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European countries offer more economic relief from pandemic

ROME — European governments promised more relief to their citizens on Thursday, with France announcing an 18 billion euro ($19.4 billion) plan to support restaurants, hotels, and other tourist facilities that have been closed since mid-March amid the coronavirus crisis.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe promised the French that they will be able to go on vacation in France in July and August, including in French overseas territories, as the country has started lifting its lockdown this week.

Germany’s parliament approved plans to increase the amount paid to people who spend months in a government-backed short-time work program during the pandemic.

Companies are making extensive use of the program, which was credited with keeping down unemployment in the financial crisis more than a decade ago. It allows them to keep employees on the payroll while they await better times.


Those announcements came after Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte promised a massive package of tax cuts and other financial aid to help businesses and families. His government also promised to legalize the status of foreigners, many of them illegal migrants who are crop-pickers, baby sitters, and caretakers.

Associated Press

Japan lifts emergency rules for 39 of its 47 prefectures

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Thursday the lifting of a coronavirus state of emergency ahead of schedule in most of the country except for eight high-risk areas.

Abe lifted the measure in 39 of the country’s 47 prefectures. It remains in effect in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Hokkaido and three other prefectures.

Abe declared a monthlong emergency on April 7 in Tokyo and six other urban prefectures and later extended it to the whole country through May 31.

He said specialists will meet next week to decide whether the measure can be lifted in the remaining areas and pledged to bring the virus outbreak under control by the end of May.

With signs of infections slowing, Abe is seeking to balance disease prevention and the economy. His government approved a $240 billion extra budget last month to partially fund a stimulus package worth $1.1 trillion.


Japan has more than 16,000 confirmed cases, including about 680 deaths.

Associated Press

India’s ‘Maximum City’ engulfed by coronavirus

The coronavirus problem that India had feared is becoming reality in Mumbai.

It is India’s most densely populated city, a scraggly peninsula framed by the Arabian Sea and other waterways, a metropolis of towering apartment blocks and endless slums, a city of oversize dreams and desperate poverty, all sandwiched together.

This is where Asia’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, built a 27-story single-family home. This is where “Slumdog Millionaire” was filmed and set. Indians call it Maximum City.

As the coronavirus gnaws its way across India, Mumbai has suffered the worst. This city of 20 million is now responsible for 20 percent of India’s infections and nearly 25 percent of the deaths.

Hospitals are overflowing with the sick. Police officers are exhausted enforcing a stay-at-home curfew.

Doctors say the biggest enemy is Mumbai’s density.

Particularly in the city’s vast slum districts, social distancing is impossible.

Police officers prowl the main roads. Hundreds have tested positive for the coronavirus, and several have died. More than 70 Mumbai journalists have also tested positive.

New York Times

UN chief warns of growing psychological suffering

UNITED NATIONS — UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged governments, civil society, and health authorities to urgently address mental health needs arising from the pandemic, warning that psychological suffering is increasing.

The UN chief said in a video message launching a policy briefing that “after decades of neglect and under-investment in mental health services, the COVID-19 pandemic is now hitting families and communities with additional mental stress.”


Guterres said those most at risk and in need of help are front-line health care workers, older people, adolescents, young people, those with preexisting mental health conditions, and those caught up in conflict and crisis.

The 17-page UN briefing cited widespread psychological distress from the immediate health aspects of the virus, the consequences of physical isolation, fear of infection, dying, and losing family members, physical distancing from loved ones and peers, and economic turmoil.

“Frequent misinformation and rumors about the virus and deep uncertainty about the future are common sources of distress,” it said.

Associated Press

Burundi kicks out a top WHO official ahead of election

KIGALI, Rwanda — Burundi is kicking out the World Health Organization’s top official in the country just days before the presidential election and after the WHO raised concerns about crowded political rallies.

A foreign ministry letter seen by the Associated Press says the WHO representative to Burundi, Walter Kazadi Mulombo, has been declared persona non grata and must leave the East African nation by Friday.

The letter says three WHO specialists also must go.

The letter gives no explanation for the expulsions. Reached by phone and asked for details, Foreign Minister Ezechiel Nibigira hung up Thursday morning.

The WHO representative, Mulombo, did not immediately respond to phone calls.

Associated Press

Montenegro police detain 60 in clashes over arrests

PODGORICA, Montenegro — Montenegrin police said Thursday they have detained about 60 people following clashes at protests demanding the release of eight Serbian Orthodox Church priests jailed for leading a religious procession despite a ban on gatherings related to the virus pandemic.


Twenty-six officers were injured during the unrest late Wednesday in the towns of Niksic and Pljevlja, police said. One of the injured policemen has been hospitalized, the statement said.

Prime Minister Dusko Markovic in a televised address on Thursday described the protests as a “brutal attack on the state that could have unforeseeable consequences on public health.’’

Police insisted they intervened with pepper spray and dispersed the protesters into smaller groups after they threw rocks, bottles, and other objects and blocked traffic. Police were “brutally attacked for no reason,’’ the statement added.

Associated Press

Zoo returning pandas to China due to food barriers

CALGARY, Alberta — The Calgary Zoo will be returning two giant pandas on loan from China because a scarcity of flights due to COVID-19 has caused problems with getting enough bamboo to feed them.

Er Shun and Da Mao arrived in Calgary in 2018 after spending five years at the Toronto Zoo and were to remain in the Alberta city until 2023.

The zoo’s president, Clement Lanthier, said this week the facility spent months trying to overcome transportation barriers in acquiring fresh bamboo and decided it’s best for the animals to be in China, where their main food source is abundant.

Lanthier said the zoo had contingency plans for a steady supply of fresh bamboo, but limits on flights from China was the first problem. Transporting more from California added even more frustrations.


Associated Press