in a month. It will partly finance projects providing support for small businesses affected by the outbreak, funding to strengthen medical systems and for medical workers, and subsidies for local governments to step up regional coronavirus measures. The budget also will provide money for a possible second or third wave of infections.

Cabinet approval brings the combined total of the stimulus worth more than 230 trillion yen ($2.1 trillion).

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared an end to a coronavirus state of emergency Monday in hopes of resuming the economy while taking disease prevention measures. With soft social distancing measures and business closures, Japan has 16,000 confirmed virus cases and about 800 deaths, much fewer than many other countries.

He says the combined size of the stimulus package accounts to 40% of the gross domestic product of the world’s No. 3 economy.

“I will defend the Japanese economy at any cost against the once-in-a-century crisis,” Abe said during a meeting of ruling and government officials.

___

Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Don't Miss

More Don't Miss