The Latest: UN urges religious to fight harmful messages

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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:

— Dr. Fauci hopeful of vaccine in advanced trials by early winter.

— More than 8,000 died in British nursing homes in 2 months.

— U.S. donates 1,000 ventilators to South Africa.

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UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations secretary-general is urging religious leaders to challenge “inaccurate and harmful messages” fueling rising ethno-nationalism, hate speech and conflict as the coronavirus pandemic circles the globe.

Antonio Guterres warned “extremists and radical groups are seeking to exploit eroding trust in leadership and feed on people’s vulnerability to serve their own ends.”

He says the role of faith leaders in addressing the challenges of COVID-19 can play “a pivotal role.”

The U.N. chief cites an “alarming increase in violence against women and girls” as the pandemic spreads. Guterres appealed to religious leaders “to categorically condemn such acts and support shared principles of partnership, equality, respect and compassion.”

He also called on the leaders to join the fight against misinformation about COVID-19.

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HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont has replaced the state’s public health commissioner, a change a state official says was made because of missteps dating to last year.

The official announcement from the Democratic governor didn’t say why he was replacing Renée Coleman-Mitchell with Deidre Gifford, commissioner of the state Department of Social Services, who also will serve as acting public health commissioner.

According to the state official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the information, Lamont removed her for slow action on a plan to protect nursing homes from the coronavirus and refusing to publicly release school-by-school vaccination rates last year.

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BERLIN — The reproduction rate for the coronavirus rate has remained above the key threshold of 1 for three days in a row in Germany, but health authorities say it is more of a statistical issue than cause for concern.

Lars Schaade, vice president of the Robert Koch-Institute, Germany’s public health agency, says the latest so-called R-rate was 1.07, indicating that every 100 people infected would infect 107 others. Experts say it’s important to keep the figure below 1 to prevent the pandemic from expanding.

But he says there is a lag in the data. The current “R” figures are based on information from April 28 through May 3, while actual new cases reported in the last three days have been fewer than 1,000 per day.

He says the RKI will be providing an adjusted R figure “better suited to illustrate longer-term trends” in addition to the unadjusted figure.

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GLENVILLE, W.Va. — Five inmates at a federal prison in West Virginia have tested positive for the coronavirus after a large transfer of prisoners led to the first case at the lockup.

Data on the federal Bureau of Prisons website Tuesday show the new cases at FCI Gilmer came around a week after one of the 124 inmates transferred to the prison in Glenville tested positive.

Federal and state politicians opposed the prisoner transfers when they were announced and renewed their criticism after the positive case emerged at Gilmer.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin has said Attorney General William Barr has assured him that no additional inmates will be relocated to Gilmer or the federal prison at Hazelton.

Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal has said the agency identified 10 sites across the country with enough bed space to house new inmates and ease overcrowding at their other prisons. He says inmates who don’t test positive for the virus after a 14-day quarantine will be transported to their designated prisons.

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WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci says the government is working on several potential vaccines for COVID-19.

“We have many candidates and hope to have many winners,” he told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension committee. “In other words, it is many shots on goal.”

Despite the rapid pace of work on vaccines, Fauci was offering no guarantees. He says, “The big unknown is efficacy.”

Fauci heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and is the government’s leading expert on the pandemic. He says he hopes to have a vaccine in advanced trials by late fall or early winter.

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ROME — Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte says six women are joining a key committee advising the government about how the country can safely emerge from lockdown.

That comes after female researchers, scientists and lawmakers noted women weren’t represented in Italy’s management of the pandemic.

The premier’s office says Conte made the appointments “out of the need to guarantee gender representation” in the delicate phase. Since Italy’s devastating COVID-19 outbreak began, the 20-member technical-scientific committee had been all-male.

Among the female experts who now join the committee are a biologist with expertise in immunology and an expert on safety in the workplace. Conte also added five women to a separate ad hoc advisory body that is headed by a male Italian industrialist and made up mainly of men. Among the women joining that advisory body will be a sociology professor and a founder of Italy’s first university center dedicated to fighting domestic violence.

Earlier this month, female lawmakers lodged a Parliamentary motion calling on Conte to remedy gender imbalance on the advisory panels. For weeks, Italians had been briefed daily by only male doctors, epidemiologists and other experts about developments in the pandemic.

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BEIRUT — Lebanon’s government decided to reinstate a national lockdown for four days after a spike in reported cases of infections and complaints from government officials of lax implementation of social distancing measures.

It called on citizens to stay home starting Wednesday night until Monday morning, avoiding outings except for emergencies. Lebanon began a phased plan to relax a national lockdown late last month that allowed small businesses and restaurants, among other things to reopen, and shortened a nighttime curfew.

But after a few days of single-digit cases detected, there was a spike of reported infections this week, including among Lebanese returning home during repatriation programs who didn’t observe quarantine measures.

Lebanon, a country of more than 5 million, has recorded only 870 infections and 26 deaths after imposing early lockdown measures. A nationwide testing campaign helped traced the virus.

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PARIS — France’s prime minister Edouard Philippe says newly elected local officials will take office next week, after the election process was suspended for over two months amid the coronavirus crisis.

Phillipe says 30,000 out of 35,000 municipalities in France have elected officials on the first round of local elections held on March 15, just two days before the country entered into lockdown.

