The Latest: Italy Catholic charity decries nursing home use
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
— Spaniards staying home during Holy Week.
— Dr. Fauci: Don’t assume virus fades in warm weather.
— Germany’s Merkel stresses discipline, ‘cautious optimism’ in virus fight.
— British PM Boris Johnson continues to improve in ICU.
ROME — One of Italy’s most influential Catholic charities is demanding the government guarantee access to health care for residents of nursing homes after hundreds have died during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Sant’Egidio Community, which is close to the Vatican, says it was “scandalous” some eldercare homes were being used as wards for recovering COVID-19 patients.
Prosecutors have already launched a criminal investigation into Italy’s largest nursing home, the 1,000-bed Pio Albergho Trivulzio facility in Milan, following complaints that management downplayed the risk of infection after accepting recovering virus patients.
The scandal at Trivulzio has underscored the overall problem in Europe of huge numbers of dead in nursing homes and the lack of coherent data about how many residents had the virus.
PARIS — Locked-down Paris has been blessed by the bishop of the French capital.
Archbishop Michel Aupetit blessed both Paris and its inhabitants, a spiritual and symbolic gesture on Maundy Thursday before Easter celebrations.
He looked down on the unusually quiet city from the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the heights of Montmartre.
France has been in a coronavirus lockdown since March 17. All gatherings including church services are banned to slow the spread of the disease.
France has more than 10,000 deaths nationwide and more than 83,000 infected. Paris and its surrounding area are among the hardest-hit regions.
SINGAPORE — Singapore has registered its highest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases, increasing by 287 to total 1,910.
Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong says more than 200 of the new cases were linked to foreign workers living in dormitories.
He says the spike was partly because of increased testing among such workers, whose dormitory living conditions make them more vulnerable to infections.
Singapore, with a population of about 6 million, is one of the region’s most prosperous nations but reliant on migrant labor for many lower-paid jobs. Its recorded six deaths from the virus.
BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary’s prime minister says restrictions introduced March 28 to make people stay at home will be extended indefinitely.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban credited the “judicious and successful” restrictions with slowing the rate of coronavirus infections.
Orban says the restrictions would be reviewed weekly and mayors may impose stricter rules in their own jurisdictions until Monday night. This is meant to prevent tourists from overwhelming popular destinations during the Easter break.
Hungary has 980 cases of the coronavirus and 66 deaths.
MADRID — Holy Week is the busiest travel period in Spain — aside from August vacations — when families normally flee cities for the country and its centuries-old religious processions.
Spaniards have responded to the strict confinement rules applied more than three weeks ago to stem a coronavirus outbreak that has left more than 15,000 dead and 150,000 infected. People are only allowed to leave home for essential shopping and dog walking.
Authorities have made extra calls for people to remain at home during the traditional April break.
Transit official María José Rallo says traffic dropped by nearly 80% this week compared to the same time last year. Police say roadblocks set up on Wednesday handed out nearly 4,000 citations for unauthorized travel.
BANGKOK — Officials in Thailand’s resort island of Phuket are ordering an all- neighborhood lockdown for at least 14 days to confine people to their homes so health workers can carry out door-to-door temperature checks to find possible cases of COVID-19 infection.
The order starting Monday applies to the entire province of about 430,000 people, which hosts more than 10 million visitors a year. It prohibits travel between districts and tells people to stay home.
Phuket has been one of the most aggressive provinces in the fight against the coronavirus, cutting off most air and sea access and cracking down on public gatherings.
It has the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases after Bangkok, a total of 161 with one death. Thailand has a total of 2,423 cases.
KAMPALA, Uganda — Uganda’s 75-year-old president has released a homemade exercise video to show citizens they can stay in shape under lockdown.
President Yoweri Museveni had announced exercising outdoors was banned under new coronavirus restrictions.
The video shows the president, barefoot and in gray warm-up gear, jogging around his vast, red-carpeted office.
“You can do as many laps as you want,” he says. Then he completes 30 push-ups.
BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel says Germany’s coronavirus figures give grounds for “cautious optimism” but the situation is “fragile.”
She is urging people to remain disciplined in respecting restrictions on public life during Easter.
Germany has shut schools, bars, most shops and banned gatherings of more than two people in public. Those restrictions will remain at least through April 19.
There are increasing calls in Germany for an exit strategy from the restrictions.
Merkel says, “We must keep this up over Easter and the days afterward, because we could very, very quickly destroy what we have achieved.”
Germany has more than 113,000 infections. About 2,300 people have died, a death rate lower than most countries.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says border crossings with Germany and Belgium could be temporarily closed over the Easter weekend if there is too much traffic.
Belgian and German tourists traditionally flock to the Netherlands over Easter. But the Dutch government is actively discouraging them from visiting amid restrictions and social distancing measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Rutte says Dutch authorities are working with Belgian and German colleagues and “where necessary security authorities in the border regions can decide to completely close certain roads, if that is necessary.”
MINSK, Belarus — The mayor of Ukraine’s capital says the coronavirus has hit the Pechersk Monastery, infecting more than half the monks at the renowned religious and tourist site.
Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko says 26 of the 44 monks at the monastery have been diagnosed with infections. No deaths have been reported.
The monastery is known for its extensive system of caves and tunnels, containing centuries-old cells for monks and burial places.
BERLIN — Germany’s national disease control center says it plans to conduct a series of blood tests to determine how many people in the country are immune to COVID-19 and how many were infected without knowing it.
Lothar Wieler, the head of the Robert Koch Institute, says starting next week antibody tests will be carried out on blood given by donors around the country. His institute anticipates up to 5,000 samples conducted every 14 days, with results starting in early May.
A second survey will examine blood from about 2,000 people from each of four infection “hot spots” in Germany. And a third will look at a representative sample of some 15.000 people across the country, with results expected in June.
Germany has confirmed more than 113,000 infections, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. More than 2,300 people have died, a death rate lower than many countries.
JOHANNESBURG — All members of Botswana’s parliament have been placed in mandatory quarantine.
That comes after one of the country’s coronavirus cases involved a health worker who attended the parliament session on Wednesday.
The government of the southern African nation says some of the lawmakers interacted with the health worker.
Botswana has 13 coronavirus cases and is under lockdown.
WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s government is extending the nationwide isolation against the coronavirus until April 26.
It will keep the borders and schools closed, banning international flights and railway connections. It includes the quarantine for all entering Poland, except truck drivers.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki says steps the government has taken against the virus “have proven effective.”
Also, Health Minister Lukasz Szumowski announced Poland will introduce obligatory covering of the mouth and the nose in public places on April 16. Szumowski says given the shortage of masks, scarves and bandanas can be used.
The nation of 38 million has reported over 5,340 cases and 164 deaths.
KAMPALA, Uganda — Four Ugandan government officials have been arrested over allegations of inflating prices of relief food.
An anti-corruption unit attached to the presidency reported Thursday the four, who include the top accounting officer in the office of the prime minister, are accused of “rejecting lower price offers from various suppliers of maize flour and beans.”
It says the arrests followed a special investigation ordered Wednesday by President Yoweri Museveni. The allegations underscore growing corruption concerns as Uganda’s government embarks on a fundraising campaign for the emergency response to the economic effects of COVID-19.
Authorities seek to provide food rations for about 1.5 million vulnerable people living in the metropolitan area surrounding the capital, Kampala.
WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, says don’t assume the coronavirus will fade during warm weather.
Fauci told ABC’s “Good Morning America” there’s precedent with other infections like influenza that “when the virus gets warmer that the virus goes down in its ability to replicate, to spread.”
But Fauci added “having said that, one should not assume that we are going to be rescued by a change in the weather. You must assume that the virus will continue to do its thing. If we get some help from the weather, so be it, fine. But I don’t think we need to assume that.”
He was asked about the New York Times story that research indicates the coronavirus that began circulating in New York in mid-February came mainly from Europe, not Asia.
“I think that’s probably correct,” Fauci said. He notes that “Europe became the epicenter pretty quickly after China really exploded with their cases.”
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy says a member of the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt who tested positive for coronavirus on March 30 was admitted to the intensive care unit at U.S. Naval Hospital Guam.
The carrier has been docked at Guam since March 27 with a coronavirus outbreak that has sidelined the warship and infected 416 members of its 4,860-member crew.
The sailor who is in ICU had been in 14-day isolation. As recently as Wednesday, the Navy said there had been zero hospitalizations among the coronavirus-infected crew members.
The Navy says the number of COVID-positive cases among the Roosevelt crew stood Thursday at 416, up from 286 on Wednesday.
LONDON — British prime minister Boris Johnson “continues to improve” in the intensive care unit of a London hospital where he is being treated for the new coronavirus.
Spokesman James Slack says Johnson “had a good night” at St. Thomas’ Hospital, his third night in intensive care. Johnson is receiving oxygen but is not on a ventilator.
Johnson was diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26 and taken to hospital on Sunday with a persistent cough and fever. He was moved to the ICU Monday after his condition worsened.
TOKYO — Tokyo reported 181 new coronavirus cases Thursday, setting another record daily increase.
The total exceeds 1,500, with infections accelerating in the Japanese capital under a state of emergency.
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike urged companies to more quickly shift to remote working and cooperate with the stay-at-home request.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently declared the state of emergency in Tokyo and six other prefectures, allowing Koike and other leaders to take tougher steps to ensure social distancing. He urged the people to reduce human interactions by as much as 80%, a level that experts say can help control the outbreak in about a month if strictly observed.
Many people still commuted to work Thursday. Japanese companies have been slow to allow their employees to work remotely. Subway operators say their ridership was less than half. But mobile phone carriers showed crowd sizes in downtown Tokyo were only reduced by 30-40%.
On Wednesday, Japan had 4,768 confirmed cases and 96 deaths.
ATHENS, Greece — Authorities in Greece say they are seeking help from other European Union members to create medical isolation facilities on islands where large refugee camps are considered potentially vulnerable to the spread of the coronavirus.
George Koumoutsakos, the deputy minister for migration affairs, says 28 confirmed cases of the virus have been recorded at two camps on the Greek mainland. But none so far at camps on Lesbos and other Greek islands near the coast of Turkey where more than 40,000 migrants and refugees are located.
The minister says Austria had offered 180 container homes, adding building space had been located on Lesbos and the nearby island of Chios to create isolation and treatment facilities.
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