The latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 460,000 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.
These files from the Associated Press were posted by Black Press Media at 3:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 25.
TOP OF THE HOUR:
- Finland restricts travel to and from its capital city.
- WHO chief says Trump is “taking responsibility” for virus response.
- Tony Awards postponed as Broadway stays dark.
WHO praises U.S. president
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.”
U.S. Army delivers medical supplies to Northern Italy
BERLIN — The U.S. Army Europe says it has delivered medical supplies and equipment to help fight the new coronavirus in Italy’s hard-hit region of Lombardy.
The move, which was part of the Defence Security Cooperation Agency’s humanitarian assistance program, saw the 405th Army Field Support Brigade deliver hospital beds, mattresses, adjustable IV poles and other supplies from the U.S. Army Camp Darby in Livorno, Italy.
In a statement Wednesday, U.S. Army Europe’s commanding general, Lt. Gen. Christopher G. Cavoli, said the effort demonstrated “the U.S commitment to our NATO ally and the people of Italy during this crisis.”
France deploys helicopter carriers to evacuate patients from overseas territories
PARIS — President Emmanuel Macron launched a special military operation Wednesday to help fight the new coronavirus in France, one of the world’s hardest-hit countries.
As part of the new “Operation Resilience,” France is deploying helicopter carriers to help transport patients in overseas French territories in the Caribbean, South America and the Indian Ocean.
Striking a combative tone on a visit to a military field hospital in the virus-ravaged eastern city of Mulhouse, Macron paid homage to medics who have died, “who paid with their lives to save other lives.”
Macron also promised a “massive” new investment plan for public hospitals, after years of cost cuts in France’s renowned health care system that have complicated efforts to stem the spread of the virus.
Facing criticism that his government was too slow to lock down the country as the virus spread, Macron criticized those “who would fracture the country, when we should have one obsession: to be united to fight the virus.”
Reiterating that France is at “war” with the virus, Macron warned: “We are just at the beginning. But we will make it through, because we will not surrender, because we have the strength.”
German physicians publish triage recommendations
BERLIN — Seven German medical associations have published recommendations for how doctors should determine which seriously ill patients with the new coronavirus can be given intensive care treatment when demand outstrips available capacity.
The 13-page guide published Wednesday states that “according to current information about the COVID-19 pandemic it is likely that despite capacity increases already made there soon won’t be sufficient intensive care resources available also in Germany for all patients who would need them.”
The document, posted on the website of Germany’s Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive and Emergency Medicine, recommends not providing intensive care if the process of dying has irreversibly begun, treatment wouldn’t result in improvement or stabilization, survival would depend on permanent intensive care or the patient refuses intensive care.
The guide, which is backed by six other medical associations, suggests that decisions on allocating available beds may be necessary “analogous to triage in disaster medicine.” It suggests that survival chances of patients with other serious illnesses should also be weighed and that age alone shouldn’t be the deciding factor.
About 1,000 of the over 30,000 COVID-19 patients in Germany are currently receiving intensive care. The government aims to double the 28,000 intensive care beds in the country to cope with a predicted increase in cases.
Finland: Travel in and out of capital city blocked
HELSINKI — The Finnish government says it will block the movement of citizens into and out of a key southern region that includes the Nordic nation’s capital, Helsinki, to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus to other areas.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin said late Wednesday the measure concerns the Uusimaa region including Helsinki and affects the daily lives of some 1.7 million people, nearly a third of Finland’s population.
The government made the decision as the “risk of substantial spreading of the infection from the Uusimaa region to rest of Finland is high” through non-necessary travelling, said Krista Kiuru, the social affairs minister.
Police are set to enforce the new regulation, which is set to begin March 27 and end April 19. It will cease all non-necessary human traffic to and from Uusimaa, the region that has been hit worst by the virus.
Nationwide, Finland has so far confirmed 880 cases of COVID-19 and three deaths.
Nine cases at Gaza Strip
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The Palestinian Health Ministry says seven new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the Gaza Strip, putting the total at nine.
The ministry said Wednesday that the seven cases were security workers who made contact with the first two people infected with the virus. Those two men had returned to the Palestinian enclave from Pakistan and tested positive last Thursday.
The ministry said the new patients have been in quarantine since the first cases were detected.
The Gaza Strip has been reeling under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, raising concerns about the capabilities of its poor health system to handle an outbreak in the overcrowded territory.
About 1,500 Palestinians who returned to Gaza via Israel and Egypt have been placed in obligatory quarantine at hastily set-up facilities.
59 deaths in Turkey
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s health minister says 15 people have died from the new coronavirus in the past 24 hours, raising the total number of deaths to 59.
Fahrettin Koca tweeted Wednesday that 561 more people have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the number of infections in the country to at least 2,433.
Minnesota residents in non-essential jobs ordered to stay home
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday ordered Minnesota residents in nonessential jobs to stay at home for two weeks in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent the coronavirus from overwhelming the state’s health care system.
