French coronavirus cases jump by 3,325 due to better tracking

PARIS (Reuters) – The number of coronavirus infections in France jumped on the same day the government announced an easing of lockdown rules, but the increase reflected the inclusion of new data rather than a rise in daily infections, the Health Ministry said.

The inclusion of data from a new tracking system boosted the number of confirmed coronavirus cases by 3,325 to 149,071, the biggest increase since a 4,183 increase on May 6, when data from a new laboratory were included.

“The increase compared to yesterday is due to more efficient tracking, not to the epidemiological situation in France,” the ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

It said that from now on France would use a new monitoring system that will allow for more complete tracking.

The ministry did not specify how much the case count had increased on Thursday. On Wednesday, the number of confirmed cases rose by 191, or 0.1%, to 145,555, a lower daily rate of increase than the 0.2% average seen the previous seven days.

The ministry said the virus’ total death toll rose by 66, or 0.2%, to 28,662, the same increase as on Wednesday and the eighth day that the number of deaths remained below 100.

In the first half of April, France reported over 1,000 deaths per day on several days, with a peak of 1,438 on April 15.

The ministry said the number of people in hospital fell by nearly 500, or 3%, to 15,208, and the number of people in intensive care fell by 72, or 4.8%, to 1,429. Both numbers have been on a downtrend since mid-April.

The slowdown in the infection rate and reduced pressure on France’s health system were key factors in the government’s decision to announce further easing of the lockdown rules on Thursday, including the reopening of bars, restaurants and beaches.

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LATAM becomes largest airline yet driven to bankruptcy by coronavirus

(Reuters) – Chile’s LATAM Airlines Group (LTM.SN) filed for U.S. bankruptcy protection on Tuesday, becoming the world’s largest carrier so far to seek an emergency reorganization due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The filing highlights the financial weakness of Latin America’s carriers and follows a similar bankruptcy reorganization earlier this month by its main rival, Colombia’s Avianca Holdings AVT_p.CN.

But unlike Avianca, which experienced management turmoil and losses, Chile’s LATAM posted profits for the last four consecutive years totaling more than $700 million.

LATAM, which has about $1.3 billion of cash on hand, recently approved a dividend payment, in contrast to other carriers that have halted payouts amid the crisis.

LATAM said it would continue to fly through its bankruptcy restructuring.

Latin American governments, many under severe budget constraints themselves, have been reluctant to bail out their key airlines, in contrast to the United States and Europe. Most recently, Germany bailed out Lufthansa for a 20% stake.

Chile’s Economy Minister Lucas Palacios said on Tuesday he would not rule out a bailout, although he did not propose one.

“Lufthansa’s case is completely different,” Palacios said. “LATAM is an international airline, its shares trade in the United States.”

In a separate statement, Chile’s finance ministry said LATAM is a “strategic company for Chile” and that the government would “consider” how it could contribute to LATAM’s bankruptcy reorganization.

In Brazil, LATAM has been negotiating a bailout of up to 2 billion reais ($367.45 million) that has yet to materialize.

LATAM’s Brazil unit is not part of the bankruptcy, and the company said it might file for bankruptcy as well.

A source close to Latam’s negotiations in Brazil said that bailout talks were continuing.

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Shares sank up to 41% in premarket trading in the U.S. before trading was suspended, a common practice when companies file for bankruptcy. Trading was also suspended in Santiago until noon.

Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) last year paid $1.9 billion for a 20% stake during better times for the industry, becoming one of the largest shareholders in the company.

LATAM laid off 1,800 employees out of over 40,000 in the lead-up to its bankruptcy filing.

“This path represents the best option,” Chief Executive Roberto Alvo said in a statement regarding bankruptcy.

TROUBLED MERGER

LATAM is an instantly recognizable brand for South Americans, dominating international air travel in the region, as well as a leading domestic flight operator in Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Peru and Ecuador.

In addition to Brazil, subsidiaries in Argentina and Paraguay are also not part of the bankruptcy process.

LATAM said it raised up to $900 million to support operations through its bankruptcy reorganization from major shareholders, including the Cueto family which controls the airline and Qatar Airways.

