Europe tells tourists: Welcome back! Now work out the rules

Europe tells tourists: Welcome back! Now work out the rules

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In this Wednesday, June 9, 2021, file photo, visitors gather during a presentation visit of the "Grand Palais Ephemere", with the Eiffel Tower in the background, in Paris. Europe is opening up to Americans and other visitors after more than … more >

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Associated Press

Thursday, June 10, 2021

PARIS (AP) — Europe is opening up to Americans and other visitors after more than a year of COVID-induced restrictions, in hope of luring back tourists — and their dollars — to the continent’s trattorias, vistas and cultural treasures. But travelers will need patience to figure out who’s allowed into which country, how and when.

As the European Union‘s doors reopen one by one to the outside world for the first time since March 2020, tourists will discover a patchwork of systems instead of a single border-free leisure zone, because national governments have resisted surrendering control over their frontiers amid the pandemic. And post-Brexit Britain is going its own way altogether.

Meanwhile, the welcoming mood isn’t always mutual. U.S. borders, for example, remain largely closed to non-Americans.

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Here’s a look at current entry rules in some popular European tourist destinations. One caveat: While these are the regulations as written by governments, travelers may meet hiccups as airlines or railway officials try to make sense of them.

FRANCE

If you’re vaccinated, come to France. But only if you got one of the four EU-approved vaccines: Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson. That works for Americans — as long as they can produce official proof of vaccination — but not for large swaths of the world like China and Russia where other vaccines are used.

France’s borders officially reopened Wednesday. Vaccinated visitors from outside Europe and a few “green” countries will still be asked for a negative PCR test no older than 72 hours, or a negative antigen test of no more than 48 hours. Unvaccinated children will be allowed in with vaccinated adults, but will have to show a negative test from age 11.

Tourists are banned from 16 countries wrestling with virus surges and worrisome variants that are on a red list that includes India, South Africa and Brazil.

Non-vaccinated visitors from “orange list” countries – including the U.S. and Britain – can’t come for tourism either, only for specific, imperative reasons.

ITALY

Americans – the second-biggest group of foreign tourists to Italy – have been welcome since mid-May. However, they need to self-isolate upon arrival for 10 days unless they arrive on so-called “COVID-tested flights.” That means passengers are tested before and after the flight and must fill out documents about their whereabouts to facilitate contact tracing if required.

“COVID-tested” flights from the U.S. started in December and have also been operating since May from Canada, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.

Italy also started allowing tourists from Britain and Israel last month, meaning they no longer need an “essential” reason to visit and don’t have to self-isolate, providing they present proof of a negative COVID test taken no more than 48 hours prior to arrival.

The same rules apply to travelers from EU countries and those on “COVID-tested” flights from the U.S., Canada, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.

GREECE

Tourism-reliant Greece started opening to American travelers back in April, and now visitors from China, Britain and 20 other countries are also allowed to visit for nonessential travel.

All must provide a vaccination certificate or a negative PCR test and fill in a passenger locator form on their plans in Greece. This directive expires on June 14, but could be extended.

Athens long pressed for a common EU approach, but didn’t wait for one to materialize. On June 1, Greece, Germany and five other bloc members introduced a COVID certificate system for travelers, weeks ahead of the July 1 rollout of the program across the 27-nation bloc.

SPAIN

Spain kicked off its summer tourism season Monday by welcoming vaccinated visitors from the U.S. and most countries, as well as European visitors who can prove they are not infected.

Americans and most other non-Europeans need an official vaccine certificate by a U.S. health authority, in English. Spain accepts those who were inoculated with the four EU-approved vaccines as well two Chinese vaccines authorized by the World Health Organization – as long as visitors are fully vaccinated at least two weeks before the trip.

Arrivals from Brazil, South Africa and India are banned at the moment because of high infection rates there, and non-vaccinated Americans and many other non-EU nationalities cannot come to Spain for tourism for now.

But there are exemptions for countries considered at low risk, such as citizens from Britain, who can arrive without any health documents at all. EU citizens need to provide proof of vaccination, a certificate showing they recently recovered from COVID-19, or a negative antigen or PCR test taken within 48 hours of arrival.

BRITAIN

There are few, if any, American tourists in the U.K. at present. Britain has a traffic-light system for assessing countries by risk, and the U.S. along with most European nations is on the “amber” list, meaning everyone arriving has to self-isolate at home or in the place they are staying for 10 days.

U.K. and U.S. airlines and airport operators are pushing for a travel corridor to allow tourism to resume, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to raise the issue when he meets President Joe Biden at a G-7 summit in England this week.

Meanwhile, anyone traveling between Britain and continental Europe, be warned: In addition to the isolation requirement for those arriving or returning to U.K. shores, rising concern about the delta variant of the virus has prompted some other countries to introduce special restrictions for those arriving from Britain.

EUROPEAN UNION

The 27-nation EU has no unified COVID tourism or border policy, but has been working for months on a joint digital travel certificate for those vaccinated, freshly tested, or recently recovered from the virus. EU lawmakers endorsed the plan Wednesday.

The free certificates, which will contain a QR code with advanced security features, will allow people to move between European countries without having to quarantine or undergo extra coronavirus tests upon arrival.

Several EU countries have already begun using the system, including Spain, Germany, Greece, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Poland. The rest are expected to start using it July 1.

It’s mainly meant for EU citizens but Americans and others can obtain the certificate too – if they can convince authorities in an EU country they’re entering that they qualify for one. And the lack of an official U.S. vaccination certification system may complicate matters.

___

Associated Press reporters around Europe contributed.

EU lawmakers OK virus pass, boosting summer travel hopes

EU lawmakers OK virus pass, boosting summer travel hopes

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People sunbathe on the beach in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, June 8, 2021. Spain is jumpstarting its summer tourism season by welcoming vaccinated visitors from most countries as well as European visitors who can prove they are not infected with coronavirus. … more >

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By Lorne Cook

Associated Press

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union lawmakers on Wednesday endorsed a new travel certificate that will allow people to move between European countries without having to quarantine or undergo extra coronavirus tests, paving the way for the pass to start in time for summer.

The widely awaited certificate is aimed at saving Europe’s travel industry and prime tourist sites from another disastrous vacation season. Key travel destinations like Greece have led the drive to have the certificate, which will have both paper and digital forms, rapidly introduced.

Several EU countries have already begun using the system, including Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece and Poland.

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Right now, traveling in the EU‘s 27 nations is a trial for tourists and airlines alike. Countries have various COVID-19 traffic-light systems, where those in green are considered safe and those in red to be avoided. But each nation is applying different rules and standards, making travel confusing for all.

The new regulations governing the vaccine certificates were adopted in two votes at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. Rules for EU citizens were passed 546 to 93, with 51 abstentions. Those for people from outside the bloc passed 553 to 91, with 46 abstentions.

The vote must still be rubber-stamped by EU nations, but that’s likely a formality.

It means that beginning July 1 for 12 months, all EU countries must recognize the vaccine certificate. They will be issued free and certify that a person has either been fully vaccinated against the virus, has recently tested negative or has recovered from the disease.

The rules will not be heavily enforced for 6 weeks to allow countries to prepare.

The passes will be issued by individual nations, not from a centralized European system. They will contain a QR code with advanced security features. Personal data will not be shared with other countries.

Spanish Socialist lawmaker Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar, who chaperoned the votes through parliament, said “EU states are encouraged to refrain from imposing further restrictions, unless strictly necessary and proportionate.”

People coming from outside the EU, the overwhelming majority of whom should be vaccinated to enter, will be able to get a certificate if they can convince authorities in the EU country they enter that they qualify for one.

Spain criticized for unequally priced ‘equality stamps’

Spain criticized for unequally priced ‘equality stamps’

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This photo released by Spain’s postal service Correos on Friday May 28, 2021, shows a set of four stamps to signify different skin-colored tones. Spain’s postal service is feeling a backlash from its well-intentioned effort to highlight racial inequality. The … more >

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Associated Press

Friday, May 28, 2021

MADRID (AP) — Spain’s postal service is feeling a backlash from its attempt to highlight racial inequality.

State-owned Correos España this week issued a set of four stamps in different skin-colored tones. The darker the stamp, the lower the price. The lightest color costs 1.60 euros ($1.95). The darkest one costs 0.70 euros ($0.85).

The postal service calls them “Equality Stamps” and introduced them on the anniversary of George Floyd being killed by a police officer in Minneapolis. It said the stamps “reflect an unfair and painful reality that shouldn’t be allowed” and that every letter or parcel sent with them would “send a message against racial inequality.”

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The campaign was launched during European Diversity Month in collaboration with Spain’s national SOS Racism Federation, a nonprofit group, and featured a 60-second video with Spanish hip-hop star and activist El Chojín.

But while the goal of Correos España was to “shine a light on racial inequality and promote diversity, inclusion and equal rights,” critics are accusing the company of having a tin ear for racial issues and misreading the sentiment of Black people in Spain.

Antumi Toasijé, a historian who heads the government’s Council for the Elimination of Racial or Ethnic Discrimination, urged the postal service to stop selling the stamps.

“A campaign that outrages those it claims to defend is always a mistake,” he tweeted.

The postal service’s initiative has divided Spanish anti-racism activists. While the national SOS Racism Federation backed it, the organization’s Madrid section poured scorn on the effort.

SOS Racismo Madrid said the campaign helps conceal the structural nature of racism and perpetuate the notion of Black inferiority.

Any racially aware person would have identified what was wrong with the campaign, it said, adding that the blunder proved the need for more racially aware people in decision-making positions at companies.

The campaign also received criticism on social media.

Correos España said Friday it would make no comment on the controversy.

This isn’t the first time the Spanish postal service has sought to make a statement on social issues. Last June, to coincide with LGBT Pride Month, it issued a special stamp and painted its delivery fans and mail boxes in rainbow colors.

Migrant surge on Spain-Morocco border brings more suffering

Migrant surge on Spain-Morocco border brings more suffering

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In this May 18, 2021, file photo, people climb a fence in the area at the Spain-Morocco border, outside the Spanish enclave of Ceuta. Thousands of would-be migrants converged on the Moroccan border town of Fnideq this week, part of … more >

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By Mosa’ab Elshamy

Associated Press

Friday, May 21, 2021

FNIDEQ, Morocco (AP) — They are desperate teenagers and jobless men. They come from Morocco’s coastal towns, its mountainous east or even farther away — from sub-Saharan Africa. And they all converged on the border town of Fnideq this week, part of an extraordinary mass effort to swim or scale barbed-wire fences to get into Spain for a chance at a new life.

More than 8,000 migrants actually made it into the city of Ceuta, an enclave in North Africa that is separated from the rest of Spain by the Mediterranean – but for most of them, it was a short-lived success.

The extraordinary surge of migrants crossing from Morocco into Spain came amid the chaos of a diplomatic spat between the two countries.

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Spanish troops forced over half of them back to Fnideq, putting additional strain on the Moroccan town whose limited resources are overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We will keep trying. We will find one way or another, even if the ocean turns into ice!” said 27-year-old Badreddine.

He and his fellow Moroccans — 22-year-old Salah and 24-year-old Hosam — all have diplomas but no jobs. Like most seeking to get into Spain, they spoke on condition their last names not be published for fear of their security because they are risking illegal migration.

Being stuck in Morocco “is like being dead, so why not risk your life anyway? We’re currently living on streets, sleeping in the cold. Our parents know that we’re here, they pray for us. They told us, ‘Go, may Gold help you,’” Salah said.

They and others sleep in Fnideq‘s parks, on benches and outside mosques. Some hang out near hotels and restaurants, begging for food and whatever people can spare. Volunteers hand out bread and sandwiches.

Some have fled the impoverished countries of sub-Saharan Africa, but most are from Morocco, generally seen as one of the continent’s economic engines that has made strides in lowering poverty in recent years.

Still, inequality is rife, the pandemic has worsened unemployment and average incomes are a fraction of those in Europe, which sits tantalizingly close – just across the FnideqCeuta fence.

Amid tighter security by Spain in recent years, some would-be migrants have abandoned the effort, but others are determined to find a way around the security checkpoints or battle bad weather at sea.

“We want to leave (Morocco) because there is nothing left for us in the country, nothing to do, no future. We go to school but don’t want to stay here,” said 15-year-old Khalid.

This week, many of them saw an opportunity as word spread quickly in Morocco about the tensions with Spain.

When the government in Madrid gave medical treatment to a Western Saharan independence fighter that Morocco considers a terrorist, the decision led to chaos in Ceuta. The port city has always drawn those seeking to cross into Europe, but thousands were seen streaming toward Fnideq on highways and through forests and hills.

Spain, here we come!” a group of Moroccans cried as they marched, singing soccer chants and hurling expletives at their native country. In central Fnideq, thousands lined the corniche that looks towards Ceuta, and they ended up swimming or taking small boats around breakwaters separating the countries.

While Moroccan security forces normally are spread out on the beach and in nearby hills patrolling a wide perimeter, there seemed to be fewer guards earlier this week. As large groups of youths scaled the fence and wrapped clothes on their hands to get over the barbed wire, Associated Press reporters saw border police standing by idly.

While Morocco has said little about the relaxed border controls, it was widely seen as retaliation for Madrid allowing militant leader Brahim Ghali, to receive medical treatment inside Spain. Two Moroccan officials made that link in comments Wednesday.

Spain eventually sent in military forces and pushed most of the migrants back to Morocco. The Red Cross says one young man died and dozens were treated for hypothermia.

Khalid, 15, and Amin, 16, came to Fnideq on Sunday in a bus with about 40 others from Temara, a coastal town outside the capital, Rabat. They said they managed to cross into Spain three times, but were pushed back. The last time, they were forced to swim back along the shore back to Morocco.

By Thursday, Moroccan border guards seemed to be back in their positions, but hundreds of youths have remained, and the men and boys in Fnideq haven’t lost hope of crossing over.