The governor’s order begins at midnight Friday. He said the restrictions were critical to allow the state to protect its most vulnerable people and give time to build up the state’s capacity to handle a flood of infections.
“I’m asking for your patience, your co-operation and your understanding,” Walz said in a live video message. “My pledge to you is to use the valuable time you’re giving us.”
Walz had held off on issuing the order because he wanted to see data and modeling to show whether it would make enough of a difference to justify the disruptions that could last for weeks or months.
Idaho issues statewide stay-at-home order
BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Gov. Brad Little has issued a statewide stay-at-home order as the coronavirus continues to spread.
Little announced the order Wednesday, saying it would remain in effect for 21 days.
Idaho has more than 91 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Idaho has a population of about 1.7 million.
Tony awards cancelled
NEW YORK — With Broadway shuttered amid the coronavirus pandemic, producers of the annual Tony Awards have postponed this year’s celebration of American theatre.
The show was originally scheduled for June 7 but the virus forced all 41 Broadway theatres 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.
Turkey’s president believes country is three weeks away from slowing the virus
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.
Beloved “Top Chef Masters” winner dies of virus
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.
Drainage problems in Greece
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.
Dog washing to be banned in South Africa
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.
British ambassador dies
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.”
The Associated Press
Black Press Media posted the Associated Press files below at 11 a.m., Wednesday, March 25.
TOP OF THE HOUR:
- Nearly 700 more deaths in Italy, but cases levelling off
- Canada orders returning travellers to self-isolate, offers cash to affected workers.
- Cuomo: 3,800 hospitalized in New York.
Italy: Steep rise in cases seems to be leveling
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.
Czech republic limits gatherings to two people
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 metres (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.
Spain: Deputy prime minister has virus
MADRID — Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo, who is 62, has contracted the coronavirus and remains hospitalized to be treated for her respiratory infection.
A statement from the prime minister’s office said Wednesday that Calvo’s latest diagnosis had turned positive after previous tests during the past two days were deemed inconclusive by doctors.
At least two other members of the Spanish Cabinet are also recovering from the COVID-19 that is caused by the new virus, as well as the wife of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.
All who return to Canada must self-isolate
TORONTO — Canada announced Wednesday it is imposing mandatory self-isolation for those returning to the country under the Quarantine Act.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu said on Twitter that the government is making it mandatory to better protect Canada’s most vulnerable.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the requirement will begin at midnight Wednesday and last for 14 days.
Britain: Key London airport suspends operations
LONDON — London City Airport, which is widely by business people for short-haul journeys to Europe, will suspend operations for commercial and private flights until the end of April but said it is ready to help out in the coronavirus relief effort.
The airport, which handles around 5.1 million passengers a year, said it has made the decision after a dramatic collapse in demand. It said it could remain open to support emergency flights or the military or other government agencies.
“At this time of national crisis, we stand ready to keep the aerodrome open and to work with the emergency services and government to support the relief effort in any way we can to ensure that people and communities get the vital care they need,” CEO Robert Sinclair said.
One potential use could be helping out the nearby 4,000-bed NHS Nightingale Hospital, which will open next week at the Excel Centre. The military is helping in its construction.
London is the hotspot of the pandemic in the U.K.
Cannes: Site of film festival now used for homeless
CANNES, France — The French Riviera city of Cannes has opened the doors of the site of the city’s world-famed film festival to the homeless. Converting the Palais des Festivals into a shelter is aimed at helping those without a roof respect confinement measures in France to fight the spread of the coronavirus.
The ground floor of the Palais des Festivals, home of the annual gathering of stardust and glitter, can hold up to 80 homeless people. There, they can shower, sleep, eat and even keep their dogs in a kennel in a hall. The homeless centre opened Friday, and the town hall said that 61 people were present on Tuesday.
Social distancing and sanitary considerations are assured at the centre, according to a statement.
The homeless are particularly challenged by the confinement orders, which risk continuing for weeks. Empty streets mean that handouts vital to many homeless people to survive have evaporated.
The Cannes Film Festival originally set for May 12-23 has been postponed.
Renowned Dutch flower garden will not open
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — World-renowned Dutch flower garden Keukenhof will not open this year after the Dutch government extended its ban on gatherings to June 1 in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“This means that Keukenhof cannot open in 2020,” the popular attraction, which only opens during the flowering season in spring, announced Wednesday.
The garden in the middle of the Dutch bulb fields had been due to open March 21, but that date was cancelled due to restrictions that initially were put in place until early April.
“The park is already blooming beautifully and will become even more beautiful in the coming weeks,” the garden said in a statement. Instead of opening, it will allow people to virtually visit its colorful floral displays through its social media and online channels.
First death in New Mexico
SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico health officials on Wednesday announced the state’s first death related to the coronavirus.
The man in his late 70s was hospitalized in southeastern New Mexico on Sunday and died the same day as his condition deteriorated rapidly.
