The Latest: Singapore quarantines almost 20K foreign workers

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.


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

— Singapore places nearly 20,000 foreign workers under quarantine.

— Austrian government looks to slowly lift virus restrictions.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s vice health minister has urged vigilance to maintain hard-won gains against the new coronavirus.

Kim Gang-lip expressed concerns over loosened attitudes toward social distancing that he says puts the country at potential risk of an infection “explosion” similar to Europe and the United States.

His warning on Monday came after the country reported 47 new cases of the coronavirus, the smallest daily jump since Feb. 20. Infections have continued to wane in the worst-hit city of Daegu, where 6,781 of the country’s 10,284 cases have been reported.

However, there’s alarm over a steady rise in infections linked to international arrivals as students and other South Korean nationals flock back from the West amid broadening outbreaks and suspended school years. This has inflated the caseload in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where about half of South Korea’s 51 million people live, prompting Gyeonggi province governor Lee Jae-myung to warn last week that an “explosion in infections is almost certain.”

“There’s still danger that an explosion in local transmissions which we have been seeing in Europe and the United States can happen in our society at any time, which would collapse our hospital system and spike death rates,” Kim said.

Kim pleaded for people to stay at home, citing smartphone data that showed increased crowds in Seoul’s public parks and leisure districts over the past two weeks. While South Korea’s government has shut schools and issued social-distancing guidelines for the public, it has not enforced lockdowns or ordered unessential businesses to close.


MIAMI — Authorities say 14 people have been taken to hospitals from a cruise ship that docked in Florida with coronavirus victims aboard and one of them has died.

Two fatalities were reported earlier aboard the Coral Princess, which docked Saturday in Miami. The ship had more than 1,000 passengers and nearly 900 crew members.

Authorities did not immediately disclose whether the 14 people removed for immediate medical attention had a confirmed coronavirus link.

The Princess Cruises line ship began disembarking fit passengers cleared for charter flights Sunday. The cruise line said it was delayed by a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention policy preventing passengers from being placed on commercial flights.

Anyone with symptoms of the disease or recovering from it were being kept on ship until medically cleared.


OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said the state will return more than 400 ventilators of the 500 it has received from the federal government so they can go to New York and other states hit harder by the coronavirus.

The Democratic governor said Sunday that his statewide stay-at-home order and weeks of social distancing have led to slower rates of infections and deaths in Washington.

Washington state has 7,666 confirmed cases of the virus and 322 deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally on Sunday afternoon. New York has more than 122,000 confirmed cases and more than 4,000 deaths.

Washington received 500 ventilators last month from the Strategic National Stockpile.

“I’ve said many times over the last few weeks: We are in this together,” Inslee said. “This should guide all of our actions at an individual and state level in the coming days and weeks.”


SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 47 new cases of the coronavirus and three more fatalities, bringing its totals to 10,284 infections and 186 deaths.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday said at least 769 of the infections were linked to passengers arriving from overseas, with most of the cases detected in the past three weeks in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area.

The country’s caseload has slowed from early March, when it was reporting around 500 new cases a day, but officials have raised concern over a steady rise in infections imported from overseas or occurring in hospitals, nursing homes and other live-in facilities.

During the weekend, officials extended a government guideline urging people to social distance to slow the spread of the virus by two weeks, guarding against increasing infections in the Seoul metropolitan area and broadening outbreaks in Europe and the United States.


UNITED NATIONS — United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says there has been “a horrifying global surge in domestic violence” in recent weeks as fear of the coronavirus pandemic has grown along with its social and economic consequences.

The U.N. chief, who appealed on March 23 for an immediate cease-fire in conflicts around the world to tackle COVID-19, said in a statement Sunday night it is now time to appeal for an end to all violence, “everywhere, now.”

Guterres said that “for many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest — in their own homes.”

“And, so, I make a new appeal today for peace at home — and in homes — around the world,” he said.

The secretary-general said in some countries, which he didn’t name, “the number of women calling support services has doubled.”

At the same time, he said, health care providers and police are overwhelmed and understaffed, local support groups are paralyzed or short of funds, and some domestic violence shelters are closed while others are full.

“I urge all governments to make the prevention and redress of violence against women a key part of their national response plans for COVID-19,” Guterres said.


BEIJING — China on Monday reported 39 new cases of coronavirus infection — 38 of them imported — one additional death, 10 suspected cases and 1,047 asymptomatic cases under observation.

There were no new confirmed or suspected cases in the epicenter city of Wuhan, where a 14-week lockdown is due to be lifted on Wednesday.

China has now recorded a total of 81,708 cases and 3,331 deaths since the COVID-19 illness was first detected there in late December.


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