The Latest: WHO chief says Trump is ‘taking responsibility’
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 113,000 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.
TOP OF THE HOUR:
— WHO chief says Trump is “taking responsibility” for virus response.
— Tony Awards postponed as Broadway stays dark.
— Dog-walking, alcohol sales banned during South Africa lockdown.
GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization commended U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday for “taking responsibility” for leading the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a virtual press briefing in Geneva, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the U.N. health agency has called repeatedly for heads of state to lead a “whole-of-government” response to the new coronavirus.
“That’s exactly what he’s doing which we appreciate because fighting this pandemic needs political commitment,” Tedros said, referring to Trump.
Tedros has previously warned that countries taking measures to lock down their societies must use the time wisely to implement other aggressive interventions, including widespread testing and efforts to track down the virus’ transmission chains. WHO and other experts say it could be months before the outbreak peaks and loosening such controls too soon could allow the virus to resurge.
On Tuesday, Trump suggested the lockdown measures in the U.S. might be lifted by Easter and predicted there would be “packed churches” across the country.
“I know he’s doing all he can,” Tedros said, noting he and Trump spoke recently. “I believe that kind of political commitment and political leadership can bring change or can stop this pandemic.”
NEW YORK — With Broadway shuttered amid the coronavirus pandemic, producers of the annual Tony Awards have postponed this year’s celebration of American theater.
The show was originally scheduled for June 7 but the virus forced all 41 Broadway theaters to go dark and caused turmoil in the Tony schedule. Producers have not yet announced a rescheduled date.
Broadway abruptly closed on March 12, knocking out all shows on the Great White Way but also 16 that were still scheduled to open, including “Diana,” “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Company.” Broadway producers have vowed to resume musicals and plays the week of April 13.
BOSTON — U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton says he has decided to self-quarantine after experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
Moulton, a 41-year-old Democrat and former presidential hopeful from Massachusetts, said in a statement Wednesday that he began feeling unwell Thursday, with a low-grade fever and a tightness in his chest he’d never felt before. Moulton said he also had a sore throat, though no serious cough, along with body aches and unusual fatigue. His wife had similar symptoms, he said.
Well before experiencing the symptoms, Moulton said, he instructed staff members in his offices in Salem and Washington to work from home, except for two essential workers. The House’s attending physician told him that because the symptoms are minor and a test would not change his treatment, he and his wife don’t qualify for tests, he said.
Moulton said that he has been steadily improving and that unless his symptoms worsen, he can end his self-quarantine Saturday.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s president says he believes his country will slow the transmission of the new coronavirus within two or three weeks.
In a televised address to the nation, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also expressed confidence that Turkey will overcome the coronavirus outbreak “in the shortest possible time with the least damage possible.”
The country has so far reported 44 COVID-19 deaths and a total of 1,872 confirmed infections after conducting close to 28,000 tests.
Erdogan said, however, that the country was monitoring a further 53,000 people at their homes and 8,554 other people in hospitals.
NEW YORK — A “Top Chef Masters” winner and beloved restaurateur, Floyd Cardoz, has died of complications from the coronavirus. He was 59.
A statement released by his company says Cardoz died Wednesday. He was admitted a week ago to Mountainside Medical Center in Montclair, New Jersey, with a fever and subsequently tested positive for the virus.
The chef won season three of Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters” in 2011. He was a partner in three restaurants in his native Mumbai. In addition, he and famed restaurateur Danny Meyer operated the popular Manhattan eatery Tabla in the early 2000s. It closed in 2010.
THESSALONIKI, Greece — Staying at home is bad for Greece’s drains.
Authorities in the country’s second-largest city, Thessaloniki, say residents are straining the drainage system by flushing virus-related items down the toilet.
“We are advising the public not to dispose of … antiseptic wipes, disposable gloves, and even masks — products recently consumed for personal safety against the COVID-19 virus,” the city’s water authority said in a statement. “These items combined with fats and oils can cause a blockage in pipes, at pumping stations, and at sewage facilities at a time when the company is operating with security personnel to safeguard the health of its employees.”
Drainage pipes tend to be narrow in Greek cities, with used toilet paper commonly collected in small bathroom trash bins and not flushed down the toilet.
ALMASFUZITO, Hungary — Hungary’s oil and gas company has refitted a production line normally used for making windshield washer fluid to instead produce liquid hand sanitizers and surface disinfectants.
MOL said Wednesday that it is producing 50,000 liters (13,210 gallons) of the fluids daily at its refinery in Almasfuzito.
MOL, which operates in 30 countries and has 26,000 employees, says it will also start making similar products at its facilities in Slovakia and Croatia.
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.
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.