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    The European Union's top diplomat has called for the bloc to have a “more robust strategy” toward China amid signs that Asia is replacing the United States as the center of global power. EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell told a gathering of German ambassadors on Monday that “analysts have long talked about the end of an American-led system and the arrival of an Asian century.” “This is now happening in front of our eyes,' he said. Borrell said the pandemic could be seen as a turning point in the power shift from West to East, and that for the EU the “pressure to choose sides is growing.' He said the 27-nation bloc “should follow our own interests and values and avoid being instrumentalized by one or the other.” But while China's rise was “impressive,” Borrell said current relations between the Brussels and Beijing weren't always based on trust, transparency and reciprocity. Borrell said “we only have a chance if we deal with China with collective discipline,” noting that an upcoming EU-China summit this fall could be an opportunity to do so. “We need a more robust strategy for China, which also requires better relations with the rest of democratic Asia,” he added. Speaking at the same conference, held by videolink this year due to the pandemic, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas echoed Borrell's call for greater transparency from China, an issue that has come to the fore over Beijing's information policy during the early stages of the virus outbreak. Germany takes over the six-month rotating presidency of the EU in July.
  • A key indicator of German business outlooks bounced upward in May as more businesses and activities re-opened — but the index remained far below normal readings as Germany faced a long journey toward full recovery from the coronavirus downturn. Revised official figures released separately Monday showed the economy has now recorded two straight quarters of falling output, meeting a commonly used definition of recession. The Ifo institute index based on surveys of businesses rose to 79.5 from 74.2 in April, a strong increase but still far below normal. “The gradual easing of the lockdown offers a glimmer of hope,” said Ifo President Clemens Fuest. Carsten Brzeski, chief eurozone economist at ING, said in a research note that “today’s Ifo index echoes more real-time signals that economic and social activity has started to pick up significantly since the first lifting of the lockdown measures in late April.” He said the upturn from historic lows was “highly welcome” but “no reason for complacency or even hubris.” He said the German economy is unlikely to return to its pre-crisis level before 2022 even if there is no second wave of the virus outbreak. Official statistics released Monday confirmed an earlier reading that the German economy shrank by 2.2% in the first quarter of the year compared with the same period in 2019. That was the biggest quarterly decline since the 2008-2009 global financial crisis. The more detailed figures in the second release showed that private consumption and exports were the hardest hit. Investments in the engineering sector, construction and public expenditure helped prevent an even bigger downturn. The figures revised growth for the last quarter of 2019 to minus 0.1%, meaning the country has recorded two straight quarters of falling output. Figures for the second quarter should show an even deeper downturn since the first-quarter figures only captured part of the lockdowns.
  • Global shares rose Monday, with Europe tracking gains in Asia despite news that the German economy fell into recession in the first quarter of the year amid the coronavirus pandemic. France's CAC 40 gained 0.8% in early trading to 4,479.60, while Germany's DAX jumped 1.2% to 11,206.26. British markets were closed for a bank holiday. U.S. markets will be closed for Memorial Day. Germany joined other major economies in logging its worst downturn since the global financial crisis more than a decade ago, as exports and consumer spending took a hit from shutdowns and other disruptions resulting from the pandemic. Its economy contracted 2.2% in January-March from a year earlier, the Federal Statistical Office said. It said investments in the engineering sector, construction and public spending helped to prevent an even bigger downturn. Since Germany’s economy dipped 0.1% in the last quarter of 2019, the country has entered what is known as a “technical recession.” The mood was upbeat, also, in Asia, where Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 added 1.7% to finish at 20,741.65 ahead of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's announcement that the state of emergency that still was in effect for Tokyo and several other areas was ending as outbreaks appeared to be subsiding. “We have drawn the attention of the world,” Abe said. “We will take a strong step forward.” Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea’s Kospi gained 1.2% to 1,994.60 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 jumped 2.2% to 5,615.60. Shares in Hong Kong fell initially after police used tear gas to quell weekend protests over a proposed national security bill for the former British colony. By the end of the day, but recouped earlier losses to be little changed. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng inched up less than 0.1% to 22,952.24. The Shanghai Composite picked up 0.2% to 2,817.97. The protests in Hong Kong in response to legislation presented to China's National People's Congress, which is now meeting in Beijing, were the largest in months despite bans on large gathering meant to prevent spreading the coronavirus. The revival of sometimes violent pro-democracy protests that rocked the city for much of 2019 raises the likelihood of more tensions between Beijing and Washington over China's efforts to exert more control over the semi-autonomous territory. “With more riots in the street amid the knockdown effects of COVID-19 and a possible exodus of jobs from the city's financial center, surely things will get much worse before better,' Stephen Innes of AxiCorp said in a commentary. Japan has followed South Korea, China and several other Asian countries in relaxing precautions as the pace of new coronavirus infections has ebbed. Abe said, however, that the nation needs to adopt “new thinking” for a lifestyle that keeps social distancing restrictions to avoid contagion but will also allow an economic recovery. He urged people to continue to fear the virus, wear masks and wash hands regularly. People are still being requested to avoid mingling in crowds. Concerts will be allowed with up to 100 people in the audience at first. The professional baseball season will kick off next month with no spectators in the stands. Japan has reported about 820 deaths and more than 16,000 cases, relatively few compared to hard-hit nations like the U.S. In other trading Monday, benchmark U.S. crude oil picked up 9 cents to $33.34 a barrel. It fell 2%, or 67 cents, to $33.25 a barrel on Friday. Brent crude oil, the international standard, lost 11 cents to $35.02 a barrel. Crude oil started the year at about $60 a barrel and then plummeted as demand sank due to widespread travel and business shutdowns related to the coronavirus. The U.S. dollar inched up to 107.69 Japanese yen from 107.63 yen late Friday. The euro fell to $1.0884 from $1.0901. ___ Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama
  • One of China’s biggest tech companies has criticized the Trump administration for “politicizing business” after it slapped export sanctions on 33 more Chinese enterprises and government entities. The new measures announced Friday expanded a U.S. campaign against Chinese companies Washington says might be security threats or involved in human rights abuses. Beijing criticized curbs imposed earlier on tech giant Huawei and other Chinese companies but has yet to say whether it will retaliate. The most prominent name on the latest blacklist is Qihoo 360, a major supplier of anti-virus software and a web browser. The decision to add the companies to the Commerce Department’s Entity List limits their access to U.S. components and technology by requiring government permission for exports. Qihoo 360 “firmly opposes this irresponsible action and the U.S. Commerce Department’s practice of politicizing business and scientific and technological research and development,” the company said on its social media account. Qihoo 360 and other companies didn’t immediately respond to questions Monday about which U.S. technologies they use and how the restrictions might affect their businesses. The Chinese government had no immediate comment. China’s fledgling tech industries are developing processor chips, software, telecom hardware, electric car batteries and other products. But they still need U.S., European and Japanese components and other inputs for smartphones and other devices, as well as for manufacturing processes. President Donald Trump's administration complains Chinese tech development is based at least in part on stealing foreign know-how. American officials say that might support spying or weapons development that might threaten the security of the U.S. or China’s Asian neighbors. Complaints about Beijing’s technology ambitions prompted Trump to raise duties on Chinese imports in 2018, triggering a tariff war that has weighed on global trade. The two governments signed a truce in January but Trump has threatened to back out if China fails to buy more American exports. Companies including Huawei that were targeted by earlier U.S. sanctions deny they are a threat. Chinese officials accuse Washington of using phony security warnings to block rising competitors to U.S. tech industries. Qihoo 360 was among 24 companies or government-linked entities the Commerce Department said pose a “significant risk of supporting procurement of items for military end-use in China.” Another blacklisted company, CloudMinds Technology Co., a maker of internet-linked robots in Beijing, said all its products “are designed for civilian use.” It appealed to the U.S. government in a statement on its social media account to “stop this unfair treatment.” Qihoo 360, headquartered in Beijing, was traded on the New York Stock Exchange from 2011 to 2015, when the company bought back its U.S. shares. It joined the Shanghai Stock Exchange in 2018. The Commerce Department said seven other companies that supplied video and other surveillance technology and two government entities were added to the list for being “complicit in human rights violations and abuses” in the Muslim northwestern region of Xinjiang.
  • Many laid-off workers who lost health insurance in the coronavirus shutdown soon face the first deadlines to qualify for fallback coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Taxpayer-subsidized health insurance is available for a modest cost — sometimes even free — across the country, but industry officials and independent researchers say few people seem to know how to find it. For those who lost their health insurance as layoffs mounted at the end of March, a 60-day “special enrollment” period for individual coverage under the ACA closes next week in most states. Altheia Franklin, who lives near Houston, lost her medical plan after being laid off from a job at an upscale retirement community, as a counselor to seniors making the move. Stay-at-home orders and higher virus risks for older people have put such life transitions on hold in the pandemic. Franklin said she received plenty of government information about coronavirus safety and economic stimulus payments, but “the insurance piece just has not been mentioned.” She scrambled and finally found an ACA — or “Obamacare” — plan she could still afford on a reduced income. “We are in the middle of a pandemic, and God forbid if I get sick and I don't have it,' she said of her health insurance. The nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that nearly 27 million workers and family members had lost job-based health coverage as of the start of this month, a number now likely higher with unemployment claims rising. In a counter-intuitive finding, Kaiser's study also estimated that nearly 8 in 10 of the newly uninsured would likely qualify for some sort of coverage under former President Barack Obama's health law, either a private plan like Franklin found, or Medicaid. “The ACA is there as a safety net for the first time in an economic downturn,” said Kaiser foundation expert Larry Levitt. But “many people losing their jobs have never had to think of relying on the ACA for coverage, so there is no reason they should be aware of their options.” There are several options, not easy to sort through. Some have application deadlines; others do not. And the Trump administration, which still plans to ask the Supreme Court later this summer to declare “Obamacare” unconstitutional, is doing little to promote the health law's coverage. Here's a quick look: SUBSIDIZED PRIVATE INSURANCE Like Altheia Franklin, people who lose workplace insurance generally have 60 days from when their coverage ended to apply for an ACA plan. They can go to the federal HealthCare.gov or their state's health insurance website. Most states that run their own health insurance marketplaces have provided an extended sign-up period for people who lost coverage in the pandemic. The federal marketplace, serving most of the country, has not. MEDICAID FOR ADULTS Nearly three-fourths of the states have expanded Medicaid to low-income adults under the Obama health law. In those states, low-income adults can qualify for free or very low cost coverage. There is no sign-up deadline. The Kaiser foundation estimates that nearly 13 million people who lost job-based insurance are eligible for Medicaid. But that option is not available in most Southern states, as well as some in the Midwest and Plains, because they have not expanded Medicaid. CHILDREN'S HEALTH INSURANCE Laid-off workers should be able to get their children covered even if the adults in the family cannot help. The federal-state Children's Health Insurance Program and Medicaid cover kids in families with incomes well above the poverty level. “Medicaid is open year round if you are a parent with kids who need coverage,” said Joan Alker, director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University. Children's coverage predates the ACA. COBRA People can continue their employer coverage under a federal law known as COBRA, but they have to pay 102% of the premium — too much for most who are out of work. If there's another coronavirus bill from Congress, it might include subsidies for COBRA coverage. Government statistics on people losing —and finding— health insurance coverage in the coronavirus contraction won't be available for months. The head of a California company that helps people find ACA coverage says most of the new sign-ups they're seeing are people who qualify for Medicaid, and there's been only a modest uptick for subsidized private plans. “We are all wondering where the heck is everybody,” said George Kalogeropoulos, CEO of Health Sherpa. “People first are trying to apply for unemployment, and many of them getting stuck there,” he added. “Health care is the secondary thing, and if they get stuck in unemployment, people may never do the health care thing.” Alker, the Georgetown University expert, said insurance protection has been neglected in the pandemic. “Having health insurance has never been more important,” she said. “We need a national commitment to make these newly uninsured people aware of their options.
