The Latest: Cruise ship stranded for weeks docks in Croatia

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The Latest on the 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:

— ‘New normal’ as countries continue to reopen.

— Cruise ship stranded for weeks because of the coronavirus docks in Croatia.

— Scientists in Thailand plan to test vaccine on monkeys.

— A Chinese spokesperson praises the country's response to the virus outbreak.

— Legal action against travel agencies in Switzerland halted.

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ZAGREB, Croatia — Croatian authorities say a cruise ship with 756 crew members has docked in the country’s Adriatic Sea town of Dubrovnik after weeks of being stranded at sea because of the new coronavirus.

The Carnival Magic cruise ship will remain at Dubrovnik’s port of Gruz Wednesday and Thursday when the crew members will gradually disembark and head to their home countries.

Authorities say they will check the temperature of each crew member coming out of the ship but don’t expect any infections.

The state Croatian television HRT said Wednesday that five Croatian nationals are among the crew in addition to people from Ukraine, Romania, Slovakia and other countries in the region. Authorities say their return will be organized to home countries.

The report says Carnival Magic previously has docked in Gibraltar before arriving to Dubrovnik.

Many cruise ships had outbreaks at sea, with some passengers and crew members dying on board or after disembarking from international trips.

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BANGKOK — Thai health officials say scientists in Thailand have had promising results in testing a COVID-19 vaccine candidate on mice, and will begin testing it on monkeys next week.

Dr. Taweesin Visanuyothin, spokesman for Thailand’s Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration, said Wednesday that Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has ordered the development effort be sped up in the hope of the country becoming one of the first with adequate amounts of a vaccine for its people.

The vaccine candidate being tested by Bangkok’s Chualongkorn University and two public sector partners harnesses mRNA, or messenger RNA, technology, which unlike older types of vaccine does not contain any of the virus it seeks to attack. It instead utilizes part of the virus’ genetic code to ultimately produce antibodies inside the human body.

Thailand has several active COVID-19 vaccine development projects, including separate cooperative efforts with China and the United States.

Scores of vaccine development projects are underway around the world, with several already having reached the stage where trials are carried out on human subjects.

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BEIJING — A Chinese spokesperson says the nation’s success in stemming the spread of coronavirus has “showcased the country’s institutional advantages of socialism with Chinese characteristics,” while lashing out at U.S. and other foreign politicians who have criticized Beijing.

Guo Weimin told reporters Wednesday that “concerted efforts of the whole country” were responsible for bringing the virus under control.

“Certain politicians from a number of countries including the United States will not succeed in blaming and smearing China over COVID-19 as they did these out of political needs to shift the blame at home,” said Guo, spokesperson for the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body to the country’s ceremonial parliament, which opens its annual session this week after a more than two-month delay while the country battled the virus.

China reported just five new virus cases on Wednesday and no deaths.

The global pandemic is believed to have originated in the central Chinese industrial city of Wuhan, although China insists a definitive conclusion can only be made following a World Health Organization-led investigation to be held after the worldwide outbreak is brought under control.

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GENEVA — The Swiss government has a message for travelers whose trips in Switzerland were cancelled over the COVID-19 outbreak: Don’t expect any reimbursement from your travel agency just yet.

The executive Federal Council on Wednesday ordered a temporary halt to any legal action against travel agencies seeking payback for canceled trips starting Thursday until the end of September, noting how the sector has been hit especially hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

The measure only involves amounts already paid by customers whose trips were canceled over the pandemic, the government said in a statement. The sums remain due, and “must be paid by travel agencies insofar as possible.”

The move is also aimed to protect consumers, who could stand to receive only part of their expected reimbursement if the travel agencies they used go bankrupt, it said.

The government is also to ensure that airlines Swiss and Edelweiss, which benefit from emergency Swiss measures already adopted to help the ailing airline sector, to uphold their obligations to reimburse travel agencies.

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MADRID — Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is appearing before Spain’s Parliament to ask for their endorsement to extend the nation’s state of emergency that his government has used to rein in a coronavirus outbreak that has killed at least 27,000 Spaniards.

It would be the fifth two-week extension to the state of emergency, which is currently set to expire on Sunday. The government wants to extend it until June 7.

The vote is expected to be close, although Sánchez’s minority government composed of his Socialists and an anti-austerity party has secured the important backing of the center-right Citizens party.

Sánchez’s support has been waning with every vote to extend the state of emergency, which gives the government the power to restrict Constitutional rights such as free movement and assembly key to its sanitary lockdown. The main opposition party, the conservative Popular Party, has said it will vote “No.”

Also, the governmental gazette published the order that will require everyone over six years old to wear face masks in a closed public space or outdoors if a two-meter (6.5-foot) social distance cannot be guaranteed starting Thursday.

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LONDON — Cambridge has become the first university in Britain to cancel all face-to-face lectures for the 2020-21 academic year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The university says all lectures will be held virtually and streamed online until summer 2021. Cambridge says it may be possible to hold tutorials and other teaching in small groups — a key part of the university’s system — when the new academic year starts in October, as long as social distancing can be followed.

