The Latest: Guterres says WHO is important for virus fight

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.


—Pentagon: Military coronavirus cases surge to nearly 2,000.

— WHO leader dodges questions on Trump’s criticism.

— British official says PM Boris Johnson improving.


UNITED NATIONS — United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is responding to U.S. President Donald Trump’s threatened cutoff of funding to the World Health Organization, saying the U.N. agency “is absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war against COVID-19” and must be supported.

The U.N. chief says the coronavirus pandemic “is unprecedented in our lifetime and requires an unprecedented response.”

“Obviously, in such conditions, it is possible that the same facts have had different readings by different entities,” Guterres says.

Once the pandemic ends, he says, there must be an investigation of how it emerged and spread so quickly as well as the reactions of all those involved in the crisis so lessons can be learned.

“But now is not that time,” the secretary-general says. “Now is the time for unity, for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences.”

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric says Guterres has been in touch with the World Health Organization and the U.S. administration “at various levels.”

The U.S. contributed nearly $900 million to WHO in 2018-2019, according to the agency’s website, representing about 20 percent of its $4.4 billion budget for those years.


LONDON — European planemaker Airbus is reducing production by about a third as demand for aircraft and travel plummets due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The company said it delivered 122 planes in the first quarter, but 60 remain undelivered. It delivered only 36 in March, down from 55 in February as airlines asked to defer orders as they face huge costs related to a near total shutdown on air travel.

CEO Guillaume Faury was unable to say how long the production cuts would last, saying only that Airbus would review its output on a monthly basis.

The company said it was keeping tight control on costs and has not yet applied for government support, though it said it may yet seek to tap European government schemes that help pay the salaries of workers put on temporary leave.


NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus has extended a strict stay-at-home order that includes a night-time curfew and a once-a-day restriction on going outside from April 13 to the end of the month in a bid to eliminate the spread of the coronavirus.

President Nicos Anastasiades says in a televised address that although experts assess that a slower rate of new infections offer a “ray of light,” there can be no let-up in existing measures that have successfully curtailed instances of the virus being brought into the country from abroad.

Anastasiades says the measures, including a ban on mass gatherings, apply to Orthodox Easter celebrations next week when the faithful traditionally inundate churches for Holy Week services and gather to celebrate Easter Sunday.


ANNAPOLIS, MD — Maryland recorded its largest daily increase in coronavirus yet on Wednesday, a rise Gov. Larry Hogan attributed to an “emerging hot spot” in the Baltimore-Washington corridor as well as increased testing.

The number of cases rose to 5,529, an increase from 4,370 on Tuesday, or nearly 27%. Deaths from the virus in Maryland increased to a total of 124, up from 103 the day before.

Hogan notes that Wednesday’s numbers “reflect a tripling of the tests reported” since Tuesday. He says Maryland is seeing commercial labs begin to clear their backlog of tests.


MEXICO CITY — The Mexican government says at least 108 Mexicans have died of complications related to COVID-19 in the United States, more than half of those in New York.

The actual number could be higher, because Mexico’s foreign ministry says in a statement that the figures only include deaths reported to its consulates.

Some 11 million Mexicans live in the United States, about 4.5 million without legal status.


ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s health minister says the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has increased by 4,117 in the past 24 hours, raising the total number of infections to 38,226.

Fahrettin Koca also reported 87 more deaths in the last 24 hours, bring the country’s death toll to 812.

The minister said 1,492 COVID-19 patients are currently in intensive care, including 995 who are intubated. At least 1,846 patients have recovered, according to figures Koca posted on his Twitter account.

The figures released Wednesday came as the World Health Organization expressed alarm over the “dramatic increase in virus spread” in Turkey over the last week.


WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s government has announced a second rescue plan for businesses, worth 100 billion zlotys ($24 billion; 22 billion euro).

It’s designed to save millions of jobs at a time when the economy is hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki says this new “anti-crisis shield” is addressed to businesses of all size provided they refrain from layoffs despite suffering 25% or more drop in turnover. Up to 75% of the state subsidies could later require no pay back.


ROME — Pressure on Italy’s intensive care units continued to ease, with 99 fewer beds occupied over the last 24 hours while the greatest number of people were counted as recovered since the pandemic hit Italy: 2,099.

It is the first time that the number of people who have been dismissed from the hospital has topped 2,000, and marks an increase of one-third over the number sent home a day earlier. Italy also saw the number of people who died with the coronavirus hit the lowest number in nearly a month, with 542 deaths since Tuesday, while the new cases crept up slightly to 3,836.

Ranieri Guerra, a representative of the World Health Organization, told reporters the improvements were a result of actions taken two or three weeks ago, which reinforces the necessity to continuing the containment measures.


CAPE TOWN, South Africa — A South African hospital says 47 of its health workers and staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Four patients have died from the virus at the St. Augustine’s Hospital in the east coast city of Durban since the outbreak started.

South Africa reported a total of 1,749 coronavirus cases and 13 deaths in its latest count on Tuesday night, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were 94 new cases reported across the entire country in that latest count so Wednesday’s announcement from the hospital attracted attention. Of the 47 workers that had contracted the virus, 33 were in self-isolation and the remaining 14 were being treated at St. Augustine’s, the company that runs the hospital says.


GENEVA — The World Health Organization chief sought to rise above sharp criticism and threats of funding cuts from U.S. President Donald Trump over the health agency’s response to the coronavirus, quipping: “Why would I care about being attacked when people are dying?”

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus admittedly dodged questions about Trump’s comments a day earlier, but said the agency was made up of humans “who make mistakes,” and said his key focus was saving lives, not playing politics.

“Please quarantine politicizing COVID,” he said, alluding to the COVID-19 disease linked to coronavirus infections. He made a heartfelt appeal with personal narrative and story-recounting to make his point.

“Without unity, we can assure you, every country will be in trouble,” said Tedros. “Unity at national level — no need to use COVID to score political points. You have many other ways to prove yourself.”

Trump on Tuesday accused WHO of being “China-centric” and criticized its alleged missteps, notably faulting WHO recommendations against travel bans to help stop the spread.


CEDAR SPRINGS, Mich. — A nursing home resident in western Michigan who died from COVID-19 complications repeatedly asked her Amazon Echo for help with pain, a TV station reported.

“Alexa, help me. … I am in pain. I have to find a way to relieve it,” LouAnn Dagen said in recordings found by her sister, Penny Dagen, and shared with WOOD-TV.

LouAnn Dagen, 66, died Saturday after arriving at Mercy Health St. Mary’s hospital in Grand Rapids.

She lived at Metron of Cedar Springs, which disclosed last week that 31 residents and five staff members had tested positive for the coronavirus and were quarantined.

Penny Dagen said her sister was getting medicine to help with pain. She said LouAnn, who had diabetes and hypertension, was taken to the hospital when her oxygen and blood pressure dropped.

“The hospital called me right away and said that they put her on a respirator,” Penny Dagen said. “They asked me about giving her CPR if her heart stopped and I said, ‘No, she didn’t want that.’ And then her heart stopped and that was it.”

Metron said LouAnn, a resident for more than 10 years, was “getting excellent care” and was taken to the hospital when her health changed.

“Alexa was LouAnn’s primary communication tool with her sister who was unable to get to our facility. … It was a very positive part of her life which we supported fully,” said operations director Paul Pruitt.


LONDON — Britain’s Treasury chief says Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s condition is improving in the intensive care unit of a London hospital.

Rishi Sunak says Johnson has been sitting up in bed and engaging with his doctors at St. Thomas’ Hospital.

Johnson was admitted to the hospital on Sunday, 10 days after being diagnosed with COVID-19. He was transferred to the ICU on Monday when his condition deteriorated.


LONDON — The British government imposed a lockdown on March 23, initially for three weeks. That period ends next week, and while the government says there will be a review, there is little chance of the measures being eased.

The number of cases and deaths is still rising, and the U.K. reported its biggest daily increase Wednesday to take the death toll to more than 7,000.

“We need to start seeing the numbers coming down,” Health Minister Edward Argar told the BBC. “That’s when you have a sense, when that’s sustained over a period of time, that you can see it coming out of that. ”

Mark Drakeford, the leader of Wales, said it was clear “these restrictions will not end” next week.

“We will not throw away the gains we have made and the lives we have saved by abandoning our efforts just as they begin to bear fruit,” he said.


WASHINGTON — The Navy says the number of sailors on the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt testing positive for the coronavirus had increased to 286.

The number has been steadily growing since the ship docked in Guam after an outbreak of the virus was discovered.

The Navy said nearly all of the crew has been tested for the virus. But they are still awaiting the results of some of the tests. Crew members who test negative are being sent ashore for quarantine.


WASHINGTON — Melania Trump released a brief video message of appreciation directed to the medical personnel and other front-line responders fighting the virus in the United States.

“It is because of you that the people of America are receiving the care and treatment they need,” the first lady says in the video, which was recorded as she stood outside on a White House balcony.

“We stand united with you and we salute your courageous and compassionate efforts. Our prayers are with all who are fighting this invisible enemy, COVID-19.”


WASHINGTON — Scientific advisers are telling the White House there’s no good evidence yet that the warmer temperatures and higher humidity of spring and summer will really help tamp down the new coronavirus without continued public health measures.

Researchers convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine analyzed studies done so far to test virus survival under different laboratory conditions as well as tracking where and how COVID-19 has spread.

“Given that countries currently in ‘summer’ climates, such as Australia and Iran, are experiencing rapid virus spread, a decrease in cases with increases in humidity and temperature elsewhere should not be assumed,” the researchers wrote in response to questions from the White House Office of Science and Technology.

They noted that during 10 previous flu pandemics, regardless of what season they started, all had a peak second wave about six months after the virus first emerged.


TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will attend a cabinet meeting in person on Wednesday after spending weeks in self isolation after his wife tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Sophie Gregoire Trudeau announced on March 28 that she recovered from the virus but the prime minister continued to self-isolate at home on the advice of health officials.

Trudeau’s office announced on March 13 that she had tested positive after she fell ill upon returning from a trip to London.

Justin Trudeau has been giving daily news conferences outside his residence. His wife took their three children to the prime minister’s summer residence after she recovered.


WASHINGTON — The Pentagon says the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the military has surged to nearly 2,000.

Last weekend the number topped 1,000, and one week ago it stood at 771.

Among the services, the active duty Navy has the most cases, with more than 500. The Army has 470.


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