The Latest: South Africa bans dog-walking during lockdown
The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 450,000 people and killed over 20,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms in most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or those with existing health problems. More than 112,000 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.
TOP OF THE HOUR:
— Dog-walking, alcohol sales banned during South Africa lockdown.
— Turkey keeping schools closed through April 30.
— Nearly 700 more deaths in Italy, but cases leveling off.
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s police minister says dog-walking is banned during the country’s three-week lockdown that begins Friday to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Bheki Cele also said people can’t go running, contradicting the health minister’s comments earlier in the day.
And Cele warned South Africans to essentially stay sober for 21 days, emphasizing that alcohol sales are prohibited.
The military and police will patrol to regulate movement, and all ports of entry are now closed. South Africa has the most COVID-19 cases in Africa with more than 700.
LONDON — Britain’s deputy ambassador to Hungary has died after contracting the new coronavirus.
The Foreign Office says Steven Dick, who was 37, died Tuesday in Hungary. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he was “desperately saddened by the news.”
Dick previously served in U.K. diplomatic posts in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan and had been based in Budapest since late last year.
Dick’s parents said he had long dreamed of becoming a diplomat and “was very happy representing our country overseas. We are devastated by his loss.”
LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says more than 400,000 people have responded within a day to the government’s call for volunteers to help support the country’s most vulnerable people during the coronavirus outbreak.
On Monday the government called for a quarter of a million healthy people to sign up as “volunteer responders.” Johnson said 405,000 had already volunteered.
The National Health Service said the volunteers would start next week helping the 1.5 million people in Britain who have been asked to stay home and avoid contact with others for 12 weeks because they have underlying health conditions that increase their risk from the virus.
Johnson said they will perform tasks including delivering medicines, driving people home from medical appointments and making phone calls to check on people.
Johnson said “thank you on behalf of the entire country” to all those who have volunteered.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey says it is keeping schools closed at least until April 30 as part of its effort to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.
The decision was announced following a meeting of Turkey’s scientific advisory council on Wednesday.
The country closed schools two weeks ago and introduced remote schooling via the internet and television broadcasts. Education Minister Ziya Selcuk told reporters however, that “face-to-face” make-up classes would be held as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 26 COVID-19 patients had recovered from the disease so far, including two people in their sixties who were treated in intensive care. A total of 136 people are still in intensive care, the minister said, including 102 who are intubated.
The minister said the 136 ICU patients were being administered a drug imported from China, which was reportedly effective in treating coronavirus patients there. Koca said Turkey could purchase more if it proves successful on the ICU patients in Turkey.
The country has so far reported 44 COVID-19 deaths and a total of 1,872 infections.
ATHENS, Greece — Authorities in Greece say the country’s virus death toll has risen to 22 after two more deaths were reported, while the confirmed number of cases rose by 78 to reach 821.
Civil protection officials Wednesday also announced that several remote villages in northeastern Greece, near the country’s border with Bulgaria, had been placed in quarantine due to a local spike in new coronavirus cases.
Separately, in neighboring North Macedonia, authorities reported a third virus death with the national case total at 177 people.
LAS VEGAS — Air traffic controllers are back at work at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, a week after a co-worker tested positive for the new coronavirus.
The Federal Aviation Administration posted an update Wednesday saying that staffing should increase throughout the day.
Airport service slowed due to airline cancellations, and delays were reported after the control tower closure on March 18.
McCarran ranks as one of the busiest passenger airports in the nation. But arriving flights were reduced Monday to about 12 an hour. Federal officials reported Tuesday that a security screener at McCarran also tested positive for COVID-19.
ROME — Italy has added 683 more dead and 5,210 infections to its coronavirus toll, but its initial steep rise in cases has continued to level off two weeks into a nationwide lockdown.
The new figures brought the number of infections to 74,386 and placed Italy on track to overtake China in the next day or two in having the most reported cases in the world. Italy last week reported more dead than China and on Wednesday registered a total of 7,503 dead with the virus, confirming its place as the European epicenter of the pandemic.
Dr. Massimo Galli of Milan’s Sacco Hospital said that the infections being verified in these days result from before many of the containment measures went into effect March 11. He told SKY TG24 that in his estimation the restrictions won’t be lifted any time soon.
“This is hard, but the numbers and facts say it,” Galli said.
His team at the Sacco Hospital has determined that the virus has been circulating in Italy since Jan. 25-26, and that it took almost a month for it to become recognized, around Feb. 20-21. That puts Italy as of March 3 at the same place Wuhan, China was on Jan. 25, he said, noting that China is only coming out of tight restrictions now, two months later.
PRAGUE — The Czech Republic’s government is tightening restrictions in efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus, banning gatherings of more than two people in public.
The Health Ministry said Wednesday that people from the same household are still allowed to go out together.
The only other exceptions includes the mourners at funerals and business activities.
People should also keep a distance of 2 meters (7 feet) between one another.
The government already banned travels across the country except going to and from work and shopping, attending funerals, visiting hospitals or going out for a walk or sports.
Three men infected with the coronavirus died on Wednesday, bringing the death toll in the Czech Republic to six. A total cases of COVID-19 reached 1,654.
MEXICO CITY — Mexico has suspended the 45-day period that its asylum agency has to process asylum applications due to the coronavirus.
