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:
— Pandemic eases in parts of Europe but worsens in India.
— Students in South Korea to begin returning to school.
— Italy begins partial easement of two-month lockdown.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea says it’ll allow schools to have their students back in their classrooms, staring from next week, amid signs that the coronavirus outbreak in the country is waning.
Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae said Monday high school seniors will return to schools on May 13 and other lower grade students in phased steps from May 20.
She says about 5.4 million students in South Korea have been taking classes online since April 9 due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.
South Korea’s caseload has continuously been declining in recent weeks, prompting authorities to relax its social distancing rules. Earlier Monday, South Korea reported eight additional virus cases, taking its national tally over 10,800.
ROME — Italy began stirring again Monday after a two-month coronavirus shutdown, with 4.4 million Italians able to return to work and restrictions on movement eased in the first European country to lock down in a bid to stem infections.
Around the country, construction sites and manufacturing operations resumed, and restaurants and gelaterie scrubbed their floors in preparation for take-out service.
Sit-down service in bars and restaurants, as well as the reopening of commercial shops and hairdressers is still several weeks off and dependent on the implementation of social distancing and hygiene measures. Italians were told to wear masks in closed spaces and public transport.
Mourners were able to attend funerals for some of Italy’s nearly 29,000 dead, but the services were limited to 15 people and there was still no word on when Masses would resume. Professional athletes were allowed to get back to training and parks opened their gates to stir-crazy joggers, parents and children, though playgrounds were still off-limits.
Officials are well aware that the resumption of economic activity will lead to a rise in infections, and the gradual reopening has been predicated on regions taking measures to track infections, intervene quickly to isolate new clusters and ensure the health care system isn’t overwhelmed. The aim is to allow economic activity to gradually resume while keeping the contagion under control.
ATHENS, Greece — Greece has begun gradually lifting its restrictive measures after a 42-day lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
As of Monday morning, Greeks are no longer restricted as to why they can leave their homes, and don’t need to send an SMS or carry a self-written permit justifying being outdoors.
The first businesses have also opened as part of what authorities have said will be a staggered re-opening of the economy. Hair salons, barber shops and stores selling books, sporting goods, stationary, and other items can now open, albeit with strict hygiene and social distancing measures in place.
Masks are now compulsory for staff and passengers on public transport, staff in shops selling fresh food and in several other places, with violators facing fines. Authorities strongly recommend mask-wearing in all indoor public areas.
School students in the final grade of high school are to return to class as of next week, followed later in the month by those in the rest of junior high and high school grades.
Greece’s government imposed a lockdown early in the country’s outbreak, which has been credited with keeping the number of deaths and critically ill at low levels. Greece has reported nearly 150 virus deaths and over 2,500 infections. Almost 80,000 tests had been carried out as of Sunday.
NEW DELHI — India has relaxed some lockdown restrictions even as the pace of coronavirus infections has slightly accelerated.
Some economic activities resumed Monday after a nationwide halt that lasted nearly five weeks. Normal life, albeit with masks, social distancing and stringent hygiene standards, has started to return in low-risk areas with few or no cases, while constraints on movement and work continued elsewhere in the country.
In the capital of New Delhi, a designated hot spot, many lockdown restrictions remained. But more than 100 people — not all observing social distancing measures — stood in line ahead of the reopening of a liquor store.
India has about 42,500 virus cases, 11,706 recoveries and 1,373 deaths. The country had conducted more than a million tests by Monday. Still, at 758 tests per million people, India is among the nations testing the lowest fraction of their population. And experts warn the virus has yet to peak.
BRUSSELS — The European Union has approved 7 billion euros ($7.6 billion) in loans and guarantees that the French state is providing to its airline Air France to weather the financial storm unleashed by the coronavirus.
EU Commission Vice President Margrethe Vestager said the guarantees and loans “will provide Air France with the liquidity that it urgently needs to withstand the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.”
It was part of a deal by the French and Dutch governments announced April 24 of at least 9 billion euros ($9.7 billion) in bailout money to rescue both Air France and KLM, which are fighting for survival as most of their planes are grounded by virus lockdowns around the world.
Air France will get 3 billion euros in direct loans from the French state and a 4 billion euro bank loan guaranteed by the state, the airline said in a statement.
BRUSSELS — Belgium is relaxing some of its lockdown measures Monday, confident enough that the coronavirus crisis is on the wane.
Business-to-business companies can open their offices to employees again, even though remote work is still encouraged. Those who come to work need to respect social distancing or wear protective masks. Textile shops selling cloth will be opening, too, because they are essential if people want to make their own protective masks.
Those masks will also be mandatory on public transportation, which will seek to reopen at full capacity. And people will be allowed to exercise and play sports with two others.
Belgium has reported 7,844 deaths of people confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19. Authorities have been able to relax lockdown measures as coronavirus cases have steadily decreased over the past few weeks.
TOKYO — Japan says a panel of experts supports the government’s plan to extend the nationwide state of emergency through the end of May.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday he planned to keep the current coronavirus measures in place for another month, in accordance with recommendations from health experts. They noted the rise in new cases has slowed but Japan’s medical system is still overburdened.
Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters Monday that experts backed the government’s plan to extend social distancing measures until May 31 and called it “appropriate.”
Nishimura said Sunday the current measures in Tokyo and a dozen other prefectures designated as special warning zones are expected to stay in place, while 34 other prefectures would be allowed to somewhat ease restrictions on the condition they take ample preventive steps.
Later on Monday, after approval by parliamentary committees, Abe is set to formally announce an extension and explain details.
Japan has had more than 15,000 virus cases and 510 deaths as of Monday, according to the health ministry.
BEIJING — China reported three new coronavirus cases Monday, all brought from overseas, and no additional deaths.
A total of 481 people remain in the hospital because of the virus, with about 1,000 under monitoring and isolation after showing symptoms or testing positive without symptoms.
China has reported 4,633 deaths from COVID-19 among 82,880 cases.
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