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US-Canadian border closure extended to June 21

Updated May 19, 2020 - 9:34 am

TORONTO — Canada and the United States have extended their agreement to keep the border closed to non-essential travel to June 21 during the coronavirus pandemic.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the border is a source of vulnerability so the agreement will be extended by another 30 days. The restrictions were announced on March 18 and were extended in April.

Trudeau says Canada’s provincial leaders clearly wanted to continue the measures. Many Canadians fear a reopening. The U.S. has more confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19 than any country in the world, though its per-capita numbers are well below many other nations.

What’s happening today

— Coronavirus cases have been spiking in several populous nations, a clear indication that the pandemic is far from over. New cases are sprouting up from India to South Africa to Mexico, while Russia and Brazil now sit behind only the United States in the number of reported infections. Russia saw a steady rise of new infections Tuesday and new hot spots have emerged.

— Health experts say the increasing attacks from U.S. President Donald Trump on the World Health Organization for its handling of the coronavirus could weaken global health. In a letter to the WHO on Monday, Trump threatened to permanently cut U.S. funding to the agency unless it commits to “substantive improvements” in the next 30 days. Critics say it shows a profound misunderstanding of the agency’s role.

— Authorities say a night of partying before bars and restaurants shut down in New Mexico led to an outbreak in a detox center and homeless shelter in the city of Gallup, on the fringes of the Navajo Nation. The hospital became overwhelmed and now sends all of its critically ill COVID-19 patients to other facilities. Health care officials disagree about who is to blame.

— U.S. officials say the USS Theodore Roosevelt will make a shorthanded return to sea later this week, nearly two months after the ship was sidelined in Guam with a rapidly growing COVID-19 outbreak. Navy Capt. Carlos Sardiello tells The Associated Press the mission will include a scaled-back crew of about 3,000, leaving about 1,800 sailors on shore who are still in quarantine.

Russia No. 2 in infections

As the coronavirus outbreak eases in Western Europe and parts of the U.S., cases are rising steadily in Russia in a crisis that has damaged President Vladimir Putin’s standing and stirred suspicion that the true death toll in the country is being concealed.

Russia is now behind only the United States in the number of reported infections. Cases are also spiking in such places as India, South Africa and Mexico.

On Tuesday, new hot spots emerged in Russia, and the country recorded nearly 9,300 new infections in 24 hours, bringing the total to almost 300,000, about half of them in Moscow. Authorities say over 2,800 people with COVID-19 have died in Russia, a figure some say is surely higher.

Some experts argue Russian authorities have been listing chronic illnesses as the cause of death for many who tested positive for the virus. Officials angrily deny manipulating statistics, saying Russia’s low death toll reflects early preventive measures and broad screening. Nearly 7.4 million tests have been conducted in the country of 147 million people.

The U.S. has recorded 1.5 million confirmed infections and over 90,000 deaths.

Spain has 3rd day under 100 deaths

Spain has recorded fewer than 100 deaths from the new coronavirus for the third day in a row.

The Health Ministry said Tuesday that 83 people had died over the previous 24 hours, taking the overall death toll to 27,778.

It reported 295 new cases, bringing the total in the outbreak to just over 232,000.

The government is asking parliament to extend the current state of emergency to June 7, saying it is the only legal instrument that allows authorities to order lockdowns.

Spain is mandating facial masks in all public spaces, including outdoors when a safe distance of 2-meters between people can’t be kept.

Health Minister Salvador Illa says the decision expands recommendations in March for masks worn only in hospitals and nursing homes.

More than 4.8 million people worldwide have been infected and over 318,000 deaths have been recorded, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University that experts believe is too low for several reasons.

Two-thirds of states making victims public

Public health officials in at least two-thirds of U.S. states are sharing the addresses of people who have the coronavirus with first responders. Supporters say the measure is designed to protect those on the front line, but it’s sparked concerns of profiling in minority communities already mistrustful of law enforcement.

The AP review shows public health officials in at least 35 states share the addresses of those who have tested positive for the coronavirus — provided by the state or local health departments to emergency dispatch centers that request it. In at least 10 of those states, health agencies also share their names: Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Tennessee. Wisconsin did so briefly but stopped earlier this month.

