The Latest: Royals talk about mental stress of lockdown

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.


— Bleak figures from China and US show economic hit from virus.

— Prince William and his wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, attend an online video chat.

— An 84-hour curfew is set for Serbia for Orthodox Easter.

— Bangladesh reports new virus deaths, infections.


LONDON — Prince William says the “most important thing” to do to deal with the mental stress of the coronavirus lockdown is to talk.

In an online video chat with the BBC with his wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, William said it’s “always underestimated” how much talking can help in maintaining mental health especially in an environment like this.

The royal couple have supported an initiative by Public Health England’s Every Mind Matters platform, by voicing a new film which signposts people to access tips and support for their mental health and well-being during the coronavirus pandemic. The film is set to be broadcast from April 20.

Catherine said “we mustn’t forget our mental well-being as well.”

William said members of the royal family have “really appreciated” being able to talk to each other online, though he conceded that the younger generation are a “little bit more tech-savvy.”

Williams also said he was initially “quite concerned” when he heard his father, Prince Charles, contracted the coronavirus given he is 71, and in the “fairly risky” category. Charles ended up having mild symptoms and came out of self-isolation on March 30.

William also laid out his hope that the world comes out of the pandemic in a better place, that it “recenters, refocuses and brings us all together.”


BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbs are set this weekend to celebrate Orthodox Christian Easter inside their homes because an 84-hour curfew will be in place as part of measures against the spread of the new coronavirus.

The government-imposed curfew will start at 5 p.m. on Friday and last until 5 a.m. on Tuesday. This means that only people will special permits will be allowed to go out of their homes.

The Serbian Orthodox Church has asked the authorities to revoke the curfew early on Sunday to allow for the believers to attend Easter liturgies, but this has been rejected from fear of the virus spreading through the crowds.

The Head of the church, Patriarch Irinej, then urged the flock to stay at home with their families and follow the advise of the epidemiologists. Patriarch Irinej says “this is an opportunity for us to think carefully about ourselves and the whole world.”

Nonetheless, dozens of citizens have visited churches in Serbia that are open before the start of the curfew.

Serbia has imposed some of the harshest measures in Europe to contain the outbreak. They include banning people over 65 years old from leaving their homes and a daily and weekend curfews.

Serbia has reported 103 deaths from the new coronavirus.


DHAKA, Bangladesh — Bangladesh has reported 15 more deaths and 266 cases of new infections from coronavirus over last 24 hours, the country’s health minister said Friday.

Health Minister Zahid Maleque said with the latest figures the death toll reached 75 and the number of infections stood at 1,838. He said health workers collected samples from 2,190 people across the country during last 24 hours and found 266 people positive. He said about 500 infected people remained hospitalized Friday.

Experts say Bangladesh, a nation of 160 million people, lacks proper management in handling the situation. Bangladesh is enforcing weekslong lockdown across the country until April 25 to contain the virus from spreading.


SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea says it’s continuing to see a rise in patients who test positive for the coronavirus for a second time after being diagnosed as recovered. However, the risk of transmissions from such cases so far appears to be low.

Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the country’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Friday at least 163 people have tested positive again after their initial release from hospitals, accounting for more than 2% of the country’s 7,829 recoveries.

She says the patients on average were 13.5 days removed from their release when they tested positive again, although the longest gap was 35 days.

Jeong says none of the patients were in serious condition although 61 of them were exhibiting mild symptoms. Officials are monitoring about 300 people who contacted the patients but have so far detected no transmissions of the virus.

While health authorities are investigating the causes of such cases, including whether they are linked to virus mutations, they have so far downplayed the possibility that people could get re-infected after making a full recovery.

They say it’s more likely that infections were re-activated after remaining dormant in patients whose bodies hadn’t fully developed immunity after experiencing mild symptoms.


BERLIN — Germany’s official statistical office said Friday that some 2.6 million students will soon return to schools as the country relaxes its pandemic lockdown rules.

Authorities in Germany’s 16 states agreed this week to allow a staggered reopening of schools, with students in their final two years of high school and the final year of primary returning first.

Germany, a country of 83 million people, has so far recorded almost 137,700 confirmed infections of the new coronavirus, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Compared to other countries Germany has had relatively few deaths — 4,052 so far — less than a third the number seen in Britain, which has fewer confirmed cases.


MADRID — Spain’s official gazette has published Friday a government order for the country’s 17 autonomous regions to unify the criteria on counting the dead in the coronavirus pandemic.

The government says that it’s following World Health Organization guidance and insists on counting only those who die having tested positive for the virus, whether they show or not symptoms and no matter where the death takes place.

That figure on Thursday rose above the 19,000 mark, with a total of more than 182,000 infections. But the accounting system leaves out the patients who died with symptoms but not tested.

The difference is significant.

The northeastern Catalonia region, for example, had 3,700 fatalities recorded earlier this week with tests but only in hospitals, not at centers for pensioners or private homes. And when it looked at the data of death certificates in funeral houses it found 3,200 additional fatalities that could potentially be linked to the COVID-19.

