MADRID — Most political parties in Spain put aside their differences Friday to contemn a series of death threats mailed to the country's interior minister, the director of the Civil Guard police force and the leader of a far-left political party. But the issue provoked a bitter confrontation between United We Can leader Pablo Iglesias, the recipient of one of the letters, and the far-right candidate in an upcoming regional election in Madrid, who cast doubts on the threats. Vox Party Madrid leader Rocío Monasterio said she was against “all kinds of violence” but, during a radio debate with Iglesias, refused to back away from earlier remarks that she didn't believe her opponent's account. The threats were delivered in envelopes filled with bullets and accompanied by anonymous letters either demanding the three officials step down from their positions or plainly menacing the recipients and their relatives. Iglesias, who recently stepped down as one of Spain's four deputy prime ministers to run in the May 4 Madrid election, posted a photo on Twitter showing the four bullets he said arrived inside the envelope and the letter addressed to him at the Interior Ministry's headquarters in Madrid. “You have let die our parents and grandparents,” the letter posted by Iglesias read, adding: “Your wife, your parents and you are sentenced to capital punishment. Your time is running out.” Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska and his appointee, Civil Guard Director General María Gámez, received similar letters. “You have 10 days to step down. The time to laugh at us has ended. National Police. Civil Guard," read the letter addressed to Grande-Marlaska, according to the private news agency Europa Press. The interior minister oversees both police bodies. Monasterio had said that she didn't believe the Spanish government or Iglesias. “They have tricked us since the beginning of the pandemic,” she said during an interview. The far-left candidate said that he refused to whitewash the far-right's hate speech and left a debate hosted by Cadena SER radio later in the day when Monasterio refused to back away from her remarks. The incumbent conservative Madrid president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, is set to win next week's election according to the latest polls. But her ability to form a government is likely to hinge on opening the door to Spain's first regional coalition government with the far-right. Aritz Parra, The Associated Press
KATHMANDU, Nepal — A Norwegian climber became the first to be tested for COVID-19 in the Mount Everest base camp and was flown by helicopter to Kathmandu, where he was hospitalized. Erlend Ness told The Associated Press in a message Friday that he tested positive on April 15. He said another test on Thursday was negative and he was now staying with a local family in Nepal. Mountain guide Lukas Furtenbach, warned that if safety measures are not taken, the virus could spread among the hundreds of other climbers, guides and helpers who are now camped on the base of Everest. Furtenbach, leading a team of 18 climbers to Mount Everest and its sister peak Mount Lhotse, said there could be more than just one case on the mountain as the Norwegian had lived with several others for weeks. Any outbreak could prematurely end the climbing season, just ahead of a window of good weather in May, he said. ___ THE VIRUS OUTBREAK: — Drop in U.S. vaccine demand has some places turning down doses — India’s hospitals desperately plead for oxygen, fire kills 13 — Oregon: CDC investigating woman’s death after J&J vaccine ___ Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine ___ HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING: BERLIN — Dozens of German actors have posted videos to protest government policies in the coronavirus pandemic, drawing criticism from some of their colleagues. Actors who are prominent in the German-speaking world, including Ulrich Tukur, Volker Bruch, Meret Becker, Ulrike Folkerts and Jan Josef Liefers, posted their clips, some of them ironic or satirical, on Instagram or YouTube on Thursday. They used the hashtag #allesdichtmachen - “shut everything down.” This week, the German parliament approved legislation mandating uniform restrictions in areas where the virus is spreading too quickly, including closures and a 10 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew. Many cultural facilities already have been closed for months. The video protest drew sharp criticism from some other German actors. And satirist Jan Boehmermann posted a link to a documentary about a Berlin intensive care unit on Twitter, with the comment: “The only video you should watch if you have problems with the corona containment measures.” ___ BUDAPEST— Hungary will allow outdoor terraces at restaurants and bars to open Saturday and plans further openings next week, even as the COVID-19 death rate in the country remains among the highest in the world. The number of people who have received at least a first dose of a vaccine in Hungary surpassed 3.5 million Friday, a threshold earlier set by the government for when outdoor seating areas could reopen. In a morning radio interview, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that number was likely to reach 4 million next week, when a new round of openings would be extended to holders of an “immunity certificate” proving they’ve received a vaccine or recovered from the disease. Hungary’s government has tied its reopening strategy to the number of vaccines it administers. Around 35% of the population has received at least one dose, the second-highest rate in the European Union. But the country has had the highest number of COVID-19 deaths per million inhabitants in the world for over a month, according to Johns Hopkins University. On Friday, Orban announced that theatres, cinemas, gyms, swimming pools, spas, zoos, museums, libraries and sports events will be opened next week for those who hold a government-issued immunity certificate. Hotels and indoor dining at restaurants may also accept certificate holders. “It sounds like a normal life,” Orban said. ___ JERUSALEM — Israel and Bahrain say they have reached an agreement to recognize each other’s coronavirus vaccination certificates, allowing travellers between the countries to forgo quarantine and other restrictions. The agreement builds on a U.S.-brokered normalization accord reached last year and marks a further improvement of ties between Israel and the small Arab country in the Persian Gulf. Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Thursday that the latest deal “represents a global precedent for a bilateral agreement on mutual recognition of vaccination certificates.” Israeli Tourism Minister Orit Farkash Hacohen welcomed the agreement in a tweet, calling it “an important step in Israel’s reopening to tourists.” She said she looked forward to hosting her Bahraini counterpart again and invited him to go diving in Eilat, on the Red Sea. Israel has carried out one of the most effective vaccination campaigns in the world, leading to a sharp drop in infections and allowing it to reopen schools and businesses, including restaurants, hotels and museums. But it remains largely closed off to international visitors. Israel plans to allow a limited number of tour groups to enter starting May 23, with individuals allowed at a later stage. All visitors will need to be tested before boarding flights to Israel and show proof of vaccination. LONDON — Scientists at Oxford University have released more data that confirm coronavirus vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca both significantly cut the risk of infection after a single dose. In studies published on Friday, researchers said there was no apparent difference in the vaccines’ ability to reduce COVID-19 infection rates. The research has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal but is based on data from nose and throat swabs taken from more than 370,000 participants in England and Wales between December and April. The scientists said that three weeks after people had been given a single dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca vaccine, the rates of all COVID-19 infections fell by 65%. The reduction was bigger after a second dose and the vaccines appeared to protect people against the variant that was first identified in the U.K. Dr. Koen Pouwels, a senior researcher at Oxford University, noted there was some evidence of vaccinated people catching COVID-19 and that there was some limited spread of the disease from people who had been immunized. ___ BANGKOK — Thailand’s health authorities announced Friday they have confirmed 2,070 new COVID-19 cases, a new daily record that brings the country’s total to 50,183. The rising numbers are severely straining the supply of hospital beds and ICU capacity. The record number of new infections came a day after a new daily high of seven deaths was announced. Four more deaths were announced Friday, bringing Thailand’s total to 121. At the beginning of March, Thailand had 26,031 cases with double-digit daily increases, but a new outbreak sent the numbers skyrocketing. Taweesilp Visanuyothin, a spokesman for the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration, said Bangkok, with the highest number of cases, has only 69 empty ICU beds left out of a total of more than 400. Under Thai law, infected patients must be held in hospital facilities, but even with the addition of field hospitals there are not enough beds. ___ ISLAMABAD — Pakistan has imported half a million doses of Chinese Sinovac vaccine after relying on donated vaccines, as its coronavirus cases surge, officials said Friday. The country purchased the vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech, the National Command and Control Center said. It said a plane carrying 500,000 doses arrived at an airport Thursday. Previously, Pakistan largely relied on vaccines donated by China. Pakistan is currently in the middle of a new wave of cases which are flooding hospitals, mainly because of widespread violations of social distancing rules. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday was expected to approve new COVOD-19-related measures. So far, the government has resisted demands from doctors that it impose a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the virus. Pakistan on Friday reported 144 deaths in the previous 24 hours. It has reported 16,842 deaths among 784,108 cases since last year. ___ PERTH, Australia — The Australian west coast city of Perth will lock down for three days after a returned traveller was apparently infected with the coronavirus while in hotel quarantine. Western Australia state Premier Mark McGowan said on Friday masks will also become compulsory in the city of 2 million people for three days from midnight. The cause of concern was a 54-year-old man who arrived in Perth on April 3 on a flight from China and went into mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine. A couple from India on the same floor of the hotel were infected with a virus variant identified in that country as more contagious. The variant spread to a mother and daughter from Britain who shared a room across a corridor. The man was released from quarantine on April 17 after testing negative but tested positive after flying to the east coast city of Melbourne on Wednesday. The test result was announced on Friday. A friend he stayed with overnight in Perth tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday, becoming the first case of community transmission in Western Australia in more than a year. ___ COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Authorities in Sri Lanka have imposed lockdowns on several villages and postponed