The Latest: WHO chief: Europe now center of virus pandemic
The Latest on the world’s coronavirus pandemic:
The head of the World Health Organization says Europe, not China, is now the epicenter of the world’s coronavirus pandemic.
Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva that “more cases are now being reported every day than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic.”
He noted that “5,000 people have lost their lives, a tragic milestone.”
He says Europe now has “more reported virus cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, apart from China.”
Over 135,000 people have been infected worldwide, the most in China, where over 3,000 patients have died and over 62,000 have already recovered.
The number of people in the U.K. to testing positive for the new coronavirus jumped 35% over the past day as criticism over the government’s approach to the outbreak escalated.
The British government said 798 people had tested positive for the COVID-19 disease by Friday, up from 590 the day before. Ten people have now died. In total, 32,771 people have been tested.
The Conservative government’s strategy to contain the outbreak has come under criticism for not yet ordering the mass closure of schools, banning large events or introducing “social distancing” measures” that have been adopted elsewhere in Europe.
Instead, Britons have been urged to wash hands frequently and asked to stay at home for a week if they have a new persistent cough or signs of a fever. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said further measures are set to be rolled out over the coming weeks, including getting the elderly and those with underlying health problems to self-isolate.
Venezuela has confirmed its first two cases of the new coronavirus, raising concerns about the crisis-stricken nation’s ability to curb the spread of the illness and care for patients.
Vice President Delcy Rodriguez on Friday confirmed the illness in a man and woman who recently traveled from the United States, Italy and Spain. She said that classes across the nation have been suspended.
Venezuela has been paralyzed by a political crisis that’s led to an economic and social collapse, leaving its hospitals and health care system in a shamble.
A day earlier, President Nicolás Maduro suspended flights to Europe and neighboring Colombia for a month, and his political rival, Juan Guaidó, also called off planned street protests.
The Dutch government is banning passenger flights into the country from China, Iran, Italy and South Korea in its latest measure aimed at reining in the spread of the coronavirus.
The government announced the decision Friday, a day after calling a halt to any gatherings of more than 100 people – decision that forced the closure of universities, museums and theaters.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says the ban comes into force Friday evening and last for two weeks, though it could be extended.
The Trump administration on Friday named a testing “czar” at the Department of Health and Human Services after numerous complaints about the shortage of coronavirus tests in the U.S.
Separately, the FDA posted on Twitter that labs having problems getting supplies for collecting patient samples for testing should call the agency’s toll-free information hotline.
And Medicare announced it will pay about $36 for the CDC coronavirus test and around $51 for tests from other providers.
The testing czar is Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health, and head of the government’s uniformed Public Health Service. He will be responsible for coordinating between CDC and FDA, as well as private labs and state and local governments.
The United States has tested far few people per capita than other countries like South Korea and Italy.
Canada’s House of Commons voted Friday to shut down for at least five weeks to help ensure lawmakers do not contribute to the spread of for new coronavirus.
The moves comes after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife tested positive. The prime minister himself has been in self-imposed quarantine.
Trudeau says his government will recommend that Canadians avoid travel outside the country except for essential purposes.
Spain’s leader says he is declaring a state of emergency for two weeks, a measure that will let him “mobilize all resources,” including the military, to contain sharp rise in coronavirus cases.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez made the televised announcement Friday as health authorities confirmed Spain has more than 4,200 infections, with nearly half of those in Madrid. So far 120 patients have died.
Earlier in the day Spain ordered its first mandatory lockdown, confining over 60,000 people to four towns as infections soared.
Sánchez says the special measure allows the government to limit free movement, legally confiscate goods and take control of industries and private facilities, including private hospitals. Authorities can also order measures to ensure food supply and the country’s industrial output.
He says cases could skyrocket to more than 10,000 next week.
Buckingham Palace says Queen Elizabeth II is canceling some public events “as a sensible precaution” during the coronavirus outbreak.
The palace says two planned visits by the 93-year-old monarch in London and northwest England have been postponed on medical and government advice. The queen will continue to hold audiences at Buckingham Palace.