LATAM was born in 2012 through a merger between Chile’s LAN and Brazil’s TAM, spawning a carrier with large aircraft order books and major exposure to Latin America’s top economy as it went through its worst recession on record.

It has since dropped many plane orders but maintains 44 with Airbus (AIR.PA) and 7 with Boeing Co (BA.N). LATAM said it would seek to cancel several of those orders, but didn’t provide details.

LATAM did disclose that Delta canceled the planned purchase of four Airbus A350s from LATAM, and paid $62 million to break the deal.

LATAM said that as of Tuesday, it had $7.6 billion in debt, including $460 million in loans tied to its Brazilian subsidiary which is not part of the bankruptcy process.

The airline was downgraded by S&P and Fitch on Friday after the company did not pay interest and principal on $1 billion worth of debt tied to the financing of new aircraft purchases.

Investment bank Moelis & Co (MC.N) is in talks to represent bondholders owning around $3 billion in debt owed by Latam, a source told Reuters.

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United Airlines CEO Kirby's annual base salary lower than predecessor

(Reuters) – United Airlines Holdings Inc said on Friday it would pay Chief Executive Officer Scott Kirby an annual base salary of $1 million, lower than what prior head Oscar Munoz received.

The compensation committee also approved an annual base salary of $775,000 for President Brett Hart, less than what Kirby got in the role, the company said in a regulatory filing. (bit.ly/2ZuTEPK)

Both Kirby and Hart have waived 100% of their base salaries through the rest of the year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hammered the airline industry, with flights grounded to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

United said Kirby and Hart may not realize the full value of their respective compensation packages as the company has agreed to receive roughly $5 billion in government payroll support under the CARES Act.

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Parents reunite with son kidnapped 30 years ago, thanks to facial recognition technology

They spent more than three decades searching for their abducted son, and have finally found their happy ending.

As a child, Mao Yin was walking home from school with his father when they stopped to get a drink of water. In the moment his dad, Mao Zhenjing, looked away, Yin was taken, the South China Morning Post says.

According to the BBC, he was sold to a couple who didn’t have kids for the equivalent of $840 today. No information has been released so far about the people who bought him, as the investigation is still ongoing.

After Yin’s abduction, his parents spent their lives searching for him, often appearing on TV talk shows. His mother, Li Jingzhi, distributed more than 100,000 flyers, the BBC says.

She spent those three decades helping 29 families reunite with their missing children, before she was able to live the same miracle.

On Monday, the parents were finally reunited with their now-34-year-old son in an emotional police news conference filmed by Chinese state-broadcaster CCTV and posted on Chinese social media site Weibo.

A report by CCTV says that Yin was raised by his adoptive parents as Gu Ningning. He didn’t know his biological parents had been searching for him.

Police in Xian, the family’s home province, received a tip that a man in Sichuan bought a child in the late-1980s, state news agency Xinhua reported.

Using facial recognition technology, police officials were able to analyze an old photo of Yin as a boy, which created a hypothetical image of him as an adult, CNN reports. After comparing photos to a national database, they were able to track him down.

DNA testing proved that Gu was the same person.

“I can’t believe that after helping 29 missing children find their families, I am able to find my own son,” she told Xinhua.

Yin told the news publication that he’d stay with his biological parents for a few days before returning to his home in Sichuan to “deal with some of his own issues.”

“To be honest,” he said, “I’m not quite sure about the future yet.”

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Aid groups slam U.N. council failure to take coronavirus action

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Several aid groups criticized the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday for being unable to agree on a resolution backing U.N. chief Antonio Guterres’ call for a global ceasefire so the world can focus on combating the coronavirus pandemic.

The 15-member council has been negotiating for two months, but talks have been stymied by a stand-off between veto-powers China and the United States over whether to urge support for the World Health Organization. Washington does not want a reference to the global health body, while Beijing wanted it included.

“The paralysis of the Security Council in the face of COVID is shameful. To millions of people, it is also incomprehensible,” said David Miliband, chief executive of the International Rescue Committee, in a joint statement with International Crisis Group, CARE USA and Save the Children.

The new coronavirus causes the illness COVID-19, which has infected more than 4.8 million people and killed over 319,000 globally.

