EU agrees on $2.1 trillion deal after marathon summit

EU agrees on $2.1 trillion deal after marathon summit

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French President Emmanuel Macron, second left, speaks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels, Monday, July 20, 2020. Weary European Union leaders are expressing cautious optimism that a deal is in … more >

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By Raf Casert and Samuel Petrequin

Associated Press

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

BRUSSELS (AP) — After four days and nights of wrangling, exhausted European Union leaders finally clinched a deal on an unprecedented 1.8 trillion-euro ($2.1 trillion) budget and coronavirus recovery fund early Tuesday, after one of their longest summits ever.

The 27 leaders grudgingly committed to a costly, massive aid package for those hit hardest by COVID-19, which has already killed 135,000 people within the bloc alone.

With masks and hygienic gel everywhere at the summit, the leaders were constantly reminded of the potent medical and economic threat the virus poses.

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“Extraordinary events, and this is the pandemic that has reached us all, also require extraordinary new methods,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

To confront the biggest recession in its history, the EU will establish a 750 billion-euro coronavirus fund, partly based on common borrowing, to be sent as loans and grants to the hardest-hit countries. That is in addition to the agreement on the seven-year, 1 trillion-euro EU budget that leaders had been haggling over for months even before the pandemic.

“The consequences will be historic,” French President Emmanuel Macron said. “We have created a possibility of taking up loans together, of setting up a recovery fund in the spirit of solidarity,” a sense of sharing debt that would have been unthinkable not so long ago.

Merkel added: “We have laid the financial foundations for the EU for the next seven years and came up with a response to this arguably biggest crisis of the European Union.”

Despite Macron and Merkel negotiating as the closest of partners, the traditionally powerful Franco-German alliance struggled for days to get the quarreling nations in line. But, even walking out of a negotiating session in protest together over the weekend, the two leaders bided their time and played their cards right in the end.

“When Germany and France stand together, they can’t do everything. But if they don’t stand together, nothing is possible,” said Macron, challenging anyone in the world who criticized the days of infighting to think of a comparable joint endeavor.

“There are 27 of us around the table and we managed to come up with a joint budget. What other political area in the world is capable of that? None other,” Macron said.

At first, Merkel and Macron wanted the grants to total 500 billion euros, but the so-called “frugals” – five wealthy northern nations led by the Netherlands – wanted a cut in such spending and strict economic reform conditions imposed. The figure was brought down to 390 billion euros, while the five nations also got guarantees on reforms.

“There is no such thing as perfection, but we have managed to make progress,” Macron said.

The summit, at the urn-shaped Europa center, laid bare how nations’ narrow self-interests trumped the obvious common good for all to stand together and face a common adversary.

Rarely had a summit been as ill-tempered as this one, and it was the longest since a five-day summit in Nice, France, in 2000, when safeguarding national interests in institutional reforms was a stumbling block.

“There were extremely tense moments,” Macron said.

Still, considering every EU leader had the right of veto on the whole package, the joint commitment to invest and spend such funds was hailed as a success.

Adriaan Schout, an EU expert and Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael think tank in the Netherlands, said that the unusually acrimonious and drawn-out talks ultimately produced a typical Brussels deal.

“The EU hasn’t changed. This is always what it’s about – finding compromises – and the EU always finds compromises,” he said. “And the compromise has been hard fought. There are checks and balances in it. We don’t know how they will work.”

The days and nights of brutal summiteering will surely have left many wounds between member states, but as history has proven, the EU has an uncanny gift to quickly produce scar tissue and move on.

“We all can take a hit,” said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. “After all, there are presidents among us.”

Despite bruising confrontations with Merkel, Macron and his Italian counterpart, Giuseppe Conte, Rutte maintained that “we have very good, warm relations.”

Conte also didn’t have time to dwell on grudges. With 35,000 Italians dead from COVID-19 and facing EU estimates his economy will plunge 11.2% this year, he had to think ahead, of things big and small – from getting cash to businesses still trying to get a foothold after the lockdown to getting school desks.

In order to open in September, his country needs up to 3 million new desks, to replace old-fashioned double and triple desks so students can keep a proper distance.

”We will have a great responsibility. With 209 billion euros, we have the possibility to relaunch Italy with strength, to change the face of the country. Now we must hurry. We must use this money for investments, for structural reforms,” Conte said.

Even if Tuesday’s agreement was a giant leap forward, the European Parliament, which has called the moves of the member states too timid considering the challenge, still has to approve the deal.

Rutte and others also wanted a link to be made between the handout of EU funds and the rule of law – a connection aimed at Poland and Hungary, countries with right-wing populist governments that many in the EU think are sliding away from democratic rule.

In its conclusion, the European Council underlined the “importance of the respect of the rule of law” and said it will create a system of conditionality aimed at preventing member states from getting subsidies from the budget and recovery fund if they don’t abide by its principles.

But Tuesday was a moment to revel in the achievement itself. What was planned as a two-day summit scheduled to end Saturday was forced into two extra days by deep ideological differences among the 27 leaders.

The compromise deal they finally hammered out was one that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban claimed as a victory.

“We not just managed to get a good package of money, but we defended the pride of our nations and made clear that it is not acceptable that anybody, especially those who inherited … the rule of law criticize us, the freedom fighters that did a lot against the communist regime in favor of rule of law,” he said.

___

Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands; Colleen Barry in Soave, Italy; and Pablo Gorondi in Budapest, Hungary, contributed.

Czech volunteers develop functioning lung ventilator in days

Czech volunteers develop functioning lung ventilator in days

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A worker checks a lung ventilator “Corovent” manufactured in Trebic, Czech Republic, Wednesday, June 17, 2020. A group of volunteers in the Czech Republic was working round the clock to prevent critical shortage of ventilators for COVID-19 patients. A team … more >

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By Karel Janicek

Associated Press

Monday, July 6, 2020

PRAGUE (AP) — Tomas Kapler knew nothing about ventilators — he’s an online business consultant, not an engineer or a medical technician. But when he saw that shortages of the vital machines had imperiled critically ill COVID-19 patients in northern Italy, he was moved to action.

“It was a disturbing feeling for me that because of a lack of equipment the doctors had to decide whether a person gets a chance to live,” Kapler said. “That seemed so horrific to me that it was an impulse to do something.”

And so he did. “I just said to myself: ‘Can we simply make the ventilators?’” he said.

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Working around the clock, he brought together a team of 30 Czechs to develop a fully functional ventilator – Corovent. And they did it in a matter of days.

Kapler is a member of an informal group of volunteers formed by IT companies and experts who offered to help the state fight the pandemic. The virus struck here slightly later than in western Europe but the number of infected was rising and time was running out.

“It seemed that on the turn of March and April, we might be in the same situation as Italy,” Kapler said.

Ventilators had become a precious commodity. Their price was skyrocketing and so was demand that the traditional makers were unable to immediately meet.

Components for the ventilators were also in critically short supply. So Kapler said he set out to “make a ventilator from the parts that are used in common machines.”

A crowd-funding campaign ensured the necessary finances in just hours.

Kapler approached Karel Roubik, professor of Biomedical Engineering at the Czech Technical University for help. He, in turn, assembled colleagues through Skype, while his post-graduate student tested the new design in their lab in Kladno, west of Prague.

They had a working prototype in five days, something that would normally take a year.

Roubik said their simple design makes the machine reliable, inexpensive, and easy to operate and mass produce.

A group of volunteer pilots flew their planes to deliver anything needed. And then MICO, an energy and chemical company based in Trebic, 200 kilometers (125 miles) from Kladno, offered to do the manufacturing.

Flights between the two places helped fine-tune the production line in a few weeks.

“I didn’t do anything more than those people who were making the face masks,” said MICO’s chief executive, Jiri Denner. “They did the maximum they could. And I did the maximum I could.”

With the certification for emergency use in the European Union approved, the ventilator was ready in April – but it was not needed in the Czech Republic, which had managed to contain the outbreak.

MICO has submitted a request for approval for emergency use in the United States, Brazil, Russia and other countries. Meanwhile, they’ve applied for EU certification for common hospital use.

“Originally, we thought it would be just an emergency ventilator for the Czech Republic,” Kapler said. “But it later turned out that the ventilators will be needed in the entire world.”

Kapler looks back at the effort with satisfaction.

“I had to quit my job and I have been without pay for several months,” he said. “But otherwise, it was mostly positive for me. I’ve met many fantastic people who are willing to help.”

Or to quote the slogan printed on the ventilator’s box: “Powered by Czech heart.”

___

While nonstop news about the effects of the coronavirus has become commonplace, so, too, have tales of kindness. “One Good Thing” is a series of AP stories focusing on glimmers of joy and benevolence in a dark time. Read the series here: https://apnews.com/OneGoodThing

Italy slams Egypt’s stance on killing as ‘punch in the face’

Italy slams Egypt’s stance on killing as ‘punch in the face’

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President of the Chamber of Deputies Roberto Fico, left, and Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte leave after listening to ISTAT’s (Italian National Institute of Statistics) annual report, in Rome, Friday, July 3, 2020. One of Italy’s highest institutional leaders has slammed … more >

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By FRANCES D’EMILIO

Associated Press

Friday, July 3, 2020

ROME (AP) – The president of the lower house of Italy’s Parliament has slammed Egypt’s stance in a probe to bring to justice the torturers and killers of an Italian doctoral student who disappeared in Cairo while researching labor movements in Egyt.

Chamber of Deputies President Roberto Fico told Italian state TV on Friday that lack of satisfactory cooperation from Egyptian prosecutors in solving the 2016 killing of Giulio Regeni amounted to a ‘’punch in the face″ of Italy.

Fico, a leading member of the main party in Italy’s coalition government, the populist 5-Star Movement, was expressing frustration that the discussions Italian prosecutors had with their Egyptian counterparts this week failed to elicit progress.

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Since late 2018, Italian prosecutors have called for Egypt to hand over five intelligence and police service officials or to at least help Italy prosecute them in absentia.

Some Italian lawmakers have contended that the only progress so far in the case came after Italy temporarily yanked its ambassador to Egypt. Regeni’s parents are pressing Premier Giuseppe Conte to again withdraw the Italian envoy in Cairo to protest what is perceived as Egyptian resistance to exposing the truth and delivering justice.

But Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio insisted the ambassador needs to stay put so the truth will emerge.

“The Giulio Regeni case is an open wound for the entire country,” Di Maio told reporters Friday. “In these very hours, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked the Egyptian ambassador for further information, and also the Egyptian prosecutor office has stated that they will act with extreme transparency.”

Di Maio added that he hoped “words will be followed by facts.”

Tension over the case comes at a sensitive time for Conte’s increasingly squabbling coalition. Many lawmakers, including from the Democratic Party, the coalition’s junior partner, have objected to plans to sell two Italian-made frigates to Egypt. Final government approval of the sale is pending.

Regeni’s mother has said her son was so badly beaten and otherwise tortured that she only recognized the tip of his nose when she viewed his body.

Retired pope’s elder brother, Georg Ratzinger, dies at 96

Retired pope’s elder brother, Georg Ratzinger, dies at 96

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In this Monday, Aug. 15, 2005, filer, the Rev. Georg Ratzinger, brother of Pope Benedict XVI, waves as he walks in Castel Gandolfo, near Rome, where the pontiff greeted the faithful for Assumption day celebrations. The Rev. Georg Ratzinger, the … more >

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By David Rising

Associated Press

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

BERLIN (AP) — The Rev. Georg Ratzinger, the older brother of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, who earned renown in his own right as a director of an acclaimed German boys’ choir, has died at 96.

The Regensburg diocese in Bavaria, where Ratzinger lived, said in a statement on his website that he died Tuesday. His death came just over a week after Benedict made a four-day visit to Regensburg to be with his ailing brother.

Ordained on the same day as his brother, Ratzinger proved to be a talented musician and went on oversee the recording of numerous masterpieces and concert tours around the world by the Regensburger Domspatzen, a storied choir that traces its history back to the 10th century. But his reputation was tarnished as he apologized for using corporal punishment to discipline boys amid a wider investigation into sexual and physical abuse in the Church.

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He remained extremely close to his brother throughout his career, expressing dismay when Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope that the stress would affect his health and that they would no longer spend so much time together.

The pope had his quarters in the Apostolic Palace modified with a special apartment for his brother, who traveled frequently from his home in the Bavarian city of Regensburg to Rome. Elected to the papacy in 2005, Benedict stepped down in 2013 and was succeeded by current Pope Francis.

The two came from a religious Catholic family, the sons of police officer Josef and Maria Ratzinger, and great nephews of the German politician Georg Ratzinger, a priest and social reformer who was a member of the Bavarian and Federal parliament.

Born Jan. 15, 1924 in the Bavarian town of Altoetting, Georg Ratzinger showed an early talent for music, playing the church organ at age 11. The family eventually settled outside nearby Traunstein in 1937, where he and his brother joined the seminary. During World War II, Ratzinger told The Associated Press in an interview that he remembered huddling with the blinds drawn with his younger brother and father listening to Allied radio broadcasts, because their father wanted them to know the truth about the Nazi regime.

Though the Ratzinger family was anti-Nazi, Georg Ratzinger was enrolled into the Hitler Youth in 1941. In his book, “Salt of the Earth,” Benedict remarked on the time and his own subsequent enrollment at age 14. Official details of the boys’ Hitler Youth days no longer exist, as all of the organization’s archives for the area were burned ahead of the American advance at the end of the war.

In 1942, Ratzinger was drafted into a federal labor force, and the same fall entered the regular German armed forces as a radio operator in a signals unit. After serving in France, the Netherlands and Czechoslovakia, Ratzinger was sent in 1944 to Italy where he was wounded in fighting.

He was captured by U.S. forces and spent the rest of the war as a POW, returning to Traunstein in July 1945 – a day the then-Joseph Ratzinger recalled in his memoir “Milestones,” remembering that the family had no idea if Georg were alive or dead.

“A quiet worry hung over our house…” he wrote. “Suddenly, on a hot July day, we steps were audible and he whom we had missed for so long was again standing in our midst, tanned from the Italian sun. Then he sat down at the piano, thankful and relieved, and intoned ‘Holy God We Praise Thy Name.’”

Following the war, the brothers entered the seminary of the archdiocese of Munich and Freising to study for the priesthood. They were ordained together on June 29, 1951, in the Cathedral at Freising on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul.

After working his way up as priest in the region, Georg Ratzinger was appointed musical director of St. Peters Cathedral in Regensburg in 1964, becoming the conductor of the famed cathedral choir, the Regensburger Domspatzen.

As head of this world-renowned choir, whose name means “Cathedral Sparrows,” Ratzinger helped build its reputation around the world, running tours that included trips to the Vatican, the United States, Canada, Poland and Japan and performances for Queen Elizabeth II and Pope John Paul II.

But well after his retirement from the post, revelations of sexual and physical abuse at the choir haunted him.

In 2010, Ratzinger apologized for using corporal punishment to discipline boys in the choir, saying he was aware of allegations of physical abuse at an elementary school linked to the choir but did nothing about it.

“At the beginning I also repeatedly administered a slap in the face, but always had a bad conscience about it,” Ratzinger told the Passauer Neue Presse, adding that he was happy when corporal punishment was made illegal in 1980. “Of course, today one condemns such actions; I do as well. At the same time, I ask the victims for pardon.”

He claimed he was completely unaware of allegations of sexual abuse, which he said dated from before his tenure as choir director.

“These things were never discussed,” Ratzinger said. “The problem of sexual abuse that has now come to light was never spoken of.”

His relationship with his brother always played a special role in his life.

Ratzinger once lamented in an interview that his brother’s role as pope would mean “family life might be a bit more limited” and acknowledged that he “had hoped that the cup would pass him by.”

Still, Georg traveled to the Vatican for his brother’s installation, and was given a prominent seat on the basilica esplanade.

While visiting the pope in August 2005, Ratzinger was hospitalized in Rome because of an irregular heartbeat and had a pacemaker implanted. Benedict visited him while he was in the hospital.

In October of that year, the brothers got together again. “Sanctus,”a piece Georg Ratzinger composed was played at a Vatican concert for the pope and sung by the Domspatzen, while both brothers watched on together.

As Ratzinger’s health failed, his brother came to Regensburg in mid-June to visit with him.

Benedict’s trip to Germany was his first trip outside Italy in over seven years. Benedict greeted old neighbors and prayed at his parents’ grave. He stayed at a seminary during his trip, visiting his brother twice a day.

Ratzinger’s only close living relative is Benedict. His sister Maria, died in 1991.

Tensions rise at virus hot spot apartments in southern Italy

Tensions rise at virus hot spot apartments in southern Italy

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Police officers stand at a road block in front of a big apartment complex where dozens of COVID-19 cases have been registered among a community of Bulgarian farm workers, in Mondragone, in the southern Italian region of Campania, Friday, June … more >

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By TRISHA THOMAS and FRANCES D’EMILIO

Associated Press

Friday, June 26, 2020

MONDRAGONE, Italy (AP) – The governor of a southern Italian region insisted on Friday that residents of an apartment complex quarantine inside for 15 days, not even venturing out to buy food, after dozens of COVID-19 cases among Bulgarian seasonal farm workers and Italians who live there were confirmed.