“I am the eldest of my brothers, my mother sells vegetable in the market” and can’t afford to support them, said Ayoub, in his early 20s, who arrived Thursday from the inland city of Meknes. “I had to try and help my mother.”

While Morocco’s government has focused on the Western Sahara in its limited public statements this week, it hasn’t addressed the poverty and despair that is driving so many to want to leave the country.

Fnideq, meanwhile, is suffering under the sudden influx of would-be migrants.

The town relied heavily on trade with Ceuta before the pandemic, but Morocco’s strict border closure since March 2020 has deprived residents of livelihoods and access to Spain. Protests broke out earlier this year by residents demanding government aid or an open border.

Human rights groups and opposition lawmakers accused the Moroccan government of using migrants as pawns instead of solving their problems. The opposition Istiqlal party urged “an economic alternative that guarantees the population their constitutional right to the necessities of a decent living.”

Despite the scenes of tear gas and troops on the border this week, the dream of getting out of Morocco remains strong for many struggling youths, even in the relatively prosperous capital.

“If you ask anyone in Rabat … that person will tell you that wants to go to Europe, I mean migrate. This is everyone’s obsession,” said street vendor Mohammed Ouhaddou. “Politicians are not doing anything. They are asleep and no one listens to us.”

Spain, Morocco square off after 6,000 migrants arrive by sea

Spain, Morocco square off after 6,000 migrants arrive by sea

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People from Morocco swim and walk into the Spanish territory at the border of Morocco and Spain, at the Spanish enclave of Ceuta on Monday, May 17, 2021. Authorities in Spain say that around 1,000 Moroccan migrants have crossed into … more >

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By Aritz Parra

Associated Press

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

MADRID (AP) — Spain faced a humanitarian and diplomatic crisis Tuesday after thousands of Moroccans took advantage of relaxed border controls in their nation to swim or paddle in inflatable boats onto European soil.

By Tuesday morning, around 6,000 people had crossed the border into the Spanish city of Ceuta since the first arrivals began early Monday, the Spanish government said, including 1,500 thought to be teenagers. The city of 85,000 people lies in North Africa on the Mediterranean Sea, separated from Morocco by a double-wide, 10-meter (32-feet) fence.

The sudden influx of migrants has deepened the diplomatic row between Rabat and Madrid in the wake of Spain‘s decision to allow in for medical treatment the chief of a militant group that fights for the independence of Western Sahara. Morocco annexed the sprawling nation on the west coast of Africa in 1975.

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Migrants soaked with seawater still kept reaching Ceuta on Tuesday although in smaller numbers than the day before due to heightened vigilance on the Spanish side of the border, where additional police and military were deployed.

“It’s such a strong invasion that we are not able to calculate the number of people that have entered,” said the president of Ceuta, an autonomous city of barely 20 square kilometers (7.7 square miles).

“The army is in the border in a deterrent role, but there are great quantities of people on the Moroccan side waiting to enter,” Juan Jesús Vivas told Cadena SER radio.

Vivas, a conservative, said the residents of Ceuta were in a state of “anguish, concern and fear.” He linked the sudden influx to Rabat’s shift on controling migration after Spain gave compassionate assistance to Brahim Ghali, the head of the Polisario Front that has fought Morocco over control of Western Sahara.

The Spanish government itself officially rejects the notion that Morocco is punishing Spain for a humanitarian move.

Interior Minister Fernando Grande Marlaska said Tuesday that authorities had processed the return of 1,600 migrants by Tuesday morning and that the rest would follow soon, because Morocco and Spain signed an agreement three decades ago to return all those who swim into the territory.

Many African migrants regard Ceuta and nearby Melilla, also a Spanish territory, as a gateway into Europe. In 2020, 2,228 chose to cross into the two enclaves by sea or by land, often risking injuries or death. The year before the figure peaked at 7,899, according to Spain‘s Interior Ministry.

On Tuesday, another 80 Africans also crossed into Melilla, 350 kilometers (218 miles) east of Ceuta on the North African coast, by jumping over the enclave’s double fence.

Morocco scolds Spain over virus help for independence leader

Morocco scolds Spain over virus help for independence leader

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Associated Press

Sunday, April 25, 2021

RABAT, Morocco (AP) – Morocco’s Foreign Affairs Ministry summoned the Spanish ambassador Sunday to convey the government’s “regret” over Spain’s decision to receive for medical treatment the leader of a regional group fighting Morocco for independence.

Spanish officials revealed last week that Brahim Ghali, 73, is hospitalized in Spain for treatment of COVID-19.

Ghali heads the Polisario Front, which has long fought for the independence from Morocco of Western Sahara, periodically engaging the Moroccan armed forces.

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The Moroccan foreign ministry said Spain’s stance is “inconsistent with the spirit of partnership and good neighborliness.” Morocco is seeking an explanation of Spain’s position, the ministry said.

The diplomatic tension between Rabat and Madrid comes as Spain seeks Morocco’s cooperation in stemming the flow of migrants across the sea to Spanish territory. The Spanish government is also seeking to deepen economic ties with Africa.

An official from Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said last week that Ghali had been taken in “for strictly humanitarian reasons.”

Western Sahara stretches along Africa’s Atlantic coast south of the Moroccan resort city of Agadir, and borders Algeria and Mauritania. It has a population of 600,000 people. It was colonized by Spain in the 19th century and annexed by Morocco in 1975.

The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, the self-declared government also led by Ghali, says he is “recovering favorably” in an unidentified Spanish hospital.

EU lawmakers to vote on fate of former Catalan president

EU lawmakers to vote on fate of former Catalan president

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In this Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, file photo, Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont reacts during a press conference at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias, File) more >

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Associated Press

Monday, March 8, 2021

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Parliament is voting Monday on whether to lift the immunity of the former president of Spain’s Catalonia region, Carles Puigdemont, and two of his associates, a move which could pave the way for their extradition.

Puigdemont and a number of his colleagues fled to Belgium in October 2017, fearing arrest over the holding of an independence referendum that the Spanish government said was illegal.

In 2019, he, former Catalan health minister Toni Comin and former regional education minister Clara Ponsati won seats in the European Parliament and were afforded protection in their positions as members of the EU assembly.

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Last month, the parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee voted 15-8 with two abstentions to recommend waiving their immunity. The full assembly is likely to endorse that decision Monday evening, although the official result of the vote may not be known until Tuesday.

The process is common – around 60 such demands to lift the immunity of various lawmakers were made during the 2014-2019 parliamentary term.

The independence vote in favor of Catalonia breaking away won by a landslide in 2017. But those wanting the relatively rich northern region to remain part of Spain largely stayed home. The central government in Madrid had declared the vote illegal and unconstitutional. Hundreds of people were injured in a police crackdown on the day of the poll.

Spain has attempted to have Puigdemont returned for trial, but failed to convince Belgian justice authorities to extradite him. Any lifting of his parliamentary immunity could lead to a new effort to have him returned.

But Puigdemont has vowed to fight on.

“We contemplate all scenarios, obviously even that we will lose our immunity, which is the most likely,” Puigdemont told The Associated Press on Saturday from his residence in Waterloo, Belgium. “But we know that would not be the end of the road.”

33 injured, 14 arrested in protests over rapper’s jailing

33 injured, 14 arrested in protests over rapper’s jailing

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Demonstrators clash with police after a protest condemning the arrest of rap singer Pablo Hasél in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. Violent street protests have erupted in some Spanish cities after police arrested a rapper who resisted imprisonment and … more >

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By

Associated Press

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

MADRID (AP) — Police in Spain say 14 people were arrested in violent street protests in several cities following the arrest of Spanish rap artist Pablo Hasél, who had barricaded himself at a university with dozens of supporters to avoid prison and defend his fight for free speech.

Emergency services said Wednesday that 33 people were treated for injuries in the disturbances.

In the northeastern city of Barcelona, thousands of protestors set trash cans on fire and threw rocks at the police. Several stores and a bank were damaged amid chaotic scenes on one of the city’s main streets. Spanish National Television cited city authorities as estimating the damages at 70,000 euros ($84,000).

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Smaller demonstrations took place in other Spanish cities. Further protests are planned Wednesday.

A 24-hour standoff between police and Hasél ended early Tuesday when anti-riot officers arrested him in northeastern Lleida University. He was taken to prison to serve a 9-month sentence for insulting the monarchy and glorifying terrorism in a song about former King Juan Carlos I and in 64 tweets.

His case has drawn much attention, with many artists, celebrities and politicians showing their support and demanding a change in the country’s so-called “gag law.”

Spain’s left-wing coalition government last week said it planned to change the country’s criminal code to eliminate prison terms for offenses involving freedom of expression.

The rapper has previously faced charges for assault, praising armed extremist groups, breaking into private premises or insulting the monarchy.

Amnesty International said Hasél’s case was the latest in a string of trials of artists and social media personalities in Spain under its 2015 Public Security Law, which was put into effect by a conservative government.

The Latest: Spain reports nearly 38,900 daily virus cases

The Latest: Spain reports nearly 38,900 daily virus cases

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People wearing face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus clear snow from the street in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man) more >

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By The Associated Press

Associated Press

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

MADRID – Spain reported 38,869 coronavirus infections and 195 deaths on Wednesday.

The two-week rate of infection per 100,000 inhabitants, which has doubled during the past month, increased to 492 cases on Wednesday. The country has recorded 2.17 million total cases and more than 52,000 confirmed deaths.

Health Minister Salvador Illa says Spain has identified some 100 cases of the virus variant that is possibly more contagious, but the current surge is fueled by social gatherings.

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Illa says Spain is improving the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, with 92,000 doses administered in the past 24 hours. Spain has used just over half of the 1.1 million doses delivered to the country.

___

THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

U.S. coronavirus deaths hit another one-day high at more than 4,300. Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered an expansion of the vaccination effort. California has lifted some stay-at-home orders in northern counties, while many orders remain in place where coronavirus cases are surging. Japan has widened its virus emergency for 7 more areas as cases increase.

Indonesia begins a mass COVID-19 vaccination effort. Dutch authorities begin mass coronavirus testing in one town to get an idea of how many people have the new coronavirus variant.

– Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

___

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

LISBON, Portugal – Portugal’s government has ordered the country into a coronavirus lockdown starting Friday, after setting daily records in cases and deaths.

The new lockdown requires working from home and doubles fines for not complying with rules such as wearing masks in public. Schools will remain open. It will allow exceptions so a presidential election can go ahead on Jan. 24.

Portugal has witnessed a record-breaking surge in coronavirus cases since it eased restrictions for the Christmas holiday. Portuguese health authorities on Wednesday reported a record 10,556 confirmed cases and 156 virus-related deaths in 24 hours.

Prime Minister António Costa says the pandemic is “at its most dangerous point” and that optimism from the recent COVID-19 vaccine rollout “encouraged people to drop their guard.”

___

TRENTON, N.J. – Gov. Phil Murphy says New Jersey residents 65 and older, as well as those from 16 to 64 with serious medical conditions such as cancer, heart and kidney disease, can begin to be vaccinated with the coronavirus shot on Thursday. Murphy says there’s a “strong appetite” for expanding the vaccine among the state’s 71 hospitals, along with guidance from the Trump administration and signals from the incoming Joe Biden White House.

New Jersey has vaccinated 264,000 people out of about 400,000 vaccines initially distributed to the state. So far, 220 of more than 600 nursing homes have completed vaccinations, the governor says. That totals about 28,500 people.

The administration aims to have nearly 5 million people, about 70% of the adult population, vaccinated in six months.

The death toll climbed by 95 overnight, rising to 18,070. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Jersey rose from 4,476 on Dec. 29 to 6,190 on Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

BOSTON – Gov. Charlie Baker says Massachusetts will begin vaccinating individuals living and working in care facilities and prisons on Monday.

The facilities include residential care programs, groups homes, residential treatment programs, community-based acute residential treatment programs and clinical stabilization programs.

Shelter programs, including homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, veteran shelters, will be included. State prisons, with about 6,5000 inmates, will start receiving vaccines next week.

___

ANKARA, Turkey – Turkish authorities have given the go-ahead for the emergency use of the COVID-19 vaccine produced by China’s Sinovac Biotech.

It paves the way for the rollout for Turkey’s vaccination program, starting with health care workers and other high-risk groups.

The health regulatory authority, the Turkish Medicines and Medical Devices Agency, says it had approved the vaccine’s emergency use following examinations that lasted for 14 days.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca says he and members of Turkey’s scientific advisory council would receive the first shots Wednesday. The vaccination program will begin on Thursday, starting with health care workers.

___

NEW YORK – Coronavirus deaths in the U.S. have hit another one-day high at more than 4,300.

The nation’s overall death toll from coronavirus has eclipsed 380,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. It is closing in fast on the number of Americans killed in World War II, about 407,000.

The U.S. recorded 4,327 deaths on Tuesday, with Arizona and California among the hardest-hit states.

Deaths have been rising sharply in the past 2 1/2 months, and the country is in the most lethal phase of the outbreak yet, even as the vaccine is rolled out. New cases are running at nearly a quarter-million per day on average. More than 9.3 million Americans have received their first shot of the vaccine.

___

ROME – Italy has added another 507 coronavirus deaths, bringing the death toll to more than 80,000 as the government plans to tighten restrictions.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza told Parliament the government is planning to prohibit travel between regions, even with the lowest rates of contagion, given “the epidemic is once again in an expanding phase.”

Some restrictions were imposed during the Christmas holidays and will be extended.

Italy has witnessed a prolonged resurgence this winter, with daily infections remaining in the 10,000-to-20,000 range for weeks despite mask mandates, nighttime bar and restaurant closures and other restrictions. On Wednesday, the new confirmed daily caseload was 15,774.