The state Health Department said he had multiple underlying conditions. Confirmed infections in New Mexico have climbed past 100 with schools shut down and a stay-at-home order in effect.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called it a tragic day and urged residents to stay home and take precautions to limit the spread of the COVID-19 disease.
“For anyone in our state who had not yet acknowledged this virus as the urgent public health crisis that it is, who has not accepted the extremely compelling need to stay home, today lays bare the very real, very life-or-death consequences of this disease,” she said.
First deaths in Russia
MOSCOW — Russia has reported its first deaths from the novel coronavirus infection, two elderly patients who also had underlying conditions.
The commission directing Russia’s response to the virus said Wednesday the patients died of pneumonia and were 88 and 73 years old.
Russia has reported 658 cases of infection nationwide. Last week an infected patient died, but doctors said that was due to a blood clot rather than the virus itself.
First death in Estonia
TALLINN, Estonia — Health officials in Estonia have confirmed the Baltic nation’s first coronavirus death. Officials said an 83-year-old woman treated with other illnesses died in a hospital in western Estonia.
Estonia, a small nation of 1.3 million, has reported over 400 coronavirus cases so far.
The Estonian government led by Prime Minister Juri Ratas on Tuesday imposed new coronavirus-related restrictions for citizens. They include a requirement to keep a 2-meter (7-foot) distance from each other in public spaces, a ban of meetings of more than two people and a closure of shopping malls and limits to opening hours of bars and restaurants.
UN aid a “drop in the ocean”
UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has launched a $2 billion appeal to help vulnerable and conflict-torn countries in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and South America tackle the coronavirus pandemic and prevent COVID-19 from again circling the globe.
The U.N. chief called the amount a “drop in the ocean,” noting Wednesday that the U.S. Senate is seeking $2 trillion for the U.S. economy.
U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock announced a $60 million contribution from the U.N.’s emergency relief fund to kick-start the appeal.
Guterres said $2 billion is essential to keep economies and health systems in the developing world afloat to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. He said it will also help countries already in the midst of a humanitarian crisis caused by conflicts, natural disasters and climate change.
He said, “The worst thing that could happen is to suppress the disease in developed countries and let it spread like fire in the developing world.”
Quarantined German chancellor tests negative
BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel has again tested negative for the new coronavirus.
Merkel went into quarantine Sunday after learning that a doctor who had administered a vaccination to her two days earlier was tested positive for COVID-19.
Merkel’s office said Wednesday that the 65-year-old has now tested negative twice and will receive a further test next week.
Her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said Merkel is continuing her work from home, including taking part in video meetings with other world leaders.
New York: 900 cases in intensive care
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.
$2,000 monthly payment for Canadians jobless due to virus
TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government will offer $2,000 Canadian a month, for the next four months, for workers who lose their income as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Trudeau says Canada is facing a once-in-a-generation challenge and noted that one million Canadians applied for employment insurance in a week.
Trudeau says if a Canadian loses their job because of COVID-19 — whether they are full-time, contract, or self-employed — the new benefit is available. He says if you are sick or quarantined, or looking after someone sick, the benefit is available. And he says even if a worker is still employed, but not receiving income because of the crisis, the benefit is available.
The prime minister also says his government will also announce supports to keep journalists working.
Trudeau made the remarks outside his residence where he is self-isolating after his wife tested positive for the virus. He says his wife is doing “much much better” and he and his kids have no symptoms.
Putin postpones national vote that would allow him to seek another term in power
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has postponed a nationwide vote on proposed constitutional amendments that include allowing him to seek another term in power.
Putin didn’t set a new date for the vote originally scheduled for April 22, saying it would depend on how the new coronavirus pandemic develops.
He also announced during a televised address to the nation that the government doesn’t want Russians, except those working in essential sectors, going to work next week. He says stores, pharmacies and banks will stay open.
“Health, life and safety of the people is an absolute priority for us,” Putin said.
Russian authorities reported 658 cases of the virus on Wednesday, with 163 new cases registered since the previous day. That marked a significantly larger daily increase from previous days.
Pope presides over global praryer, reaffirms need to protect all life
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has reaffirmed the need to protect all life, rallying Christians around the world to pray together for those sick with the coronavirus and the medical personnel who are caring for them.
Francis presided over a global noontime prayer Wednesday, in which he begged for God’s mercy amid the pandemic.
The prayer fell on the 25th anniversary of a landmark Vatican document reaffirming the inviolability of all human life from conception to natural death. Francis dedicated his comments to the document, which strongly reaffirmed church teaching opposing abortion and euthanasia.
Francis says it is imperative to “relaunch this teaching in the context of a pandemic that threatens human life and the global economy.”
Some conservative Christian commentators, as well as U.S. President Donald Trump, have warned the consequences of the financial shutdown aimed at preventing the virus’ spread and protecting the elderly and sick are worse than the virus itself.
— The Associated Press