Wearing a mask to discourage virus spread, Campania Gov. Vincenzo De Luca told reporters that the national civil protection agency should deliver groceries to the estimated 700 occupants of the apartments in Mondragone, a seaside town about 50 kilometers (32 miles) northwest of Naples.

The complex must be kept in “rigorous isolation,” De Luca said. That means that for 15 days, “nobody leaves and nobody enters” the apartments.

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Later on Friday, the governor said that of 743 swab tests performed on residents who live in the complex’ five buildings, 43 COVID-19 cases were detected, including those of nine homeless Italians who have been sheltering in one of the buildings.

Fueling some of the anger in the town had been word that some of the Bulgarians had fled from the complex, in defiance of the mandatory quarantine order. But De Luca said that all 19 who had run away had been tracked down and tested for the coronavirus, and “thank God, all tested negative.”

The entire town of 30,000 has been urged to be tested, and many people lined up Friday to have swab tests.

“Since this morning, when we started, we have done over 250 swabs. They have understood here the importance of being careful about this virus,” said a Red Cross volunteer, Massimo D’Alessio.

The south has been spared the high numbers of coronavirus cases that have ravaged northern Italy.

Known for his particularly hard line on anti-contagion measures throughout the nationwide coronavirus outbreak this year, De Luca has vowed to lock down all of Mondragone if the number of cases at the hot spot reaches 100.

“Have I been clear? I’m used to speaking clearly,” De Luca told RAI state TV.

The apartment complex was put under lockdown earlier in the week, and all who live there were ordered to be tested for the virus, after a handful of cases initially surfaced.

The Campania region has requested police reinforcements to impose the quarantine on the complex. De Luca said the Interior Ministry had authorized an army contingent.

The apartment residents have balked at staying indoors in these hot, steamy summer days. Tensions flared on Thursday, with Italians in the streets jeering at the Bulgarians who live in the complex, although Friday, tensions appeared mainly limited to name-calling.

“It is like a war between the two communities,” said Giuseppe Capotosto, a Civil Protection volunteer, referring to the Italians and the Bulgarians who live in the complex. “Basically there is no integration, we just would like to integrate these people, help them, but they have no intention to integrate in the community.”

The Bulgarians are currently harvesting string beans and other vegetables at farms near Mondragone.

Italians, migrants from Africa and Asia, as well as seasonal workers from Europe, including Ukrainians, Romanians and Bulgarians are involved in picking fruit and vegetables at orchards and farms throughout Italy.

Igor Prata, an official from the CGIL labor confederation told Sky TG24 in Mondragone that Bulgarians are among exploited farm workers.

“Let’s not forget they work (seasonally) for years, subject to exploitation,” Plata said. They labor from nine to 11 hours daily in the fields, with men earning at most 40 euros ($45) per a day’s work, and women earning about 5 euros less, he said. Each laborer gives some 5 euros of daily wages to gang bosses who help them find work or transport them to fields.

Gov. De Luca said the first COVID-19 case among the Bulgarians was that of a woman who gave birth in a local hospital, with the newborn testing negative.

Tracing down the woman’s contacts eventually led to the discovery of the other cases at the complex, De Luca said.

During the pandemic, Campania has registered some 4,660 COVID-19 cases and 431 deaths, a small fraction of the nationwide cases and deaths.

In Italy’s north, in the area of Bologna, another outbreak triggered concern by health authorities. Italian news reports said 64 workers at courier services, most of them with one company, have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days. So far, 370 people, including the delivery workers and their families, have been tested. Nearly all of the positive cases are without symptoms and only two have been hospitalized, Corriere della Sera daily reported.

___

Frances D’Emilio reported from Rome.

___

Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Italy, Germany, US seek Libya cease-fire after Egypt threat

Italy, Germany, US seek Libya cease-fire after Egypt threat

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By NICOLE WINFIELD

Associated Press

Monday, June 22, 2020

ROME (AP) – Italy, Germany and the United States pushed Monday for a cease-fire and de-escalation of tensions in Libya following a warning by Egypt that it would intervene militarily if Turkish-backed forces attack the strategic city of Sirte.

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and his German counterpart, Heiko Maas, said after talks in Rome that a cease-fire is urgent given the Egyptian threat. Di Maio also called for the quick naming of a new U.N. envoy and the strong enforcement of a U.N. arms embargo on Libya.

“If we stop the arrival of weapons, or strongly reduce them, we will be able to reduce the aggressiveness of the Libyan parties in this conflict,” Di Maio said.

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Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi warned over the weekend that any attack on Sirte or the inland Jufra air base by Turkish-backed forces loyal to the U.N.-supported but weak government in Tripoli would amount to crossing a “red line.”

He said Egypt could intervene militarily with the intention of protecting its western border with the oil-rich country, and of bringing stability – including establishing conditions for a cease-fire.

The Tripoli-based government said it considered el-Sissi’s comments a “declaration of war,” while authorities in the east welcomed his support.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters on Monday that the world body’s search for a new U.N. envoy to Libya ran aground when the Trump administration blocked two of the secretary general’s nominations, saying it wants one senior official solely tasked with negotiating a cease-fire and another running the U.N. mission.

Acting U.N. envoy Stephanie Williams continues to shuttle between the warring sides and their foreign backers, he said, urging a de-escalation and resumption of the U.N.-facilitated political process.

“The last thing that Libya needs right now is more fighting, more military mobilization, more transfer of weapons, more presence of either foreign fighters or mercenaries on its soil,” Dujarric said, responding to Egypt’s threats of military intervention.

U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, head of Africa Command, and U.S. Ambassador Richard Norland meanwhile met Monday with Tripoli-based Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj in the Libyan capital, according to a statement from the U.S. Embassy.

It said the two U.S. officials stressed the “need for military pause and return to negotiations.”

“All sides need to return to U.N.-led ceasefire and political negotiations because this tragic conflict is robbing all Libyans of their future,” Townsend said.

Norland called for foreign countries supporting Libya’s rivals to stop “fueling the conflict, respect the U.N. arms embargo, and uphold commitments made at the Berlin Summit” earlier this year.

The German foreign minister said the Egyptian threat indicated that a further escalation was possible, making it “all the more urgent to agree on a cease-fire now.”

Di Maio, for his part, said Italy was prepared to provide even more contributions to a naval and air mission to enforce the U.N. arms embargo on Libya, saying it will be crucial even after a cease-fire is signed.

“In the coming days we will have talks with the Libyan parties to try to bring forward as soon as possible the signing of a cease-fire,” Di Maio said. “Even once there is a cease-fire, I think the (arms embargo) mission will continue to be important, because especially with a cease-fire, we have to limit the arrival of weapons in Libya.”

Italy is particularly concerned that any escalation of the conflict will unleash more waves of migrants onto smugglers’ boats headed for Italian shores. The coronavirus emergency in hard-hit Italy stemmed their arrivals, but authorities fear that the numbers will swell again with the health emergency easing and the return to the Mediterranean Sea of humanitarian rescue ships.

Libya has been in turmoil since 2011, when a civil war toppled long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed. The country has since split between rival administrations in the east and the west, each backed by armed groups and foreign governments.

Eastern-based forces under Khalifa Hifter launched an offensive to try to take Tripoli in April last year. Hifter’s forces are backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia, while the Tripoli-allied militias are aided by Qatar, Italy and Turkey.

Dujarric said Hifter’s failed campaign to capture Tripoli set off a humanitarian crisis, with 1 million people in need of aid and almost a half million people internally displaced.

Tripoli-based forces with Turkish support gained the upper hand in the war earlier this month after retaking the capital’s airport, all main entrance and exit points to the city and a string of key towns near Tripoli. They threatened to retake Sirte, which could allow them to gain control oil fields and facilities in the south that Hifter seized earlier this year as part of his offensive on Tripoli.

With the recent retreat of Hifter’s forces from their last western stronghold of Tarhuna and the discovery of several mass graves in the area, calls have mounted for a transparent investigation into possible war crimes. Fatou Bensouda, the International Criminal Court prosecutor, said Monday that her office had received credible reports of eleven mass graves containing men, women and children.

In Geneva, the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council agreed unanimously on Monday to call for the immediate creation and deployment of a one-year fact-finding mission to document rights abuses and violations in Libya since 2016.

The 47-member-state body asked the U.N. human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, to appoint experts for the mission and called on Libyan authorities to grant “unhindered access” to the country and the right to speak with anyone they choose.

Eric Goldstein, acting Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, welcomed the step as “a wake-up call to warlords and armed groups that they could be held accountable for serious crimes committed by their rank and file.”

___

Associated Press writers Samy Magdy in Cairo, David Rising in Berlin, Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations and Jamey Keaten in Geneva contributed to this report.

The Latest: Coronavirus resurgence continues in South Korea

The Latest: Coronavirus resurgence continues in South Korea

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Soldiers stand alert outside a restricted area that is sealed off to control the spread of the coronavirus, in Karachi, Pakistan, Friday, June 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan) more >

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By The Associated Press

Associated Press

Saturday, June 20, 2020

SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea continues to struggle to contain a resurgence in the coronavirus that has seen some of the country’s hard-won pandemic gains erased since social distancing rules were eased in mid-April.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 48 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the national caseload to 12,421 infections, with 280 deaths.

The agency says 24 of the new cases are in the Seoul region, which has been the center of the country’s outbreak since late May. Ten of the new cases, however, are from the central city of Daejeon, indicating the virus is beginning to spread more broadly.

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Some experts say the country should reimpose stronger social distancing guidelines, but officials are reluctant to do so in fear of hurting an already fragile economy.

___

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

– Zimbabwe health minister charged with illegally awarding contract for COVID-19 supplies

– Outbreak at German slaughterhouse tops 1,000 cases

U.S. Navy upholds firing of carrier captain in virus outbreak

– Volunteer sleuths are tracking down people who break the U.S. state of Hawaii’s two-week quarantine order on travelers. A former TV reporter put her skills to use by uncovering clues from social media and using other information to identify potential scofflaws. She founded a group called Hawaii Quarantine Kapu Breakers that so far has found about 45 people who were later arrested by police.

– As the coronavirus spreads deeper across America, it is ravaging Latino communities from the mid-Atlantic to the Southwest, infecting them at alarmingly high rates and amplifying the inequalities they live with. Latinos are especially vulnerable to infection because they tend to live in tight quarters with multiple family members and have jobs that expose them to others.

– The “COVID” is a coffin that eliminates precious woods, detailed carvings and glass viewing panes in favor of a plain box of cheaper wood that is fast to produce in quantity. It’s the perfect product for Chile, a country that has become a hot spot for the coronavirus despite aggressive government measures to control its spread.

___

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

___

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

TULSA, Okla. – President Donald Trump is suggesting to supporters that he has told members of his administration to slow the rate of coronavirus testing in the United States.

Speaking at a campaign rally Saturday night in Oklahoma, Trump said the United States has tested 25 million people, and far more than any other country. He also told the crowd that more testing leads to finding more cases of people who test positive.

Trump said that “so I said to my people slow the testing down, please.”

___

TULSA, Okla.- Teams of people wearing goggles, masks, gloves and blue gowns checked the temperatures of those entering the area where President Donald Trump is to hold a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma..

The Trump campaign had pledged to conduct temperature checks as rally-goers entered and to offer face masks. Some of the people entering wore masks while their temperatures were checked with handheld thermometers that appeared not to touch the skin.

Oklahoma’s The health department on Saturday reported 331 new virus cases to bring the total number of confirmed cases to 10,037, with 368 deaths due to COVID-19. The actual number is likely higher because many people have not been tested.

Tulsa County has both the most confirmed cases and virus-related deaths in Oklahoma. Trump’s rally is taking place at a 19,000-seat indoor arena in the city of Tulsa.

Tulsa Health Department director Bruce Dart had said he would have liked to see the rally postponed, noting that large indoor gatherings are partially to blame for the recent spread of the virus in Tulsa and Tulsa County.

___

JOHANNESBURG – South Africa has announced nearly 5,000 new coronavirus cases for a new daily record.

The country has recorded a total of 92,000 confirmed cases as of Saturday, which is about 30% of all cases across the African continent. More than half of South Africa’s cases are in Western Cape province and centered on the city of Cape Town.

But more than one-fifth are in Gauteng province, home to the economic hub of Johannesburg and to the South African capital of Pretoria.

Even as cases rise, President Cyril Ramaphosa this week announced a further loosening of what once was one of the world’s strictest lockdowns.

Casinos, beauty salons and sit-down restaurant service are among the latest businesses to be up and running again as South Africa’s feels the pain of the pandemic’s economic impact.

___

ATHENS – Greece has reported one more death from the coronavirus while the small neighboring country of North Macedonia reached a new daily record with 11 virus-related fatalities.

The deaths brought North Macedonia’s toll in the pandemic to 233 and confirmed cases to 5,005 as of Saturday. Infections began to climb there early this month after authorities lifted movement restrictions and ended a curfew.

Health Minister Venko Filipce said in a TV interview that cases are increasing because residents ignored recommendations to avoid family gatherings, to wear masks and to maintain social distance.

In Greece, authorities announced 19 new confirmed new cases Saturday from a day earlier. The country’s total number of confirmed cases now stands at 3,254, with 190 deaths.

Greek authorities said the median age of everyone who tested positive is 48 and 76 for those who died.

___

MADRID – Spain’s government is dropping the country’s 14-day quarantine requirement for British visitors when citizens of countries that are in Europe’s Schengen Area zone will be allowed to freely enter.

Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya told the BBC on Saturday: “We are doing this out of the respect for the 400,000 British citizens who have a second residence in Spain.”

González Laya says she hopes the British government will likewise drop the quarantine requirement for Spanish citizens traveling to the U.K.. Some 250,000 Spaniards have homes in the U.K., she said.

Spain’s three-month-long state of emergency over the coronavirus is ending on Sunday, which is when people from Schengen Area countries will be allowed into Spain without having to quarantine.

Face masks, however, will still be mandatory along with some other rules decided by regional authorities.

British travelers provide a big part of Spain’s tourism sector, which has been especially hard hit by the COVID-19 crisis. The U.K. wasn’t part of the Schengen Area even before it left the European Union on Jan. 31.

___

PHOENIX – Arizona’s total number of coronavirus cases is approaching 50,000 as the state’s surge in new cases continued to set daily records for hospitalizations, ventilator use and intensive care beds occupied by COVID-19 patients.

The state Department of Health Services reported 3,109 new cases Saturday and 26 more virus-related deaths on Saturday, bringing the statewide totals to 49,798 confirmed cases and 1,338 deaths.

Arizona has emerged as a national hot spot for the coronavirus since Republican Gov. Doug Ducey lifted his stay-home orders in mid-May.

Health officials have attributed the new cases to increased testing and to community spread of the coronavirus.

Arizona set daily new-case records this week with 3,246 on Friday, 2,519 cases on Thursday and 2,392 on Tuesday.

___

DOVER, Delaware – Health officials in Delaware are urging teenagers who participated in senior week activities at the state’s beaches to get tested for the coronavirus after several participants tested positive.

The state Division of Public Health said Saturday that at least three teens staying at a rental unit in Dewey Beach tested positive for the virus. More than a dozen teens were staying there at the time.

The health department says the teens attended large parties in nearby Rehoboth where more than 100 attendees might have been exposed to the virus.

Health officials did not specify the time of the teenagers’ stay in Dewey. They are trying to trace the infected teens’ potential contacts.

Senior week is a longstanding tradition in which graduating high school seniors in Delaware and Maryland celebrate at the beaches in those states, usually unchaperoned.

___

RAMALLAH, West Bank – The Palestinian Authority is reinstating coronavirus restrictions in the West Bank following a spike in infections.

Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said Saturday that a closure and 5-day curfew have been imposed on Hebron and that the city of Nablus would be cutoff for two days to contain the spread of the virus.

The actions came after 86 Palestinians tested positive for the virus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank Saturday, bringing the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases there to 687, including two deaths.

The government, which controls parts of the West Bank, reopened quarantine centers, stepped up restrictions on movement and limits on gatherings, and called on Arab residents of Israel to stop visiting the territory for 14 days.

In the Gaza Strip, 72 confirmed virus cases and one death have been reported, They all came from inside mandatory quarantine facilities for returnees through Israel and Egypt, which have blockaded the Hamas-controlled enclave since 2007.

___

COLUMBIA, South Carolina – The coronavirus continues to spread and set daily records in South Carolina, one of the new outbreak hot spots in the United States.

Health officials said Saturday that South Carolina again saw more new cases, more people in the hospital with the virus and the highest percentage of positive tests in a day.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control reported more than 1,150 new confirmed cases, for a total of more than 23,750 in South Carolina since the outbreak began in March.

More than 16% of the people tested had the virus, compared to just over 9% two weeks ago. Health officials said when that figure rises, it is one of the strongest indicators the virus is spreading.

Health officials reported five additional deaths in the state, bringing South Carolina’s COVID-19 death toll to 644 people.

Another trend bothering health officials is an increase in young people with the virus. About 18% of all cases in the state involve people ages 21 to 30, and 7% involve teenagers, the Department of Health and Environmental Control said.

