The Latest: WHO official says world must ‘live with’ virus
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:
— WHO’s emergencies chief says pandemic has no clear end date.
— Supreme Court urged not to scrap DACA program during crisis.
— Images from space show pollution reduction in Europe.
— U.S. coronavirus cases top 92,000.
GENEVA — The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief says widespread testing for coronavirus is crucial and countries should not be faulted for turning up higher numbers.
Dr. Michael Ryan appealed for a shift toward measures that allow us “to live with this virus” until a vaccine emerges.
Ryan’s comments Friday suggested a change in mindset and increased resignation at the U.N. health agency that the new coronavirus outbreak that first emerged in China late last year and now has infected over a half-million is here to stay for a while.
“At this point, no one can predict how long this epidemic is going to last,” he said at a regular WHO news conference. “We are entering and moving to an uncertain future … many countries around the world are just beginning the cycle of this epidemic.”
Ryan said the world needs to move from measures aimed to “take the heat” out of the pandemic, in favor of “much more precise targets — directed targets — that will allow us, at the very least, to live with this virus until we can develop a vaccine to get rid of it.”
GENEVA — With many countries initiating lockdowns, school and business closures, and other drastic measures to cut down on the spread of the new coronavirus, World Health Organization officials suggested Friday that individual liberties should be sacrificed for the greater good.
Speaking at a Geneva news conference, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged that measures like limits on travel or leaving the house influence “individual human rights.”
“But this is a choice that we should make: Meaning, in order to have collective security, to be better society and to fight the virus, we give our freedom, you know, for a while.”
WHO’s emergencies chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, added that “individuals are prepared to offer a little piece of individual sovereignty in order to support the community itself.
“This sense of the one to help the many. But that must be a temporary gift,” Ryan said. “That is a gift of the individual to society, not a demand upon the individual.”
BRUSSELS — Belgium’s government has extended lockdown measures for two weeks, up to April 19, as it tries to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus across the country.
The measures, which were initially set to last until April 5, include the obligation for Belgian residents to stay at home, except to go to work when working from home is not possible, and to avoid contact outside of their family as much as possible.
Nonessential shops will remain closed, with access to supermarkets limited to one person per 10 square meters for a maximum of 30 minutes.
Speaking Friday after a meeting of the national security council, Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes said the lockdown could be extended for a further two weeks if necessary.
According to the latest figures released Friday, 7,284 cases of COVID-19 have been registered in Belgium, including 289 people who died.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The Holland America cruise line says four elderly passengers have died aboard one of its ships after Chile refused it permission to dock as dozens of passengers are showing symptoms of possibly being infected with the new coronavirus.
Holland America confirmed Friday in a Facebook post that the four died aboard the Zaandam as it awaits permission to pass through the Panama Canal. It did not specify that the four died of coronavirus, but says more than 130 passengers and crew have exhibited possible symptoms. Passengers are being tested and at least two cases have been confirmed. The ship has four doctors and four nurses to treat 1,243 passengers and 586 crew members.
The ship is trying to get to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, after being denied permission to dock at its original destination of Chile a week ago. The ship originally left Argentina on March 7. Broward County is debating whether to let the ship dock at its Port Everglades when it is scheduled to arrive early next week.
The Seattle-based cruise line is transferring some passengers to its sister ship, the Rotterdam, which brought the Zaandam supplies. The cruise line is owned by Miami-based Carnival Corp.
WASHINGTON — Lawyers for young immigrants say the Supreme Court should not end a program that shields their clients from deportation and allows them to work in the United States during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a court filing Friday, the lawyers told the justices that 27,000 people protected by the DACA program work in health care.
“Termination of DACA during this national emergency would be catastrophic,” the lawyers wrote.
The justices have been weighing President Donald Trump’s effort to end the program since arguments in mid-November. Roughly 660,000 immigrants who were brought to the United States as children are protected by the program that began during the Obama administration.
HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe has announced a three-week “total lockdown” to start Monday as the economically shattered country tries to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.
