The latest on the coronavirus pandemic.

NEW YORK — A New York City nursing home on Friday reported the deaths of 98 residents believed to have had the coronavirus — a staggering death toll that shocked public officials.

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The Isabella Geriatric Center in New York says nearly 100 of its residents have died from confirmed or suspected cases the novel coronavirus. It is among the hardest hit nursing homes in the state, with 46 confirmed fatalities and 52 deaths of people suspected to have had the virus. Associated Press/Frank Franklin II

“It’s absolutely horrifying,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “It’s inestimable loss, and it’s just impossible to imagine so many people lost in one place.”

It is hard to say whether the spate of deaths at the Isabella Geriatric Center in Manhattan is the worst nursing home outbreak yet in the U.S., because even within the city facilities have chosen to report fatalities in different ways. A state tally of nursing home deaths released Friday listed only 13 at the home.

But officials at the 705-bed center confirmed that through Wednesday 46 residents who tested positive for COVID-19 had died as well as an additional 52 people “suspected” to have the virus. Some died at the nursing home and some died after being treated at hospitals.

The number of bodies became so overwhelming the home ordered a refrigerator truck to store them because funeral homes have been taking days to pick up the deceased.

“Isabella, like all other nursing homes in New York City, initially had limited access to widespread and consistent in-house testing to quickly diagnose our residents and staff,” Audrey Waters, a spokeswoman for the nursing home, wrote in an email. “This hampered our ability to identify those who were infected and asymptomatic, despite our efforts to swiftly separate anyone who presented symptoms.”

Read the full story about the deaths at a New York nursing home here.

White House blocks Fauci from testifying before House panel

WASHINGTON — The White House is blocking Anthony Fauci from testifying before a House subcommittee investigating the coronavirus outbreak and response, arguing that it would be “counterproductive” for him to appear next week while participating in the government’s responses to the pandemic.

The White House issued a statement about Fauci’s testimony shortly after The Washington Post published a story Friday afternoon quoting a spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee, who said the White House was refusing to allow Fauci to appear at a subcommittee hearing next week.

“While the Trump Administration continues its whole-of-government response to COVID-19, including safely opening up America again and expediting vaccine development, it is counterproductive to have the very individuals involved in those efforts appearing at congressional hearings,” said White House spokesman Judd Deere. “We are committed to working with Congress to offer testimony at the appropriate time.”

In fact, Fauci is expected to appear at a Senate hearing related to testing the following week, according to a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been a prominent face in the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus as a lead scientist in the coronavirus task force.

He has walked a fine line in delivering scientific information to the public that at times has contradicted President Trump’s statements. Trump at one point retweeted a Twitter post that called for Fauci to be fired, but he later denied he was considering firing him. Fauci has urged extreme caution as some cities and states move to reopen businesses, warning that doing so imprudently could lead to a resurgence of the coronavirus.

New York City nursing home reports 98 coronavirus deaths

NEW YORK — A New York City nursing home on Friday reported the deaths of 98 residents believed to have had the coronavirus – a staggering death toll that shocked public officials.

“It’s absolutely horrifying,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “It’s inestimable loss, and it’s just impossible to imagine so many people lost in one place.”

It is hard to say whether the spate of deaths at the Isabella Geriatric Center, in Manhattan, is the worst nursing home outbreak yet in the U.S., because even within the city facilities have chosen to report fatalities in different ways. An official state tally of nursing home deaths listed only 13 at the home as of Friday.

Nursing home resident, 107, survives coronavirus

CHESTERFIELD, Mo. — A resident of a suburban St. Louis nursing home is believed to be one of the oldest people in the world to survive the coronavirus.

Rudi Heider had two reasons to celebrate on Thursday – he turned 107 and he beat COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Relatives couldn’t come into his room at Friendship Village in Chesterfield, Missouri, but gathered outside his window while Heider enjoyed a slice of his favorite dessert, lemon meringue pie.

Heider said he looks forward to being able to be with family and friends again.

Heider’s granddaughter, Janet Heider of Seattle, called her grandfather “amazing.”

“I had to tell him that he’s lived through the Spanish Flu, two World Wars, a stroke at 100 years old, and a fractured vertebra at 104 years old that he would not to lose to COVID-19, and he ended up beating it,” she said.