___

OKLAHOMA CITY- Oklahoma has surpassed 10,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, and the interim commissioner of the state’s Department of Health says a surge in infections was expected after the state began reopening in late April.

The health department on Saturday reported 331 new virus cases to bring the total number of confirmed cases to 10,037, with 368 deaths due to COVID-19. The actual number is likely higher because many people have not been tested.

A record 450 new cases of the virus was reported Thursday and more than 350 more were recorded Friday.

The new wave comes amid ongoing demonstrations to protest police killings of black citizens and a rally planned for Saturday by U.S. President Donald Trump at a 19,000-seat indoor arena in Tulsa.

Tulsa County has both the most confirmed cases and virus-related deaths in Oklahoma.

Tulsa Health Department director Bruce Dart has said he would like to see the rally postponed, noting that large indoor gatherings are partially to blame for the recent spread of the virus in Tulsa and Tulsa County.

___

ROME – Italy has added another 49 deaths to its official coronavirus death toll as it approaches the four-month anniversary of the start of its outbreak.

The civil protection agency said Saturday that Italy registered 262 new confirmed cases over the past 24 hours, with the hard-hit Lombardy region still tallying the most.

In all, Italy has reported 238,275 confirmed cases and 34,610 deaths since identifying its first domestic coronavirus infection on Feb. 21 in the Lombardy town of Codogno.

The 38-year-old patient with that unpleasant distinction, had come down with pneumonia. At the time, Italy’s protocols called for coronavirus testing only on people who had been to China or come into contact with an infected person.

The doctor on call ordered a test for Mattia Maestri anyway, given the gravity of his condition. Maestri recovered from COVID-19 and was on hand for the birth of his daughter.

The Italian government began loosening virus lockdown restrictions last month. Public health officials say that while new cases are getting confirmed in much smaller numbers than before, they show the virus is still circulating.

___

PODGORICA, Montenegro – Montenegrin health authorities have restored some lockdown measures in a northeastern border town to contain a cluster of coronavirus cases.

Authorities have confirmed new cases of the virus after there had been none in Montenegro for several weeks. They say that out of the country’s 31 active cases, 26 were imported from neighboring Serbia.

The infected people include some who went to a soccer game in Serbia’s capital of Belgrade and some citizens of the northeastern Montenegrin town of Rozaje who traveled to a town across the border.

In response, authorities closed down the local border crossing, banned gatherings and ordered the mandatory use of face masks in Rozaje.

The Adratic Sea nation had started to reopen in hopes of salvaging the upcoming tourism season.

___

FRANKFURT, Germany – An official in northwest Germany says the number of workers infected in a coronavirus outbreak at a slaughterhouse in Germany has risen to 1,029 from 803 reported a day earlier but there is no evidence of a “significant” spread into the community.

The regional government has issued a quarantine order for all 6,500 workers and managers at the Toennies firm’s meat processing facility in Rheda-Wiedenbrueck and for their family members.

German news agency dpa quoted regional official Sven-Georg Adenauer as saying Saturday, “We have no significant introduction of coronavirus into the general population.”

More than 3,000 workers have been tested thus far. Testing continued Saturday at the facility with the support of police and 25 military personnel, dpa reported.

Some employees were under a so-called working quarantine, meaning they only are allowed to travel between home and work.

___

MOSCOW – Russia’s official COVID-19 death count has risen above 8,000.

The national coronavirus task force on Saturday reported 161 deaths over the past day, bringing the national total in the pandemic to 8,022.

Russia also recorded 7,889 new confirmed cases, the third consecutive day that the number of new cases dipped below 8,000. Overall, Russia has reported 576,982 confirmed cases.

The country’s comparatively low virus mortality rate has raised questions both in Russia and in the West, with some suggesting officials may be manipulating the numbers for political purposes.

Russian officials have bristled at the accusations, citing effective response measures.

___

ALBANY, N.Y. – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wrapped up a string of more than 100 daily briefings that had become appointment viewing around the nation by declaring that the state has “done the impossible” in taming the coronavirus.

The Democratic governor appeared alone behind his desk Friday during a brief address, a departure from his routine of presenting slides with bar graphs of COVID-19 hospitalizations and then taking questions from reporters.

But his message was the same as in recent days: New Yorkers at the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak worked together to fight the virus and now must be on guard for a second wave.

As case numbers climbed, the briefings, usually from the state Capitol, were covered live daily by networks, notably CNN, the employer of the governor’s younger brother and on-air sparring partner, Chris Cuomo.

Through his 110 briefings with reporters, the governor could be alternately informative, grave, jocular and combative.

On any given day, Cuomo fretted over the safety of his 88-year-old mother, got misty-eyed over the gift of a single mask, defended charges he locked down the state too late or grieved over daily death tolls that climbed as high as 800.

On Friday, Cuomo said an average of 25 people per day were dying this week. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 was 1,284, compared with more than 18,000 at the peak of the outbreak.

___

ROME – Pope Francis has welcomed doctors and nurses from Italy’s coronavirus-ravaged Lombardy region to the Vatican to thank them for their selfless work and sacrifice.

Francis told the delegation on Saturday that their example of professional competence and compassion would help Italy forge a new future of solidarity.

Francis said Lombardy’s medical personnel became “angels” helping the sick recover or accompanying them to their death, given their family members were prevented from visiting them in the hospital. He said they “gave witness to God’s proximity to those who suffer; they were silent artisans of the culture of proximity and tenderness.”

The northern region of Lombardy, Italy’s financial and industrial capital, was the hardest-hit region in the onetime European epicenter of the pandemic. It has counted more than 92,000 of Italy’s 232,000 infections and half of its 34,500 dead.

Turkey says will work with Italy for Libya peace, slams EU

Turkey says will work with Italy for Libya peace, slams EU

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Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, right, and Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio say goodbye by using their elbows after their joint press conference, in Ankara, Turkey, Friday, June 19, 2020.(Fatih Aktas/Turkish Foreign Ministry via AP, Pool) more >

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By SUZAN FRASER

Associated Press

Friday, June 19, 2020

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – Turkey and Italy will continue to work for a lasting peace and political solution in Libya, Turkey’s foreign minister said Friday, while slamming the European Union’s naval operation in the Mediterranean that tries to enforce a U.N. arms embargo on the conflict-torn country.

Mevlut Cavusoglu made the comments during a joint news conference with his Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio. Italy and Turkey support the U.N.-backed government that is based in Tripoli against the rival forces under the command of Khalifa Hifter, who is supported by France, Russia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and other key Arab countries.

Turkey says the EU’s naval operation – dubbed Irini – is focusing its efforts on the Tripoli-based administration and not enough on Hifter’s forces who launched an offensive in April 2019 to capture the capital.

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“We will continue to work with Italy for a last peace and a solution-oriented political process,” Cavusoglu told reporters, praising Italy for what he described as its “balanced stance” on Libya.

“Operation Irini is not balanced. It has never met any of the (Tripoli-based) Government of National Accord’s requests and concerns,” Cavusoglu said. He maintained that the operation ignores alleged “constant arms transfers to Hifter by France.”

Cavusoglu’s comments come amid growing tensions between Turkey and France over Libya. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday that the military alliance would investigate an incident between Turkish warships and a French naval vessel in the Mediterranean, as France accused Turkey of repeated violations of the U.N. arms embargo on Libya and branded Ankara an obstacle to securing a cease-fire there.

Di Maio said neither side in the Libyan conflict should have access to arms, adding that Rome welcomed indications that the sides were willing to negotiate.

He also defended the EU naval operation, describing it as “balanced.”

“The aim is to control the arrival of all armaments,” Di Maio said. “It is not a remedy for all ills, but at least it ensures that the embargo is observed.”

Libya has been in turmoil since 2011, when a NATO-backed uprising toppled leader Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed. The country has since been split between rival administrations in the east and the west, each backed by armed groups and different foreign governments.

Turkish military support to the U.N.-backed government has turned the tide in the conflict, driving back Hifter’s forces. Turkey has also sent Syrian militias to fight for the Tripoli government.

Stolen Banksy honoring Bataclan victims found in Italy

Stolen Banksy honoring Bataclan victims found in Italy

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Italian authorities unveil a stolen artwork painted by the British artist Banksy as a tribute to the victims of the 2015 terror attacks at the Bataclan music hall in Paris, during a press conference in L’ Aquila, Italy, Thursday June, … more >

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By ANDREA ROSA

Associated Press

Thursday, June 11, 2020

L’AQUILA, Italy (AP) – Italian authorities on Thursday unveiled a stolen artwork by British artist Banksy that was painted as a tribute to the victims of the 2015 terror attacks at the Bataclan music hall in Paris.

L’Aquila prosecutors said the work was recovered on Wednesday during a search of a home in the countryside of Tortoreto, near the Adriatic coast in the Abruzzo region’s Teramo province. It had been “hidden well” in the attic, prosecutors said.

No arrests have been made.

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French officials last year announced the theft of the piece, a black image appearing to depict a person mourning that was painted on one of the Bataclan’s emergency exit doors.

Ninety people were killed at the Bataclan on Nov. 13, 2015, when Islamic extremists invaded the music hall, one of several targets that night in which a total of 130 people died.

Authorities said they were still investigating how the artwork arrived in Italy, and the role of any Italians potentially involved. They said the discovery was the fruit of a joint Italian-French police investigation.

At a news conference Thursday in L’Aquila, a French embassy liaison officer, Maj. Christophe Cengig, said the Bataclan owners were informed that the work had been recovered.

“It belongs to the Bataclan, it belongs to all of France in a sense,” he said. The owners, he added, “were thrilled, very happy.”

L’Aquila Prosecutor Michele Renzo said authorities believed the motivation for the theft was financial, not ideological.

Some Chinese nationals were living in the Tortoreto home, but they appeared unaware that the work was there. Teramo Carabinieri Col. Emanuele Pipola said someone else had access to the attic.

Greece, Italy sign deal on demarcating maritime boundaries

Greece, Italy sign deal on demarcating maritime boundaries

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Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, right, and his Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio asign an agreement following their meeting , in Athens, on Tuesday, June 9, 2020. Greece will lift all restrictions on Italian tourists entering the country gradually between … more >

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Associated Press

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Greece and Italy signed an agreement Tuesday demarcating their maritime boundaries, amid tension in the Mediterranean region over rights to natural resources.

The agreement signed at the foreign ministry during a visit to Athens by Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, tackled an issue that had been pending for 40 years, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a statement.

“Today is a good day for Greece, Italy, Europe and the entire Mediterranean,” Mitsotakis said, adding that the deal meets international law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

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It demarcates the exclusive economic zone – the maritime area in which a nation has the right of energy exploration and use of marine resources – between the two neighbors, as well as settling fishing rights, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said after signing the deal with Di Maio. “Today is a historic day,” he said.

Greece and Cyprus in particular have been locked in a tense diplomatic standoff with Turkey over drilling rights at sea. The issue is complicated by the lack of clear agreements delineating countries’ exclusive economic zones.

Last November, Turkey signed a maritime boundary agreement with Libya’s UN-backed government that was strongly opposed and considered illegal by Greece, Egypt and Cyprus.

“The demarcation of maritime zones is achieved in accordance with international law, with valid agreements,” Dendias said. “Not with unsubstantiated agreements such as the agreement between Turkey and (Libyan Prime Minister Fayez) Sarraj.”

Dendias said he spoke with Di Maio about “the escalation of Turkish violations against our country,” noting in particular a demand by a Turkish oil company “to drill on the Greek continental shelf.”

NATO allies Greece and Turkey have long-standing disputes, including over territorial rights in the Aegean Sea.

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By The Associated Press

Associated Press

Sunday, June 7, 2020

TOP OF THE HOUR:

– Peaceful protests continue in New York City.

– Police in Brussels detained 150 people and fired a water cannon to quell unrest.

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– Chicago mayor lifts curfew and restores full train and bus service.

– Protesters dump slaver’s statue into harbor in England.

___

NEW YORK – Peaceful protests over the death of George Floyd have continued in New York City with thousands of demonstrators, most of them wearing masks, walking through Manhattan without a looming curfew.

The city had been scheduled to leave its 8 p.m. curfew in place through at least Sunday night. But Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in the morning that it would be nixed, saying, “Yesterday and last night we saw the very best of our city.”

New York City police pulled back on enforcing the curfew Saturday night, as thousands took to the streets for another day of marches and rallies sparked by the May 25 death of Floyd.

The citywide curfew was the first in decades.

___

BRUSSELS – Police in Brussels detained 150 people and fired a water cannon to quell unrest after a Black Lives Matter protest that drew thousands of people on Sunday.

The city mayor, Philippe Close, blamed the violence on “delinquents” and noted that the 10,000 people who demonstrated earlier in the day did so calmly. Video on social media showed youths smashing shop windows.

The multiracial crowd that demonstrated earlier filled a large square in front of the city’s main courthouse.

Protesters held up white roses and placards decrying racism. “You think you are tired of hearing about racism? We are tired of experiencing it” read a cardboard placard held up by a young black woman.

Belgium media RTBF reported that people also gathered in the cities of Anvers and Gand, where demonstrators observed a silence of 8 minutes and 46 seconds. That corresponds to the length of time that prosecutors say George Floyd was pinned to the ground under a white Minneapolis police officer’s knee.

___

CHICAGO – Mayor Lori Lightfoot has lifted Chicago’s curfew and the city has reopened downtown train stations and allowed full bus service to resume following days of protests that largely remained peaceful.

Lightfoot imposed the 9 p.m. curfew on May 30 during a night of unrest that included widespread vandalism and break-ins that followed peaceful protests earlier that day over the death of George Floyd.

Access to the Loop was limited to essential workers for days, with bridges over the Chicago River raised and streets blocked. Several hundred Illinois National Guard were brought into Chicago to enforce the limited access. The mayor announced the lifting of the curfew Sunday on Twitter.

Meanwhile, demonstrations over Floyd’s death and police brutality continued on Sunday, with hundreds gathering at an intersection on the city’s South Side.

Community activist Jahmal Cole says that since many stores boarded their windows and shut down because of the protests, parts of the South Side have become food and pharmacy deserts, with residents having to travel 15 to 20 minutes for milk or their medications.

___

DEARBORN, Mich – Crews in Dearborn, Michigan, have removed a statue of the city’s longest-serving mayor, who favored segregationist policies and made racist comments over his 35-year tenure that ended in 1977.

The statue of Orville Hubbard had been on the grounds of the Dearborn Historical Museum for several years after it was removed from the former City Hall campus in 2015. It was taken down Friday.

A city spokeswoman says the statute had become a “divisive symbol rather than a unifying one.” Calls for the statue to be removed were renewed in light of the widespread protests over George Floyd’s death. Hubbard died in 1982.

Dearborn is next to Detroit and has the largest Muslim population in the U.S.

___

WASHINGTON – Newly named Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House is full of peaceful protesters and has the communal feeling of a street fair.

Federal law enforcement officers and National Guard members who had been out in force for a week have largely withdrawn and have been replaced by city police in Washington, D.C., who have blocked off adjacent roads to give demonstrators space.

The jingles of ice cream trucks are mixing with protest chants. Protesters are posing with the new sign the city painted in big yellow block letters on 16th Street that reads “BLACK LIVES MATTER.”

___

LONDON – Anti-racism protesters in the southwestern England port city of Bristol have toppled the statue of a prominent slave trader and dumped it into the harbor.

Footage from local broadcaster ITV News West Country shows demonstrators attach ropes to the statue of Edward Colston before pulling it down on Sunday and eventually dumping it into the harbor.

Images on social media show protesters appearing to kneel on the statue’s neck, recalling how a white Minneapolis police officer used his knee to pin down George Floyd’s neck before the handcuffed black man died May 25.

Colston, who was born in 1636, has been a controversial figure in Bristol. Among efforts to “decolonize” the city have been calls to remove his name from its biggest music venue, Colston Hall.

In his 40s, Colston was prominently involved in Britain’s sole official slaving company at the time, the Royal African Company, which transported tens of thousands of Africans across the Atlantic Ocean, mainly to the Caribbean.

Bristol, an an international port, was a center of the slave trade and benefited hugely financially.

Britain formally abolished the slave trade in 1807.

___

MILAN – A few thousand people gathered outside the central train station in Italy’s financial capital, Milan, to protest racism and the recent death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Many in the crowd Sunday were migrants or the children of migrants from Africa. Organizers told participants that in Italy, the Black Lives Matter slogan means avoiding “seeing black bodies as if they’re foreigners” and not as citizens. One said it means not delaying legislative reform to make it easier to receive citizenship.

Foreigners born in Italy aren’t automatically eligible for citizenship until they reach 18 after continuously living in the country. Efforts in recent years have failed to enact legislation to allow foreigners’ children born in Italy to become citizens while still minors if they’ve attended Italian schools. Such parents complain that their children are viewed as second-class citizens even though they identify as Italian and speak the language fluently.

Many protesters wore masks or disposable gloves, and one of the organizers used a loudspeaker to remind people not to share objects and to stay a safe distance apart. Italy has greatly eased its coronavirus restrictions in recent weeks as the rate of contagion steadily slowed.

___

HOUSTON – Houston’s police chief says the body of George Floyd has arrived in Texas for a final memorial service and funeral.

