The Latest: Virus strands thousands of Russians, Ukrainians
The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 204,00 people and killed more than 8,200. 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 82,000 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.
Tens of thousands of Russians and Ukrainians have been stranded abroad as countries close borders and suspend air traffic amid the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 35,000 Ukrainians await evacuation in different countries, Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Vladyslav Krykliy said Wednesday. He asked the government to allocate $4 million for flights to bring them back home. Earlier this week 175 flights brought more than 33,000 Ukrainians back home.
At the same time Russian authorities are working to help tens of thousands of Russian tourists facing difficulties returning home. According to Russia’s state tourism watchdog Rosturizm, there are 100,000 Russian tourists still abroad.
More than 1,000 Russians found themselves trapped in Montenegro after its air space was closed. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called the situation “critical.”
Zakharova added the situation was difficult in Latin America and Moldova as well.
Hong Kong health authorities are using electronic wristbands to monitor the self-quarantining of all travelers returning to the Asian financial hub from abroad.
The devices are intended to ensure that those placed under 14-day home quarantine remain at home. Travelers from mainland China have been required to wear them since Feb. 8, but their use was being expanded Wednesday to all travelers. Thousands of students are expected to return home in coming days.
Hong Kong Chief Information Officer Victor Lam said a wristband which linked to a smart phone would be used together for some quarantine cases. Lam said the electronic bracelet cannot be removed by the wearer and will not collect personal data.
Hong Kong has 181 confirmed COVID-19 infections so far, with four deaths. All but one of 14 new cases on Wednesday was from abroad.
The European Union’s medicines agency says there is currently no evidence that taking ibuprofen makes the disease caused by the coronavirus worse.
The statement Wednesday by the European Medicines Agency came amid widespread messages on social media suggesting that ibuprofen can compound the effects of the virus.
Britain’s National Health Service is advising people to take paracetamol rather than ibuprofen to treat virus symptoms, while acknowledging online “there is currently no strong evidence that ibuprofen can make the coronavirus (COVID-19) worse.”
The Amsterdam-based EU medicines agency said: “There is currently no scientific evidence establishing a link between ibuprofen and worsening of COVID‑19.”
Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine, or NSAID.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced his country will impose an entry ban for people from parts of Italy, Spain and Iceland, citing the World Health Organization declaration that Europe is now the center of the world’s coronavirus pandemic.
Abe also said Japan will step up quarantines for visitors from 38 countries including most of the rest of Europe, as well as Iran and Egypt. It will require a self-quarantine at designated locations and restraint in using public transportation for 14 days. Visas issued in those countries will be revoked.
Abe also urged the Japanese citizens to reconsider any overseas trips “regardless of the area.”
Malaysia reported another 117 new cases Wednesday, on the first day of a near complete lockdown nationwide, for a total of 790 infections with two deaths.
Malaysia is the worst-hit nation in Southeast Asia. Nearly two-third of the cases are linked to a 16,000-strong religious gathering at a mosque in a Kuala Lumpur suburb.
Malaysia on Wednesday sealed its borders and shut schools, businesses and government offices for two weeks to slow the spread of the virus. Health director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah urged people to take the restriction movement order seriously.
“We have a small window of opportunity to break the chain,” Noor Hisham said in a Facebook message. “Failure is not an option here, otherwise we might face a third wave of the virus. The next one will be as big as a tsunami, more so if we have a lackadaisical attitude.”
Thailand’s finance minister is putting himself in quarantine after one of his guards tested positive for the coronavirus.
Minister Uttama Saovanayon on Tuesday at a press conference was seen standing close to fellow Cabinet members including Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha. Cabinet members all wore face masks and sat 1 meter (3 feet) apart
Uttama’s office at the Finance Ministry is to be sprayed with disinfectant. Thailand announced 35 new confirmed COVID-19 cases Wednesday, bringing the country’s total to 212.