  • Asian shares are mostly higher, with Tokyo stocks gaining on expectations that a pandemic state of emergency will be lifted for all of Japan. But shares fell in Hong Kong on Monday after police used tear gas to quell weekend protests over a proposed national security bill for the former British colony. U.S. markets will be closed for Memorial Day. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 added 1.5% in morning trading to 20,682.78. South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.6% to 1,981.92. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 jumped 1.4% to 5,572.30. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 1.2% to 22,659.62. The Shanghai Composite was little changed, edging 0.1% higher to 2,815.94. The protests in Hong Kong, in response to legislation under discussion by China's National People's Congress, which is now meeting in Beijing, were the largest in months despite bans on large gathering meant to prevent spreading the coronavirus. The revival of sometimes violent pro-democracy protests that rocked the city for much of 2019 raises the likelihood of more tensions between Beijing and Washington over China's efforts to exert more control over the semi-autonomous territory. “With more riots in the street amid the knockdown effects of COVID-19 and a possible exodus of jobs from the city's financial center, surely things will get much worse before better,' Stephen Innes of AxiCorp said in a commentary. Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, was expected to announced later Monday that the state of emergency imposed to fight the pandemic will end nationwide after a panel of experts approved the plan. Japan has been gradually relaxing calls for people to stay home and for some businesses to stay closed as reports of confirmed cases of COVID-19 and related deaths have declined. Japan has reported about 820 deaths and more than 16,000 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, relatively few compared to hard-hit nations like the U.S. The prime minister's announcement is set to come after markets close, but the move is already being factored in. Some department stores and restaurants have already reopened, including in Tokyo, where the emergency is technically still in place. Although people are wearing masks and having their temperatures taken at the doors of some public places, fears persist that a resumption of normal economic activity and fewer social distancing precautions will bring on a resurgence of infections. Wall Street ended the week with a gain. The S&P 500 index inched up 0.2% to to 2,955.45. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gave up less than 0.1% to 24,465.16. The Nasdaq composite added 39.71 points, or 0.4%, to 9,324.59. Despite the uneven finish, the three major stock indexes each ended the week more than 3% higher, while the Russell 2000 index of small company stocks jumped 7.8% for the week. On Friday, the Russell 2000 gained 0.6% to 1,355.53. Fresh hopes for a U.S. economic recovery in the second half of the year and optimism about a potential vaccine for COVID-19 helped spur stocks higher for much of the week. Investors are betting, despite concerns over the risks of reigniting outbreaks of the virus, that the economy and corporate profits will begin to recover from the pandemic as the U.S. and countries around the world slowly open up again. In other trading Monday, benchmark U.S. crude oil picked up 2 cents to $33.27 a barrel. It fell 2%, or 67 cents, to $33.25 a barrel on Friday. Brent crude oil, the international standard, fell 22 cents to $34.91 a barrel. Crude oil started the year at about $60 a barrel and then plummeted as demand sank due to widespread travel and business shutdowns related to the coronavirus. The U.S. dollar inched up to 107.72 Japanese yen from 107.63 yen late Friday. The euro inched down to $1.0892 from $1.0901.
  • One of New Zealand's largest media organizations is being sold for a single dollar to its chief executive, the owners announced Monday. The organization Stuff prints many of the nation’s daily newspapers and runs a popular news website of the same name. It employs about 900 staff, including 400 journalists. Owned by Australia’s Nine Entertainment, Stuff faced financial challenges before the coronavirus pandemic struck and has since seen advertising revenues plunge. In a statement to the Australian stock market, Nine said Stuff would be sold to CEO Sinead Boucher in a management buyout deal that will be completed by the end of the month. “We have always said that we believe it is important for Stuff to have local ownership and it is our firm view that this is the best outcome for competition and consumers in New Zealand,” said Hugh Marks, the CEO of Nine. Boucher said she's been “blown away” by the positive feedback she's been receiving about the purchase. “I feel really happy, relieved and proud. It’s been a really intense couple of weeks getting to the finish line,' she said. Boucher, 49, began her career as a reporter for The Press newspaper in Christchurch and later helped lead some of the company's digital innovations. She said she has no immediate plans for any staff reductions or newspaper closures, although added the ownership change isn't a silver bullet to cure the issues that Stuff and other media companies are facing. Boucher said she would look to increase revenues from online readers. Stuff last month set up an option for readers to donate money. Boucher said she is purchasing Stuff through a limited liability company and is working through the details of a plan to transition the ownership by giving staff a direct stake as shareholders in the company. The deal brings to an end the efforts of rival media company NZME to buy Stuff. Discussions between the two companies turned acrimonious and ended up in the hands of lawyers. The High Court last week declined an interim injunction sought by NZME that could have delayed the sale to Boucher. Nine said that as part of the deal, it will retain ownership of a printing plant in Wellington and lease it back to Stuff. It will also get some of the profits from the recent sale of company offshoot Stuff Fibre, an internet provider. Most New Zealand media companies have been struggling since the pandemic struck. Stuff has temporarily cut employee's pay while NZME has announced plans to cut 200 jobs. Last month, German company Bauer Media closed its New Zealand operation and stopped publishing many of the country’s magazines. And broadcaster MediaWorks on Monday told staff that 130 positions would be cut.
