Latest virus headlines: FEMA pushes back on reports it diverted PPE

In this March 30 file photo, President Donald Trump opens a box containing a 5-minute test for COVID-19 from Abbott Laboratories as Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, speaks about the coronavirus, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. Federal health officials are warning about potential accuracy problems with the rapid test for COVID-19 used at thousands of hospitals, clinics and testing sites across the U.S., including the White House. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

These are summaries of the latest stories worldwide on the coronavirus pandemic, including:

• FEMA pushes back on reports it confiscated PPEs;

• Tyson Foods closes 2 poultry plants for cleaning;

• Russian doctors say woman contracted virus twice;

• Europe is relaxing coronavirus restrictions, but cases flare in Mexico;

• Macron says mistakes were made in reforms of healthcare system;

• FDA investigating test with false negatives;

• Britain says 27 percent of deaths in care homes had confirmed or suspected coronavirus infections.


WASHINGTON — The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency is pushing back on reports it confiscated or diverted shipments of personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor calls such reports “absurd.” The agency has been coordinating the emergency import of millions of surgical masks, respirators, and other protective equipment and distributing the gear around the country.

Gaynor says FEMA doesn’t have the legal authority to seize or divert PPE shipments.

He blamed the reports on vendors playing customers against each other to get the best price. The FEMA administrator says they will quote a price to a buyer and then claim FEMA seized the shipment after finding someone willing to pay a higher price for scarce materials.

Gaynor says in a conference call, “FEMA has become a convenient scapegoat for malicious actors who are unable to deliver on the promises they have made or are engaging in illegal activity.”


SAO PAULO — Brazil’s health minister, who took office less than a month ago, resigned today.

It’s part of the upheaval in the nation’s battle with the COVID-19 pandemic and President Jair Bolsonaro’s pressure to prioritize the economy over health-driven lockdowns.

Nelson Teich’s resignation was confirmed by the Health Ministry. The oncologist, a former health care consultant, took the job on April 17 under pressure to align the ministry’s actions with the president’s view that the economy must not be destroyed by restrictions to control spread of the virus.

Bolsonaro fired Teich’s predecessor, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, after disagreements over efforts to contain the coronavirus. Mandetta was one of Brazil’s most popular ministers.

Officials say more than 13,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Brazil, though experts say the figure is significantly higher due to insufficient testing. Analysts say the peak of the crisis has yet to hit Latin America’s largest nation.


BERLIN — A county in western Germany that recorded a large number of COVID-19 infections among slaughterhouse workers will be allowed to reopen restaurants and cafes Monday after authorities decided to separate those cases from the region’s overall tally.

North Rhine-Westphalia state’s top health official says without the slaughterhouses cases, the Coesfeld county had fewer than eight infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the past week. That’s below the threshold of 50 when tighter restrictions are needed.

Karl-Josef Laumann says the 268 confirmed COVID-19 infections involving mostly migrant workers from Eastern Europe would be considered a “local outbreak incident” that didn’t affect the rest of the county.

The slaughterhouse cases prompted calls for a reform of labor laws to prevent workers in the meat industry from being housed and transported in cramped conditions.


SKOPJE, North Macedonia — North Macedonia’s president has extended for another two weeks a state of emergency imposed two months ago.

Stevo Pendarovski’s decision followed a government proposal for a 30-day extension.

Also today North Macedonia opened shopping malls to the public, although with restrictions on distancing and with use of masks by both staff and visitors.

North Macedonia has recorded 1,723 confirmed cases since mid-March and 95 deaths.


TIRANA, Albania — Gay rights organizations in Albania held a virtual Tirana Pride 2020.

A statement says some 100 members of the organizations held a virtual online meeting ahead of May 17, the international day against homophobia and transphobia.

EU and Western ambassadors took part to raise public awareness on the LGBTI issues, saying they “cannot win equality unless Albania offers equal opportunities for all the others, too.”

Albania passed an anti-discrimination law in 2009. However, it doesn’t allow same-sex weddings.

The nation, which has been in a lockdown since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, has 900 confirmed cases and 31 deaths.


PODGORICA, Montenegro — A popular shopping mall in Montenegro reopened after weeks of lockdown and briefly closed because so many people showed up.