Rob Malley, chief executive of International Crisis Group, criticized the United States and China for treating the council negotiations as an opportunity for a “blame game” instead of a chance to “make a straightforward call for a reduction in violence during the pandemic.”

“Neither Washington nor Beijing seems able or willing to show leadership at the U.N. during a global crisis,” he said.

The United States suspended funding to the WHO last month, accusing it of promoting Chinese “disinformation” about the novel coronavirus outbreak, although WHO officials denied the accusation and China said it was transparent and open.

“The U.N. Security Council has a historic opportunity to stop the fighting globally and to ensure aid workers have full access,” said Inger Ashing, chief executive of Save the Children. “Countries should not be counting their dead children but focus on battling the virus within their borders.”

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Russia looks to U.S. for aid as new coronavirus cases drop to lowest since May 1

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia is working on getting reciprocal medical aid from the United States, Moscow said on Monday after the country reported its lowest overnight rise in coronavirus cases since May 1.

But Russia, whose tally of 290,678 cases is the second highest after the United States, said the situation remained difficult after officials reported 8,926 new infections.

This marked the third day in a row that the figure was below the 10,000 mark which it has been above for most of this month.

Meanwhile, Moscow is working on securing supplies of reciprocal medical aid from the United States to help it combat the coronavirus, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Sergei Ryabkov said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Washington was sending Moscow some testing equipment and medical ventilators to help it manage the crisis and that the equipment was “on its way”, the Washington Examiner reported on Sunday.

Although Russia sent a batch of Russian-made medical ventilators to the United States in early April, U.S. officials say they were not needed in the end.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, who was diagnosed with the coronavirus last month, told a televised government meeting on Monday that the situation overall was improving and that many patients were being discharged by hospitals.

“The situation … remains difficult, but we can nonetheless say we have managed to stop the growth in the infection (rate),” he said at the meeting held by video conference. “The dynamic is positive, according to the most cautious estimates.”

Moscow and Russian regions across 11 time zones are in their eighth and seventh week of a lockdown respectively to curb the spread of the coronavirus, but Mishustin said that 27 regions were safe to begin gradually relaxing their restrictions.

He did not specify which regions this applied to.

Russia’s coronavirus taskforce said on Monday that 91 people had died in the last 24 hours, pushing the country’s death toll to 2,722 as Moscow looked to the United States for help.

Ryabkov said on Monday that U.S. President Donald Trump had promised earlier that the United States would be ready to help Russia with equipment once it was mass producing ventilators.

“That possibility was welcomed with gratitude from our side, this issue is now being worked on. We consider mutual help to be a straight-forward matter,” Ryabkov was quoted by Russia’s RIA news agency as saying.

The ventilator that Russia sent to the U.S., the Aventa-M, came under the spotlight last week after it was reported to have caused two hospital fires, in Moscow and St Petersburg.

Russia subsequently suspended the use of the Aventa-M, although only those manufactured from April 1, after the ventilators had been sent to the United States.

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As China pushes back on virus, Europe wakes to 'Wolf Warrior' diplomacy

LONDON/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Earlier this month, Europe’s ambassador in Beijing submitted to Chinese censorship.

Seeking to mark an anniversary of the European Union’s relations with China on May 6, he and the EU’s 27 ambassadors co-wrote an opinion piece titled “EU-China ties vital amid global crisis,” for publication on embassy websites and in China Daily, an English-language newspaper controlled by the state.

“The outbreak of the coronavirus in China, and its subsequent spread to the rest of the world over the past three months,” said the carefully orchestrated piece, had “temporarily side-tracked” plans for meetings.

But in the China Daily version, the reference to the virus starting in China was deleted.

The change emerged as the article appeared on EU embassy websites, causing alarm among representatives of member states. Diplomats said the ambassador, French diplomat Nicolas Chapuis, had not consulted his bosses in Brussels or his fellow envoys about the change. He had, the EU executive said on May 7, unilaterally decided to accept it, with “considerable reluctance.”

Chapuis told a news conference the omission was “regrettable;” his boss, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, subsequently spoke out against censorship by China’s state controlled media. Borrell also said that accepting the cut “was not the right decision to take,” though Chapuis kept his job.