Police Chief Art Acevedo tweeted early Sunday that Floyd’s family also arrived safely. A six-hour viewing for Floyd is planned for Monday in Houston, followed by funeral services and burial Tuesday in the suburb of Pearland.

Floyd, who was handcuffed and black, died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes as Floyd begged for air and eventually stopped moving. His death has inspired protests around the world and served as a rallying cry against institutional racism.

Previous memorials were held for Floyd in Minneapolis and Raeford, North Carolina, which is near where he was born.

___

BUDAPEST, Hungary – Hundreds of people have attended a peaceful rally outside the U.S. embassy in Budapest to express their solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protests in the U.S. sparked by the death of George Floyd.

Speeches and songs like Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” and Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” were heard on Liberty Square before the crowd knelt for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. That was the amount of time that a white Minneapolis police officer kept his knee on the the neck of Floyd, a handcuffed black man who pleaded for air before eventually going motionless during his May 25 arrest for suspicion of using a counterfeit bill at a shop.

The demonstration was one of many held throughout the world this weekend over Floyd’s death and institutional racism.

Elizabeth Sadusky, a U.S. student in Hungary, said: “I think having these kinds of events around the world is really important to show solidarity and to show the rest of the world that the U.S. isn’t perfect.”

___

MADRID – Several thousand people have gathered in Spain’s main cities to show their support for the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States and to denounce racial discrimination in Europe.

A few thousand protesters gathered around the U.S. embassy in Madrid on Sunday. Many carried homemade signs reading “Black Lives Matter,” “Human rights for all” and “Silence is pro-racist.”

Protesters chanted “Police murderers!” and “No justice, no peace!” Police were present but the atmosphere remained peaceful. Social distancing was difficult, however everyone wore a mask.

Thimbo Samb, a spokesman for the group that organized the protest, says the demonstration was to protest the death of George Floyd but also to call attention to racism in Spain and elsewhere in Europe.

Thousands also filled a central square in Barcelona and there were other protests called for in smaller cities.

___

In Rome’s sprawling People’s Square, thousands of demonstrators turned out for the city’s first major rally against racism.

With a great majority wearing masks to protect themselves against the coronavirus, participants listened to speeches for several hours and held up hand-made placards reading “Black Lives Matter” and “It’s a White Problem.” At one point the protesters, most of them young and some with children or young siblings, kneeled and raised their fists in solidarity with those fighting racism.

“It’s quite unfortunate, you know, in this current 21st century that people of color are being treated as if they are lepers,’’ said 26-year-old Ghanian Abdul Nassir, who was at the rally and is studying in Rome for a master’s degree in business management. He said he occasionally has felt racist attitudes, notably when riding the subway.

Migration of people of color to Italy, including from sub-Saharan Africa, was relatively infrequent until about 25 years ago, and there isn’t yet a vast first-generation population who have come of age.

The noisy, peaceful rally had many organizers, including the grassroots protest group Sardines, a women’s group, a U.S. expatriates organization, a group called Neri Italiani – Black Italians – and a 25-year-old Roman student, Denise Berhane.

Asked by SKYTG24 if Italy has a racism problem, Berhane said, “There are some problems in the country if all these people turned out.”

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By The Associated Press

Associated Press

Friday, June 5, 2020

ISLAMABAD— Pakistan’s prime minister has told his country’s people that he does not want to reimpose a lockdown that was eased last month, saying the nation cannot afford to because of its ailing economy.

In a televised speech Friday, Prime Minister Imran Khan urged Pakistanis to adhere to social- distancing guidelines, saying it was the only way to slow the spread of virus.

His comments came hours after Pakistan reported 68 virus-related deaths in the previous 24 hours, raising its death toll in the pandemic to 1,838.

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Another 4,896 new confirmed cases of the virus also were reported Friday, Pakistan’s highest number in a single day.

___

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

– The U.K. became the second country after the United States with more than 40,000 virus deaths.

WHO widens recommendations for use of masks.

– Spain’s expert says fear over virus may help account for thousands of unexplained deaths

– The coronavirus pandemic has forced missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to do their outreach online. The church hastily brought home more than 26,000 young people from overseas missions aimed at recruiting new members. Many are taking their work to social media in their own countries.

– Saturday’s D-Day anniversary will be one of the loneliest remembrances ever for the June 6, 1944 landings in Normandy. The coronavirus pandemic is keeping almost everyone away – from world leaders to frail veterans who might not get another chance for a final farewell to their comrades.

– Japan has kept its deaths from the new coronavirus low despite a series of missteps that beg the question of whether it can prevent future waves of infections. Authorities have conducted only a fraction of the tests needed to find and isolate patients.

___

Go to https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak for updates throughout the day.

___

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING TODAY:

NEW ORLEANS — Some Louisiana businesses have been slammed after reopening for the first time in 2 1/2 months while others are waiting for customers or taking another week to emerge from a nationwide virus lockdown.

Bars, massage facilities, bowling alleys, swimming pools and tattoo shops in Louisiana were allowed to reopen Friday under an order signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards.

At Bodyworks Massage And Spa in Monroe, owner Donna Laseter had no time to give an interview, saying. “We’ve got everybody coming in and our phone’s ringing off the hooks.”

New Orleans, the state’s original outbreak hot spot, isn’t participating in the wider reopening. City officials said more time and data is needed to decide when that is safe.

Lake Charles bowling alley supervisor Ashley Gunderson said nobody had shown up during Friday’s first hour at Petro Bowl, but several people had called to say they would be coming.

___

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says barbershops and other personal-care businesses can reopen across the state on June 15.

Those businesses and places like gyms and movie theaters that were shut down to curb the coronavirus are being allowed to restart in northern Michigan next week, with restrictions. The governor is expected to move the rest of the state’s more populated areas to that stage in coming weeks.

In 32 northern counties, indoor social gatherings and organized events of up to 50 people will be permissible, subject to distancing and other safety rules. Outdoor gatherings of up to 250 will be allowed.

Indoor facilities such as bowling alleys, cinemas, convention centers and sports arenas will open at 25% capacity or hold up to 250 people, whatever is smaller.

Michigan has the sixth-most COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., and the Detroit area was once considered a national hot spot.

___

LONDON – The U.K. has become the second country to officially record more than 40,000 coronavirus-related deaths as more than 100 scientists wrote to the British government to urge it to reconsider lifting virus lockdown restrictions.

The government said Friday that another 357 people who had tested positive for the virus have died in the U.K. across all settings, including hospitals and care homes. That takes the total to 40,261, the world’s second-highest pandemic death toll behind the United States.

The U.K.’s actual COVID-19 death toll is widely considered to be higher as the total only includes those who have tested positive for the virus.

In an open letter, the scientists urged the government to postpone further easing of the lockdown given the still-high level of daily virus-related deaths and new infections.

“Despite a two-month lockdown, we are still experiencing unacceptable daily numbers of deaths, still in the hundreds, and an estimated 8,000 new infections a day in England alone,” they wrote.

___

PHOENIX — Arizona has reported a new daily high for confirmed coronavirus cases as the number of virus-related deaths in the state topped 1,000.

The state Department of Health Services on Friday reported 16 new deaths, bringing Arizona’s total to 1,012. The department said 1,578 new cases were tallied, by far the highest daily count since the outbreak began.

The number of people confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 in Arizona is now at 24,332. The surge in cases began about 10 days. Gov. Doug Ducey lifted his stay-at-home order on May 15.

___

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – South Dakota has dropped plans to test an anti-malaria drug to prevent COVID-19, the partners in the study announced Friday.

The statewide tests were called off after a University of Minnesota study found that the drug hydroxychloroquine had no benefit over a placebo as a way to prevent COVID-19 in people exposed to the coronavirus.

Hydroxychloroquine has attracted controversy after U.S. President Donald Trump promoted it as an antidote to COVID-19, but the drug was shown in studies not to help in some studies even to be harmful to people hospitalized with the virus.

Sanford Health, Avera Health and Monument Health were collaborating on the tests, which were sponsored by the state of South Dakota. The South Dakota trial was in the early stages and had just recently opened for enrollment.

___

MADRID – Spain’s top government virus expert says that fear of being infected with the coronavirus may have played a role in the huge spike in deaths that has yet to be explained.

Spain’s Health Ministry reports just over 27,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths. They were people who tested positive for the virus before the died.

But Carlos III University, which runs the nation’s mortality observatory, has registered more than 43,000 deaths since March beyond the number expected based on the rates in recent years.

Coordination Center for Health Alerts and Emergencies Director Fernando Simón said Friday that the discrepancies between the Health Ministry’s number and the mortality figures could be due to other factors indirectly related to the virus.

He said one could be “those people with chronic illnesses who were too scared or waited too long to go to the hospital” when they needed care at the height of the outbreak in Spain.

Simón acknowledged that Spain’s actual COVID-19 death toll could be higher than the current official count. Spain, like most hard-hit countries, had enormous difficulties in providing virus tests to all the sick at the start of its outbreak.

___

MILAN – No deaths were recorded in nine Italian regions on Friday as the coronavirus’s grip on Italy continues to ease. The number of deaths nationwide grew by 85 in 24 hours, in line with recent days, for a total of 33,774.

New data from the civil protection agency showed a sharp increase in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases – with 518 new positives, more than double a day earlier, bringing Italy’s total to date to 234,531.

The increase was attributed to huge jump in the number of tests in Lombardy to more than 19,000 in one day, up from just over 3,400 a day earlier. That revealed more than 400 new positives in the region that has born the brunt of Italy’s epidemic.

Pressure on hospitals continued to ease with 200 fewer people hospitalized and 22 fewer people in intensive care. Officials say most intensive-care patients are long-standing cases that have proven hard to treat.

___

SKOPJE, North Macedonia – North Macedonia has registered a new record number of daily coronavirus infections for the third consecutive day, with more than half the country’s 2.1 million people under an 80-hour near-total lockdown.

Health Minister Venko Filipce announced that 180 newly infected people and two deaths were recorded over the past 24 hours, a new record since the first case was registered in late February. The total confirmed cases in the country now stand at 2,790, and 149 people have died.

Filipce said about 90% of newly infected people are members and relatives of 15 families, and that the second wave of the epidemic in North Macedonia was the result of people ignoring the ban on mass gatherings. More than a half of the new cases are from the capital, Skopje.

North Macedonia’s government has imposed almost a near-complete curfew in four regions that started at 9 p.m. Thursday and will end at 5 a.m. Monday. People can only leave their houses to go to a hospital or pharmacy. Supermarkets and food stores are closed.

Filipce said he is confident that the new spike in infections is under control and announced that authorities would discuss on Sunday the next steps for dealing with the epidemic.

___

LONDON – The World Health Organization is changing its recommendations for the use of masks during the coronavirus pandemic and is now recommending that in areas where there is widespread transmission, people should wear masks when social distancing is not possible, such as on public transport and in shops.

In a press briefing on Friday, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also said people over age 60 or those with underlying medical conditions should wear a medical mask in situations where social distancing cannot be maintained. WHO has previously only recommended that health care workers, those sickened by COVID-19 and their care givers wear masks.

Tedros emphasized that “masks on their own will not protect you from COVID-19” and emphasized the importance of hand-washing, social distancing and other measures. He added that health workers in areas with widespread transmission should now wear medical masks in all areas of health facilities and not just those with confirmed COVID-19 patients, saying that doctors working in cardiology or other wards, for example, should continue to wear a medical mask even if there are no known coronavirus patients.

___

BAGHDAD – The number of confirmed coronavirus cases reported daily in Iraq has reached 1,000 for the first time and the country has seen its cases more triple in the last two weeks due to increased testing.

A Health Ministry statement issued on Friday said at least 1,006 new coronavirus cases had been reported in the previous 24 hours, bringing the nationwide total to 9,846. Ministry figures showed the death toll remained at 285.

Health Ministry teams have been doing random virus tests of the population, and Iraqi officials have said that is why confirmed cases are spiking. Iraq has conducted nearly 10,000 tests per day in recent days.

But the rising numbers are concerning for health workers who cite a scarcity of medical supplies and trained staff. Officials have said a flareup in the number of cases could be catastrophic for the country’s floundering health sector.

Doctors have told patients who have tested positive to stay at home unless their symptoms worsen.

___

BERLIN – Switzerland says it plans to lift restrictions on travel from European Union countries and Britain on June 15.

The Swiss government previously had announced that it would completely reopen the country’s borders with three of its neighbors — Austria, Germany and France – in mid-June.

On Friday, a government statement said “in view of the current epidemiological situation” it can now expand that to all countries in the EU and the European Free Trade Association, as well as Britain.

Switzerland is not a member of the EU but is part of Europe’s usually passport check-free Schengen travel area.

___

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia’s government has announced a 35 billion ringgit ($8.2 billion) stimulus to bolster short-term economic recovery as the country emerges from more than two months of virus lockdown.

The package, which is in addition to a $60 billion stimulus announced earlier, centers on increasing employment, wooing foreign investment and revitalizing key sectors of the economy.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said Friday it included 10 billion ringgits ($2.3 billion) in wage subsidies, training programs and supporting small and medium-sized enterprises. Tax breaks and rebates have been given to bolster the manufacturing, real estate auto, palm oil, airline and tourism sectors.

He said this includes a zero tax rate for up to 15 years for foreigners investing more than 500 million ringgits ($117 million) in manufacturing and fixed property sector. Malaysia, which has nearly 8,300 infections and 116 deaths, eased virus restrictions last month.

___

BERLIN – German authorities say a Catholic priest who came into contact with many people during church services in several cities has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

The dpa news agency reported Friday that health authorities in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania said the priest was involved in services in Demmin, Stralsund and Grimmen, among other places.

Regional church authorities said on their website that all church services in Demmin and Stralsung were being called off until June 21 while authorities seek out anyone who had contact with the priest. So far one other person has tested positive for the virus and many others are still awaiting the results.

Results for 130 tests are expected by Saturday at the latest and so far 12 people have been told to isolate themselves at home as a precaution.

___

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

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By The Associated Press

Associated Press

Saturday, May 30, 2020

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:

– Alaska to require COVID-19 testing for air travelers coming into the state.

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– New York governor signs bill granting death benefits to families of health workers and other public servants who have died from COVID-19.

– Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar gets a cleaning as country prepares to lift restrictions.

Italy on track to relax travel restrictions next week.

___

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy says travelers to Alaska will have to be tested for COVID-19 before boarding a plane to the state, or submit to a 14-day quarantine upon arrival.

Out-of-state travelers will need to show proof of testing within 72 hours of boarding and fill out paperwork. If either test results or paperwork are lost, travelers will be subjected to another test at the airport or quarantine for two weeks.

Dunleavy also extended the state’s 14-day quarantine rule until the new policy begins Friday.

Further policy changes are expected to be clarified Monday.

___

NEW YORK — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill Saturday granting death benefits to the families of police officers, public health workers and other front-line workers who have died of the coronavirus.

The bill passed by state lawmakers provides an accidental death benefit that is more substantial than the regular death benefit that public workers’ families receive. Dozens of police officers, public health workers, transit workers and paramedics have died of COVID-19 in the months since New York became the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States.

Cuomo said 67 people died of COVID-19 in the state on Friday, the same number as Thursday and a steep drop from the height of New York’s outbreak in April, when more than 700 people were dying of the disease daily.

__

ISTANBUL – Disinfection teams swept Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar and the resumption of domestic flights was announced Saturday as Turkey prepared to lift many remaining coronavirus restrictions.

Teams scrubbed the floors of the 15th century bazaar, which has been closed since March 23, ahead of Monday’s return to business. The chair of the bazaar’s board of directors said shoppers would have their temperatures checked on entry and visitor numbers would be restricted.

The transport minister said the first air routes between Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Antalya and Trabzon would restart Monday, with others following gradually.

On Saturday evening Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced 983 new cases of coronavirus over the previous 24 hours, taking Turkey’s total number of cases to 163,103. In a tweet, he said there had been 26 deaths from the virus over the same period, bringing the overall death toll to 4,515.

A weekend lockdown was reimposed in 15 provinces, including Istanbul and Ankara. A stay-at-home order for people aged 65 and older and minors also remained in place.

___

ROME – Italy added 111 new victims to the country’s official death toll from the new coronavirus and 416 new infections as it prepares to relax travel restrictions next week.

The increases bring the official death toll to 33,340 and are in line with recent daily tallies, suggesting the contagion is under control nearly four weeks after the country began gingerly loosening a strict lockdown in what has been the epicenter of the European pandemic.

On Friday, the Health Ministry said the crucial weeklong, region-by-region monitoring had shown no critical problems, giving the go-ahead for relaxation on travel starting Wednesday.

Some regional governors, however, are insisting on restrictions for visitors from hard-hit Lombardy, or for tourists to certify they are negative. The regional affairs minister has said such measures are unconstitutional since the Italian constitution prevents any region from inhibiting the free circulation of people.

___

ATHENS – No new deaths from COVID-19 have been reported in the past 48 hours in Greece, and there have been just seven new infections since Friday afternoon, health authorities said Saturday.

The total number of confirmed infections is now 2,915, with 175 fatalities.