In a statement, the Interior Ministry said that application materials would still be accepted, but the 45-day clock would not start until the suspension is lifted on April 20. The agency also suspended the requirement that those with active applications sign in weekly at local agency offices.
It was not immediately clear what the impact would be on asylum-seekers other than a more drawn out process for people in a precarious situation. The agency made a similar suspension after the 2017 earthquake when its offices were damaged.
Mexico already faced a significant backlog as the number of asylum applications soared in recent years in large part due to the United States making it more difficult for people to seek asylum there.
Last year, more than 70,000 people applied for asylum in Mexico. In the first two months of this year, more than 12,000 more did, according to agency data.
MADRID — Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo, who is 62, has contracted the coronavirus and remains hospitalized to be treated for her respiratory infection.
A statement from the prime minister’s office said Wednesday that Calvo’s latest diagnosis had turned positive after previous tests during the past two days were deemed inconclusive by doctors.
At least two other members of the Spanish Cabinet are also recovering from the COVID-19 that is caused by the new virus, as well as the wife of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.
TORONTO — Canada announced Wednesday it is imposing mandatory self-isolation for those returning to the country under the Quarantine Act.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu said on Twitter that the government is making it mandatory to better protect Canada’s most vulnerable.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the requirement will begin at midnight Wednesday and last for 14 days.
LONDON — London City Airport, which is widely by business people for short-haul journeys to Europe, will suspend operations for commercial and private flights until the end of April but said it is ready to help out in the coronavirus relief effort.
The airport, which handles around 5.1 million passengers a year, said it has made the decision after a dramatic collapse in demand. It said it could remain open to support emergency flights or the military or other government agencies.
“At this time of national crisis, we stand ready to keep the aerodrome open and to work with the emergency services and government to support the relief effort in any way we can to ensure that people and communities get the vital care they need,” CEO Robert Sinclair said.
One potential use could be helping out the nearby 4,000-bed NHS Nightingale Hospital, which will open next week at the Excel Centre. The military is helping in its construction.
London is the hotspot of the pandemic in the U.K.
CANNES, France — The French Riviera city of Cannes has opened the doors of the site of the city’s world-famed film festival to the homeless. Converting the Palais des Festivals into a shelter is aimed at helping those without a roof respect confinement measures in France to fight the spread of the coronavirus.
The ground floor of the Palais des Festivals, home of the annual gathering of stardust and glitter, can hold up to 80 homeless people. There, they can shower, sleep, eat and even keep their dogs in a kennel in a hall. The homeless center opened Friday, and the town hall said that 61 people were present on Tuesday.
Social distancing and sanitary considerations are assured at the center, according to a statement.
The homeless are particularly challenged by the confinement orders, which risk continuing for weeks. Empty streets mean that handouts vital to many homeless people to survive have evaporated.
The Cannes Film Festival originally set for May 12-23 has been postponed.
LOS ANGELES — Immigrant advocates on Wednesday asked a federal court in Los Angeles to order the Office of Refugee Resettlement to release unaccompanied immigrant children held in government-contracted shelters for more than 30 days to eligible sponsors to help protect them, and the public, from the coronavirus.
Two staff members from such facilities in New York have already tested positive for the virus, and children typically share rooms, participate in required group activities and eat together, advocates said in court papers.
Advocates said about a third of the 3,600 children currently in custody have been there for at least 30 days and want the court to order them released to fitting sponsors who can take them.
“The urgency here cannot be overstated,” Leecia Welch, senior director of child welfare and legal advocacy at the National Center for Youth Law. “Without immediate steps to reduce the population of youth in congregate care and strict adherence to social distancing, many ORR facilities could become sites of massive infection.”
The Office of Refugee Resettlement declined to comment on the litigation but said in a statement that its priority is to unify children with suitable sponsors as quickly and safely as possible. Facilities that house unaccompanied children are required to check their temperatures twice daily and have received guidance regarding the coronavirus, the statement said.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — World-renowned Dutch flower garden Keukenhof will not open this year after the Dutch government extended its ban on gatherings to June 1 in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“This means that Keukenhof cannot open in 2020,” the popular attraction, which only opens during the flowering season in spring, announced Wednesday.
The garden in the middle of the Dutch bulb fields had been due to open March 21, but that date was canceled due to restrictions that initially were put in place until early April.
“The park is already blooming beautifully and will become even more beautiful in the coming weeks,” the garden said in a statement. Instead of opening, it will allow people to virtually visit its colorful floral displays through its social media and online channels.
MOSCOW — Russia has reported its first deaths from the novel coronavirus infection, two elderly patients who also had underlying conditions.
The commission directing Russia’s response to the virus said Wednesday the patients died of pneumonia and were 88 and 73 years old.
Russia has reported 658 cases of infection nationwide. Last week an infected patient died, but doctors said that was due to a blood clot rather than the virus itself.
ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state has climbed to 3,800, with close to 900 in intensive care.
New York officials are keeping a close eye on already-stressed hospitals as the number of cases is projected to rise for perhaps three more weeks.
Cuomo said Wednesday that as many as 140,000 hospital beds may be needed in a state with 53,000. The state has more than 30,000 confirmed cases and 285 deaths. The nation-high figures are driven mostly by New York City.