___

MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin health officials say a new, possibly more contagious form of the coronavirus has been detected in the state.

The Department of Health Services announced the variant was detected through routine genome sequencing of specimens collected during testing. The department didn’t say where it was found or when it was confirmed. An agency spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to an email.

The variant form of the virus was first discovered in England in November and December. It’s since turned up in Colorado, California, Florida, Minnesota, New York and Georgia.

Health officials have said the variant is more easily transmissible but isn’t any deadlier and vaccines should be effective against it.

___

GENEVA – Swiss authorities are stepping up restrictions to fight the coronavirus, ordering all shops that sell “non-essential goods” closed and stricter rules on private gatherings.

The Federal Council decided Wednesday that a previous expansion of measures announced last month has not coincided with a significant drop in case numbers. The new measures take effect Monday.

The council warned about the risk of further spread of the coronavirus and concerns about a new variant.

“The epidemiological situation remains extremely concerning: the number of infections, hospital admissions and deaths remains extremely high and the strain on medical staff is acute,” it said.

___

WASHINGTON – A trade group representing chain pharmacies says its members can “easily” meet President-elect Joe Biden’s goal of administering 100 million coronavirus vaccines in the first 100 days of his administration.

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores says “the existing retail pharmacy network — where 90% of Americans live within 5 miles of a store – can swiftly and efficiently accelerate the vaccination of priority populations.”

The group spoke a day after the Trump administration expanded the number of Americans who can receive vaccines to include all seniors and younger people with certain health conditions.

The drug store group called for activating an arrangement known as the Federal Pharmacy Partnership Program, under which the Trump administration had planned to enlist pharmacies later in the vaccination campaign. It means the government would have to start delivering vaccines to pharmacies.

The association estimated that each of 40,000 chain pharmacies would have to give seven shots per hour over a 12-hour day to meet the Biden goal. But the group says drug stores using several employees to provide shots would actually exceed that estimate.

___

PHOENIX – Arizona reported more than 5,600 coronavirus cases and nearly 200 more deaths.

The Department of Health Services reported 5,629 additional known cases and 191 deaths, increasing the state’s pandemic totals to 641,729 cases and 10,673 deaths.

Arizona had the worst diagnosis rate in the past week, with one of every 105 people diagnosed with the coronavirus from Jan. 5 to Tuesday.

According to the state’s coronavirus dashboard, 5,055 COVID-19 patients occupied inpatient beds as of Tuesday, down from Monday’s record of 5,082. There were 1,158 COVID-19 patients in intensive care beds, down from Monday’s record of 1,183.

___

MEXICO CITY – Mexico says it will invoke the labor section of the free trade agreement signed with the United States last year to pressure for its workers in the U.S. to have access to the coronavirus vaccine regardless of their immigration status.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard says, “it is an established right that the worker must not be exposed to infection.”

The exclusion of any Mexican workers from vaccination programs would be considered a violation of the trade agreement, he says.

Immigrant workers’ access to the vaccine became an issue in Mexico last week following comments by Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts. The governor had been asked whether immigrants without papers working in the state’s meatpacking plants would be vaccinated.

Ricketts said: “You’re supposed to be a legal resident of the country to be working in those plants, so I do not expect that illegal immigrants will be part of the vaccine with that program.”

His spokesman later clarified with a statement saying, “Proof of citizenship is not required for vaccination.”

But some immigrant advocacy groups are still concerned that the messaging will discourage people in the country illegally from getting vaccinated.

___

MOSCOW – Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has ordered his government to expand the vaccination effort.

Russian authorities have said more than 1.5 million people already have received the domestically designed Sputnik V vaccine even as the advanced studies among tens of thousands of people continue.

Speaking at Wednesday’s meeting with senior government officials, Putin instructed them to expand the scale of vaccination that had been limited to certain social groups and professions.

Russia has been widely criticized for giving Sputnik V regulatory approval in August after it was tested on a few dozen people and rushed to offer it to people in risk groups – such as medical workers and teachers – within weeks of approval.

Sputnik V’s developers have said data suggests the vaccine was 91% effective, and Putin on Wednesday extolled it as “the best in the world.”

___

LANSING, Mich. – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says Michigan restaurants should be able to reopen for indoor dining on Feb. 1, if coronavirus cases and hospitalizations remain stable.

The administration is extending a two-month ban by an additional two weeks while letting non-contact sports resume this weekend. The current order prohibiting indoor dine-in service is due to expire Friday but will be extended.

Since the Whitmer administration closed restaurants and bars, effective Nov. 18, it has let high schools resume in-person instruction and allowed entertainment businesses to reopen with restrictions.

___

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California is lifting a stay-at-home order for 13 northern counties because of improving hospital conditions but most of the state’s population remains under tight restrictions because of the deadly coronavirus surge.

The state lifted a December ban on outdoor dining, hair and nail salons and other services for the Sacramento region. But three of five state regions – the San Francisco Bay Area, Central Valley and Southern California – remain under the stay-at-home order because their hospitals’ intensive care capacity is severely limited.

Officials are trying to ramp up vaccinations to slow the infection rate.

California is averaging 42,000 new cases daily and recorded 3,500 virus deaths in the last week. On Monday, the pandemic death toll topped 30,000 in the state.

___

BERLIN – Germany’s Health Ministry says the states of Berlin and Brandenburg can go ahead and start coronavirus vaccinations with newly received Moderna doses, which had been put on hold over concerns they may have not been kept cold enough to prevent spoilage during transportation.

The ministry told the dpa news agency Wednesday “the quality of the vaccines was not affected by the transport and the vaccines can be used safely.”

Earlier in the day, both states said they were holding off using the 2,400 doses of the Moderna each had received as they looked into possible quality issues caused by the transport.

Germany received nearly 65,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine on Monday at a military facility in Quakenbrueck in the west of the country, and it is being distributed among the 16 states.

___

Gibraltar’s border with Spain still in doubt after Brexit

Gibraltar’s border with Spain still in doubt after Brexit

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FILE – In this Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019 file photo, an eerial view of Gibraltar rock seen from the neighbouring Spanish city of La Linea, during a general election in Gibraltar. (AP Photo/Javier Fergo, File) more >

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By JOSEPH WILSON and BARRY HATTON

Associated Press

Monday, December 28, 2020

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) – While corks may have popped in London and Brussels over the end to a four-year saga known as Brexit, there is one rocky speck of British soil still left in limbo.

Gibraltar, a British colony jutting off the southern tip of Spain’s mainland, wasn’t included in the Brexit trade deal announced on Christmas Eve between the European Union and the United Kingdom to reorganize the commercial and trade relations between the now 27-member bloc and the first nation to exit the group.

The deadline for Gibraltar remains Jan. 1, when a transitionary period regulating the short frontier between Gibraltar and Spain expires. If no deal is reached, there are serious concerns that a hard border would cause disruption for the workers, tourists and major business connections across the two sides.

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Spain succeeded in convincing the EU to separate the issue of Gibraltar from the greater Brexit negotiations, meaning that Madrid is handling all talks directly with its counterparts in Gibraltar and London.

Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya said Thursday that if an agreement isn’t reached, she fears that the long lines of stranded truck drivers seen at the English Channel crossing this past week could be repeated.

“We do not have much time, and the scenes of chaos from the U.K. must remind us that we need to keep working to reach a deal on Gibraltar,” González Laya told Spanish state broadcaster RTVE. “Spaniards want one, the people of Gibraltar want one, now the U.K. needs to desire one as well. Political will is needed.”

Throughout the Brexit talks, Spain has insisted it wants a say on the future of Gibraltar.

The Rock was ceded to Britain in 1713, but Spain has never dropped its claim to sovereignty over it. For three centuries, the strategic outcrop of high terrain has given British navies command of the narrow seaway from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean.

“Neither side is going to renounce its pretensions of sovereignty, but we must set that aside to reach a deal that makes lives easier for those living on both sides of the border,” González Laya said.

More than 15,000 people live in Spain and work in Gibraltar, making up about 50% of Gibraltar’s labor force. Gibraltar’s population of about 34,000 was overwhelmingly against Britain leaving the European Union. In the U.K.’s 2016 Brexit referendum, 96% of voters in Gibraltar supported remaining in the continental bloc that they feel gives them more leverage to deal with the government in Madrid.

The territory still remembers how, in 1969, Spanish dictator Gen. Francisco Franco slammed shut the border in an attempt to wreck Gibraltar’s economy.

Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said the post-Brexit trade deal “is a huge relief given the potential difficulties that a no-deal Brexit might have created for the United Kingdom and the European Union.”

But he added that his territory is still at risk.

“This deal does not cover Gibraltar. For us, and for the people of the Campo de Gibraltar around us, the clock is still ticking,” Picardo said in a statement.

“We continue to work, hand in glove with the United Kingdom, to finalize negotiation with Spain of agreement for a proposed treaty between the EU and the U.K. in relation to Gibraltar,” he said.

Picardo recently told Spain’s Cadena SER radio that “an agreement in the fashion of Schengen would be the most positive” outcome to facilitate the 30 million annual border crossings between Gibraltar and Spain.

The Europe’s Schengen area consists of about two dozen nations who have agreed to eliminate general travel checks within the group, although some local checks have been reintroduced due to the pandemic. Britain is not in the Schengen group.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government also said it’s committed to finding a solution that includes “ensuring border fluidity, which is clearly in the best interests of the communities that live on both sides.”

___

Follow all AP stories on Brexit at https://apnews.com/Brexit

Opposition activist leaves embassy haven to flee Venezuela

Opposition activist leaves embassy haven to flee Venezuela

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FILE – In this May 2, 2019 file photo, Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez smiles during a press conference at the gate of the Spanish ambassador’s residence in Caracas, Venezuela. Lopez left the residence where he had been a guest … more >

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By JOSHUA GOODMAN and CHRISTINE ARMARIO

Associated Press

Saturday, October 24, 2020

MEDELLIN, Colombia (AP) – Prominent opposition activist Leopoldo López has abandoned the Spanish ambassador’s residence in Caracas and left Venezuela after years of frustrated efforts to oust the nation’s socialist president, his party said Saturday.

The 49-year-old former Caracas-area mayor has been holed up at the ambassador’s residence since a failed military uprising he led in April 2019 aimed at ousting President Nicolás Maduro. He has been jailed, under house arrest or in a foreign embassy refuge for nearly seven years.

“We won’t rest and we’ll continue working day and night to attain the freedom that we Venezuelans all deserve,” López tweeted late Saturday. He said the decision to leave had not been ‘’simple” and that more details on plans for democratic change in Venezuela will be announced in coming days.

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In a statement from Popular Will, the party López founded, leaders confirmed he had left the country to continue his work from abroad in a decision they deemed “best for the country and the fight for Venezuela’s freedom.”

“After seven years of persecution and unjust imprisonment inside Venezuela, Leopoldo López is still not totally free, like all Venezuelans, so long as there exists a dictatorship that violates the human rights of the people,” the party said.

It is unclear how López left the ambassador’s residence, given the heavy state security presence permanently stationed outside the property. Travel by land has grown increasingly difficult because of widespread fuel shortages. Filling up a vehicle with gas can take hours if not days and checkpoints manned by security forces have proliferated across the country.

In a message directed to Maduro on Twitter, U.S.-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó said his political mentor had gotten out of Venezuela by “evading your repressive apparatus.” He added to López’s efforts to remove Maduro would continue from abroad as part of the opposition strategy to garner international support.

“Maduro you don’t control anything,” Guaidó wrote.

There was no immediate reaction from Venezuelan authorities.

López was sentenced in 2015 to nearly 14 years in prison after being convicted of inciting violence during anti-government protests in which three people died and dozens were wounded. He was released from prison and placed under house arrest after more than three years in a military jail.

Even from his confines, López has remained an influential figure in Venezuela’s opposition, advising Guaidó, who claims he is the country’s interim president because Maduro’s 2018 reelection was not legitimate.

But after drawing tens of thousands of people to the streets last year, the opposition has struggled to regain momentum. Maduro remains firmly in control of the nation’s military and nearly all other government institutions.

López’s flight is likely to be held up by the government as a trophy as it prepares to retake control of the National Assembly in December legislative elections that Guaidó has vowed to boycott. López had long stubbornly refused to leave even when his wife and children fled to Spain last year.

He would join dozens of anti-government politicians who have fled Venezuela over recent years, many leaving covertly to avoid potential persecution or jail time.

“It’s probably the clearest sign that the continued opposition effort to unseat Maduro has floundered that a committed stay-in-Venezuela leader like Lopez has chosen to finally leave,” said Raul Gallegos, a Colombia-based analyst at Control Risks consultancy.

López pursued a strategy in 2014 known as “The Exit,” consisting of street protests months after Maduro was elected. The strategy failed and ultimately divided the opposition. That combativeness led to his arrest and conviction on insurrection charges branded a sham by human rights groups.

His hardline stance, backed by Washington, would ultimately come to dominate the fractious opposition, which rallied behind Guaidó. A follower of López, he had become congressional president and is now recognized by more than 50 countries as Venezuela’s rightful leader.

The years López spent at a military prison, during which he read the works of Nelson Mandela and kept up a rigorous exercise regimen, solidified his image as a man willing to risk his own skin to rid the country of Maduro.

He sought allies among his former jailers in the military and in 2019 reappeared on a highway overpass with a small band of national guardsmen calling for an uprising against Maduro. The putsch was easily quashed and López took refuge in the ambassador’s residence.

Since then, López has struggled to maintain the same leadership. While Guaidó named him his cabinet chief, many in the opposition coalition, envious of his influence in Washington, sought to quietly undermine him, accusing him of having a messiah complex and failing to build consensus.

His departure comes just days after Spain’s Ambassador Jesus Silva-who has been the dean of Caracas’ dwindling diplomatic community-was recalled by Spain’s leftist government to Madrid after serving for four years.