Huge lines formed outside and inside the Delta shopping mall in the Montenegrin capital Podgorica shortly after opening today. Authorities shut it for almost 2 hours to manage the crowd. The mall later reopened.

The government has allowed the reopening of shops and cafes under rules that include distance between the visitors, wearing masks and use of hand sanitizers.

Montenegro has reported no new cases in several days. A country of some 620,000 people, Montenegro has confirmed more than 300 infections and nine deaths.


WILKESBORO, N.C. — Tyson Foods is temporarily closing two plants at a North Carolina complex for cleaning amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Tyson Foods spokesman Derek Burleson says in an email one of two fresh meat plants and a food-service plant at the Wilkesboro complex are closed from Thursday to Tuesday. A third Wilkesboro plant, which also processes fresh poultry, will continue limited operations.

The closures, following another temporary closure for cleaning, will allow “additional deep cleaning” due to sick workers and quarantine-related absences.

The company says staff will have additional virus testing, protective gear, symptom screening and access to nurse practitioners. The complex employs approximately 3,000 people.

It wasn’t clear exactly how many workers were sick. Wilkes County reported 286 residents testing positive overall, including 20 hospitalizations and one death. Earlier in the week, county officials said the plant was linked to most of its cases.

The Winston-Salem Journal reported health officials in nearby Forsyth County have said at least 70 cases there are either Tyson workers or people who were in contact with them.

Statewide, health officials reported more than 1,600 virus cases as of Thursday at meat-processing plants in 17 counties. The state has declined to release plant names, citing a health confidentiality law. But officials at Smithfield, Mountaire Farms and Butterball have confirmed positive cases at North Carolina plants.


ISLAMABAD — A leading Pakistani pharmaceutical company has reached an agreement with the U.S.-based Gilead Sciences Inc., for mass-production of an experimental drug that showed promising signs in treating patients with COVID-19.

Health official Zafar Mirza says at a news conference, attended by the country’s prime minister Imran Khan, the antiviral drug Remdesivir will be exported to 127 countries. He hoped the drug will soon be available in this country of 220 million people, where 803 people have died because of coronavirus since February.

Mirza says authorities will train 100,000 Pakistani front-line health workers to ensure their safety and better treatment of COVID-19 patients.

Earlier, Khan defended his recent decision of easing the nationwide lockdown imposed in March to contain the coronavirus. He says he had to ease restrictions so people don’t die from hunger in Pakistan, where 150 million people were affected by the lockdown.


BELGRADE, Serbia — Hungary’s prime minister says he’ll give up the extraordinary powers to rule by decree on matters related to the pandemic granted by Parliament in March.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban says he expects to do so near the end of May. He’s been criticized by international observers, the European Parliament and domestic opposition because no time limit was set on the state of emergency that granted him the vast powers.

Orban says during a visit to neighboring Serbia that he was convinced countries that gave their leaders “good powers” during the pandemic where more successful in combating the coronavirus than those that “could not step out of the usual political decision-making mechanism.”

He says once he returned his “special authorization,” he’d give his critics “the opportunity to apologize to Hungary for the false accusations.”


GENEVA — Christian Bock, the director of the Swiss federal customs administration, says the governments of Switzerland, Germany and Austria have agreed to open their borders in a coordinated manner.

That will give some people authorization to cross, particularly those with a “self-declaration” such as for family gatherings.

“We are going to open all the border passage points with Germany and Austria,” Bock said in Bern, emphasizing crossings for shopping, gasoline, tourism and other unauthorized journeys are still banned.


PARIS — France’s eight-week lockdown against the coronavirus worked wonders on air pollution and traffic fatalities.

Pollution watchdog Airparif says the French capital’s air quality improved markedly. Airparif registered a 30 percent drop in ultra-fine particles in the air. The decrease was less significant with slightly larger particles.

Depending on the week, Airparif also noted decreases of 20 percent to 35 percent for levels of pollutants from traffic, including nitrogen dioxide.

The stay-home rules from March 17 to May 11, which required people to have permits to go out, took most traffic off the roads.

The government says there were 103 road deaths in April, which was 130 fewer deaths than in the same month last year. Injuries were down by 76 percent.