The pandemic has already upended student life. Cambridge moved all its teaching online in March, and exams are being held remotely.

British universities are warning they will face a financial crisis if students decide they don’t want to pay tuition fees — currently 9,250 a year ($11,300) in England — for a virtual experience. Lockdowns and travel restrictions imposed because of the pandemic have also cut off the flow of international students, who pay higher fees and form a major source of income for U.K. universities.

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LAHORE, Pakistan — Pakistan’s first lawmaker who was tested positive for coronavirus has died at a hospital in the eastern city of Lahore.

According to doctors and her Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf ruling party, Shaheen Raza, 69, was hospitalized three days ago. Her condition deteriorated Wednesday and she died at a government hospital. Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan expressed his grief and sorry of the death of his party’s senior lawmaker.

Usman Buzdar, the chief minister in the Punjab province, confirmed her death from coronavirus. She was a lawmaker at the provincial Punjab Assembly.

The announcement about Raza’s death comes as the poverty-stricken Pakistan recorded its highest single-day deaths from COVID-19, with 46 in the last 24 hours. The virus has so far infected several politicians, including Pakistan’s speaker of lower house of parliament Asad Qaiser who has fully recovered.

As of Wednesday, there were nearly 46,000 confirmed cases of the virus, including almost 1,000 fatalities, in Pakistan, where authorities eased six-week long lockdown last week despite warnings from some doctors that the lifting of restrictions can cause a sudden spike in deaths and infections.

Pakistan has also reopened shopping malls on a court order and authorities Wednesday resumed a train service, saying the measures were aimed at reviving the economy and saving people from dying because of hunger and poverty.

Authorities say most of the people in Pakistan are not adhering to social distancing guidelines.

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BANGKOK — A Canadian pastor charged in Myanmar with violating a ban on large gatherings has made his first court appearance after being released from a quarantine reportedly imposed because he had contracted COVID-19.

David Lah was charged in mid-April with violating an article of the Natural Disaster Management Law, and faces possible punishment of up to three years in prison, a fine, or both. The law was invoked in mid-March to combat the spread of COVID-19.

The charge involves a religious gathering Lah held on April 7 in Yangon. The judge at Wednesday’s hearing ordered Lah’s detention for 15 days pending a possible trial while police continue their investigations.

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LONDON — Aerospace engine maker Rolls-Royce has announced plans to cut some 9,000 jobs globally as it grapples with the collapse in air travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company employs 52,000 people overall, and it is not immediately clear where the cuts will fall.

The reorganization will lead to cuts resulting in some 700 million pounds ($856 million) in savings with an overall aim of 1.3 billion pounds in annual savings.

Chief executive Warren East says the company must “take difficult decisions to see our business through these unprecedented times.”

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MANILA, Philippines — Philippine police have raided a small clandestine hospital and a drugstore catering to Chinese citizens suspected to be infected with the COVID-19 disease and arrested two Chinese administrators.

Police Brig. Gen. Rhoderick Armamento said law enforcers found a Chinese patient in the seven-bed hospital and drug store during Tuesday’s raid at a residential villa, which was illegally turned into a medical facility at the Clark Freeport and Special Economic Zone northwest of Manila.

More than 200 suspected Chinese-brand coronavirus rapid test kits and syringes, which have been used, were recovered in trash cans, he said.

“They have practiced medicine and prescribed drug without license,” Armamento told The Associated Press by telephone Wednesday. “The Chinese patients who were brought there may still be walking around in public and can infect other people.”

The Chinese who have gone to the underground hospital may include the large numbers of workers in online gambling outfits in Clark, a former U.S. Air Force base turned into a commercial and leisure hub.

Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said the illegal hospital and drugstore can endanger patients instead of saving them because they do not conform with government health regulations and standards.

The Philippines has reported nearly 13,000 coronavirus infections, including 837 deaths, among the highest in Southeast Asia.

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UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations secretary-general is warning that the coronavirus pandemic threatens Africa’s progress and could push millions into extreme poverty.

Antonio Guterres said in a video message Wednesday launching a policy briefing on “The Impact of COVID-19 in Africa” that countries on the continent have responded swiftly to the crisis, “and as of now reported cases are lower than feared,” with more than 2,500 deaths.

But the U.N. chief said “much hangs in the balance,” and he called for “international action to strengthen Africa’s health systems, maintain food supplies, avoid a financial crisis, support education, protect jobs, keep households and businesses afloat, and cushion the continent against lost income and export earnings.”

To help address the devastating economic and social consequences of the pandemic, Guterres said Africa needs more than $200 billion and “an across-the-board debt standstill for African countries.”

He said in recent years economic growth in Africa has been strong, the digital revolution “has taken hold” and agreement has been reached on a free trade area.

But Guterres said “already, demand for Africa’s commodities, tourism and remittances are declining” and “the opening of the trade zone has been pushed back.”

And the secretary-general said the pandemic “will aggravate long-standing inequalities and heighten hunger, malnutrition and vulnerability to disease.”

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