The Latest: WHO warns of fraud during coronavirus crisis
The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 341,700 people and killed over 14,700. 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 98,800 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.
TOP OF THE HOUR:
— World Health Organization warns of criminals posing as WHO officials.
— China slams US for ‘scapegoating’ over virus.
— British justice officials put new jury trials on hold.
— U.S. Secret Service employee tests positive for the coronavirus.
GENEVA — The World Health Organization says criminals are increasingly posing as WHO officials in an effort to swipe information or money from people during the coronavirus crisis.
Spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said Monday that attackers are using “multiple impersonation approaches” such as fraudulent phone calls and phishing on email and through social media.
The U.N. health agency said it is working to confirm and debunk such attempts and alert local authorities. It has set up a website to help people prevent fraud during the coronavirus outbreak.
“Always take time to think about a request for your personal information, and whether the request is appropriate,” WHO said.
WHO says its official emails come from the “who.int” domain.
BEIJING — China’s foreign ministry says the U.S. is “completely wasting the precious time” Beijing had won in attacking the global coronavirus outbreak that originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a daily briefing Monday that the U.S. has attempted to “discredit others and look for a scapegoat to shift its responsibilities.”
He added that the U.S. should “stop politicizing the epidemic, stop stigmatizing and defaming China and other countries.”
China’s health ministry says Wuhan has now gone five consecutive days without a new infection, showing the effectiveness of draconian travel restrictions that are slowly being relaxed around the country.
At the same time, China is stepping up measures to prevent the virus from being brought back from overseas, requiring international flights into Beijing to first stop at airports outside the capital for inspection.
TIRANA, Albania — Albania has reported three more deaths from the coronavirus. The country did not report a single case until two weeks ago, and had said that it expected a surge in cases this week.
The Health Ministry has reported the deaths of a 71-year-old late Sunday night and a 43-year old and a 61-year-old Monday morning, raising Albania’s death toll to four. The country has confirmed 89 cases.
Albania is in a lockdown, with all borders closed, and schools, cafes, restaurants, gyms, and public and private transport shut. All shops except for groceries and pharmacies are also closed.
WARSAW, Poland — Polish police say they have carried out inspections of nearly 80,000 people subjected to forced quarantine because of the coronavirus pandemic and found 318 cases of people violating the quarantine.
The Polish government has enacted increasingly firm measures in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. Last week the government increased penalties for quarantine non-compliance from 5,000 zlotys ($1,180) to 30,000 zlotys ($7,075). The authorities also extended an initial two-week closure of all schools in the country for an additional two weeks, lasting through Easter.
Additionally, they introduced a phone app to track those in home quarantine.
So far, Poland, with a population of 38 million people, has 649 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and seven deaths.
National police spokesman Mariusz Ciarka said that over the last day police inspected 79,196 people in quarantine and discovered 318 irregularities.
LONDON — British justice officials have put new jury trials on hold as the court system places safety measures in place amid the coronavirus crisis.
Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett said in a statement Monday that jurors summoned this week are being contacted to ask them to remain at home.
Burnett said ongoing jury trials will also be paused to make sure arrangements are in place to make certain they can continue to operate safely.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Secret Service says an employee has tested positive for the coronavirus.
The agency said in a statement early Monday that it will continue to monitor the employee’s condition. The employee is in quarantine.
The agency says it determined after an assessment that the employee has had no contact with other employees or anyone the agency is responsible for protecting for nearly three weeks.
The Secret Service provides security protection for President Donald Trump and his family, among other high-ranking U.S. officials.
PARIS — Airbus is canceling planned dividend payments and lining up 15 billion euros ($16 billion) in new credit to give the European aircraft giant more cash to weather the COVID-19 crisis.
Airbus said Monday that withdrawing the proposed 2019 dividend payment of 1.8 euros ($1.90) per share will save the company 1.4 billion euros ($1.5 billion).
The approval from Airbus’ directors for 15 billion euros in new borrowing is on top of an existing 3 billion euro ($3.2 billion) revolving credit facility.
Airbus said that it “has significant liquidity available to cope with additional cash requirements related to the coronavirus,” and that the firm “intends to secure business continuity for itself even in a protracted crisis.”
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka’s government has banned nonessential travel across the Indian Ocean island nation, in the latest measure to contain the spreading of the coronavirus.
The government is allowing the transport of rice and other essential items.
Also on Monday, a statement from the president’s office said the government has banned the transporting of tourists. Tourism is a major income source for the country.
Sri Lanka has confirmed 82 coronavirus cases.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Office workers are hauling computers and plants to their cars and shoppers are stripping shelves bare of coffee, flour and toilet paper before New Zealand starts a four-week lockdown.
“I know it will feel daunting,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, but she said the move was meant to save lives.
People must stay home and all non-essential businesses and activities cease when the lockdown begins late Wednesday night.
