The Latest: Red tape holds up delivery of US ventilators
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:
— Pentagon holding ventilators until HHS says where they are needed.
— U.N. chief says pandemic is biggest global crisis since World War II.
— Fauci says White House could recommend broader use of masks.
WASHINGTON — A senior military general says the Pentagon has not yet delivered any of the 2,000 ventilators it offered to the Department of Health and Human Services two weeks ago because HHS has asked it to wait while the agency determines where the devices should go.
Lt. Gen. Giovanni Tuck, the Pentagon’s top logistics official, said in an interview with a small group of reporters Tuesday that the military arranged for an initial batch of 1,000 ventilators to be delivered, but HHS asked it to wait.
Tuck also told reporters that of the 5 million respirator masks the Defense Department offered to provide to HHS as personal protective equipment for health care workers and others, about 1.5 million have been sent. He said another 500,000 are due to be shipped this week. The rest will be delivered when HHS asks for them, he added.
BATON ROUGE, La. — Fifty-four more Louisianans have died from the new coronavirus, bringing the state’s death toll to 239, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.
Increased testing shows more than 5,200 people have confirmed infections, according to the figures, up more than 1,200. That’s the largest single-day spike in the number of new virus cases Louisiana has seen since its first infection was reported March 9.
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus has followed the example of other countries and has released inmates from its central prisons complex to ease overcrowding and help fight the spread of the coronavirus.
The Prisons Department said 114 inmates were released on Tuesday from a total prison population of 800 after consultations with the Cypriot president, justice minister and attorney general.
The complex has a maximum capacity of around 550 inmates. The released inmates include those who have received sentences of up to 10 years, have served at least half of their sentence or have two years left on that sentence. Inmates convicted of serious crimes including murder, attempted murder, rape and sexual assault of minors are excluded.
BAGHDAD — Iraq has extended a nationwide curfew until April 19 amid a rising rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases as the country improves testing capabilities.
Under the curfew, first imposed on March 17, all but essential businesses have been shuttered and inbound and outbound flights suspended in Baghdad and local airports across the country. Twice a day clarion calls by Iraqi authorities instruct citizens to stay at home.
Iraq is seeing a gradual increase in confirmed coronavirus cases as testing capabilities improve. By Tuesday, at least 50 people had died among 694 cases, according to a statement from the Health Ministry.
KIGALI, Rwanda — The African nation that once declared it was coronavirus-free because it had “put God first” has confirmed its first two cases.
The announcement by Burundi’s health minister came the same day as a Human Rights Watch report citing witness accounts of squalid quarantine conditions in the East African nation.
The government, often accused by rights groups of political repression, has refused to comment on the allegations. They include lack of food and water, poor sanitation, staying several people to a room and being told by police that people leaving quarantine could be shot if they leave. Forty-nine of Africa’s 54 countries now have the virus.
JERUSALEM — Israel’s Defense Ministry says it has converted a missile-production facility into an assembly line producing breathing machines to help the country confront the coronavirus pandemic.
The ministry announced Tuesday that the facility, operating at a factory belonging to state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, produced its first 30 ventilators.
Israel Aerospace said it built the production line in several days with Inovytec, an Israeli maker of medical equipment. Israel Aerospace says it expects the line to make hundreds of machines per week.
The facility is normally used to produce the U.S.-Israeli “Arrow” missile defense system, satellites and the “Beresheet” unmanned spacecraft that attempted a lunar landing last year.
“Turning a missile production line into a ventilator assembly plant is a very complex task,” said Dr. Dani Gold, the ministry official leading the effort.
Israel has reported 5,300 cases of coronavirus. Twenty people have died.
ATHENS, Greece — Greek authorities say a ship with 383 people on board that is anchored off the country’s main port of Piraeus has been quarantined after about 20 of its occupants tested positive for the new coronavirus.
The coast guard said Tuesday that the measure was imposed on March 28 when the first case was confirmed.
Greek state TV said the Eleftherios Venizelos ferryboat had been chartered to take mostly Turkish workers to Spain, where they were to have been employed in a shipbuilding project.
The coast guard said that due to the virus outbreak it returned to Piraeus, the port of Athens, and has been quarantined just outside the harbor.
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — For the first time, a major election in Africa has been postponed as authorities say the coronavirus makes it impossible to prepare.
Ethiopia’s national election board says it is ceasing all work related to the vote once set for August. It has been highly anticipated in a country that has seen sweeping political reforms but a surge of violence as people use new freedoms to settle old scores.
Both the government and opposition camps have expressed support for the election board’s decision. With the government’s mandate expiring in a few months, lawmakers are expected to vote to extend it.
Several African countries have upcoming presidential votes this year.