There are 14 patients on ventilators, while 106 have exited intensive care units.

Authorities have tested 178,316 people for the new coronavirus.

___

BUCHAREST, Romania – Romania’s prime minister has paid fines totaling about $600 for smoking indoors and holding a meeting in a government building where several Cabinet ministers and other participants did not follow social distancing rules.

In a photograph published in Romanian media, Prime Minister Ludovic Orban and others can be seen smoking with food and bottles of alcohol on a table. No one in the photo wore a mask or maintained the required spacing.

Orban told the Mediafax news agency that the picture was taken on May 25, his birthday. The foreign minister and economy minister of Romania were among those attending.

Romania has registered 19,133 confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,259 deaths.

___

SKOPJE, North Macedonia – North Macedonia has decided to extend a state of emergency for another two weeks because the coronavirus pandemic shows no sign of slowing down.

President Stevo Pendarovski announced the extension of on Saturday following a meeting of the National Security Council.

The country’s health authorities reported five new deaths and 35 infections in the previous 24 hours, days after the government allowed bars, cafes and restaurants to reopen.

The government does not plan to make the establishments close again.

North Macedonia had a total of 2,146 confirmed virus cases as of Saturday, including 131 deaths.

___

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis is reciting a special prayer for the end of the coronavirus pandemic surrounded by a representative sampling of people on the front lines.

Francis held his biggest post-lockdown gathering by far on Saturday evening. He was joined in the Vatican Gardens by a doctor, a nurse, a hospital chaplain, a pharmacist, a journalist and a civil protection official.

A recovered COVID-19 patient, a person with a relative who died during Italy’s outbreak, and the parents of a baby born during the emergency also were among the pope’s more than 100 guests for the prayer at the grotto dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

In March, the Vatican followed Italy in locking down and halting all public worship. Many in the crowd on Saturday wore protective masks; Francis didn’t.

The Marian prayer is celebrated each year at the end of the Catholic Church’s monthlong tribute to Mary in May. This year, the Vatican said the pope’s recitation of the Rosary was being done simultaneously at more than 40 Marian shrines around the world.

___

NEW DELHI – India is extending its ongoing lockdown in designated coronavirus containment zones until June 30 but will allow all economic activities to restart in a phased manner outside those areas as cases continue to rise in its major cities.

India’s Home Ministry said in a directive issued Saturday that a reopening phase set to start Monday is called Unlock 1.

The directive said religious sites and places of worship, hotels, restaurants and other hospitality services and shopping malls will be allowed to reopen outside all containment zones starting June 8.

Subways, schools and colleges will remain shuttered nationwide and only be allowed to reopen after further assessment of the situation in July, according to the directive.

India started easing lockdown restrictions earlier this month, allowing shops to reopen, manufacturing to resume, some trains and domestic flights to operate.

The country, which has a population of 1.3 billion, has reported 173,763 confirmed virus cases, including more than 4,970 deaths.

___

PARIS – The European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has urged the United States to “reconsider” its decision to break ties with the World Health Organization.

In a joint statement Vice-President Josep Borrell, von der Leyen says “global cooperation and solidarity through multilateral efforts are the only effective and viable avenues to win this battle the world is facing.”

She says the American decision to part ways with the United Nations health agency during the coronavirus crisis will “weaken international results” in fighting future pandemics.

Von der Leyen adds the European Union has already provided additional WHO funding.

For the WHO, to lead an international response in health emergencies, “the participation and support of all is required and very much needed.”

___

ROME – Italy’s foreign minister is warning that the European Union will “collapse” if governments treat Italians like lepers over the coronavirus and “black list” Europe’s one-time virus epicenter during the summer tourism season.

Luigi Di Maio posted a blistering Facebook message Saturday after Greece excluded Italians – as well as nationals from Spain, Britain and other countries with high infection rates – from the list of foreign tourists it will welcome this summer.

Di Maio said competition for tourism is one thing, but he insisted that it be healthy and fair in demanding a European response to the reopening of EU borders after virus lockdowns. He warned: “If you act differently and dislocated, the EU spirit will be lost. And Europe will collapse.”

Di Maio praised French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian for making his first post-lockdown visit to Italy on Wednesday. Di Maio said he would be traveling to Germany, Slovenia and Greece in the upcoming week to make the case that Italy is ready to receive foreign tourists. Tourism and its related industries account for some 13% of Italy’s GDP.

___

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Students are returning to high schools in the Palestinian territories for the first time in two months for final exams.

The Education Ministry said Saturday that 78,400 12th-graders are taking the exams in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Schools have been closed since March as part of Palestinian efforts to contain the coronavirus.

In Gaza, police and paramedics took students’ temperatures as they entered, and the students sat spaced apart in classrooms.

The Palestinian Authority, which governs parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, has reported more than 380 confirmed cases of the virus, including two deaths.

Authorities have reported 61 cases and one death in Gaza, which has been under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power in 2007. All the cases in Gaza have been detected inside quarantine facilities housing returnees from abroad.

___

MOSCOW – Russia has recorded nearly 9,000 new cases of the coronavirus, roughly consistent with the increases reported over the past two weeks.

The national coronavirus task force said Saturday that 4,555 Russians have died of COVID-19 and 396,575 infections have been confirmed overall.

The relatively low mortality rate compared with other countries has prompted skepticism domestically and abroad. In a bid to dispel suspicions that authorities are trying to lower the death toll for political reasons, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova explained Friday that Russia’s count contains only those confirmed to have died of the infection, but she also gave figures for people who tested positive for the virus but died of other causes.

If all categories are counted as COVID-19 deaths, the nation’s total toll for April would stand at 2,713, or nearly 60% more than the previously announced number.

___

CAIRO – Egypt on Saturday ordered its people to wear face masks in public, when taking private transportation, and inside government offices as it eases the partial lockdown imposed during the weeklong Muslim holiday of Eid- el-Fitr.

Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly said violators will be fined. He said the nationwide curfew will be 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. for another two weeks.

Egypt, the Arab World’s most populous country, has seen a jump of daily reported infections in the past week, with a total of 879 deaths among 22,082 confirmed cases. The country of 100 million people has the highest announced deaths from COVID-19 in the Arab World.

___

BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel will not personally attend a meeting in the U.S. with the leaders of the world’s major economies if President Donald Trump goes ahead with it, unless the course of the coronavirus spread changes by then, her office said Saturday.

After canceling the Group of Seven summit, originally scheduled for June 10-12 at Camp David, Trump said a week ago that he was again considering hosting an in-person meeting of world leaders because it would be a “great sign to all” of things returning to normal during the pandemic.

Immediately after that announcement, Merkel suggested that she had not yet made up her mind on whether to attend in person or by video conference, but her office told the dpa news agency that she has now made a decision.

“As of today, given the overall pandemic situation, she cannot commit to participating in person,” Merkel’s office said.

___

NEW DELHI – India has registered another record single day jump of 7,964 coronavirus cases and 265 deaths, a day before the two-month-old lockdown across the country of 1.3 billion people is set to end.

The Health Ministry on Saturday put the total number of cases in India at 173,763 with 4,971 deaths. The total infections included 86,422 active cases and 82,369 recoveries.

More than 70% of coronavirus cases in India are concentrated in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, New Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan states.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an open letter on one year of the government’s second term, asserted that India was traversing on the path to “victory” in its battle against the virus. He said India will set “an example in economic revival” and asked the countrymen to show a “firm resolve.”

Modi also acknowledged the “tremendous suffering” of migrant workers and laborers who were the worse hit after India imposed a nationwide coronavirus lockdown in late March, forcing millions of them to flee cities after losing their jobs and make grueling and dangerous trips back to their hometowns.

The federal government is expected to issue a new set of guidelines this weekend, possibly extending the lockdown in worst-hit areas.

India started easing lockdown restrictions earlier this month, allowing reopening of shops and manufacturing and resumption of some trains and domestic flights and vehicles’ movement.

Metro services, schools and colleges, hotels and restaurants are shuttered nationwide.

India has surpassed China both in terms of confirmed cases and deaths from the disease.

___

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

EU proposes 750 billion-euro coronavirus recovery fund

EU proposes 750 billion-euro coronavirus recovery fund

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, right, gestures hello to an MEP prior to addressing the European Parliament plenary in Brussels, Wednesday, May 27, 2020. The European Union is to unveil Wednesday a massive coronavirus recovery plan worth hundreds … more >

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By LORNE COOK

Associated Press

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

BRUSSELS (AP) – The European Union proposed a 750 billion-euro ($825 billion) recovery fund to help countries weather a painful recession triggered by the coronavirus and sought Wednesday to bridge divisions over the conditions that should be attached for access to the money.

The fund, to be mostly made up of grants and tied to the common budget of EU’s 27 member nations, comes as the world’s biggest trading bloc enters its deepest-ever recession, weighed down by the impact of the virus pandemic. Virtually every country has broken the EU’s deficit limit while spending to keep health care systems, businesses and jobs alive.

“Our unique model built over 70 years is being challenged like never before in our history,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told EU lawmakers as she unveiled the plan. “This is Europe’s moment. Our willingness to act must live up to the challenges we are all facing.”

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As Europe’s residents slowly return to workplaces and classrooms, countries hit hardest by the pandemic such as Italy and Spain remain in desperate need of funds and want to avoid long-term wrangling. Barely off the press, the EU’s recovery proposal received mixed reviews, with Dutch officials notably cool on it.

Von der Leyen said the fund, which is dubbed Next Generation EU and must be endorsed by every country, is “providing an ambitious answer.” She urged European nations to set aside their divisions.

“We either all go alone, leaving countries, regions and people behind, and accepting a Union of haves and have nots. Or we take that road together, we take that leap forward. For me, the choice is simple. I want us to take a new bold step together,” von der Leyen said.

The European aid, which would come on top of another half-trillion package and trillions of aid from individual EU countries, is part of a slew of programs that countries around the world are deploying to blunt the recession. The U.S. government has put up over $2 trillion in support for companies and workers. Japan on Wednesday approved a supplementary budget that brings its fiscal support to over 230 trillion yen ($2.1 trillion).

To fund its move, the EU’s executive arm proposed borrowing money on financial markets. The European Commission has a triple A credit rating, which would give it favorable loan terms. Repayments would not begin before 2028, with the full amount due after 30 years.

The money raised will go into the EU’s next long-term budget, which starts Jan. 1 and runs until Dec. 31, 2027. It will then be channeled into a series of programs beneficial to the member states’ economies.

Two-thirds of the fund – a half-trillion euros – would take the form of grants, while the rest would be made up of more conditions-based loans for which countries could apply. Italy and Spain would each be eligible for around 80 billion euros in grants. France and Poland would each have access to 38 billion euros, while Germany could get 28 billion euros.

The grants will not just be handed over. Applying countries would have to outline their aims for the money and what reforms they intend to undertake to ensure their economies are more resilient in the future. The applications would have to be endorsed by the EU partners.

Italy, Spain and Poland would also be eligible for tens of billions of euros in loans, and the conditions are even more onerous.

The proposal put forward Wednesday appears largely in line with a plan unveiled earlier this month by Germany and France, historically the main powers in the EU. They agreed on a one-time 500 billion-euro fund, which was seen as a major political breakthrough due to Berlin’s acceptance of shared debt between member countries.

But Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden – a group of countries dubbed the “Frugal Four” – are reluctant to give money away without strings attached, and their opposition to grants could hold up the project.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte indicated that positions among the 27 nations were far apart on a massive issue that requires unanimity. He said that finding a compromise in time for an EU leaders summit next month was far too ambitious.

“I think this will take a lot more time,” Rutte, who pointedly talked about loans but not grants, told reporters.

Conservative Dutch EU lawmaker Esther de Lange insisted that the Frugal Four’s concerns should be taken into account.

“We’re all in the same boat and … we need to work together. But if you propose making this a matter of 23 against four, we won’t succeed. You will push those four countries into the arms of the extreme right,” de Lange said. “We will have to do it together.”

Other reviews were more favorable. Greece cheered the commission’s plan as a “bold proposal.” Spain said it “evaluates positively” the proposal. Germany also seemed agreeable, as much of the contents matched Berlin’s own thinking.

Ultimately though, the EU simply does not have much time. A row over the spending package for the budget period that begins at the start of next year has already dragged on for two years. For the budget and recovery package to come into force, an agreement must be found before September.

German Chancellor Angela said it’s unlikely to be agreed on at the next EU leaders’ summit in June. But she warned that “the goal must be that we find enough time in the fall for national parliaments and for the European Parliament to debate the matter in such a way that everything can come into force on Jan. 1, 2021.”

It’s not the only EU effort to tackle the economic fallout of the pandemic. The fund comes on top of a 540 billion-euro package agreed among EU finance ministers, which includes loans from the eurozone bailout fund that would have to be repaid.

The European Central Bank also recently announced 750 billion euros in new bond purchases to help the economy.

___

Samuel Petrequin and Raf Casert in Brussels, David Keyton in Stockholm, Frank Jordans and David Rising in Berlin, Elena Becatoros in Athens and Joseph Wilson in Barcelona, Spain contributed to this report.

___

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

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School children wearing masks line up to get their hands sanitized and temperatures checked as they arrive to appear for state board examination during the coronavirus pandemic in Kochi, Kerala state, India, Tuesday, May 26, 2020. (AP Photo/R S Iyer) more >

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By The Associated Press

Associated Press

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

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:

– Russian health official says more than 100 medics have died of coronavirus.

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– Tanzania expresses displeasure over U.S. embassy statements suggesting the African nation is hiding the true number of virus cases.

– New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says it’s time to relaunch New York City’s economy.

Rome’s Colosseum to open after three-month shutdown.

___

MOSCOW – A Russian health official said Tuesday that 101 medics have died of the coronavirus, according to data provided by regional authorities.

Health care workers question the official toll and believe that the real figure is much higher. An online list of medics who died compiled by their colleagues has over 300 names.

Russia ranks third in the world behind the United States and Brazil, with over 360,000 infections, including 3,807 deaths.

The country’s relatively low mortality rate raises doubts among experts in Russia and in the West, drawing suspicions that the authorities could have manipulated the statistics and under reported virus-related deaths for political reasons.

Russian officials angrily reject the allegations and argue that the low death toll reflects the effectiveness of the measures taken to stem the outbreak.

___

DODOMA, Tanzania – Tanzania’s foreign affairs ministry says it has summoned the U.S. ambassador to express displeasure over embassy statements suggesting that Tanzania’s government is hiding the true number of virus cases.

The East African nation hasn’t updated its number of cases since the end of April and President John Magufuli has claimed the virus has been defeated through prayer. Cases have been frozen at just over 500 for weeks.

The U.S. Embassy in two statements this month said hospitals in the commercial hub of Dar es Salaam are full of COVID-19 patients.

Tanzania’s statement says acting U.S. Ambassador Imni Patterson met with Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Wilbert Ibuge, who expressed Tanzania’s disappointment and said the government is willing to share information about COVID-19 infections as long as it is requested through official channels.

While African nations have been praised for their pandemic response, Tanzania has been the exception.

___

BRUSSELS – International donors on Tuesday pledged more than 2.5 billion euros ($2.7 billion) in support of refugees and migrants from Venezuela as the coronavirus pandemic deepens their plight.

Venezuela is gripped by a deepening political and economic crisis under President Nicolás Maduro. Refugee agencies have said that the number of people fleeing the country could reach 6.5 million by the end of 2020. Most stay in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The money will help the refugees and migrants to integrate and bolster host communities also struggling with the virus. Relief aid focusing on health, protection, food, water and education will also be financed.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi says it’s “extremely significant” that such sums were raised in these coronavirus times for a crisis that he says has recently been forgotten.

The meeting was hosted by the EU and Spain and involved around 50 UN agencies and financial institutions.

___

BURLINGTON, Vt. – Vermont is preparing to close some of the surge sites that were set up in case COVID-19 infections overwhelmed the state’s hospitals.

WCAX-TV reports that pop-up sites, like the one at the Spartan Arena in Rutland, were designed for non-COVID patients in case hospitals became inundated with patients who did have the coronavirus. The Rutland site, which could handle 150 patients, was never used.

Human Services Secretary Mike Smith says the sites in Rutland, St. Albans, and Barre will be the first to close.

If conditions change, the sites could be reopened.

___

BATON ROUGE, La. – More than 1,800 students are living on university campuses around Louisiana, even though they’ve been taking classes online and have been encouraged to return home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Advocate report s.

The students include 650 at Louisiana State University, 310 at Louisiana Tech, 50-60 at Tulane University, six at Grambling State, and four at Northwestern State, and they have a wide variety of reasons for remaining.

The reasons given range from being from a state or country that’s become a COVID-19 hotspot, to avoiding home because of abusive or drug-ridden families, officials say.

___

NEW YORK – Gov. Andrew Cuomo says it’s time to focus on relaunching New York City’s moribund economy after weeks of declining deaths and hospitalizations.

After ringing open the Stock Exchange, the Democratic governor laid out a plan that includes accelerating major infrastructure projects and tackling transmission of the new coronavirus in the hardest-hit neighborhoods.