the reopening of state universities amid a sharp increase of COVID-19 cases. According to a government statement, a small town and a village in the Kurunegala district, about 103 kilometres northeast of the capital Colombo were placed on lockdown. The local Lankadeepa newspaper reported five other villages in the area have been isolated. Separately, the Education Ministry said the reopening of state-run universities will be postponed by another two weeks based on instructions from the health department. They had been scheduled to reopen April 27 after several months of being closed. The number of positive cases rose to 672 on Thursday, pushing the nation’s total to 98,721 people infected with 634 fatalities. ___ BEIJING — China says three of its citizens working in the United Arab Emirates tampered with the results of their coronavirus tests required to return home. A statement from the Chinese Embassy said the three, working in the main business centre of Dubai, altered information provided by local clinics to show they had not been infected. It said they were referred to UAE authorities for “seriously interfering with the prevention of epidemics and posing a significant risk to the health and safety of other passengers on the same flight.” China has largely stamped out domestic infection but continues to report citizens arriving from abroad who test positive for the coronavirus. That comes despite demands that travellers prove they are virus-free, leading to speculation that test results are being falsified by citizens desperate to return home after more than a year of travel restrictions and demands they be quarantined for as many as 21 days. China reported 19 new cases on Friday, all of them brought from overseas and most arriving in the major travel hubs of Shanghai and Guangdong. The Associated Press
N'DJAMENA (Reuters) - Thousands of people gathered at the main square in Chad's capital N'Djamena on Friday to pay their respects to the late President Idriss Deby, who was killed while leading his troops against a rebel offensive on Monday. French President Emmanuel Macron, Guinean President Alpha Conde and several other African leaders were expected to attend the funeral, despite rebel warnings they should not attend for security reasons. Deby ruled Chad for more than 30 years and was one of Africa's wiliest political survivors, holding on to power despite rebellions that reached as far as his palace gates.
Coronavirus vaccines remain out of reach in the poorest countries, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a report on Friday, marking the first anniversary of the COVAX dose-sharing facility. "Nearly 900 million vaccine doses have been administered globally, but over 81% have gone to high- or upper middle-income countries, while low-income countries have received just 0.3%," WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said about the ACT (Access to COVID-19 Tools) Accelerator set up a year ago. Tedros has repeatedly denounced inequities in vaccine distribution and urged wealthier countries to share excess doses to help inoculate health workers in low-income countries.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Four astronauts arrived at their launch pad early Friday morning for a SpaceX flight to the International Space Station, the company’s third bon voyage for a NASA crew in under a year. The two Americans, one French and one Japanese astronaut climbed into white gull-winged Teslas for the ride to their rocket, all courtesy of Elon Musk’s companies. Musk met with the astronauts before they headed to the pad, wishing them well from a safe social distance. SpaceX aimed for a split-second liftoff at 5:49 a.m., an hour before sunrise. Good weather was forecast, not only at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center but all the way up the East Coast in the event of a launch abort and emergency splashdown. Poor offshore weather prompted SpaceX to skip Thursday’s attempt. For the first time, SpaceX was using a recycled Falcon rocket and Dragon capsule for a crew launch. The capsule soared on the company’s first astronaut launch last May, and the rocket hoisted the second crew in November. Spacecraft commander Shane Kimbrough and his crew will replace that second set of astronauts, who will return to Earth next Wednesday in their own SpaceX capsule. Joining Kimbrough for a six-month space station mission: NASA’s Megan McArthur, France’s Thomas Pesquet and Japan’s Akihiko Hoshide. All have flown in space before. McArthur had the same seat in the same capsule as her husband, Bob Behnken, did for SpaceX’s debut crew flight. This time, he was the one huddling outside the Teslas with their 7-year-old son, saying goodbye. McArthur blew kisses and offered virtual hugs from a safe social distance. The other astronauts' spouses and children also gathered alongside the Teslas for photos and “love you's,” as Musk and NASA's acting administrator, Steve Jurzcyk, watched from afar. The crowd was kept to a minimum because of the pandemic. SpaceX picked up the station slack for NASA after the agency’s shuttles retired in 2011. SpaceX began supply runs the following year. Boeing, NASA’s other designated taxi service, isn’t expect to launch astronauts until early next year. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press
N'DJAMENA (Reuters) -Chadian rebels said on Friday their command centre was bombed on Wednesday night in an attempt to kill their leader, as the nation gathered to pay homage to slain President Idriss Deby who was killed on the frontline on Monday. The rebels have this month swept south across the desert from their bases in Libya towards N'Djamena, and say they are around 200-300 km (125-190 miles) from the Chadian capital. It is being attended by French President Emmanuel Macron, Guinean President Alpha Conde and several other African heads of state.