The Latest: Japan pressured to declare state of emergency

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.


— Spain surpasses China in coronavirus infections tally.

— Japan’s main medical association suggests declaring a state of emergency.

— British prime minister’s chief adviser shows signs of coronavirus.


TOKYO — An executive member of Japan’s main medical association urged government officials to consider issuing a state of emergency, saying it will be too late once the coronavirus infection reaches an explosive state.

Satoshi Kamayachi, an executive director of Japan Medical Association and a member of the government-commissioned panel of experts, told a news conference Monday that the situation warrants a declaration of a state of emergency.

He said most experts at a meeting earlier in the day suggested a state of emergency be issued.

Japan until now was seen as keeping the outbreak under control, but the number of new cases in Tokyo and other cities have spiked since last week. Nationwide, Japan has about 2,600 cases, including 712 from a cruise ship, with 64 deaths. About 1,000 of them have recovered.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike last Wednesday warned its residents that the city is on the verge infection explosion and asked its 14 million residents to stay at home over the weekend and suggested a possibility of a hard lockdown in the capital city.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters Monday that Japan is on the edge but has not reached a stage that requires a state of emergency.


ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s prime minister is calling on all his cabinet ministers and the lawmakers of his center-right New Democracy party to donate 50% of their salaries over the next two months to the fight against the spread of the new coronavirus.

In a Facebook post Monday, Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the country’s politicians “must stand in the front line of solidarity.” He said the money generated from the “symbolic gesture” would be deposited in a special account set up to tackle COVID-19.

“We are all equal in the face of the health threat. But in the fight against it, each one of us must contribute according to their means,” Mitsotakis wrote in his post. “I am sure that the other (political) parties will also follow this choice.”


BRUSSELS — The European Council says that EU member states have suspended airport slot requirements until Oct. 24 in a move aimed at easing the impact of the novel coronavirus crisis on aviation and helping airlines adjust to the falling demand caused by the epidemics.

Under EU regulations, airlines are subject to a “use it or lose it rule” and are required to operate 80 percent of their allocated slots, the right of an aircraft to take off or land at a congested airport at a certain time of the day. If they don’t abide by this rule, they face losing their right to the slot.

“It seems clear now that this crisis will not be over very soon. Waiving the ‘use it or lose it’ rule until October will help mitigate the heavy economic impact on airlines and give them certainty over the whole summer season,” said Oleg Butković, the Croatian minister for the Sea, Transport and Infrastructure.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said earlier this month that abandoning the rule temporarily will not only help the aviation industry, but also have a positive impact on the environment. “It will also decrease emissions by avoiding the so-called ghost flights, when airlines fly almost empty planes simply to keep their slots.” she said.


MADRID — Spain’s main spokesman in the coronavirus crisis has tested positive for the COVID-19 disease but the results need to be confirmed, authorities have announced as the country of 47 million became the third to surpass China in number of infections.

Dr. Fernando Simón, who had become the Spanish government’s face and voice during the crisis, was replaced on Monday’s daily press conference by his deputy, Dr. María José Sierra.

Simón had been initially praised for relaying calm and clarity in the early days of the crisis, but as infections and deaths for the virus mounted he was heavily criticized for having played down the severity of the outbreak.

Sierra said that the increase of daily cases had dropped from an average of 20% before March 25, to 12% in the past five days. She said the drop was due to social distancing and confinement measures in place for the past two weeks.

The official said that the main worry for the government now was the pressure on the country’s intensive care units because it could arrive 2 or 3 weeks after the infection.

“Reducing the pressure on the ICUs will be important for considering de-escalation measures,” she said.


LONDON — One of the scientists advising the British government on the coronavirus pandemic says there are signs that the effective lockdown of much of the country is working.

Professor Neil Ferguson thinks the epidemic is “just about slowing” as a result of the social distancing measures the government has imposed over the past couple of weeks.

That’s evidenced by the number of new hospital admissions, he told BBC radio.

“It’s not yet plateaued so the numbers can be increasing every day but the rate of that increase has slowed,” he said.

Ferguson, who had to self-isolate himself a couple of weeks ago after showing signs of the COVID-19 illness, said the number of deaths will continue to rise on a daily basis as it is a lagging indicator. Latest figures show that 1,228 people in the U.K. who have tested positive for the virus have died.

The epidemiologist thinks that between 3% to 5% of people in London may have been infected, with between 2% and 3% in the country as a whole.


BANGKOK— The Southeast Asian nation of Laos, which detected its first COVID-19 cases last week, has instituted a nationwide lockdown to fight the disease’s spread.

The state news agency KPL reports that Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith issued an order effective Monday through April 19 prohibiting all citizens and foreigners from leaving their accommodations except for essential activity such as buying food or medical care. Those engaged in agricultural production are allowed out according to rules from their local authorities.