China Daily did not respond to requests for comment, but the paper’s bureau chief in Brussels, Chen Weihua, responded to the EU ambassador on Twitter, saying, “You did nothing wrong. I don’t think those people should make a big fuss of the editing out of such a phrase.”

As the new coronavirus casts its shadow over geopolitics, the episode highlights concern among European diplomats over what they see as an increasingly conflictual relationship with Beijing.

As China is seeking to control the damage the pandemic threatens to its global reputation, the government of President Xi Jinping is pushing hard to control the story from Berlin to Bratislava, diplomatic cables seen by Reuters and interviews with more than a dozen diplomats, advisers and officials show.

In a campaign of increasingly assertive and at times aggressive diplomacy, China has sought to pressure European countries that criticise its handling of the outbreak, Reuters found. At a time when Europe’s ties with the United States are already strained by President Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ policy, the fallout from the coronavirus underscores how the EU is caught between two powers – needing both, but reluctant to side with either.

On the one hand, officials in Brussels and European capitals argue they need to show China that the European Union – the world’s largest trading bloc and a wealthy market of 450 million consumers – won’t be pushed around.

On the other, countries within Europe are rarely unanimous. States such as Germany have large trade relationships with China that they don’t want to jeopardise. German manufacturers, for example, depend on China, Germany’s biggest trading partner, to both supply components and to buy their cars.

“We don’t have the structure or culture to reciprocate the assertiveness or use power plays like China,” one diplomat said. “The aim of European diplomacy since the Second World War has been all about finding a compromise. China doesn’t necessarily look at things the same way at all.”

China’s foreign ministry and its officials declined to respond to questions posed by Reuters for this story. The European Commission, the EU’s executive body, declined to comment on the diplomatic contacts.

CREATE A NARRATIVE

This year was meant to be an important one for Sino-EU ties. Until the virus emerged in Wuhan in December, the EU had started to make progress with Beijing after tense summits in 2016 and 2017 ended without any joint declarations. Last year, the European Commission dubbed China an economic competitor and “systemic rival.”

Beijing in April 2019 acquiesced for the first time on key issues such as equal treatment of European companies in China, after months of negotiations, according to senior EU officials. That accord was to be followed this year by an EU-China summit in Beijing and a meeting between Chinese leader Xi and EU national leaders in Leipzig, Germany, in September.

But now, besides practical obstacles to such meetings from social distancing, both sides are pushing back against each other.

In China, the virus has compounded an already more pugnacious approach to international affairs – dubbed “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy in both Western and Chinese media – after two popular Chinese movies in which the action hero outguns and outsmarts nefarious U.S. special agents.

Spurred by Xi’s calls for the country to be more imposing, Chinese diplomats have pushed back against criticism of its handling of the outbreak, in every forum from social media to TV, newspaper op-eds, and diplomatic correspondence.

A striking example was on April 12, when the Chinese embassy in Paris posted an unsigned article on its website that suggested care workers in Western nursing homes had abandoned their jobs, leaving residents to die. China’s ambassador in Paris, Lu Shaye, was summoned by the French foreign ministry and wrote a post saying ties between China and France remain strong, but did not withdraw the comments, which France rejected.

Chinese foreign ministry officials told EU diplomats that the issue was one for France and China, not the wider EU, and that “it was now at an end,” according to a diplomatic cable from the EU delegation in Beijing to Brussels from April 22.

On April 26, China’s embassy in France posted another article on its website complaining of “China bashing” and claiming that “some Westerners are beginning to distrust liberal democracy.” The article said that “in the response to the epidemic, socialism with Chinese characteristics has demonstrated its ability to concentrate resources in the service of great achievements.”

Janka Oertel, head of the Asia programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said China is transferring its domestic approach to controlling public perception to the diplomatic arena.

“China is desperately trying to get its coronavirus story out there and as far as it’s concerned set the record straight,” she said. “It’s trying to do what it does domestically, which is create a narrative and protect its reputation.”

DIVIDE AND RULE

Chinese diplomats have also approached German government officials to persuade them to make positive statements on how Beijing is handling the pandemic, a letter dated April 22 from the German interior ministry to a German parliamentarian Margarete Bause showed.

