The Latest: Macron confident US will join vaccine pledge

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By The Associated Press

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:

— France’s Macron confident that the U.S. will join a global pledge for research to find a vaccine.

— World Health Organization says it has no evidence that the coronavirus originated at a Wuhan laboratory.

— Number of people currently positive for coronavirus has dropped under 100,000 in Italy.

— Israel pledges $60 million on research into the new coronavirus.

— Two more Northern California counties allow many businesses to reopen.

— Washington D.C. health officials announce 154 positive new COVID-19 infections.

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PARIS — French president Emmanuel Macron said he is confident that the United States will join a global pledge for research to find a vaccine against the new coronavirus.

World leaders, organizations and banks on Monday pledged to give 7.4 billion euros ($8 billion) during a videoconference summit hosted by the European Union. The U.S., along with Russia, were notably absent from the event.

Macron, who donated 500 million euros on behalf of France, noted that the U.S. “are on the sidelines” but added that it doesn’t compromise or slow down the initiative.

Speaking from the Elysee palace, he said he discussed the issue with President Donald Trump and is convinced that the U.S. will at some point join the initiative, consisting in finding a vaccine as quickly as possible and making it available to all countries.

Macron added that his government is in a permanent dialogue with the Trump administration and with American companies.

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GENEVA — The World Health Organization says it has received no evidence or data from the U.S. government to back up claims by President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that they have seen evidence that the coronavirus have originated at a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

“From our perspective, this remains speculative,” WHO emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan said. “But like any evidence-based organization, we would be very willing to receive any information that purports to the origin of the virus.”

Ryan reiterated that the evidence and advice that the U.N. health agency has received suggest that the novel coronavirus is of natural origin. Pompeo and Trump say they have seen evidence suggesting that it could be from the Wuhan Institute of Virology lab.

“If that data and evidence is available, then it will be for the United States government to decide whether and when it can be shared,” Ryan told reporters in Geneva. “But it’s difficult for WHO to operate in an information vacuum in that specific regard.”

On Sunday, Pompeo told ABC’s “This Week” program that there was “a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan.”

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MILAN — The number of people currently positive for coronavirus has dropped under 100,000 in Italy — Europe’s hardest-hit country.

As the country began a gradually reopening from a two-month-long lockdown on Monday, the number of deaths rose by 195 to 29,079.

Italy also registered the lowest number of new positives since the day the lockdown took effect, at 1,221, bringing the total of coronavirus cases to 211,938 since the first case of domestic transmission of the virus was detected on Feb. 21.

Pressure on Italian hospitals continued to ease, with 419 fewer people hospitalized and 22 fewer in intensive care units. Three regions — Umbria, Basilicata and Molise — registered no new cases, while most were well under 100.

Lombardy, the densely populated northern region that has borne the brunt of the virus, was responsible for nearly half of all new cases in the past 24 hours.

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JERUSALEM — Israel’s prime minister says the country will spend $60 million on research into the new coronavirus. Benjamin Netanyahu made the pledge in a call Monday with leaders from Europe and elsewhere.

Israel joins other leaders who have promised hundreds of millions of dollars toward scientific research to combat the virus.

He said Israel hopes to “leverage our unique abilities to find solutions that will benefit everyone.”

Israel has begun reopening its economy after weeks of stringent health restrictions. While it has reported more than 16,200 cases and 234 deaths, Israel has so far managed the crisis without having its hospitals inundated and has slowed its infection rate.

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LONDON — One of the British government’s main advisers during the coronavirus epidemic says the number of positive cases in the country remains too high, a signal that lockdown measures will be extended this week.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer, said at the government’s daily briefing that “new cases need to come down further.”

That reinforces expectations that the lockdown will be extended when it is reviewed Thursday.

