The Latest: No quarantine for tourists upon return to Italy

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

TOP OF THE HOUR:

— Foreign tourists won’t have to quarantine once they’re allowed back to Italy.

— Cape Town becomes South Africa’s virus hotspot.

— Czech Republic to relax rules on wearing masks in public.

— Switzerland begins gradual reopening.

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ROME — Italy’s transport minister says tourists from abroad won’t have to go into quarantine once they are able to visit again.

Presently during pandemic travel restrictions, foreigners can enter Italy for as long as five days but only for work reasons. Then they must leave.

Transport Minister Paola De Micheli told the foreign press association in Rome on Monday that when that restriction can be lifted depends on how coronavirus infection rates are running in specific countries.

When visitors for pleasure eventually can resume travel to Italy, “we can’t insist that a tourist comes and goes into quarantine,” the minister said.

Tourism is a major Italian industry. So far, Italians can’t even leave their home region to travel within the country for tourism. De Micheli estimated travel between Italian regions would probably resume sometime in the first half of June.

If Italians go abroad, they won’t be required to quarantine upon return “if the epidemiological situation is under control” in the country they have visited, the minister said.

Meanwhile, Italy is trying to convince other European Union countries to agree upon common health rules to allow tourists to move around within the EU, perhaps by creating “touristic corridors” with standardized COVID-19 safety measures.

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CHICAGO — U.S. children critically ill with COVID-19 have better outcomes than has been seen in adults, a study published Monday found.

Of 48 children treated in several U.S. intensive care units, more than one-third were put on ventilators but only two died.

By contrast, death rates of 50% and higher have been reported in adults critically ill with COVID-19, particularly among those on ventilators.

The results in JAMA Pediatrics echo reports from China. COVID-19 is generally a much milder disease in children although they can spread it to others without showing symptoms.

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JOHANNESBURG — Cape Town and the surrounding Western Cape province have become South Africa’s coronavirus hotspot, accounting for more than half of the nation’s confirmed cases.

South Africa has confirmed more than 10,600 cases of COVID-19 and the Western Cape province has 5,621 cases, according to figures released Monday. Of the country’s 206 deaths caused by COVID-19, 116 have occurred in the province.

Cape Town, with its poor, densely populated townships, is the center of the cases in the province.

South Africa has the continent’s highest number of confirmed cases and has eased its restrictions to allow an estimated 1.6 million people to return to work in selected mines, factories and businesses.

However, the concentration of cases in Cape Town may see the city return to a stricter lockdown.

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PRAGUE — The Czech government is ready to partially ease mandatory use of face masks, its most visible tool to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Health Minister Adam Vojtech says the protective masks that people have been required to wear in public since March 19 will be mandatory only inside buildings, on public transport and in other enclosed spaces as of May 25.

Vojtech says in the open air, masks will have to be used if two people who are not relatives are closer to each other than 2 meters (6.5 feet).

“We can afford to do that,” Vojtech said Monday.

The day-to-day increase of COVID-19 cases was well under 100 for the 10th straight day in the Czech Republic, according to Health Ministry figures released Monday. Three people died on Sunday for a total of 281 with the fatalities remaining under 10 a day since April 13.

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MADRID — A spokeswoman for Spain’s Guardia Civil says it is bringing charges against flag carrier Iberia for failing to comply with hygiene rules adopted to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

She says Guardia Civil officials checked an Iberia Express domestic flight that landed Sunday in Madrid and found it was 70% full. Under Spain’s state of emergency, planes can be no more than half full.

The spokeswoman discussed the case on condition of anonymity, in line with police policy.

The plane flew to the Spanish capital from the country’s Canary Islands on Sunday. Some passengers complained on social media that the plane was too full, preventing them from taking social distancing measures.

Iberia issued a statement Monday setting out the hygiene measures it is taking but did not directly address the police and passenger allegations.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A man from Rotterdam knew just what he wanted tattooed on his leg as soon as coronavirus restrictions would allow.

Local broadcaster Rijnmond reported that Rens van Gastel got inked Monday with a picture of what he called “the product of the year,” a roll of toilet paper.

The 56-year-old took advantage of the government easing coronavirus restrictions to visit the Tattoo Grot parlor in the port city for a picture of a roll of TP on a hanger emblazoned with the year 2020.

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GENEVA — Switzerland has begun a gradual return nearer to normal amid a recent decline in confirmed coronavirus cases.

The government on Monday relaxed nearly two months of restrictions that had shuttered schools, offices, restaurants and nearly all stores except food vendors and pharmacies.

Geneva’s old-city shopping district got a bit more bustle as kids returned to classes, stores reopened their doors, and downtown eateries got back to business by erecting partitions between tables, unfurling long-unused parasols and trotting out bottles of hand sanitizer for patrons at their entrances.

The Federal office of public health said only 39 new cases were recorded over the last day, confirming a decline from a peak of nearly 1,500 tallied in a single day on March 23. All told, Switzerland has recorded 30,344 confirmed cases and 1,543 deaths in the outbreak.

Daniel Koch, who heads the office’s infectious diseases unit, called the evolution “positive” and said authorities would be on the lookout for the possibility of expediting a further easing of the restrictions as conditions evolve.

