The latest on the coronavirus in the U.S. and around the world.

Research from genetic-testing giant 23andMe Inc. found differences in a gene that influences a person’s blood type can affect a person’s susceptibility to COVID-19.

Scientists have been looking at genetic factors to try to determine why some people who contract the new coronavirus experience no symptoms, while others become gravely ill. In April, 23andMe launched a study that sought to use the millions of profiles in its DNA database to shed light on the role genetics play in the disease.

Preliminary results from more than 750,000 participants suggests type O blood is especially protective against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, the company said on Monday. The findings echo other research that has indicated a link between variations in the ABO gene and COVID-19.

Many other groups, including 23andMe competitor Ancestry Inc., are combing the genome to help make sense of the virus. It is known that factors such as age and underlying health conditions can determine how people fare once they’ve contracted COVID-19. But those factors alone don’t explain the wide diversity of symptoms, or why some people contract the disease and others don’t. Studying the genetics of the people who are more susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 could help identify and protect those more at risk, as well as help speed treatment and drug development.

Several other studies looking at both severity of illness and susceptibility to disease have also suggested blood type plays a role.

Research published last week prior to peer review suggested blood type may play a role in the severity of patients’ reactions to SARS-CoV-2. That study looked at the genes of more than 1,600 patients in Italy and Spain who experienced respiratory failure and found that having type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood a patient would require a ventilator. An earlier Chinese study turned up similar results regarding a person’s susceptibility to COVID-19.

Read the full story about blood type and the coronavirus here.

World Bank forecasts worst recession in 8 decades amid pandemic

The global economy will contract the most since World War II this year and emerging nations’ output will shrink for the first time in at least six decades due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reducing incomes and sending millions of people into poverty, the World Bank said.

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Members of the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC) meet at the World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings in Washington last year. The World Bank said Monday that the global economy is forecast to contract the most since World War II this year. Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press

Global gross domestic product will probably shrink 5.2 percent in 2020, the Washington-based development organization said in its semi-annual Global Economic Prospects report Monday. Emerging and developing economies will shrink 2.5 percent, their worst performance in data that starts in 1960, it said.

Per-capita output will contract in more than 90 percent of countries, the biggest share since 1870. This decline may push 70 million to 100 million people into extreme poverty, Ceyla Pazarbazioglu, the World Bank’s vice president of equitable growth, finance and institutions, told reporters by phone.

The forecast for a global contraction compares with a January projection for a 2.5 percent expansion and would be the fourth-deepest recession of the past 150 years after 1914, 1930-32 and 1945-46, the World Bank said.

“This is the first recession since 1870 triggered solely by a pandemic, and it continues to manifest itself,” Pazarbazioglu said. “Given this uncertainty, further downgrades to the outlook are very likely.”

Advanced economies will shrink 7 percent, led by a 9.1 percent contraction in the euro area, the lender said.

Emerging economies with limited health-care capacity, deeply integrated global value chains, heavy dependence on foreign financing and extensive reliance on international trade, commodity exports and tourism are likely to be the hardest hit.

The economy will rebound in 2021, growing 4.2 percent, the lender said.

The World Bank presents two alternative scenarios. In one, where the COVID-19 outbreak persists for longer than expected, requiring the continuation or reintroduction of restrictions on movement, the global economy would shrink almost 8 percent this year. If control measures can be largely lifted in the near term, the contraction would be 4 percent — still more than twice as deep as the global financial crisis of 2009.

New York’s rate of virus infections at its lowest, Cuomo says

Only 1.2 percent of New Yorkers tested Sunday were infected with the new coronavirus, the lowest rate since the pandemic began, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D, said.

“Why are we reopening? Because these numbers say we can,” Cuomo said at a news conference in Manhattan.

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A commuters walks on a nearly empty subway platform in New York, Monday, June 8. AP Photo/Seth Wenig

On Sunday, 58,054 tests were done statewide, and 702 people were found to be positive for COVID-19, Cuomo said.

The positive rate was higher in New York City, at 2 percent, but the governor said the city’s Monday reopening would continue apace. The revival of the nation’s capital of commerce and culture comes after months of quarantine that ended with an explosion of street protests over police violence that some worry may set off another wave of disease.

As the city returns to life, Cuomo rode a conspicuously clean subway car to boost confidence.

Masks are mandatory for those riding buses and trains, Cuomo said. The state is sending 1 million masks and 25,000 gallons of hand sanitizer to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, as well as 500,000 2-ounce bottles.

​When asked whether an increase in subway ridership would cause a spike in cases, Cuomo said that the trains have been running throughout the pandemic.

“If they’re using the sanitizer, if they’re using the masks, it will be OK,” Cuomo said. “If we’re going to have a problem, the variable here is: Did the protests have an effect? I don’t know, and I don’t want to speculate. That’s why I’m asking them to actually get tests.”

Sweden’s PM rebuked as coronavirus deaths ignite political anger

The prime minister of Sweden was forced to defend his covid-19 strategy after opposition parties mounted a scathing attack on his government amid signs its handling of the pandemic has been fatally flawed.