All citizens must stay at home except for those seeking food or essential services.
The southern African nation’s vast number of street vendors are barred from going out. Neighboring South Africa started a similar lockdown Friday.
MEXICO CITY — Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Friday he will maintain his busy travel schedule dedicating infrastructure projects around the country in spite of growing restrictions prompted by the coronavirus epidemic, including a shutdown of most federal government operations.
López Obrador was scheduled to take commercial flights Friday to the western state of Nayarit and later to the northern border state of Baja California before finishing the weekend in Sinaloa.
However, the president said he doesn’t want people gathering in airports to see him like they usually do to shake hands and request selfies.
“Whoever comes to see me in the airport is there because my adversaries sent them,” López Obrador said. “So that the media outlets that don’t love us can send the story, ‘There’s the president, giving a bad example.’”
He was criticized last weekend on a similar swing in the southern state of Oaxaca for stopping to eat in a local restaurant and for urging Mexicans to continue to eat out in spite of the virus. He said Friday he would continue to evaluate the situation, but for now planned to continue travelling.
ATHENS, Greece — Greek authorities reported 74 new cases of the new coronavirus on Friday and two new deaths.
This brings the country’s total to 966 cases and 28 deaths — 23 men and 5 women, 89% of whom had an underlying disease or were aged over 70.
Health authorities have carried out a total 13,477 tests for the virus.
BERLIN — The European Space Agency published new images Friday showing the impact that lockdown measures related to the coronavirus are having on air pollution across Europe.
The Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute used data collected by ESA’s Sentinel 5P satellite to examine levels of nitrogen dioxide, which is released from the burning of fossil fuels.
Combustion engines are a major source of NO2, which can cause airway inflammation and and respiratory problems at high concentrations.
The maps show a sharp drop of NO2 levels in northern Italy, Madrid, Paris and the densely populated regions of western Germany and Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg compared to the same month a year ago.
LONDON — In a change of policy, Britain says it plans to begin routinely testing doctors, nurses and other frontline medical staff for the new coronavirus.
Britain is currently limiting testing primarily to people with serious symptoms of COVID-19 in hospitals.
Many medics who do not have symptoms are having to stay home as a precaution because they have been in contact with someone who has the virus. Testing could allow them to return to work, as well as giving a better picture of how widespread the virus is.
For days the government has promised to boost the number of tests to 10,000 and then 25,000 a day. As of Thursday the number was 7,850.
Cabinet minister Michael Gove said hundreds of people would be tested over the weekend with the program “dramatically scaling up next week.”
ANKARA, Turkey — The number of coronavirus cases in Turkey surpassed the 5,000 mark on Friday, while the death toll reached 92.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca reported 2,069 more confirmed COVID-19 cases on Friday, bringing the total to 5,698.
Speaking following a meeting of Turkey’s scientific council, Koca also told reporters that 17 more COVID-19 patients have died in the past 24 hours.
A total of 344 are currently in intensive care, he said, including 241 who are intubated. So far, 42 patients have recovered.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said 12 locations across Turkey were placed under quarantine in an effort to contain the virus’ spread.
MADRID — A team of veterinary researchers is leading a volunteer effort at a Madrid university to analyze tests for the coronavirus and assist in Spain’s national struggle against the outbreak.
Professor of Veterinary Sciences Bruno Gonzalez-Zorn said that the team at Madrid’s Complutense University had received on Friday a first batch of 200 samples from hospitalized patients to analyze them for the COVID-19 virus.
The help comes with Spain having serious difficulties to test patients and health workers while infections spike to over 64,000.
“Spain is one of the most heavily hit places in the world and we have to help out,” Gonzalez-Zorn told The Associated Press by phone. “We veterinarians know about epidemics; we are used to working with them. The diagnostic process is the same.”
The team consists of around 30 researchers who, with the backing of the university, contacted Spain’s Health Ministry to offer their expertise and installations.
