The Latest: Trump participates in Oval Office Easter prayer

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.


—Good Friday observed at home ahead of Easter weekend.

—Trump, Putin discuss virus, global energy markets.

—WHO leader concerned about plans to lift to lift restrictions.

—Britain reports 980 new coronavirus deaths.


WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says that although Americans will not be able to gather as they normally would on Easter, they can use “this sacred time” to focus on prayer, reflection and on growing their relationship with God.

The president participated in an Easter prayer from the Oval Office on Good Friday.

He acknowledged the sacrifices that people are making to end the pandemic, saying “at this holy time, our nation is engaged in a battle like never before.”

The president asked all Americans to pray that God would heal the nation, bring comfort to those who are grieving and to give strength to the nation’s health care providers.


LONDON — The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief says the agency is aware of some anecdotal reports of neurological effects in some COVID-19 patients from China, but says it’s unclear whether the virus is directly affecting the brain or whether those may simply be due to oxygen deprivation.

Dr. Mike Ryan says while some viruses cause complications like encephalitis and meningitis when they infect the brain, there is no indication yet that is the case with COVID-19 patients. Ryan says many infectious diseases can prompt deliriousness or a change in consciousness when their oxygen levels drop dramatically, but giving patients more oxygen often resolves the issue.

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, says the U.N. health agency was continuing to gather more data from doctors on how they were treating patients with the new coronavirus, but there was no guidance yet on how to treat potential neurological effects.


MADRID — Hundreds of staff at a hospital near the Spanish capital have gathered to pay homage to a 57-year-old nurse, who died Friday after contracting the COVID-19 disease.

In a post on social media, the Severo Ochoa Hospital in Leganes said the nurse died “after days of fighting relentlessly against the illness.” The post identified the victim for his first name, Esteban, and said that his widow also worked at the hospital, one of the main battlegrounds against the spread of the coronavirus.

Dressed in protective robes and wearing masks, the medical personnel broke into applause while the sirens of ambulances wailed. A sign hanging from a window read: “Esteban, always with us.”

Medical workers amount for roughly 15% of all contagions in Spain, which rose Friday to 157,000 confirmed infections. At least 15,800 people have died since the epidemic hit the country.


ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s president has sent a letter to Boris Johnson, wishing the British prime minister a speedy recovery from the coronavirus.

In his letter, Recep Tayyip Erdogan also conveyed his condolences to the families of British victims of the virus, expressed hope that Britain overcomes the “tragedy with the minimal losses” and relayed his good wishes to British health service employees treating COVID-19 patients.

Erdogan also invited Johnson, whose great-grandfather was Turkish, to visit “the land of your ancestors” to discuss ”“steps that will further our bilateral cooperation in the post-Brexit period.”

A copy of the letter was made available by Erdogan’s office.


GENEVA — The World Health Organization chief has warned that a premature lifting of stay-at-home and other restrictions by countries to fight the coronavirus outbreak could spark a “deadly resurgence.”

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged that some countries are already planning to transition out of stay-at-home restrictions, and insisted that the U.N. health agency “wants to see restrictions lifted as much as anyone.”

“At the same time, lifting restrictions too quickly could lead to a deadly resurgence,” Tedros told reporters from WHO headquarters in Geneva. “The way down can be as dangerous as the way up, if not managed properly.”


LONDON — The British government says the U.K. has recorded 980 new deaths of people with the coronavirus, an increase from 881 deaths reported in the previous 24 hours and the highest daily total to date.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock says that as of Friday, 8,958 patients have died in hospital after testing positive for the coronavirus in the U.K.

Britain’s death toll has passed the daily peaks recorded in Italy and Spain, the two European countries with the highest number of COVID-19 deaths.

Italy recorded a high of 969 deaths on March 27 and Spain 950 deaths on April 2.

The figures may not be exactly comparable, however. The U.K. deaths reported each day occurred over several days or even weeks, and the total only includes deaths in hospitals.


ATHENS, Greece — Greece has extended its lockdown on all preschools, schools and universities until May 10 at least. The measure was first imposed March 10.

Also Friday, Greek authorities said a total 21 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in a majority-Roma neighborhood of the central city of Larissa. The neighborhood of some 3,500 people was quarantined Thursday, with a ban on anyone entering or leaving it.

Authorities are also carrying out tests in Roma settlements in neighboring regions, and have closed down all street markets in the broader area for two weeks as many of the infected people were market vendors.

The new cases in Larissa were among the 56 recorded between Thursday and Friday evening, which brought the country’s total since the pandemic started to 2,011. Four new deaths were recorded, bringing the total to 90.


LONDON — The Irish government has extended the lockdown in the country by three weeks until May 5 as it tries to keep a lid on the coronavirus pandemic.

The current lockdown was due to expire on Sunday, but the country’s premier, Leo Varadkar, said the government was accepting the recommendations of experts that it was necessary to “persevere” with the lockdown.

He said the government is “planning carefully” about how to bring about an end to the country’s lockdown so life can return to normal.

The truth, he said, is that “nobody knows for certain” when life will be normal again “or how our lives will be different when it comes.”


SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico is reporting the first death of a doctor from COVID-19.

