The Latest: Italy on track to surpass China’s virus deaths
TOP OF THE HOUR:
— Italy is on track to surpass China in the number of coronavirus-related deaths, a gruesome milestone that is being blamed on the country’s large elderly population, its overwhelmed health care system and the delayed imposition of a complete lockdown in its epicenter, Lombardy.
— Thousands of people attended an ordination ceremony for a Catholic bishop on the Indonesian island of Flores despite calls from authorities to avoid mass gatherings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
— Londoners are being urged to stay off public transport as authorities consider imposing tougher curbs on people mixing with one another in the British capital.
— The coronavirus pandemic has infected 219,000 people and killed more than 8,900. Some 84,000 have recovered.
ROME, Italy — Italy is on track to surpass China in the number of coronavirus-related deaths, a gruesome milestone that is being blamed on the country’s large elderly population, its overwhelmed health care system and the delayed imposition of complete lockdown measures across the epicenter, Lombardy.
Italy registered 2,978 deaths on Wednesday after another 475 people died. Given Italy has been averaging more than 350 deaths since March 15, it is likely to overtake China’s 3,249 dead when Thursday’s figures are released.
U.N. and Italian health authorities have cited a variety of reasons for Italy’s high toll, key among them its large elderly population, who are particularly susceptible to developing serious complications from the virus. Italy has the world’s second oldest population after Japan’s and the vast majority of Italy’s dead — 87% — were over age 70.
In addition, virtually all of Italy’s dead had one or more underlying medical condition, such as diabetes, cancer, hypertension or renal insufficiency.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Thousands of people attended an ordination ceremony for a Catholic bishop on the Indonesian island of Flores despite calls from authorities to avoid mass gatherings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Images of the ordination ceremony posted on social media showed people inside the Ruteng cathedral seated next to each other and not complying with social distancing measures.
A priest who attended the ceremony estimated that about 4,000 people gathered inside and around the church.
Sebastian Rida, a catholic resident of Ruteng who witnessed the ceremony, said officers from the local health agency asked people to use masks and hand sanitizers, but not everyone did. Rida said he ignored the threat of the spread of the virus while attending the ceremony.
Indonesia has 309 confirmed cases of the virus and 25 deaths.
MOSCOW — Russia has reported its first coronavirus death, a 79-year-old woman who died in a hospital in Moscow.
Health officials said she was hospitalized last week and suffered from a variety of chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
Russia has registered 147 cases of the coronavirus and nine recoveries. The authorities have taken a variety of measures to slow the spread of the disease, such as closing the borders for foreigners and testing of everyone returning from countries affected by the pandemic. Starting from next week, all schools will be closed. The government has repeatedly urged Russians to stay home and limit all contacts.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said additional measures might be taken as the outbreak unfolds.
LONDON — Londoners are being urged to stay off public transport as authorities consider imposing tougher curbs on people mixing with one another in the British capital.
London, home to almost 9 million people, is the center of the country’s coronavirus outbreak, with about a third of its confirmed cases.
Transit operator Transport for London said it will close up to 40 London Underground stations and reduce subway and bus service starting Thursday. Mayor Sadiq Khan said the reduced service would “allow critical workers to make essential journeys.”
Britons have been urged to work from home and avoid bars, shops and restaurants to slow the spread of the virus. But unlike countries such as Italy and France, Britain has not ordered bars to close or restricted people’s movement.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said “further and faster” measures may be needed in London if people do not practice social distancing. He told reporters on Wednesday that “we rule nothing out.”
The British government plans to introduce a bill in Parliament on Thursday that will give authorities stronger powers to respond to the pandemic. The bill gives police and immigration officers powers to detain people and put them in appropriate isolation facilities if necessary to protect public health.
Britain has also doubled, to 20,000, the number of troops on standby to help civilian authorities in an emergency.
LONDON — A state visit to Britain by the emperor and empress of Japan has been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masakois had been due to visit in May, staying with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle. State visits are large ceremonial events involving military honor guards and state banquets.
Buckingham Palace says the trip will be rescheduled.
The 93-year-old queen is moving from Buckingham Palace in London to Windsor Castle, west of the city, during the outbreak.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistani authorities closed shrines of Sufi saints in the capital and elsewhere and visits to museums, archaeological and tourist sites were banned as cases of coronavirus jumped to 301, mostly in pilgrims returning from Iran.
Two people who had returned from Saudi Arabia and Dubai became Pakistan’s first victims when they died Wednesday in the northwest.
It spread panic among those who were not taking infections seriously.
Pakistani authorities on Thursday were planning to quarantine hundreds of pilgrims who returned from Iran. These pilgrims will be kept at isolated buildings in central Pakistan for two weeks.
Pakistan has already shut schools and students have been forced to leave hostels.
MANILA, Philippines — Philippine Health Secretary Francisco Duque III is in home quarantine after being exposed to a health officer infected with the new virus.
He leads the Philippines’ response to the epidemic. Duque says he is experiencing mild allergy symptoms and his virus test results are expected in a few days.
Duque said he would continue leading from home an inter-agency group enforcing quarantine regulations in the country’s main northern region of Luzon, which includes the densely populated capital of Manila.
The Philippines has reported 202 infections, with 17 deaths.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch government is limiting entry to the country for 30 days from Thursday evening in its latest effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The entry ban covers all non-essential travel into the country for visitors from outside the European Union, the United Kingdom and countries that are part of Europe’s passport-free travel zone known as Schengen.
Exceptions also will be made for travelers with residence permits for the Netherlands and people in “vital” occupations such as health workers.
As of Wednesday, the Netherlands had recorded 58 coronavirus deaths in the outbreak and 2,051 positive tests.
MAKASSAR, Indonesia — Indonesia halted a mass congregation of nearly 9,000 Muslim pilgrims and began quarantining and checking their health to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.
The four-day gathering in a rural area on south Sulawesi island wasn’t approved by authorities and drew fears it could widely spread the virus in the world’s fourth most populous nation.
It was organized by Jamaat Tabligh, a Muslim missionary movement that held a similar mass event in Malaysia now linked to hundreds of cases in several countries.
CANBERRA, Australia — Australia is banning incoming passengers who are not citizens, permanent residents or direct family members of residents.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday the change will take effect at 9 p.m. AEDT (10:00 GMT).
Morrison says 80% or cases of the new coronavirus detected in Australia have been infected overseas or by direct contact with someone who had been infected overseas. Overseas arrivals are currently expected to self-isolate for 14 days.
New Zealand also is closing its border to people who aren’t citizens or residents from Friday.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she had become increasingly concerned that visitors to New Zealand have not been properly isolating themselves for 14 days as required. There are a few exceptions, including children and partners of residents.
MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s health department has confirmed the country’s first death from the new coronavirus.
The department wrote on Twitter late Wednesday that the person began showing symptoms on March 9 and had diabetes. It provided no more details about how, where or from whom the person became infected.
Mexico has 118 confirmed cases of infection and officials expect the numbers to rapidly increase in the coming weeks.
Authorities have been urging people to keep their distance in social situations and schools have halted classes.
Spring equinox visits to Mexico’s pre-Hispanic pyramids have also been stopped.
Mexican authorities will close off the Teotihuacan archaeological site Saturday and Sunday to prevent large gatherings and the potential spread of coronavirus.
As many as 100,000 people climb the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon at Teotihuacan each spring to receive “energy.”
The Yucatan governor earlier said the ruins at Chichen Itza will be closed Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.