The Latest: Pentagon to take patients in Dallas, New Orleans

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.


__ Pentagon to accept COVID-19 positive patients at facilities in Dallas and New Orleans.

__ Meek Mill’s criminal justice reform group donating face masks to jails and prisons.

__ Berlin’s top security official accuses United States of using “wild west methods” to obtain PPE.

__ Kenya advises citizens to wear face masks in public.


WASHINGTON — The Pentagon says is it will begin accepting COVID-19 positive patients at Pentagon-supported medical facilities in Dallas and New Orleans that previously had been designated as non-COVID hospitals.

COVID-19 positive patients in convalescent care and those deemed non-urgent cases will be accepted at the Morial federal medical station in New Orleans and at the Kay Bailey Hutchison federal medical center in Dallas. These patients must first be screened at a local hospital.

President Donald Trump on Thursday announced that he had approved New York’s request that COVID-19 patients be accepted for care at the Pentagon-supported Javits center, which previously had taken on non-COVID patients.

The Pentagon also said Friday that screening for care of non-COVID-19 patients on the hospital ship USNS Comfort in New York harbor is being modified in an effort to reduce a backlog at some New York hospitals.

Instead of requiring patients to be tested for COVID-19 at the hospital from which they are being transferred, each patient transferred to the Comfort will be screened by temperature and given a short questionnaire pier-side.

The Pentagon also announced that the number of COVID-19 positive cases in the active-duty military had risen to 978 as of Friday morning. That is up 85 from a day earlier.


PHILADELPHIA — Meek Mill’s criminal justice reform group says it’s donating 100,000 face masks to some of the nation’s most notorious jails and prisons.

The celebrity-backed REFORM Alliance says 50,000 masks will go to the Rikers Island jail complex in New York City, 40,000 will be sent to the Tennessee Department of Correction, and 5,000 are headed to the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman.

The Philadelphia-based group includes Jay-Z among its founding members and has been pressing the nation’s jails and prisons to thin their inmate populations, improve sanitation, protect prison workers and take other precautions to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Hundreds of inmates and staff at U.S. correctional facilities have tested positive for the virus. Health experts say people inside prisons and jails are at heightened risk because of tight inmate quarters, a lack of sanitation and substandard medical care.


NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya has told its nearly 50 million people to wear face masks to help protect themselves against the coronavirus.

The health ministry says the East African nation’s textile industry has the capacity to make 60 million masks “immediately” and the sale price should be around 20 Kenyan shillings, which is about 20 cents.

The country has struggled at times with a coronavirus-related curfew and police were accused of shooting dead a 13-year-old and beating or using tear gas on other people.

The country has 122 cases of the new coronavirus. A 6-year-old boy is the latest to die.


LONDON — The European Medicines Agency issued guidance for the compassionate use of experimental drug remdesivir as a possible treatment for COVID-19.

The European drug regulator says remdesivir should only be given to hospitalized critically ill patients suffering from the coronavirus who have no other treatment options.

The EMA’s advice was prompted by requests made from Estonia, Greece, the Netherlands and Romania asking for guidance on how the drug should be used in treating the new coronavirus.

Several clinical trials are already under way to test the effectiveness of remdesivir, which is made by Gilead Sciences.

The World Health Organization has previously described the drug as “the most promising candidate” among the dozens being studied. Remdesivir was originally developed to treat Ebola and there are some limited laboratory data suggesting it is effective against related coronaviruses like SARS and MERS.


BERLIN — Berlin’s top security official is accusing the United States of using “wild west methods” to obtain personal protective equipment. The claim came after a delivery of face masks destined for the German capital was diverted en route from China.

German media reported Friday that hundreds of thousands of masks purchased from manufacturer 3M and intended for Berlin police were diverted to the U.S. as they were being transferred between planes in Thailand.

Berlin officials confirmed that about 200,000 FFP2 masks already paid for by Germany were seized at a Bangkok airport and didn’t reach their intended destination. The masks are the equivalent of the U.S. N95 standard.