The president of the Association of Surgeons confirmed to The Associated Press that pediatrician Víctor de Jesús died after being placed on a ventilator a couple of weeks ago. Dr. Víctor Ramos said more than 50 nurses and at least 11 doctors have tested positive as hospitals seek more protective equipment. He said one doctor remains on a ventilator.

Puerto Rico has reported at least 39 deaths and more than 720 confirmed cases with more than 1,390 test results pending.


ROME — Pressure on Italy’s hospitals fighting the coronavirus pandemic continued to ease Friday with 108 fewer intensive care cases and 157 fewer hospital admissions in the last 24 hours. But the number of deaths and new cases continued to grow even at a restrained pace: 570 people died in the period, up 3% to 18,849, while the number of cases grew by 3,951 to 147,577.


BELGRADE, Serbia — A 60-hour curfew has kicked off in Serbia, designed to keep the citizens in their homes during what is expected to be a warm spring weekend ahead.

Serbia has introduced some of the harshest measures in Europe as part of efforts to curb the spread of the new coronavirus. The rules include a ban for all citizens over 65 years old from leaving their homes and daily and weekend curfews.

The government this week extended the weekend curfew to start on Friday, rather than Saturday as was the case last week. The curfew will end Monday at 5 a.m.

This means that no one will be allowed to leave their homes but those with special permits. Pet owners will be able to walk their dogs in the morning and late at night, with the animals forced to stay inside for at least 13 hours both on Saturday and Sunday.

Serbian authorities have complained that the citizens do not follow advise on social distancing and flock to the recreation areas in nice weather. Pro-government media have reported that the curfew next week will start on Thursday because of the Orthodox Christian Easter.

Serbia has reported 3,105 confirmed cases of infection with the new coronavirus, while 71 people have died in the country of around 7 million people.


JERUSALEM — Israel’s figurehead president has apologized for hosting his daughter for Passover dinner, despite government instructions for people to spend the holiday at home due to coronavirus restrictions.

Early Friday, President Reuven Rivlin’s office confirmed his daughter spent the traditional Passover dinner, or Seder, with him on Wednesday night and planned to remain with him for the week-long holiday. It said his daughter had tested negative for the coronavirus before joining him.

But after an uproar on social media, Rivlin said he had read the “tough comments” directed at him, understood the criticism and apologized. He said that since his wife died last year, he has relied on family members to assist him with “personal needs,” as well as professional duties when his office is unstaffed on holidays and weekends.

Israeli media reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had also hosted his youngest son, Avner, for the Seder. They quoted Netanyahu’s office as saying the son rents an apartment less than 100 meters from the prime minister’s official residence. Netanyahu’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Ahead of the holiday, both men had instructed the public to remain at home and spend the Seder only with immediate family who lived with them.

Israel has heavily restricted movement across the country to contain the outbreak. It has reported over 10,000 cases and at least 92 deaths.


WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump spoke on the phone Friday with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss stabilizing global energy markets, which have been heavily impacted by decreasing demand from the coronavirus pandemic, the White House and Kremlin said in statements.

The Kremlin says the two leaders discussed the current situation of the global oil market, “including an agreement being worked out as part of OPEC-plus to reduce production volumes in order to stabilize world oil prices.”

On the call, the second in two days, Trump talked about the contacts he’s had with leaders of a number of oil-producing countries, the Kremlin said. “It was agreed to continue Russian-American consultations on this topic,” the statement said.

They also discussed measures both nations are taking to combat the spread of infection and other bilateral issues, including cooperation in space.


PRISTINA, Kosovo — The NATO-led troops in Kosovo have the first coronavirus infected case among its troops.

KFOR, with some 3,500 troops from 28 countries, is led from NATO but is supported by the United Nations, the European Union and other international actors.

KFOR said in a statement it will continue its UN-mandated mission “to maintain a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for the benefit of all communities in Kosovo, whilst taking preventive measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.”

Kosovo has seven deaths and 227 cases.


KATHMANDU, Nepal — Japanese and South Korean nationals boarded separate chartered flight out of Kathmandu, more than two weeks after Nepal went on a complete lockdown to stop spread of coronavirus.

The flight to South Korea had 167 passengers on board and the Nepal Airlines flight to Tokyo had 199. The flights were arranged by their embassies in Kathmandu.

Nepal’s government has been bringing tourists stranded in other parts of the country back to Kathmandu. The foreign governments have been responsible for getting their citizens back home.

There was an estimated 10,000 tourists stranded in Nepal. However, hundreds have already left for home in arranged flights.

Nepal’s government ordered a complete lockdown last month, halting all flights and other transportation, shutting down markets, schools and offices. Nepal has nine confirmed cases.


WASHINGTON — The federal Health and Human Services department says it’s releasing the first $30 billion in grants provided by the stimulus bill to help keep the U.S. health care system operating during the coronavirus outbreak.

Congress provided $100 billion for the health care system in the $2 trillion stimulus bill.

Officials say the relief funds will go to hospitals and doctors through Medicare and will be based on their billings to the program last year. Hospitals are supposed to use some of the money to cover COVID-19 treatment for the uninsured, although an independent study earlier this week suggests it may not be enough.


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