All international checkpoints are closed except for transport of goods and to allow foreigners to return to their countries.

Laos has nine confirmed cases of the coronavirus with no deaths reported. The country of about 7.4 million people is one of the poorest in Asia.

Myanmar, which also reported its first COVID-19 cases last week, is closing its airports to all commercial passenger flights at midnight Monday through April 13. Exceptions are allowed with official permission for relief flights, all cargo flights and medical evacuations.

Myanmar, with a population of more than 56 million, is also one of the region’s poorer countries. It has 10 confirmed COVID-19 cases with no deaths.


LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, is the latest senior government figure to show symptoms of the new coronavirus.

Johnson’s office says Cummings developed symptoms over the weekend and is self-isolating at home.

Johnson announced Friday that he has tested positive for COVID-19 and has mild symptoms. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has also tested positive, while the chief medical officer of England, Chris Whitty, says he is self-isolating after showing symptoms.

Senior U.K. officials have been criticized for continuing to hold face-to-face meetings until recently, even while urging the rest of the country to stay home and avoid all but essential contact with others.

Cummings is a controversial figure — a self-styled political disruptor who helped lead Britain’s pro-Brexit referendum campaign in 2016. He has been blamed for briefing journalists that the U.K. was seeking “herd immunity” against the coronavirus by letting most of the population get it. The government and its scientific advisers deny that was ever their strategy.


STOCKHOLM — Sweden’s funeral home association says that burial agencies across the country have decided that coffins with a deceased COVID-19 victim should be marked with a special symbol so that caskets are not opened because of fears the deceased could still be contagious.

Ulf Lerneus, the association’s manager, tells Swedish daily Aftonbladet that there has been a confusion among his members after Sweden’s Public Health Authority earlier this month decided that deceased victims should no longer be in body bags.

“Nobody can say there is no risk of infection,” Lerneus was quoted by the daily as saying. Caskets with the symbol showing three droplets “should not be opened” when transported from the mortuary, said Lerneus.

The association gathers some 400 authorized, private funeral homes across the Scandinavian country.

Sweden has reported some 3,700 cases where people have been tested positive, of which 255 of them are in intensive care. According to official figures, 110 people have died.


LONDON — Britain’s health service is asking airline cabin crew who have been laid off during the coronavirus pandemic to go to work in temporary new hospitals being built to treat COVID-19 patients.

The National Health Service says easyJet and Virgin Atlantic are writing to thousands of staff — especially those with first aid training — asking them to work at hospitals being built inside convention centers in London, Birmingham and Manchester.

It said those who sign up will perform support roles under the supervision of doctors and nurses.

EasyJet announced Monday it was grounding all of its 344 planes amid a collapse in demand due to the COVID-19 crisis. It said there was “no certainty of the date for restarting commercial flights.”

Virgin Atlantic has cancelled most of its flights and has urged the British government to help keep struggling airlines aloft.


SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgaria is postponing its bid to adopt the euro in the wake of a global economic downturn due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bulgaria’s central bank governor said Monday that his country will delay its accession process until next year.

Dimitar Radev told private Nova TV channel that “the timeline for joining the banking union and participation in the exchange rate mechanism are not realistic anymore”.

The government had said earlier that Bulgaria wants to enter the two-year process that leads to joining the euro, called ERM II, this July. Its hope is that a swift entry into the eurozone would guarantee Bulgaria’s deeper integration in the EU.

Radev said that a delay until 2021 would not be “fatal”. He warned, however, that the country should not wait for a new entry cycle as it did during the global financial crisis of 2008-2009.

Bulgaria is one of the poorest EU members but has since 1997 kept a stable exchange rate between its currency, the lev, and the euro.


PARIS — Students at France’s most prestigious engineering school are engaging in remote tutoring to help high school pupils get their “Baccalaureat,” the state diploma awarded to pupils in their final lycée year.

The world-renowned Ecole Polytechnique said Monday that 325 of its students will give one hour of their time every day to youngsters in need of support during the isolation period imposed by French authorities to limit the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus.

“During this enduring quarantine period in France, many high school students feel they are lacking in family support when it comes to learning lessons on their own at home,” the school said in a statement. “This is either because their parents are directly implicated in the current pandemic, or because their parents may not have the academic level necessary to help.”

Polytechnique said priority will be given to students whose parents are directly involved in the fight against the disease, including medical professionals, military personnel, police officers or firefighters.

In addition, 25 English-speaking students from the school’s Bachelor of Science program have offered to help with English tutoring lessons.

The French government has ordered the closure of schools across the country but students will still be required to pass their baccalaureat tests in June unless it is postponed to a later date.


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