Andreas Geisel is the interior minister for Berlin state. He says the diversion of the masks is “an act of modern piracy. This is no way to treat trans-Atlantic partners.”

“Even in times of global crisis there should be no wild west methods,” Geisel said.

He added he wants the German government to demand the United States adhere to international rules.

The U.S. embassy in Berlin didn’t immediately comment.


BRUSSELS — European Union foreign ministers have agreed to try to funnel more aid to Africa to help fragile countries there cope with the spread of the new coronavirus.

After chairing a ministerial video-conference,

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says Africa is of particular concern because he fears the pandemic there could rapidly lose control.

“Their problems will be also our problems,”

Borrell told reporters that Europe’s problems “will not be solved if it is not solved everywhere because it can backlash at any moment.”

He warned of the added fallout from the disease in countries where heavy fighting is going on, like in Libya, but also in Syria and Yemen. He says those countries are in “two conflicts at the same time.”

EU development ministers are due to hold talks next Wednesday to discuss aid for fragile countries.

The arrival of tens of thousands of migrants from Africa and conflict-torn countries sparked one of Europe’s biggest political crises. Some member countries still bicker over how to manage their entry.


GENEVA — Switzerland’s foreign minister says the country is in talks with Italy’s government about possibly accepting Italians infected by the coronavirus in Swiss hospitals.

Ignazio Cassis is the head of the foreign affairs department. He noted that Switzerland has already made a gesture of solidarity by welcoming in some 40 French citizens for hospitalization.

He says similar talks are now ongoing with Italy because “a number of problems linked to COVID can only be resolved through cross-border cooperation.”

Cassis is a trained medical doctor and said Switzerland is also in talks with its EU neighbors about letting their citizens who work in Swiss health care to continue crossing the border to get to their jobs.


BRUSSELS — The European Commission will temporarily waive customs duties and VAT on the import of protective medical equipment and medical devices entering the bloc to make them more affordable during the new coronavirus epidemics.

The commission said the measure applies retroactively from Jan. 30 for an initial period of six months. It covers masks and protective gear, as well as testing kits, ventilators and other medical equipment.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said customs duties of 12% and a value added tax of 22% is levied in Italy on some facemasks or protective garments that are imported. She says the waiver will make the supplies one third cheaper.

The average value added to ventilators in tax rate is 20%. Hospitals will save money and be able to buy more ventilators with the tax break.


LONDON — Buckingham Palace says Queen Elizabeth II has recorded an address to the nation and the Commonwealth about the coronavirus pandemic.

The palace says the message was recorded at Windsor Castle and will be broadcast on Sunday.

The 93-year-old British head of state has been at her castle home west of London. She relocated from Buckingham Palace because of the outbreak.

Apart from her annual Christmas Day message, the queen has made only a handful of special broadcasts at critical moments of her 68-year-reign. She made special broadcasts during the 1991 Gulf War and after the death of Princess Diana in 1997.


MOSCOW — The Russian military is sending planeloads of medical experts and equipment to Serbia to help it fight the coronavirus epidemic.

Russia has maintained close political and economic ties with Serbia and provided it with weapons in the past. The Russian Defense Ministry said 11 military cargo planes will deliver eight medical teams complete with equipment, disinfection experts and gear.

The move follows last month’s deployment of a similar Russian coronavirus task force to Italy and the delivery of medical supplies to the United States on Wednesday. U.S. President Donald Trump hailed Russia’s move as “very nice.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the U.S. paid for half of the medical supplies. The other half of the cost was sponsored by Russia’s state investment fund.

Russian officials have angrily rejected claims that the Kremlin was seeking political gains by providing medical aid to Italy and other countries.

Russia in February provided medical aid to China and later dispatched assistance to Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and various ex-Soviet nations.


ATHENS, Greece — Greek police have issued fines for more than 17,000 violations of Greece’s lockdown measures since they came into effect nearly two weeks ago.