With more than 4,500 Swedes now dead as a result of the coronavirus, and Sweden’s chief epidemiologist admitting mistakes, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven was the target of a series of rebukes during a debate among party leaders broadcast on Sunday night.

Ulf Kristersson, the leader of the main opposition party known as the Moderates, said “there have been obvious, fundamental failures” in Sweden’s response to covid-19.

Read the rest of the story here.

Travelers to Britain must quarantine for 2 weeks

LONDON — Travelers to Britain are now being required to go into quarantine for two weeks — a sweeping measure meant to halt the further spread of COVID-19.

Starting Monday, all passengers will be asked to fill in a form detailing where they will self-isolate, with only a few exceptions. Those who fail to comply with the quarantine rules could be fined.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary says the quarantine will cause “untold devastation” for the country’s tourism industry — not just on the airlines.

He told the BBC that hotels, visitor attractions and restaurants will also be hurt, and thousands of jobs will be lost.

Shutdowns prevented mass death, study finds

Shutdown orders prevented about 60 million novel coronavirus infections in the United States and 285 million in China, according to a research study published Monday that examined how stay-at-home orders and other restrictions limited the spread of the contagion.

A separate study from epidemiologists at Imperial College London estimated that the shutdowns saved about 3.1 million lives in 11 European countries, including 500,000 in the United Kingdom, and dropped infection rates by an average of 82 percent, sufficient to drive the contagion well below epidemic levels.

The two reports, published Monday in the journal Nature, provide fresh evidence that aggressive and unprecedented shutdowns, which caused massive economic disruptions and job losses, were necessary to halt the exponential spread of the novel coronavirus.

Read the rest of the story here.

Moldova registers record number of new cases

CHISINAU, Moldova — The government of Moldova says it has registered a record number of new cases of the new coronavirus during the first week of June, as a former health minister described the pandemic situation in the country as “out of control.”

One of the poorest countries in Europe and plagued by corruption and political turmoil, Moldova confirmed 1,449 new cases of COVID-19 during June 1-7, nearly 300 more than the previous week, according to data from the Ministry of Health. It was the fourth consecutive week with more than 1,000 new cases.

Since its first confirmed case on March 7, Moldova — population 3.5 million — has registered 9,700 cases and 346 deaths.

Former Health Minister Ala Nemerenco was very critical of the government’s handling of the pandemic.

“You don’t have to be an epidemiologist, a virologist, or even a doctor to understand that the situation has gotten out of control,” Nemerenco said in a Facebook post in reference to the rising number of cases.

Poland closing 12 coal mines after outbreak

WARSAW, Poland — Polish authorities have ordered the closure of 12 coal mines for three weeks after hundreds of workers were infected with COVID-19.

The measure announced on Monday comes as coal mines in Poland’s southern mining region of Silesia have become hot spots for the transmission of the novel coronavirus.

Deputy prime minister Jacek Sasin said that the measure will take effect on Tuesday and is aimed at suppressing the epidemic. He added that the miners will continue to receive their full pay.

“It is very important for us not to punish the miners economically for the infections at mines that have made us take this decision,” Sasin told reporters.

In some other earlier cases, miners told not to work because of the epidemic saw their wages reduced, increasing their frustration ahead of a presidential election that is crucial to Poland’s governing conservatives.

Poland has so far recorded about 27,000 cases of coronavirus, which is far less than many other European countries. Yet nearly 5,000 of the confirmed cases are coal miners. That is an extremely high infection rate in the sector given that there are just 82,000 miners in the nation of 38 million people.

Turkish Airlines offers discount for health care workers

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish Airlines says it is offering a 40 percent discount on airfares for health care workers across the globe.

The national flag carrier said Monday the campaign was aimed at people “who are working selflessly to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.” Up to three people traveling with a health care worker would be able to benefit from the discount, the airline said.

The tickets must be purchased before Aug. 1 for flights before May 31, 2021.

Turkish airline companies resumed domestic flights last week. International flights are scheduled to resume gradually as of June 10.

Moscow ends tight lockdown after 2 months

MOSCOW — The Russian capital is ending a tight lockdown that has been in place for more than two months, citing a slowdown in the coronavirus outbreak.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said that starting Tuesday residents will no longer be required to obtain electronic passes for travel and can walk, use public transport and drive without any restrictions.

Hairdressers and beauty salons will be allowed to reopen Tuesday, and cafes and restaurants will be able to open outdoor terraces starting June 16.

Under the lockdown imposed in late March, all nonessential businesses were closed and residents were only allowed to shop at nearby stores and pharmacies, visit doctors and walk their dogs.

The restrictions have been gradually eased. Industrial plants and construction sites were allowed to start working on May 12 and non-food retailers were permitted to reopen last Monday.

The number of daily infections in Moscow has dropped from a peak of about 6,700 to about 2,000 recently. Overall, Russia has registered over 476,000 infections, the world’s third-highest caseload after the United States and Brazil, including 5,971 deaths.

Moscow has accounted for nearly half of the nation’s infections and coronavirus deaths. Many of Russia’s 85 regions already have eased their lockdowns.