Spain’s Foreign Ministry says the April 21 visit by Spanish King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia to the White House has been postponed to let the United States and Spain focus all of their resources and attention to the COVID-19 response. T
he Spanish monarchs had been invited by U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump for a state banquet, the third of the Trump administration
Kosovo’s interior minister has been fired for not being in line with the government policy on containing the virus.
Prime Minister Albin Kurti fired Interior Minister Agim Veliu who in a TV talk show said he was in favour of declaring the state of emergency to contain the virus spread and also saying “the number of (virus) cases is increasing by the hour.”
President Hashim Thaci has asked parliament to declare the state of emergency, a move apparently not supported by Kurti, who says the health emergency so far is good to contain the virus spread. Kosovo has 19 cases.
“Mr. Veliu has shown a pronounced lack of leadership and has openly undermined the government’s work,” said the statement by Kurti.
Burkina Faso’s government has confirmed its first death from COVID-19.
The West African nation’s government said a 62-year-old Burkinabe woman suffering from diabetes has died. The country has 27 cases but the government has announced no plans to close borders or stop mosque services.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his government is readying further financial help for workers and measures to protect those who rent to see through the economic harm caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
During weekly questions in a sparsely attended House of Commons as lawmakers were told to keep their distance to try to slow the spread of the virus, Johnson said it is only right “whatever their circumstances, we should ensure that workers get the support that they need.”
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the main opposition Labour Party, has argued that the legal minimum for sick pay should be increased from the current $112 a week and extended to all types of workers.
The government has already loosened policies over sick pay and has announced a 350 billion-pound ($416 billion) support package of mainly cheap government-backed loans for businesses to support them through the inevitable economic damage caused by the crisis.
The traffic jam on the Czech-Polish border has gone from bad to worse despite the efforts from those countries’ leaders to deal with coronavirus supply chain disruptions.
The line of trucks waiting on the Czech side to enter Poland at the northern Nachod – Kudowa-Slone crossing was more than 50 kilometers (31 miles) long on Wednesday. It was 40 kilometers (25 miles) the previous days.
To ease the situation, Poland opened three more crossings on Wednesday after Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis and Interior Minister Jan Hamacek spoke to their Polish counterparts.
A police spokeswoman said the Polish border guards were currently able to check about 40 trucks per hour.
The miles of trucks have been also queuing at northeastern Czech Republic at another crossing to Poland and on the border with Slovakia in the east.
Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, is restricting the entry of travelers from countries with more than 1,000 coronavirus cases and suspending visas on arrival for their citizens.
The Nigeria Center for Disease Control lists the countries as China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, the U.S., Norway, Britain, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
Nigeria, which has eight confirmed cases, urges its citizens to cancel or postpone all nonessential travel to those countries.
Spain announced 2,538 new cases of coronavirus infections, bringing the country’s total to 13,716. Nearly half of those have been hospitalized and 774 are requiring intensive care, according to national health authorities. There are 588 deaths officially recorded, 67 more than on Tuesday.
Spanish regions where clusters have been identified in elderly nursing homes are showing a higher rate of fatalities and required hospitalization, has said the head of the Spanish health emergency center, Fernando Simón. That’s the case of Madrid, where at least 17 people have died only in one nursing home and dozens more have been infected.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has called for political unity to combat the new virus, saying “the worst has yet to come” with many more deaths expected and increased pressure on the country’s strained health service. “The COVID-19 pandemic has overwhelmed everyone’s predictions,” Sánchez told a virtually empty lower house of parliament.
A Louisiana pastor says he welcomed more than 305 people to worship together, declaring that the coronavirus is politically motivated and nothing to be concerned about.
Police showed up after Tuesday night’s service at the church near Baton Rouge, WAFB-TV reported. Officers told the Rev. Tony Spell that the National Guard would break up any future services with more than 50 people gathered at Life Tabernacle Church in the city of Central.
“The virus, we believe, is politically motivated,” Spell told the Baton Rouge station. “We hold our religious rights dear and we are going to assemble no matter what someone says.”
He said Sunday services drew even more worshipers than on Tuesday night.
“I had 1,170 in attendance Sunday,” Spell said. “We have 27 buses on Sundays picking up people in a five-parish area.”
One of Britain’s biggest summer music events, the Glastonbury Festival, has been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Organizers say the festival, due to take place June 24-28, will be postponed until 2021.
Glastonbury organizers Michael Eavis and Emily Eavis said there would “inevitably be severe financial implications” for staff, suppliers, charities supported by Glastonbury and more. But they said there was no choice in light of government advice for people to avoid contact with others.
Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar, the Pet Shop Boys and Paul McCartney were among the acts announced for the 50th anniversary edition of the music extravaganza.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi says China will provide testing kits, ventilators and other medical equipment to deal with the country’s coronavirus outbreak.
Qureshi told the independent Geo news channel after a visit to Beijing that China will also provide cash in grants to Pakistan to be used to set up a state-of-the-art isolation center to combat the new highly infectious disease.
He said China will also share its medical expertise to combat the coronavirus. His comments came as health officials confirmed more nine cases of coronavirus among Muslim pilgrims who recently returned from Iran.
There are 246 confirmed virus cases in Pakistan.
Russian authorities are closing all of the country’s schools for three weeks starting next Monday amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Russian education officials said Wednesday it would be an extended spring break with the opportunity to continue studies remotely.
Russia has so far reported 114 confirmed cases of the new virus. Russia has closed the borders to foreigners starting from Wednesday and ordered coronavirus testing for everyone who returned from European countries in the last 14 days. Moscow officials have closed all schools and banned gatherings of more than 50 people.
South Africa says it now has 116 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, nearly double the number announced two days ago.
Fourteen of the new cases are from local transmission, a worrying development in the country, which has the most cases in sub-Saharan Africa.
South Africa is one of the world’s most unequal countries, and authorities are rushing to prevent the spread of the virus to teeming low-income neighborhoods and crowded public transport.
Kyrgyzstan has reported its first three cases of the new coronavirus.
Kyrgyz health officials said Wednesday the three men diagnosed with the virus returned from Saudi Arabia recently.
On Monday, all of Kyrgyzstan’s schools and universities were shut down for three weeks. Movie theaters, nightclubs, restaurants and cafes with more than 50 seats available are also closed for the time being. All international trains and buses have been canceled.
The mayor of the South Korean city worst-hit by the coronavirus says 87 new cases have been discovered from local nursing hospitals, raising concerns about a possible spike in infections after they waned over the past week.
Daegu Mayor Kwon Young-jin said Wednesday that 74 of the cases came from a single hospital and that the 57 patients who were infected would be transferred to other facilities for treatment.
The infections at nursing homes weren’t fully reflected in national figures announced by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or KCDC, which said the cases in Daegu rose by 46 in the 24 hours ending midnight Tuesday.
South Korean officials have struggled to stem infections at hospitals, nursing homes, disability institutions and other live-in facilities, which critics say have been poorly regulated for years.
The KCDC says 116 cases and 10 deaths have been linked to a hospital in Cheongdo, near Daegu, where infections surged among patients hospitalized at a psychiatric ward.
South Korea has confirmed at least 8,413 coronavirus cases, including 84 deaths.
A Canadian government official said late Tuesday that Canada and the United States are working out the details of a mutual ban on non-essential travel between the countries.
The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details ahead of an announcement.
___ Contributed by AP writer Rob Gillies in Toronto.
Taiwan is banning foreigners from entering the island.
Chen Shih-zhong, Taiwan’s health minister and commander of the Central Epidemic Epidemic Command Center, announced the ban that starts Thursday. Taiwanese people returning will have to quarantine at home for 14 days.
Taiwan has 77 cases of infection with the virus that causes COVID-19.
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