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The Latest: France to thank health workers on Bastille day

By The Associated Press
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:
-- Tiny nation of Lesotho has virus, last of 54 African countries.
-- Spain reports slight increase in daily virus infections.
-- Wuhan to test all residents after handful of new infections.


PARIS -- French President Emmanuel Macron wants Bastille day to show the nation's gratitude toward health workers and others who help fight the spread of the coronavirus.
Government spokesperson Sibeth Ndiaye says the tribute was announced during a Cabinet meeting at the Elysee palace on Wednesday. Details about July 14 celebrations will be disclosed later depending on the evolution of the epidemic.
France's national holiday is traditionally marked by a military parade on Paris' Champs-Elysees avenue.
Ndiaye says an honorary medal will be awarded to those who dedicated themselves to fight the disease.
France has reported at least 140,227 infections and 26,991 deaths.


SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Puerto Rico officials say they are closing more than 30 public school cafeterias and several food warehouses after dozens of workers tested positive for the coronavirus.
Education Secretary Eligio Hernandez says the temporary closures come after 50 employees tested positive and another 278 were placed under quarantine. The closures hit places including Caguas and Mayaguez, two of the largest cities in a U.S. territory where nearly 70% of public school students are poor.
Several mothers and nonprofit organizations have sued the island's Department of Education, accusing it of dodging its responsibility to feed the island's nearly 300,000 public school children. A judge was expected to rule in the case on Friday.
Education officials initially refused to open the department's 854 school cafeterias during the lockdown that began in mid-March, citing health concerns, noting that 64% of workers are elderly. Instead, they offloaded the food to nonprofits and a food bank, but it soon ran out.
Two weeks ago, officials abruptly changed their stance and have since reopened more than 100 school cafeterias for one meal.


MEXICO CITY -- Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador says the country is moving to "the new normality," after 51 days of lockdown.
Economy Secretary Graciela Marquez says the reopening would be "gradual, orderly and cautious." By Monday, industries such construction, mining, and car and truck manufacturing would be allowed to resume.
Mexico's top advisory body on the coronavirus pandemic, the General Health Council, says it had decided to classify those industries as "essential activities."
Mexico has been under pressure from U.S. officials to reopen auto plants because without an integrated supply chain, it would make it hard for plants in the U.S. and Canada to reopen.


WARSAW, Poland -- Poland is extending anti-coronavirus checks at its land, sea and airport borders through June 12.
On Monday, it will open the hairdressers and restaurants, with use of social distancing and masks.
High school and vocational school students can have some individual classes.
Health Minister Lukasz Szumowski says the virus reproduction rate has dropped to below 1 and the pandemic parameters are at a "safe level."


JOHANNESBURG -- The United States says Tanzania has not publicly released any data on COVID-19 in two weeks as concerns rise about the true number of cases there.
The World Health Organization also has openly worried about Tanzania, whose president has questioned his own government's virus testing and refused to close churches in the belief that the virus can't survive in the body of Christ.
A new U.S. Embassy statement warns that the risk of being infected in Tanzania's commercial hub Dar es Salaam is "extremely high" and says many hospitals in the city have been overwhelmed.
It says "all evidence points to exponential growth" in cases in the East African nation. The country has more than 500 confirmed cases and 21 deaths, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


LISBON, Portugal -- Portuguese health authorities have published plans for the resumption of preschool next week.
Nursery schools must reduce the number of children they normally have in a room and place them far apart.
Staff members will be dedicated to a single group, and groups should be kept in separate rooms.
Parents' groups have expressed concern it will be impossible to ensure social distancing at school between small children. Experts say its required to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.
School classes for students ages 16-18 also are expected to resume next week.
Portugal has officially recorded just over 28,000 cases and 1,175 deaths from the coronavirus.


ANKARA, Turkey -- A lawyer in Turkey has filed a lawsuit against China on behalf of a private company, seeking compensation for financial losses due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Lawyer Melih Akkurt says he filed the lawsuit at the Ankara Court of First Instance on behalf of a company that was forced to suspend operations during lockdowns. He says it is the first commercial lawsuit in Turkey against China, where the coronavirus pandemic began.
The lawyer wouldn't name the company. The lawsuit holds China responsible for economic losses, accusing of failing to provide timely and accurate data to the World Health Organization, concealing information on the virus' infectiousness, silencing doctors and not preventing its spread.
China rejects accusations of a coverup or not responding to the outbreak in a timely manner.


VIENNA -- Austria's agreed to a plan to open its border with Germany and expects something similar soon with Switzerland and Liechtenstein, but Chancellor Sebastian Kurz says it's too early to talk about such measures with Italy.
Italy has been one of the European countries hardest hit by the coronavirus with more than 220,000 infections and 30,000 deaths.
Austria already announced an agreement with Germany to open their border from June 15. Kurz says work is under way on a similar solution with its other Western European neighbors, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
Austria has recorded some 16,000 coronavirus infections and more than 600 deaths.