Silva, a career diplomat, was a firm backer of López. But as a holdover from previous Spanish administrations who was once expelled by Maduro, he was less effective an interlocutor when Spain’s socialist government took power.

Even as his whereabouts remained unknown, some opposition leaders were praising López’s decision to flee.

“We await you in the diaspora to continue fighting for the freedom of all of Venezuela,” said Antonio Ledezma, a former Caracas mayor who himself fled in a risky trek by land out of the nation in 2017 after being briefly jailed on charges of plotting to oust Maduro.

Prominent opposition activist Leopoldo Lopez has abandoned Spain’s embassy in Caracas and is leaving

Prominent opposition activist Leopoldo Lopez has abandoned Spain’s embassy in Caracas and is leaving

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Saturday, October 24, 2020

MEDELLIN, Colomba (AP) – Prominent opposition activist Leopoldo Lopez has abandoned Spain’s embassy in Caracas and is leaving Venezuela: sources.

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Two city police officers patrol the Navigli area, a popular evening spot of restaurants and pubs bordering canals in Milan, Italy, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. Authorities in regions including Italy’s three largest cities have imposed curfews in a bid to … more >

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By The Associated Press

Associated Press

Friday, October 23, 2020

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa has among the nation’s highest coronavirus infection and death rates and residents should avoid gatherings in most counties, federal health experts say.

Iowa had 238 new cases and 2.8 deaths per 100,000 people last week, about double the national per capita average between Oct. 10 and Oct. 16, the White House Coronavirus Task Force reported.

The task force report of Oct. 18 was released Friday by the Iowa Department of Public Health. The grim statistics came as Iowa’s hospitals faced a surge of coronavirus patients. The number hospitalized hit a record 536, according to data released Thursday.

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In all, 90% of Iowa’s 99 counties are experiencing high or moderate levels of virus transmission.

The report recommends “mask wearing, physical distancing, hand hygiene, avoiding crowds in public and social gatherings in private and ensuring flu immunizations.”

The state reported a one-day record of 31 deaths on Wednesday and 38 more in the two days since for a total of 1,617.

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

– France surpasses 1 million coronavirus cases

– WHO says Northern hemisphere at ‘critical juncture’ with rising cases, deaths

– FDA approves first COVID-19 drug: antiviral remdesivir

– UN chief says G-20 leaders must coordinate to fight coronavirus. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is frustrated leaders of 20 major industrialized countries didn’t do it in March as he proposed.

– Schools from New Jersey to California have been hit with teacher and staff layoffs. Urban areas lacking the property wealth of suburban communities are especially vulnerable to budget cuts, with many schools hoping for a new round of federal money.

– An online Japanese-language text messaging service for suicide prevention has grown to 500 volunteers since March.

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Follow all of AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

___

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

PHOENIX – Arizona health officials on Friday reported an additional 975 known COVID-19 cases and six more deaths, the fourth day this week in which the state’s daily case report topped 900.

The additional cases and deaths reported by the Department of Health Services increased the state’s totals to 235,882 cases and 5,865 deaths.

Arizona in the past month has seen a gradual increase in COVID-19 cases and related hospitalizations but levels remain well below the thousands of cases reported on some days in June and July when Arizona was a national hot spot. The outbreak diminished in August and September as many local governments imposed mask mandates and the state re-imposed some business restrictions.

According to Johns Hopkins University data analyzed by The Associated Press, the state’s seven-day rolling average of daily new cases rose over the past two weeks, going from 598 new cases per day on Oct. 8 to 880 new cases per day on Thursday.

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PARIS – France has surpassed 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, becoming the second country in Western Europe after Spain to reach the mark.

The national health agency announced 42,032 new cases on Friday, bringing the total to 1.04 million cases. Health experts say the actual numbers are likely higher because of a lack of testing, asymptomatic cases and reporting issues.

French President Emmanuel Macron called on citizens to respect a nightly curfew and other measures to fight the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

Macron says cases are “very strongly accelerating,” with coronavirus patients occupying more than 42% of ICU beds nationally and 64% in the Paris region.

The government announced a six-week curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. in 46 regions and Polynesia.

France has more than 34,200 deaths, the fourth-highest death toll in Europe behind Britain, Italy and Spain.

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LONDON – Bars, restaurants and most shops have closed across Wales in a lockdown to curb surging coronavirus cases.

The Cardiff-based government has imposed the U.K.’s strictest lockdown for 17 days starting Friday night. Most businesses will close, high school students will be taught online and people will avoid non-essential journeys.

The U.K. has Europe’s deadliest coronavirus numbers, with more than 44,500 confirmed coronavirus-related deaths. There have been 1,756 deaths in Wales, which has a population of about 3 million.

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LA GUAIRA, Venezuela – Some Venezuelans headed back to the beach on Friday after the government relaxed measures aimed at containing the coronavirus.

It’s been seven months since tourists went to the La Ultima beach in the Caribbean town of La Guaira, outside the capital of Caracas.

Vendors again peddled drinks and snacks to sunbathers. Umbrellas waved above the sand.

Restaurants, flower shops, bars, liquor stores and ice cream parlors also opened along the seaside boulevard, with social distancing rules in place.

President Nicolás Maduro this week announced a broad reopening of most private businesses, parks and beaches around the country, saying the curve of new infections has flattened and “is steadily descending.” Open-air concerts, amusement parks and drive-ins return as well.

But Venezuela’s airports remain closed to international travel and officials haven’t said when they plan to resume operations. The government has reported 88,416 confirmed cases and 759 deaths since March.

___

GENEVA – The head of the World Health Organization warns that countries in the Northern hemisphere are at a “critical juncture” with rising cases and deaths.

“The next few months are going to be very tough and some countries are on a dangerous track,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a press briefing on Friday. “Many countries are seeing an exponential increase in cases,” and he called for immediate action.

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on coronavirus, says the U.N. health agency had recorded about 445,000 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours; nearly half of those were from Europe.

She says in many cities across Europe, “the capacity for ICU is going to be reached in the coming weeks.”

___

ROME – Italy reached a new daily high of nearly 20,000 coronavirus cases.

The 9,143 infections were found during a record 182,000 swab tests, raising the confirmed total to 484,869 cases.

The number of COVID-19 patients needing intensive care surpassed 1,000 on Friday. So far, hospitals say they can handle the case load.

Italy added another 91 deaths, bringing the confirmed total to 37,059 deaths since the beginning of the outbreak.

___

ALFRED, Maine – Officials with a Maine county say a coronavirus outbreak that sickened more than 80 people at a jail is over.

The outbreak occurred at York County Jail in Alfred and was connected to a larger outbreak centered on a northern Maine wedding and reception. The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has said an employee of the jail attended the wedding.

The outbreak connected to the Aug. 7 wedding event sickened a total of 178 people and killed eight. The case total includes the cases from the Alfred jail.

The County Commissioners of York County said in a statement Friday that no inmates are currently receiving treatment and all staff have returned to work. An inquiry by an outside examiner continues.

County Manager Gregory Zinser says the county has stepped up efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus since the outbreak.

A Maine CDC spokesperson confirmed the facility met the criteria to close an outbreak investigation on Oct. 12.

___

GENEVA – Swiss health authorities are reporting another record daily coronavirus count, crossing the 6,000 threshold for the first time.

The announcement of 6,600 new cases Friday comes amid rising concerns about hospital capacity.

Federal officials in the country have called on regional leaders to do more to fight the growing outbreak that has mostly hit the French speaking areas of the southwest and west the most.

Stefan Kuster, the head of infectious diseases at the Federal Office of Public Health, says the positivity rate has reached a worrying 21 percent in the most recent seven-day period.

Kuster said Switzerland now has 495 cases per 100,000 people, surpassing neighboring France at 450. The rate is twice that in Italy and Austria, and five times higher than in Germany, he said.

Overall, the nation of 8.5 million has 103,653 confirmed cases and 1,877 deaths.

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SOFIA, Bulgaria – Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov will go into self-isolation after contact with an official who tested positive for the coronavirus.

Borissov was informed Friday that deputy construction minister Nikolay Nankov had tested positive earlier in the day.

Borissov says he was in contact with Nankov five days ago and a PCR test done Friday was negative. Before these events on Friday, Borissov had met with visiting U.S. Under Secretary of State Keith J. Krach.

Bulgaria hit record levels on Friday with 1,595 new infections. The Balkan nation of 7 million people has recorded 34,930 confirmed cases and 1,064 deaths.

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PINE RIDGE, S.D. – The Oglala Sioux Tribe is locking down the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation for one week in response to surging coronavirus cases in the state.

The lockdown begins at 10 p.m. Friday and lasts until 6 a.m. Oct. 30 when all non-critical travel is barred. The tribe says non-essential businesses should close to the public and travel to non-essential work or non-emergency medical appointments to or from the reservation should stop.

Tribes nationwide have taken an aggressive approach to preventing infections amid concerns Native Americans could be particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus.

The lockdown comes as South Dakota surpassed 9,000 coronavirus cases on Thursday and reported an all-time high of 973 cases and 14 deaths in one day. October has been South Dakota’s deadliest month, with 124 of the 347 deaths.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe posted on its Twitter page there were 391 active cases on the reservation, which has a population of nearly 20,000 people.

___

BOSTON – Massachusetts has ordered the shutdown of all indoor ice skating facilities in the state for two weeks in response to several coronavirus clusters linked to ice hockey games and practices.

The order takes effect Friday and lasts until Nov. 7, the state Department of Public Health announced. College and professional programs are exempt from the order.

There have been at least 30 coronavirus clusters associated with organized ice hockey activities, involving residents from more than 60 cities and towns in the state, the department says.

Each included two or more confirmed or probable virus cases, totaling 108 cases.

___

Bucharest, Romania – Romania’s daily tally of coronavirus infections rose above 5,000 for the first time and patients in intensive care units also reached a new high.

Health officials report 5,028 cases and 82 deaths in the last 24 hours. Intensive care units across the country were treating 782 people for the coronavirus.

Authorities have stepped up protective measures in localities where the rate of infection exceeded 3 people per 1,000 inhabitants, ordering the closure of schools, theaters, bars and restaurants.

The eastern European nation of 19 million has recorded a total of 201,032 confirmed infections and 6,245 deaths.

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LISBON, Portugal – Portugal’s parliament has passed a law making it mandatory to wear face masks in many outdoor situations.

The law approved Friday means anyone age 10 or older must wear a mask in public spaces whenever it is “impractical” to keep at least a 2-meter distance from others.

Police will enforce the measure. Failure to comply entails a fine of up to 500 euros ($591).

___

MADRID – Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez appealed to Spaniards to pull together and defeat the coronavirus, warning: “The situation is serious.”

Sánchez, in a televised address to the nation Friday, acknowledged public fatigue with restrictions to contain the spread. But he added: “We have to step up the fight.”

This week, Spain became the first European country to surpass 1 million confirmed cases. Sánchez says the actual number could be more than 3 million because of gaps in testing.

The current pressure on the health system, including hospitalizations, is not as acute as it was in the spring, he says. Even so, he asked for the public’s cooperation, discipline and unity during the winter months.

___

ZAGREB, Croatia – Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia report soaring numbers of daily coronavirus infections.

Croatia on Friday reached another record as 1,876 people tested positive in the past 24 hours and seven people died. Authorities say the positivity rate was more than 25 percent, which means every fourth person tested had the virus.

Neighboring Slovenia has announced the closure of non-essential shops, hotels and kindergartens after previously imposing an overnight curfew. The country on Friday reported 1,656 new cases and the positivity rate in tests of more than 25 percent.

Bosnia on Friday exceeded 1,000 daily cases for the first time since the start of the pandemic. The crisis-stricken Balkan nation says 1,179 people tested positive in the past 24 hours and 14 people died.

___

COPENHAGEN, Denmark – The Finnish government has recommended public sector employees work remotely “to the extent possible.”

It urged the private sector to do the same but added “the decision is up to the workplace.” That would mean fewer people using public transportation.

In a statement, the government warned if the flare-up reached “the acceleration phase,” public events and meetings, outdoor and indoor, may be restricted, regardless of the number of participants. Higher education institutions should also “seriously consider switching to distance learning.”

In neighboring Norway, Prime Minister Erna Solberg says “the fewer people we meet, the less the virus will spread.”

Her government will announce restrictions next week so “there is a greater probability of a normal Christmas celebration with the family at home.”

___

WARSAW, Poland – Poland’s government has announced the entire country will become a “red zone” of strict anti-COVID-19 restrictions starting Saturday, just short of a lockdown.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki appealed Friday to Poles to strictly observe the restrictions in order to protect lives. The appeal came as the nation of 38 million hit another daily record of new registered infections – over 13,600 and 153 deaths.

The measures, expanded from local red zones, include wearing masks at all times outdoors and switching all primary schools to remote learning. Morawiecki says the goal is to limit social contacts and the number of passengers on public transport. In other measures, restaurants and other eateries can provide takeout only for another two weeks and gatherings cannot exceed five people, except for professional activity.

People over 70 are asked to stay home, and a system of support in delivering supplies is being put in place.

“We absolutely must cut the means of transmission of infection,” Morawiecki said.

Poland’s government is also appealing to Poles to stay home and refrain from observing the national tradition of visiting graves on All Saints’ Day, Nov. 1.

Facing terror charges, ETA’s last boss apologizes for deaths

Facing terror charges, ETA’s last boss apologizes for deaths

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Josu Urrutikoetxea, a former leader of Basque separatist militant group ETA, speaks in Paris, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. Josu Urrutikoetxea, the last known chief of ETA, the now-extinct Basque separatist militant group, goes on trial Monday Oct. 19, 2020 in … more >

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By ARITZ PARRA and ANGELA CHARLTON

Associated Press

Monday, October 19, 2020

PARIS (AP) – A Paris appeals court postponed Monday the first of two back-to-back terrorism trials this week against the last-known chief of ETA, the now-extinct Basque separatist militant group, charges that the defendant deems “absurd” because of his role in ending a conflict that claimed some 850 lives and terrorized Spain for half a century.