Armenian prime minister recovers from virus

YEREVAN, Armenia — Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian says he and his family have recovered from the coronavirus.

Pashinian said on Facebook that he and his family members tested negative Monday for a second time in as many days.

Pashinian announced that he was infected a week ago, adding that he probably contracted the virus from a waiter who brought him a glass a water at a meeting without wearing gloves and later tested positive for the virus.

Armenia has so far reported over 13,000 infections, including 211 deaths, among its population of nearly 3 million.

China sends doctors to Bangladesh

DHAKA, Bangladesh — China has sent a 10-member team of physicians to Bangladesh to help hospitals and doctors fight coronavirus as the South Asian nation’s total infections are nearing 70,000.

The team consists of 10 respiratory physicians selected by the Hainan Provincial Health Commission in China, according to the Chinese Embassy in Dhaka.

Bangladeshi Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen was in Dhaka’s international airport to receive the team. He said the country was seeking “cooperation and partnership” to deal with the pandemic.

On Monday, the Health Directorate’s senior official said another 42 people died of coronavirus and 2,735 people were infected in the previous 24-hour period, raising the total infections to 68,504.

A total of 930 people have died since the first positive case was confirmed on March 8.

Officials in Cyprus continue to stress social distancing rules

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cypriot officials are warning against undue complacency in enforcing social distancing rules after video emerged of an open-air nightclub at a popular seaside resort jam-packed with patrons.

Cyprus police spokesman Christos Andreou told The Associated Press on Monday that the nightclub’s owner faces a charge of flouting maximum capacity limits set out under a Health Ministry order.

Andreou said police are taking the owner to court because he was repeatedly warned over the weekend not to exceed the allowable capacity. Andreou said police will also seek a court order to temporarily shut down the Ayia Napa establishment.

Justice Minister George Savvides posted on his official Twitter account on Sunday that the nightclub acted “inconceivably irresponsibly” for the sake of profit.

Earlier, Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou also tweeted that such behavior could make a return to lockdown measures “inevitable.”

Cyprus is eager to get its key tourism sector back on track after a two-month lockdown, but officials say they won’t allow anyone to cut corners on what they need to do to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

Commercial flights from a limited number of countries resume on Tuesday. Cyprus has lifted almost all restrictions, but a ban on indoor bar and nightclub openings remains in force.

Bars reopen today in Greece

ATHENS, Greece — Bars, nightclubs and internet cafes are allowed to reopen from Monday in Greece, where an early lockdown is credited with keeping the number of coronavirus deaths and serious illnesses at low levels.

Nearly all lockdown measures have now been lifted in a phased reopening, with regulations in place for businesses to maintain limits on the number of customers allowed and distances to be maintained.

Most bars, nightclubs and restaurants operate outdoors in Greece during the summer months, which has helped authorities in allowing their reopening.

However, government and health authorities warn local lockdowns could be imposed if violations in social distancing regulations lead to outbreaks.

Indian begins reopening even as virus cases grow

NEW DELHI — India is reopening its restaurants, shopping malls and religious places in most states even as the number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the country grows.

The Health Ministry reported another 9,983 cases Monday, raising India’s count past 256,000 to fifth most in the world. The 206 fatalities reported Monday were the highest single-day rise and takes the country’s death toll to 7,135.

New Delhi is also reopening its state borders, allowing interstate movement of people and goods.

India already partially restored train services and domestic flights and allowed shops and manufacturing to reopen.

Schools remain closed.

The number of new cases has soared since the government began relaxing restrictions. There has also been a surge in infections in India’s vast countryside following the return of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who left cities and towns after losing their jobs.

Number of infections spirals upward in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD — The number of new coronavirus infections in Pakistan continued to spiral upward, as the nation of 220 million people surpassed 100,000 cases as of Monday with more than 2,000 deaths.

The daily infection rate spiked after the Islamic holy month of Ramadan ended and markets were thrown open during the Eid-al Fitr holiday at the end of May. That followed the government refusing to close mosques and deciding to open up the country even as medical professionals pleaded for a stricter lockdown,

Since then the daily infection rates have held fairly steady with just under 5,000 new cases each day. Testing has held steady in recent days at about 22,000 each day, with government officials saying Pakistan aimed to eventually carry out 30,000 tests every day.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has gone on national television to tell Pakistanis the country’s poorest cannot survive a strict lockdown.

The International Monetary fund and the Asian Development Bank have both give Pakistan millions of dollars in bridge loans to ease the economic impact of the pandemic pummeling economies worldwide.

Infections among health care workers in New Mexico spiking

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Data from the New Mexico Health Department shows COVID-19 infections among health care workers in the state have spiked as intensive care units remain full and nurses and first responders call for more protective equipment.

The data shows 492 workers were diagnosed in May, marking a 219 percent increase from the 154 workers who had tested positive for the coronavirus the month before.

Human Services Secretary David Scrase told the Albuquerque Journal that the increase was expected.

The largest increase came in Bernalillo County — home to three of the state’s COVID-19 hub hospitals. San Juan and McKinley counties also had surges.

 


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