The Latest: British government expected to extend lockdown

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.


— China, Europe show that restarting virus-hit economies is not easy.

— The British government is expected to extend its nationwide lockdown for several more weeks.

— Japan’s prime minister considers expanding the country’s state of emergency.

— A mafia boss is set free as Turkish prisons release inmates due to the coronavirus.


LONDON — The British government is set to extend a nationwide lockdown for several more weeks, as health officials say the coronavirus outbreak in the country is peaking.

Authorities are expected to announce an extension of restrictions on movement and business activity after a meeting Thursday of the government’s crisis committee, COBRA.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said “it is too early to make a change” to the lockdown introduced on March 23 in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.

But as other European countries cautiously ease their measures, U.K. authorities face pressure to explain when and how the country will reopen.

As of Wednesday, 12,868 people had died in U.K. hospitals after testing positive for coronavirus. The figure does not include deaths in nursing homes and other settings.

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said the U.K. is “probably reaching the peak overall” but that officials are “not yet at the point where we can say confidently and safely this is now past the peak.”


TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is considering expanding an ongoing state of emergency to all of Japan from just Tokyo and other urban areas as the virus continued to spread.

He convened a meeting Thursday to get approval from experts — a step he needs to clear before issuing a declaration. An approval is expected later in the day.

In his opening remarks at the experts meeting, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said the ongoing partial state of emergency cannot effectively slow the infections because people move in and out of the designated areas.

Abe’s April 7 state of declaration only covers Tokyo and six other prefectures deemed at highest risks of infection explosion. He initially issued a stay home request only to the people in those areas, though later expanded it to the rest of the country.

Additional measures, including nonessential business closures, are in place only in Tokyo and six other prefectures. In Japan, those measures do not carry penalties.

Abe’s coronavirus measures have been criticized for being too slow and too lax. Several local leaders have asked Abe to include their prefectures as part of the emergency, others have launched their own.


ISTANBUL — A mafia boss has been set free as Turkish prisons continue releasing inmates to ease overcrowding in prisons amid the coronavirus pandemic. The new amnesty law will free some 90,000 prisoners but keep government critics behind bars due to Turkey’s broad terror laws.

Ultranationalist Alaattin Cakici, imprisoned for 16 years, was released from an Ankara prison early Thursday, according to tweets by his lawyer. Private DHA and IHA news agencies filmed his convoy leaving the prison. Among his convictions are instigating murder, money laundering and leading an illegal criminal group.

Cakici is close to nationalist politician Devlet Bahceli, who is allied with the Turkish government.

Dozens of journalists, activists, opposition politicians and others will remain incarcerated because many of them have been imprisoned on terror-related charges. Opposition parties and rights groups have criticized the new law, which was published on the Official Gazette Wednesday.


LONDON — A 99-year-old military veteran has completed his quest to walk 100 laps of his garden to raise funds for the National Health Service.

Capt. Tom Moore raised some 12 million pounds ($14 million) to support health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

As he reached his goal, he shuffled through a guard of honor from the 1st Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment and said he was glad to be “surrounded by the right sort of people.”

Moore, who uses a walker, sought to walk 100 laps in his 25-meter (82-foot) garden before he turned 100 on April 30. But his simple act captivated the nation in a time of crisis.

Celebrities, fellow veterans, health workers and many other Britons have rallied behind Moore after the World War II veteran appeared on national television.


BRUSSELS — A top European Union official says the 27-nation bloc will reshape its next trillion-euro budget to focus on tackling the coronavirus and funnel much of the spending into the first few years.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told EU lawmakers Thursday that the new 7-year budget set to enter force in January “will be the mother-ship of our recovery.”

Von der Leyen, whose institution is drafting a new spending package, says the budget “must be different to what we have imagined” given the way the virus is ravaging Europe’s economies.

She says “we will use the power of the whole European budget to leverage the huge amount of investment we need to rebuild the single market after corona. We will front-load it, so we can power that investment in those crucial first years of recovery.”

Talks on the budget, which accounts for just over 1% of the gross national income of member countries, have been blocked for almost a year.

Some countries are reluctant to pay more to plug the roughly 75-billion-euro ($81 billion) hole left by Britain’s departure from the EU.


COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Danish government says it is suspending with immediate effect the mandatory handshake as required by a law saying that nationalized Danes are to be shaking hands with official representatives at citizenship ceremonies.

Immigration and integration minister Mathias Tesfaye, a Social Democrat, said Thursday that an upcoming law proposal to renew the 2018 law will not make it mandatory for would-be Danes to shake hands, citing the coronavirus and advice from health authorities not to infect others by giving hand.