Josu Urrutikoetxea led ETA during one of its bloodiest periods, when its victims included children bombed to death while sleeping in a Zaragoza police compound. In a rare interview after 17 years on the run, he offered an apology, advised other separatist movements against resorting to violence and painted himself as a changed man.

That’s a preposterous claim to those who lost loved ones to ETA’s violence. Just because he oversaw ETA’s end in 2018, they stress, that doesn’t erase his past.

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Now 69, diminished by a battle with cancer and facing the prospect of life behind bars, the man widely known by his police alias Josu Ternera says he’s sorry for “irreparable damage” caused by ETA violence as it sought to build an independent state straddling the Pyrenees mountain range between Spain and France.

Asked if he would apologize to ETA victims’ families, he told The Associated Press: “Of course, (I offer) apologies for something that we can’t repair.”

But he insisted the Basque independence movement suffered, too, from a “black hole” of cultural repression rooted in the Spanish dictatorship that ended more than four decades ago, and mainly from rogue groups within the Spanish government that in the 1980s tortured and killed nearly 30 ETA members and other militants.

Apologies aren’t enough for some ETA victims.

“I don’t seek revenge against Josu Ternera,” said Lucía Ruiz, who was 10 when she was injured in the 1987 blast targeting military police barracks in Zaragoza where she lived. “But this gentleman tried to kill me and I want for him to pay a price for it.”

Since his long-awaited arrest last year, Urrutikoetxea has campaigned to shed the terrorist label and rebrand himself as a repentant, aging peacemaker.

He won conditional release in July pending trial, after lawyers argued poor health made him vulnerable to contracting the new coronavirus. He’s now staying with a friend in Paris, where he’s trying to get his first-ever college diploma and is allowed out a few hours a day with an electronic bracelet.

In a petition published Saturday, more than 250 intellectuals from multiple countries called for France and Spain to end Urrutikoetxea’s prosecution, arguing that putting him on trial “is implicitly criminalizing all negotiators and calling into question all current and future peace processes in the world.”

Those calls are rejected by most of Spain’s political mainstream.

Ruiz and Spanish authorities believe that Urrutikoetxea, as ETA’s leader, either approved or knew about the car that, loaded with dynamite, exploded under her window at the Zaragoza Civil Guard headquarters where she lived with her father, mother and sister.

Three ETA assailants were tried and imprisoned for carrying out the attack, which killed 11 people, including six minors.

“He now presents himself as the country’s savior,” Ruiz said. “But this gentleman is a murderer, with murder written in capital letters.”

Urrutikoetxea denies any role, saying, “They want me to answer for something I had nothing to do with.”

His life mirrors the trajectory of ETA, whose initials stand for “Basque Homeland and Freedom” and was created during Gen. Francisco Franco’s 1939-1975 dictatorship. He joined in 1968, the year of ETA’s first deadly attack, and led the group in the late 1980s. He served 11 years in French and Spanish prisons, was a lawmaker in the Basque regional parliament and then a negotiator in talks with Spanish government envoys.

Urrutikoetxea claims he was under quiet French police protection for years, which allowed him to travel to peace talks despite being on Interpol’s most-wanted list. The French government would not comment on his claims.

ETA gave up its arms in 2017, and Urrutikoetxea announced ETA’s final dismantling the following year.

“We had to … open the path to peace, whatever it cost,” he said, “for the generations to come.”

He was set to face justice this week for the first time in decades, following two sentences for a total of 15 years in prison for his alleged role in attack plots in the 2000s and 2010s respectively that he appealed when he was arrested.

But the judge on the earlier case postponed the trial to Feb. 22 and 23 next year because some of the key defense witnesses couldn’t make it to Monday’s hearing due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Arguing that he was focused on peace efforts at the time of the alleged plots, he said, “It’s absurd that they want to judge me” for this.

His lawyer plans to request a delay in Monday’s trial for procedural reasons. Once the French trials end, France has agreed to extradite Urrutikoetxea to Spain, which wants to try him for crimes against humanity, multiple killings and belonging to a terrorist organization, although his defense has appealed.

Ruiz rejects Urrutikoetxea’s peddling of himself as “a man of peace.”

“I doubt I would pardon him. What I do want is to see him taking the stand in court,” she said, standing at the site of ETA’s attack on the Civil Guard.

Urrutikoetxea prefers talking of the future.

Basque society remains similarly divided, said Gaizka Fernández Soldevilla, a historian and researcher with the Foundation and Memorial for Terrorism Victims in the Basque region’s capital, Vitoria. “There is a part that wants to turn the page without having read it, and there is another side that wants to get a lesson for democracy out of it … to try to heal the wounds and become a more coherent, cohesive society.”

That won’t happen, Fernández said, “if all that’s done is to try to forget.”

___ Aritz Parra reported from Zaragoza, Spain. Nicolas Vaux-Montagny in Lyon, France contributed.

Separatists protest Spanish royals’ visit to rural Catalonia

Separatists protest Spanish royals’ visit to rural Catalonia

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Spain’s King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia visit the Royal Monastery of Poblet, northeastern Spain, Monday, July 20, 2020. Hundreds of Catalan independence supporters are protesting Monday the visit of King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia to the northeastern region … more >

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By HERNÁN MUÑOZ

Associated Press

Monday, July 20, 2020

L’ESPLUGA DE FRANCOLI, Spain (AP) – Hundreds of Catalan independence supporters protested a visit by King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia on Monday to the northeastern region, during a royal tour across Spain meant to boost morale amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The visit came amid mounting media reports accusing the king’s father, former monarch Juan Carlos I, of allegedly hiding millions of untaxed euros in offshore funds.

Prosecutors in the country’s Supreme Court are determining whether Juan Carlos can be investigated for allegedly receiving the funds from Saudi Arabia, possibly as kickbacks for a high-speed railway project. The former king hasn’t publicly addressed the allegations against him.

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The scandal is the latest to rock the Spanish royal family. In mid-March, it prompted Felipe to renounce any inheritance he could receive from his father and stripped him of the annual stipend he received. Juan Carlos abdicated on behalf of his son in 2014.

With that backdrop, the royal couple launched a visit to all of Spain’s 17 regions that was designed as a show of support for the citizens and the economy as it recovers from the first wave of the pandemic.

The Catalan leg of the tour was initially planned for last week, covering several towns and Barcelona, but the palace said it had postponed it and scaled it back to a short visit to a monastery because of the spike in virus cases in and around the regional capital.

Protesters on Monday carried photos of Felipe upside down and letters completing the sentence “Catalonia doesn’t have a king” during a march organized by ANC, the region’s largest pro-independence civil society group.

“Are the king and the queen here to promote tourism? What they promote is repulsiveness,” said protester Marta Martí. “They know we don’t want them. But they come here to test our patience.”

Tensions between separatists in Catalonia, which has a population of 7.5 million, and those in support of Spanish unity came to a head in late 2017. A banned referendum was met with police violence, and prompted the prosecution of top elected officials and activists.

“We want democracy, simply democracy,” said school teacher Marcel Barbosa, adding that the king had shown disrespect for Catalans’ demands for independence. “They know they are going to lose and that they will need to leave, that’s why we are not allowed to vote.”

The march was headed to the Royal Monastery of Poblet, which the king and the queen were visiting, but police blocked access at the main road. Some of the activists tried to reach the monastery by venturing into nearby vineyards.

Separated by a line of riot police, a dozen people expressed support for the Spanish royals. All protesters left after the end of the visit.

High-speed and regular trains in and out of the northern Catalan city of Girona were also delayed or cancelled due to “acts of vandalism,” according to a tweet by Spain’s railway infrastructure operator, ADIF. A photo circulated on messaging apps showed tires burning on railways next to a sign showing a crossed-out, upside-down image of a crown.

Quim Torra, the head of the Catalan government and a fervent separatist, on Sunday said that he’s asked the regional government’s legal services to study how a personal lawsuit can be filed against the former king and anybody who was involved in the alleged corruption.

__

AP reporter Aritz Parra in Madrid contributed to this story.

Insults, slammed fists: EU virus summit goes into 4th day

Insults, slammed fists: EU virus summit goes into 4th day

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French President Emmanuel Macron, center, leaves the European Council building in the early morning during an EU summit in Brussels, Monday, July 20, 2020. Leaders from 27 European Union nations met throughout the night Sunday to assess an overall budget … more >

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By Raf Casert and Mike Corder

Associated Press

Monday, July 20, 2020

BRUSSELS (AP) — Weary and bleary, European Union leaders were gearing up Monday for a fourth day of fighting over an unprecedented 1.85 trillion-euro ($2.1 trillion) EU budget and coronavirus recovery fund, barely recovered from a weekend of walkouts, fists slamming into tables and insults.

With a brilliant sun warming the negotiating sundeck at the Europa summit center early Monday, there finally was a glimmer of hope that the talks to help the continent emerge from the pandemic through an unprecedented economic aid package are not doomed after all.

“It looks more hopeful than when I thought during the night: ‘It’s over,’” said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the target of much of the criticism. The meeting — one of the longest-running ever in the bloc’s history — broke up temporarily and is due to resume on Monday afternoon.

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“All want a solution instead of shelving the problem,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said. Alluding to the infighting, he added, “It also shows: massive efforts are needed to make Europe strong again together. The corona pandemic shocked all of us.”

It took a heart-tugging dinner speech by EU Council President Charles Michel about leaders not failing their union, French President Emmanuel Macron slamming his fist in anger into the table, and a new set of budgetary numbers to send this epic summit onward.

It was planned as a two-day summit scheduled to have ended Saturday, but there are deep ideological differences between the 27 leaders forced the talks into two extra days.

Rutte, defending the cause of a group of five wealthy northern nations – the Netherlands, Austria, Finland, Sweden and Denmark – sought to limit costs and impose strict reform guarantees. He came under criticism from Macron, Italy and Hungary, whose Prime Minister Viktor Orban asked why the Dutchman had such “hate” toward him.

Rutte took it in stride.

“We are not here because we are going to be visitors at each other’s birthday party later. We are here because we do business for our own country. We are all pros,” he said.

On Sunday night, after three days of fruitless talks and with hope dimming, Michel implored leaders to overcome their fundamental divisions and agree on the budget and recovery fund.

“Are the 27 EU leaders capable of building European unity and trust or, because of a deep rift, will we present ourselves as a weak Europe, undermined by distrust,” he asked the leaders. The text of the behind-closed-doors speech was obtained by The Associated Press.

“I wish that we succeed in getting a deal and that the European media can headline tomorrow that the EU succeeded in a Mission Impossible,” Michel said.

The pandemic has sent the EU into a tailspin, killing around 135,000 of its citizens and plunging its economy into an estimated contraction of 8.3% this year.

The bloc’s executive has proposed a 750 billion-euro coronavirus fund, partly based on common borrowing, to be sent as loans and grants to the countries hit hardest by the pandemic. That comes on top of the seven-year 1 trillion-euro EU budget that leaders had been haggling over for months even before the pandemic hit.

Even with Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel negotiating as the closest of partners, the traditionally powerful Franco-German alliance could not get the quarreling nations in line.

At their dinner table Sunday night, the leaders mulled a proposal from the five wealthy northern nations that suggested a coronavirus recovery fund with 350 billion euros of grants and the same amount again in loans. The five EU nations – nicknamed “the frugals” – had long opposed any grants at all, while the EU executive had proposed 500 billion euros.

“We are ready to take the leap from loans to subsidies,” Rutte said.

All nations agree they need to band together but the five richer countries in the north, led by the Netherlands, want strict controls on spending, while struggling southern nations like Spain and Italy say those conditions should be kept to a minimum.

Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya said negotiations are at a “delicate moment” but that Spain still expects that an agreement that will set new foundations for the bloc will be achieved. Speaking to Cadena SER radio in an interview Monday, she said that Spain is open to a plan that comes with strings attached.

“We do not reject conditionality and we do not reject that there is good governance that offers trust,” she said. “What we do want is for that to have a framework, a framework that offers trust, clarity and transparency, which is the basis of a family’s relationship, same as the relationship within the European Union.”

Rutte has long been known as a European bridge builder, but this weekend his tough negotiating stance was being blamed for holding up a deal. He and his allies have been pushing for labor market and pension reforms to be linked to EU handouts and a “brake” enabling EU nations to monitor and, if necessary, halt projects that are being paid for by the recovery fund.

“He can’t ask us to do specific reforms,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said, complaining Rutte may look like a hero in his home nation, but nowhere else.

Rutte also wants 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.

That drew Orban’s anger.

“I don’t know what is the personal reason for the Dutch prime minister to hate me or Hungary, but he’s attacking so harshly and making very clear that because Hungary, in his opinion, does not respect the rule of law, (it) must be punished financially,” Orban said.

____

Corder reported from The Hague, Netherlands. Samuel Petrequin and Aritz Parra contributed from Brussels, Madrid.

EU finalizing virus ‘safe list’; U.S. unlikely to make the cut

EU finalizing virus ‘safe list’; U.S. unlikely to make the cut

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In this Monday, May 25, 2020, file photo, people stroll at Trocadero square near the Eiffel Tower in Paris. European Union envoys are close to finalizing a list of countries whose citizens will be allowed back into Europe once it … more >

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By Lorne Cook

Associated Press

Monday, June 29, 2020

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union is edging toward finalizing a list of countries whose citizens will be allowed to enter Europe again in coming days, with Americans almost certain to be excluded in the short term due to the number of U.S. coronavirus cases.