However, Van-Tam said there has been a “slow and consistent decline” in the numbers of deaths after government figures showed another 288 new deaths in all settings. That’s the lowest daily increase in the U.K. since late March and takes the total to 28,734, just shy of Italy’s 29,079.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock cautioned that Monday figures have tended to be artificially low because of weekend lags.

Hancock also unveiled details of a pilot “test, track and trace program” on the Isle of Wight from Tuesday and urged residents on the island, which is just a few miles off the coast of southern England, to download the associated app.

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MONTREAL — Canada’s largest airline announced a billion-dollar loss and announced mandatory temperature checks for customers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S.-Canada border remains closed to all nonessential travel.

Since mid-March, the airline has slashed its flight schedule by more than 90% and grounded more than 200 aircraft, cutting service internationally to just five airports. The company burned $22 million Canadian (US $1.6 million) in cash per day in March.

Air Canada said it lost $1.05 billion Canadian (US $748 million) in its first quarter, compared with a profit of $345 million in the same quarter last year as governments imposed travel restrictions around the world because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The airline said remaining flights will be subject to an infrared temperature check at all airports. It already requires customers to wear face coverings.

The airline also said customers in economy class won’t be required to sit immediately next to another. Hand sanitizer will also be distributed.

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SEATTLE — Hundreds of health care workers and dozens of first responders in Washington state have become sick with the coronavirus while on the job, according to workers’ compensation claims.

The new data provides some insight into how the coronavirus has impacted the health care community but underestimates how many doctors and nurses have tested positive.

That number is not known because state and federal health officials have failed to collect the information, and they’ve made no improvements since The Associated Press first reported the problem in April.

“Our data on occupations are not complete, so we do not report the information since it would not be reliable,” said Annie Johnson, a spokesperson for the Washington health department’s Joint Information Center.

Washington is not alone. States that reported coronavirus cases to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control only included occupational information for 16% of all reported cases, the agency said in a new report.

Experts say knowing how COVID-19 is impacting front-line workers in the health care system is vital in handling the crisis.

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TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey schools will remain closed for the remainder of the academic year because of the coronavirus outbreak, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday.

Teachers have been required to conduct remote instruction since schools shuttered in mid-March.

New Jersey is among the hardest-hit states in the country with 7,871 COVID-19 fatalities and more than 120,000 positive cases.

New Jersey has some 600 school districts and about 1.4 million students enrolled, according to the state Education Department.

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YUBA CITY, Calif. — Two more counties in Northern California have allowed many businesses to reopen in defiance of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s orders intended to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Yuba County and adjacent Sutter County on Monday followed last week’s move by Modoc County amid pressures to restart California’s economy even as hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 continue.

Newsom’s six-week-old order requires nearly 40 million residents to remain mostly at home.

Businesses not deemed essential were ordered closed until COVID-19 testing, hospital and death rates indicate the state outbreak is beginning to ease. Millions have been unable to work.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greeks are once again allowed to swim in the country’s beaches following a six-week lockdown. But people must maintain social distancing and organized beaches offering services to paying visitors will remain closed.

A government decision published Monday, when the country started to ease its lockdown, also allows fishing from the shore. Officials said fishing from small boats will also be allowed.

Authorities said Monday that the new coronavirus epidemic is “under control” in the country, although care is required to avoid a resurgence.

Only six new cases were recorded over the past 24 hours and two new deaths, bringing the total of recorded infections to 2,632 and deaths to 146.

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WASHINGTON — Washington D.C. health officials have announced 154 positive new COVID-19 infections. That brings the total up to 5,170 with seven new deaths for a total of 258.

Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a state of emergency on March 11 and issued a stay-home order on March 30 for Washington’s approximately 700,000 residents.

Bowser has also announced plans to turn Washington D.C.’s convention center into a 1,500-bed field hospital.

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PARIS — French prime minister Edouard Philippe urged public transport companies to open May 11 as the country will start lifting confinement measures.

