Japanese leader not ready to declare state of emergency
The Latest on the world’s coronavirus pandemic:
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says the coronavirus outbreak in his country has not reached a point that requires him to declare a national emergency like the U.S. and parts of Europe.
He said the per-capita infection in Japan is much lower than other countries, though the situation is still volatile and Japan should remain on its guard. “At the moment, we don’t have a situation that requires a state of emergency,” Abe said.
The global economy has been hit hard by the pandemic, and that includes Japan, Abe said, pledging to urgently implement economic measures from a 430 billion yen ($4 billion) package he announced earlier this month.
Japan’s parliament has enacted a time-bound law that allows Abe to declare a national emergency to take measures against the coronavirus, but the law is controversial because it could severely limit civil rights.
Japan as of Friday had 1,413 confirmed cases, including 697 from a cruise ship that docked in the country. There have been 28 deaths, of which seven were former cruise passengers.
Union leaders, industrialists and the Italian government have reached agreement on special measures to keep the country’s factories running during the national lockdown aimed at combatting the spread of the new coronavirus.
After a marathon 18-hour session by video conference, involving several ministers and Premier Giuseppe Conte, participants signed off on a protocol Saturday morning.
Conte has declared the country’s production must not stop, especially in the sectors of food and health supplies. He has promised free disposable gloves and masks for factory workers.
Union leaders said the protocol stipulates that union representatives and workers have a say in safety measures. Among them are that drivers of trucks bringing in supplies from outside companies must stay in their cabs while goods are unloaded. Another measure sees workers entering or leaving factories in staggered numbers instead of entire shifts at once.
Some unions had threatened to strike if strict measures weren’t implemented. Italy has the largest outbreak of COVID-19 outside of China.
Denmark is closing all its borders to travelers in a bid to tackle the spread of the new coronavirus.
The Danish government said late Friday that the country will close its borders — land, sea and air — at midday on Saturday until April 13. All passenger traffic to and from Denmark will be stopped.
Travelers will be turned away at the border unless they can show that they have “a legitimate reason” to be there, such as that they are Danish citizens or foreign nationals living and working in the country.
“We are in uncharted territory,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told a news conference. “We’re in the middle of something none of us hase faced before.”
“I know that the overall list of measures (announced by Denmark) is very extreme and will be seen as very extreme, but I am convinced that it’s worth it.”
Denmark has so far confirmed 827 cases of the virus in its population of 5.6 million.
Russia has also said that its land borders with Norway will be closed to foreigners beginning Sunday, as will the borders of Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave with Poland. Belarus citizens, foreigners with legal residence in Russia and members of official delegations are excepted.
Other Russian borders with European countries remain open.
The African nations of Rwanda and Mauritania have recorded their first cases of the coronavirus.
Rwanda’s health ministry says an Indian citizen has tested positive. The central African nation’s health ministry said in a statement Saturday that the man showed no symptoms when he arrived in Rwanda from the Indian city of Mumbai on March 8. It said that on March 13 the man checked himself into a health facility where he was immediately tested and is now in stable condition.
The West African nation of Mauritania confirmed its first case of the coronavirus in a foreigner who entered the country on March 9 from Europe. Minister of Health Mohamed Nazir Ould Hamid said late Friday night that the patient “was immediately removed and all medical measures taken to treat him and contain this first case of (the coronavirus) in our country.”
The virus is spreading to more African countries. Kenya, Guinea and Ethiopia reported their first cases on Friday, while Gabon and Ghana did so late Thursday. Sudan also reported its first case, a person who had already died.
Nineteen of Africa’s 54 countries have now registered virus cases. Authorities say the majority of the cases are imported.
Already cooped up most of the day in their homes under Italy’s nationwide lockdown to fight the coronavirus, millions of Italians woke up on Saturday to find themselves deprived of one of the few simple pleasures left: a walk in the park.
Mayors of many cities, including Rome and Milan, had decided by late Friday to close public playgrounds and parks. Health authorities have lamented that too many people were gathering together, whether it was to kick around a soccer ball, or jog in groups.
Under a government decree issued earlier in the week, people had been allowed to walk, jog or bike in parks as long as they kept at least a distance of 1 meter between each other. But not everyone followed the rules.
Among the parks whose gates were locked Saturday was Rome’s sprawling Villa Pamphilj, a hilly expanse of umbrella pines and palm trees on the former grounds of a noble family. Italy has the world’s largest outbreak of the coronavirus after China.
Spain’s Cabinet will meet Saturday to declare a two-week state of emergency and announce more measures to control the outbreak of the coronavirus, which has spiked sharply in recent days to over 4,000 infections in the country.
The measure would allow the government to limit free movement, confiscate goods, and take over control of industries and private facilities, including private hospitals.