Spain’s foreign minister said that the list could contain 15 countries that are not EU members and whose citizens would be allowed to visit from July 1. EU diplomats confirmed that the list would be made public on Tuesday. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because the procedure is ongoing and politically very sensitive.

EU envoys in Brussels worked over the weekend to narrow down the exact criteria for countries to be included, mostly centered on their ability to manage the spread of the disease. Importantly, the countries are also expected to drop any travel restrictions they have imposed on European citizens.

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The number of confirmed cases in the United States has surged over the past week, and President Donald Trump also suspended the entry of all people from Europe’s ID check-free travel zone in a decree in March, making it highly unlikely that U.S. citizens would qualify.

Infection rates in Brazil, Russia and India are high, too, and their nationals are also unlikely to make the cut.

Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya said the EU is considering whether to accept travelers from China if Beijing lifts restrictions on European citizens. Morocco is another possibility, although its government doesn’t plan to open borders until July 10.

She said she wasn’t aware of pressure from the United States for the EU to reopen travel to its nationals, adding that countries have been chosen according to their coronavirus statistics – whether similar or not to that in the EU – trends of contagion and how reliable their data is.

“This is not an exercise to be nice or unfriendly to other countries, this is an exercise of self-responsibility,” she told Spain’s Cadena SER radio on Monday.

The safe country list would be reviewed every 14 days, with new countries being added and some possibly dropping off, depending on how the spread of the disease is being managed. Non-EU nationals already in the bloc wouldn’t be affected.

More than 15 million Americans are estimated to travel to Europe annually, and any delay would be a further blow to virus-ravaged economies and tourism sectors on both sides of the Atlantic. Around 10 million Europeans are thought to cross the Atlantic for vacations and business each year.

The 27 EU nations and four other countries that are part of Europe’s “Schengen area” – a 26-nation bloc where goods and people move freely without document checks – appear on track to reopen borders between each other from Wednesday.

Once that happens and the green light is given, restrictions on nonessential travel to Europe from the outside world, which were imposed in March to halt new virus cases from entering, would gradually be lifted.

Brussels fears that opening up to countries outside in an ad hoc way could lead to the reintroduction of border controls between nations inside the Schengen area, threatening once again Europe’s cherished principle of free movement, which allows people and goods to cross borders without checks.

___

Aritz Parra in Madrid contributed to this report.

U.S. citizens likely to be left out as Europe reopens borders

U.S. citizens likely to be left out as Europe reopens borders

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A TUI X3 2312 Duesseldorf-Mallorca flight passenger talks to the press at Son Sant Joan airport in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, Monday, June 15, 2020. Whether its German holidaymakers basking in Spain’s sunshine or Parisians renewing their love affair with … more >

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By Lorne Cook

Associated Press

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

BRUSSELS (AP) — Americans are unlikely to be allowed into Europe when the continent reopens its borders next week, due to how the coronavirus pandemic is flaring in the U.S. and President Donald Trump’s ban on Europeans entering the United States.

European nations appear on track to reopen their borders between each other by July 1, and their representatives in Brussels are now debating what virus-related criteria should apply when lifting border restrictions to the outside world that were imposed in March.

In recommendations to EU nations on June 11, the European Commission said “travel restrictions should not be lifted as regards third countries where the situation is worse” than the average in the 27 EU member countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

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That is likely to rule out the United States, where new coronavirus infections have surged to the highest level in two months, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. After trending down for well over a month, new U.S. cases have risen for more than a week.

The U.S. on Tuesday reported 34,700 new cases of the virus, bringing its total to more than 2.3 million and over 121,000 dead – the most anywhere in the world. The virus outbreaks in Brazil, India and Russia are remarkably high too, and it’s also unlikely that the EU will let their citizens in.

In contrast, aside from a notable new outbreak tied to a slaughterhouse in western Germany, the virus’s spread has slowed notably across the EU and particularly in the 26 nations that make up Europe’s visa-free travel zone known as the Schengen area, which more than 15 million Americans visit each year.

For the EU’s executive arm, the key criteria for opening up to the outside world should include the number of new infections per 100,000 population – the exact ceiling is up for debate – and the country’s overall response to the pandemic, in terms of testing, surveillance, treatment, contact tracing and reporting cases.

But more than this, the country should lift its own travel restrictions for Europeans from all EU and Schengen nations, the commission said, adding “it cannot be applied selectively.”

Brussels fears that opening up to countries outside in ad hoc way could lead to the reintroduction of border controls between nations inside the Schengen area, threatening once again Europe’s cherished principle of free movement, which allows people and goods to cross borders without checks.

This principle of reciprocity on its own should rule out U.S. citizens, at least initially. The aim is to revise the list of acceptable countries every two weeks based on developments.

In a decree on March 11, Trump suspended the entry of all people in the Schengen area. More than 10 million Europeans visit the United States each year.

“The potential for undetected transmission of the virus by infected individuals seeking to enter the United States from the Schengen Area threatens the security of our transportation system and infrastructure and the national security,” Trump’s proclamation said.

The Latest: Coronavirus resurgence continues in South Korea

The Latest: Coronavirus resurgence continues in South Korea

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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.

Mallorca hopes trailblazing tourists kickstart economy

Mallorca hopes trailblazing tourists kickstart economy

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A couple adjust sunshades at the beach of Palma de Mallorca, Spain, Tuesday, June 16, 2020. Borders opened up across Europe on Monday after three months of coronavirus closures that began chaotically in March. But many restrictions persist, it’s unclear … more >

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By DANIEL NIEMANN and JOSEPH WILSON

Associated Press

Thursday, June 18, 2020

PALMA DE MALLORCA, Spain (AP) – Thermometer guns, face masks and plastic gloves in airports, hotels and restaurants. Shops shuttered in sleepy streets. Night life verboten.

Holidays in pandemic times are offering many fewer frills for the international traveler.

But Spain’s Balearic Islands are betting that their Mediterranean blue waters, warm sun and sandy beaches are enough to lure back the tourists that their residents’ livelihoods depend on.

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“We enjoy the fact that we’re allowed to be pretty much alone here. The beach is empty,” German tourist Martin Hofmann said Wednesday while walking along the beach of Palma, Mallorca’s main city.

“OK, unfortunately, a lot of places are also closed,” Hoffman said. “There’s only two or three places open here at Playa de Palma now. But, whatever. That’s new and fun.”

Hoffman and his wife Serra are among the first of 10,900 German tourists scheduled to arrive in the Balearic Islands over the next two weeks for whom the Spanish government has waived the current 14-day quarantine requirement. As happy as the islands are to have tourists back, that number represents only 0.91% of the visitors that Mallorca and the three other Balearic Islands welcomed in the second half of June last year.

It may be a trickle of tourists, but they are like manna from above for the archipelago’s struggling economy.

Tourism generates 12% of Spain’s GDP and supports 2.6 million jobs. In Spain’s Balearic and Canary Islands, however, the dependence on tourism jumps to over 30% of their economies. Competing with other European countries that are similarly desperate to fill their hotels, museums and tourist sites, Spain’s government announced a 4.2 billion euro ($4.7 billion) aid package for its tourism industry on Thursday.

The president of the Confederation of Business Associations of the Balearic Islands said Wednesday that the island’s economy had contracted 4.5 % in the first quarter of the year and that the second quarter was expected to be even worse due to the prolonged national coronavirus lockdown that Spain has only recently started rolling back.

“The Balearic Islands economy is on course for a very deep recession,” said Carmen Planas, the president of the business group. “On top of that, the Balearic Islands is facing a completely unknown and atypical tourist season that is full of uncertainties.”

Spain is dropping its quarantine requirements for travelers from Europe’s Schengen zone on June 21. But until then, the Balearic Islands are off-limits for visitors, even for Spaniards from the mainland, except for the trial run of German tourists. Authorities hope the Germans can help them test out best tourism practices amid the coronavirus era.

Xisca Sitjar, who runs one of the first hotels to reopen, said her hotel will be back to half of its capacity thanks to the German visitors. Her employees greeted the first busload of Germans on Monday with cheers.

“The pressure is on us,” Sitjar told Onda Cero radio. “We know that everyone is watching us and wants to know the results. I believe it will be a success.”

Many retailers and restaurants are counting on the tourists’ return.

“Usually at this time we would see a lot of tourists, a lot of people on the beach, on the promenade, but now we don’t see anyone here,” said Juan Bouzas, owner of a shoe store. “I think things will get better, but very slowly.”

The situation is even bleaker outside Mallorca’s main city in Magaluf, a beach town known for offering young Europeans, especially British, a party atmosphere. Mallorca’s fellow island of Ibiza also caters to the party-going crowd but for now, nightclubs remain closed on government orders.

No previous health checks are required for the Germans to travel but they must complete a questionnaire aimed at identifying possible infections. On landing, they face temperature checks, get information on Spain’s social distancing and mask-wearing rules and have their contact information taken.

Local officials have developed detailed protocols to prevent outbreaks and to send the message that Spain, and especially the Balearic Islands, is a safe place to kick back in times of global anxiety.

Face masks are required in all indoor public areas at hotels. Guests get their temperatures taken before the enter hotels restaurants. Gloves are mandatory each time a guest requests food from a buffet, where a worker serves them. Arrows have been put on the floor to map out one-way routes for guests to keep people from crossing paths as much as possible.

Government health workers make random calls to check on the tourists. If a guest has symptoms of the COVID-19 virus – a cough or a fever – authorities say they will get them tested within 24 hours. Those with positive results will be isolated in apartments the government has rented for the summer season. A team of contact tracers, which has been bolstered by 150 new hires, will seek out any people who could have been infected.

Locals want to make sure that tourists do not import new infections. Spain has officially reported over 27,000 deaths in the pandemic but with lockdown measures has drastically reduced the number of patients hospitalized with the virus.

“We wanted to be the first tourist destination in Spain to open for international visitors because we want to show that we are a safe destination,” Francina Armengol, the regional head of the Balearic Islands government, told TV3 television.

“If we do not maintain good health practices, then there will no chance to reactivate our economy,” she said.

___

Wilson reported from Barcelona, Spain.

___

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

Europe’s borders reopen but long road for tourism to recover

Europe’s borders reopen but long road for tourism to recover

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People enjoy the warm weather on the beach in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, June 13, 2020. Spanish government has announced that the northwestern region of Galicia will move next week to what the government calls “the new normal,” when some rules, … more >

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By Geir Moulson

Associated Press

Monday, June 15, 2020

BERLIN (AP) — Borders opened up across Europe on Monday after three months of coronavirus closures that began chaotically in March. But many restrictions persist, it’s unclear how keen Europeans will be to travel this summer and the continent is still closed to Americans, Asians and other international tourists.

Border checks for most Europeans were dropped overnight in Germany, France and elsewhere, nearly two weeks after Italy opened its frontiers. The European Union’s 27 nations, as well as those in the Schengen passport-free travel area, which also includes a few non-EU nations such as Switzerland, aren’t expected to start opening to visitors from outside the continent until at least the beginning of next month, and possibly later.

Announcing Monday’s reopening of borders and Paris restaurants, French President Emmanuel Macron said it’s time “to turn the page of the first act of the crisis” and “rediscover our taste for freedom.”

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But he warned: “This doesn’t mean the virus has disappeared and we can totally let down our guard. … The summer of 2020 will be a summer unlike any other.”

That caution is widespread after more than 182,000 virus-linked deaths in Europe. The region has had more than 2 million of the world’s 7.9 million confirmed infections, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

“We have got the pandemic under control, (but) the reopening of our frontiers is a critical moment,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said Sunday as he announced that his hard-hit country is moving forward its opening to European travelers by 10 days to June 21. “The threat is still real. The virus is still out there.”

Still, the need to get Europe’s tourism industry up and running again is also urgent for countries such as Spain and Greece as the economic fallout of the crisis multiplies. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis acknowledged that “a lot will depend on whether people feel comfortable to travel and whether we can project Greece as a safe destination.”

On Monday, Greece was welcoming the first international flights whose passengers didn’t face compulsory COVID-19 tests to Athens and Thessaloniki. Direct international flights to regional Greek airports, including those on its islands, will begin on July 1. Visitors will be subject to random virus testing.

In a trial run, Spain allowed thousands of Germans to fly to its Balearic Islands starting Monday – waiving its 14-day quarantine for the group. The idea is to test out best practices in the coronavirus era.

“This pilot program will help us learn a lot for what lies ahead in the coming months,” Sánchez said. “We want our country, which is already known as a world-class tourist destination, to be recognized as also a secure destination.”

Martin Hofman from Oberhausen, Germany, was delighted as he boarded the first flight from Duesseldorf to the Spanish island of Mallorca.

His holiday couldn’t be postponed “and to stay in Germany was not an option for us,” he said. “And, well, yes, we are totally happy that we can get out.”

Europe’s reopening isn’t a repeat of the chaotic free-for-all in March, when panicked, uncoordinated border closures caused traffic jams that stretched for miles.

Still, it’s a complicated, shifting patchwork of different rules, and not everyone is equally free to travel everywhere. Several countries are not opening up yet to everyone. Norway and Denmark, for example, are keeping their borders closed with Sweden, whose virus strategy avoided a lockdown but produced a relatively high per capita death rate. Some other nations also have travel restrictions for Swedes.

Cars queued up Monday morning at some crossings on the German border with Denmark, which is now letting in visitors from Germany but only if they have booked accommodations for at least six nights.

Britain, which left the EU in January but remains closely aligned with the bloc until the end of this year, only last week imposed a 14-day quarantine requirement for most arrivals, horrifying its tourism and aviation industries. As a result, France is asking people coming from Britain to self-quarantine for two weeks and several other nations are not letting British tourists in during the first wave of reopenings.

With flights only gradually picking up, nervousness about new outbreaks abroad, uncertainty about social distancing at tourist venues and millions facing record unemployment or pay cuts, many Europeans may choose simply to stay home or explore their own countries.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz are both planning to vacation in their homelands this year.