DEA agent accused of stealing personal protective equipment, toilet paper

MIAMI — A U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent and a telecommunications specialist are accused of stealing personal protective equipment, toilet paper and other supplies from an agency warehouse in Florida amid shortages caused by the coronavirus pandemic, law enforcement officials told The Associated Press.

The officials, who were not authorized to discuss the case and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity, say it was not clear exactly how much of the supplies the men took or what they intended to do with them, but the matter was serious enough that both were suspended and the agent was asked to hand over his gun pending an internal review.

Special Agent Javier Hernandez and the telecommunications specialist, whose name was not disclosed, are just the latest employees of the DEA’s high-profile Miami field division to be accused of misconduct.

Delaware the latest state with anti-lockdown protest

DOVER, Del. — Protesters gathered outside Delaware’s statehouse on Friday demanding that Democratic Gov. John Carney lift restrictions he has imposed on individuals and businesses in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

More than 400 people defied Carney’s prohibition on gatherings of more than 10 people and mandates requiring social distancing and the wearing of face coverings in public. The rally was preceded by a noisy, flag-waving parade of vehicles slowly circling the capitol and Legislative Mall.

“It’s going to let him know that we’re not happy, at the very least,” said Bill Hinds of Newark. “There’s a lot of people being hurt by this lockdown. Losing their jobs, losing their businesses. … This is a life-changing event for everybody in Delaware.”

Trump uses events to project normalcy, while relying on virus testing that public lacks

WASHINGTON — At the White House this week, President Trump sat less than 6 feet from New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, in the Oval Office. He invited small business owners to crowd behind the Resolute Desk for a photo shoot. His vice president toured a medical research center without a face-mask in defiance of the company’s policy.

The daily images projected a sense of confidence that life, at least for the nation’s most prominent resident, is returning to a semblance of normalcy amid the coronavirus pandemic – a visual cue to the public that conditions are improving as Trump pushes to restart sectors of the economy.

Yet even as Trump aides have signaled that he could soon begin regular travel, the reality is that the White House has created a picture of security that is propped up by special access to the kind of wide-scale COVID-19 testing that most of the nation remains without.

Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and their aides are tested regularly, and all who enter the White House campus to meet with them are required to undergo on-site rapid tests developed by Abbott Laboratories, which provide results within 15 minutes.

“As vice president of the United States, I’m tested for the coronavirus on a regular basis, and everyone who is around me is tested for the coronavirus,” Pence told reporters, amid a public backlash after he visited the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and violated the rules requiring all visitors to wear a mask.

It is a cocoon of safety that does not exist almost anywhere else in the country. Governors and municipal leaders have scrambled for basic supplies; hospitals and elderly care facilities, dealing with the most vulnerable, have cried out for more testing; and workers at grocery stores and manufacturing plants are risking their health to keep open critical businesses.

Even Congress is facing a dilemma with a lack of adequate testing to ensure a safe working environment as the Senate prepares to resume session on Monday. Only senators and staffers who become ill with COVID-like symptoms will be eligible for testing, according to the Capitol’s attending physician. Some congressional leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., have worn a face covering while working in the Capitol.

Read the full story here.

New Mexico blocks roads into Gallup as virus cases surge

SANTA FE, N.M. — The governor of New Mexico invoked the state’s Riot Control Act on Friday as she sealed off all roads to nonessential traffic in the city of Gallup to help control a surging coronavirus outbreak in the former trading post city on the outskirts of the Navajo Nation.

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New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham invoked the state’s Riot Control Act on Friday as she sealed off all roads to nonessential traffic in the city of Gallup to help control a surging coronavirus outbreak in the former trading post city on the outskirts of the Navajo Nation. Morgan Lee/Associated Press

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham also required that businesses close from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. in the city of about 70,000 people along Interstate 40.

COVID-19 infection rates in Gallup and surrounding McKinley County make it one of the worst U.S. hotspots for the pandemic as patients overwhelm intensive care facilities.

Lujan Grisham said the virus has run amok in McKinley County and physical distancing is not being maintained among residents.

“A problem in one part of our state, with a virus this contagious, is a problem for our entire state,” she said.

State Police will assist local law enforcement and the National Guard will participate in a non-law enforcement capacity, the governor’s office said.

Federal health officials have linked the severity of the problem in Gallup to an early outbreak at a detox center that was followed by infections among homeless people.

Complaints are widespread about people flouting social distancing and face-mask requirements at Gallup stores.

Read the full story about Gallup, N.M., here.

