The Latest: Belgians can hear the birds sing in empty cities
The Latest on the world’s coronavirus pandemic:
Belgians woke up to a new reality on Saturday. On a sunny day when most would normally take advantage of the day to shop or sit on a terrace, everything, with the exception of pharmacies and supermarkets, was closed.
In the historic center of Antwerp a few people either rode their bicycles, jogged or curiously walked around taking photos of a rarity — being able to stop and look at something with ease without the worry of a crowd.
Birds could be heard singing around the cathedral.
In a sweeping measure, Belgium has closed schools, restaurants and bars as well as canceled sporting and cultural events in an effort to contain the coronavirus.
British budget airline Jet2 apparently turned back in midair all its planes bound for Spain as it announced the cancellation of all its flights to the country.
The company said it decided to cancel the flights as Spanish authorities moved to introduce tighter restrictions. “We know these local measures will have a significant impact on our customers’ holidays which is why we have taken this decision.”
Air traffic monitor Flightradar 24 said at least seven Jet2 flights with a destination in Spain turned around and came back to the U.K on Saturday.
Spain’s government is set to announce Saturday that it is placing tight restrictions on movement and closing restaurants and other establishments in the nation of 46 million people as part of a two-week state of emergency to fight the sharp rise in coronavirus infections.
The Associated Press has access to the draft of the battery of measures that Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez will announce in a nationally televised address.
According to the draft of the government order, people will only be allowed to leave their homes to buy food and medicine, commute to work, go to medical centers and banks, or take trips related to the care for the young and the elderly. Those limitations will take hold at Monday at 8 a.m.
A Chinese Red Cross team of nine doctors and researchers is in Rome, sharing experiences with staff at the Italian capital’s infectious diseases hospital.
Spallanzani Hospital health director Dr. Francesco Vaia on Saturday introduced the team to reporters as experts who were “on the front line” of the anti-COVID-19 efforts in China, which has suffered the world’s largest number of cases and deaths.
Speaking with a hospital mask, and through interpreters, one of the Chinese Red Cross members praised efforts in Italy, which for weeks has been grappling with Europe’s largest outbreak of the coronavirus. The member, whose name wasn’t immediately available said the Chinese, observing how the hospital is handling the cases, said the team believes the Italians have done a very good job. The team also visited the first patients to be treated in Italy for COVID-19: a Chinese couple, in their 60s who became ill in Rome several weeks ago while on vacation but who are now considered recovered.
Vaia gave some cautiously good news: Since Friday, the hospital, which also serves a wider area around Rome, has had no new cases.
India on Saturday declared COVID-19 as a “notified disaster” which would enable the country to provide assistance and spend more funds to fight the pandemic. The move came after the number of coronavirus cases in the country rose to 84, with two deaths. Ten people have recovered fully.
The health ministry said that more than 4,000 people who had contact with the confirmed cases are under surveillance.
On Saturday, a Hindu nationalist group that has ties with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, hosted a gathering where people drank cow urine, saying it could ward off the coronavirus.
Many Hindus consider the cow sacred and some drink cow urine believing it has medicinal properties. Experts have, however, repeatedly asserted that cow urine does not cure illnesses and there is no evidence that it can prevent coronavirus.
Over the past few days, India has ordered the closure of public buildings, cinemas and bars in several cities, and major sporting events have also been postponed. Several other states in India have also announced more limited restrictions, including the closure of some schools.
Apple CEO Tim Cook says the tech giant’s retail operation outside of China is going online-only for two weeks as part of efforts to fight the global viral pandemic.
Cook tweeted that “Apple will be temporarily closing all stores outside of Greater China until March 27 and committing $15M to help with worldwide recovery.”
In a lengthier online statement, Cook said that Apple’s stores in China have all now reopened and what the company has learned there has helped it develop “best practices that are assisting enormously in our global response.”
Apple’s online stores are still open and workers will continue to be paid, he said.
Health authorities in Spain say coronavirus infections have reached 5,753 people, of which almost 3,000 are in the capital, Madrid.
That represents a national increase of more than 1,500 in 24 hours.
No new figures for deaths were immediately announced, but as of Friday, Spain had recorded 120 COVID-19 deaths.
Spain’s Cabinet is meeting on Saturday to declare a two-week state of emergency, giving the government extraordinary powers that include restricting free movement.
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.
Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.