  • Europeans soaked up the sun where they could, taking advantage of the first holiday weekend since coronavirus restrictions were eased, while governments grappled with how and when to safely let in foreign travelers to salvage the vital summer tourist season. Overjoyed French families flocked to the Grande Motte beach on the Mediterranean shore Sunday, swimming and sunbathing in areas specially marked to keep a distance from others. Cordons of ropes and wooden stakes were neatly spaced out across the sand, giving each visitor or group an eight-square-meter (85-square-foot) space of their own. Online reservations are required though free of charge, and there is already a two-day waiting list. Those lucky enough to get a spot for a four-day weekend relished the opportunity, frolicking beneath a summer-like sun. Elsewhere in France, beaches have also reopened, but only for individual sports or walks, and visitors weren't allowed to sit or lie down. Yet even as social distancing rules spread families and friends out Sunday across beaches and parks, the virus remained a constant threat. Europe has seen over 169,000 dead, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Across the continent, a mishmash of travel restrictions appears to be on the horizon, often depending on where travelers live and what passports they carry. Germany, France and other European countries aim to open their borders for European travel in mid-June, but it isn’t clear when intercontinental travel will resume. Spain, one of the worst-hit countries in the pandemic and also one of the world’s top destinations for international travelers, says it won’t reopen for foreign tourists until July. To boost the economy, the country’s leader has encouraged Spaniards to “start planning their vacations” for late June inside Spain. “Come July, we will allow the arrival of foreign tourists to Spain under safe conditions,” Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said. “We will guarantee that tourists aren't at risk and that they don’t represent a risk (to Spain).” For now, travel between Spain’s provinces isn’t allowed and many other restrictions remain — although on Monday, residents in worst-hit Madrid and Barcelona will be able to join the rest of the country in dining outdoors at bars and restaurants, which can offer only 50% of their usual tables. Also Monday, local sunbathers and swimmers will be permitted in some of Spain’s coastal provinces. The number of beach-goers will be limited and umbrellas must be at least four meters (13 feet) apart. In Germany, domestic tourists will be allowed to return Monday to Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania state in the northeast — home to the country’s Baltic Sea coast — and to hotels in Berlin, the popular capital. But tourism campaigns will require a new approach. “We don’t think people want closely packed big-city bustle at the moment,” Burkhard Kieker, the chief of visitBerlin, told RBB Inforadio. His agency has launched a campaign showing “how much green space and how much water there is” in Berlin. In Paris, where all city parks remain closed, residents soaked up the sun along the embankments of the Seine River and lounged on ledges outside the Tuileries Gardens. In some spots, people sat safely spaced apart. Elsewhere, groups of maskless teens crowded together, shrugging off social distancing rules. Beginning Monday, France is relaxing its border restrictions, allowing in migrant workers and family visitors from other European countries. But is calling for a voluntary 14-day quarantine for people arriving from Britain and Spain, because those countries imposed a similar requirement on the French. Italy, which plans to open regional and international borders on June 3 in a bid to boost tourism, is only now allowing residents back to beaches in their own regions — with restrictions. In the northwestern Liguria region, people were allowed a dip in the sea and a walk along the shore, but no sunbathing. In Savona, a dozen people were fined for violating sunbathing bans. Rimini, on Italy’s east coast, attracted beach-goers beginning at dawn, and many sat in widely spaced groups. Still, authorities had to work at enforcing distancing on a popular beach in Palermo. ’’We can't forget that the virus exists and is circulating,” deputy health minister Pierpaolo Sileri told Sky TG24. “Even if the numbers of new cases are low, we must respect the rules.” For the first time in months, well-spaced faithful gathered in the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square for the traditional Sunday papal blessing. About 2,000 Muslims gathered for for Eid al-Fitr prayers at a sports complex in the Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret, carefully spaced a meter (about three feet) apart and wearing masks. Beachside communities along England’s coast urged Londoners and others to stay away after rules were eased to allow people to drive any distance for exercise or recreation. The southern coastal city of Brighton put it: “Wish you were here — but not just yet.” Wales kept up its “Later” tourism campaign, reminding people that its hotels, restaurants and tourist sites were still closed. ___ Associated Press writers from around Europe contributed to this report. ___ Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
  • Turkey’s health minister on Sunday announced 32 new deaths from COVID-19, bringing the death toll in the country to 4,340. Fahrettin Koca also tweeted there were 1,141 new infections confirmed in the past 24 hours. The total number of infections has reached 156,827. Turkey ranks ninth in a global tally by Johns Hopkins University but experts believe the number of infections could be much higher than reported.More than 118,000 people have recovered, according to the he alth ministry statistics. The Muslim holiday marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, traditionally a time of gathering, was marked by a nationwide lockdown, the first of its kind in Turkey to combat the coronavirus. Previous weekend and holiday lockdowns affected a maximum of 31 out of 81 provinces. Senior citizens above 65 were allowed out for a few hours for a third Sunday. People under 20 and above 65 have been under full lockdown, but days and times outside have been allotted according to age groups as part of easing efforts. ___ Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Sunday he wouldn't fire his chief aide for allegedly violating the national lockdown rules that he helped to create by driving the length of England to his parents' house while he was infected with the coronavirus. Defying a growing clamor from public and politicians, Johnson said Dominic Cummings had acted “responsibly, legally and with integrity” when he drove 250 miles (400 kilometers) from London to Durham, in northeast England, with his wife and son at the end of March. Britain's lockdown, which began March 23, stipulated that people should