Elections were suspended and outgoing officials maintained in their former position.

As the country reopens this week, most municipal councils will take office on May 18, Philippe says. They will have until May 28 to elect their mayors.

No decision has been made yet for about 5,000 municipalities, including Paris and other big cities, where a second round is needed. It is “too soon” to decide on sending voters back to the polls, Philippe says.

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BERLIN — A court in one German state has suspended rules requiring people arriving in the country after a stay abroad to self-quarantine for 14 days.

The decision announced Monday night by the upper administrative court in Lower Saxony applies only to that northern region. Judges acted on a complaint by a man who owns a holiday house in southern Sweden.

The court found there were no grounds for a blanket requirement for all people arriving from all countries to go into quarantine.

It found the law would allow a quarantine requirement for specific groups of people, such as those who are sick or suspected of being infectious or for those arriving from areas designated as risky.

Germany last month imposed a requirement for all people arriving in the country to go straight home and stay there for 14 days, except those who were on short trips, commuting to jobs, transporting goods or some other essential function.

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LONDON — Britain’s Treasury chief extended a job retention plan to the end of October but says starting in August the government might pay less than the current 80% of workers’ salaries during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rishi Sunak told the House of Commons he wouldn’t give up on people who relied on the program. Sunak says 7.5 million jobs had been furloughed, jobs that would have been lost if not for the program.

He says there would be no changed through July. However, from August to October, the government will ask employers to start “sharing with the Government the cost of paying people’s salaries.’’

Unions tweeted their support for the extension of the plan. The Trades Union Congress tweeted it would be a “big relief to millions of working families.”

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PRAGUE — Church bells were tolling across the Czech Republic for one minute at noon to thank health personnel on International Nurses Day for their work amid the coronavirus pandemic.

There’re some 80,000 nurses in the Czech Republic, and more than 340 have been infected with COVID-19.

Health Minister Adam Vojtech says, “All who belong to the health care system are our heroes in the crisis situations.”

The daily increase in COVID-19 cases has been under 80 for 11 straight days in the Czech Republic, according to Health Ministry figures released on Tuesday. A total of 283 have died.

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OSTROG MONASTERY, Montenegro — Police say hundreds of people who have flocked to a monastery in western Montenegro have respected rules for the coronavirus.

The visitors stood in two rows to keep distance and were offered face masks and hand sanitizers.

The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, Bishop Amfilohije, held a service to mark the day of St. Basil, the patron saint of the Ostrog monastery.

The remains of St. Basil are kept in a small, remote church at the monastery situated high on a narrow cliff. The complex is a pilgrimage site for Orthodox Christian believers.

A country of some 620,000 people, Montenegro has reported nine deaths from the coronavirus and 324 infected.

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LONDON — More than 8,000 people died with the coronavirus in British nursing homes since the first recorded death from March 2 to May 1.

The U.K.’s Office for National Statistics says in the two-month period there were 8,312 recorded deaths in care homes in England and Wales that mentioned COVID-19 on the death certificate. The figure doesn’t include deaths in Scotland or Northern Ireland, which would add several hundred to the total.

In all, there were 35,044 deaths involving the coronavirus in England and Wales to May 1.

The figure is higher than the official government toll, which stood Monday at 32,065, because it includes cases in which COVID-19 was suspected but not confirmed by a test.

The number of deaths among people with the virus, both in hospitals and elsewhere, is starting to fall. Nick Stripe, head of health analysis at the statistics office, says the total number of weekly deaths is declining but remains well above average for the time of year.

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is urging governments hire more nurses and invest in their training and working conditions, saying the COVID-19 pandemic has shown a “number of deficiencies” in the way governments provide medical care for their people.

Francis hailed the “courage and sacrifice” of nurses and says their “fundamental importance” had been reaffirmed during the pandemic. He issued the message on the World Health Organization’s International Nurses Day and the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

Francis noted many nurses have died during the pandemic. He asks world leaders “to invest in health care as the primary common good, by strengthening its systems and employing greater numbers of nurses, so as to ensure adequate care to everyone, with respect for the dignity of each person.”

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PARIS — Farmers markets reopened around Paris as the country gradually lifts two months of coronavirus confinement.

Signs warned customers not to touch the produce, and vendors chatted with shoppers through plastic shields amid strawberries, asparagus and sea snails. Marie Claude Polichoik, a 70-year-old Parisian shopper, says she missed the markets and hoped to “keep local trade on its feet.”

In eastern France, the European Parliament’s headquarters in Strasbourg transformed its emptied halls into a mass virus testing center that opened Tuesday. The surrounding region was the first major virus hotspot in France, which has reported more than 26,000 deaths from the pandemic.

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HELSINKI — The Finnish national airline Finnair will require passengers and cabin crew to wear face masks on all flights effective May 18 through at least the end of August.

Piia Karhu from Finnair’s customer experience unit says, “we want everyone to be able to fly with confidence.”

She adds passengers of Finnair, which is heavily focused on flights to Asia, would board a plane with their own mask and wear it throughout the flight. Finnair says face masks would be available at its main hub, Helsinki Airport, and other Finnish airports.

The Finnish airport operator Finavia says the use of mouth-nose protectors is required for all airport employees in Finland working with customers. It recommended passengers wear one as they move through airports.

Finland, a nation of 5.5 million, has registered 5,984 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 271 deaths.

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Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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