The Latest: Albania closes schools, gyms amid virus concerns
The Latest on the coronavirus outbreak sweeping the globe (all times local):
Fearing a significant increase of the number of COVID-19 cases, Albanian authorities on Tuesday took rigid measures closing all centers where people may gather.
Albania has had 10 COVID-19 cases so far, all resulting from two people visiting Italy. All flights and ferries to and from Italy have been suspended but those for commercial purposes.
People gatherings are prohibited. Social assisting centers will limit the staff while cultural and entertaining centers, gyms and pools will close. Many public employees will work from home. Football league matches will be held without fans.
All discos, pubs, gyms and other people gathering centers will be closed until April 3 while bars and restaurants should keep tables 2 meters apart.
All schools have been shut down for two weeks.
Air Canada is suspending flights to and from Italy.
The airline’s last flight to Rome is scheduled to take off from Toronto on Tuesday, with the final return flight departing Rome for Montreal on Wednesday. Air Canada hopes to restart service May 1. Meanwhile, it says affected customers will be notified and offered a full refund.
Air Canada says regulations and “ongoing health and safety concerns” prompted the decision.
Italy is the center of Europe’s epidemic.
Italian authorities say the number of infections has topped 10,000. More than 600 people with the virus have died there.
In January, Canada’s largest airline halted all direct flights to China — the epicenter of the virus — as it braced for a hit to revenues. Its shares have fallen about 40% in the past seven weeks.
El Salvador’s government says Guatemalans, Hondurans and Nicaraguans will no longer be able to enter the country without a passport due to fears of the new coronavirus, despite an agreement by four Central American nations allowing their citizens free transit.
There have been no confirmed coronavirus cases in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras or Nicaragua.
El Salvador President Nayib Bukele said via Twitter that the decision was spurred by Salvadorans trying to avoid government quarantines by flying into Guatemala from overseas and then traveling overland to El Salvador, where they would not have to show their passports.
The president said foreigners coming from seven countries with a high number of new coronavirus cases will not be admitted. The countries are Spain, Italy, France, Germany, China, South Korea and Iran. Salvadorans coming from those countries are subjected to a 30-day quarantine. As of Sunday, El Salvador had placed 90 people in quarantine who had arrived from the restricted countries. None had tested positive.
Slovenia’s acting prime minister says he has ordered the closure of the border with EU neighbor Italy.
Tuesday’s measure does not apply for freight transport.
Austria also introduced a ban on people arriving from Italy, with exception for citizens returning home and persons carrying doctor’s note certifying they are healthy.
Malta shut down the border to the south, turning away an Italian cruise ship on Tuesday.
Italy is the center of Europe’s epidemic.
Italian authorities say the number of infections has topped 10,000. The number of people with the virus who have died rose to 631.
New York’s governor is sending the National Guard into a New York suburb to help fight what appears to be the nation’s biggest known cluster of coronavirus cases.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that schools, houses of worship and large gathering places will be shuttered for two weeks in a “containment area” centered in suburban New Rochelle.
He told reporters that National Guard troops will help clean surfaces and deliver food in the area, a 1-mile-radius (1.6 km) around a point near a synagogue.
The state and a private health system are setting up a testing facility in the area.
Cuomo says “It’s a dramatic action, but it is the largest cluster of cases in the country.”
New Rochelle is at the center of an outbreak of 108 cases in Westchester County, out of 173 statewide.
New Jersey is reporting its first case of a death in a coronavirus patient.
Judith Persichilli, commissioner of the state health department, said Tuesday the patient who died was a 69-year-old Bergen County man with underlying medical conditions.
The man had no travel outside of the United States but had gone to New York, where there are more than 150 cases of the new coronavirus. New Jersey has 15 cases of the virus.
Stocks are higher on Wall Street after another bout of volatile trading took the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 945 points in the early going and then briefly into the red by late morning.
Markets bumped up again just around midday after Vice President Mike Pence said the nation’s big health insurers would cover co-pays for coronavirus testing. The Dow was up 190 points, or 0.8%, to 24,040 as of 1:05 p.m. Eastern Time.
Investors are likely to see more big swings until the number of infections from the new coronavirus decelerate, market watchers say, and they also want a big, coordinated response from governments and central banks.
The United Nations says it will close its headquarters complex in New York to the general public and temporarily suspend all guided tours starting Tuesday evening as a precaution against the spread of the new coronavirus.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the United Nations has not been advised of any COVID-19 cases among its 3,000 staff. He said about 1,000 people visit U.N. headquarters every day.
Dujarric said the U.N. has recommended to U.N. personnel who have recently returned from countries where the virus is common should remain at home and self-monitor for 14 days. He said telecommuting and flexible work arrangements are also being recommended for U.N. personnel.
He says further measures could be taken.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has announced new policies to support workers impacted by the new coronavirus and new rules for long-term care centers, including placing limits on visitors and screening workers for symptoms.
At a news conference Tuesday, Inslee said the state is preparing for many more cases than have been reported, potentially tens of thousands, based on estimates of the spread of the disease.
The state has the worst outbreak of COVID-19 in the U.S, with 160 cases and at least 22 deaths. Nineteen of those deaths are linked to the Life Care Center, a nursing home in Kirkland.
He says it’s very disturbing that “the number of people who are infected will double in five to eight days. Inslee said the state is still considering banning large gatherings like sporting events.
The governor said the state will require that long-term care facilities limit residents to one adult visitor per day unless residents are near death. Visitors would have to wear protective clothing.
The environmental group Fridays for Future says it is canceling planned demonstrations in Germany at the end of this week because of the virus outbreak.
The group has become a powerful voice in the youth movement demanding that world leaders take action to tackle climate change. Its Friday protests sometimes have drawn tens of thousands of students nationwide.