The law, presented by the previous center-right government that had a hardliner approach to immigration, is widely seen as aimed at some Muslims who for religious reasons decline to touch members of the opposite sex.

“I cannot say when we will give hand to each other again. But we cannot allow thousands of applicants to wait indefinitely to become citizens,” said Tesfaye, a member of the Social Democratic Party which initially had opposed the law but reverse its stand and maintained it when they got to power last year.

“They meet all other requirements. Therefore, we will pause the rule of handshake. I think that’s common sense.”


SINGAPORE — Singapore officers patrolling the city-state to enforce safe distancing measures have met some nasty response.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said criminal force has been used by recalcitrant citizens against a number of officers on the frontline.

He said an enforcement officer was slapped Wednesday by a man who didn’t comply with safe distancing measures, while a volunteer Safe Distancing Ambassador was punched after advising an errant member of the public to wear his mask properly. He wrote in a Facebook post that these were but two cases that the police will investigate.

Masagos warned that such behavior was unacceptable and that action would be taken against these individuals. He said authorities have set up a mobile app for members of the public to flag instances of such misbehavior and send other feedback on the safe distancing measures.

Enforcement officers were Thursday given special passes and red armbands for the public to identify them.

Singapore has reported 1,167 new coronavirus cases in the past three days to take its tally to 3,699, with 10 deaths. Most of the new cases are linked to foreign workers living in cramped dormitories, who now account for about half of total infections.

The city-state of under six million people has imposed a partial lockdown until May 4 and made it mandatory for people to wear masks outside their homes.


PRAGUE — No one died of COVID-19 in the Czech Republic’s hospitals on Wednesday, the first day without a fatality since March 23.

Seventy five people needed intensive care in hospitals, a number dropping for the fourth straight day.

The labs detected 160 new cases of people infected with the coronavirus, the first time over 100 after three days with less than a hundred cases.

A total of 6,303 people have been tested positive in the Czech Republic, according to Health Ministry figures released on Thursday, 166 have died.

Due to the relatively positive development, the government has unveiled a plan to gradually relax some restrictions imposed to contain the pandemic.


LJUBLJANA, Slovenia — Slovenia has announced easing of some of the lockdown measures following a slowdown in a number of infections with the new coronavirus in the Alpine nation.

Starting this weekend, thousands of Slovenians who own holiday homes will be allowed to leave their municipalities of residence to visit the properties in the countryside and spend time there.

The government late on Wednesday also allowed some sport activities that do not entail close contact, such as yoga, cycling or tennis.

Slovenia’s official news agency STA said the government move presents the ‘first significant’ easing of anti-virus measures in the European Union country.

Authorities have said that Slovenia would cautiously proceed with the relaxation of measures to make sure the situation does not worsen.

Slovenia has reported 1,248 infections in the country of some 2 million people. The STA agency says most of the 61 fatalities have been nursing home residents.


ISLAMABAD — The International Monetary Fund warns Pakistan’s budget deficit could reach record levels hitting 4 trillion Pakistani rupees ($23.7 billion) this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, accounting for nearly 9.2% of gross domestic product.

The grim statistics were laid out in an IMF report released this week, just days after Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan issued a global appeal to the world’s richest countries and international lending institutions to provide debt relief to the developing world, already coping with devastated economies further crippled by the virus.

The IMF has already announced 25 countries would be given debt relief, but Pakistan was not among the 25.

Pakistan on Thursday recorded 6,505 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 124 deaths. Pakistan carries out roughly 3,200 tests daily, a small amount in a country of 220 million.


CANBERRA, Australia — Australia is planning a business-as-usual week of Parliament in May in an indication that the country is weathering the coronavirus pandemic better than the government had feared.

Parliament’s schedule was scrapped a week into March and a scaled-down Parliament has sat on only two days since to pass billions of dollars in emergency economic stimulus measures. After the Parliament sat last week, lawmakers were not expected to convene in the national capital Canberra again before August.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday he will discuss with the opposition and state leaders arranging for lawmakers to return to Canberra for a “trial week” in May to conduct the “normal business of Parliament.” The aim of the trial is for Parliament to sit on a regular basis.

Morrison told reporters: “That is an indicator of us trying to get back at least to some form of new normal.”

Obstacles include a shortage of domestic flights and most states demanding interstate travelers quarantine in hotels for two weeks.

Australia has recorded 6,457 cases of COVID-19, mostly infected overseas, but new detections have recently slowed to fewer than 50 a day. The death toll stands at 63 on Thursday with 42 patients in intensive care.


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