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WASHINGTON — Two members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff missed a meeting with President Donald Trump over the weekend because of coronavirus concerns.

The Pentagon says Adm. Mike Gilday, the chief of naval operations, is self-quarantining after having contact with a COVID-positive family member, although Gilday tested negative. He is working from home this week.

Also, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Joseph Lengyel, tested positive for the coronavirus on Saturday but later tested negative. The Pentagon says he is scheduled to be retested Monday.

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MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared an end to a nationwide partial economic shutdown but noted that some restrictions will remain.

Putin, speaking in a televised address to the nation Monday, said that it will be up to regional governors in the far-flung Russian Federation to determine what industrial plants could reopen starting Tuesday. He emphasized that it’s essential to preserve jobs and keep the economy running provided that workers strictly observe sanitary norms.

Putin ordered the economic shutdown in late March, although key industrial plants and some other sectors have been allowed to continue operating. Most Russians have been ordered to stay home, except for visits to nearby stores, pharmacies and visits to doctors.

Moscow will allow all of its industrial plants and construction sites to resume work starting Tuesday, and Putin said other regions may follow the example. Non-food stores, hairdressers, car dealers and most other enterprises in the services sector remain shut.

Putin emphasized that the restrictions must be lifted gradually to avoid triggering a new wave of contagion.

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MONTREAL — Quebec is reopening elementary schools and day cares outside the Montreal area on Monday despite the province accounting for more than half of Canada’s coronavirus cases.

Students will be subject to physical distancing and frequent hand washing while school officials follow public health guidelines for cleaning and disinfection. Attendance is not mandatory and two school boards have said most of their students will be staying home for now.

The French-speaking province is also allowing most retail stores outside Montreal to open Monday. Quebec has more than 37,000 of Canada’s more than 68,000 cases of COVID-19.

Ontario, meanwhile, allowed nonessential retail stores to open for curbside pickup starting Monday. Schools throughout Canada’s most populous province remain closed.

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BERLIN — The German government has sharply criticized attacks on police officers and journalists at recent protests against pandemic restrictions.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Monday that while demonstrations were an important way to express divergent opinions on the handling of the pandemic, “the high aggression toward both police officers and journalists … needs to be strongly and sharply condemned.”

Three TV camera crews were attacked at protests in Berlin and the western city of Dortmund in the past two weeks. Police also detained dozens of people in the capital on Saturday after bottles were thrown at officers.

German officials have expressed concern that the demonstrations are being hijacked by extremist and fringe groups.

Seibert criticized the promotion by some protesters of “absurd claims (and) hate-filled, stereotypical theories that either point toward a a scapegoat or some kind of global villain that’s holding all the strings in his hands.”

“Whoever spreads such things wants to divide our country,” Seibert said.

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LONDON — In a change of advice, the British government says people should wear masks covering their mouth and nose in enclosed spaces such as buses and subway trains.

The about-face comes as part of a plan to gradually lift a nationwide lockdown that was imposed in the U.K. on March 23.

In a 50-page document outlining next steps, the government says “people should aim to wear a face-covering in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible and they come into contact with others that they do not normally meet, for example on public transport or in some shops.”

That is a recommendation rather than a rule, and people won’t be penalized if they don’t wear a mask.

The road map document outlines a three-stage approach to ending Britain’s lockdown, beginning Wednesday with a relaxing of limits on outdoor exercise and leisure activity. If there is no new spike in infections, that will be followed in June by a return to class for some school pupils, the reopening of nonessential shops and the return of televised sports, played behind closed doors.

A third stage planned for July would see the gradual reopening of restaurants, cafes, pubs, hairdressers and other businesses.

The plan has put Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s U.K. government at odds with semi-autonomous authorities in Scotland and Wales, who are urging more caution.

But the government’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, says the first stage of relaxing the rules involves “a very small risk” and has “some very clear benefits” to people’s health and well-being.

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JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia’s foreign minister says the country faces a fresh wave of COVID-19 infections with the return of migrant workers and cruise ship employees.

Foreign minister Retno Marsudi on Monday asked returning migrant workers to respect health protocols.

Marsudi said about 90,000 Indonesian migrant workers had already returned to the country since the coronavirus outbreak from several countries, including nearly 73,000 from neighboring Malaysia alone.

She said the government has stepped up measures to anticipate the influx of migrant workers returning home by ramping up testing and setting up quarantine locations across the archipelago nation, which is home to 270 million people.

Indonesia has reported 14,265 COVID-19 infections and 991 deaths as of Monday.

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NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus has extended a ban on all inbound and outbound flights for another two weeks until May 28 as part of its efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Cyprus’ Transport Ministry said Monday only cargo flights, inbound flights of empty aircraft intending to fly out those wishing to depart the island nation and emergency and humanitarian flights are exempt.

Cyprus first imposed a flight ban on March 21 amid a strict lockdown. Cyprus authorities said airports could again open after June 9 depending on how the pandemic is unfolding domestically and abroad.

Authorities are still trying to come up with ways of safely bringing back travelers to the tourism-reliant country. Cyprus has been conservatively estimated to lose 60% of its annual tourist arrivals this year.

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