Residents in Madrid, which has around half the infections, and northeast Catalonia awoke Saturday to shuttered bars and restaurants and other nonessential commercial outlets as ordered by regional authorities.
Australian Homes Affairs Minister Peter Dutton says his government has contacted the White House to inform them that he was not contagious with the new coronavirus during a recent visit to Washington.
Dutton told Melbourne radio TripleM in a telephone interview from a hospital in his hometown of Brisbane on Saturday that he’s been told he did not become contagious until three days after his return from the United States on Sunday.
Dutton says he started showing symptoms on Thursday and was tested positive the next day. Dutton says his symptoms have been “fairly mild.”
During his visit Dutton met with President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and U.S. Attorney General William Barr.
Indonesia’s capital city is closing all of its public schools for the next 14 days from Monday amid the global coronavirus outbreak.
Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan made the announcement Saturday and said they will review the situation later and whether to extend the closure.
He urged Jakarta residents to conduct social distancing measures to reduce the risk of the virus spreading between individuals.
The governor previously announced a lockdown of all tourist destinations and entertainment sites in the Southeast Asian city for two weeks starting Saturday.
South Korea’s prime minister says the country’s war against the coronavirus is broadening despite a notable decline in new cases.
He is urging vigilance after the emergence of infection clusters in areas including Seoul and warning of the possibility that the virus re-enters the country from abroad amid widening outbreaks in the West.
Chung Se-kyun’s comments during a government meeting on Saturday came as infections continued to slow in the worst-hit city of Daegu, which has reported daily increases of 60 to 70 cases over the past three days after averaging around 500 new cases per day a week ago.
South Korea reported 117 new cases and five more fatalities, bringing its total numbers to 8,086 cases and 72 deaths. Officials said 204 people were released from hospitals, making Saturday the second consecutive day that recoveries outnumbered new infections.
But there’s concern over a steady rise in infections in the Seoul metropolitan area, where at least 115 infections have been connected to a call center.
Japan’s Defense Ministry says one of its officials tested positive for the virus Friday after returning from Paris where he attended an international defense seminar.
The March 4-11 seminar was suspended on March 8 after a participant was found to have been infected.
The ministry said Saturday that the official was in his 40s and returned on a flight assigned by the French government, arriving at Tokyo’s Haneda international airport.
Although he had no symptoms, the official was picked up by a Self-Defense Force vehicle driven by personnel in protective gear and transported to a hospital for a test as a precaution. The result was positive.
The ministry said the Japanese official had stayed at his hotel until his departure from Paris on Friday.
Turkey says flights from nine European countries will halt Saturday as the country reports its fifth case of coronavirus.
Transport Minister Mehmet Cahit Turhan said air travel to and from Germany, France, Spain, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Austria and the Netherlands would be canceled until April 17.
Turkey has already suspended China, Italy, Iran, Iraq and South Korea flights.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said Turkey had recorded three more cases, two days after the country’s first case, a male patient who tested positive Wednesday after returning from Europe. All were relatives of the initial patient, Koca added.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced what she says will be some of the toughest border restrictions in the world in an attempt to keep out the new coronavirus.
From Monday, all incoming passengers, including New Zealand citizens, will be required to isolate themselves for 14 days. The only countries exempt from the restrictions are a handful of Pacific islands that haven’t yet had any cases of COVID-19.
New Zealand has had only six confirmed cases of the illness. All of those have been connected with international travelers and there have been no signs yet of any local outbreaks.
The measures announced Saturday will have a big impact on New Zealand’s tourism industry, which provides the country’s largest single source of foreign income.
The Czech Republic has approved further dramatic measures to try to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.
Announcing its decision in the middle of the night, the government ordered retail businesses including shopping malls to close as of Saturday morning.
The exceptions include essential services such as supermarkets, gas stations and pharmacies, electronics stores and places selling newspapers, glasses and supplies for pets.
Bars and restaurants will be closed as well casinos.
The measures are set to be in place for a least 10 days.
“We’re imposing those tough restrictions to prevent a massive spreading of the virus,” Prime Minister Andrej Babis said.
The Czech Republic has 150 cases of COVID-19.
Colombia’s president has ordered his nation’s border with Venezuela closed as a coronavirus containment measure.
Iván Duque announced late Friday that all official border crossings with the neighboring Andean nation will be shuttered beginning at 5 a.m. Saturday.
The two nations share a porous 1,370-mile (2,200-kilometer) border that is crossed by thousands of Venezuelans each day searching for food and medicine. Many also cross to permanently leave their nation’s economic crisis.
Venezuelan officials announced earlier Friday that they have confirmed their first two coronavirus cases.
More than 4.5 million Venezuelans have fled in recent years, many arriving in Colombia. Experts in Colombia are concerned that the migration crisis could exacerbate the spread of coronavirus throughout the region.
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