The mid-Hudson Valley, including the city’s northern suburbs, on Tuesday became the latest region of New York state to begin slowly phasing in economic activity. Long Island was expected to follow Wednesday, which would leave New York City as the only region awaiting the start of reopening.

Statewide hospitalization rates continue to decline with about 200 new cases a day. The number of deaths reported Monday dropped to 73, the lowest number since late March.

___

ISTANBUL – Turkey’s death toll from COVID-19 has reached 4,397 with 28 new deaths in the past 24 hours, according to the health minister.

Fahrettin Koca tweeted Tuesday 948 new infections, bringing the total number of cases to 158,762.

More than 121,500 people have recovered and people needing intensive care continued on a downward trend, according to the health ministry statistics.

Turkey ranks ninth in a tally by Johns Hopkins University for the number of cases, but experts believe the rate of infections globally could be much higher than reported. The country ranks 14th in number of deaths.

Turkey’s 83 million citizens are on the final day of a four-day nationwide lockdown. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he hoped this restriction to stay at home would be the last round. He’s expected to announce new policies and easing measures against COVID-19 later this week.

The country has opted for weekend and holiday lockdowns in large cities for nearly two months and has kept people above 65 and under 20 at home.

___

ROME – Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli has revealed that he’s recovered after being stricken with COVID-19 and has donated plasma for research about coronavirus treatments.

Bocelli visited a hospital Tuesday in the Tuscan city of Pisa to donate.

Some coronavirus patients have received plasma from former patients as part of their treatment to boost recovery. The singer told reporters outside the hospital that he had suffered only mild symptoms after a positive swab test on March 10.

Bocelli said he finds it “hard to metabolize” the concept that a virus could “bring the whole world … to its knees.”

On Easter Sunday in April, Bocelli sang solo in Milan’s empty Duomo cathedral during the lockdown in Italy, where the COVID-19 outbreak began in Europe.

___

PHILADELPHIA – Dozens of people who have been sleeping at the city’s airport during the COVID-19 pandemic are being tested rapidly before being taken to homeless shelters, officials said Tuesday.

The airport had run out of other options for handling the crowd, spokesperson Florence Brown said.

At the peak of the encampment, more than 150 people slept at the baggage claim areas around Terminal A, which in part serves international flights and has been out of use for about two months.

Problems have mounted because of worker complaints and less access to food, staff cleaning and bathroom supplies.

Parts of the baggage claim area will be put back in use around June 4, officials have said.

___

ROME – The Colosseum will start receiving visitors again after three months of shutdown during COVID-19 containment measures.

To lower the risk of possible contagion at one of Italy’s most popular tourist attractions, tourists must wear protective masks and have their temperatures taken before entering the ancient arena, which re-opens to tourism on June 1.

Entrance times will be staggered to discourage crowding and tickets must be bought online. A reduced-price ticket will be available for afternoon visitors in an effort to encourage Romans to visit the monument at the end of their working day, especially while Italy awaits for tourism from overseas to resume.

Tickets to the Colosseum also allow entrance to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. But tourists to those two sites will no longer be able to wander at will through the sprawling ancient ruins. Instead, they will have to follow fixed paths.

___

LONDON – Health Secretary Matt Hancock is reporting that Britain’s overall number of deaths involving the new coronavirus is at the lowest in six weeks.

Officials also said that for the first time since March 18, there were no such deaths recorded in Northern Ireland on Monday.

Official U.K. figures show an increase of 134 deaths recorded with a positive coronavirus test, bringing the country’s total death toll to 37,048 on Tuesday. That figure rises to 45,231 when taking into account suspected cases and all deaths where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

John Newton, the national Covid-19 testing coordinator, added that the number of coronavirus hospital admissions in England was down to 471, the lowest number recorded.

___

UNITED NATIONS – Two major children’s organizations say the number of children in poor and middle-income countries living below the poverty line could increase by 86 million to 672 million by the end of 2020 as a result of the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

UNICEF and the Save the Children humanitarian and rights organization said in an analysis released Tuesday that nearly two-thirds of all children living in poverty are in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia. But they said countries across Europe and central Asia could see a 44 percent increase across the region, while Latin America and the Caribbean could see a 22 percent increase from the coronavirus impact.

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said the unprecedented socioeconomic crisis from COVID-19 “threatens to roll back years of progress in reducing child poverty and to leave children deprived of essential services.”

To mitigate the impact of the pandemic, Save the Children and UNICEF called for rapid and large-scale expansion of social protection systems and an array of programs, including cash transfers, school feeding, and child benefits to address immediate financial needs.

___

MADRID – Spain’s Health Ministry is reporting a slight increase in its national death toll from the new coronavirus, to 27,117, as it changes the way cases are counted.

Authorities said 35 deaths occurred over the past seven days, though almost 250 other deaths were added to the total.

On Monday, the Health Ministry cut the death toll by almost 2,000 after sifting through and correcting data, and that review is continuing.

The total number of cases rose to 236,259, with 194 diagnosed over the previous 24 hours and 3,222 over the past seven days.

___

ROME – Two northern regions account for far more than half of Italy’s latest confirmed cases of the new coronavirus.

According to Health Ministry figures, Lombardy registered 159 new cases in the 24-hour period ending Tuesday evening, while neighboring Piedmont registered 86 cases. The only other region to have more than 50 cases in the day-to-day tally was Liguria, also in the north.

Italy’s overall number of confirmed COVID-19 infections rose to 230,555 with the addition of 397 cases nationwide. Italy saw one of the lowest day-to-day number of deaths of patients since the first days of the outbreak with 78 more deaths registered.

That brings the nation’s count to 32,995 known deaths.

___

BERLIN – Europe’s aviation safety agency is calling on airlines and airports to participate in a new program to help evaluate new coronavirus guidelines in real-life situations.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency said Tuesday that the program will focus on airlines that are fully applying the guidelines flying to airports that are also applying them.

The guidelines were published last week by EASA in conjunction with the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control with the goal of allowing air travel to restart in safe conditions. The guidelines include distancing measures, hand hygiene, mask recommendations and also rely on passengers taking personal responsibility, such as postponing travel if they learn they have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19.

The Cologne, Germany-based agency says participating airlines and airports will sign a pledge to abide by the guidelines, coordinate with national authorities, and design practical solutions when they encounter problems implementing the guidelines.

___

ATHENS – Greek health officials say they are ending their regular live televised briefings on the course of the coronavirus pandemic, which has essentially been brought under control in the country.

Sotiris Tsiodras, the government’s coronavirus task force chief, said Tuesday that while he will retain his duties, from now on the briefings will be written unless some special development dictates otherwise.

Tsiodras announced 10 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours and one more death, bringing the total to 2,892 infections and 173 deaths in a country of less than 11 million.

___

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

Italy announces fewest new coronavirus deaths in more than two months

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In this picture taken on Wednesday, May 13, 2020, a man wearing a sanitary mask walks in St. Mark’s Square in Venice, Italy. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni) more >

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By Andrew Blake

The Washington Times

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Italian officials on Saturday reported fewer new deaths caused by the novel coronavirus than any other date since the outbreak began to ravage the country over two months earlier.

Protezione Civile, Italy’s civil protection agency, said that 153 people died on Saturday within the country from COVID-19, the contagious disease caused by the coronavirus.

Down from 242 the day before, COVID-19’s latest daily death toll is the lowest it has been in Italy since March 9.

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The number of new COVID-19 infections confirmed within the country increased, meanwhile, from 789 on Friday to 875 on Saturday, according to the government agency.

Discovered last year in Wuhan, China, the World Heath Organization said it first became aware of the novel coronavirus on New Year’s Eve upon being notified by Chinese officials.

Italy subsequently became an early COVID-19 hotspot beginning in March shortly before cases of the disease were reported in the U.S. and eventually most everywhere else.

The number of new coronavirus-related deaths reported in Italy each day quickly went from a few dozen in early March, to hundreds throughout most of the month and all of April.

More than 31,000 people have died in Italy from COVID-19 since the outbreak began, according to Protezione Civile. Worldwide, the latest death toll is about ten times that amount.

As Europe reopens, key virus protections are still elusive

As Europe reopens, key virus protections are still elusive

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In this Monday, April 20, 2020, file photo, a woman gets a blood test taken by medical personnel at a converted gym, in Cisliano, near Milan, Italy. Italy’s virus reopening phase was supposed to have been accompanied by a series … more >

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By Nicole Winfield and Sylvie Corbet

Associated Press

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

ROME (AP) — Italy’s virus reopening was supposed to be accompanied by a series of measures to limit infections in the one-time epicenter of Europe’s pandemic: the distribution of millions of inexpensive surgical masks to pharmacies nationwide, a pilot project of 150,000 antibody tests and, eventually, the roll-out of a contact-tracing app.

None of these is in place as Italy experiments with its second week of loosening restrictions and looks ahead to Monday’s reopening of shops and, in some regions, bars and restaurants.

Italy’s commissioner for the emergency, Domenico Arcuri, went on the defensive Tuesday to respond to mounting criticism of his Phase II roll-out.

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He insisted “Italians know well what to do” to protect themselves, even if they don’t have the tests, masks, contact-tracing or other measures that public health authorities deemed necessary for Italy to reopen in safety.

“Sometimes I make mistakes for which I expect criticism and, if necessary, reprimand, from Italians,” Arcuri said. But he directed the blame at others and repeated that he was working solely in the public’s interest.

Italy is by no means alone in emerging from lockdown without all its infection-prevention pillars in place. And no country has had a blueprint for managing either the COVID-19 outbreak or the reopening phase.

But Italy’s problems epitomize the challenges many countries face as they seek to balance economic and health care needs while reassuring terrified citizens with promises that perhaps were overly optimistic.

France’s pledge to “protect, test and trace” all those who come into contact with a coronavirus patient was dealt a setback Monday when the constitutional court threw out part of its new virus law. The court objected to the contact-tracing language and ordered the government to take extreme care in protecting privacy.

The law, which took effect Tuesday, calls for teams of health care workers to trace the contacts of COVID-19 patients and share that data on a government server, with or without the patients’ consent.

French President Emmanuel Macron has also repeatedly pledged that France would be able to test up to 700,000 people per week. The national health authority told The Associated Press on Tuesday that France was averaging around 200,000-270,000 tests per week.

Britain, which has Europe’s highest official death toll at over 32,700, has ramped up its testing from 5,000 a day in March to close to 100,000 a day now. But it abandoned contact tracing after the virus’ spread overwhelmed its capacity. A contact-tracing app is in trial stages and 18,000 people are being recruited to do the tracing legwork now.

Spain, which like Italy was among the hardest-hit countries early on, is still ironing out protocols for contact tracing and has no immediate plans to roll out an app. While Spain’s virus testing capacity has improved, the government has left contact tracing largely to the already stressed local health centers.

Germany, which has prided itself on its comparatively low death rate, has engaged more than 10,000 people in contact tracing. An app is planned but is still weeks away. Turkey, meanwhile, has credited its army of contact tracers for its success in slowing the virus’ spread. About 5,850 teams reached out to and tested close to 470,000 people suspected of being infected.

Italy abandoned any concerted effort at contact tracing when its north got overwhelmed in late February. But health care officials say contact tracing, as well as testing, protective masks and social distancing, remain key to further reopening.

Italy’s mask problem began when Arcuri, the emergency commissioner, fixed a set price — .50 euro plus tax — for surgical masks that Italy only began producing domestically in recent weeks.

Producers balked at the low price and two distributors that had promised to get 12 million masks to pharmacies ended up not having them ready. Another 19 million made it to supermarkets, but the pharmacy shelves remained bare.

Deputy Health Minister Pierpaolo Sileri acknowledged the mask distribution plan had become a “mess” after three-quarters of the 12 million masks hadn’t been certified.

Arcuri also promised that Italy would distribute antibody tests to labs on May 4 for a pilot project of 150,000 people. Testing still hasn’t begun. Further delays are expected as health authorities contact the 150,000 people identified as potential subjects, selected for their demographic and geographic distribution. They then must agree and schedule the appointment.

Arcuri insisted his team has “done our part” by selecting the type of test and said delays were due to review by the government’s privacy guarantor.

He also said another 5 million virus test kits were being distributed to Italian regional health authorities to help boost capacity and isolate new possible clusters.

Italy was stymied during the outbreak by testing limitations, and ended up only testing those who went to the hospital or were showing strong symptoms. It has increased capacity and now leads Europe in per-capita testing, with more than 2.5 million tests conducted to date.

But regional officials say they can’t conduct more tests because they didn’t receive the extra reagent necessary to process the results.

Arcuri said reagent is running low worldwide, and he is now asking domestic makers to boost production “in the coming weeks and months.”

Like other European governments, Italy has been racing to develop a contact-tracing app. But technical, logistical and privacy concerns have stymied the launch.

Paolo De Rosa, technical chief in the ministry of innovation, told the Corriere della Sera newspaper that Italy’s version was expected to be rolled out at the end of May.

Like many others in Europe, Italy’s “Immuni” app will be based on a decentralized system using an Apple-Google software interface that experts say is better at preserving privacy. The apps use Bluetooth signals on cellphones to anonymously track users who come nearby, and send an alert if any users test positive.

De Rosa said testing would begin Friday, based on a preliminary version.

“We are working in your interests,” Arcuri said. “We accept all criticism as long as it’s constructive.”

___

Corbet reported from Paris. AP reporters contributed from across Europe.

White House: US planning to ship 8,000 ventilators abroad

White House: US planning to ship 8,000 ventilators abroad

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President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Republican lawmakers, in the State Dining Room of the White House, Friday, May 8, 2020, in Washington. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin listens at left. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) more >

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By KEVIN FREKING and DEB RIECHMANN

Associated Press

Friday, May 8, 2020

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump, who’s taken to calling the U.S. the “king” of ventilators, is making plans to ship 8,000 of the breathing machines to foreign countries by the end of July to help in their fight against the coronavirus.

That’s a long way from the early days of the virus when U.S. medical workers were wondering if a shortage of ventilators would force them to make painful decisions about which patients would get them. Now, the U.S. has a surplus and the president is sharing them with other countries – a goodwill gesture that also helps him offset criticism about his own early response to the pandemic.

The White House did not respond to a request for specifics about how many ventilators have been sent so far, or the criteria for determining which countries will get them. But an administration official familiar with the effort provided the 8,000 figure as part of a list of actions aimed at supporting health systems abroad. The official was not authorized to discuss the projection publicly and spoke only on condition of anonymity.

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“We have nine factories that are throwing out ventilators at numbers that nobody can believe. There’s not been anything like that since the Second World War,” Trump said Friday.

Trump said the U.S. was giving the breathing machines to some countries. It was unclear if some nations would pay for the ventilators, which cost $5,000 to $30,000, depending on the model.

“In a certain way, I’d like them to be donations. I really do. I think it’s good will,” Trump said earlier in the week. “It’s hard to say you have to pay us in order to save people from dying.”

The machines shipped to other countries do not come from the national stockpile, which has about 12,000 ready to be deployed to U.S. jurisdictions. The U.S. stockpile, which is maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services, is being replenished with thousands of ventilators manufactured under the Defense Production Act.

“Initially, it was very scary and we had a lot of states requesting numbers that could not be supplied,” Jared Kushner, an adviser to the president and Trump’s son-in-law, said Friday during a White House meeting with Republican members of Congress.

“The president wanted to make sure that anybody in this country who needed a ventilator would get a ventilator. He saw what was happening in Italy, where people were dying in hospitals and not able to get the care they needed, and the president said ‘I don’t want that to happen in America.’”

Kushner said the administration used the Defense Production Act to approve about 10 contracts with companies to make ventilators. Last year, the United States made about 30,000 ventilators, Kushner said. This year, in just a four-month period, the U.S. will make about 150,000, he said.

“We’re in a place right now where we’re doing well,” Kushner said. “A lot of our allies – the countries that are friendly with America – are starting to get ventilators from us, and we have more than enough to take care of all the American citizens so it’s been a great success story.”

In recent weeks, Trump has been recounting other countries’ calls for help. He said he’d offered Russia’s Vladimir Putin ventilators during a call on Thursday.

“Countries know that we have tremendous amounts, tremendous volume and they’ve been calling. Nigeria just called. We’re giving them 250 ventilators. We have many countries, I’d say 12, 14 countries that called,” Trump said this week. “We’re sending quite a few to France. We’re sending quite a few to Spain and, Italy. We have four African countries.”

Early last month, Trump said Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson requested ventilators. A U.K. government spokesperson said the country’s National Health Service had ordered ventilators from manufacturers around the world, including in the U.S. In tweets, Trump has identified Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Ethiopia and Indonesia as countries that have asked for ventilators.

On Tuesday, Mexico said it received a U.S. shipment of 211 medical ventilators as part of aid promised by Trump. “As the saying goes, when there are hard times is when you know who your friends are,” said Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard.

Mexican President Andés Manuel López Obrador said Trump promised aid when he called and asked for help in obtaining 1,000 ventilators and other equipment for intensive care units. Ebrard said the shipment includes equipment made by Swiss-based Hamilton Medical.

Bolivia’s right-wing interim government said President Jeanine Añez spoke with Trump last weekend and he promised $750,000 in aid to buy testing equipment and 250 ventilators “as soon as possible.” The Bolivian government said Trump expressed support for Añez and her promise to move the country toward elections.