The decision came as health officials announced another 36 confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 102. Most were tied to travel overseas, but crucially, two of the cases could not be traced and officials believe they are evidence of a local outbreak.
New Zealand, which has a population of 5 million, already has closed its borders to all but citizens and residents.
New Zealand also considers itself a gateway to South Pacific island nations that would be devastated if the virus took hold there, given their isolation and poor health systems. Only a handful of virus cases have been identified so far in the South Pacific, including two in Fiji and one in Papua New Guinea.
CANBERRA, Australia — A fourth Australian federal lawmaker has tested positive for the coronavirus.
South Australia state Senator Rex Patrick, from the minor Center Alliance party, said on Monday he tested for COVID-19 after being in contact with infected government Senator Andrew Bragg two weeks ago. Bragg, from New South Wales state, is among 35 guests who became infected at a March 6 wedding south of Sydney.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton was the first Australian lawmaker to discover he was infected days after returning from Washington, where he met President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and U.S. Attorney General William Barr. Queensland state government Senator Susan McDonald announced days later that she was also infected.
None of the four is in the national capital Canberra, where a scaled-down Parliament is meeting to pass economic stimulus spending measures to soften the virus’s economic blow.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia has changed towers built to house athletes in the 2018 Asian Games to emergency hospitals.
Four of the 10 buildings used to house 24,000 Asian athletes have been redesigned to a coronavirus hospital with a 3,000-bed capacity in the country’s hard-hit capital, where new patients have surged in the past week.
President Joko Widodo on Monday officially launched the hospital as an army plane carrying 9 tons of health supplies, including 105,000 protective tools, masks and sanitizers for medical personnel arrived from China.
Widodo’s administration has been criticized as slow to deal with the virus’ spread, which could overwhelm the health care system in the country of more than 260 million people.
Indonesia, which has the third-largest population in Asia after China and India, reported 514 COVID-19 cases with 48 deaths, including six doctors and a nurse who died while helping patients with a lack of protective tools.
Widodo has ruled out the possibility of imposing a lockdown on Jakarta and has instead ordered mass testing to contain the coronavirus disease spread and has prepared about 200 hospitals run by government, military and police as well as private as the country braces for an anticipated surge in COVID-19 patients.
TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Monday that Japan will require a 14-day quarantine to all visitors from the United States, including the Japanese and Americans, effective Thursday and until the end of April.
Abe made the announcement at a government task force on the coronavirus, citing the escalating COVID-19 infections around the world, especially in the U.S. and Europe in recent weeks.
Japan on Sunday raised a travel advisory for the U.S., urging the Japanese citizens not to make nonessential trips to the U.S.
He said the U.S. recently took similar measures and urged Americans not to make nonessential trips to Japan, requiring a 14-day quarantine for entrants.
Abe said Monday’s quarantine requirement is in line with measures taken by other countries, including the U.S. and shows Japan’s commitment to join international effort to stop the further spread of the coronavirus.
He said Japan will continue to launch “flexible border control measures without hesitation” and urged his ministers to keep their caution levels up high.
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Congress is holding an emergency session to deliberate on a government request to declare a national emergency and allow the president to swiftly punish local officials who defy orders and grant him a standby power to take over private companies amid the coronavirus crisis.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea told the House of Representatives on Monday that the government also needed the authority to realign huge funds to fight the outbreak. Senators said the government may need at least 200 billion pesos ($4 billion) in the next two months to deal with the contagion.
“The power to take over is intended merely as a standby power in the event the crisis reaches its worst when our most critical institutions are nearing a total shutdown,” Medialdea told legislators, the majority of whom participated online as a health precaution.
Left-wing groups opposed extra powers for President Rodrigo Duterte, fearing abuse. The opposition said the government should focus on providing “safety nets” for the poor and workers who were ordered to stay home under a lockdown of the northern Philippines, which is home to more than 50 million people.
Philippine officials have reported 396 infections, including 33 deaths, but fear COVID-19 cases may spike soon after China donated 100,000 testing kits and other countries promised to help the Philippines strengthen its capability to test more people for the virus.
ISLAMABAD — Authorities in southern Pakistan on Monday began a two-week complete lockdown, as the number of positive coronavirus tests jumped to 799 across Pakistan. Health officials reported sixth deaths from infection.
Murad Ali Shah, the chief minister in the southern Sindh province, has imposed a ban on movement of people, saying the measure was aimed at saving lives.
However, Prime Minister Imran Khan has avoided a nationwide lockdown, but he urged people to stay at homes voluntarily.
So far six people have died because of the virus and among those was a young doctor who went home and suddenly died in the north.
Authorities say they are trying to import equipment for the safety of doctors who have expressed concern over lack of facilities in tackling infected patients.
In many areas of Pakistan, people stayed home on the national day Monday. Pakistan has already postponed a military parade and the country’s president Arif Alvi and Khan have asked people to show unity to fight the coronavirus.
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