The effort will rely on the veterinary school’s facilities, which are equipped to safely handle the incoming samples. They will employ equipment they usually use for animal research.
TORONTO — Canada’s most populous province is sending out out emergency alerts to cell phones, radios and TVs warning recent travelers to stay at home.
The alert in Ontario will tell travelers returning to Canada that they are required by law to self-isolate for 14 days as they are at high risk of spreading COVID-19.
It will tell them, “DO NOT visit stores, family or friends.”
About a million Canadians and permanent residents returned home last week.
The message will go out Friday afternoon and it will also say that everyone should stay home to help stop the spread of the virus.
NEW YORK — The United States continues to lead the world in coronavirus infections even after a spike of new cases reported in Italy.
According to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. has more than 92,000 cases of the virus. Italy reported a total of more than 86,000 infections on Friday.
Italy has recorded the most deaths of any country, with 9,134. More than 1,200 people have died in the U.S.
Worldwide, more than 560,000 people have contracted the virus and more than 127,000 have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins.
BANGKOK — A Muslim separatist group in Thailand that has been staging an armed insurgency has called on its followers to take active measures to protect against the spread of the coronavirus.
The Barisan Revolusi Nasional — National Revolutionary Front — has been leading guerrilla groups fighting for autonomy for Thailand’s three southernmost provinces, the only ones with Muslim majorities in the predominantly Buddhist nation. About 7,000 people have been killed since the conflict flared up in 2004.
The group, generally called the BRN, called on its followers to maintain their hygiene and health and work together in their communities to control the spread of the disease. It said they should not wait for policies from the government or other parties, because more people are succumbing to the illness every day.
Thailand has 1,136 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including five deaths.
ROME — Italy has become the second country to overtake China in coronavirus infections, recording a total of 86,498 on the same day it recorded its single biggest leap in coronavirus deaths, with 969 more victims.
The gruesome milestones nevertheless came on the same day Italian health officials said they were seeing a slight slowing down in new positive cases, two weeks into a nationwide lockdown.
Italy has recorded more virus-related deaths than any other country in the world. On Friday the death toll reached 9,134.
WASHINGTON — A senior member of the city government in Washington has died from the new coronavirus.
Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Friday that George Valentine, deputy director of the mayor’s office of legal counsel, had died Friday morning.
Bowser said Valentine’s death was “devastating for everybody” and that contact tracing was in progress to determine who Valentine may have come into contact with and who might have been exposed to him.
According to his LinkedIn page, Valentine came to the mayor’s office just over a year ago after spending more than 15 years with the Washington D.C. Attorney General’s office. Bowser said he was admitted to a hospital and diagnosed with COVID-19 on Wednesday.
LONDON — The British government’s top medical adviser is the latest senior official to say he has the new coronavirus.
Chris Whitty, who is chief medical officer for England, tweeted: “After experiencing symptoms compatible with COVID-19 last night, in line with the guidance, I will be self-isolating at home for the next seven days. I will be continuing to advise the Government on the medical response to Coronavirus, supported by my deputies.”
Whitty did not say whether he has been tested for the virus.
Whitty has become a familiar figure to millions of Britons for his cool-headed appearances at televised daily press conferences on the outbreak.
The announcement comes the same day Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock both said they had tested positive for COVID-19.
GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization is decrying the “tragic” count of more than a half-million cases of coronavirus, and more than 20,000 deaths.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus said: “These are tragic numbers. But let’s also remember that around the world, more than 100,000 people have recovered.”
PARIS — France is extending its nationwide confinement measures another two weeks until April 15, as the virus continues to claim victims around the country.
Saying “we are only at the beginning” of the virus wave, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced the extension Friday. It had been scheduled to end Tuesday.
Philippe warned that the number of cases is expected to rise in the Paris region and northern France, after heavily hitting eastern France.
France has reported nearly 1,700 deaths of people with the virus in hospitals, the fifth-highest number of any country worldwide. France’s numbers have continued to mount since the confinement began March 17.