The Latest: Italy overtakes China in coronavirus infections
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:
— Italy overtakes China in coronavirus infections.
— Aide to Washington D.C. mayor dies from coronavirus.
— France extends nationwide confinement to April 15.
— British PM Boris Johnson tests positive.
ROME — Italy has become the second country to overtake China in coronavirus infections, recording a total of 86,498 on the same day it recorded its single biggest leap in coronavirus deaths, with 969 more victims.
The gruesome milestones nevertheless came on the same day Italian health officials said they were seeing a slight slowing down in new positive cases, two weeks into a nationwide lockdown.
Italy has recorded more virus-related deaths than any other country in the world. On Friday the death toll reached 9,134.
WASHINGTON — A senior member of the city government in Washington has died from the new coronavirus.
Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Friday that George Valentine, deputy director of the mayor’s office of legal counsel, had died Friday morning.
Bowser said Valentine’s death was “devastating for everybody” and that contact tracing was in progress to determine who Valentine may have come into contact with and who might have been exposed to him.
According to his LinkedIn page, Valentine came to the mayor’s office just over a year ago after spending more than 15 years with the Washington D.C. Attorney General’s office. Bowser said he was admitted to a hospital and diagnosed with COVID-19 on Wednesday.
LONDON — The British government’s top medical adviser is the latest senior official to say he has the new coronavirus.
Chris Whitty, who is chief medical officer for England, tweeted: “After experiencing symptoms compatible with COVID-19 last night, in line with the guidance, I will be self-isolating at home for the next seven days. I will be continuing to advise the Government on the medical response to Coronavirus, supported by my deputies.”
Whitty did not say whether he has been tested for the virus.
Whitty has become a familiar figure to millions of Britons for his cool-headed appearances at televised daily press conferences on the outbreak.
The announcement comes the same day Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock both said they had tested positive for COVID-19.
GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization is decrying the “tragic” count of more than a half-million cases of coronavirus, and more than 20,000 deaths.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus said: “These are tragic numbers. But let’s also remember that around the world, more than 100,000 people have recovered.”
PARIS — France is extending its nationwide confinement measures another two weeks until April 15, as the virus continues to claim victims around the country.
Saying “we are only at the beginning” of the virus wave, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced the extension Friday. It had been scheduled to end Tuesday.
Philippe warned that the number of cases is expected to rise in the Paris region and northern France, after heavily hitting eastern France.
France has reported nearly 1,700 deaths of people with the virus in hospitals, the fifth-highest number of any country worldwide. France’s numbers have continued to mount since the confinement began March 17.
MADRID — Spain is prohibiting companies from using the virus outbreak as a justification for firing workers.
Labor Minister Yolanda Diaz said Friday redundancies as a result of the virus outbreak were unnecessary as the government had established temporary layoff mechanisms by which businesses can halt paying staff during the crisis, with the state picking up the tab.
“Nobody can exploit this health crisis. Nobody can make the most of the COVID-19 to make layoffs,” she said.
The minister added that temporary contracts still in effect cannot be terminated but rather suspended for the duration of the crisis.
Spanish National Television on Friday said there had been 240,000 temporary layoff agreements affecting 1.2 million workers so far.
The Spanish government has been adamant it will look after every citizen during the crisis.
Before the virus crisis, Spain had 14% unemployment, the second highest in the European Union after Greece.
TORONTO — Canada is increasing a payroll subsidy to small businesses to now cover up to 75% of salaries.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the increase over the original 10% subsidy plan. Trudeau says it became clear the government needed to do much more.
Trudeau says it means people will continue to be paid even though their employer has had to slow down or stop its operations because of COVID-19.
The prime minister says he hopes employers who are being pushed to lay off workers will think again.
Benjamin Bergen, Executive Director of the Council of Canadian Innovators, says the wage subsidies show the government is finally hearing the concerns from the business front lines. He says many companies may go bankrupt in April.
WASHINGTON — Chinese President Xi Jinping told President Donald Trump that China “understands the United States’ current predicament over the COVID-19 outbreak and stands ready to provide support, the official Xinhua News Agency said Friday.
The White House said only that the two leaders spoke on the phone Thursday and “agreed to work together to defeat the coronavirus pandemic and restore global health and prosperity.”
According to the Chinese news agency, Xi also urged Trump to take “substantive action in improving bilateral relations.”
BRUSSELS — Belgium’s health minister says video appointments with psychologists will be reimbursed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Maggie De Block says remote consultations with the mental health specialists will help patients suffering from anxiety because of the deadly virus.
She says its important for people who have already consulted a psychologist to continue their treatment.
In Belgium, there have been 7,284 cases of COVID-19 and 289 deaths.
MILWAUKEE — Tests led by U.S. government scientists found the coronavirus can remain viable on cardboard for up to a day.
Julie Fischer, a microbiologist at Georgetown University’s global health security research center, says it was a controlled lab situation and doesn’t reflect what might happen in daily life or with other materials.
“In the real-world environment, those packages and envelopes would be moving from place to place under various weather, temperature conditions that are affected by air and sunlight” that could impact viral viability, she said.
Even if virus was on the mail, it would need to make its way to the mouth or nose to cause infection.
“As long as you wash your hands thoroughly and regularly after opening it and don’t touch your nose and mouth … that mail itself, that package, poses very little risk,” Fischer said.
She says postal workers are at risk because they are coming into contact with each other and the public. She notes “the biggest risk is still exposure to an infected person.”
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia is closing its border crossings with neighboring Austria, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic for almost all trucks.
The Slovak police announced the measure in response to Hungary’s decision to tighten border checks to curb the outbreak of the coronavirus. As a result, long lines of trucks have been formed at the Slovak-Hungarian crossings.
“The goal is to prevent traffic collisions near the crossings and on our territory,” Slovakia’s police said.
The measure will be effective indefinitely. The trucks delivering goods to Slovakia or carrying live animals will be allowed to cross the borders.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island is questioning the constitutionality of Gov. Gina Raimondo’s directive allowing state police to stop vehicles with New York license plates.
The Democratic governor on Thursday called the measure extreme but pointed out New York City is the epicenter of the disease in the U.S.
Steven Brown, executive director of the ACLU of Rhode Island, says while Raimondo has the authority to suspend some state laws and regulations to address a medical emergency, she cannot suspend the Constitution.
He says under the Fourth Amendment, having a New York state license plate “simply does not, and cannot, constitute ‘probable cause’ to allow police to stop a car and interrogate the driver, no matter how laudable the goal of the stop may be.”
The governor’s spokesman says the directive aims to ensure travelers from New York staying in Rhode Island know they are required to self-quarantine for 14 days.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s state-run news agency says authorities have evacuated hundreds of migrants who were waiting at the border with Greece to make their way into Europe.
Thousands of migrants had massed at a border crossing with Greece after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced last month his country would no longer prevent migrants and refugees wanting to travel to European Union countries. Violent clashes had erupted between the migrants and Greek border authorities trying to push them back.
Anadolu Agency reported Friday migrants waiting at the border crossing in Edirne province were transported in buses to state guest houses where they would be quarantined. It says they would be moved to other regions in Turkey at the end of the quarantine.
HELENA, Mont. — Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana has reported the state’s first coronavirus-related death.
Bullock announced the death Thursday night. He did not release any details about the person’s identity or where the person lived.
Montana had 90 cases on Thursday. On Saturday, a two-week stay-at-home order goes into effect for the state’s 1 million residents in the latest attempt to fight the spread of the coronavirus.
People can leave home for food or medical care, along with other exceptions.
MADRID — Spain’s severely strained health service has 9,444 workers infected with COVID-19, a figure Amnesty International says is the highest among countries affected by the outbreak.
The number is nearly 15 percent of Spain’s total of 64,059 infected cases and has increased considerably in recent days.
Spanish health workers have been saying they are seriously lacking in basic protective material, such as masks, gloves and gowns. Hospitals are full and approaching the breaking point in many cities.
The Spanish branch of Amnesty issued a statement demanding Spain do more to protect the health workers, saying “authorities cannot make more excuses: It’s their obligation to protect those who protect us and to do it before it is too late.”
Spanish health officials say they are doing their utmost to get material to all.
ROME — The head of Italy’s National Institutes of Health says Italy’s coronavirus infections are slowing down, but it hasn’t reached the peak of the curve.
Dr. Silvio Brusafero says the infection curve began to flatten around March 20, some 10 days after Italy imposed a nationwide lockdown to contain the virus in Europe’s epicenter. He urged continued isolation measures to keep the virus from spreading.
Dr. Franco Locatelli, head of the government’s health advisory council, says he thinks it’s “inevitable” the industrial shutdown currently scheduled to last through April 3 will be extended.
Italy has reported more than 8,100 dead, more than any other country. Most have been elderly or with previous medical conditions.
MANILA, Philippines — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will quarantine for more than a week after meeting officials who were exposed to people with the coronavirus.
Sen. Christopher Lawrence Go says Duterte will go into quarantine Saturday, the president’s 75th birthday, to April 7. He’ll continue working in his residence at the presidential palace in Manila.
A test cleared Duterte of the COVID-19 illness two weeks ago. But he has since had meetings with Cabinet members and other officials who have been exposed to infected people.
Health officials have reported 803 cases of the COVID-19 disease, with 54 deaths. The main northern region of Luzon, home to more than 50 million people, is on a monthlong lockdown in a drastic move to contain infections.
BELGRADE, Serbia — A Serbian court has sentenced a man to three years in jail for flouting self-isolation orders.
The state Serbian TV says the first such sentence in the Balkan country was handed out during a video linked court session in an eastern Serbian town.
The TV says there are 112 people in detention in Serbia for ignoring the orders to stay at home and are awaiting trials. Some 50,000 people are under lockdown, most of them Serbs who have returned to the country from abroad after the March 15 introduction of the nationwide state of emergency.
Serbia, which has recorded 435 coronavirus cases and seven deaths, has introduced some of the most restrictive measures in Europe. They include a 12-hour police enforced curfew and a 24-hour ban for leaving their homes for those older than 65.
STOCKHOLM — Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven says gatherings of more than 50 people will be banned Sunday, lowing it from 500.
Social Affairs Minister Lena Hallengren says the move came before the Easter break, adding “We have many tough weeks and months ahead.”
Head of Sweden’s national police Anders Thornberg says police can break up gatherings exceeding the authorized size and hand out fines or sentence people to jail for a maximum six months.
Sweden has opted for a rather relaxed approach by keeping primary and elementary schools, restaurants and bars open and encouraging people to go outside.
LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Johnson’s office says he was tested after showing mild symptoms,
Downing Street says Johnson is self-isolating and continuing to lead the country’s response to COVID-19.
MADRID — Spain is reporting a record number of daily deaths at 769.
Spain’s coronavirus cases increased by 7,800 Friday to total 64,059 cases. There’s a total of 4,858 deaths
The director of Spain’s health emergency coordination center, Fernando Simón, says the day-on-day increase of infections is slightly lower for the first time since a rapid rise in early March. The country has the second-worse tally in Europe and fourth in the world.
From Wednesday to Thursday, the positives had increased in more than 8,500 cases, some 700 more than Thursday to Friday. The daily increase was 14% Friday, lower than in previous days.
Spain’s Health Ministry says more than 9,000 people have recovered from the COVID-19 illness.