As the virus outbreak makes its way across the globe, “there are going to be resource-poor areas that need ventilators, that probably have shortages of ventilators on a good day,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

Adalja said the ventilators should go to nations that have the intensive care unit doctors and respiratory therapists who understand how to operate them. Some countries don’t have such resources.

“There may be some places where they need even more basic supplies than ventilators,” Adlaja said. “You want to make sure that they are being used in a place that has the capacity to use them and the training to be able to use them.”

___

Associated Press writers Ben Fox, Darlene Superville and Zeke Miller in Washington and Michael Weissenstein in Havana contributed to this report.

World leaders pledge billions for virus vaccine research

World leaders pledge billions for virus vaccine research

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By LORNE COOK

Associated Press

Monday, May 4, 2020

BRUSSELS (AP) – World leaders, organizations and banks on Monday pledged 7.4 billion euros ($8 billion) for research to find a vaccine against the new coronavirus, but warned that it is just the start of an effort that must be sustained over time to beat the disease.

The funds, pledged at a video-conference summit hosted by the European Union, fell marginally short of the 7.5 billion euros being sought, but more money could arrive in coming days. Notably absent from the event was the United States, where more than 67,000 people have died, and Russia.

Despite the shortfall, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, the target being sought Monday to help find a vaccine, new treatments and better tests for the disease would only ever amount to a “down-payment” on the tools that will be needed to fight the virus.

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“To reach everyone, everywhere, we likely need five times that amount,” Guterres said.

Governments have reported around 3.5 million infections and more than 247,000 deaths from the virus, according to a count by Johns Hopkins University. But deliberately concealed outbreaks, low testing rates and the strain on health care systems mean the true scale of the pandemic is much greater.

People in many countries across the globe, and notably in Europe this week, are cautiously returning to work but authorities remain wary of a second wave of infections, and a vaccine is the only real golden bullet to allow something like normal life to resume.

“In the space of just a few hours we have collectively pledged 7.4 billion euros for vaccines, diagnostics and treatments,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, wrapping up the event after three hours. “All this money will help kick-start unprecedented global cooperation.”

The original aim was to gather around 4 billion euros ($4.37 billion) for vaccine research, some 2 billion euros for treatments and 1.5 billion ($1.64 billion) for testing.

The pledges were hard to track, beyond coming in various currencies. Some countries announced money for their own national research efforts combined with those they would offer to international organizations. Others also proposed a mix of loans with their funding. Pledges made toward vaccine research since Jan. 30 were also counted.

Apart from many European leaders, heads of state and government from Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, Jordan, South Africa and Turkey spoke at the event, along with China’s EU ambassador.

President Emmanuel Macron warned that “a race against time is underway,” as he donated 500 million euros on behalf of France.

Apart from many European leaders, heads of state and government from Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, Jordan, South Africa and Turkey were also due to speak, along with China’s EU ambassador.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that “the race to discover the vaccine to defeat this virus is not a competition between countries, but the most urgent shared endeavor of our lifetimes.”

Among the larger contributions, Japan pledged more than $800 million while Germany offered 525 million euros. Italy and Spain, perhaps the hardest hit by the virus in Europe, each said they would provide more than 100 million euros. Switzerland, the Netherlands and Israel also pledged 378 million euros, 192 million euros and 60 million dollars, respectively.

Melinda Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said that beating the virus “will take more than making a vaccine available to the very highest bidder. It is going to take more than delivering it only to people in wealthy nations. The pandemic won’t end until people everywhere can be immunized against it.”

About 100 research groups are pursuing vaccines, with nearly a dozen in early stages of human trials or poised to start. But so far there’s no way to predict which – if any – vaccine will work safely, or even to name a front-runner.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top expert, has cautioned that even if everything goes perfectly, developing a vaccine in 12 to 18 months would set a record for speed.

Even if a first useful vaccine is identified, there won’t be enough for everyone initially. A growing number of vaccine makers say they’re already starting to brew tons of doses – wasting millions of dollars if they bet on the wrong candidate but shaving a few months off mass vaccinations if their choice pans out.

Asked about the U.S. absence, which comes after it suspended funding to the World Health Organization, a senior official said that “the United States is in the process of providing $2.4 billion in global health, humanitarian, and economic assistance towards the COVID-19 response, and we continue to ensure that the substantial U.S. funding and scientific efforts on this front remain an essential and coordinated part of this worldwide effort against COVID-19.”

The official wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

French president Emmanuel Macron said he is confident that the U.S. will join the initiative at some point, stressing that he personally discussed the issue with President Donald Trump. Macron noted that the U.S. “is on the sidelines” but added that it doesn’t compromise or slow down the project.

___

Sylvie Corbet in Paris, Jamey Keaten in Geneva and Matthew Lee in Washington, contributed to this report.

___

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

The Latest: Macron confident US will join vaccine pledge

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By The Associated Press

Associated Press

Monday, May 4, 2020

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.

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– World Health Organization says it has no evidence that the coronavirus originated at a Wuhan laboratory.

– Number of people currently positive for coronavirus has dropped under 100,000 in Italy.

___

PARIS – French president Emmanuel Macron said he is confident that the United States will join a global pledge for research to find a vaccine against the new coronavirus.

World leaders, organizations and banks on Monday pledged to give 7.4 billion euros ($8 billion) during a videoconference summit hosted by the European Union. The U.S., along with Russia, were notably absent from the event.

Macron, who donated 500 million euros on behalf of France, noted that the U.S. “are on the sidelines” but added that it doesn’t compromise or slow down the initiative.

Speaking from the Elysee palace, he said he discussed the issue with President Donald Trump and is convinced that the U.S. will at some point join the initiative, consisting in finding a vaccine as quickly as possible and making it available to all countries.

Macron added that his government is in a permanent dialogue with the Trump administration and with American companies.

___

GENEVA – The World Health Organization says it has received no evidence or data from the U.S. government to back up claims by President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that they have seen evidence that the coronavirus have originated at a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

“From our perspective, this remains speculative,” WHO emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan said. “But like any evidence-based organization, we would be very willing to receive any information that purports to the origin of the virus.”

Ryan reiterated that the evidence and advice that the U.N. health agency has received suggest that the novel coronavirus is of natural origin. Pompeo and Trump say they have seen evidence suggesting that it could be from the Wuhan Institute of Virology lab.

“If that data and evidence is available, then it will be for the United States government to decide whether and when it can be shared,” Ryan told reporters in Geneva. “But it’s difficult for WHO to operate in an information vacuum in that specific regard.”

On Sunday, Pompeo told ABC’s “This Week” program that there was “a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan.”

___

MILAN – The number of people currently positive for coronavirus has dropped under 100,000 in Italy – Europe’s hardest-hit country.

As the country began a gradually reopening from a two-month-long lockdown on Monday, the number of deaths rose by 195 to 29,079.

Italy also registered the lowest number of new positives since the day the lockdown took effect, at 1,221, bringing the total of coronavirus cases to 211,938 since the first case of domestic transmission of the virus was detected on Feb. 21.

Pressure on Italian hospitals continued to ease, with 419 fewer people hospitalized and 22 fewer in intensive care units. Three regions – Umbria, Basilicata and Molise – registered no new cases, while most were well under 100.

Lombardy, the densely populated northern region that has borne the brunt of the virus, was responsible for nearly half of all new cases in the past 24 hours.

___

AMARILLO, Texas – A Texas mayor says federal help is on the way following a surge in coronavirus cases that’s hitting a key region of the nation’s beef supply.

Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson says she expects a “strike force” to arrive Monday in the Texas Panhandle. That’s where infections are climbing and state officials have linked more than 240 cases of COVID-19 to a local meat plant operated by JBS USA.

Outbreaks have hit meat plants across the country. President Donald Trump has ordered them to remain open, while on Monday, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden called the plants among “the most dangerous places there are right now.”

Nelson says her community provides 25% of the nation’s fed beef supply. She says her hope is that the incoming help can box-in the hot spots and figure out “why it is our city is having the numbers that we’re having.”

___

UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations Security Council is backing Lebanon’s efforts to end the country’s economic crisis and tackle other challenges including the impact of COVID-19 and is calling on the international community to help.

The U.N.’s most powerful body took note in a statement after a closed meeting Monday of the “urgent need for the Lebanese authorities to respond to the aspirations of the Lebanese people by implementing meaningful economic reforms” and addressing security, humanitarian and COVID-19 challenges.

Lebanon, one of the most indebted nations in the world, defaulted for the first time in March on its sovereign debt. Anti-government protests that erupted in October subsided during a nationwide lockdown since mid-March to blunt the spread of the coronavirus. Those restrictions are starting to ease.

Last Thursday, the prime minister said he will seek a rescue program from the International Monetary Fund, but protesters rallied again Friday, criticizing the government’s handling of the unprecedented crisis that saw the local currency crash, their savings devastated, and prices and inflation soar.

___

Officials in Miami Beach have closed one of the city’s parks until further notice because people weren’t following rules that require face coverings and social distancing

While the rest of Florida began Phase I of reopening on Monday, the three populous counties in South Florida (Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties) remain on a complete lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last Wednesday, however, Miami Beach and other area cities reopened some parks and marinas for outdoor activity with certain restrictions, including the use of face coverings and social distancing.

Miami Beach officials say the majority of warnings and instances of non-compliance occurred within South Pointe Park over the weekend, according to police spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez.

Between Friday and Sunday, park rangers issued 7,329 verbal warnings to people who did not properly cover their faces, according to statistics Rodriguez sent via email.

The park rangers issued 478 warnings for failing to follow social distancing guidelines. In addition, 1,335 people were asked to leave parks after closing time.

Last Thursday, the day after the parks reopened, Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales tweeted that the first day back in the parks was “very challenging” because many failed to follow rules. He warned then that the city would close the parks again if people didn’t comply with the rules.

___

RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is extending an executive order mandating that some nonessential businesses close for another week, until May 15.

Northam announced at a news conference Monday that the state is seeing positive trends in data related to spread and treatment of the coronavirus pandemic, but he said more time is needed before restrictions can be eased.

His executive order, which forces closed some businesses and severely restricts how others operate, was set to expire May 8. His order also bans gatherings of 10 or more in public or private.

The governor, a Democrat, has come under increasing pressure from Republican lawmakers and others to reopen the state as some other Southern states have done.

___

LONDON – One of the British government’s main advisers during the coronavirus epidemic says the number of positive cases in the country remains too high, a signal that lockdown measures will be extended this week.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer, said at the government’s daily briefing that “new cases need to come down further.”

That reinforces expectations that the lockdown will be extended when it is reviewed Thursday.

However, Van-Tam said there has been a “slow and consistent decline” in the numbers of deaths after government figures showed another 288 new deaths in all settings. That’s the lowest daily increase in the U.K. since late March and takes the total to 28,734, just shy of Italy’s 29,079.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock cautioned that Monday figures have tended to be artificially low because of weekend lags.

Hancock also unveiled details of a pilot “test, track and trace program” on the Isle of Wight from Tuesday and urged residents on the island, which is just a few miles off the coast of southern England, to download the associated app.

___

PRAGUE – The Czech government has decided to lift its ban on international train and bus travel amid easing its restrictive measures imposed to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Trade and Industry Minister Karel Havlicek says trains and busses will be allowed to cross the country’s borders again as of May 11.

The Czechs returning home will have to present a negative test on the coronavirus that is not older than four days, or to be quarantined for two weeks.

Additionally, workers from not European countries will be allowed to entry the Czech Republic to be employed at temporary jobs in the agriculture or health sectors on condition they have a negative test on the virus.

Also, the Czech government will send 500,000 face masks from its reserves as help to Italy, one of the hardest-hit countries by the pandemic of the new coronavirus.

Health Minister Adam Vojtech announced the plan.

It’s the second time the Czechs have donated some protective equipment to its EU partners. In March, the Czech Republic transported 10,000 protective suits to Italy and the same amount to another badly hit country, Spain.

___

SEATTLE – Hundreds of health care workers and dozens of first responders in Washington state have become sick with the coronavirus while on the job, according to workers’ compensation claims.

The new data provides some insight into how the coronavirus has impacted the health care community but underestimates how many doctors and nurses have tested positive.

That number is not known because state and federal health officials have failed to collect the information, and they’ve made no improvements since The Associated Press first reported the problem in April.

“Our data on occupations are not complete, so we do not report the information since it would not be reliable,” said Annie Johnson, a spokesperson for the Washington health department’s Joint Information Center.

Washington is not alone. States that reported coronavirus cases to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control only included occupational information for 16% of all reported cases, the agency said in a new report.

Experts say knowing how COVID-19 is impacting front-line workers in the health care system is vital in handling the crisis.

___

ANKARA, Turkey – With the coronavirus deaths and infections falling in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a “normalization plan” to gradually ease restrictions but warned of tougher measures to come should the numbers rebound.

In a televised address following a cabinet meeting, Erdogan said people aged above 65 – who have been under a curfew for the past six weeks – will be allowed to leave homes at a walking distance for four hours on May 15. Children would be allowed to take walks for four hours on May 13 and teenagers on May 15, Erdogan said.

Shopping malls will be allowed to open on May 11 as will barber shops, hairdressers and beauty parlors – as long as they work on a system of appointment and accept customers at half-capacity.

Erdogan said that the government is also lifting entry and exit restrictions for seven cities where the coronavirus outbreak has been brought under control. The measure will remain for 24 other cities, including Istanbul and Ankara.

___

TRENTON, N.J. – New Jersey schools will remain closed for the remainder of the academic year because of the coronavirus outbreak, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday.

Teachers have been required to conduct remote instruction since schools shuttered in mid-March.

New Jersey is among the hardest-hit states in the country with 7,871 COVID-19 fatalities and more than 120,000 positive cases.

New Jersey has some 600 school districts and about 1.4 million students enrolled, according to the state Education Department.

___

PARIS – French prime minister Edouard Philippe urged public transport companies to open May 11 as the country will start lifting confinement measures.

Heads of France’s biggest public transports companies, including national railway SNCF and Paris metro RATP, have voiced concerns over lack of human and material resources to ensure travelers’ safety.

In a speech to French senators, Philippe said they need to “find the right answers to complex questions” because it is necessary to provide public transports “in a controlled way” next week to help the economy recover after two months of strict lockdown in the country.

Philippe reaffirmed that people will be allowed to travel no further than 100 kilometers (62 miles) with exceptions only for compelling familial or professional reasons.

He said reservations will be mandatory to halve the number of passengers in long-distance trains.

Heads of public transports companies called for police to help them regulate passengers flows in an open letter and warned of potential disruptions during rush hour.

Starting May 11 all French businesses will be allowed to resume activity and schools will start gradually reopening.

___

NEW DELHI, India – India will facilitate the return of its stranded citizens abroad in a phased manner beginning May 7.

The Ministry of Home Affairs on Monday said Indian Embassies and High Commissions are preparing a list of distressed Indian citizens who will be brought back on naval ships separate from the non-scheduled commercial aircraft.

The stranded citizens would have to pay for the transport. Only those who are asymptomatic will be allowed onboard.

It was not immediately clear how many Indians the government plans to bring back to the country.

India brought back hundreds of Indians from China and Iran in March. However, after it suspended domestic and international flight operations over the growing number of coronavirus cases in the country, the operation was halted.

On Monday, India relaxed some coronavirus lockdown restrictions even as the pace of infection picked up and reopenings drew crowds. The near-total 5-week lockdown achieved a slowdown in the spread of the virus but has caused immense hardship for India’s legions of poor people.

Some degree of lockdown will continue at least until May 18.

India reported 42,835 virus cases, 11,761 recoveries and 1,389 deaths. The country says it had tested more than a million samples by Monday.

___

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

Naples’ beloved pizza is back after virus shutdown eases

Naples’ beloved pizza is back after virus shutdown eases

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Olive oil is put on a pizza ready to be home delivered, at the Caputo pizzeria in Naples, Italy, Monday, April 27, 2020. Region Campania allowed cafes and pizzerias to reopen for delivery Monday, after a long precautionary closure due … more >

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By Paola Santalucia

Associated Press

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

NAPLES, Italy (AP) — Wood is burning again in Naples‘ pizza ovens, giving a symbolic and savory boost to Neapolitans after two months of lockdown meant an end to their most iconic and favorite food.

Pizzerias reopened Monday night in the birthplace of pizza, albeit under restrictions and for home delivery only.

Whereas pizzerias in Rome and elsewhere were allowed to operate for take-out and delivery service, they were banned in Naples out of fears that such a congested, high-density city could fast become a new hot spot for COVID-19 infections.

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Campania’s governor, Vincenzo De Luca, enforced strict lockdown measures, knowing that the region’s hospitals couldn’t handle a major influx of sick. In the end, Campania had a relatively manageable outbreak of about 4,300 people infected, half of whom didn’t need to be hospitalized.

With Italy as whole gradually reopening, De Luca lifted bans on pizza deliveries as well as home deliveries from bars, pastry shops and ice-cream parlors and restaurants.

“Surely this is a little restart for the entrepreneurs, important for us and for our region, our city and our nation,” said Giovanni Pezzuto, owner of a Neapolitan pizzeria. “This is a symbol of hope for the little firm that slowly can restart.”

