The Latest: WHO chief talks use of face masks in virus fight
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.
TOP OF THE HOUR:
—Navy hospital ship arrives in New York City.
—Japan urges head of WHO to help speed vaccines.
—Italy sees slowdown in rate of new cases.
— Tokyo Olympics rescheduled to start July 23, 2021.
GENEVA — The World Health Organization is citing “some evidence” that wearing face masks — if used improperly — could actually do more harm than good in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus.
WHO emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan said he was unaware of a move by officials in Austria to require people to wear face masks when they go to supermarkets.
With some countries facing shortages of masks, Ryan reiterated that WHO believes generally they should be worn by people who are ill, to prevent them from spreading the virus, and by health care workers who really need them.
“But there is no specific evidence to suggest that the wearing of masks by the mass population has any particular benefit — in fact, there’s some evidence to suggest the opposite,” he said.
Ryan didn’t elaborate beyond citing “risks” linked to fitting masks improperly, though he appeared to be alluding to how hands can carry virus up to or near the face as the masks are put on.
TAMPA, Fla. — A Florida sheriff sought an arrest warrant for the pastor of a megachurch after officials said he held a service with hundreds of people and violated a safer-at-home order put in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister said in a news conference that he’s negotiating with the attorney of Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne to turn himself in to authorities in Hernando County, where he lives. Chronister added that the pastor has “an arsenal of weaponry” and “a vast security force.”
“We’re allowing him to turn himself in. If he doesn’t then we’re going to be forced to be police officers and go get him and law enforcement is highly trained to handle it appropriately,” the sheriff said.
Chronister said his command staff met with church leaders about the danger they are putting themselves — and their congregation — in by not maintaining appropriate social distancing, and Howard-Browne went ahead and held the service. The Sheriff’s Office also placed a digital sign on the road near the church driveway that said, “practice social distancing.”
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s president announced the launch of an aid campaign to support low-income families who are being hit by the virus outbreak.
In an address to the nation following a Cabinet meeting, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was donating seven months of his salary to the campaign.
Erdogan also said Turkey planned to send a cargo plane load of medical supplies to Spain to help the country combat the virus.
A ship carrying medical aid has also been dispatched to Italy, Erdogan said.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico has closed a fire station in the U.S. territory’s capital after officials say the wife of a fireman tested positive for COVID-19.
Monday’s announcement comes just days after authorities closed two police stations for similar reasons. Officials said 40 firemen at the Puerta de Tierra station in San Juan were sent home under a two-week quarantine and will be tested.
WASHINGTON — The State Department says it has successfully arranged the repatriation of some 25,000 American citizens stranded abroad in more than 50 countries due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Department officials say they are continuing to ramp up evacuation efforts and that more than 100 flights for U.S. citizens have been scheduled for the coming weeks. About 9,000 Americans have registered for those upcoming flights and there is still space available on many.
Many of those stranded are in Latin American countries, notably Peru, where some Americans have been quarantined by authorities.
Meanwhile, department health officials said there are 75 confirmed coronavirus cases among employees at the 220 U.S. embassies. Inside the United States, the officials said there are 30 confirmed cases of the virus at State Department offices in nine cities.
PRAGUE — The Czech government has extended its sweeping restrictions that are meant to help curb the outbreak of the coronavirus.
A traveling ban that allows people just to go to work and do essential shopping will be in place until at least April 11. Retail businesses, except food stores and pharmacies, also will remain closed until the same date.
The state of emergency that gives the government some extraordinary powers to deal with the pandemic also is set to expire on April 11, and parliamentary approval will be needed for any further extension.
In a new measure, all Czechs returning home from abroad, not just those arriving from the 19 worst hit countries by the crisis, will have to be quarantined for two weeks.
MADRID — A Spanish Air Force A400M cargo plane has arrived with 1 million quick tests for the new coronavirus.
The flight from Shanghai also brought masks and personal protection equipment for health workers in Spain, which has the third-highest number of reported infections in the world, after the United States and Italy.
Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles said the plane landed Monday at the Torrejón de Ardoz base, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Madrid, with almost 14 metric tons of cargo.
In neighboring Portugal, a shipment of 1 million masks and 200,000 tests also arrived from China.
LONDON — The British government’s chief scientific adviser says there is evidence nationwide lockdown measures are working to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
Patrick Vallance says the number of hospital admissions for COVID-19 is rising steadily, “suggesting we’re not on a fast acceleration at the moment.”
There are currently 9,000 coronavirus patients in hospitals in England, a number increasing by about 1,000 a day.
Vallance says the number of deaths among people with the virus is tracking the rise seen in France but is below the trajectories of Spain and Italy, the hardest-hit European countries.
The U.K. has confirmed 22,141 cases of COVID-19, and 1,408 people with the virus have died. That is an increase of 180 on the previous 24 hours, a smaller rise than in the two previous days.
BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel has again tested negative for the new coronavirus.
Merkel went into self-quarantine on March 22 after learning that a doctor who had administered a vaccine to her days earlier had tested positive.
Her office said Monday that despite now testing negative three times, the 65-year-old leader would continue to work from home “in the coming days.”
LONDON — The British government has formed a partnership with airlines to repatriate tens of thousands of Briton stranded around the world as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said at the government’s daily briefing that those people who are still able to board commercial flights should book their tickets as soon as possible.