PRAGUE — The Czech government has approved a package to help the economy hit by restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Labor Minister Jana Malacova said the government agreed to pay up to 80% of the salaries of the employees at the businesses that had to be closed after the outbreak. The companies have to keep them on the payroll.
The people who had to be quarantined will also be given 80% of their salaries by the state.
The maximum was set at 39,000 Czech crowns ($1,560) per person a month.
The government will also contribute 60% of the salaries to the employees at the companies whose revenues dropped due to the crisis with a maximum set at 29,000 Czech crowns ($1,160) per person a month.
Finance Minister Alena Schillerova said self-employed people will receive a one-time payment of $1,000.
The government previously agreed to use up to $40 billion to help the economy in direct aid and loan guarantees.
The Czech Republic had 3,138 people infected while 29 have died, according to figures released on Tuesday.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey reported 46 deaths from the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, raising the total number of fatalities in the country to 214.
According to the Health Ministry figures released Tuesday, the country also registered 2,704 more confirmed cases, bringing the total number to 13,531. At least 243 patients have recovered.
LONDON — The medical director of the National Health Service’s operations in England says there is evidence that the social distancing measures imposed by the British government to get on top of the coronavirus pandemic are working.
At a press briefing Tuesday, Professor Stephen Powis said this was not a time for complacency.
Though there’s been “a bit of a plateau,” Powis insisted “we must not take our foot off the pedal.”
His comments came after figures showed that 381 people who had tested positive for COVID-19 had died in the previous 24-hour period, taking the total to 1,789. The increase was by far the biggest daily rise.
Powis said the number of deaths will continue to increase over the coming weeks as it is the last indicator that will turn after the number of infections and the number of hospitalizations.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch government has extended what Prime Minister Mark Rutte calls an “intelligent lockdown” to slow the spread of the coronavirus until April 28.
The decision announced by Rutte in a nationally televised press conference Tuesday evening means that bars, restaurants, museums, schools and universities will have to remain closed for an extra three weeks. The government already had ordered them closed them until April 6.
All large-scale events and gatherings have been banned until June 1.
The announcement came on the day that the country’s public health institute announced that the national death toll had risen by 175 to 1,039.
PHILADELPHIA — A federal judge in Pennsylvania has ordered the immediate release of 10 people held in the state by U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement because their health makes them particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus while in custody.
U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III said in his ruling Tuesday that social distancing and adequate hygiene are not possible in the three detention facilities where the people are being held while they pursue immigration cases in the U.S.
The case is among a series brought on behalf of people held in immigration detention in recent days across the U.S. Judges in about a half a dozen cases have ordered the immediate release of detainees.
ICE had no immediate comment about whether it would appeal the ruling.
There are around 37,000 people held in immigration detention in the U.S. ICE has reported that at least four have tested positive for COVID-19.
UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is warning that the world faces the most challenging crisis since World War II, confronting a pandemic threatening people in every country that will bring a recession “that probably has no parallel in the recent past.”
The U.N. chief said at the launch of a report Tuesday on the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 there is also a risk that the combination of the disease and its economic impact will contribute to “enhanced instability, enhanced unrest, and enhanced conflict.”
Guterres called for a stronger and more effective global response to the coronavirus pandemic and to the social and economic devastation that COVID-19 is causing.
He stressed that this will only be possible “if everybody comes together and if we forget political games and understand that it is humankind that is at stake.”
“The magnitude of the response must match the scale of the crisis — large-scale, coordinated and comprehensive, with country and international responses being guided by the World Health Organization,” the secretary-general said, noting that not all countries are following WHO guidelines.
Guterres announced the establishment of a COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to support efforts in low- and middle-income countries, with the aim of swiftly enabling governments to tackle the crisis and promote recovery.
WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci said the White House coronavirus task force is looking into the idea of recommending broader, community-wide use of masks to deter the spread of the new coronavirus.
Fauci said the task force first wants to make sure that such a move wouldn’t take away from the supply of masks available to health care workers.
“But once we get in a situation where we have enough masks, I believe there will be some very serious consideration about more broadening this recommendation of using masks,” Fauci said in a CNN interview Tuesday. “We’re not there yet, but I think we’re close to coming to some determination.”
He said wearing a mask may prevent an infected person from spreading the virus.
Fauci is the director National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a leader of the U.S. response to the pandemic.
President Donald Trump said Monday he could see broader use of masks on a temporary basis.
“I mean, you know, we want our country back. We’re not going to be wearing masks forever, but it could be for a short period of time,” Trump said.
The World Health Organization on Monday reiterated its advice that the general population doesn’t need to wear masks unless they’re sick. Since the epidemic began in China, the WHO has said masks are for the sick and people caring for them.
Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak