The Latest: Laid-off airline crew asked to work at hospitals

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:

— Spain surpasses China in coronavirus infections tally.

— Laid-off airline workers in Britain asked to work at temporary hospitals.

— Bulgaria postpones bid to adopt euro.

___

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.

___

MADRID — Spain has become the third country to surpass China in coronavirus infections after the United States and Italy. With a population of 47 million, the country’s tally of infections reached 85,195 on Monday, a rise of 8% from a previous day.

Monday also saw 812 fatalities to 7,300 since the outbreak started in earnest in early March, Spain’s Health Ministry said in a statement.

In Madrid, where nearly half of the total deaths have been recorded, flags were hoisted at half-mast as authorities declared the official mourning, with a minute of silence expected at noon time.

Authorities also step up the country’s half-a-month lockdown on Monday, beginning with a new two-week period of “hibernation,” as described by a Spanish Cabinet member in order to alleviate the pressure of the illness in the country’s health system.

Only workers in hospitals, pharmacies, the food supply chain and other essential industries are required to work until the end of Easter, in mid-April, while the rest have been asked to scale back operations to weekend-level.

At least six of Spain’s 17 regions are at their limit of ICU beds and three more were close to it, authorities said, while frantic construction of field hospitals continues.

___

VIENNA — Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz says that people will be obliged to wear face masks in supermarkets starting this week as the country battles to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Kurz announced the new measure on Monday, two weeks after Austria introduced restrictions on people’s movement. Austria borders Italy, Europe’s worst-hit country. So far, it has more than 9,000 confirmed cases, including over 100 deaths, according to the health minister.

Kurz said that, likely starting on Wednesday, supermarket chains will start handing out simple face masks to people when they enter supermarkets and people will have to keep them on while they shop. He said that “in the medium term” the aim is for people to wear them in other public situations too.

He emphasized that the new measure doesn’t lessen the need to people to keep their distance from others.

___

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea says nearly half of its 172,000 eligible voters overseas will be denied absentee voting for next month’s parliamentary elections after polling was ruled out in dozens of diplomatic offices worldwide amid broadening coronavirus outbreaks.

South Korea’s National Election Commission said polling preparations were halted at 65 diplomatic missions in 40 countries as of Monday, affecting some 80,500 voters, including those in major U.S. cities such as Washington, New York and Los Angeles.

The commission says more diplomatic offices could decide to close for the April 1-6 absentee voting.

Voters in South Korea will be required to wear masks and use disposable gloves at ballot booths during the parliamentary elections on April 15. Election workers will conduct temperature checks and provide separate polling places for voters with fever or respiratory symptoms.

Some politicians had called for the country to postpone the elections, which will be a crucial moment for President Moon Jae-in’s government amid concerns about the epidemic’s impact on public health and the economy.

___

MOSCOW — The number of coronavirus cases in Russia topped 1,800 Monday, forcing the authorities to brace for a nationwide lockdown.

The government’s headquarters overseeing efforts to fight the outbreak said that Russia now has 1,836 coronavirus cases, up more than 300 from the previous day. It said nine patients have died. The Russian capital has accounted for more than 1,200 of the new coronavirus cases.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin ordered a lockdown starting Monday requesting all city residents except those working in essential sectors to stay home except in cases of medical emergency and shop only at nearby stores or pharmacies. New legislation is expected to be passed in the coming days to clear up questions over the legality of the new measures.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin instructed all regional governors to prepare for the introduction of similar lockdown across the vast country.

___

LONDON — EasyJet says it is grounding its entire fleet of aircraft amid a collapse in demand due to the COVID-19 crisis.

The Luton-based carrier has parked all 344 of its planes, removing a significant cost as it copes with the impact of the virus.

EasyJet also says it has a strong balance sheet and is in “ongoing discussions with liquidity providers.’’ The budget carrier also announced it has reached an agreement with the Unite union on furlough arrangements for its cabin crew.

The announcement comes as Scottish regional airline Loganair said it expects to ask for a government bailout.

Britain’s government has so far demurred from creating a rescue package for aviation but has said it is ready for negotiations with individual firms once they had “exhausted other options.”

___

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea says it will provide as much as 1 million won ($817) in gift certificates or electronic coupons to all but the richest 30% of households to help ease the financial shock of the coronavirus outbreak.

Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki on Monday said the country will spend around 9.1 trillion won ($7.4 billion) on the one-time giveaways that will reach 14 million households.

Hong says officials ruled out cash payments to ensure an increase in consumer spending.

South Korea’s has employed a variety of financial tools to support its economy in face of the global health crisis, such as cutting its policy rate to an all-time low, expanding short-term loans for financial institutions and introducing a rescue package for companies totaling 100 trillion won ($81.7 billion).

___

ISLAMABAD — Pakistani health officials are confirming eight deaths from coronavirus, raising nationwide fatalities to 21.

It was the biggest jump in deaths in the past 24 hours, which rose from 13 on Sunday to 21 on Monday.

Authorities have so far confirmed 1,658 cases, and at least 10 patients are listed in critical condition at hospitals.

The increase in cases and deaths happened despite nationwide lockdown and closure of Pakistani borders with neighboring China, India, Iran and Afghanistan. Authorities are trying to provide food to needy and poor people who have been unemployed and badly affected by the nationwide lockdown.

___

JOHANNESBURG — Cases across Africa rose closer to 5,000 on Monday morning as the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 4,760 cases in 46 countries, including 146 deaths.

South Africa has the most cases with 1,280, but testing shortages and backlogs in that country and others could mean that the real numbers are higher.

Zimbabwe’s three-week lockdown began Monday and more cities across the continent were shut down.

___

MOSCOW — Russia’s Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin on Monday instructed regional governors across the vast country to prepare for the introduction of a lockdown introduced in Moscow to help stem the spread of the new coronavirus.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin ordered all city residents except for those working in essential sectors to stay home starting Monday. Residents are allowed to buy food and medicines at nearby stores and pharmacies and walk their dogs in close vicinity.

Legislators are expected to quickly spell out fines and other administrative measures to enforce the lockdown.

Sobyanin’s move follows Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to announce the current week as nonworking. Putin asked all Russians to stay home, leaving it to regional officials to work out specifics.

Russia so far has registered 1,534 coronavirus cases, but their number has been rising steeply.

___

BANGKOK — Thailand’s popular seaside resort island of Phuket has closed all land and sea entry and exit points until April 30 to try to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Phuket Governor Phakaphong Tavipatana says a ban on air travel will start on April 10. Phuket attracts many foreign tourists whose travel plans have been disrupted by the widespread cancellation of international flights.

Thailand registered 39 million international arrivals last year. Phuket is a top destination for tourists, hosting more than 10 million visitors annually, including Thais.

Phuket’s land travel ban, which became effective Monday, makes exceptions for transport of food and essential items, emergency vehicles and vehicles carrying publications.

Ships are banned from entering and leaving Phuket’s international port, with exceptions for cargo ships, which can unload their cargoes but not allow crews to disembark before leaving as soon as possible.

___

Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Categories: National & International News