remain at their primary residence, leaving only for essential local errands and exercise. Anyone with coronavirus symptoms was told to completely isolate themselves. Cummings says he traveled to be near extended family because his wife was showing COVID-19 symptoms, he correctly thought he was also infected and he wanted to ensure that his 4-year-old son was looked after. Johnson told a news conference that Cummings had 'followed the instincts of every father and every parent.” He said Cummings, his wife and son followed the rules by self-isolating for 14 days once they reached Durham. But critics of the government expressed outrage that Cummings had broken strict rules that for two months have prevented Britons from visiting elderly relatives, comforting dying friends or even attending the funerals of loved ones. The opposition Labour Party has called for an official investigation. Labour leader Keir Starmer said Johnson's defense of Cummings was “an insult to sacrifices made by the British people.” “The prime minister’s actions have undermined confidence in his own public health message at this crucial time,' he said . Former Labour lawmaker Helen Goodman, whose father died in a nursing home during the outbreak, said Cummings’ behavior was “repellent.” “What was the point of the sacrifice that we all made? What was the point of the miserable, lonely death that my father had?” she told the BBC. Speaking inside the prime minister's 10 Downing St. residence, Johnson said “I can totally get why people might feel so confused and ... so offended by the idea that it was one thing for the people here and one thing for others.' But he said Cumming's “particular childcare needs” left him “no alternative” but to make the 250-mile trip. Government ministers have denied a claim that Cummings was spotted again in Durham on April 19, after he had recovered and returned to work in London. But they have not confirmed or denied report that Cummings visited a scenic area 30 miles (50 kilometers) from Durham on April 12. Cummings is a key but contentious figure in Johnson’s administration. A self-styled political disrupter who disdains the media and civil service, he was one of the architects of the successful campaign to take Britain out of the European Union, and orchestrated the Conservatives’ decisive election victory in December. The coronavirus cut a swath through the top ranks of Britain’s government in March and April, infecting people including Cummings, Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Johnson himself, who has said that the medical staff at a London hospital saved his life. Despite the government's support for Cummings, several lawmakers from Johnson’s Conservative Party joined the opposition in calling for the aide to be sacked. “Dominic Cummings has a track record of believing that the rules don’t apply to him and treating the scrutiny that should come to anyone in a position of authority with contempt,” tweeted Conservative lawmaker Damian Collins. “The government would be better without him.” Another Tory legislator, Steve Baker, said Cummings must resign for not “abiding by the spirit, at least, of the slogans which he has enforced on the rest of the country.” Johnson’s government is already facing criticism for its response to a pandemic that has hit Britain harder than any other European country. Britain’s official coronavirus death toll stands at 36,793, the second-highest confirmed total in the world after the United States. Statistics that include suspected as well as confirmed virus cases put the toll well over 40,000. The U.K. is gradually easing its lockdown, allowing more outdoor recreation and letting some shops and businesses reopen. Johnson confirmed Sunday that primary schools can start reopening in June, though many parents and teachers worry that it isn't yet safe to do so. Johnson said the government was still aiming to have pupils in the first and final years of primary school back in classrooms on June 1, though he acknowledged that “may not be possible for all schools.” Cummings is one of several senior U.K. officials to be accused of flouting the lockdown rules. Epidemiologist Neil Ferguson stepped down as government scientific adviser earlier this month after a newspaper disclosed that his girlfriend had crossed London to stay with him during the lockdown. In April, Catherine Calderwood resigned as Scotland’s chief medical officer after twice traveling from Edinburgh to her second home. ___ Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

News

  • More than 5.4 million people worldwide – including at least 1.6 million in the United States – have been infected with the new coronavirus, and the number of deaths from the outbreak continues to rise. While efforts to contain the COVID-19 outbreak continue, states have begun to shift their focus toward reopening their economies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking cases in the U.S. here. Live updates for Monday, May 25, continue below: Florida reports lowest number of daily deaths since late March Update 5:04 a.m. EDT May 25: Florida health officials on Sunday reported five new coronavirus-related deaths statewide since Saturday – the lowest day-to-day increase since March 29, records show. According to Orlando’s WFTV, officials also reported 740 additional cases of the virus statewide since Saturday. As of Sunday, the total number of cases in the state was at 50,867, with 2,237 deaths. Read more here. ‘Person of interest’ identified in bias crimes against Asians in Seattle Update 3 a.m. EDT May 25: Police in Seattle are investigating a growing number of crimes targeting Asians during the outbreak. Seattle officers said the attacks started late Saturday afternoon in the heart of Ballard and moved to Golden Gardens Park. They believe one man is responsible for all the incidents. A victim at Golden Gardens Park said the man spat in his face. The workers at Thai Thani Restaurant said the man threw things at them while demanding to know if they are Chinese. “I hear some noise, and I see some guy angry, yelling,' Umboom Moore told Seattle’s KIRO-TV. That was the first time she knew something unusual was happening Saturday night at the restaurant where she works. “Just like some crazy guy,” she said. “So I just started taking pictures.” Her co-worker, Natthiya Chumdee, said he was yelling at her. “Right over there, he smashed the window,” she said. When he asked if she is Chinese, she told him everyone there is Thai. He asked her to kneel and swear to it. “Well, I’m not going to do that,” she said. “He’s starting [to] lose control. And he comes here, and he says, ‘You know, I’m going to slam the door, this table to you.’” The night before, Tonya McCabe got the brunt of his anger. “He said, ‘Are you Chinese?’” she said. “And I said, ‘No, we’re not.’ And he still kept yelling at us. And I said, ‘If you’re not going to leave, I’m going to call 911.’ And then he said, ‘Better [expletive] call 911.’” Just last week, a man was captured on camera shoving an Asian couple as they walked by. They told Seattle police he spat on them, too. The man in these latest attacks is described as white, 5 feet, 10 inches tall, in his mid-20s to mid-30s and is of a muscular build. He was wearing a white shirt and shorts. It is the same suspect description in two attacks at Golden Gardens Park on Saturday night. “I stand back there, and ... yell to him, ‘Get out, leave!’” said McCabe. It has McCabe and the others working at this restaurant finding a different way to get around this city that is now their home. “I’m afraid to like walk on the street or take a bus,” said McCabe. They told KIRO that the man also approached other Asian-owned businesses in the area before apparently heading to Golden Gardens Park. Anyone who recognizes him is asked to call Seattle police. 17-year-old Georgia boy becomes youngest in state to die from COVID-19 Update 2:24 a.m. EDT May 25: The Georgia Department of Public Health said Sunday that a 17-year-old boy has died of the coronavirus, marking the youngest fatality and first pediatric death in the state. Nancy Nydam with the department confirmed the information to Atlanta’s WSB-TV on Sunday. The teen was from Fulton County and had an underlying condition, according to officials. His identity has not been released. More than 1,800 people have died of COVID-19 in Georgia since the outbreak began, with the median age of deaths at 73.6 years old, according to the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of COVID-19 in children have typically been less severe, though there has been growing concern and a new warning about a rare condition recently seen in dozens of children nationwide. A spokesperson for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta confirmed that a team of infectious disease and cardiology experts are evaluating several cases in metro Atlanta of children who exhibited Kawasaki-like symptoms and inflammation. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta physician specialists stressed that it appears to be a rare finding with a low rate in Georgia. New York health officials have already issued a warning about a rare inflammatory syndrome that has infected at least 64 children in that state. A spokesperson for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta said they have experts for treating the symptoms regardless of a potential link to COVID-19. Families should contact their doctor or visit an emergency room if their child develops signs of illness such as high fever, rash, red eyes, abdominal pain and swelling of the face, hands or feet. US coronavirus cases top 1.6M, deaths near 98K Published 12:43 a.m. EDT May 25: The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States surged past 1.6 million early Monday across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to a Johns Hopkins University tally, there are at least 1,643,238 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 97,720 deaths. The hardest-hit states remain New York, with 361,515 cases and 29,141 deaths, and New Jersey, with 154,154 cases and 11,138 deaths. Massachusetts, with 92,675 cases, has the third-highest number of deaths with 6,372, while Illinois has the third-highest number of cases with 110,304. Only 16 states and territories have confirmed fewer than 5,000 cases each. Seven other states have now confirmed at least 42,000 novel coronavirus cases each, including: • California: 94,020 cases, resulting in 3,754 deaths • Pennsylvania: 71,563 cases, resulting in 5,136 deaths • Texas: 55,861 cases, resulting in 1,528 deaths • Michigan: 54,679 cases, resulting in 5,228 deaths • Florida: 50,867 cases, resulting in 2,237 deaths • Maryland: 46,313 cases, resulting in 2,277 deaths • Georgia: 42,902 cases, resulting in 1,827 deaths Meanwhile, Connecticut has confirmed at least 40,468 cases; Louisiana, Virginia, Ohio and Indiana each has confirmed at least 31,000 cases; Colorado, North Carolina, Minnesota and Tennessee each has confirmed more than 20,000 cases; Washington, Iowa, Arizona and Wisconsin each has confirmed at least 15,000 cases; Alabama and Rhode Island each has confirmed more than 14,000 cases; Mississippi, Missouri and Nebraska each has confirmed at least 12,000 cases; South Carolina has confirmed at least 10,000 cases; Kansas, Delaware, Kentucky, Utah and the District of Columbia each has confirmed at least 8,000 cases, followed by Nevada with more than 7,000; New Mexico and Oklahoma each has confirmed at least 6,000 cases, followed by Arkansas with more than 5,000; South Dakota and New Hampshire each has confirmed at least 4,000 cases; and Oregon and Puerto Rico each has confirmed at least 3,000 cases. Click here to see CNN’s state-by-state breakdown.
  • Some feathery friends were saved after a Massachusetts state trooper rescued eight ducklings who had fallen through a storm drain grate at a Nahant Beach parking lot, according to police. About 9:20 a.m. Saturday, Massachusetts State Police Trooper Jim Maloney found the baby ducks trapped in water under the heavy grate, Boston's WFXT reported. The ducklings’ mother and one of their siblings – the only baby duck who hadn’t fallen through the grate – were standing off to the side. >> See the Facebook post here Maloney called the Department of Conservation and Recreation for assistance and also received help from Nahant’s Department of Public Works, Lynn Animal Control and Massachusetts State Police Trooper Tim Benedetto. They pried open the storm drain gate and a Lynn Animal Control officer scooped the ducklings out of the drain with a net. The ducklings were placed in a cardboard box, which Maloney put in his police cruiser while waiting for the mother duck. At 10 a.m., officials said the mother and baby duck came out of a grassy area. The eight ducklings were then placed in the area, and the mother duck immediately went to her babies.
  • A South Carolina soldier has died in Afghanistan, WPDE reported. The U.S. Department of Defense announced Thursday that 25-year-old 1st Lt. Trevarius Ravon Bowman of Spartanburg died May 19 at Bagram Air Force Base. He died in a non-combat-related incident. A department news release said the incident is under investigation but didn’t provide details. Bowman was in Afghanistan supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. He was assigned to a unit attached to the 228th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade of the South Carolina National Guard. “It is with heavy hearts and deepest condolences that we announce the passing of 1st Lt. Trevarius Bowman. This is never an outcome we as soldiers, leaders and family members wish to experience,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Van McCarty, the adjutant general for South Carolina. “Please keep the service members in his unit in your thoughts and prayers, as well as his family as they work through this difficult time.”