Royal officials said the queen’s son Prince Charles and his wife Camilla have postponed a trip planned for next week to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus and Jordan because of the pandemic.
Switzerland’s president says the Alpine country is reintroducing controls along its borders, expanding the ban on public events and closing all schools until April 4.
Its minister for justice and police, Karin Keller-Sutter, said Switzerland will ban entry of anybody from a risk areas including a general ban on those coming in from Italy. Exceptions for people who have a valid residency permit or those who have a reason to enter Switzerland for work.
President Simonetta Sommaruga said Friday the government is also urging citizens to avoid using public transport to combat the spread of the new coronavirus.
Pakistan government has announced it is closing all schools, colleges, universities and seminaries until April 5 as a precaution to avoid the spread of coronavirus.
In the United States, West Virginia, Idaho and Montana are the last states without a confirmed case. of the coronavirus after Alabama announced one. The U.S. has 1,701 cases and 31 deaths.
The Department of Defense says it’s temporarily shutting down all schools on continental European military facilities as a precaution against the spread of the COVID-19 virus, affecting tens of thousands of students.—
Department of Defense Schools spokesman Stephen Smith told The Associated Press on Friday the closures as of Monday would affect 63 elementary, middle and high schools in Germany, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands, and likely Ankara, Turkey.
Three schools in Britain will remain open for the time being, he said.
In all, some 27,000 students attend the Defense Department schools in Europe, Smith said. Schools in Italy, and also Bahrain, have already been closed down.
The English Premier League has been suspended after three clubs put their entire playing squads in self-isolation because of coronavirus.
The league had expected to continue with a full schedule this weekend with fans, but later decided to suspend all matches until April 3 “at the earliest.”
The same suspension applies for the three lower divisions overseen by the English Football League and to England’s top two women’s divisions.
Italy has welcomed a team of Chinese medical experts and 31 tons of ventilators, protective masks and other medical equipment as its fight against coronavirus turns a nation that usually donates aid into one that receives it.
Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and the head of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent, Francesco Rocca, were on hand Friday to welcome the Chinese delegation at Red Cross headquarters in Rome. Di Maio, the only one not wearing a protective mask, said Italy is now reaping the benefits of its solidarity with China.
Italy is the epicenter of the outbreak in Europe, registering more than 15,000 infections and 1,000 dead. Italy has imposed a nationwide lockdown, with stores and restaurants closed and restrictions on individual movement. But the restrictions still pale in comparison to the severe lockdown China imposed in Wuhan.
The Italian public health system in the north is at near capacity, with 400-500 people a day requiring hospitalization in Lombardy alone.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has announced dramatic measures to try and stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the Alpine nation, including quarantining two hard-hit areas of Tirol.
Kurz told reporters in Vienna that the towns of St. Anton am Arlberg and the Paznauntal area would be isolated for 14 days, but added residents and tourists now there will be well taken care of.
In addition, retail businesses are being asked to close as of Monday, outside of those providing essential services such as supermarkets, gas stations, banks, post offices and pharmacies. Bars and cafes will only be allowed to stay open until 3 p.m.
Austria has 422 confirmed cases and one death.
The Trump administration is awarding $1.3 million in federal money to two companies trying to develop rapid COVID-19 tests that could detect whether a person tests positive for the new coronavirus within an hour.
The Department of Health and Human Services says Friday it is awarding $679,000 to DiaSorin Molecular, of Cypress, California, and $598,000 to QIAGEN LLC of Germantown, Maryland, to accelerate development of the tests.
The agency says DiaSorin could potentially be ready within six weeks for consideration by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the QIAGEN test could be ready within 12 weeks for EUA consideration by the FDA.
The Trump administration has been criticized for its lack of testing for the virus, compared to other nations around the world
U.S. cities are taking more intensive steps to fight the spread of the new coronavirus.
By Monday, more than 1 million of Georgia’s 1.8 million public school students will have been kept home by 50 or more school districts statewide, including every large district in metro Atlanta.
Public schools in Washington D.C. were closed beginning Monday until April 1 affecting some 47,000 students. Fairfax County, Virginia also closed schools on Friday, affecting 180,000 students.
The mayor of Dallas, Texas, has declared a local disaster and the city is banning large gatherings.
Sri Lanka civil aviation authorities on Friday imposed a two-week travel ban on passengers from seven European countries: France, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Netherlands and Sweden.
The ban will be effective until March 29. Separately on Friday, authority imposed a two-week travel ban on passengers from South Korea, Italy and Iran. This will be effective until March 28.
France is promising to compensate the virus-related salary losses for “99%” of workers, as travel bans, school closures and other measures take a heavy toll on the economy.
It’s part of tens of billions of euros the government says it will stump up as French financial markets plunge and companies curb activity to try to stem the spread of the virus.
“Nobody with a job will lose a cent,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said.
France is also banning all gatherings of more than 100 people now that the virus has infected more than 2,800 people,
President Emmanuel Macron has ordered all schools closed and asked companies to allow workers to stay home.
The government of Romania, including all ministers, as well as the leadership of the ruling National Liberal Party and all its senators, have been asked to self-isolate because of the coronavirus.
Friday’s decision comes after a governing party senator, who took part in high-level meetings, was confirmed to be infected.
Prime Minister Ludovic Orban told reporters he will be quarantined in a state-owned villa and the government will still carry out its duties.
The Germany government is pledging at least 460 billion euros ($513 billion) in guarantees to cope with the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
Germany’s economy minister, Peter Altmaier, said there was no limit to the amount the government was willing to use to support everyone from individuals, such as taxi drivers, to large companies, to prevent the coronavirus pandemic from causing permanent harm to the economy.
Czech citizens coming home from 15 countries that are considered risky due to the virus outbreak will have to stay under quarantine for two weeks.
The announcement Friday by the Czech Republic’s government listed the following countries: China, Iran, Korea, Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Austria, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland and Britain.
Foreigners from those countries are barred from traveling to the Czech Republic and Czechs are not allowed to travel to those countries. Those measures become effective Friday at midnight when the country renews border checks with Austria and Germany.
Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is in isolation at a hospital after testing positive for the coronavirus. He returned to Australia on Sunday from Washington, D.C., where he met U.S. Attorney-General William Barr and President Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, last week.
Dutton also attended a conference with other representatives of the Five Eyes intelligence network, which includes the U.S., Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
Australia has more than 120 confirmed cases.
Thailand’s health minister has ignited controversy by warning about the possible spread of the coronavirus from vacationing Europeans who wear dirty clothes and don’t shower.
Tweets posted Thursday night by the account linked to Anutin Charnvirakul lashed out at Western visitors for not wearing face masks to protect against the virus, and warned his fellow Thais that they should be more careful in dealing with Westerners than with Asians.
Thailand’s government has come under criticism for confusing and inconsistent handling of the health crisis.
The tweets, along with the entire account, disappeared from Twitter by Friday afternoon.
South Korea plans to limit the amount of information it releases about coronavirus patients amid criticism that the details currently shared reveal too much personal information and exacerbate panic.
The director of South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Jung Eun-kyeong, said Friday her agency is drafting a new guideline for local governments to prevent them from releasing details that are unnecessary.
South Korean health authorities have been actively using personal information — including immigration, public transportation, credit card and smartphone GPS data — to track patients and their contacts.
Some people have used the information to identify the patients and have publicly condemned them.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has told the U.N. that his nation wants to conduct joint research on drugs and vaccines and offer “as much assistance as it can” to countries where the novel coronavirus is spreading.
State media reported Friday that Xi told U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres by phone that economic and daily life are gradually returning to normal in China thanks to “arduous endeavors” at prevention and control.
He was also quoted as saying that the Chinese people’s “hard work has won precious time for and made important contributions to other countries’ epidemic prevention and control.”
China, where the virus was first discovered, recorded just eight new infections on Friday.
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