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Wuhan tested 6.5 million for coronavirus in days

In Wuhan, medical workers armed with coronavirus test swabs scoured construction sites and markets to look for itinerant workers while others made house calls to reach older residents and people with disabilities. Officials aired announcements over loudspeakers urging people to sign up for their own good.

These are the front lines of an unprecedented campaign to screen all 11 million people in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the coronavirus pandemic began. Nearly two weeks in, the government is getting close to reaching its goal, with 6.5 million tested so far.

While other governments have struggled to provide testing for their populations on a broad scale, China has embarked on a citywide campaign to prevent a resurgence of infections at all costs. It has succeeded, according to residents and Chinese news reports, by mobilizing thousands of medical and other workers and spending hundreds of millions of dollars.

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The government, which is covering the cost of testing, sees the drive as key to restoring the public confidence that is needed to help restart the economy and return to some level of normalcy.

The drive — which has reached more than 90 percent of the city after taking into account people who had been recently tested and children — has largely confirmed that Wuhan has tamed the outbreak. By Tuesday, only around 200 cases were found, mostly people who showed no symptoms, although samples were still being processed.

Laboratories went from processing around 46,000 tests a day, on average, before the drive, to as many as 1.47 million tests Friday. By comparison, New York state has tested 1.7 million people since March 4, according to The Atlantic’s COVID Tracking Project.

New York Times

German companies flying 200 workers to China

BEIJING — A flight carrying about 200 employees of German companies to China is to arrive Saturday in the first mass return of foreign workers since Beijing barred most visitors from overseas two months ago to fight the coronavirus.

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The employees obtained visas under a “fast track” program aimed at helping revive the economy, said Jens Hildebrandt, executive director of the German Chamber of Commerce in China. The chamber organized the flight, and a second planned for June 3.

China, where the outbreak began in December, stopped admitting most foreigners including those with residence permits on March 28 in an attempt to avoid reimporting the virus. Foreign workers already in the country were allowed to stay, and visitors could apply for a visa for a business or other urgent reason.

Associated Press

Putin says Russia epidemic has peaked, orders parade

President Vladimir Putin said Russia has passed the peak of the coronavirus epidemic and ordered preparations to resume for military parades marking the 75th anniversary of the World War II victory.

Moscow and other cities should stage the postponed May 9 Victory Day parades on June 24, ‘‘given that the situation in the country as a whole, in most regions and in the Armed Forces, is stable, and that it is stabilizing in many places after the peak of infections,’’ Putin told Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in a videoconference Tuesday.

The Kremlin had planned particularly grand commemorations for the 75th anniversary this year, before Putin was forced in April to postpone the events as the coronavirus spread. The annual Red Square parade in Moscow involving thousands of troops and Russia’s most sophisticated weapons has long been an occasion for him to project a sense of power and national pride.

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With Russia’s economic activity declining by a third during a two-month nationwide lockdown to limit the spread of the virus, the Kremlin is now seeking to limit the fallout.

The rate of new infections has started to slow in Russia, which over the weekend slipped to third place in the number of total cases globally, after Brazil and the United States.

Diagnoses rose 2.5 percent in the past day to 362,342. Russia reported a record 174 deaths in the same period, taking the total to 3,807.

Bloomberg News

Spain to mourn victims of COVID-19 for 10-day period

MADRID — The Spanish government has declared 10 days of mourning starting Wednesday for the nearly 27,000 people who have died with the coronavirus in Spain, the longest official mourning period in the country’s four-decade-old democracy.

Flags will be hoisted to half-staff in more than 14,000 public buildings across the nation and on Spanish naval vessels until June 5, under the declaration made Tuesday. King Felipe VI, as Spain’s head of state, will preside over a solemn memorial ceremony once the country emerges from the lockdown imposed 2½ months ago, the government said.

Opposition parties had criticized Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s left-wing coalition government for not paying tribute to the pandemic’s victims as Spain’s death toll became a point of political debate.

Associated Press

Brazil police raid Rio governor’s residence

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian police targeted a staunch opponent of President Jair Bolsonaro’s push to lift measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 in one of the world’s disease hot spots, searching the residence of the Rio de Janeiro state governor on Tuesday.

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The federal prosecutor´s office said in a statement that Governor Wilson Witzel, a former federal judge, was targeted by the 12 search-and-seizure warrants in Rio and Sao Paulo states. An ongoing investigation pointed to irregularities in contracts awarded for the construction of emergency field hospitals in Rio, and involved health officials, police said.

Witzel has promised eight emergency field hospitals, but only one, near the Maracaná football stadium, has opened.

He expressed indignation at what he called “an act of violence against the democratic state,” and accused Bolsonaro of being behind the operation.

Bolsonaro has openly challenged many governors’ measures for containing the virus’s spread, with Witzel a primary target. He has accused the governors of inciting panic among the population with what he claims are excessive stay-at-home recommendations and restrictions on commerce that he says will wreck the economy and produce worse hardship than the virus.

Associated Press