  • More than 5.3 million people worldwide -- including more than 1.6 million in the United States – have been infected with the new coronavirus, and the number of deaths from the outbreak continues to rise. While efforts to contain the COVID-19 outbreak continue, states have begun to shift their focus toward reopening their economies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking cases in the U.S. here. Live updates for Sunday, May 24, continue below: Japan expected to lift Tokyo’s state of emergency Monday Update 11:46 p.m. EDT May 24: Japan is expected to end a state of emergency in Tokyo and four other prefectures Monday. Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura asked experts to lift the measure that was put in place about six weeks ago at a special task force meeting allowing businesses to gradually reopen. “It appears the measure is no longer needed in all of the prefectures,” Nishimura said. Japan’s state of emergency is soft and largely a request for people to stay at home and for non-essential businesses to close or operate shorter hours. Experts are expected to give their approval. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would then make an official announcement later Monday. Japan has 16,580 confirmed cases and 830 deaths, according to the health ministry. The Associated Press contributed to this report.  Millions of students return to schools in Australia Monday Update 9:16 p.m. EDT May 24: Millions of students will return to classrooms Monday as school resumes in the Australian states of New South Wales and Queensland. Schools in the less populous Western Australia, South Australia and Northern Territory had already reopened as cases throughout the country continue to drop. Students in Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory are expected to return to classrooms in stages in June. Safety precautions are still in place. Schools can not have assemblies or field trips. New South Wales has recorded 50 of the country’s 102 deaths. Queensland has recorded six deaths. South Australia and the Northern Territory also have no active cases. The Australian Capital Territory has not had a case in three weeks. The Associated Press contributed to this report.  White House tightens travel restrictions with Brazil Update 6:00 p.m. EDT May 24: Travelers who have been in Brazil for the 14 days preceding their arrival to the U.S. are barred entry to the country, the White House announced Sunday. 'I have determined that it is in the interests of the United States to take action to restrict and suspend the entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the Federative Republic of Brazil during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States,' President Donald Trump said in the proclamation. The restrictions are intended to limit the spread of the coronavirus. There are 347,398 confirmed cases and 22,013 deaths from the coronavirus in Brazil, according to Johns Hopkins tracking information. “Today’s action will help ensure foreign nationals who have been in Brazil do not become a source of additional infections in our country,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said, CNN reported. “These new restrictions do not apply to the flow of commerce between the United States and Brazil.” The White House had already banned travel from the United Kingdom, Europe and China, other countries hard hit by the virus. The Associated Press contributed to this report. Spain prepares to open some beaches Monday Update 4:50 p.m. EDT May 24: Spain will open some beaches for sunbathing in Madrid and Barcelona Monday as part of the country’s easing of coronavirus-related restrictions. Bars and restaurants will also open at 50% capacity with outdoor seating available for customers. The two cities account for more than 15,000 of the country’s 28,752 deaths from the coronavirus. Health officials said 70 people died from the virus in the last 24 hours. In March at the height of the outbreak, more than 900 people a day died from the coronavirus in Spain. Travel between regions is prohibited until late June. International travel will not be allowed until July. The Associated Press contributed to this report.  FDA commissioner warns pandemic ‘not yet contained’ Update 12:52 p.m. EDT May 24: Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, warned Americans observing Memorial Day weekend to follow federal guidelines aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus, saying it “is not yet contained.” “With the country starting to open up this holiday weekend, I again remind everyone that the coronavirus is not yet contained. It is up to every individual to protect themselves and their community,' Hahn tweeted. “Social distancing, hand washing and wearing masks protect us all.' Boris Johnson says UK schools to begin reopening June 1 Update 12:52 p.m. EDT May 24: Schools in the United Kingdom will start to reopen June 1, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at his daily briefing. “In line with the approach being taken in many other countries, we want to start taking our children back into the classroom, in a way that is as manageable and as safe as possible,” Johnson told reporters. “We said we would begin with early years’ settings and reception, year one, and year six in primary schools.” “We then intend from June 15 for secondary schools to provide some contact for year 10 and year 12 students to help them to prepare for exams next year, with up to a quarter of these students in at any point.' Johnson said schools would need to reduce the size of classes, have staggered breaks and lunch, and staggered  pickup and drop-off of students. Cuomo: Pro sports in New York can begin training camps Update 12:43 p.m. EDT May 24: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said professional sports teams in New York can open their training camps. “Starting today, all the New York professional sports leagues will be able to begin training camps,' Cuomo said during his daily news conference. “I believe that sports that can come back without having people in the stadium, without having people in the arena, do it. Do it. Work out the economics, if you can. We want you up. We people to be able to watch sports to the extent people are still staying home. It gives people something to do. It’s a return to normalcy.” Crowds at Missouri tourist spot ignore social distancing Update 11:37 a.m. EDT May 24: Large crowds of vacationers were caught on video ignoring social distancing guidelines as they reveled in bars, pools and yacht clubs, The Washington Post reported. The lack of social distancing occurred at the Lake of the Ozarks over the weekend, the newspaper reported. One photograph shared by KSDK showed dozens of people crowded at an outdoor patio beneath a sign reading, “Please practice social distancing.” Police: Crowds larger than normal in Daytona Beach, Florida Update 10:30 a.m. EDT May 24: Crowds gathering in Florida’s Daytona Beach were “larger than normal” on Saturday, the Daytona Beach Police Department, tweeted Saturday. “You may have seen larger than normal crowds this evening, both on the beach side, and on Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Blvd,” the department said in its tweet. The night was not incident-free however. Daytona Beach police said two people were injured Saturday evening in a shooting that happened at a convenience store near the boardwalk. WFTV reported. The night was not incident-free however. Daytona Beach police said two people were injured Saturday evening in a shooting that happened at a convenience store near the boardwalk. WFTV reported. The two people shot had non-life-threatening injuries, police said. White House adviser: Unemployment will top 20% in May Update 10:08 a.m. EDT May 24: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said he believes the nation’s unemployment rate will top 20% for the month of May. Hassett told CNN said he expects the rate will be even higher in June, but “should start to trend down,” after taht. Hassett thinks it is possible that the unemployment rate could still be in double digits in November. “I think that, yes, unemployment will be something that moves back slower,' Hassett said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “I think it could be better than that. But you’re going to be starting at a number in the 20s and working your way down. And so of course you could still not be back to full employment by September or October. Again if there were a vaccine in July, then I would be way more optimistic about it.” NSA chief says travel restrictions to Brazil likely Update 9:20 a.m. EDT May 24: National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said the Trump administration is likely to announce new travel restrictions to and from Brazil. O’Brien, during an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” said the administration is likely to make a decision about restricting travel to Brazil on Sunday and said White House officials “hope that will be temporary.” He said the White House would “take a look at the other countries on a country by country basis” in that region. Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre reopens Update 6:55 a.m. EDT May 24: Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of Christianity’s holiest sites, reopened Sunday, The Washington Post reported. The church, which closed several months ago for the first time since the 14th century, allowed 50 people at a time to visit the church, the newspaper reported. Visitors were required to wear masks and maintain a 6-foot distance from one another. “From this Holy Place, in this Easter time, we continue our prayers, asking for the end of this pandemic,” the leaders of the Greek Orthodox, Catholic and Armenian Orthodox churches in Jerusalem said in a statement Saturday. The churches share custody of the site, the Post UK lawmaker calls for Boris Johnson’s aide to resign Update 6:47 a.m. EDT May 24: A growing number of Conservative Party lawmakers are calling for Dominic Cummings, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s top aide, to resign. “Enough is enough,” Steve Baker wrote in an editorial for The Critic website. “Dominic Cummings must go before he does any more harm to the UK, the Government, the Prime Minister, our institutions or the Conservative Party.” Several newspapers in the United Kingdom reported that Cummings made a second trip from London to Durham during the coronavirus lockdown. But Johnson’s office on Downing Street refuted the allegations, saying in s statement that “We will not waste our time answering a stream of false allegations about Mr. Cummings from campaigning newspapers.” Other Conservatives agreed with Baiker, taking to Twitter to voice their displeasure. Roger Gale tweeted that Cummings’ position “is no longer tenable” Caroline Nokes tweeted “there cannot be one rule for most of us and wriggle room for others” Craig Whittaker tweeted that “you cannot advise the nation one thing then do the opposite” US coronavirus cases top 1.6M, deaths inch closer to 100K Update 12:05 a.m. EDT May 23: The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States surged past 1.6 million early Saturday across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to a Johns Hopkins University tally, there are at least 1,622,612 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 97,087 deaths. The hardest-hit states remain New York with 359,926 cases and 28,926 deaths and New Jersey with 153,140 cases and 11,082 deaths. Massachusetts, with 90,889 cases, has the third-highest number of deaths with 6,228, while Illinois has the third-highest number of cases with 105,444. Only 16 states and territories have confirmed fewer than 5,000 cases each. Seven other states have now confirmed at least 41,000 novel coronavirus cases each, including: • California: 90,778 cases, resulting in 3,672 deaths • Pennsylvania: 70,784 cases, resulting in 5,100 deaths • Michigan: 54,395 cases, resulting in 5,224 deaths • Texas: 53,584 cases, resulting in 1,470 deaths • Florida: 50,127 cases, resulting in 2,233 deaths • Maryland: 45,495 cases, resulting in 2,243 deaths • Georgia: 42,139 cases, resulting in 1,817 deaths Meanwhile, Connecticut, Louisiana, Virginia, Ohio and Indiana each has confirmed at least 30,000 cases; Colorado and North Carolina each has confirmed more than 22,000 cases; Tennessee, Washington and Minnesota each has confirmed at least 19,000 cases; Iowa and Arizona both have confirmed more than 16,000 cases; Wisconsin has 14,877 cases; Rhode Island, Alabama and Mississippi each has confirmed at least 13,000 cases; Missouri and Nebraska each has confirmed at least 11,000 cases, followed by South Carolina with 9,638; Kansas, Delaware, Kentucky and Utah each has confirmed at least 8,000 cases; the District of Columbia and Nevada each has confirmed at least 7,000 cases, followed by New Mexico with 6,625; Oklahoma and Arkansas each has confirmed at least 5,000 cases. Click here to see CNN’s state-by-state breakdown.
  • The Republican National Committee and other conservative groups filed a lawsuit Sunday to stop California from mailing ballots to all voters ahead of the November general election. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced earlier this month that the state would mail all registered voters a ballot, while in-person voting would still remain an option, CNN reported. 'Democrats continue to use this pandemic as a ploy to implement their partisan election agenda, and Gov. Newsom's executive order is the latest direct assault on the integrity of our elections,' RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement, CNN reported. The lawsuit, filed by the RNC, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the California Republican Party challenges the expansion of absentee voting. '(It) violates eligible citizens' right to vote,' the lawsuit claims. '(And) invites fraud, coercion, theft, and otherwise illegitimate voting.' State officials stand by the move. “California will not force voters to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote,” Secretary of State Alex Padilla said. “We are meeting our obligation to provide an accessible, secure and safe election this November. Sending every registered voter a ballot by mail is smart policy and absolutely the right thing to do during this COVID-19 pandemic.” The lawsuit is one of nearly a dozen across the country challenging Democrat-led vote-by-mail expansion. The RNC has pored $20 million into the nationwide legal effort, CNN reported. Some states, including Republican-heavy Utah, already conduct their elections completely by mail. There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud linked to voting-by-mail, CNN reported.
  • Thousands of convicted felons will be eligible to vote in Florida after a federal court ruled that a law that created wealth-based hurdles to voting is unconstitutional. The law, SB 7066, required people with past convictions to pay all outstanding legal fees, costs, fines and restitution before regaining their right to vote. The law undermined Floridians’ 2018 passage of Amendment 4, which restored voting rights to more than a million people who completed the terms of their sentence, including parole or probation. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle found that conditioning voting on payment of legal financial obligations a person is unable to pay violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment by discriminating on the basis of wealth. He said that requiring the payment of costs and fees violates the 24th Amendment, which prohibits poll taxes and violates the National Voter Registration Act. “This is a historic win for voting rights. Judge Hinkle told the state of Florida what the rest of America already knows. You can’t make wealth a prerequisite for voting. This ruling opens the way for hundreds of thousands of Floridians to exercise their fundamental right to vote this November, and our democracy will be stronger for their participation,' said Sean Morales-Doyle, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice.