The Latest: Italy raises fines for lock down violators
The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 400,000 people and killed over 18,000. The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms in most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or those with existing health problems. More than 103,000 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.
TOP OF THE HOUR:
— Three U.S. sailors aboard aircraft carrier have tested positive for coronavirus.
— U.S. trying to lessen load on health care workers who collect specimens from virus patients.
— UN chief is urging adoption of stimulus package in the trillions of dollars.
ROME — With Italy on an uphill course to contain the world’s second-largest outbreak of the coronavirus, Premier Giuseppe Conte has announced much stiffer fines for violators of the national lock-down restrictions.
At a Cabinet meeting Tuesday, the government set fines for violators from 400 to 3,000 euros ($440-$3,300). Initially, fines topped out at 206 euros ($227).
Italy is in its third week of lock down, under a government decree that expires on April 3. Earlier, an Italian health official, Franco Locatelli, said a decision on extending the order would be made based on how Italy’s outbreak of COVID-19 is developing. Italy’s outbreak hasn’t peaked, and thousands of new cases are being reported daily.
Gas station workers, fearing they are at risk for contagion, have announced strikes later this week. Conte says the government will try to alleviate their concerns by allowing for staggered opening hours at stations.
MADRID — Spain’s Interior Minister says police have made 922 arrests for defying a government order for people to stay at home amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Fernando Grande-Marlaska says police officers also took down the details of more than 102,000 others over the past 10 days for possible future prosecution.
He says three infected people have left the hospital without being officially released. Police later detained them and returned them. Grande-Marlaska says measures were taken to prevent them leaving again, but he didn’t elaborate.
Spain announced a record daily rise of 6,584 new coronavirus infections, bringing the overall total to 39,673. The number of deaths also jumped by a record number of 514 to 2,696.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says he’s getting along well with the nation’s governors amid the coronavirus outbreak, but reserved some sharp criticism for New York’s Andrew Cuomo.
Cuomo earlier Tuesday panned Trump for tweeting about sending 400 ventilators, or breathing machines, to New York City when the governor says thousands are needed statewide. New York has become the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic.
Trump brandished a copy of a column written by former New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey, published last week by the New York Post, that says Cuomo had passed up a chance to buy thousands of ventilators in 2015.
Trump said during a virtual town hall aired by Fox News, “All they had to do was order them two years ago, but they decided not to do it. They can’t blame us for that.”
WASHINGTON — Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly says three sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt have tested positive for coronavirus. The aircraft carrier at sea in Asia last made a port call 15 days ago in Vietnam.
The chief of naval operations, Adm. Michael Gilday, says there currently is no plan to pull the carrier from its mission. He says the three sailors are being removed from the ship and admitted to a Defense Department hospital.
Navy officials say those who came in contact with the trio are in isolation aboard the ship, as best they can do that while at sea. But the officials couldn’t say say how many are in isolation.
WASHINGTON — U.S. officials are trying to lessen the load on health care workers who collect specimens from coronavirus patients.
The Food and Drug Administration says health care workers can let people who have symptoms swab their own noses at testing sites. That means health care workers won’t need to switch masks as often.
Deborah Birx, coordinator of the U.S. coronavirus response, says it’s still important for people to refrain from seeking a test unless it will change the way they will be treated. She has urged people that if they “don’t need a test do not come in to be tested.”
People will still need to go to a testing site, though. The FDA says at-home swabs aren’t recommended, to ensure the samples are properly handled.
UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is urging leaders of the world’s 20 major industrialized nations to adopt a “wartime” plan including a stimulus package “in the trillions of dollars.” The plan would be for businesses, workers and households in developing countries trying to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
Guterres says in a letter to the Group of 20 leaders that they account for 85% of the world’s gross domestic product and have “a direct interest and critical role to play in helping developing countries cope with the crisis.”
The U.N. chief says, “Anything short of this commitment would lead to a pandemic of apocalyptic proportions affecting us all.”
The secretary-general also urged “a clear repudiation of protectionism.”
PARIS — France’s Scientific Council has recommended that France’s home confinement, which began one week ago, should last at least six weeks in total.
The recommendation was voiced to French President Emmanuel Macron during a special expert meeting on Tuesday.
Macron has not yet made any official announcements on any extension of the confinement, which was initially for two weeks and open to being lengthened.
It comes as France’s Health Minister Olivier Veran says the country would “multiply” testing on patients suspected to have the virus.
France is the European country with the third-highest virus-related deaths, after Italy and Spain.
DUBLIN — Ireland’s premier Leo Varadkar says the government’s economic support package will be bolstered, with unemployment and sickness benefits increased substantially.
Like other countries in Europe, Varadkar says an emergency wage subsidy scheme will be created that will see the government pay up to 70% of an employee’s salary up to a cap of 410 euros ($450) a week.
Latest figures show six people diagnosed with COVID-19 have died in Ireland.
ROME — Three weeks into national lockdown, Italy’s daily bulletin about its COVID-19 outbreak added thousands more cases, pushing the nation’s overall total to more than 69,000.