Lesotho -- Southern Africa's tiny mountain kingdom of Lesotho has confirmed its first positive case of COVID-19, making it the last of 54 African countries to report the disease.
The Lesotho health ministry says one person, who recently arrived in the country, had tested positive without showing signs of illness. The patient is isolated.
Lesotho, a country of 2 million people, is surrounded by South Africa, which has the highest confirmed cases in Africa at 11,350.
The coronavirus has been slow to spread in Africa, but cases are rising. More than 69,500 cases have been confirmed and more than 2,400 deaths, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


TOKYO -- Japan is considering a partial lifting a coronavirus state of emergency, currently in place nationwide through May 31.
Prime Minister Abe Shinzo is expected to make an announcement Thursday.Abe declared a monthlong state of emergency on April 7 in Tokyo and six other urban prefectures and later expanded it nationwide.
Japanese media says lifting is expected in more than 30 prefectures where new cases of COVID-19 have decreased. Restrictions will remain in place in Tokyo and its neighboring areas, as well as Osaka, where medical systems are still under pressure.
Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura says work from home should continue and residents should avoid trips after the state of emergency is lifted.
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike says it is too early for people to put their guards down, even though the number of new cases in the capital has decreased. She says it is unknown when the second wave of infections will occur and whether the ongoing wave of infections has subsided.
Meanwhile, Japan's health ministry approved a new type of coronavirus test. Antigen test kits developed by Fujirebio can detect virus proteins in samples swiped inside the nose of a suspected patient, with results in 30 minutes. Ministry officials and experts say it is faster than the PCR test, which takes several hours.
Japan has nearly 16,000 confirmed cases and more than 680 deaths.


WARSAW, Poland -- U.S. and Polish defense officials say an element of the DEFENDER-Europe 20 exercise in Poland will move from May to June 5-19 to ensure the safety of the troops during the coronavirus pandemic.
A communique by the U.S. Army Europe command and Poland's Defense Ministry says the decision to move the Allied Spirit exercise was taken "after careful assessment and planning." The exercise at the test range in Drawsko Pomorskie has been modified from its original design.
The deployment exercise will involve some 4,000 U.S. troops and 2,000 Polish troops in an airborne operation and a division-size river crossing.
Some 5,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Poland to enhance security at a time of increased military activity by neighbor Russia.


FATIMA, Portugal -- The Catholic shrine at Fatima in Portugal has held its annual celebrations without worshippers for the first time in its more than 100-year history.
Hundreds of thousands of people traditionally hold candles as they attend masses at the small town's huge shrine on the night of May 12 and morning of May 13. The ceremonies mark the day when three illiterate shepherd children first reported seeing visions of the Madonna.
Like the shrine at Lourdes, France, Fatima draws about six million pilgrims from around the world every year to give thanks to Our Lady of Fatima, or to pray for help.
Authorities this year asked people not to travel to Fatima due to the coronavirus outbreak. Police cordoned off roads leading to the shrine.
Ceremonies were broadcast live and streamed. The dean of the shrine asked people to place a lighted candle in a window of their home and "make a pilgrimage of the heart."


ANKARA, Turkey -- Parks filled with the sound of children as Turkey allowed kids aged 14 and under to leave homes for the first time in 40 days.
The country's youngest population were allowed to venture out for four hours between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm on Wednesday as Turkey eased some restrictions in place to fight to coronavirus outbreak. Youngsters aged between 15 and 20 will be able to leave homes for a few hours on Friday, while senior citizens were briefly allowed out for the first time in seven weeks on May 10.
In the capital Ankara's main park, Kugulu Park (or Swan Park), young children wearing masks took turns down slides while some elder kids took selfies.
The government has announced a "normalization plan" as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases have dropped, but warned of tougher measures if infections go up again.
Turkey has recorded more than 140,000 cases of the virus and nearly 4,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19, according to a tally by John Hopkins University. The true number is likely much higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with displaying symptoms.


MADRID -- Spain is reporting a slight increase in new daily coronavirus deaths and infections, as officials watch closely the curves to see if the relaxation of confinement rules is leading to a significant rebound.
Spain's recorded fatality toll has surpassed the 27,000 mark on Wednesday with 184 new deaths in the past 24 hours, eight more than Tuesday's increase.
There were also about 400 new coronavirus cases confirmed by the most reliable laboratory tests on Wednesday, bringing the country's total over 228,600. At least 42,000 more infections have emerged with tests that track antibodies that appear after the contagion.
More than 140,000 have overcome the COVID-19 illness.


BERLIN -- The German government is recommending that a requirement for people arriving from other countries in Europe to self-quarantine for 14 days be dropped.
Germany last month imposed a requirement for all people arriving in the country to go straight home and stay there for two weeks, except those who were on very short trips, commuting to their jobs, transporting goods or in some other essential functions.
A court in the northern state of Lower Saxony suspended the rule for that region this week.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said Wednesday he is recommending that state governments, which are responsible for quarantines, drop the requirement for travelers from other European countries but maintain it for arrivals from other nations such as the United States and Russia.
The comment came as Seehofer said Germany will start loosening checks on its borders with some neighbors this weekend -- though he said controls will be stepped back up if infections rise strongly in neighboring countries.


BERLIN -- Germany's foreign minister says his country will be able to lift a blanket warning against foreign travel for European destinations before other places, but he isn't specifying when.
Germany's warning against all nonessential tourist travel abroad is currently set to run until at least June 14.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Wednesday that "it will certainly be possible to lift the travel warning earlier for Europe than for other destinations -- so long as the current positive trend in many countries solidifies."
Maas said in a statement that "freedom to travel is part of the foundation of the European project, but in times of corona Europe must ensure more: the freedom to travel safely."
He said European Union guidelines presented Wednesday are an important basis for talks with other European countries. Maas plans to invite many of his colleagues in the coming days to participate in a "neighbourhood dialog" on how to lift restrictions safely.
He said that Europe must coordinate as well as possible even if the situation differs from country to country -- "we don't all have to proceed at the same speed, but we also shouldn't do it as a race, and we should do it in such a way that we don't tread on each other's feet."


Associated Press

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