New York City restaurant workers face a new fear: The future

For years, working in restaurants has been a constant for Isabella Gutierrez.

Gabby Namm

Gabby Namm, who has cooked professionally for about eight years, prepares flatbread Tuesday in the Queens borough of New York. The coronavirus outbreak and the likely impact it’s going to have on New York City’s restaurants, how they serve, how they staff, how they pay, has disrupted all of that. Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

It was something she could always fall back on to pay the bills while she pursued her creative dreams. It was the first job she had when she moved to New York City in 2011 from California.

But no more. The coronavirus outbreak and the likely impact it’s going to have on New York City’s restaurants, how they serve, how they staff, how they pay, has disrupted all of that.

“This could fundamentally change restaurant culture,” said Gutierrez, 33.

Even when the restrictions are lifted and businesses start opening up, “I, for one, don’t see myself returning to restaurant work after this,” she said. “There’s going to be less money in it.”

It’s a concern for restaurant owners in New York City, where sitting cheek by jowl in a crowded hotspot or in that tiny hole-in-the-wall hidden gem has been a way of life — one that doesn’t work in a socially distancing world.

“There’s a lot of fear,” said Melissa Fleischut, president of the New York State Restaurant Association. “Will tourists come back, will people come out? Are the employees going to want to come back to work? How are we going to convince everybody it’s safe and healthy to eat in a restaurant again?”

She said the social distancing restrictions have been devastating — of the 660,000 people employed in restaurants in New York state in February, many of whom are in New York City, their estimates say 527,000, have been furloughed.

Read the full story about New York’s restaurants here.

California county defies governor’s virus shutdown order

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A rural California county allowed nonessential businesses to reopen and diners to eat in restaurants on Friday, becoming the first to defy Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide orders barring such moves during the coronavirus pandemic.

Modoc County is “moving forward with our reopening plan,” Modoc County Deputy Director of Emergency Services Heather Hadwick said in an email to The Associated Press.

Downtown Cedarville, Calif., in Modoc County. Rural Modoc County in the far northeastern part of Northern California plans to reopen schools, hair salons, churches, restaurants and the county’s only movie theater on Friday. Associated Press file photo

She said the county of about 9,000 in the state’s far northeast corner next to Oregon has had no COVID-19 cases.

Hadwick said the county had not heard back from the governor about its reopening plan, but asserted it aligns with Newsom’s indicators for reopening.

“We are utilizing his guidance of those plans and we have zero cases,” she wrote. “Our residents were moving forward with or without us. We really needed to create guidelines for them so that they could do this in the safest way possible.”

At the Country Hearth Restaurant and Bakery in the small town of Cedarville, three customers came in for breakfast, owner Janet Irene said.

Irene said her regular customers had been very cooperative with orders that had allowed her to only serve takeout since late March.

She said she remained concerned that the county did not have the governor’s stamp of approval.

Experimental coronavirus drug not a cure, but ‘a very, very significant’ treatment, firm’s CEO says

Amid speculation that the Food and Drug Administration will seek authorization for doctors to prescribe the experimental drug remdesivir to coronavirus patients, the company behind the drug said it was poised to get more of the product out if that happens.

Daniel O’Day, chief executive of Gilead Sciences, the pharmaceutical company that invented the drug, said Friday morning that he expects the FDA to “act very quickly.”

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Sciences CEO Daniel O’Day speaks at a meeting with President Donald Trump, members of the Coronavirus Task Force, and pharmaceutical executives in March. Associated Press/Andrew Harnik

“And we are prepared as a company to make sure we get this medicine to as many patients as possible as soon as possible after that approval,” O’Day said on NBC’s “Today” show.

The drug is being examined as a coronavirus treatment to speed up the recovery time for people with the virus. Anthony S. Fauci, who leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — which is overseeing a study of its impact — said data showed the drug had “a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery.”

The study found that patients treated with the drug were ready to be discharged within 11 days on average, lower than the 15-day average for patients who received a placebo. Fauci said this week that while the accelerated recovery time “doesn’t seem like a knockout 100 percent, it is a very important proof of concept.”

O’Day said Friday that the drug is “really for the most severe patients,” specifically those who are hospitalized and seriously ill.

“What we see here is really of course not a cure, but a very, very significant and important treatment for patients,” he said.

He was also asked Friday about the affordability of the drug if its use expands.

“Our responsibility is to get this medicine in the hands of as many patients as possible and really try to make a difference in this pandemic,” he said. “We’re all focused on making sure that we make this accessible and affordable to patients around the globe.”

Public companies received $1 billion in small business stimulus funds

WASHINGTON – Publicly traded companies have received more than $1 billion in funds meant for small businesses from the federal government’s economic stimulus package, according to data from securities filings compiled by The Washington Post.

Nearly 300 public companies have reported receiving money from the fund, called the Paycheck Protection Program. Recipients include 43 companies with more than 500 workers, the maximum typically allowed by the program. Several other recipients were prosperous enough to pay executives $2 million or more.

After the first pool of $349 billion ran dry, leaving more than 80% of applicants without funding, outrage over the millions of dollars that went to larger firms prompted some companies to return the money. As of Thursday, public companies had reported returning more than $125 million, according to a Post analysis of filings.

Other companies have said they plan to keep the funds, saying the loans had been awarded according to the rules of the program and that they would use most of it to pay workers, as required, in order for the loans to be forgiven.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has defended the program as a success, saying three-quarters of the loans were for totals of under $150,000. But the administration also scrambled after the first batch of loans was issued to issue new guidance for the program to discourage large public companies from applying.

Officials have urged publicly traded firms with access to other capital to return the money by May 7. Mnuchin said this week that all loans of more than $2 million would be audited with potential penalties for those who don’t comply.

“I want to be very clear it’s the borrowers who have criminal liability if they made this certification,” of being a small business he said on CNBC.

The SBA has refused to release the names of companies that have received the loans, despite having released such information on its loan programs for years. The agency closed a request made by The Post for detailed data on the program without providing the information.

Some of the companies that received the loans were large in another way: Their CEOs have been making millions.

Read the full story.

Despite armed protesters and a lawsuit threat, Michigan extends state of emergency

Confronted with armed protesters at the state capitol and a lawsuit threat from GOP lawmakers over her executive orders, Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was unmoved, deciding to extend Michigan’s state-of-emergency declaration against the legislature’s wishes and without its approval.

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A protester against Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-home order and business restrictions carries a rifle at Michigan’s state Capitol on Thursday, April 30, 2020. Associated Press/Paul Sancya

Whitmer’s Thursday executive actions, which extend various business closures and the emergency declaration to May 28, capped a remarkable day at the Michigan Capitol building, complete with gun-toting protesters and impassioned speeches on the House floor by Republican lawmakers trying to curtail Whitmer’s power.

Outside the House chamber, the protesters crammed into the hallway and stairwell, periodically chanting, “Lock her up!” and “Let us in!” Their chanting could be heard faintly from the House floor – and ultimately, the Republicans gave the protesters what they wanted: a refusal to extend Whitmer’s emergency declaration. In Michigan, legislative approval is required to extend emergency declarations beyond 28 days; Whitmer’s expired Thursday night, with no such approval to renew.

But at the end of the night, that didn’t stop Whitmer from issuing a new set of executive orders anyway, citing even broader emergency powers.

“COVID-19 is an enemy that has taken the lives of more Michiganders than we lost during the Vietnam War,” Whitmer said in a statement. “While some members of the legislature might believe this crisis is over, common sense and all of the scientific data tells us we’re not out of the woods yet. By refusing to extend the emergency and disaster declaration, Republican lawmakers are putting their heads in the sand and putting more lives and livelihoods at risk.”

Read the full story.

Fauci warns states rushing to reopen: ‘You’re making a really significant risk’

With the White House’s social distancing guidelines having expired Thursday, states are left largely in charge of deciding how to move forward, Anthony S. Fauci warned local leaders to avoid “leapfrogging” critical milestones in an effort to reopen their economies amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“Obviously you could get away with that, but you’re making a really significant risk,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Thursday evening on CNN.

Fauci, who has repeatedly cautioned against prematurely easing restrictions, said he already noticed that some states and cities are not adhering to the steps laid out in the White House’s recently issued guidance on reopening — a plan that administration officials say will now replace the expired federal social distancing measures.

Read the full story here.

NASCAR will return this month, but without fans in the stands

NASCAR will resume its season midway through this month, it said on Thursday, although fans will not be allowed in the stands.

A 400-mile Cup Series race on May 17 will mark one of the first major U.S. sporting events in more than two months, after the coronavirus pandemic shut down racing and every other professional league in the country. So far, only UFC professional mixed martial arts said it will return sooner, on May 9.