STOCKHOLM — The Baltic countries have launched when they’ve called a “travel bubble” that lifts restrictions on movement between Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Latvia’s foreign minister attributed the move to efforts by health workers in all three countries to bring the epidemic under control. The region of six million inhabitants has seen fewer deaths than its Nordic neighbors, with about 130 deaths.

“Because of the discipline, because of the dedicated work, we are reaching the point where we can open up our travel, internal Baltic travel, we can open up our borders,” said Edgars Rinkevics, Latvia foreign minister.

Overnight, restrictions were lifted on all movement among the three countries, although people must still follow health recommendations in case of illness. However, people arriving from outside the Baltic states still face 14 days of quarantine.

“The Baltic travel bubble means that we will have a secure zone of movement,” said Urmas Reinsalu, Estonia foreign minister during a press conference held in Riga, Latvia, and attended in person by all three foreign ministers.


MOSCOW — Russian doctors say they are treating a woman who may have contracted coronavirus for the second time after recovering from it.

The woman was discharged from a hospital in the Siberian city of Ulan-Ude after receiving treatment for coronavirus and testing negative for it in early April. But two weeks later she started having respiratory symptoms again and tested positive for the virus for the second time.

She was readmitted to the hospital and is currently being treated, says its chief doctor Tatyana Symbelova.

“The question is whether it’s a re-infection, because 15-16 days passed between discharged and respiratory symptoms appearing, or the disease she had earlier coming back. It is not entirely clear for us at this point,” Symbelova says.

According to the World Health Organization, no studies have shown people who have recovered from the coronavirus are immune to becoming infected again.

Russia reported over 262,000 coronavirus cases today and 2,418 deaths.


PARIS — France’s national health agency announced a 9-year-old child had died in France with symptoms of a rare inflammatory condition likely linked to coronavirus.

Doctor Fabrice Michel of the La Timone hospital in Marseille, where the child was hospitalized, confirmed to Associated Press today “the child had tested positive in serological tests to SARS-CoV-2,” the virus that causes COVID-19. But he says the child had not developed any symptoms of COVID-19.

The child died of brain damage relating to cardiac arrest with a form of Kawasaki disease. About 125 children in France have developed symptoms similar to those of Kawasaki disease and some French doctors believe it is linked to coronavirus.

Doctors in Britain, Italy and Spain have been warned to look out for this rare inflammatory condition in children. Last month, Britain’s Paediatric Intensive Care Society issued an alert to doctors noting there has been an increase in the number of children with “a multi-system inflammatory state requiring intensive care” across the country.

The group says there was “growing concern” that either a COVID-19 related syndrome was emerging in children or a different, unidentified disease might be responsible.


LONDON — Wales’s leader has urged people from England mulling a trip across the border this sunny weekend to reconsider.

The coronavirus lockdown rules between the two nations will remain different for at least another two weeks.

First Minister Mark Drakeford says, “now is not the right moment” for English people to travel to Wales and anyone doing so would be “on the wrong side of the law.”

Both nations are part of the U.K. but have slightly different lockdown restrictions. In England, people can travel anywhere in the country for recreation purposes. In Wales, they are not allowed to travel beyond their locality.

The full lockdown also remains in place in Scotland and Northern Ireland, the other two nations of the U.K.


JAKARTA, Indonesia — Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan announced a ban on travel outside the greater Jakarta areas.

This regulation also applies to people who want to enter the greater Jakarta area. Baswedan says exceptions, including those who work in the fields of health, food, energy, communication and information technology, finance and others.

The exceptions include government employees and others involved in handling COVID-19. They’ll need documentation permitting travel outside or to enter greater Jakarta areas.

Jakarta has 5,774 COVID-19 cases among the total of 16,496 cases in Indonesia. There are 460 reported deaths in Jakarta and 1,076 in the nation.


WASHINGTON — Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Steve Hahn says it will be up to the White House to determine whether it continues to use a coronavirus test that has falsely cleared patients of infection.

Hahn Told CBS this morning the FDA will keep “providing guidance to the White House regarding this test” but whether to keep using the test “will be a White House decision.”

The test is used daily at the White House to test President Donald Trump and key members of his staff, including the coronavirus task force. The FDA said late Thursday it was investigating preliminary data suggesting Abbott Laboratories’ 15-minute test can miss COVID-19 cases, producing false negatives.

Hahn told CBS the test is on the market and the FDA continues to “recommend its use or to have it available for use.” But he suggested if doctors or patients suspect they’ve received a false negative, they should do another test.


JOHANNESBURG — A South African court has ordered the suspension of the soldiers and police officers who allegedly assaulted a man to death while enforcing the country’s lockdown.

Collins Khoza died in Alexandra township in Johannesburg in the early weeks of a lockdown that began in late March. His family alleged the officers entered their home after noticing a half-full cup of beer in the yard and accused Khoza and a friend of violating regulations. Alcohol sales are banned but people may drink at home.

A judge says citizens are entitled to their rights during lockdown, including the right to life, and has ordered investigations into Khoza’s death. South African law enforcement agencies have faced criticism for being heavy-handed in lockdown enforcement.


ATHENS, Greece — Police say dozens of protesters in the central Greek city of Larissa have lit fires in the street after extra lockdown measures were imposed due to an outbreak of the coronavirus.

Tests of 637 people resulted in 35 positive cases after the virus reportedly spread during the funeral of a resident who died of COVID-19. Those who tested positive were to be quarantined in a health facility today, but they refused to be moved.

Police were called and media reported about 200 protesters in the streets, some throwing stones at reporters on the edge of the settlement.

Earlier today, Greece’s Civil Protection Authority announced a nighttime curfew for the settlement for the next 14 days, and masks were compulsory for those leaving their homes.

Authorities have gradually lifted lockdown measures, which began nearly two weeks ago.

On Thursday, authorities announced 10 confirmed positive cases and one death. The total stands at 2,770 confirmed cases and 156 deaths in a country of nearly 11 million.


ANKARA, Turkey — Teenagers left their homes for the first time in 42 days, taking their turn for a few hours of respite from Turkey’s coronavirus lockdowns.

People over 65 and younger than 20 have been under curfew for the past several weeks. This week, the government began allowing them to go outdoors for a few hours as part of a program of reduced controls.

Youth filled parks and main streets and outside malls today as the curfew was lifted between 11 am and 3 p.m. Some played basketball or soccer or flew kites in parks, HaberTurk television reported.

Senior citizens were permitted out Sunday and young children 14 and below left homes Wednesday.

The government has announced a “normalization plan” as the number of coronavirus cases dropped last week. However, it also warned of tougher measures if infections increase.

Turkey has registered nearly 145,000 confirmed cases and some 4,000 deaths.


TOKYO — The governor of Tokyo, one of several prefectures still under a coronavirus state of emergency, says that she plans to reopen businesses in three phases in the Japanese capital as it prepares for a possible end to the restrictive measures later this month.

Yuriko Koike said today that Tokyo will be able to ease restrictions once new cases per day fall below 20, among other indicators. If figures deteriorate, social and economic activity will have to be scaled back again, she said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the end of the state of emergency in all but eight of the country’s 47 prefectures. Restrictions are still in place, for example, in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hokkaido, where experts say risks remain.

Abe said he will have another experts’ meeting next week to decide if the emergency can be removed entirely.

Under the roadmap, business activities will resume in three steps, starting with the lowest-risk facilities like museums and libraries, Koike said. In phase two, theaters will be allowed to reopen and business hours for restaurants and bars will be extended. The final phase will apply to all but cluster-prone facilities such as night clubs.

Japan has registered about 16,200 coronavirus cases and 710 deaths.


PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron has acknowledged mistakes in reforming the national hospital system, which has faced years of cost cuts and whose once-renowned facilities have struggled to treat tens of thousands of virus patients.

Senior doctors faced off today with Macron when he visited a leading Paris hospital, demanding more investment and a rethink of a medical system that found itself quickly overwhelmed by the virus crisis.

“For months I was asking for equipment, and we had three days to fight against the virus,” said Martin Hirsch, head of the Paris hospital network.

As the virus raced across France in March, Macron had to deploy the military to move patients and doctors around the country to relieve saturated hospitals.

Macron’s government announced a plan last year to address growing concerns about hospital job cuts and equipment shortages, but acknowledged today: “We undoubtedly made a mistake in the strategy.”

