The Latest: Girl, 12, in Belgium dies from 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:
— United States poised to surpass China’s toll of 3,300 deaths.
— 12-year-old girl in Belgium dies of the coronavirus.
— Russia registers 500 new cases of the virus.
— China delays its national college entrance exam.
BRUSSELS — Belgian authorities say a 12-year-old girl has died of the coronavirus, by far the youngest person among the more than 700 victims in the country.
Announcing the news Tuesday, national crisis-center coronavirus spokesman Emmanuel Andre said it is “an emotionally difficult moment, because it involves a child, and it has also upset the medical and scientific community.”
“We are thinking of her family and friends. It is an event that is very rare, but one which upsets us greatly,” Andre said. No details about the girl were provided.
He said that 98 people had died from the disease over the last 24 hours, bringing the total toll to 705 in a country of around 11.5 million people. More than 12,705 cases have been confirmed in total so far.
Andre said that Belgian authorities expect the spread of the disease to reach its peak in coming days, and that “we will arrive at a point where we’re close to saturation point at our hospitals.”
MOSCOW — Russia registered 500 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus on Tuesday in the biggest spike since the beginning of the outbreak that brought the country’s total to 2,337 cases.
The report comes as Russia edges closer to declaring a state of emergency, with many regions and cities ordering lockdowns and sweeping self-isolation protocols.
Moscow, the country’s capital, has been on lockdown since Monday, with most businesses closed and residents not allowed to leave their apartments except for grocery shopping, buying medicines, taking out trash or walking their dogs. Similar regimes are in place in more than 30 Russian regions.
Human rights advocates and lawyers in Russia argue that, in accordance with the Russian legislation, such lockdowns can’t be legally enforced until the state of emergency is declared by the president. The Kremlin has so far said that Moscow authorities have been within their rights to impose a lockdown.
On Tuesday, the State Duma, Russia’s lower parliament house, hastily adopted a law allowing the Cabinet to declare the state of emergency, rubber-stamping it through all three required readings in one day.
BEIJING — China will delay the national college entrance exam by a month to ensure the health of students and allow more time for them to prepare, the education ministry announced Tuesday.
Amid sharply declining numbers of virus cases, the hugely important exam will now be held on July 7 and 8. However, the capital Beijing and hardest-hit Hubei Province “can put forward their proposals on the exam dates for their regions” and publish the schedule after gaining approval from the ministry, the announcement said.
More than 10 million students plan to take the exam this year. Schools in some regions have begun to reopen, although ministry officials say the restart of classes will happen gradually, under tight hygienic conditions and only in areas where the threat of the virus is lowest.
China “has passed through the most dangerous, most critical stage of the crisis,” but can’t afford to let its guard down, Ma Xiaowei, director of the National Health Commission, told reporters at a separate news conference Tuesday.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said Denmark could start lifting some restrictions next month if the coronavirus curve continues to flatten out.
Frederiksen said late Monday that if Danes continue to stand together — at a distance — the government will consider gradually opening up in two weeks’ time.
She underlined that the crisis was far from over but there was growing evidence that Denmark, which started a gradual lockdown on March 11, had “succeeded in delaying the infection,” adding it gave “a rise to optimism.”
Also in the Nordic region, Finland has decided to extend by a month the duration of the emergency conditions in the southern part of the country affecting the daily lives of some 1.7 million people, nearly a third of Finland’s population.
The measures set by the Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s government were originally set to expire April 13 but the restrictions, now extended to May 13, were aimed at slowing “down the spread of coronavirus infections and to protect those at risk.”
LONDON — British supermarkets had their busiest month in history as demand soared from people preparing to stay at home to avoid the new coronavirus.
New figures from market research firm Kantar show that British grocery sales jumped by 20.6% in March compared with a year earlier, making it the fastest rate of growth on record.
As Britain prepared for a lockdown, images of supermarket shelves stripped of essentials like pasta and toilet paper circulated on social media, prompting British supermarkets to take out newspaper ads urging people not to panic buy.
Grocery sales totaled 10.8 billion pounds ($13.3 billion) over the past four weeks, surpassing the level seen during the busy Christmas season, Kantar said. The average household bought the equivalent of five extra days of groceries, it found.
NEW DELHI — A neighborhood in the Indian capital where a religious sect is headquartered has been sealed off from outsiders after police evacuated more than 1,000 people believed to have been exposed to the coronavirus during a religious gathering earlier this month before the government imposed the world’s largest lockdown.
Police said on Tuesday that hundreds of people, many of them foreign nationals, carried the virus to several other parts of India after attending a mosque in the crowded majority-Muslim enclave of Nizamuddin West.
Paramedics have transported hundreds of Muslim worshippers to nearby quarantine facilities. Officials say at least 300 people have symptoms of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus.