Civil Protection authorities say there were 743 more deaths of infected persons in a 24-hour period, adding to Italy’s overall death toll that is the world’s highest. After two straight days of day-to-day increases in new cases that had seen lower numbers, authorities on Tuesday said there were 5,249 new cases.
A day earlier, new cases in a 24-hour period had totaled some 460 fewer. For two days running, the percentage of day-to-day increase in case load stands at 8%. Health authorities have cautioned that it’s too soon to say if Italy is about to see a peak in the outbreak. The country now has at least 6,820 deaths.
WASHINGTON — Top U.S. defense and military leaders are warning department personnel that the coronavirus problems could extend for eight to 10 weeks, or even into the summer.
Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a Defense Department town hall meeting that the virus could extend into late May or June, and possibly even July. He says there are a variety of models from other countries, so the exact length of the virus and its restrictions are not yet clear.
Both Milley and Defense Secretary Mark Esper warned of potential national security challenges if the virus triggers a global recession and countries struggle to support their people. They also said the pandemic could have an impact on U.S. military readiness, but they expect that to be manageable as nations recover.
Milley says, “We will get through it.”
Esper says the Defense Department is trying to make sure there are enough test kits and that the results come back quickly. He expects more kits soon and says the testing turnaround will “increase dramatically.”
ATLANTA — The Carter Center in Atlanta is asking supporters to forgo their next donation to it and direct it instead to a local group that is “reducing the suffering caused by this pandemic.”
The directive was signed by former President Jimmy Carter, his wife Rosalynn and their grandson Jason, who is chairman of the center’s board of directors.
The Carters say they have “every confidence” that the United States will pull together and overcome the threat brought by the coronavirus pandemic. They say the virus is a global threat to physical and economic health must be addressed “at every level of government and society.”
LONDON — British Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the government is looking to build a volunteer army of a quarter of a million people to help deliver food and medicines to those quarantined during the coronavirus pandemic.
Hancock says the government is looking for people in good health to help the National Health Service support those who have been ask to “shield themselves.”
Though Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced sweeping curbs on people’s movements, the most vulnerable, including those with long-term health conditions, have effectively been told they must stay in place for at least 12 weeks.
Hancock says nearly 12,000 retired medical personnel have answered the call to help out. A new hospital will open at the Excel Centre in east London. Two wards capable of caring for 2,000 patients each will open next week at one of the country’s main events venues.
STOCKHOLM — Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg says on social media that she believes she has recovered from mild symptoms of COVID-19 experienced during a period of quarantine following a European trip.
The teenager called on young people to protect groups at greater risk from the disease. Thunberg says her mild symptoms are “what makes it so much more dangerous” due to the risk of passing on the virus without knowing it.
WASHINGTON — The federal Bureau of Prisons is instituting a 14-day mandatory quarantine for all new inmates entering any of the 122 federal correctional facilities in the U.S. in response to coronavirus concerns.
The announcement comes as the number of confirmed cases continues to grow among inmates and staff members at Bureau of Prisons facilities. There are more than 175,000 inmates in the federal prison system.
Union officials have raised concerns about whether there are adequate supplies of personal protective equipment for officers and inmates to slow the spread of the virus.
The Bureau of Prisons says it is working with court officials, local and state correctional institutions and the U.S. Marshals Service to “mitigate the risk of exposure in pretrial detention and jail facilities” and ensure safe inmate transfers.
HONOLULU — The state of Hawaii has recorded its first death from COVID-19.
State officials say the unidentified adult suffered from multiple underlying health conditions, and that the available history of the person suggests they had a potential indirect travel-related exposure.
The person was tested at a clinical commercial laboratory, but the results were indeterminate.
Authorities say the person died Friday, and follow-up testing at a state lab on Monday confirmed the cause was COVID-19. Other than they lived on Oahu, officials didn’t release the person’s age or gender. The state health department says Hawaii has 77 positive cases with a majority of those on Oahu.
NEW YORK — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sounded his most dire warning yet about the coronavirus pandemic, saying the infection rate in New York is accelerating and the state could be as close as two weeks away from a crisis that projects 40,000 people in intensive care.
Such a surge would overwhelm hospitals, which now have just 3,000 intensive care unit beds statewide.
Cuomo says the rate of new infections is doubling about every three days. While officials once thought the peak in New York would come in early May, they now say it could come in two to three weeks.
“We are not slowing it. And it is accelerating on its own,” he said during a briefing in New York City. “One of the forecasters said we were looking at a freight train coming across the country. We’re now looking at a bullet train.”
There were nearly 26,000 positive cases in New York state with 210 deaths, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.
NEW DELHI — India will begin the world’s largest lock down.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced it in a TV address Tuesday night, warning that anyone going outside risked inviting the coronavirus inside their homes. He pledged $2 billion to bolster the country’s beleaguered health care system.
“To save India and every Indian, there will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes,” said Modi, adding that if the country failed to manage the next 21 days, it could be set back by 21 years.
India’s stay-at-home order puts nearly one-fifth of the world’s population under lock down.
Indian health officials have reported 469 active cases of COVID-19 and 10 deaths. Officials have repeatedly insisted there is no evidence yet of communal spread but have conducted relatively few tests for the disease.