The competition at South Carolina’s Darlington Raceway will kick off a slate of seven races across NASCAR’s top three series, and all events will employ strict social distancing measures, the sanctioning body said.

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NASCAR will get its season back on track starting May 17 at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina without spectators.  Associated Press file photo

Below the empty grandstands, anyone present at the track will be required to wear a face mask, while garages and team motor coaches will be spread out to avoid any possibility of spreading the virus.

Besides Darlington, most of NASCAR’s other regular venues will remain closed. After three races in South Carolina, its May schedule will also include the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, a much-hyped race scheduled to take place there on Memorial Day weekend this year, as it has for almost six decades.

The event will be staged with the blessing of North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D), who said earlier this week the event would probably be held if health conditions did not deteriorate.

Last week, the state classified NASCAR teams as “essential businesses,” allowing race shops in Charlotte and beyond to resume preparing for the season.

Despite the body’s announcement, the outlook for most other sporting events is not as optimistic. The Little League World Series will not be played this year for the first time since the tournament began in 1947, its governing body said Thursday.

Japan to extend state of emergency another month

TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters Friday that the coronavirus state of emergency that is supposed to end next week will have to be kept in place roughly for another month.

Abe, citing a report by experts on a government task force, said Japanese medical systems are still under severe pressure with the number of confirmed cases far exceeding 10,000, even though Japan has averted explosive infections as in many other countries, and the spread of the infections has somewhat slowed under the ongoing state of emergency.

“We still need you to continue cooperating, and that’s the experts’ view,” Abe said. He said he instructed Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is tasked with the coronavirus measures, to urgently prepare to extend the measures “for about a month.” Abe said he will announce details Monday.

Shigeru Omi, deputy chair of the panel and a public health expert formerly with the World Health Organization, told reporters that the infections have not slowed as much as experts had hoped.

“If the resurgence occurs, medical systems will be quickly overburdened. Our consensus is that the ongoing framework of measures should be maintained,” he said.

Japan has more than 14,000 cases, with over 400 deaths, according to the health ministry, though experts say there could be several times more patients.

Forbidden City, parks in Beijing reopen to public

BEIJING — Beijing’s parks and museums including the ancient Forbidden City reopened to the public Friday after being closed for months by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Forbidden City, past home to China’s emperors, is allowing just 5,000 visitors daily, down from 80,000. And parks are allowing people to visit at 30% of the usual capacity.

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A visitor poses for a photo in the Forbidden City in Beijing on May 1. The Forbidden City reopened beginning on Friday, China’s May Day holiday, to limited visitors after being closed to the public for more than three months during the coronavirus outbreak. Associated Press/Mark Schiefelbein

One Beijing resident said this visit felt different than others, when the Forbidden City was more crowded. “When walking in some areas without others around I felt like getting back to the history,” Bian Jiang said.

Large-scale group activities remain on hold and visitors must book tickets in advance online, according to Gao Dawei, deputy director of the Beijing Gardening and Greening Bureau.

Photos on social media showed visitors to the Forbidden City wearing face masks and being escorted by police along designated routes.

Beijing on Thursday downgraded its level of emergency response to the virus from first to second tier, but temperature checks and social distancing remain in force.

The change comes at the start of the five-day May 1 holiday and in advance of China’s rescheduled gathering of the National People’s Congress on May 22.

May Day celebrations observed, on hold 

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron has led the country’s Labor Day holiday with a message of thanks to workers saving people’s lives during the coronavirus crisis.

Forgoing his usual televised address, Macron tweeted out a pre-recorded speech Friday recognizing that “the nation is holding on” thanks to the life-saving “dedication of our caregivers, civil defense personnel, law enforcement (and) armies.”

Macron also thanked the commitment of French farmers and public servants who have enabled many to continue to work from home.

Labor Day has, since after World War II in France, been an occasion to campaign for and celebrate workers’ rights.

He said “the spirit of solidarity between workers, has perhaps never been so powerful” as now.

In sharp contrast, a midday musical protest against Macron’s handling of the epidemic is taking place from the balconies and widows of confined citizens to the tune of the rebel’s anthem Bella Ciao, in the French spirit of keeping their leaders in check.

CGT Union chief Philippe Martinez raised specific concerns on France Inter radio Friday, critiquing plans for some schools to open on May 11 and that teachers could refuse to return to work “if the health of school employees is not ensured, and that of the children.”