In Tennessee, the issue has sparked criticism from Republican and Democratic lawmakers who recently became aware of the data sharing. Some critics wonder why first responders don’t take precautions with everyone, given so many people with the virus are asymptomatic or present mild symptoms.

UN plans scaled-back gathering

The United Nations secretary-general is recommending the annual gathering of world leaders in late September be dramatically scaled back because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Antonio Guterres suggested heads of state and government deliver prerecorded messages instead, with only one New York-based diplomat from each of the 193 U.N. member nations present in the General Assembly Hall.

The meeting of world leaders in New York usually brings thousands of people for more than a week of speeches, lunches, dinners, receptions, one-on-one meetings and hundreds of side events.

However, New York has been an epicenter of the coronavirus crisis. This year was expected to bring an especially large number of leaders to U.N. headquarters to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations.

But Guterres said in a letter to Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, the president of the General Assembly, obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press, that the COVID-19 pandemic “will continue to cycle with varying degrees of severity” across the world and it’s highly unlikely leaders can travel to New York in September.

Muhammad-Bande has said a decision on the annual gathering will be made after consultations with U.N. member states.

UK privacy issue concerns

A British lawmaker is urging the government to accept a bill that enshrines privacy protections in law in connection with a new app meant to track COVID-19 cases.

Harriet Harman, chair of Parliament’s human rights committee, says Britain needs a bill to safeguard privacy rights with the new app, rather than relying on existing legislation.

Though Health Secretary Matt Hancock has promised to safeguard privacy rights in rolling out the app nationally, Harman says the system shouldn’t “rely on the individual integrity of any minister.”

Britain is testing an app on the Isle of Wight that logs details of nearby phones that have the app. If a user gets symptoms, those other phones will receive an alert and people can get a coronavirus test.

But the app’s success depends on large swathes of the population being willing to share personal data. Harman argues that such an intrusion requires legislation — even if the ultimate goal is to safeguard the population.

WHO states OK evaluation

Member states of the World Health Organization have unanimously passed a resolution brought by European Union members, African nations and others calling for an independent “comprehensive evaluation” of the international response to the COVID-19 outbreak coordinated by the U.N. health agency.

The United States has sharply criticized the agency and its relationship with China, where the outbreak erupted.

Overnight, U.S. President Donald Trump listed concerns and criticism about the WHO to its director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Nations rallied around the resolution that calls on the director-general to initiate “at the earliest appropriate moment” an evaluation that would “review experience gained and lessons learned from the WHO-coordinated international health response to COVID-19.”

It was not immediately clear how, when or by whom that evaluation will be conducted.

The resolution pointed to the “role of extensive immunization against COVID-19 as a global public good,” and called on international organizations to “work collaboratively” to produce safe, effective and affordable medicines and vaccines.

Brazil third-worst country

A study shows the number of COVID-19 cases in Brazil could reach 1 million if unconfirmed cases are taken into consideration.

The study conducted for the Estado de S. Paulo newspaper by researchers in the Brazilian Navy and universities in Rio de Janeiro and France says the number of cases is expected to peak this week. It could start stabilizing at the end of July after reaching nearly 370,000 confirmed infections.

Brazil this week became the world’s third worst-hit country with more than 250,000 confirmed cases despite limited testing. The United States has the most cases, followed by Russia.

The governor in the northeastern state of Pernambuco said Monday he has COVID-19, becoming the fifth state governor to announce being infected.

Most Brazilian states haven’t implemented strict lockdown measures to contain the virus that has already killed nearly 17,000 people in the South American nation.

The Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and the University of Bordeaux helped conduct the study.

Globe theater may have to close

Shakespeare’s Globe theater, one of London’s major tourist attractions, says it could be forced to close because of the coronavirus pandemic.

All of Britain’s theaters have been shut since March, when the government imposed a nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of the virus.

While some venues receive government subsidy, the Globe gets 95% of its revenue from ticket sales. The theater says the blow from the pandemic “has been financially devastating and could even be terminal.”

Parliament’s culture committee told the government that the Globe was “part of our national identity.” It says, “for this national treasure to succumb to COVID-19 would be a tragedy.”

The Globe is a reconstructed Elizabethan playhouse beside the River Thames modeled on the theater where many of Shakespeare’s plays were first performed. It opened in 1997 and draws hundreds of thousands of people a year to its open-air productions.

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