“It was a great strategy, but we should have done it 10 years ago,” he told frustrated doctors at Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital.

Macron promised to kick off a new investment plan while the virus crisis is still raging, without offering details.

French authorities say more than 27,000 people with the virus have died in hospitals and nursing homes.


VILNIUS, Lithuania — The prime ministers of the three Baltic nations said the first coronavirus wave is under control in their region. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania formally removed travel restrictions between them today.

“We are the first in the European Union to open our borders to each other’s’ citizens,” Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said. “But we remain cautious and responsible and are protecting the Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian space.”

In a joint video, Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins called it “a very important day” while his Estonian counterpart Juri Ratas said it was “another step toward our normal life.”

They spoke hours before the three former Soviet republics’ foreign minister gathered in the Latvian capital of Riga to sign a document, formally reopening the borders between the three EU members which are home to around six million inhabitants.

Baltic citizens and residents have been able to move freely between the three EU nations since Thursday midnight. People returning from countries outside the region will still be required to self-isolate for two weeks.


LONDON — Official British statistics show that more than 12,000 residents of nursing homes have died with confirmed or suspected COVID-19.

The Office for National Statistics says 12,526 care home residents in England and Wales died with confirmed or suspected coronavirus infections between the start of the outbreak and May 1. That’s 27 percent of the 45,899 total deaths of care-home residents during the period.

Britain has struggled to get a full picture of the scale of the epidemic in nursing homes. At first, the government recorded only COVID-19 deaths that occurred in hospitals, though that has now changed.

The country’s official death toll stands at 33,614, the highest number of coronavirus deaths in Europe.


PRAGUE — The Czech government is planning to further ease its restrictive measures adopted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Health Minister Adam Vojtech said today that sports, cultural and other public events for up to 300 people will be allowed from May 25, up from the current 100.

Vojtech said that if outbreak developments make it possible, the number will increase to 500 on June 8 and to 1,000 on June 22.

Hotels and tourist camps are reopening also on May 25, along with public swimming pools and aqua centers, the same day when bars, restaurants and cafes can start serving customers inside.

Children’s summer camps will be allowed under strict conditions, Vojtech said.

The Czech Republic has registered 8,352 coronavirus cases and 293 deaths. Since May 1, it has identified fewer than 100 new cases a day.


LJUBLJANA, Slovenia — Slovenia has become the first European country to proclaim an end to the coronavirus epidemic at home.

The European Union state’s government said today the COVID-19 spread is under control and there is no longer a need for extraordinary health measures.

The government says EU residents are free to cross into Slovenia from Austria, Italy and Hungary at predetermined checkpoints, while most non-EU nationals will have to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine in what is a major step for the small Alpine country as it accelerates the easing of restrictions.

The first coronavirus case in Slovenia was recorded on March 4, a returnee from neighboring Italy. The nationwide epidemic was proclaimed on March 12.

By May 13, there were 1,467 confirmed cases and 103 deaths in Slovenia.


DHAKA, Bangladesh — Authorities have reported the first coronavirus case in the crowded camps for Rohingya refugees in southern Bangladesh, where more than 1 million people are sheltered.

The person from the Rohingya community and a local person who lives in the Cox’s Bazar district who also tested positive have been isolated, Mahbub Alam Talukder, the country’s refugee commissioner, said Thursday.

Teams have been activated for treatment of the patients as well as tracing people they might have encountered and quarantining and testing of those contacts, Louise Donovan, a spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency, told The Associated Press.

Aid workers have been warning of the potential for a serious outbreak if the virus reached the camps. The dense crowding with plastic shacks standing side by side housing up to 12 residents each mean the refugees would be dangerously exposed to the virus.


PARIS — The head of WHO’s Europe office, Dr. Hans Kluge, says the future of the pandemic will depend on everyone’s actions.

“It’s very important to remind everyone that as long as there is no vaccine and effective treatment, there is no return to normal,” he said on French radio Europe-1 today. “This virus won’t simply disappear, so the personal behavior of each of us will determine the behavior of the virus.”

“Governments have done a lot (to limit the virus), and now the responsibility is on the people,” he added. “Before we said that public health is important for the economy. Now we have seen that without health there is no economy, there is no national security.”


