The Latest: US Marines arrive in Australia despite pandemic

International

People wearing face masks to protect from the new coronavirus as they wait for bus transport in Kochi, Kerala state, India, Monday, June 1, 2020. More states opened up and crowds of commuters trickled on the roads in many cities as India’s three-phase plan to lift the virus lockdown kick started Monday amidst an upward trend in new infections and fatalities due to COVID-19. (AP Photo/ R S Iyer)

The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic.COVID-19 causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

— US Marines arrive in Australia despite pandemic border closures

— Singapore has reopened 75% of economy as part of end to virus lockdown

— South Korea reports 38 new cases of COVID-19

— China reports five new cases of coronavirus, all brought from outside country

— More than 225 global VIPs call for $2.5 trillion plan to tackle COVID-19

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DARWIN, Australia – The first group of 200 U.S. Marines have arrived in tropical northern Australia for their annual rotation despite the coronavirus pandemic border closures.

Defense Minister Linda Reynolds said on Tuesday the marines were tested for COVID-19 on arrival in Darwin and will be quarantined in military facilities for the next 14 days.

The ninth annual rotation was delayed this year by two months due to the pandemic. Only 1,200 marines will come to Australia this year during the current dry season, fewer than half the 2,500 that participated last year.

The remaining marines will arrive through July and leave in September before the monsoonal rains come.

The Northern Territory was declared coronavirus free almost two weeks ago, but its borders remain closed to non-essential travel.

All 30 COVID-19 cases detected in the Northern Territory were connected to interstate and overseas travel. All have since recovered.

___ BEIJING — A state media outlet says a Chinese doctor has died from COVID-19 after four months of treatment.

Internet news site The Paper said word of Hu Weifeng’s death was received from a hospital source Tuesday morning. If confirmed, it would mark the first reported fatality from the disease in China in weeks.

No new deaths were registered Tuesday by the central government’s National Health Commission, whose reports cover events occurring over the previous 24 hours.

According to the media report, Hu had been a doctor at Wuhan Central Hospital, one of the hardest-hit institutions in the central Chinese city that is believed to be the epicenter of the global pandemic. While no official count has been given, dozens of health workers caught the virus during the initial phase of the outbreak in Wuhan and at least half a dozen have died.

New cases have dropped to zero in Wuhan over recent weeks and the city of 11 million is moving to re-open more classrooms and campuses.

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SINGAPORE — Singapore has reopened 75% of its economy as part of a three-phase controlled approach to end a virus lockdown in place since early April.

Finance, electronics manufacturing and logistics are among sectors that resumed operations after a two-month closure with strict safety requirements. Schools will also reopen in stages this month. But most retail shops, personal services, dining in at restaurants and social gatherings are still banned.

“It feels like it has come back to where it should be. Like you know, people start to see people again, and working again. It feels good,” said Firman Hanif, who works in a security firm.

The affluent city-state has more than 35,000 cases, one of the highest in Asia. More than 90 percent of cases involved foreign workers living in crowded dormitories. The government says it will only lift further restrictions if infections remain low.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 38 new cases of COVID-19, all but one in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where officials have been scrambling to stem transmissions linked to nightspots, workplaces and church gatherings.

The figures released by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday brought national totals to 11,541 cases and 272 deaths.

Hundreds of cases have been linked to workplaces, including call centers and a massive warehouse operated by local e-commerce giant Coupang, which officials say failed to properly enforce preventive measures and distance between workers. At least two dozen cases have been linked to churches near capital Seoul, including a death of a follower in his 70s.

Incheon, a port city west of Seoul, banned gatherings at more at some 4,200 churches and other religious facilities. Gyeonggi Province, which surrounds the capital, issued an administrative order to shut down warehouses, funeral homes and wedding halls.

Health Minister Park Neunghoo during an anti-virus meeting on Tuesday pleaded churchgoers and employees of hospitals and nursery homes to avoid unnecessary gatherings to reduce infection risks for senior citizens and others who are medically vulnerable.

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BEIJING — China is reporting five new cases of the coronavirus, all brought by Chinese citizens from outside the country.

No new deaths were reported on Tuesday while 73 people remain in treatment for COVID-19 and 373 are under monitoring and isolation for showing signs of the virus or having tested positive for it without showing symptoms. China has recorded a total of 4,634 deaths among 83,022 cases of the disease.

China further re-opened schools this week and much of the economy is back on a regular footing, albeit with social distancing and other measures in place to prevent a second wave of the virus outbreak that was first detected late last year in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

On Monday, China’s foreign ministry again defended the country’s handling of the outbreak against charges of incompetence from the Trump administration focusing on its failure to prevent people leaving Wuhan earlier than Jan. 23 when the city was put on lockdown.