Officials in other Indian states raced to confine others who attended the Nizamuddin mosque.
India has 1,200 confirmed cases of the coronavirus across the country, including 32 deaths, a quarter of which have been linked to the gathering.
A 21-day long nationwide lockdown that began last week has resulted in the suspension of trains and airline services and effectively kept 1.3 billion Indians at home for all but essential trips to places like markets or pharmacies.
The overall number of known cases in India is small compared with the United States, Italy and China, but health experts say India could be weeks away from a huge surge that could overwhelm its already strained public health system.
JOHANNESBURG — Africa’s confirmed coronavirus cases are now above 5,000.
The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 47 of the continent’s 54 countries now have cases, with 5,255 in all. That includes 173 deaths. But shortages of testing materials mean the real number of cases could be higher.
South Africa’s president on Monday night announced that the country, which has the most cases in Africa with 1,326, will launch a mass screening and testing program with about 10,000 field workers going door-to-door. And, Uganda and Botswana are the latest countries to impose a lockdown in an effort to prevent the virus’ spread.
ATHENS, Greece — Greek authorities are banning access to a popular pedestrian waterfront area in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, after good weather saw people congregating despite the country’s lockdown measures due to the new coronavirus.
Greece’s civil protection authority said access would only be allowed between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekdays, starting Tuesday. Barriers were to be set up on roads and paths leading to the waterfront to prevent people from reaching the pedestrian area.
Greece’s lockdown regulations allow people to leave their houses only for specific reasons: to buy food or medicine, visit a doctor, help someone in need, exercise, walk a pet or attend the funeral of an immediate relative. Self-declaration documents must be carried, and many used the reasons of exercise or walking a pet to access the Thessaloniki waterfront on Sunday and Monday.
LONDON — British Airways has suspended all its flights at Gatwick Airport amid a collapse in demand because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The carrier says that “restrictions and challenging market environment,” led to the decision.
The aviation industry has been hard-hit by the pandemic that has prompted travelers around the world to stay home.
Airports themselves are also slowing down. Just 33 flights were due to take off or land at Gatwick on Tuesday, according to aviation data provider FlightStats. Beginning Wednesday, Gatwick’s runway will only be open for scheduled flights between 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. and will close one of its two terminals.
London City Airport closed its runway to usual traffic last week.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has pushed back its national college exam by two weeks to Dec. 3 following a delay in school years amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae’s announcement on Tuesday came hours after Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun revealed a government decision to keep schools shut while they launch unprecedented online classes beginning next week.
College admissions are a highly sensitive matter in South Korea, where graduating from elite universities is seen as critical in career and wealth prospects.
During the national exam day, government offices and companies start work an hour late, flights are put on hold and police use their cars and motorbikes to transport students running late, while parents flock to churches and Buddhist temples to pray.
South Korea had postponed the beginning of the new school year at kindergartens, elementary, middle and high schools three different times amid the spread of the virus. The previous plan was to open on April 6, which was five weeks later than usual.
NEW YORK — The mounting death toll from the virus outbreak had the United States poised Tuesday to surpass China’s grim toll of 3,300 deaths, with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo saying up to 1 million more healthcare workers were needed. “Please come help us,” he urged.
Hard-hit Italy and Spain have already overtaken China and now account for more than half of the nearly 38,000 COVID-19 deaths worldwide, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.
But the World Health Organization warned that while attention has shifted to epicenters in Western Europe and North America, the coronavirus pandemic was far from over in Asia.
“This is going to be a long-term battle and we cannot let down our guard,” said Dr. Takeshi Kasai, the WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific. “We need every country to keep responding according to their local situation.”
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia will close its doors to foreign arrivals in an attempt to curb the coronavirus spread, and the country plans to bring home more than a million nationals working abroad.
Foreign minister Retno Marsudi announced Tuesday that all foreigners will be temporarily banned from visiting and traveling in Indonesia territories, except for diplomatic corps and those who hold a residence permit.
The restriction will take effect later this week, Marsudi said.
She said the government would protect the health of nationals stranded abroad amid the coronavirus crisis, and has decided to repatriate more than a million Indonesian migrant workers from neighboring Malaysia.
Indonesia’s latest tally of COVID-19 cases rose to 1,414, with 122 reported deaths.
HANOI — Vietnam will lock down the country for at least two weeks starting at midnight Wednesday in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.
In an order by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on Tuesday, no gathering of more than two people will be allowed, and businesses must be closed except for essential services and manufacturing.
“It’s going to be the crucial two weeks for Vietnam to curb the spread of the virus,” Phuc said to his cabinet during a televised meeting.
Vietnam has reported 204 cases of the new coronavirus, but no deaths.
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