A health worker collects sample for coronavirus testing from a worker at a locked down wet market as one of its traders tested positive for COVID-19 in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, Tuesday, April 28, 2020. The Malaysian government issued a restricted movement order to the public till April 28, to help curb the spread of the new coronavirus. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

The Latest: China will hold ceremonial parliament meeting

April 28, 2020 - 11:02 pm

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.


—Putin extends Russia's shutdown to May 11.

—China will hold annual meeting of its ceremonial parliament meeting late next month

—France aims for 700,000 tests each week starting May 11.

—France, Spain reveal lockdown exits.

BEIJING — China has decided to hold the annual meeting of its ceremonial parliament late next month after postponing it for weeks because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The official Xinhua News Agency on Wednesday said the National People’s Congress would open in Beijing on May 22, according to a decision made by its standing committee, which handles most legislative affairs outside the annual two-week session of the full body.

The convening of the full session, which would encompass about 3,000 members, indicates China’s growing confidence that it has largely overcome the pandemic that was first detected in China late last year.

The meeting involves bringing delegates from across the country by plane and train to Beijing, where they first meet to hear a state of the country address from Premier Li Keqiang, seated shoulder-to-shoulder in the colossal auditorium at the Great Hall of the People.

It wasn’t clear from the report whether delegates would be meeting in person or virtually and there was no word on any meeting of the congress’ advisory body that meets around the same time.


KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysian lawyers and a rights group have voiced concern over the excessive sentencing of violators of the country’s virus lockdown. Malaysia, which has 5,851 infections and 100 deaths, has arrested more than 21,000 people since a partial lockdown began March 8.

Violators face a fine or a jail term of up to six months. It wasn’t clear how many have been imprisoned, but a number have been handed jail sentences ranging from a few days to several months.

The Bar Council, which represents some 15,000 lawyers, urged courts to temper justice with compassion as it doesn’t involve violent crime. Bar president Salim Bashir said in a statement that incarcerating violators raises the risk of virus transmissions in courts and already crowded prisons.

While flouting the lockdown must not be taken lightly, Bashir said “sending violators to jail is a cure that is worse than the disease.”

The Bar also said it was disturbed over cases of disparity in sentencing between ordinary people and those with influence. Malaysia’s deputy health minister on Tuesday was let off with a 1,000 ringgit ($229) fine for having a lunch gathering at a religious school.

In contrast, a university student was sentenced to seven days in jail and a 1,000 ringgit fine for leaving her house to take a cake to her boyfriend. She faces an additional two months in jail if she fails to pay the fine. Human Rights Watch said Malaysia should stop jailing violators as it was counter-productive to reducing the virus spread.

Although Malaysia has said created temporary detention facilities for lockdown violators, it said Malaysia should instead use these additional facilities to reduce overcrowding in its existing prisons.


BEIJING — China on Wednesday reported a jump in imported cases of coronavirus, but no new deaths from the disease it causes.

Out of 22 new cases, 21 were brought from abroad and one was a result of local transmission in the southern industrial province of Guangdong, the National Health Commission reported. China, the source of the worldwide pandemic, now has just 647 registered cases of COVID-19, along with just over 1,000 people under quarantine and monitoring for being suspected cases or having tested positive for the virus without showing symptoms.

China has registered a total of 4,633 deaths from the virus among 82,858 cases. Authorities have relaxed social distancing restrictions, but have maintained strict quarantine rules on those coming from abroad or other parts of the country to ward off a second wave of virus cases as summer approaches.


DENALI NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE, Alaska — Officials have opened a portion of the 92-mile road into Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska.

Earlier this month, the park, citing travel restrictions imposed by state officials in response to coronavirus concerns, closed public access to the road. The restrictions have since been modified, and the National Park Service said Tuesday the road will be open to mile marker 12.

Further opening of the road is expected as conditions and staffing allow, the agency said in a release.

The state last week eased restrictions on travel within Alaska to allow for recreational activities. When traveling, only household members are to be in a vehicle, and stops along the way are to be minimized.

The national park is about 240 miles north of Anchorage.


UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council has taken no action after discussing the humanitarian situation in Venezuela behind closed doors, but its European Union members are warning the coronavirus pandemic “risks having a devastating human impact in a country grappling with an already grave economic, social and humanitarian situation.”

A statement by France, Germany, Belgium, Estonia and former council member Poland issued after Tuesday’s meeting reiterated their concerns “about the sharply deteriorating crisis in Venezuela and its destabilizing effects across the region, including its severe humanitarian consequences.”

The members noted the European Union is the largest donor to Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis, “providing more than half of all funding,” and they called for stepped up efforts to respond to the country’s underfunded humanitarian emergency.


WASHINGTON — The Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs departments are defending their response to the coronavirus outbreak.

In a joint statement, the agencies say they have worked with FEMA to ship 4.3 million respirator masks and 1 million surgical masks along with 1.5 million gloves and 14,000 face shields to VA facilities across the country. They say an additional 1 million surgical masks will ship this week.

The VA also has made 1,500 acute and intensive care hospital beds available to non-veteran patients and is helping to provide support to state Veterans homes and private nursing homes.


LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County has reported 59 new COVID-19-related deaths, raising the total to 1,000.

“LA County has hit the tragic milestone of 1,000 people dying from COVID-19,” county public health director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “Please know that if you are grieving the loss of loved ones who have died from COVID-19, our thoughts and prayers are with you, your family, and your friends.”

Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous with 10 million residents, also reported 597 new cases, raising its total to 20,976.

The number of deaths in institutional settings rose to 462 and the majority were residents of skilled nursing facilities, the county said.


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — After waiting more than a month to have their unemployment application processed, many Floridians were shocked this week to find their eligibility rejected even when they thought they had met the requirements.

The state’s CONNECT website to check status of claims was down for maintenance over the weekend, further frustrating thousands waiting for assistance after losing their jobs because of business closures caused by the coronavirus outbreak. It functioned erratically Monday, with many users getting repeated error messages.

Many who filed on the state’s outdated website in March have been waiting five or six weeks with their claim stuck in pending status. Many were deemed ineligible this week, despite believing they had met requirements, including proofs of prior income.


BOSTON — Nearly 70 residents sickened with the coronavirus have died at a central Massachusetts home for aging veterans. State and federal officials are trying to figure out what went wrong in the deadliest outbreak at a long-term care facility in the U.S.

While the death toll at the state-run Holyoke Soldiers’ Home continues to climb, federal officials are investigating whether residents were denied proper medical care while the state’s top prosecutor is deciding whether to bring legal action.

Sixty-six veteran residents who tested positive for the virus have died, officials said Monday, and the cause of another death is unknown. Another 83 residents and 81 staff have tested positive.

The home’s superintendent, who’s been placed on administrative leave, has defended his response and accused state officials of falsely claiming they were unaware of the scope of the problem there.


NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya’s Interior minister Fred Matiangi has announced a ban on movement into and out of two of Africa’s largest refugee camps in a measure to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The minister’s statement did not provide details, but aid organisation CARE said the camps have no capacity to deal with a possible outbreak of the virus.

CARE said in a statement that Dadaab refugee camp, in Kenya’s east, has a quarantine facility for 2,000. It has more than 270,000 refugees mainly from Somalia, and a further 20,000 refugees living with the host community.

Kakuma camp in Kenya’s north hosts 60,000 refugees mainly from South Sudan.


AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine will begin reopening its economy in phases this week on a schedule that is more ambitious than most of the rest of the hard-hit Northeast.

The state will extend its broad stay-at-home order until May 31 but also begin lifting restrictions Friday, said Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat. The first stage will give residents access to personal services like barbers and drive-in churches. Later phases, to spread across the summer, will reopen restaurants, hotels, summer camps and bars.

Maine has reported over 1,000 cases of the virus and more than 50 deaths.


SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California schoolchildren could return to their classrooms as early as July though there likely will be modifications.

No formal decisions have been made, but Gov. Gavin Newsom is acknowledging there have been “learning losses” as parents have sought to teach their kids from home. Most schools and classrooms have been closed since March, when Newsom issued a statewide stay-at-home order to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Districts and families have struggled to adapt to at-home learning. Starting the new school year earlier would make up for some of that lost time, Newsom says.

But schools may look radically different than before. Newsom previously said schools may launch with staggered start times to limit the number of students in the school at one time and make changes to recess, lunch and other normal school gatherings that draw large groups of students together.


SALEM, Oregon — Facing steep budget shortfalls, the state of Oregon is furloughing workers in order to save money.

A state economist predicted that Oregon’s leaders will have to grapple with “balancing limited revenues with increased need for programs to help Oregonians” impacted by the economic shutdown to stem the coronavirus pandemic.

“Things won’t bounce back overnight” after the restrictions are lifted, Josh Lehner, who is helping produce Oregon’s economic and revenue forecast, said on a webcast.

Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle announced late Monday that managers in the agency she directs, the Bureau of Labor and Industries, must take one unpaid furlough day per month through June 2021, the end of the budget cycle.

“The coronavirus pandemic has collapsed our economy,” Hoyle said.


MOSCOW — Russian opposition activists have staged an online protest against lockdowns.

Participants in Tuesday’s video call charged that the government has used the coronavirus outbreak to impose illegal restrictions violating people’s rights.

Opposition politician Dmitry Gudkov denounced an electronic pass system introduced in Moscow as a “digital concentration camp.” He also criticized the Kremlin for failing to offer tangible support to private businesses.

A partial economic shutdown ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin has kept most Russians home since late March. The measure was to expire Thursday, but Putin extended it through May 11.

Russia has recorded 93,558 coronavirus cases and 867 deaths.


MOSCOW — Russia’s prison service says it has registered more than 300 coronavirus cases.

The Federal Penitentiary Service says 271 of its personnel and 40 inmates have tested positive for the new coronavirus. It says it has conducted nearly 19,000 tests.

The announcement marked the first official acknowledgement of the contagion in Russia’s sprawling prison system that holds more than 600,000 inmates. Activists have warned the outbreak could quickly engulf Russia’s overcrowded prisons, noting the authorities’ failure to observe the necessary precautions and the lack of protective gear.

The prison service insisted in Tuesday’s statement that it has conducted extensive medical checks of prison personnel and inmates and quarantined new arrivals.


PRAGUE — The lower house of Czech Parliament has agreed to extend the state of emergency at the request of the government amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The lawmakers approved the extension to May 17. The government argued it needed the expansion until May 25 because its last restrictive measures to contain the pandemic will expire by that date. But the opposition said it didn’t properly explain its demand.

The state of emergency gives the government extra powers to respond to the outbreak, including a power to limit basic rights.

Almost 7,500 people have been tested positive for the coronavirus in the Czech Republic, according to government figures released on Tuesday, 225 have died.


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