“This statement is totally inconsistent with the facts, which is extremely disrespectful of the Chinese people’s tremendous efforts and sacrifice in the epidemic control and prevention,” ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters.

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UNITED NATIONS — More than 225 current and former global VIPs are urging leaders of the world’s 20 major economic powers to hold an urgent meeting to agree to a $2.5 trillion plan to tackle COVID-19 and launch an economic recovery from the pandemic, especially for developing and middle-income countries.

They said in a letter to the leaders released Monday that these poor and middle-income countries, which represent nearly 70 percent of the world’s population and approximately one-third of global GDP, demand immediate action. Over 100 countries have approached the International Monetary Fund for help and more are expected to do so, they added.

Without action from the G20, the prominent global figures warned that the recession caused by the pandemic will deepen, hurting all economies “and the world’s most marginalized and poorest peoples the most.”

They said the G20 nations represent 85 percent of the world’s nominal GDP and have “the capacity to lead the mobilization of resources on the scale required” — and “we urge leaders to do so immediately.”

The signatories include more than 75 former world leaders, three Nobel peace prize winners, four Nobel laureates in economics, former U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, philanthropist George Soros and numerous former U.N. officials and past and present economists, humanitarian and health experts.

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California’s state prison system has had its first known staff death due to the coronavirus.

California Rehabilitation Center Correctional Officer Danny Mendoza died Saturday in Riverside County after recently testing positive for the coronavirus.

The prison department says more than 300 state corrections department employees have tested positive, but more than half of those have returned to work.

An inmate at the California Institution for Men in San Bernardino County died Sunday at an outside hospital from what appear to be coronavirus complications. It would be the 10th such inmate death, all at the same prison.

Officials did not release more information on the inmate, citing medical privacy rules.

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LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has lifted Michigan’s nearly 10-week coronavirus stay-at-home order, letting restaurants reopen to dine-in customers next week and immediately easing limits on outdoor gatherings while keeping social-distancing rules intact.

The governor on Monday moved regions comprising 93% of the state’s population to phase 4 — “improving” — two weeks after she announced that northern Michigan could advance to that stage. Businesses where close contact is necessary, such as gyms, hair salons, theaters and amusement parks, will remain closed under a new order.

Retailers can reopen to customers without an appointment on Thursday and restaurants can offer dine-in service on June 8, with capacity limits. Children’s day camps, pools, libraries and museums can also reopen June 8. Groups of up to 100 can gather outside if they stay 6 feet apart, up from a threshold of 10 people. In-home services such as housecleaning can resume.

People must continue to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces.

___ OKLAHOMA CITY — Officials in Oklahoma say they will no longer release specific information about COVID-19 infections and deaths in nursing homes, cities or by zip code.

Oklahoma State Department of Health Agency spokeswoman Donelle Harder said attorneys at the department and in the governor’s office agreed state law prohibits the release of such detailed information but that they did so under the powers granted to the governor under the Catastrophic Health Emergency Powers Act. Those powers were not renewed by the Legislature and expired on Monday.

A recent analysis of the state’s 334 COVID-19 deaths shows nearly half have been residents of nursing homes or long-term care facilities.

The head of the Oklahoma Press Association, a trade group that represents newspapers across the state, immediately denounced the agency’s decision.

“It boggles the mind to understand why OSDH would take a highly informative report and render it useless to local citizens throughout Oklahoma,” said OPA’s Executive Vice President Mark Thomas. “Knowing COVID-19 by zip code and city allows citizens to be fully informed during this time of high anxiety.”

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BATON ROUGE, Louisiana – Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has announced that he’s allowing bars and spas that have been shuttered because of the coronavirus outbreak to reopen this coming weekend, as he further eases restrictions on businesses in a state once one of the nation’s hot spots in the pandemic.

Edwards said Monday the state is “headed in the right direction,” but he cautioned its residents to remember that “there still is a lot of COVID out there.”

The latest loosening of the rules will start Friday, under the plans announced by the Democratic governor, and they will be in effect until June 26. They won’t take effect in New Orleans, however, where city officials say they want more time to gather data.

In the rest of Louisiana, bars, massage facilities, bowling alleys, recreational pools and tattoo shops will be able to restart operations, with heavy restrictions on how they interact with customers. Churches, restaurants, hair salons and other businesses that have reopened at 25% capacity since mid-May can move to 50% of their occupancy rate. Bars without a food permit will be restricted to 25% capacity, with patrons required to be seated.