Heads of France’s biggest public transports companies, including national railway SNCF and Paris metro RATP, have voiced concerns over lack of human and material resources to ensure travelers’ safety.

In a speech to French senators, Philippe said they need to “find the right answers to complex questions” because it is necessary to provide public transports “in a controlled way” next week to help the economy recover after two months of strict lockdown in the country.

Philippe reaffirmed that people will be allowed to travel no further than 100 kilometers (62 miles) with exceptions only for compelling familial or professional reasons.

He said reservations will be mandatory to halve the number of passengers in long-distance trains.

Heads of public transports companies called for police to help them regulate passengers flows in an open letter and warned of potential disruptions during rush hour.

Starting May 11 all French businesses will be allowed to resume activity and schools will start gradually reopening.

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NEW DELHI, India — India will facilitate the return of its stranded citizens abroad in a phased manner beginning May 7.

The Ministry of Home Affairs on Monday said Indian Embassies and High Commissions are preparing a list of distressed Indian citizens who will be brought back on naval ships separate from the non-scheduled commercial aircraft.

The stranded citizens would have to pay for the transport. Only those who are asymptomatic will be allowed onboard.

It was not immediately clear how many Indians the government plans to bring back to the country.

India brought back hundreds of Indians from China and Iran in March. However, after it suspended domestic and international flight operations over the growing number of coronavirus cases in the country, the operation was halted.

On Monday, India relaxed some coronavirus lockdown restrictions even as the pace of infection picked up and reopenings drew crowds. The near-total 5-week lockdown achieved a slowdown in the spread of the virus but has caused immense hardship for India’s legions of poor people.

Some degree of lockdown will continue at least until May 18.

India reported 42,835 virus cases, 11,761 recoveries and 1,389 deaths. The country says it had tested more than a million samples by Monday.

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CLEARWATER BEACH, Fla. — Clearwater Beach officially reopened to the public before sunrise Monday morning.

Police removed “closed” signs from barricades at 7 a.m. to the cheers of the 50 or so people waiting to step on the freshly groomed sand. Clearwater police have a large presence patrolling the beach and urging people to socially distance.

Monta Burnett of Clearwater Beach prayed as she stood in the chest-deep water moments after the beach reopened.

Mike McKown drove about two hours from Auburndale to set up his beach umbrella and chair.

The Beach Shanty Cafe on Gulf Boulevard set up two tables outside for people to enjoy breakfast.

Few, if any, people walking on the beach or along the boutique stores on Gulf Boulevard wore protective masks.

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BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia’s government is accelerating its steps to lift restrictive measures adopted to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Prime Minister Igor Matovic says all stores, except shopping malls, can reopen Wednesday. That is two weeks before originally planned due to a more positive development of the outbreak in the country than expected.

Also, museums, galleries, libraries and the outdoor seating at restaurants can return to service.

One person died of COVID-19 in Slovakia on Sunday for a total of 25. The day-to-day increase of the new positive cases reached 5 on Sunday, the ninth day below 10.

As previously scheduled, zoo parks, hairdressers, beauty parlors and taxi services can reopen as of Wednesday. Weddings and religious services are also allowed to take place again.

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MADRID — The Spanish government is turning up pressure on opposition parties to approve another extension of the country’s state of emergency. The government says a failure to do so could “bring chaos.”

Transport and Mobility Minister José Luis Ábalos anticipates a tough debate in parliament on the issue Wednesday. He says the measure is “the most effective legal instrument” to fight the new coronavirus because it grants authorities the exceptional power to restrict freedom of movement.

Ábalos says that without it all the sacrifices made so far will have been “pointless.”

“There’s no Plan B, no alternative” to the state of emergency, Ábalos told a news conference in Madrid on Monday.

Health Minister Salvador Illa said it was “indispensable.”

Spain has managed to reduce the daily increase in the number of coronavirus infections from around 35% in mid-March to 0.16% because of a strict lockdown. More than 25,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the country.

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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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