The Latest: Lebanon asks world for help amid new coronavirus

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:

— The United States and Britain brace for soaring death tolls this week.

— Lebanon’s president appeals to world ambassadors for assistance.

— Czech government leaders look to relax virus restrictions.

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BEIRUT — Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun has appealed for the international community to help the country that is passing through its worst economic and financial crisis in decades, made worse in recent weeks by the new coronavirus.

Aoun said in a speech Monday in front of ambassadors of the International Support Group for Lebanon that includes the U.N., U.S., China, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Britain, EU and the Arab League that Beirut was getting ready to launch work to revive the economy when coronavirus hit the world.

“We are facing all these challenges and welcome any international assistance,” Aoun said adding that the presence of a million Syrian refugees is adding to the crisis.

Lebanon has reported 541 cases of coronavirus and 19 deaths.

Also in Lebanon, which has been imposing a lockdown for weeks, security forces began implementing strict measures that allow vehicles with even or odd plate numbers to drive for three days a week each. Driving will be banned on Sundays to try limit the spread of the virus.

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PRAGUE — Czech government ministers say the country is set to gradually relax some restrictions imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Interior Minister Jan Hamacek, who heads the government’s crisis committee that deals with the outbreak, says that he is proposing to cancel the ban for the Czechs to travel abroad as of April 14. Hamacek says that the border checks would remain in place and people would be allowed to travel only under specific rules that still have to be finalized.

Currently, the Czechs are barred from leaving the country and foreigners are barred from entering it.

Hamacek, however, says that all tough restrictions on movement within the country won’t be relaxed for Easter.

Health Minister Adam Vojtech says the government is also set to discuss a proposal to allow more small stores to reopen, depending on the development of the epidemic.

The Cabinet will decide on all those measures later this week.

The Czech Republic has 4,591 people infected with the virus, 72 have died, according to the Health Ministry figures released on Monday.

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MADRID — Coronavirus-related fatalities and recorded infections continued to drop on Monday in Spain, although authorities warned of possible distortions by a slower reporting of figures over the weekend.

The country’s health ministry reported 637 new deaths for the previous 24 hours, the lowest fatality toll in 13 days, for a total of over 13,000 since the pandemic hit the country. New recorded infections were also the lowest in two weeks: 4,273 bringing the total of confirmed cases over 135,000.

Hospitals are also reporting that the pace of incoming patients to their emergency wards is slowing down, giving a much needed respite to overburdened medical workers.

Mimicking the “Noah’s Ark” approach seen in China and other Asian countries, the government is putting together a list of venues, hotels and sports centers where patients who test positive but show no symptoms could be isolated to avoid infecting relatives.

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TOKYO — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he is preparing to announce a 108 trillion yen ($1 trillion) economic package to help Japan weather the coronavirus pandemic.

Abe told reporters Monday that he plans to disclose details of the package as early as Tuesday.

Japan, the world’s third-biggest economy, was already in a contraction late last year before the virus outbreak walloped business and travel. The government has been slow to roll out containment measures, on a piecemeal basis, and only recently announced it would postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympics by one year.

A surge in infections has prompted Abe and other leaders to discuss more stringent methods to contain the pandemic. Abe is expected to announce a state of emergency on Tuesday, at least for the hardest-hit big cities, such as Tokyo.

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SINGAPORE — Singapore has placed nearly 20,000 foreign workers under quarantine in their dormitories after an increasing number in the community were found to be infected with COVID-19.

The country has gazetted two foreign dormitories as isolation areas, which means that the thousands of workers living on both sites will not be able to leave their rooms for 14 days, according to a press release by Singapore’s ministry of health on April 5. Combined, the two dormitories have so far seen over 90 cases of COVID-19 infections.

The move comes as Singapore sees a spike in local cases of COVID-19, with a record 116 such cases on Sunday. Singapore will also effectively enter a lockdown from Tuesday, closing schools and workplaces deemed to provide nonessential services for a month.

Workers under quarantine will continue to be paid salaries, the ministry said. It is also working with all dormitory operators in Singapore to reduce the density of their residents by transferring some workers to alternative accommodation during this period.

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VIENNA — Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz says his government aims to start allowing some shops to reopen next week at the beginning of a long, phased return to normal life.

Kurz said that the aim is to allow small shops and garden centers to reopen next Tuesday, with a limited number of customers who must wear masks. He said that government hopes to reopen the rest of the shops, as well as hairdressing salons, on May 1. Restaurants and hotels won’t be able to open until at least mid-May. Events will remain banned until the end of June.

Existing restrictions on people’s movement, which were imposed three weeks ago and set to expire on April 13, are being extended until the end of the month.

Austria had some 12,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including 220 deaths, as of Monday.

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TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan has replaced its tourism chief and ordered vacationers who visited crowded scenic sites over the recent holiday weekend to avoid public spaces as it strives to maintain its relative success in containing the coronavirus.

Tourism Bureau Director-General Chou Yung-hui was demoted and moved to a new job after news emerged that a subordinate had abused his powers to skirt procedures on behalf of his son, leading to the infection of another staffer at the bureau.

That staffer then infected his five-year-old son, forcing the boy’s kindergarten to be closed for 14 days. None of the other students or teachers were found to be infected, according to the Central Epidemic Command Center.

The CECC also urged anyone who visited one of 11 popular tourist sites during the four-day Qingming festival to avoid public spaces for 14 days, work from home if possible, wear masks and practice social distancing to avoid further cross infection.

Despite its proximity to China, where global pandemic began, Taiwan has successfully kept widespread infection at bay largely by closely tracing any possible cases, barring foreign visitors and enforcing quarantines.

The island recorded 10 new cases on Monday, bringing its total to 373 with five deaths.

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VALLETTA, Malta — Maltese health authorities have placed all 1,000 migrants staying in a center in quarantine after eight of them tested positive for coronavirus.

The migrants have been granted asylum and are usually free to leave the center, and some have jobs. But Health Minister Chris Fearne ordered all of them be placed in quarantine for 14 days in a bid to contain the spread of the virus.

The Mediterranean island nation of Malta so far has 227 cases of COVID-19; the youngest is a girl aged two and the oldest is a woman of 86. Only five of the 227 have recovered.

No deaths attributed to the virus have been reported.

Maltese schools have been closed since March 13, and bars and restaurants have also been ordered shut. Maltese authorities are imposing fines on anyone who gathers in groups of more than three people in public.

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LONDON — Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in charge of the government despite being hospitalized in what his office described as a “precautionary step,” after contracting the new coronavirus.

Housing and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told BBC that Johnson is awaiting the results of tests after spending the night in an undisclosed hospital.

Jenrick says that he’s “sure this is very frustrating for him,’’ but that “nonetheless he’s still very much in charge.’’ Jenrick did not rule out a more prolonged stay.

The 55-year-old leader had been quarantined in his Downing St. residence since being diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26 — the first known head of government to fall ill with the virus.

He has continued to preside at daily meetings on the outbreak and has released several video messages during his 10 days in isolation.

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MOSCOW — The number of coronavirus cases in Russia has topped 6,000 after the largest daily spike in new infections since the start of the outbreak.

The Russian government’s headquarters dealing with the epidemic said Monday that 954 cases have been registered in the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s total to 6,343. Moscow has accounted for 4,484 contagions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered most Russians to stay off work until the end of the month as part of a partial economic shutdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus. He said some essential industries will keep operating, and grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open.

The Russian leader has noted that that it would be up to regional authorities to decide which companies and organizations could keep working in their areas depending on the situation. Russia’s Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin on Monday sternly warned regional governors against shutting administrative borders between provinces, emphasizing that movement of people and cargo mustn’t be restricted.

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OSLO, Norway — Norway is sending an emergency medical team to Italy’s Lombardy region that it says is in desperate need of health-care staff due to the coronavirus emergency.

The Norwegian government said it was replying to the request of the Lombardy region initially made at the end of March.

The medical team is “self-sufficient” and will remain in Italy for four weeks, the government said.

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