In a tweet Tuesday citing the hashtag #FlattenTheCurve, the group said it wanted to “take responsibility” by helping slow the spread of the new coronavirus, which has infected 116,000 people worldwide and killed over 4,000. It said the move was made “with a heavy heart.”
The group said it would instead take its protest online.
The idea of slowing the spread of COVID-19 to prevent more serious consequences later echoes the theory that reducing carbon emissions sooner can help the world avoid some of the more catastrophic impacts of climate change.
Congo has confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus — a Belgian citizen who tested positive at the airport and who is in quarantine — bringing the number of infections in Africa to 105 in 11 countries.
Burkina Faso late Monday confirmed its first two cases — a husband and wife who returned from a trip to France.
South Africa announced four more cases, bringing its total to seven, all part of a group that returned from Italy.
In North Africa, there have been two deaths, one each in Morocco and Egypt. Egypt now has 59 cases, Algeria has 20, Tunisia has five and Morocco now has one remaining case.
Although Africa’s numbers are low compared to Asia, Europe and the U.S., experts warn that COVID-19 spreading across the continent could be catastrophic given the poor health systems in many African countries.
Spaniards spooked by a big jump in coronavirus infections have rushed into supermarkets in Madrid, a day after virus cases nearly tripled in the capital.
One supermarket in Madrid saw long lines with dozens of customers in each waiting to pay for carts packed with food and household products.
“There is a huge panic,” said 59-year-old shopper Ángeles Gómez. “There are people queuing from the cash register to the other end of the supermarket.”
Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa says the country has not seen any food shortages. Nearly half of Spain’s over 1,600 infections are in the capital and the country has seen 35 deaths.
Regional authorities in Madrid and in two regions in northern Spain are closing schools and universities for two weeks to try to slow the spread. But some folks thought that was a bad idea.
“We leave our children with the grandparents? They are the ones who are most at risk,” said Toni Flix, a parent of two, in Madrid. “They should close other things but not schools.”
UNESCO says the coronavirus outbreak has interrupted schooling for nearly 363 million students worldwide and is urging nations to work harder to make sure affected students are still learning.
The U.N. education agency has set up an emergency group to help nations implement better remote education practices as the spread of COVID-19 continues to severely impact schools and universities.
On Tuesday, the Paris-based agency held a global video conference of education officials in 72 countries, including 27 education ministers, to share strategy on minimizing disruptions due to the epidemic. The agency has published a list of free learning applications and platforms for use by teachers.
UNESCO says 15 countries have ordered nationwide school closures and 14 have implemented localized closures, spanning Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America.
Greece and Macedonia on Tuesday announced all schools, universities and kindergartens will be shut for the next 14 days.
Trips and conferences are being canceled due to the new coronavirus in all corners of the globe.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has postponed a trip to India, Pakistan and Uzbekistan that was to begin Monday due to the coronavirus crisis. Pentagon press secretary Alyssa Farah said Tuesday the move was done “out of an abundance of caution.”
Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina canceled plans for a two-day official visit to Japan starting March 30 because of the global outbreak. The foreign minister says the visit will be rescheduled.
The Endocrine Society, whose members are doctors that treat diabetes, obesity and other hormone-related conditions, has canceled its annual conference, which was to be March 28-31 in San Francisco. The meeting was expected to draw nearly 10,000 people. It’s the first time the scientific conference has not been held since World War II.
Two hundred guests who had been detained under quarantine for two weeks in a hotel on Spain’s Canary Islands have been allowed to leave.
On Tuesday they completed the 14-day quarantine ordered by authorities after an Italian guest tested positive for the coronavirus on Feb 24.
Authorities for the Canary Islands say that seven guests were eventually found to be infected, six Italians and one British citizen. Four of them remain in the hospital but without symptoms. The other three have been released.
Health authorities applied the quarantine to over 600 guests staying at the H10 Costa Adeje Palace on the island of Tenerife. After passing medical screenings, small groups had been allowed to leave before the final guests left on Tuesday.
Major European airlines are canceling flights to and from Italy after the country put a nationwide lock down on travel
British Airways said Tuesday it is canceled all flights and could not confirm the status of future flights.
Air France is reducing its traffic to Italy by half for all of March, and suspending flights to Hong Kong and Taipei until March 29. Air France has canceled 3,600 flights this month.
Ryanair, Europe’s busiest airline, canceled all international flights to and from Italy from Saturday until April 9. The carrier said passengers currently in Italy could fly home on one of the flights operating up to Friday night.
Spain’s Cabinet has banned direct flights between Italy and Spanish airports. Routes between Spain and Italy amount to 9% of all Spanish international air traffic. Some 16 million passengers took flights between the two countries last year.
Morocco has reported its first death of a person with the new virus, an 89-year-old woman with underlying medical problems who died in a Casablanca hospital.
It was only the second confirmed death in Africa, after one in Egypt over the weekend. The woman in Morocco had arrived from Italy, and was one of just two people in Morocco confirmed to have the virus.
Italy now has more coronavirus cases than anywhere but China, registering 9,172 infections with 463 deaths, and officials say they expect many, many more.
Hollywood continued to reschedule its upcoming movie releases due to the coronavirus, as Sony Pictures on Tuesday announced that it’s moving “Peter Rabbit 2” to August.
“Peter Rabbit 2” had been set to hit U.K. and European theaters on March 27, and open in the U.S. on April 3. Instead, Sony said the sequel to 2018’s “Peter Rabbit” will launch on Aug. 7.
Cinemas have been closed in China for several weeks. On Monday, Italy shuttered all of its theaters.
In many countries, health experts are advocating social distancing to help prevent the spread of the virus. Last week, the James Bond film “No Time to Die,” postponed from early April to November.
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