Italy

ROME — As in much of the rest of Europe, Italy’s May Day traditions, which pay tribute to the role of workers in society, have been upended by lockdown rules forbidding gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic.

The heart and soul of Italy’s May Day commemoration have been rallies led by union leaders, followed by an evening rock and pop music concert in Rome, drawing crowds sometimes topping 100,000 in the square outside St. John in Lateran Basilica.

This year, musical artists will take turns performing solo in venues without anyone in the audience. Their music will be broadcast on TV and by state radio, with the evening’s theme being, “Working in safety to build a future.”

Unions have been demanding scrupulous attention to safety measures, including social distancing at work stations and assembly lines, hygiene and sanitizing before factories can reopen in Italy, where Europe’s devastating outbreak of COVID-19 began.

Right-wing political opposition leader Matteo Salvini has accused the center-left government of pandering to union demands in being slow to getting the country’s economy moving again.

On Monday, some lockdown restrictions will begin being eased, with some 3 million Italians expected to return to workplaces, many of them in factories. However, some industrial plants have been allowed to operate since lockdown began in early March because they produce essential goods.

Greece

ATHENS, Greece — Hundreds of protesters gathered in central Athens and the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki to mark May Day, despite appeals from the government for May Day marches and commemorations to be postponed until next Saturday, when some lockdown measures will have been lifted.

Hundreds of members of the Communist Party-backed PAME union gathered in both cities Friday morning, wearing masks and gloves and standing two meters apart. The union released photos showing organizers using measuring tape and square colored stickers to lay out the exact positions where protesters could stand for the rally in central Athens, outside Parliament.

This year, May Day is being celebrated “under the special, difficult circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic, but with our sight turned to the day after,” Communist Party head Dimitris Koutsoumbas said during the rally. The main issue for after the pandemic, he said, was the dilemma of “socialism or barbarity. We answer socialism. A new, fair society is needed, with the working classes, the people, truly in power.”

Dozens of other unions also planned marches or commemorations, with demonstrators generally using masks and maintaining distance from each other.

Separately, police were out in force Friday to ensure Greeks don’t head out to the countryside, a tradition for May Day. Lockdown measures are to be eased on Monday, but remain in force for the holiday weekend. Violators face 150 euro fines.

South Africa

JOHANNESBURG — A holiday atmosphere enlivened South Africa’s streets as the May Day public holiday is also when the country has begun easing its strict lockdown.

For the first time in five weeks, people were permitted to walk outside for exercise between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m., and thousands, with mandated facemasks and keeping distance, were out walking through the streets.

Some South Africans will be able to return to work in small batches and many businesses will resume limited operations. Many factories can resume operations in phases, starting with only a third of employees allowed to return and must abide by distancing and other guidelines.

Public transport, including trains and buses, will begin operating with a restricted number of passengers. Even with the easing, South Africa’s lockdown remains strict, with no sales of liquor and cigarettes permitted.

Ordinarily, South Africa marks May Day with rallies by trade unions and political parties, but these are not possible because of the lockdown regulations.

“We want to take this opportunity to pay special dedication to our frontline health workers who are confronting this virus on daily basis in this difficult time,” said Jacob Khawe, secretary in Johannesburg of the ruling African National Congress party.

Russian case numbers spike

MOSCOW — Russia registered almost 8,000 new coronavirus cases on Friday in yet another record daily spike, bringing the total to 114,431. The number of cases is likely to be much higher as not everyone gets tested, and tests in Russia were reported to be only 70-80% accurate.

In at least five Russian regions, health officials registered a surge of pneumonia cases. In Moscow, which accounts for half of all virus cases, all respiratory infections are likely to be caused by the coronavirus, according to the public health agency Rospotrebnadzor.

On Thursday, Russia’s Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin announced testing positive for the new virus and temporarily stepping back from running the Cabinet.

China threatens trade repercussions

CANBERRA, Australia — China’s warning of trade repercussions from Australia’s campaign for an independent inquiry into the coronavirus pandemic has rattled Australian business leaders as U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration urges other governments to back such a probe.

China has accused Australia of parroting the United States in its call for an inquiry independent of the World Health Organization to determine the origins of COVID-19 and how the world responded.

Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye used an Australian newspaper interview this week to warn that pursuing an inquiry could spark a Chinese consumer boycott.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has defended Australia and urges other countries to demand transparency.

 


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