The requirements outlined Monday are based on what are known as “Phase 2” reopening guidance issued by the White House.

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MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Electronic signs are warning travelers to two of the world’s largest casinos about COVID-19 on Monday, the first day they partially reopen to the general public over the governor’s objections.

Four portable signs installed by the state Department of Transportation near Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun flashed: “Avoid Large Crowds, Don’t Gamble With COVID” as cars — many with Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York license plates — passed by.

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont had asked the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, owners of the Foxwoods Resort Casino, and the Mohegan Tribe, owners of Mohegan Sun, to delay their reopenings, to no avail.

Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, conceded the signs were “kind of catchy” and credited Lamont with not taking stronger action.

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The U.S. Naval Academy is planning to have its 4,400 midshipmen return to campus in Annapolis, Maryland, for the fall, after students completed the last semester with online learning from their homes around the nation due to the coronavirus.

Vice Adm. Sean Buck, the superintendent, told the academy’s Board of Visitors Monday he has been communicating with the leaders of the nation’s other service academies, and they also plan to have their students on campus in the fall.

“I can tell you, as of this morning, every single military service academy in this country is opening in the fall,” Buck told the board in an online meeting. “We all are developing very detailed plans with regards to health, safety and the protocols that we need to put in place to manage risk.”

Lt. Col. Christopher Ophardt, a spokesman for the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., said the academy will have a fall semester with cadets present, though the academy is still making plans. The U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, did not immediately return an email and call seeking comment on its plans.

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MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Nearly three dozen medical associations in Nicaragua have called on people to observe a “national quarantine” of at least three or four weeks in an attempt to slow the pandemic, a step the government has not taken.

“The exponential increase of COVID-19 cases has caused the collapse of the public and private health systems,” the groups said in an open letter Monday. They said hospitals were full, there weren’t enough beds, medicines were lacking and essentials like oxygen were in short supply.

The government of President Daniel Ortega has not enacted the social distancing measures of its neighbors despite growing evidence of the virus’ spread. Schools remain open and the government has continued to organize mass gatherings even as Nicaraguans report that some people are being rushed from hospitals to immediate burial by workers wearing protective suits..

The medical associations called for the voluntary closure of nonessential businesses, urged people to remain in their homes, limit grocery shopping to once a week, maintain a safe distance from others and wear masks.

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PRAGUE — The Czech government says that as of June 15 Czechs will be allowed to travel to 29 European countries.

The citizens of 19 countries that are considered safe will be able to travel to the Czech Republic without any restrictions. Those countries are: Austria, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Croatia, Slovenia, Greece, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Ten other countries — Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Portugal, Spain, Andorra and Italy — are considered more risky due to their current outbreak situation and their citizens can cross the Czech border only if they present a negative COVID-19 test or will otherwise have to be quarantined.

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VALLETTA, Malta — The Mediterranean island of Malta will open on July 1 to tourists from 16 European countries, Israel and two Italian islands – Sicily and Sardinia — but not from all of Italy, where the COVID-19 outbreak began in Europe.

Malta announced on Monday that Maltese citizens can visit those same places and return home without being required to quarantine.

With rich history, lively night life and sea resorts, Malta is a tourist mecca, mostly attracting arrivals from Britain, Italy, Germany and France. But only Germany is on the list of countries whose tourists will be able to visit Malta starting next month.

The tiny nation has registered 619 cases of coronavirus infection and nine deaths.

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LONDON — The emergencies chief of the World Health Organization said Central and South America are currently witnessing the most intense transmission of the coronavirus worldwide, but it’s difficult to predict when the epidemic might peak there.

In the last 24 hours, Dr. Michael Ryan said five of the 10 countries reporting the highest number of cases are in the Americas: the U.S., Brazil, Peru, Chile and Mexico. He said that while the growth of COVID-19 was not exponential in all those countries, officials were seeing a progressive increase in cases and that hospitals were starting to strain under the pressure.

“We’re particularly concerned about places like Haiti because of the inherent weaknesses in the system,” Ryan said at a press briefing on Monday. “I think we now absolutely need to focus on supporting particularly Central and South America,” he said. He added that while officials previously had very serious concerns about COVID-19’s impact in South Asia and Africa, outbreaks in those regions, although difficult, were now stable.

“I don’t believe we’ve reached the peak” in the Americas, Ryan said, noting that several factors in the region, including the number of urban poor and fragile health systems, made outbreaks in those countries particularly dangerous.

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

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