Police say they have issued 17,358 fines for people breaking the new restrictions on leaving home, since the lockdown began on March 23.

Under the regulations, people are allowed out only for specific reasons. A self-declaration either on paper or sent via phone text message is required as proof of the reason for leaving home. Violations are punishable by a 150 euro ($163) fine.

Government officials have said they are considering further tightening restrictions to potentially impose distance or time restrictions.

Authorities are particularly concerned that many people might try to head to the countryside or gather in large groups as Easter approaches and the weather improves.


VATICAN CITY — The Vatican has extended its containment measures until April 13 to be in line with the Italian government’s national lockdown.

The independent Vatican City State has said it has seven confirmed cases of COVID-19 among residents in the walled independent country. None of the infected had contact with Pope Francis or his closest aides.

April 13th is locally known as “Little Easter, and is both an official Italian and Vatican holiday. Thousands of people normally would go to St. Peter’s Square to receive the pope’s blessing that day.

But Vatican City, the square and its museums have already been shut to the public due to virus-containment measures. The Italian government and health authorities have said any easing of the lockdown measures after April 13 would be gradual and likely stretch out over weeks.


MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin says regional authorities across the country should be given freedom to decide what steps need to be taken to counter the spread of the new coronavirus.

Putin on Thursday ordered most Russians off work until the end of the month as part of a partial economic shutdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Putin said essential industries should keep operating.

Putin on a conference call with presidential Security Council members said widely varying conditions across Russia warrant individual responses in the regions. He emphasized the economic situation is difficult so directives should not undermine economic activities.

Putin pointed at the Altai region in southeastern Siberia and some other areas that so far haven’t reported any coronavirus cases. He said it makes no sense at this point to order a nationwide shutdown. The Russian leader has also replaced several provincial governors.

Russia reported 4,149 cases of the new coronavirus on Friday.


AMSTERDAM — Amsterdam is banning boats from its central canals beginning Sunday as authorities fear warm spring weather will lead to overcrowding on the historic waterways.

The city says recreational boats will be barred from its horse-shoe shaped web of inner-city waterways and canals in the famed red light district. It comes amid fears of breaches of social distancing measures aimed at slowing the spread of the new coronavirus.

Owners caught flouting the ban face a 390 euro ($420) fine. Many people in and around the city own small boats that they use to cruise through the canals.

Only boats that use the canals for professional purposes will be allowed to operate.

Entrance to famed Vondel Park also will be restricted and the park will be closed altogether if it becomes too busy.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte has urged people to stay home even as the country experiences its first warm weekend of the year. Local mayors have been given power to close areas such as beaches and parks to prevent large gatherings of people.

The Netherlands is not in a full lockdown, but bars, restaurants, museums, schools and universities are closed and the government is urging people to stay home and practice social distancing.

The country’s public health institute on Friday reported 148 new deaths in the outbreak, bringing the Dutch death toll to 1,487.


TOKYO — Japanese families demonstrating need will receive cash handouts of 300,000 yen ($2,800) to help get through the economic woes caused by the new coronavirus pandemic.

Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga says an emergency financial package will be announced next week. It is expected to include cash help and aid for small businesses.

There is no lockdown in Japan but people have been asked to stay home. Tourism has nose-dived and concerts have been canceled.


BANGKOK — Thailand’s famous resort island of Phuket has ordered all its hotels to close to combat the spread of COVID-19. The island attracts more than 10 million visitors a year.

The shutdown order from the Phuket provincial Communicable Disease Committee becomes effective Saturday.

Hotels currently hosting guests may stay open until they leave, but must report their number and names to the district offices so their health can be screened. Any guest with COVID-19 symptoms will be brought to state-designated facilities for monitoring.

Failure to follow the order is punishable by up to a year in prison and a maximum fine of 100,000 baht ($3,028).

All land and sea entry and exit points in Phuket were closed this week to try to limit the spread of the coronavirus. A ban on air travel will start on April 10.


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