The Latest: Conte eyes strong EU response to coronavirus
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.
TOP OF THE HOUR:
—Spain’s deadliest day has over 800 deaths, over 8,000 news cases.
—Trump raises idea of quarantine for some hard-hit areas.
—Italy’s COVID-19 deaths down slightly from previous day.
ROME — Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte is hoping the European Union will put together a cohesive response to the plight of countries like his, whose economy has been crippled by the coronavirus outbreak.
Conte vowed to fight “to my very last drop of sweat” to prompt a “strong and cohesive European response.” Conte echoed an appeal the same evening by Spain, which is also reeling under a devastating COVID-19 outbreak.
Conte called the crisis “an appointment with history. Europe must say if it’s ready for this appointment” to effectively deal with social and economic shock wreaked by the pandemic.
Germany and the Netherlands are leading other EU nations in resisting calls for an issuance of joint European debt, colloquially dubbed “coronabonds.” Italian Finance Minister Roberto Gualtieri expressed dismay that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in an interview described the bond idea as a “only a slogan.”
WARSAW, Poland — Poland President Andrzej Duda says the May 10 date for the presidential election may not be realistic if the coronavirus spread continues and Poland remains under the current strict isolation regime for the citizens.
Duda’s words were the first sign from the ruling team that the elections may not be held as planned.
Earlier Saturday, the ruling right-wing Law and Justice party had the parliament approve changes to the electoral law to allow sick, quarantined and elderly people to vote remotely, in a clear preparation for May election.
PARIS — France has ordered more than one billion protective masks, mainly from China, to try to make up for a shortage that is being felt in nations fighting the coronavirus pandemic, Health Minister Olivier Veran announced.
But French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, noting tensions in world markets, suggested at a news conference that traffickers and black marketeers are now in the mask business, given the competition in procuring the vital necessity for health workers.
Veran said that an “air bridge” to China was being put in place, but “I will have the certitude (the masks arrived) … only the minute the planes are on the tarmac.” He said one major difficulty is that countries already hit by the virus remain vigilant that should the epidemic return they are equipped.
As of Saturday, France had 37,575 confirmed cases and 2,314 deaths — with 319 new deaths in the last 24 hours, health authorities said.
The prime minister warned the French that “the fight has just begun.”
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican and close ally of President Donald Trump, tells reporters he had spoken with the president about the possibility of a coronavirus quarantine for the New York City area.
DeSantis says Florida will soon set up a checkpoint along Interstate 95 to screen travelers from that area, similar to one already in place along Interstate 10 to screen people from Louisiana. Many airports in Florida also are screening travelers from certain areas, requiring travelers to self-isolate for 14 days.
“I think whatever works is what we need to do,” DeSantis said. “We’re either fighting the virus or we’re not. The more people are being shuttled around the country, I just think it makes it more difficult. I think it would make it a lot easier if we didn’t have folks coming in from hot zones.”
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Leaders of several South Carolina cities say they are defying Gov. Henry McMaster’s opposition to stay-at-home orders and Attorney General Alan Wilson’s opinion that only McMaster can issue such measures.
In Folly Beach, where town officials had removed their checkpoint and had allowed vacation rentals to resume, the city council unanimously voted to re-establish the checkpoint and ban any new short-term rentals beginning Sunday.
Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin says on Twitter that his city’s stay-at-home order would take effect at 12:01 a.m. Sunday as scheduled. He says Wilson’s Friday opinion is “incorrect on a constitutional and statutory basis.”
ROME — Three weeks into national containment measures that have shut down most shops and non-essential industry, many Italians are hurting for food money during the lockdown amid the country’s devastating COVID-19 outbreak.
Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte told the nation he has signed a decree freeing up 400 million euros ($440 million) for food coupons and packages of food aid. Volunteers from Italy’s national Civil Protection agency will bring food to those who must stay at home because they are in quarantine or ill with the coronavirus.
Conte appealed to large supermarket chains to give discounts of 5-10% to people presenting the special coupons. Said Conte: “People are suffering psychologically, they’re not used to staying in their homes. But they are also suffering economically.”
Conte declined to say when the lockdown could be ended or eased.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tourism officials say the Beale Street Music Festival and the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest have been rescheduled for the fall after they were postponed because of the new coronavirus outbreak.
Memphis in May officials said in a statement that the barbecue cooking competition has been reset for Sept. 30 through Oct. 3. The music festival has been rescheduled for Oct. 16 through Oct. 18.
Both events are the cornerstones of the city’s monthlong tourist event in May. They attract music fans and barbecue cooking teams from around the world.
The Great American River Run also had been postponed. It has been reset for Oct. 31.
Meanwhile, Elvis Presley’s Graceland said it is extending its closure through April 19.
BERLIN — Twelve residents of a nursing home in northern Germany have died after being infected with the coronavirus.
Authorities say the 12 residents of the home in Wolfsburg died since Monday, news agency dpa reported. Mayor Klaus Mohrs said several hadn’t shown symptoms of COVID-19.
Local officials said 72 of the roughly 165 residents had been infected with the coronavirus, and they were separated from those who tested negative.
Another nursing home in the southern German city of Wuerzburg also has reported 12 deaths.
Germany has confirmed more than 56,000 infections with the coronavirus, including 403 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. That is a lower death rate than in many other countries.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island announced its first two deaths from the coronavirus on the same day that the state National Guard was expected to go door to door in coastal communities to find visitors from New York.
One person in their 80s died Friday night, the other person in their 70s died Saturday, the state Department of Health said.
There are now only three states with zero reported deaths: Hawaii, West Virginia and Wyoming.
The Guard was said to be asking people if they are visiting from New York and telling them about the mandatory 14-day quarantine for people from the state. The measure is needed to help control the spread of the new coronavirus because the New York City area is the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S., Gov. Gina Raimondo said Friday.
MADRID — Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says the future of the European Union is at stake if it fails to make a vigorous, united response to the coronavirus outbreak devastating the bloc’s southern flank.
“It’s Europe’s time to act. Europe is at risk,” Sánchez says in a nationally televised address.
Sánchez says the EU could not repeat the hard-love austerity strategy it employed during the 2008 recession when countries like Greece and Portugal were forced to request a bailout and slash their budgets.
He calls for a “new Marshall Plan” to help lighten the burden on the hardest-hit countries and cushion the inevitable blow coming from the drop in economic activity.
Italy and Spain lead the world in deaths reported from the virus with more than 15,000 between them.
MADRID — Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has announced his government will order a two-week ban on commuting to all non-essential businesses starting on Monday.
Sánchez says in a publicly televised address that all workers are ordered to remain at home “as if it were a weekend” to “intensify” efforts to stem the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Spain is approaching the end of the second week of stay-at-home rules and the closing of most stores, but workers were allowed to go to offices and factories if they were unable to work from home.
Spain reported 832 deaths Saturday for a total of 5,690 fatalities, to go with 72,248 infections. Its health authorities say, however, that the rate of infection growth appears to be slowing.
NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration is asking for donations of protective equipment.
The donations can be dropped off at Salvation Army drop boxes next to New Orleans Fire Department stations. Items being accepted include masks, gloves, disposable medical gowns, goggles and face shields.
“Like many places around the world, orders of PPE equipment made back in November 2019 have yet to be filled and our supply is running low. Any additional equipment the public can donate at this time will help keep our first responders safe and out on the streets,” New Orleans Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Director Collin Arnold said.
New Orleans is one of the nation’s hot spots for coronavirus.
ROME — Italy’s COVID-19 deaths are down slightly from the previous day.
Civil Protection officials said there were 889 deaths in a 24-hour period ending Saturday evening in the country, where intensive care units have been overwhelmed at the heart of the outbreak in the north. That compares to 969 a day earlier, which was a one-day high in the country which has the world’s highest number of deaths of persons with confirmed cases of the coronavirus.
The day-to-day rise in new cases was just under 6,000, about the same as the previous day’s figure. Overall, Italy has at least 92,472 cases of COVID-19 and days ago surpassed the total of China, where the outbreak began in early 2020.
The current national lock-down decree expires on April 3, but health experts have said the need to try to contain contagion in the outbreak will likely last weeks beyond that.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is raising the idea of what he’s calling a quarantine involving New York and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut, states hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
But Democratic Gov. Andrews Cuomo of New York says he “doesn’t even know what that means,” and says the subject never came up in a conversation he had with Trump earlier Saturday.
Trump tells reporters at the White House that he had just spoken with some governors and the idea of a quarantine was discussed.
Trump says it would be for a “short period of time if we do it at all.”
The federal government generally doesn’t not have the power to impose such restrictions on states. They have the power and responsibIlity for maintaining public order and safety.
Trump made the comments on his way to Norfolk, Virginia, to see off a U.S. Navy medical ship en route to New York City to help with pandemic response there.
UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has announced the donation of 250,000 protective face masks, which had just been located in United Nations storage facilities, to the United States for use in hard-hit New York City.
The U.N. chief says: “These masks, in surplus to United Nations requirements, will be given to the medical professionals in New York City who have been working courageously, selflessly, and tirelessly in response to the spread of COVID-19 across the boroughs in the hope that they play some small role in saving lives.”
Guterres says the United Nations and the U.S. Mission to the U.N. are working with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office to ensure swift delivery of the masks to medical facilities around the city.
“On behalf of the U.N. community and the diplomatic corps, we sincerely hope this modest donation makes a difference,” Guterres said.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has approved a major disaster declaration for Michigan, providing additional money to help the state address the COVID-19 pandemic.
The declaration announced by the White House on Saturday follows a back-and-forth between Trump and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has criticized the Trump administration for its slow response to the pandemic, saying “we cannot weather this alone.”
The U.S. surgeon general said Friday that Detroit, a national “hot spot” for cases of the new coronavirus, will worsen next week. More than 3,600 people in Michigan were confirmed to have COVID-19 Friday. At least 92 have died, most from the three counties in the Detroit area, according to state officials.
Detroit has recorded 28 deaths and 1,166 cases, according to the city’s health department.