The Dutch government said its citizens can now visit 16 European nations, but urged caution.

“You can go abroad for your holiday again,” Foreign Minister Stef Blok said. “But it won’t be as carefree as before the corona crisis. The virus is still among us and the situation remains uncertain.”

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By The Associated Press

Associated Press

Sunday, June 14, 2020

MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin says the country is emerging from the coronavirus crisis, but that the United States is struggling because it has a fragmented government system.

In an interview on state television Sunday, parts of which were reported before broadcast by news media, Putin said “we are working quite steadily and getting out of this situation with the coronavirus confidently, with minimal losses.”

In the U.S., “this is not happening,” he said, noting the central and regional governments work more closely in Russia. “I doubt that someone somewhere in the government or in the regions suddenly said: ‘We will not do what the government says or the president says. We consider this inappropriate,’” Putin said.

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___

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

– Russia’s low virus death toll still raises questions in West.

China, Korea, Egypt report rise in virus cases as curbs ease.

– Europe opens its borders to Europeans, but not Americans, Asians.

– Thai entrepreneur connects Michelin bistros to those in need.

– Bars are being allowed to reopen in party-loving New Orleans after a long shutdown prompted by coronavirus fears.

– Workers who agreed to live at a Georgia nursing home to keep residents safe from the coronavirus are back with loved ones.

– Major League Baseball appears headed to its shortest season since the 1870s.

___

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

___

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING TODAY:

LIMA, Peru – Archbishop Carlos Castillo on Sunday looked out over a cathedral full of faces – none of them now alive.

The cleric had his church filled with more than 5,000 portraits of those who have died in the pandemic that is burning across Peru and South America as a whole, using his broadcast homily to criticize a health system he said “is based on egotism and on business and not on mercy and solidarity with the people.”

COVID-19 has taken at least 6,400 lives in the nation of some 32 million people – a toll second only to that of Brazil within South America.

Hundred of them have died without receiving help from the health system, and many families have faced financial ruin due to the cost of trying to care for the ill. The nation as a whole faces a projected economic contraction of 12% this year, and Castillo called for solidarity with the poor.

“An even harder moment is coming,” he said. “It would be terrible if in the times to come we have thousands of these photos – but dead of hunger.”

Church workers spent days filling the pews with images of coronavirus victims, and when the 84 pews were filled, the archbishop ordered thousands of photos more attached to the base of the columns that rise to the arched ceiling.

___

PARIS – President Emmanuel Macron announced that France is fully reopening its economy, including all restaurants, to accelerate the country’s recovery after virus crisis.

Macron said restaurants in the Paris region will be allowed to open indoor seating starting on Monday. Until then, only outdoor seating was permitted.

Restaurants in other French regions have already reopened.

From June 22, all nursery schools, primary schools and junior high schools will be open and mandatory for all students – instead of classes capped to small groups and many children staying at home.

Macron also confirmed that the second round of local elections that have been interrupted by the virus lockdown will take place on June 28.

“We must relaunch our economy,” Macron said.

France is reopening its borders with other European countries at midnight and will start allowing visitors from other continents on July 1st.

The country, which has reported at least 29,398 deaths from the virus in hospitals and nursing homes, has been under strict lockdown from March 17 to May 11, before gradually easing restrictions.

___

LONDON – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered a review of the government’s two-meter (6.5-feet) social distancing rule, saying the falling number of coronavirus cases gives the government “more margin for manoeuvre” in easing the guideline.

Johnson said that “probably” fewer than one in 1,000 people now have the virus, and the chance of coming in contact with someone who’s infected are increasingly remote.

Treasury chief Rishi Sunak said that officials will be drawing on advice on the issue from economists as well as the government’s scientific and medical advisers.

Conservative lawmakers and businesses have been putting increasing pressure on the government to ease the two-metre rule, arguing that it will make it extremely difficult for many pubs and restaurants to operate.

They say that the government in the U.K. can follow other countries and ask people to socially distance at one meter or 1.5 meters.

___

MILAN – Italy added 44 deaths from coronavirus on Sunday, with nearly half of those in hardest-hit Lombardy.

While most Italian regions counted fewer than 10 new confirmed cases in the last 24 hours, with eight regions at zero, Lombardy’s count remained stuck in the triple digits, numbering 244, according to the civil protection agency.

The next highest number was in neighboring Piedmont, at 30. As of Sunday, more than a month after a gradual easing of lockdown started and nearly two weeks since regional borders opened, the number of people currently positive for the virus is 26,274 — with 3,800 being treated in the hospital.

___

ATHENS, Greece – Greece has announced zero new fatalities for the fifth consecutive day, the longest such run since mid-March.

Thus, fatalities remain at 183, while nine new confirmed cases over the past 24 hours have pushed the total to 3,121.

Thirteen patients remain hooked up to ventilators, while 116 have exited intensive care units, authorities said Sunday.

On Monday, Greece is opening a second airport to international traffic, in Thessaloniki, the country’s second-largest city, part of an attempt to ease into the tourist season. Depending on the country of origin, arriving passengers will either be tested at random or will follow the existing protocol, which mandates that all aboard an arriving flight be tested.

Flights will be allowed only from European Union countries, at least until June 30. But while routes from France, Italy and the Netherlands to Athens will resume Monday, the ban remains in Thessaloniki.

Also, land travel with Bulgaria, the only neighboring country that is also an EU member, will be permitted from Monday.

Greece’s museums reopen Monday, after a three-month shutdown. Masks, social distancing and limits to groups will be enforced.

___

ANKARA, Turkey – Turkey is “moving away from the target,” the country’s health minister warned Sunday as the daily number of new coronavirus cases rose above 1,500 following the relaxation of restrictions.

Fahrettin Koca tweeted that 1,562 new cases were recorded over the previous 24 hours, the highest daily figure since June 3.

Reporting 1,330 recoveries, he said: “Our number of recovered patients fell below the number of new cases. The need for intensive care and respiratory equipment is rising.”

Koca also reported 15 deaths due to coronavirus, taking the total since the first case on March 11 to 4,807. Turkey has recorded a total of 178,239 coronavirus cases.

At the start of June, the government authorized cafes, restaurants, gyms, parks, beaches and museums to reopen and eased stay-at-home orders for the elderly and young.

A weekend curfew that was due to be implemented last week was canceled, ending the series of part-time lockdowns in place since April.

Koca called for people to switch to a period of “controlled social life” from Monday to halt the rise in cases.

___

CAIRO – Egypt says it will resume international flights starting July 1 with countries that will open its airports.

Minister of Civil Aviation Mohammed Manar told a news conference on Sunday that all of the country’s airports will be reopened allowing travelers around the world to return to parts of the country less hard-hit by the coronavirus.

Antiquities and Tourism Minister Khaled el-Anany also says the government will open three provinces to tourists starting July 1.

Those include the southern part of the Sinai Peninsula, home to the major resort and beach destination of Sharm el Sheikh, the Red Sea resort areas of Hurghada and Marsa Alam, as well as Marsa Matrouh, on the Mediterranean coast.

The government hopes to draw tourists to popular yet remote attractions that have been spared the ravages of the virus.

The decision comes even as the pandemic surges in the Arab world’s most populous country, which has at least 1,484 deaths among 42,980 confirmed cases.

___

PARISFrance is opening its borders with other European countries at midnight for the first time since shutting them amid virus fears three months ago, and will start opening up to visitors from other continents July 1.

It’s among several European countries opening borders first thing Monday – though it’s not clear how many Europeans are ready to travel again.

The French government has urged fellow EU members to coordinate their border rules, and is sticking to calendar recommendations from the European Commission last week.

“Given the favorable evolution of the health situation in France and in Europe,” the French government said in a statement it’s opening its borders to all arrivals from the EU and countries in the border-free Schengen zone Monday.

People arriving from inside Europe won’t need to undergo quarantine. But France will apply different rules to visitors from Spain and Britain because those countries established different reopening schedules.

France will gradually allow visitors from outside Europe starting July 1, based on the virus situation in countries of origin.

The French government promised to ease entry for foreign students in particular ahead of the new academic year.

___

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – El Salvador’s president says that a stringent quarantine imposed to fight COVID-19 has legally expired and a gradual reopening of the economy will begin Tuesday.

The Central American nation’s Supreme Court ruled that the strict measures decreed by President Nayib Bukele were unconstitutional and Bukele said Saturday night that he is going to veto the alternative restrictions passed Friday by the National Assembly.

As a result, he acknowledged, by law the region’s most restrictive legal lockdown has ended, though he asked citizens to continue in quarantine voluntarily until Tuesday, when phased measures to reactivate economic life would begin.

Under Bukele’s stay-at-home decrees, violators were sent to government-run containment centers for month-long stays. He had resisted loosening the orders, arguing that the country’s medical system could be quickly overwhelmed, resulting in much greater loss of life.

Health Minister Francisco Alabí said that the nation’s health system is already strained, with 90 of its 105 available intensive care beds already occupied. He said he expected to see an increase in COVID-19 cases with the end of restrictions.

The country of nearly 6.5 million people has reported 3,603 confirmed cases of the disease, with 72 deaths.

___

SKOPJE, North Macedonia – Authorities in North Macedonia have reported a new record day of fatalities from the coronavius.

The Health Ministry announced Sunday nine deaths from COVID-19 and 162 new cases over the past 24 hours, which brings the total number of infected to 4,064 with 188 deaths.

The figures place the small Balkan nation of about 2 million people at the top of the list of infections and deaths in the region.

Despite the spike, North Macedonia has lifted a state of emergency as of midnight Saturday. It has also adopted a protocol for visitors transiting through the country, either through the land crossings with neighboring Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Kosovo and Serbia, or through the international airport in the capital Skopje. Transiting visitors are allowed to remain in the country for five hours maximum and will be obliged to fill out a form upon entry in North Macedonia and to hand it over to the border police at the exit as proof of the duration of transit.

Macedonian citizens can leave the country, but they are obliged to sign a statement at the exit that, if they are infected with COVID-19 while abroad, they will pay for their treatment. Upon re-entry, they must present to border authorities the results of a diagnostic test taken within the past 72 hours.

___

MADRID – Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says Spain will open its borders to travelers from Europe’s Schengen travel areas except Portugal on June 21, moving up the original date by 10 days.

Spain will drop its requirement for people arriving from abroad to stay in quarantine, either at home or in a hotel, for 14 days on arrival, when it reopens on that day.

Sánchez said Sunday that Spain and Portugal will keep their border closed to non-essential crossings until July 1.

Spain’s government had already announced that on June 21 it will end the nation’s state of emergency to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. From then on, Spaniards will be able to move freely around the country without restrictions, but face masks will remain obligatory in public transport and crowded spaces.

On Monday, Spain’s Balearic Islands test their reopening strategy by accepting the first flights from Germany of tourists who will be exempt from a quarantine. The islands plan to welcome up to 10,900 Germans during the trial.

Over 27,000 Spaniards have died in the country’s pandemic.

___

DHAKA, Bangladesh – Bangladesh reported 3,141 new cases and 32 more deaths from the coronavirus on Sunday, raising its total caseload to 87,520, including 1,171 fatalities.

Nasima Sultana, additional director general of the Health Directorate, said a junior minister from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Cabinet and a former health minister and close aide to Hasina both died of the virus on Saturday in Dhaka, the capital.

Bangladesh’s main state-run hospitals are overwhelmed, with many critical COVID-19 patients being deprived of intensive care beds and ventilators.

___

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – The Yemeni Embassy in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, is shuttering indefinitely due to a number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus among staff.

The embassy made the announcement on Twitter late Saturday, but did not specify how many people had contracted COVID-19.

Similarly, the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh also announced that starting Sunday its office for labor affairs will close after a number of employees were tested for the coronavirus and six people were confirmed positive for the disease. The office is being sterilized and employees were working remotely, according to the embassy.

Despite taking early and unprecedented measures to curb the spread of the virus, Saudi Arabia’s numbers continue to climb by more than 3,000 cases daily with more than 123,000 confirmed cases overall.

___

BEIJING – China is reporting its highest daily total of coronavirus cases in two months after the capital’s biggest wholesale food market was shut down following a resurgence in local infections.

Officials say there were 57 confirmed cases in the 24 hours through midnight Saturday. That was the highest daily total since mid-April and included 36 new cases in Beijing.

The Xinfadi market on Beijing’s southeast side was closed Saturday and 11 neighboring residential compounds locked down after more then 50 people in the capital tested positive for the virus. They were the first confirmed cases in 50 days in the city of 20 million people.

China had relaxed most of its anti-virus controls after the ruling Communist Party declared victory over the disease in March.

___

SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea has confirmed 34 more coronavirus cases in a continuation of an upward trend in new infections, mostly in the densely populated Seoul region.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Sunday that 30 of the 34 new cases are in the grater Seoul area, where half of the country’s 51 million people live.

The agency says South Korea has now recorded 12,085 virus cases. It says 10,718 have recovered, 1,090 remain in treatment and the other 277 died.

New cases have been linked to nightlife establishments, church services, a large-scale e-commerce warehouse and door-to-door sellers.

In late February and early March, South Korea reported hundreds of new cases daily, then a significant easing prompted authorities to ease social distancing rules.

___

CAIRO – Egypt’s Health Ministry has announced 1,677 new confirmed cases of coronavirus – the highest 24-hour infection total since the virus was first detected in the country in mid-February.

The ministry also reported 62 deaths from COVID-19, the disease that can be caused by the virus.

The figures announced Saturdays raise Egypt’s coronavirus totals to 1,484 deaths and 42,980 confirmed cases. The ministry says 11,529 patients have been discharged from quarantine after their recovery.

Egypt is the Arab world’s most populous country and it has the highest death rate from COVID-19 among Arab nations. It ranks third in the Middle East after Iran and Turkey.