NEW DELHI — The World Bank has approved $1 billion in emergency response to support India’s efforts at providing social assistance to poor and vulnerable households severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A bank statement says the move will increase its total commitment to India to $2 billion. A $1 billion package was announced last month for India’s health sector.

An immediate allocation of $750 million will help scale-up cash transfers and food benefits to provide robust social protection for essential workers involved in coronavirus relief efforts and benefit migrants and informal workers, the bank statement said late Thursday.

A second influx of $250 million will deepen the social protection package in fiscal year 2021, it said.

Half of India’s population earns less than $3 a day. More than 90 percent of India’s workforce is employed in the informal sector, without access to significant savings or workplace-based social protection benefits such as paid sick leave or social insurance, the statement said.

On Tuesday, India’s federal government announced an economic rescue package of 20 trillion rupees ($260 billion) to tide over a massive economic crisis created by the pandemic. Millions of migrant workers have fled big Indian cities to their village homes as they could find no work.


BERLIN — Germany’s most populous state has lifted a requirement for people arriving from other European countries to self-quarantine for 14 days, and other regions are expected to follow.

The rule expired in the western region of North Rhine-Westphalia at midnight. The state government said in a statement that Germany’s states agreed with the federal government on Thursday to exempt travelers from other countries in the European Union, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Britain and that they will implement that decision over the coming days.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer recommended earlier this week that states lift the quarantine rule for travelers from Europe – but maintain it for those from elsewhere.

A court in North Rhine-Westphalia’s northern neighbor, Lower Saxony, already suspended the rule for that state earlier this week.

Today night, Germany plans to end two-month-old checks on its border with Luxembourg and loosen them somewhat on its borders with Austria, Switzerland and France – though it doesn’t plan to restore free travel across its borders until mid-June.


ISLAMABAD — Pakistan is resuming domestic flights starting Saturday, ending a ban that was imposed in March.

Abdul Sattar Khokhar, spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority, said no decision on international flights has been made.

Pakistan reported 33 more deaths from the coronavirus in the previous 24 hours, raising its fatalities to 803 amid more than 37,000 cases. It has experienced a steady increase in coronavirus-related deaths and infections since the government eased a lockdown on Monday.

Authorities say the increase in infections is mainly because many people have failed to adhere to social distancing guidelines.


BEIJING — China’s foreign minister says the country has brought the coronavirus outbreak under control and he lashed out at foreign politicians he accused of having “insisted on politicizing the epidemic, labeling the virus, and smearing the World Health Organization.”

Wang Yi’s comments carried by the official Xinhua News Agency appeared directed at the United States, where President Donald Trump’s administration has repeatedly castigated China for allegedly covering up the initial outbreak and has suspended payments to the WHO over what it calls a pro-China bias and failure to effectively deal with the pandemic.

Other countries, including Australia, have also urged an independent investigation into the origin of the pandemic, calls that China has furiously rejected.

Under head of state and ruling Communist Party leader Xi Jinping’s leadership, China has been able to “put the outbreak under control through arduous efforts and has been gradually resuming economic and social life while undertaking prevention and control measures on a regular basis,” Wang was quoted as saying in a phone call Thursday with the foreign ministers of Hungary, Estonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

China has “overcome its own difficulties, offered support and assistance to relevant countries, shared prevention and control experiences and treatments without reservation, and facilitated various countries’ purchase of anti-epidemic supplies in China,” Wang said.

Attempts to politicize the pandemic and smear the WHO are “a serious violation of international moral principles and undermine international anti-epidemic efforts,” Wang added.


SYDNEY — Many cafes and restaurants opened again today in Sydney as some coronavirus restrictions were lifted, although rainy weather and ongoing fears appeared to keep patronage relatively low.

Australia’s most populous state of New South Wales began allowing cafes, restaurants and places of worship to reopen with up to 10 people on the condition they adhere to social distancing rules. Pubs and clubs were also permitted to open, but only for dining.

State Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned people to take personal responsibility, saying that easing restrictions in some other countries had backfired.

“Let’s please do our part in keeping everybody safe so that all of us can keep moving forward so that we never, ever go backwards,” Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney. “That’s really, really critical.”

Many Catholic churches across the state opened for private prayer, confession and small-scale Masses.


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