The scale of the tragedy at nursing homes is also a source of confusion. Regional governments are reporting that over 11,000 have died with the virus or its symptoms in these supervised facilities, a figure that is also believed to be inconsistent because each of the Spanish regions has different criteria when it comes to include or not cases unconfirmed by tests, or how to count those who die at day-care centers for the disabled.


LONDON — London Mayor Sadiq Khan says wearing face coverings, such as bandannas and scarves, could provide people with another layer of protection against the coronavirus and is lobbying the British government to change its advice.

Khan told BBC radio that the evidence he has seen is that wearing a non-medical facial covering “reduces the chances” of those who have the virus of giving it to somebody else. However, he did concede that it “doesn’t necessarily limit your changes of catching the virus.”

He said changing the advice would be helpful for those in public transport or in shops, where some people may find it difficult to abide by the social distancing guidelines of staying two meters (6 feet) apart.

Khan said it’s important that there’s a “consistent approach” across the country and that’s why he’s lobbying the government and its advisers.

The government’s chief medical adviser, Professor Chris Whitty, said Thursday that the evidence around masks being helpful in preventing the spread of the coronavirus is “weak,” while conceding it was a “live issue.”


BERLIN — Germany’s health minister says the coronavirus outbreak in the country has become “manageable,” with new data showing the rate of new infections has slowed significantly.

Jens Spahn told reporters in Berlin on Friday that the increase in COVID-19 cases isn’t exponential anymore, but linear.

Figures released by the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s disease control center, show that the number of people infected by every person with COVID-19 has fallen to 0.7, from over 1 just a few days ago.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said this week that this so-called reproduction rate was a key indicator the government would take into account when deciding whether to relax the lockdown.

Spahn noted that since April 12, the country has also had more people recovered from COVID-19 than active cases.

Experts say early and widespread testing has helped Germany keep a lid on the outbreak. Spahn said the country has so far conducted 1.7 million tests and is able to carry out 700,000 a week if necessary.


TOKYO — Tokyo had 201 new cases of the coronavirus Friday, setting a new record of daily rise, bringing a prefectural total to 2,796, with 56 deaths, according to Gov. Yuriko Koike. The Japanese capital has seen its new cases shoot up since late March, raising concerns about the infections becoming explosive.

Friday’s rise in the cases comes 10 days after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a month-long state of emergency in Tokyo and six other urban prefectures, a measure he expanded to all of Japan on Thursday.

Koike has requested the residents to stay at home and nonessential businesses to shut down. But social distancing was not fully followed, with many people still commuting on trains to work in Japan where remote working is slow to come.

“We are continuing to face a critical situation,’’ Koike said. She also said she secured a third hotel for slightly-sick patients to stay and make room at overburdened hospitals as Tokyo faces fear of the collapse of medical systems.

Abe expanded the state of emergency to step up measures ahead of a major holiday week coming up in early May so that people won’t travel around and possibly spread the virus. The ongoing state of emergency runs through May 6.

Nationwide, Japan has nearly 9,900 cases including about 700 from a cruise ship quarantined earlier this year, with about 160 deaths.


CANBERRA, Australia — An Australian government minister has called on China to be transparent about the origins of the coronavirus and predicted the world will rethink relations with Australia’s most important trading partner because of the pandemic.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton recently recovered from COVID-19 which he apparently contracted during a trip to Washington D.C.

Dutton told Nine Network on Friday: “I do think there will be a reset about the way in which the world interacts with China. We do want more transparency.”

Chinese interference in other countries and involvement in cyber spying “need to, I think, be looked at again,” Dutton said.

“When you’ve got a communist party that doesn’t have the transparency that other comparable economies have, then that is a problem,” Dutton said.

Dutton’s call for transparency comes after U.S. officials revealed intelligence agencies were assessing whether the respiratory virus escaped from a biological laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the pandemic began.

“Hopefully you can have China answering these questions that are reasonably put and people can have more confidence,” Dutton said.


BEIJING — Bleak figures from the world’s two largest economies underscore how quickly the coronavirus is delivering a massive economic blow.

China on Friday reported GDP shrank 6.8% from a year ago in the quarter ending March, its worst contraction since before market-style economic reforms began in 1979. And in the U.S., the world’s largest economy, the ranks of the unemployed swelled toward levels last seen during the Great Depression.

Still, the economic data from China was not as bad as some had feared, prompting shares in Asia to surge. That was after Wall Street also rose, powered by buying of Amazon, health care stocks and other market niches that are thriving in the coronavirus crunch.

The recovery for workers is likely to take a long time, however. Some forecasters earlier said China might rebound as early as this month, but they have been cutting growth forecasts and pushing back recovery timelines as negative trade, retail sales and other data pile up.

The U.S. government reported 5.2 million more Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the four-week total to 22 million — easily the worst stretch of U.S. job losses on record. The losses translate to about 1 in 7 American workers.


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