“Don’t run the risk of getting stranded,” he said.
Where there are not any commercial options because of the virus-related lockdown measures put in place around the world, Raab said the government will provide up to 75 million pounds ($93 million) of financial support to enable special charter flights — operated by British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, easyJet, Jet2 and Titan Airways — to fly stranded travelers back.
ROME — Italy is seeing a continued slowdown in the rate of its new confirmed coronavirus cases while registering a record number of people cured as it enters its third week into a nationwide lockdown.
Another 812 people died in the last day, bringing Italy’s toll to 11,591 and maintaining its position as the country with the most dead.
Overall, Italy added 4,050 new infections Monday, bringing its official total to 101,739 and keeping its place as the European epicenter of the pandemic and second only to the U.S. Epidemiologists say the real number of Italy’s caseload, however, is as much as five to 10 times more than the official number, but that those cases aren’t being counted because Italy is only testing people with severe symptoms. Of those infected, 14,620 have been declared cured, including a record 1,590 in the past day.
GENEVA — The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief says coronavirus case counts in hard-hit countries like Italy and Spain are “potentially stabilizing,” but it’s no time to let up on tough measures to limit and track the spread of the virus.
“It is our fervent hope that that is the case,” Dr. Michael Ryan told reporters. “But we have to now push the virus down, and that will not happen by itself.”
Ryan, speaking at a regular WHO news conference, said “we should start to see stabilization” in the wake of lockdowns and “stringent measures” in Italy, Spain and elsewhere over the last two weeks.
He said case-counting in an epidemic reflects the reality of transmission for at least the previous two weeks.
“The cases you see today are almost like a historical, in the same way when we’re told that we’re looking at galaxies through a telescope, that we’re seeing light from a billion years ago,” he said. “We’re seeing a reality that existed before.”
ANKARA, Turkey — The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Turkey passed 10,000, while those who lost their lives from the virus reached 168.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca reported 1,610 more infections in the past 24 hours, increasing the total in the country to 10,827.
He also reported an additional 37 fatalities.
Turkey has so far conducted nearly 77,000 tests.
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump discussed possible cooperation between the two countries in the fight against the novel coronavirus in a telephone call.
A Kremlin statement said the call took place at Washington’s initiative.
The leaders also discussed the world oil market, where prices have fallen since Russia rejected an OPEC proposal to cut production; demand for oil has lowered amid the coronavirus pandemic.
TORONTO — Canada is effectively nationalizing many private payrolls by offering businesses large and small a 75% wage subsidy for their employees amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says businesses that have seen a 30% decrease in revenue are eligible. The prime minister says the government will cover up to 75% of salary on the first 58,700 Canadian dollars (US$41,455) that is earned. That means up to $847 Canadian (US$598) a week.
Trudeau did not put put a price tag on it or say how long it would last but he called it a bridge to better times.
GENEVA — A United Nations agency is urging the world’s top powers to commit $2.5 trillion to help developing nations weather the novel coronavirus outbreak, including a “Marshall Plan” for health recovery.
Just days after influential G20 nations announced plans to inject $5 trillion into an ailing global economy, the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development insisted the developing world should not be left out.
UNCTAD says the $2.5 trillion in support should come through “Marshall Plan”-style grants, debt forgiveness, and access to assets known as special drawing rights.
The International Monetary Fund on Friday estimated that emerging markets have “finance needs” totaling $2.5 trillion, calling that a “lower-end estimate” that their own reserves cannot satisfy.
MOSCOW — The task force monitoring the coronavirus spread in Moscow says the length of the lockdown in the Russian capital will be determined by President Vladimir Putin.
Earlier Monday, the task force said the measure would be in effect until April 14, but a revised statement does not state an expected date for lifting.
The regime that went into effect on Monday says the capital’s 13 million people must remain in the homes except to go to nearby food shops or pharmacies, to walk pets within close proximity of home, to take out garbage or to go to workplaces if their presence is required.
NEW YORK — A Navy hospital ship has arrived in New York City to help relieve the coronavirus crisis gripping New York City’s hospitals.
The USNS Comfort has 1,000 beds and 12 operating rooms that could be up and running within 24 hours. It’s expected to bolster a besieged health care system by treating non-coronavirus patients while hospitals treat people with COVID-19.
New York City, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, reported Sunday that its toll had risen to 776.
TOKYO — Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged the head of the World Health Organization to help accelerate development of medicine and vaccines for the coronavirus by promoting information sharing and cooperation among countries.
Abe told Director-General Tedros Adhanom in a phone call that Japan is pursuing clinical research on flu drug Favipiravir with several other countries.
Japan’s Foreign Ministry says Tedros pledged WHO’s leadership in the development of medicine, vaccines and diagnostics.
Abe asked Tedros to make use of Japan’s $46 million contribution to the WHO to effectively provide technical assistance for health workers in developing countries where COVID-19 cases are sharply on the rise.
TOKYO — The Tokyo Olympics will open next year in July, the same slot scheduled for this year’s games.
Tokyo organizers say the opening ceremony will take place July 23, 2021. That is almost exactly one year after the games were due to start this year. The IOC and Japanese organizers last week postponed the Olympics because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The rescheduled Olympics will start July 23, with the closing ceremony on Aug. 8. The Paralympics were rescheduled to Aug. 24-Sept. 5.
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