The Latest: Actors get virus; theatergoers may quarantine

The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. 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.


— Virus death toll and unemployment surge in Europe and U.S.

— South Korea to ask theatergoers to stay home after cast members contract virus.

— France is “fighting hour by hour” to ward off shortages of essential drugs.


SEOUL, South Korea — The South Korean capital of Seoul says it will ask more than 8,500 theatergoers to self-monitor at home after Canadian and American cast members of “The Phantom of the Opera” were found to have the coronavirus.

Seoul City official Na Baek-ju said Friday the musical’s international tour was halted following the positive test of an unidentified Canadian actress, who began experiencing throat pain and dry coughs days after she began performing at the city’s Blue Square theater on March 14. She last appeared on stage on Monday, a day before her test.

Officials have since tested 138 of her contacts, including colleagues and guests at the downtown Somerset Palace hotel, and confirmed the infection of an American actor on Thursday.

Na said officials were still awaiting test results for 48 people while the other 89 tested negative.

He said the hotel was ordered to prevent guests from leaving the property and stop taking new customers.

South Korea earlier on Friday reported 86 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing its nationwide total to 10,062.


PARIS — France’s prime minister says he and his government colleagues are “fighting hour by hour” to ward off shortages of essential drugs used to keep COVID-19 patients alive in intensive care.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said that worldwide usage of essential drugs and disposable equipment, such as ventilator mouthpieces, used by intensive care units is “exploding in unimaginable proportions,” with a “nearly 2,000% increase” in demand “because it is happening everywhere in the world and at the same time.”

In France, medics have identified eight drugs, in particular, that are essential for ICUs to keep treating the waves of gravely ill COVID-19 patients who need breathing assistance and other forms of life support, he said, speaking to broadcaster TF1 on Thursday night. Those drugs include painkillers and sedatives.

Philippe said France has sufficient stocks of some of the key ICU drugs but “more limited” quantities of others, causing “real” worry for medics. Philippe said he, French President Emmanuel Macron and their finance minister have been calling producers to identify supply bottlenecks and source more of these drugs. “We are fighting hour by hour to respond to this unheard-of increase in usage,” he said.


MANILA, Philippines — The Asian Development Bank forecasts that the coronavirus pandemic will cost the world economy as much as $4.1 trillion, or nearly 5% of all economic activity.

In an update Friday, the regional lender said growth in developing Asia would likely fall to 2.2% in 2020 from 5.2% last year. The Manila, Philippines-based bank said that Southeast Asia, a market of more than 600 million that has been rapidly growing, will likely log 1% growth this year.

The report said China, the region’s biggest economy, saw double-digit contractions in business activity in January-February and will likely see growth fall to 2.3% this year from a three-decade low of 6.1% in 2019. China, which is trying to get its economy back on track after unprecedented shutdowns in Wuhan, where the virus was first reported, and other parts of the country could suffer losses amounting to up to $692 billion if containment efforts drag on. But the ADB estimated that growth would bounce back next year to more than 7%.


NEW DELHI — To bolster morale and spirit, India’s prime minister urges the country’s 1.3 billion people to switch off lights of their home for nine minutes Sunday night and light candles, lamps and even use mobile torches standing in their balconies.

In a video message broadcast Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said such a gesture will dispel the darkness created by the coronavirus and show that people are together in their fight against the epidemic.

He said social distancing was the only way to break the chain of coronavirus, which has so far claimed 53 lives in India with 1,860 positive cases.

Modi ordered a three-week lockdown across the country on March 24 to stop a massive outbreak of coronavirus infections.

On Friday, he acknowledged the hardships caused by the world’s biggest shutdown to millions of people who have been left jobless and forced tens of thousands of migrants workers to flee to their villages for food and shelter.

Indian officials have repeatedly insisted there is no evidence yet of community spread, but have conducted relatively scant testing for the disease in a country where tens of millions live in dense urban areas with irregular access to clean water.


SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea says more than 27,000 people are under self-quarantine in the country after it strengthened border controls to slow coronavirus infections linked to international arrivals.

Park Jong-hyun, an official from the Ministry of the Interior and Safety, said Friday that 19,567 of those under self-quarantine have recently returned from overseas while another 7,499 were isolated after contacting virus carriers.

South Korea has been enforcing 14-day quarantines on all passengers arriving from overseas since Wednesday, expanding measures that had already been applied to South Korean nationals and long-term stay foreigners coming from Europe and the United States.

Health Ministry official Koh Deuk-young said 266 short-term visitors have so far been quarantined at designated facilities after the quarantines were expanded Wednesday.

Authorities are isolating and testing passengers arriving with symptoms at airports while denying entry of anyone refusing to accept quarantines or download an app that requires users to report their daily health conditions and alerts officials when they leave their homes or facilities.


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Categories: National & International News