___

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis celebrated Mass Sunday for about 50 socially distanced and masked faithful inside St. Peter’s Cathedral, the first time the pontiff said Mass with ordinary congregants since restrictions were put in place for the coronavirus epidemic.

The Mass marked the Corpus Christi holiday, celebrating the Roman Catholic belief that the Eucharist is the real body and blood of Christ. During lockdown, the faithful could follow Mass on television but were unable to receive communion, one of the church’s holy sacraments.

The faithful – standing at a safe distance from one another – also were present in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly Sunday blessing. The pope led a prayer for Libya, and urged political and military leaders to end hostilities and for the international community to take “to heart” the plight of migrants trapped in the lawless nation. “There is cruelty,” the pope said. “We all have responsibility. No one can feel exempt.”

___

PARISFrance’s highest administrative court says coronavirus concerns no longer justify banning public protests.

In a country that sees thousands of protests annually, the Council of State’s ruling Saturday night allows demonstrations to resume as long as health protections are respected and the events are declared in advance to authorities and not deemed a risk to public order.

The council says that “the ban on protesting is not justified by the current health situation” and the right to protest is a “fundamental freedom.”

The ruling came as an unauthorized protest against police violence and racial injustice wound down in Paris. Police stopped at least 15,000 protesters from marching through the city Saturday, citing virus restrictions on any gathering of more than 10 people.

Spain begins trial for killings of 5 Jesuits in El Salvador

Spain begins trial for killings of 5 Jesuits in El Salvador

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Inocente Orlando Montano attends a trial in Madrid, Spain, Monday June 8 2020. Spain’s National Court on Monday started the trial of two former Salvadoran military men for their alleged involvement in the massacre of five Spanish priests in El … more >

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By ARITZ PARRA

Associated Press

Monday, June 8, 2020

MADRID (AP) – Spain’s National Court on Monday kicked off the trial of two former Salvadoran military men for their alleged involvement in the massacre of five Spanish priests in El Salvador more than three decades ago.

Inocente Orlando Montano, a former colonel who served as El Salvador’s vice minister for public security during the country’s 1979-1992 civil war, faces up to 150 years of imprisonment for the slayings in 1989.

The United States extradited Montano to Spain in 2017 to face charges of terrorist murder and crimes against humanity.

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Montano, who is in his 70s and in frail health, is set to testify later this week.

Prosecutors have also asked for five years of imprisonment – one for each of the killings – for René Yusshy Mendoza, an army lieutenant and member of the Atlacatl battalion that allegedly killed the priests at the Central American University in San Salvador.

Mendoza has confessed to the crime. During Monday’s opening session of the trial in Madrid, his lawyer argued that Mendoza should be excluded from the case under the statute of limitations.

Both defendants allegedly took part in the “decision, design or execution” of the murders, according to the prosecutor’s account seen by The Associated Press.

They are so far the only ones to face charges in Spain after El Salvador refused to extradite 16 other suspects who had been charged in the case.

Father Ignacio Ellacuría was the dean of the Central American University and a prominent mind behind so-called Liberation theology, a socially minded school of thought that spread among the clergy in the 1960s, especially in Latin America. He and the other Jesuit priests who died were helping organize peace talks to end the war.

Another priest from El Salvador, their housekeeper and her daughter were also killed in the Nov. 16, 1989, attack on the university. The Spanish court is not trying the defendants for those killings.

Outrage over the massacre prompted a U.S. congressional investigation which found that members of the force that killed the priests had received training from the U.S. military.

The long-expected trial date had been set before the coronavirus pandemic brought to a minimum the courtroom proceedings in Spain. It’s set to finish on July 16.

In previous hearings ahead of the trial Montano had rejected his role in the killings.

The Latest: Pakistan PM avoids new lockdown, daily cases up

The Latest: Pakistan PM avoids new lockdown, daily cases up

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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

Nissan to close Indonesia, Spain auto plants after losses

Nissan to close Indonesia, Spain auto plants after losses

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Nissan workers gather during a protest in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, May 28, 2020. Japanese carmaker Nissan Motor Co. has decided to close its manufacturing plans in the northeastern Catalonia region, resulting in the loss of some 3,000 direct jobs. (AP … more >

Print

By Yuri Kageyama

Associated Press

Thursday, May 28, 2020

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese automaker Nissan plans to close auto plants in Spain and Indonesia after sinking into the red for the first time in 11 years as the pandemic squashed global demand and disrupted production.

Yokohama-based Nissan’s chief executive, Makoto Uchida, said Thursday that its European production will be centered at its British plant in Sunderland.

Manufacturing now based in Indonesia will move to Thailand, as the Japanese automaker cuts global production by 20%.

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Nissan Motor Co. reported a $6.2 billion loss for the fiscal year that ended in March, its first annual loss since 2009, in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

The company reported a 319.1 billion yen profit in the fiscal year that ended in March.

It said its global vehicle production dropped 62% in April from a year earlier to 150,388 vehicles. Global vehicle sales slipped nearly 42% last month.

Nissan’s sales for the fiscal year that ended in March sank nearly 15%, to 9.9 trillion yen ($91.6 billion).

“The future remains unclear and it is extremely hard to predict,” said Uchida, who did give a financial projection for the current fiscal year.

But Uchida said Nissan has secured needed financing and is cutting costs and reshaping its operations to restore profitability.

The automaker, creator of the Leaf electric car, X-Trail sport utility vehicle and Infiniti luxury models, intends to build on its core strengths, Uchida said.

It is reducing the number of its models and focusing on certain geographic areas, such as Japan, China and the U.S., to enhance its efficiency and profitability, rather than chasing sales size.

“We will admit our errors of the past and steer into the future in the correct way, without hesitation,” Uchida said.

Earlier Thursday, Spain’s government urged Nissan to reconsider its plan to close manufacturing in the northeastern Catalonia region, saying it would result in the direct loss of some 3,000 jobs.

Workers’ unions have warned 20,000 more jobs in Nissan’s supply chain in Spain are also at risk if Nissan closes its factory in Barcelona and two smaller ones in nearby towns.

On Wednesday, Nissan’s alliance partners Renault of France and Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors Corp. announced plans to share purchasing, development and technology to slash costs and improve their competitiveness.

Nissan has spent much of the past year seeking to recover from the November 2018 arrest of its former chairman, Carlos Ghosn, over financial misconduct allegations, including under-reporting future compensation and misusing Nissan money.

The company’s management appeared to be in disarray after the sudden departure of Ghosn, who was sent by Renault to help Nissan recover from near-bankruptcy in 1999.

Ghosn’s successor, Hiroto Saikawa, also ended up resigning amid allegations about dubious income.

Ghosn says he is innocent. He fled to Lebanon late last year, skipping bail while awaiting trial. Ghosn said he escaped because he believed he would not get a fair trial in Japan.

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.

Spain reports lowest daily coronavirus death toll in 2 months

Spain reports lowest daily coronavirus death toll in 2 months

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People line up as they wait to receive a ration of donated food for people at risk of social exclusion by volunteers from Aluche neighborhood association, in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, May 16, 2020. Aluche Neighborhood association warn that the economic … more >

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By Lauren Meier

The Washington Times

Sunday, May 17, 2020

The daily death toll from coronavirus in Spain dropped to 87 overnight, the lowest it’s been since the country enacted a lockdown due to the ongoing pandemic.

Spain — with a population of 46.9 million — has reported 230,698 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 27,563 deaths, and 146,446 recoveries, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.

The development marks the first time since mid-March the country has reported less than 100 deaths from the virus in a 24-hour period. At the peak of the outbreak, Spain was reporting over 900 deaths per day, the health ministry said.

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Fernando Simon, Spain’s Director for Health Emergencies, said during a press briefing Saturday that “while it is painful that people continue to die from coronavirus, the numbers are favorable.”

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.

Mike WiLL Made It – Bars Of Soap (Ransom 2 Album)

[Intro]
Aye, aye, aye Ransom
Aye, aye
Aye, aye, aye Ransom
Aye, aye, aye
I’mma running man
Sandals slipping off my feet, on the sand
Counting up the bills with my dominant hand
Took twos on…. take this appreciate it
This too? why take the rims off?
Mike WiLL Made-It

[Verse]
I’m going postal – loco
Coast to coast like La Nostra
My G.I. Joe present, I get to see a cobra
So off my rocker got me sipping club soda
Some bombs never go off, some stars never blow up
I’m pitching [?] in a dug out
Reaching in my pants and I can’t take a head count
Flash back ’03, things was looking run down
Now I set foot in the place, it’s a luau
Killing shit like ten counts, y’all know how we get down
House with the fence around, y’all know that we in route
Transition from the Impala to the Fisker
I should charge admission for that girl to get the dessert
Left the doors up, now the lambo has pigtails
Since you getting comfy, I’mma let you sit there
I’mma let you stay there
When I shed a tear, they didn’t have no care, so I’mma charge retail
I brought some kush cause you say you want [?]
If you loves it in the room, you best get well
Every dog has its day, what the hell no tuck tail
Swae Lee went to magazine, Double X, L (XXL)

Floss with your Gucci on, bloods dipped in goo
Colors burst on the cars and the jewels
I’m a wanted man… seats looking like they got a spray tan
When I was without, not a helping hand
I got some women who throw it back, and make me drop the cans
I told Ben Frank, "Just to drop a pin" I collect my fit goal to the highest bid
Yes I might drop in, it all depends
Junior high I was dreaming of a Mach 10
I’m coming clean though, I mean not a speck
My girl be serving looks, I could kiss the chef
Katana sword popping out my walking cane
I’m overseas my Cali bae like, "How was Spain?"
We getting to the money and you niggas having issues
I bought a fucking piece and it came with a wet suit
The Buddha left me without breath, I really am a mess
I’m mooching off my mother-loving self
She be hoping that I take a knee like Kaepernick, Yes
I be open to that Sremm Life shit
This is how we live, this is how we exist
Hoes love the kicks and we love the hits
All in the house and I’m home-wrecking
If I sleep with his wife, Im a home-wrecker
I’m in my own world, throw the money up and make my own weather
Mami playing with my balls like tether, on my leather
Money talk, it’s a lecture, 80 pointers dance on me, it’s electric
Niggas don’t hate, I’m still unaffected
Chip on my shoulder, I move undetected
She said pop the question, the question got deflected
[?] made my boy, thats my motherfuckin brethren
Let’s cut to the chase, it’s only on the house when we in the place
My Houston lava boys got it up in some flames
Stirring up the cup with my wrist, souffle
Shaka Zulu chains with my name engraved
I told you I don’t swing, don’t say my name in vain
We bring it to your door like (doorbell) You rang?!
Spending all the money then we watch it boomerang
With the fendi belt angry face like Pootie Tang
Put some gold on my fingers, neck and shoestrings
"Long time, no see" That’s what they say when they see me mane
I been going crazy, just to stay sane
Hey, your girl [?] asking who’s to blame?
Young whipper snapper with the Range
Pause, then I went deranged
Call that hottie on my station
Long week, had a great day
Someone got my blowing tree like Sage
An army you should get erased
Army yeah, you can hate

Pitbull – Better On Me (feat. Ty Dolla $ign)

[Intro: Pitbull]
You have to have vision to understand love is blind, talk to ’em Ty

[Chorus: Ty Dolla $ign]
It’s been a while and you found somebody else
They say you really doing good for yourself
But I know you out there feeling so lonely
As far as my eyes can see
Don’t need no proof or no validation
You leave no wound on you second to none
You said you me but you looking lonely
So as far as my eyes can see, you look better on me
Aw aw aw, aw aw aw, aw aw aw
You look better on me
Aw aw aw, aw aw aw, aw aw aw
As far as my eyes can see, you look better on me

[Verse 1]
Got a room with a mirror on the roof

And I could bet the bank and almost guarantee
That you will always look better on me
I handle my business in the boardroom and the bedroom
My name ain’t max but I always got headroom
G-g- get it, g-g- g-g- get it
Went from selling perico and reefer

I shut down Spain
And I ain’t even have to take a pill in Ibiza
I’m a beast bro
I love when you put on them sexy one piece outfits
With the hole in the middle
Now take a look in the mirror
And see you always look better on me

[Chorus: Ty Dolla $ign]
It’s been a while and you found somebody else
They say you really doing good for yourself
But I know you out there feeling so lonely
As far as my eyes can see
Don’t need no proof or no validation
You leave no wound on you second to none
You said you over me but you looking lonely
So as far as my eyes can see, you look better on me
Aw aw aw, aw aw aw, aw aw aw
You look better on me
Aw aw aw, aw aw aw, aw aw aw
As far as my eyes can see, you look better on me

[Verse 2: Pitbull]
I’m allergic to the fake and these negative crabs
So get from me with your negative ass
I live for the future, you live in the past
Found somebody else, I hope that it lasts
But you know that I know that we know that you’ll be thinking bout me
But you know that I know that we know that you look, that you look better on me
I ain’t here to sell ya, I’m here to tell ya, all I’ve ever done is learn from my failures
So god bless mami, cause God knows I wish you the best mami, that’s right
I love when you put on that sexy one piece outfit with the hole in the middle
Now take a look in the mirror and see you always look better on me

[Chorus: Ty Dolla $ign]
It’s been a while and you found somebody else
They say you really doing good for yourself
But I know you out there feeling so lonely
As far as my eyes can see
Don’t need no proof or no validation
You leave no wound on you second to none
You said you over me but you looking lonely
So as far as my eyes can see, you look better on me
Aw aw aw, aw aw aw, aw aw aw
You look better on me
Aw aw aw, aw aw aw, aw aw aw
As far as my eyes can see, you look better on me

[Outro: Ty Dolla $ign]
Better on me
Better on me
Better on me
You look better on me
Better on me
Better on me
As far as my eyes can see, you look better on me