It’s not a total reopening, however. Clients can only place orders by phone — not in person — and all business must close at 10 p.m. The pizzerias have to be cleaned regularly and workers must wear gloves and masks.

Vincenzo Capuano, owner of pizzeria Capuano, said even the partial reopening will help Campania’s economy because all his ingredients are sourced locally.

“To make pizza I have to buy the local flour from Naples, (local) San Marzano tomatoes, I have to buy the potatoes, the onions,” he said.

Without this support to the local economy, “after the health crisis we could have a much worse economic crisis.”

Italy was the first country in the West to be slammed by the outbreak, and its death toll is the highest in Europe and second only to the U.S., which has more than five times the population. Italy’s epicenter, however, was based in the north and officials say the south was largely spared because the government locked down the whole country in time.

Nationwide, bars and restaurants are expected to be allowed to reopen in June for in-house service, but only with strict social-distancing and sanitation measures in place.

___

Nicole Winfield contributed to this report from Rome.

AP Interview: Sports medicine leader promotes virus protocol

AP Interview: Sports medicine leader promotes virus protocol

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FILE – In this Sunday, March 8, 2020 filer, a view of the empty stadium during the Serie A soccer match between AC Milan and Genoa at the San Siro stadium, in Milan, Italy. While soccer leagues around Europe are … more >

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By ANDREW DAMPF

Associated Press

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

ROME (AP) – While soccer leagues around Europe are still debating whether and when to resume playing amid the coronavirus pandemic, the leader of the continent’s Federation of Sports Medicine Associations is calling for a detailed series of tests to clear athletes before they return to training.

Maurizio Casasco, who is also president of the Italian Federation of Sports Medicine, said guidelines recently published by his domestic federation should be extended for all of Europe – especially if UEFA intends to resume the Champions League and Europa League anytime soon.

“There needs to be a common protocol,” Casasco said in an interview with The Associated Press. “At both the national and European level, if there’s a competition being contested the rules have to be the same for everyone. … And not only for soccer but for all pro sports.”

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The protocol developed by the Italian federation starts by dividing athletes into two categories: Group 1 for those who have already tested positive for the virus or shown symptoms associated with it; Group 2 for those who haven’t tested positive, including athletes who were in contact with people who tested positive but who remained asymptomatic.

First, athletes in both groups will be tested for the virus. Athletes who test negative will also be tested for immunity – and athletes shown not to be immune will be retested every four days.

Athletes in Group 1 then have to pass strength tests while at rest, during and after physical exertion. Next up is a doppler echocardiogram, then a Holter monitor (a 24-hour echocardiogram), followed by spirometry breathing tests, a full range of blood exams, a lung X-ray and, finally, clearance that the athlete is no longer infected.

Once cleared for training, athletes in Group 1 would need to gradually increase their activity levels over a specially observed 15-day period.

Athletes in Group 2 have fewer tests: strength, doppler echocardiogram, spirometry and blood.

The protocol was developed by an eight-person commission that included Ranieri Guerra, the assistant director general for the World Health Organization.

“It’s going to have a cost but I think it needs to be followed,” Casasco said. “We work with athletes but the rules need to be applied to all of team staff members, too. Anyone who comes into contact with the locker room: equipment managers, physical therapists, coaches, club managers. Everyone.”

At least 15 Serie A players have tested positive for COVID-19 and team physicians at Inter Milan, Fiorentina and Sampdoria have been hospitalized with the virus.

The government-ordered lockdown in Italy is scheduled to expire after May 3, so Casasco suggested the protocol tests should begin May 4.

“You can’t start training until everyone has been tested; otherwise you risk creating a new hot spot,” he said. “And obviously you can’t just gather everyone together to perform the tests. The protocol has to be performed individually before training resumes.”

So while soccer officials in Italy have discussed resuming training on May 4, perhaps in small groups at first, the protocol would require several more days before official practices could start.

Then, Casasco estimated, athletes would need “20 to 25 days” of training before competition can restart.

“The athletes are not completely at rest. They’re probably at about 40 percent of their fitness, because they’re training at home,” he said. “It’s not like they’re sitting at the beach.”

Competition, of course, raises other risks by bringing athletes into contact with more people on road trips – even if they would likely play in empty stadiums.

Casasco is also wary of leagues placing games too close together, followed by a short offseason before the next campaign begins.

“That will produce a greater risk of muscular injuries,” he said.

The biggest question for the protocol, though, is whether it will be followed or not. While Casasco also leads a medical and scientific commission put in place by Serie A to deal with the coronavirus crisis, there is nothing to bind the top Italian soccer league or other competitions to follow the protocol.

“We haven’t issued laws,” Casasco said. “We’re just a scientific commission that has issued recommendations and created guidelines.”

But Casasco suggested that leagues which don’t follow the protocol or something similar will leave themselves open to “big questions for medical and legal responsibility.”

While Serie A clubs are anxious to complete the 12 rounds remaining in the season to avoid millions in lost revenue, government health officials have expressed hesitancy over giving the go-ahead.

Soccer is a contact sport, therefore it carries a risk of transmission,” said Giovanni Rezza, the director of infectious diseases for Italy’s national health institute.

Rezza added that constant monitoring of soccer players seems “a bit of a stretch,” adding that he’s not in favor of resuming soccer games.

Sandra Zampa, the government’s undersecretary for health, added that she doesn’t see getting soccer going again “as a priority” and that “we won’t see full stadiums until there is a vaccine.”

But Casasco, who is also president of the Italian confederation of small and medium-sized private industry, said resuming activities is the way forward while scientists continue to look for a vaccine.

“I think this virus is going to have a long life,” he said. “Either you have a vaccine or medicine to combat it, or you can fight it with the precautions already in place. … Because we’ll never have zero risk until we have the vaccine.”

___

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

___

Andrew Dampf is at https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf

European cities begin to ease restrictions, open businesses despite warnings of virus resurgence

European cities begin to ease restrictions, open businesses despite warnings of virus resurgence

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Passengers wearing face mask waits for the train at the main train station in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, April 14, 2020. Face mask distribution in train and bus stations continue as factory and construction workers resume their activities in roughly half … more >

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By Lauren Meier

The Washington Times

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Businesses, shops and schools are reopening in a handful of cities across Europe, despite warnings from experts that prematurely lifting social restrictions could cause a resurgence or coronavirus cases.

Spain, Italy and Austria on Tuesday allowed some businesses to open their doors and allow some people to return to work. But the World Health Organization has issued a new warning that the number of COVID-19 cases around the world has “certainly” not hit its peak.

Denmark is beginning to reopen schools for young children, and Poland is expected to lift some economic restrictions by Sunday, according to the BBC. France, meanwhile, has extended its restrictions until May 11.

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“The overall world outbreak, 90% of cases are coming from Europe and the United States of America. So we are certainly not seeing the peak yet,” said WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris during a briefing Tuesday.

An internal memo sent by the European Commission to governments within the European Union, and viewed by the BBC, said that even phasing out waves of reopening businesses would “unavoidably lead to a corresponding increase in new cases.”

In Austria, which has seen 14,146 confirmed cases, 384 deaths, and 7,633 recoveries from the virus, allowed thousands of garden stores and small shops to reopen but with strict guidelines to continue implementing social distancing rules. Austria has a population of 8.8 million.

While bars and restaurants in Spain will not reopen until at least April 26, some construction and manufacturing companies have been allowed to reopen after weeks of closure in an effort to reduce the spread of the highly contagious virus.

The country, which has been one of the hardest-hit countries by the coronavirus, on Tuesday reported its lowest increase in new cases since March 20.

Spain has reported 172,541 confirmed cases, 18,056 deaths, and 67,504 recoveries, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. Spain has a population of 46.9 million.

Several regions in Italy have begun to allow small book stores, paper stores, and children’s shops to reopen after seeing a drop in new cases and fatalities, but have mandated they implement strict social distancing measures.

However, most northern cities that have been more impacted by the virus, including Lombardy where the virus in the country is believed to have originated, have opted to keep all shops closed.

Italy has reported 159,516 confirmed cases, 20,465 deaths, and 35,435 recoveries, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. Italy has a population of 60.3 million.

Binary Star – KoBe (Waterworld 3 Album)

Wait til I exhale my flows ability
The Dragon the fire the gold and shimmery
I burn with desire in cold assemblies
My voice thru da wire control the energy
MC OG Chicago and Sicily
Rap everywhere see me Rome like Italy
Microphones gets blown in close proximity
I don’t stop kickin’ these goals, without penalties
Show you how to make it when I zone out mentally
Make moves physically
billin me you feelin me?
liars, they wanna steal my whole identity
I rain on they’ parades like the hole in Kennedy
Drop top,
diamond in the back,
solar energy
Global warming,
penguins meet the centipedes
Wisdom,
maybe you consider me
Ministry of dentistry
Menace to Society
Nobody denying me

Binary Star – Never Say Good Binary (Waterworld 3 Album)

Don’t
O /owe
N
E / any
Man

I hit’em with A/Aye

R (are)
We gonna show
M (them)
Y (why)?

We kill’em away
With lyrical spray

Political world
we live in today
Lights, Camera, Cinema play

And police say we shouldn’t complain
Cuz [email protected]/* */ wit [email protected]/* */ would did us the same

Blow us away it’s a typical day

So One Be Lo,
the temperature stay

The summer is cold,
The winter is late
I Spring before they fall in my way

The Lord work in mysterious ways
That man working for minimum wage
The poor get poor
The richer get prey
The minister paid
The middle decay

Father figures addicted astray
We miss him but hey, we’re still in the game

Don’t always believe what they literally say
You knocking boots?
I’m Italy way

Similar to paint
I fill in the blanks
I’m landing mines at enemy tanks
The image portray
Some lizard and snakes
But really it’s him in that mirror display

All in my face
Invisible hate
Physically stuck in a miserable state

The biggest disgrace
Trump bigot debates
Bernie, Carson, Hilary race

Sippin champagne
Cinnamon baked
The media say, the privileges same
This ain’t about race so don’t get in my lane

You’re digging more graves
Lock us away
Clickety clank

The system fill and we’re feeling betrayed
Send me a lemon
I’ll send lemonade
Lemon rice chicken
Lemon meringue
Lemon I squeeze
And riddle ya brain

Lime
Light
I did it the same

Juice bars

Ba Binary Stars

Ma Molotovs

Ba Ba Ba Bars

Ba Ba Ba Bang

Triggers I aim

Both of us living, not living the same

Ask me how long I been in this game?
You cave man
come live in my age

Since the begininng like Genesis page

Alpha-Omega unlimited ways

Even/Eve and Adams/atoms gimme a break

Nuclear bang

Killing a page

Pen and grenade

Ba Ba Ba Bang

Musicals – Chess – Chess Game #1 lyrics

Walter: [Spoken]
There has been a sensational development in the
Very first fame of the World Chess Championship
Here is the snow-covered Tyrolean town of Merano,
Italy.

The board and pieces have been thrown to the ground
In disgust by one or the other or both of the players.
The world champion Freddie Trumper has stormed out
In a rage. It looks personal.

Trumper has demanded that Sergievsky apologize for
Making him walk out. Unless someone bangs their heads
Together, the championship could be abandoned after just
One game.

Walter de Courcy for Global Television.

Musicals – Chess – The Story Of Chess lyrics

The Arbiter:
Each game of chess
Means there’s one less
Variation left to be played.

Each day got through
Means one or two
Less mistakes remain to be made.

Soloists 1 & 2:
Not much is known
Of early days of chess
Beyond a fairly vague report–

Soloist 3:
That fifteen hundred years ago
Two princes fought,
Tough brothers,
For a Hindu throne.

Soloist 4:
The mother cried,
For no one really likes
Their offspring fighting
To the death.
She begged to stop
The slaughter
With her every breath.

Soloist 5:
But sure enough
One brother died.

Soloists 4 & 6:
Sad beyond belief,
She told her winning son,

Soloist 6:
“You have caused such grief
I can’t forgive
This evil thing you’ve done.”

Soloist 3 & 7:
He tried to explain
How things had really been.

Soloist 7:
But he tried in vain,
No words of his
Could mollify the queen.

Soloist 8:
And so he asked
The wisest men he knew
The way to lessen her distress.

The Arbiter:
They told him he’d be
Pretty certain to impress
By using model soldiers
On a checkered board
To show it was his brother’s fault–

All:
They thus invented chess

Male Soloists:
Chess displayed no inertia,
Soon spread to Persia,
Then west.

Female Soloists:
Next the Arabs refined it,
Thus redesigned, it
Progressed.

Soloist 9:
Still further yet,
And when Constantinople
Fell in 1453,
One would have noticed
Every other refugee
Included in his bags a set.

Soloist 10:
Once in the hands,
And in the minds
Of leading figures
Of the Renaissance–

Soloist 2:
The spirit and the speed
Of chess made swift advance
Through all of Europe’s vital lands.

Female Soloists: Male Soloists:
Where we must record Each game of chess,
The game was further changed– Means there’s one less
Right across the board Variation left to be played.
The western touch
Upon the pieces ranged.

Soloists:
King, and queen, and rook,
And bishop, knight, and pawn
All took on the look
We know today–
The modern game was born.

The Arbiter:
And in the end,
We see a game
That started by mistake
In Hindustan–
And boosted in the main
By what is now Iran–
Become the simplest,
And most complicated
Pleasure yet devised
For just the kind of mind
Who would appriciate this
Well-researched, and fascinating
Yarn.

[Spoken]
The World Chess Federation, of which I have the honor
Of being president, announces that the next world championship
Will take place here in Merano, Italy.

The current world champion Frederick Trumper of the United
States of America will defend his title again Anatoly Sergievsky
Of the Soviet Union.

The first player to achieve six victories will be declared
Champion. The first game will begin on March 27, 1979.

Welcome, world, to Merano!

Young Dolph – I Pray For My Enemies (Bulletproof Album)

[Intro]
Hail Father, which are in Heaven
Real street niggas appreciate each and every blessin’
Give us this day our daily bread
One time for all the homies in the feds
Forgive those that hate, for did they not know that [?] was a disease
Yeah
Zaytoven
It’s Dolph

[Chorus]
I’m drankin’ lean and she drinkin’ Hennessy (uh-huh)
Boujee bitch with pornstar tendencies (my favorite kind)
I put her on a plane to come and visit me (yeah)
Got time for her to go back, she don’t wanna leave (she gotta go back)
Already know my haters sick of me (hey)
Real nigga, I pray for my enemies (ooh)
Real nigga, I pray for my enemies (ooh)
Trap nigga I came up ’bout sellin’ P’s (yeah, yeah)

[Bridge]
Hold up, hold up, hold up, hold up, hold up, hold up, kill em

[Verse 1]
I just left the trap, pulled up at her house (trap, skrrt)
Now she in my lap, no panties under blouse (ooh, woah)
She say, "Hol’ up," she want me watch her make it clap (clap)
She used to have a nigga she met me and put him out (it’s Dolph)
You see a real trap nigga, bitch, point him out (point him out)
I saw my first 100 pounds of weed and said, "Wow" (wow)
A 100 mill in ten years, now I’m thinkin’ right now
The last three years, my main dawg been on the run (damn)
My lil’ nigga right here with me, he just made bond (ayy)
She used to hold my palm, yes ,she my day one (my sack, yeah)
And she fuck me good ever since day one (hey)

[Chorus]
I’m drankin’ lean and she drinkin’ Hennessy (uh-huh)
Boujee bitch with pornstar tendencies (my favorite kind)
I put her on a plane to come and visit me (yeah)
Got time for her to go back, she don’t wanna leave (she gotta go back)
Already know my haters sick of me (hey)
Real nigga, I pray for my enemies (ooh)
Real nigga, I pray for my enemies (ooh)
Trap nigga I came up ’bout sellin’ P’s (yeah, yeah)

[Bridge]
Skrrt, skrrt, skrrt, skrrt, skrrt, skrrt

[Verse 2]
I pray for my opps, my diamonds hopscotch (opps, jumpin’)
I feel like I’m in the movie Belly and I’m Ox (Ox)
Just pulled up at the spot, now look what I just got (wet, hey)
I wake up in the morning and go buy my young nigga a drop (it’s Dolph)
R.I.P. J Money, free all my niggas on lock (yeah)
They tried to do me like they did Kennedy (damn)
I ain’t mad at cha, I pray for my enemies (I ain’t mad at cha)
I learned how to weigh up dope, takin’ chemistry (hey, hey)
2017 Dolph made history (it’s Dolph)
All this fucking swag on me came from Italy (it’s Dolph)
I been doin’ this shit y’all niggas remember me (woo, ha, hey)

[Chorus]
I’m drankin’ lean and she drinkin’ Hennessy (uh-huh)
Boujee bitch with pornstar tendencies (my favorite kind)
I put her on a plane to come and visit me (yeah)
Got time for her to go back, she don’t wanna leave (she gotta go back)
Already know my haters sick of me (hey)
Real nigga, I pray for my enemies (ooh)
Real nigga, I pray for my enemies (ooh)
Trap nigga I came up ’bout sellin’ P’s (yeah, yeah)