The letter, reviewed by Reuters, said the diplomats had made individual contact with German officials to seek “positive public statements about the coronavirus management of the People’s Republic of China.” It said Germany had not complied.

And senior Chinese foreign ministry officials on several occasions pressured EU diplomats to block publication of an EU report analysing alleged Chinese disinformation online about the virus, according to documents seen by Reuters and diplomatic sources. The Chinese foreign ministry said the report would be “very bad for cooperation,” according to the April 22 EU diplomatic cable.

The internal version of the report, dated April 20 and reviewed by Reuters after parts were previewed by Politico, noted as a main finding that “China has continued to run a global disinformation campaign to deflect blame for the outbreak of the pandemic and improve its international image.”

In the public version, published on April 24 as a “snapshot overview,” criticism of China was given less prominence.

Top EU diplomat Borrell, called before the European Parliament on April 30 to explain the discrepancy between the versions, said there had been no watering-down, the published document was directed at a different public and while diplomatic pressures always exist, “We have not bowed to anyone.”

Beijing has long played on tensions between the EU’s founding states and its newer, formerly Communist members, through a special contact group of mostly east European countries called the 17+1, in which China is the 1. China has promised billions of dollars to countries which otherwise rely on EU development funds or outside investment to build railways, roads, airports and power stations.

China’s close relationships with such states make it harder for them to stand up to Beijing when Brussels wants them to, EU officials and diplomats say.

Even before the pandemic in the first two months of 2020, one diplomat said, Slovenia and Slovakia had requested help from the European Commission in pushing back against China’s pressure to take its side on issues including human rights. He said the states had effectively sent the message: “Help us: We don’t have the political clout to stand up to the Chinese.”

Slovenia’s foreign ministry said it had not sought such help, but did not know if others had. In a statement to Reuters, it said “very intensive” talks had been going on for an accord to be agreed at the EU-China summit which “will balance out the relations between the EU and China.” Slovakia did not respond to a request for comment.

MASK DIPLOMACY

When COVID-19 hit Italy and Spain, two large and influential member states, fellow EU members such as Germany initially came under fire for offering scant help. But China sent hundreds of thousands of testing kits and facemasks to them and other countries.

Italy, in particular, has been grateful. A poll of 800 people in Italy, carried out by the SWG research institute between March 20 and April 12, showed more than 50% of Italians consider China a friendly country, while other polls have shown once-solid support for EU membership falling.

China’s ‘mask diplomacy’ also spurred a dramatic change of tone from Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis. Before the pandemic, he had called for the removal of the Chinese ambassador after a threatening letter from the embassy over a Czech lawmaker’s planned visit to Taiwan.

But as COVID-19 infections spread, Babis raced to the airport to personally greet a planeload of medical supplies from China, and publicly thanked the ambassador he had wanted withdrawn.

Babis said there was no connection between those actions. “When I did not like the communication of the ambassador, I said so,” he said in a statement to Reuters. “The same way, I did not have any problem to thank him publicly when he did his share.”

Not all responses have been as simple. Dutch, Spanish and other European authorities have questioned the quality of equipment sent – the Netherlands recalled some masks that had been distributed to hospitals on the grounds that they were not surgical, the Dutch health ministry said.

China rejected such complaints, saying for example that faulty test kits in Spain were provided by a company without a proper licence that had nothing to do with government shipments.

SUMMITRY

In the EU headquarters in Brussels and in European capitals, discussions are underway about how to respond to China’s toughening line.

Europe is intent on ensuring closer cooperation with Beijing on landmark issues like climate policy, especially after the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. EU and Chinese representatives spoke on May 11 about opening up on trade. But there is little clarity on the diplomatic road.

The EU-China summit may take place on June 3, according to a European Commission planning note, but by video conference, rather than in person in Beijing.

The last time China policy was discussed by the EU’s 27 envoys in Brussels in March, Ireland’s envoy expressed concern that China’s “huge propaganda machine” may win the narrative on trade, cooperation and the summit, according to the minutes seen by Reuters.

France’s representative to Brussels urged the EU to demand China be more transparent on such issues, as well as coronavirus.

“We need to preserve our position,” he said.

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PNE/Playland predicts gross loss of $52 million due to COVID-19 shutdown

A visit to PNE/Playland is a summer staple for many in B.C., but due to the novel coronavirus this year, the fair gates will remain closed.

As a result, the event is projected to lose up to $52 million in gross revenue, according to spokesperson Laura Ballance, while net revenue losses could reach $10 million depending on when the PNE might resume operation.

In mid-April, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said physical-distancing measures put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19 will remain throughout the summer, and that organizers of large outdoor events should think about alternatives.

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“We do not have enough herd immunity to protect everybody and allow that type of event to happen,” Henry said. “Large parades, large mass gatherings where we all come together — those will not be happening this summer.”

Last month, the federal government introduced a $73-billion wage subsidy program to cover 75 per cent of wages for employers that have seen sharp declines in revenue since the pandemic.

The program makes up half the roughly $145 billion in federal spending on COVID-19 countermeasures, and will cause a ripple of changes for the millions of workers who have either lost their jobs or had their hours slashed due to the crisis.

-With files from The Canadian Press

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Premier John Horgan to take your COVID-19 questions at Global BC town hall

The province’s announcement this week to slowly reopen businesses, schools and medical services starting mid-May has left many in B.C. wanting more information.

To help get your questions answered, Global BC is hosting its fourth virtual town hall, but this time with B.C Premier John Horgan.

News Hour anchors Chris Gailus and Sophie Lui will host the live event, to be broadcast from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 12. You can also watch it on our website and on Global BC’s Facebook page.

We especially want your videos! Take a brief video of yourself asking your question, and it could be broadcast during the town hall. Simply send the video file with your name and community to [email protected] by Monday, May 11.

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Bosnia reports sharp rise in coronavirus cases after relaxing lockdown

SARAJEVO (Reuters) – Bosnia reported on Wednesday its sharpest daily rise in new coronavirus infections this month after its two autonomous regions had gradually begun to ease lockdowns.

There were 93 new infections and two deaths in the previous 24 hours, compared with 20 new infections a day earlier and 49 the day before that, officials said.

The total number of infected people rose to 1,677 with 65 deaths, while 29,130 have been tested.

Both the Bosniak-Croat Federation and the Serb Republic imposed lockdowns last month after the outbreak of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus. Their measures included barring people aged over 65 and children up to 18 from leaving home at all.

The Serb Republic, which started on Monday to let senior citizens leave home for three hours each workday and some businesses to reopen, reported 59 new cases. Its officials urged citizens to continue to avoid gatherings and to wear masks at all times. [L5N2CF5TI]

“The percentage of positive cases in relation to those tested is revealing a lowering of individual discipline in obeying the prescribed measures,” Serb Republic Health Minister Alen Seranic said, adding that 8% of those tested in the past 24 hours were found to be positive, up from 5% previously.

“The whole community is behaving in a more relaxed manner than before, when we had a different number of cases from now,” said Seranic, who is a trained epidemiologist.

PUBLIC APPEAL

In the northern town of Banja Luka, which has recorded the highest number of coronavirus cases in Bosnia, Pedja Kovacevic, head of the intensive care department at the main hospital, said health workers had been able to cope with the pandemic so far.

“What is terrifying is that we have the largest number of sick and hospitalised patients in the hospital in the ninth week, and I call on the public and every citizen to think twice (before leaving home),” Kovacevic said.

The Bosniak-Croat Federation lifted its night curfew last Friday and abolished a measure of obligatory quarantine. It also allowed senior citizens and children to leave home every second day for several hours.

Its crisis headquarters decided on Wednesday to reinstate the night curfew during the three-day Labour Day holidays and banned gatherings of more than five people.

It also decided that all wholesale trade businesses and retail shops as well as hair-dressing and cosmetic salons will reopen from May 1, ordering owners to provide disinfection of hands and footwear for customers and disinfect premises each day before opening.

“We are aware that we’ll see new peaks and trends of the disease, but we have to go back to normal life,” said Goran Cerkez, the federation assistant health minister.

“We shall see how that proceeds, and whether we have to reinstate restrictions will depend on the citizens.”

Bosnia’s economy has been hit hard by the lockdowns and the closure of many businesses. The International Monetary Fund has forecast growth to shrink 5% this year.

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