The Latest: Amsterdam bans recreational boats from canals
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:
__ Amsterdam closes canals to recreational boats.
__ All hotels in Phuket ordered closed.
— Japanese families can receive cash handouts.
— European medical workers strain to save thousands of desperately ill coronavirus patients.
AMSTERDAM — Amsterdam is banning boats from its central canals beginning Sunday as authorities fear warm spring weather will lead to overcrowding on the historic waterways.
The city says recreational boats will be barred from its horse-shoe shaped web of inner-city waterways and canals in the famed red light district. It comes amid fears of breaches of social distancing measures aimed at slowing the spread of the new coronavirus.
Owners caught flouting the ban face a 390 euro ($420) fine. Many people in and around the city own small boats that they use to cruise through the canals.
Only boats that use the canals for professional purposes will be allowed to operate.
Entrance to famed Vondel Park also will be restricted and the park will be closed altogether if it becomes too busy.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte has urged people to stay home even as the country experiences its first warm weekend of the year. Local mayors have been given power to close areas such as beaches and parks to prevent large gatherings of people.
The Netherlands is not in a full lockdown, but bars, restaurants, museums, schools and universities are closed and the government is urging people to stay home and practice social distancing.
The country’s public health institute on Friday reported 148 new deaths in the outbreak, bringing the Dutch death toll to 1,487.
TOKYO — Japanese families demonstrating need will receive cash handouts of 300,000 yen ($2,800) to help get through the economic woes caused by the new coronavirus pandemic.
Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga says an emergency financial package will be announced next week. It is expected to include cash help and aid for small businesses.
There is no lockdown in Japan but people have been asked to stay home. Tourism has nose-dived and concerts have been canceled.
BANGKOK — Thailand’s famous resort island of Phuket has ordered all its hotels to close to combat the spread of COVID-19. The island attracts more than 10 million visitors a year.
The shutdown order from the Phuket provincial Communicable Disease Committee becomes effective Saturday.
Hotels currently hosting guests may stay open until they leave, but must report their number and names to the district offices so their health can be screened. Any guest with COVID-19 symptoms will be brought to state-designated facilities for monitoring.
Failure to follow the order is punishable by up to a year in prison and a maximum fine of 100,000 baht ($3,028).
All land and sea entry and exit points in Phuket were closed this week to try to limit the spread of the coronavirus. A ban on air travel will start on April 10.
THESSALONIKI, Greece — Authorities in Greece say migrants considered to be at increased risk from the new coronavirus are being moved from an overcrowded camp on the island of Lesbos to facilities on the mainland.
A senior government official told The Associated Press that families with a member over age 60 are being given priority.
About 160 migrants and refugees were being transported Friday from the camp at Moria on Lesbos to another facility in northern Greece.
The action follows warnings from public health and human rights associations that inhabitants at island camps are becoming increasingly vulnerable to the pandemic.
A small mainland camp earlier this week in central Greece was placed in quarantine after more than 20 cases were discovered during contact tracing.
STOCKHOLM — The city of Stockholm has declared an emergency situation that allows intensive care hospital staff to work longer hours. It comes as the COVID-19 death toll and confirmed cases continues to rise in the Swedish capital and other regions.
The city says activating the emergency status allows regular working hours among intensive care sector staff to be increased to 48 hours a week in return for bigger pay.
Latest figures show Sweden now has 282 deaths and 5,466 confirmed coronavirus cases.
The situation is the worst in the Stockholm region of 10 million people. It has recorded a substantial jump over the last few days with 178 new cases and 2,439 total.
Swedish public broadcaster SVT reported that COVID-19 is spreading now particularly rapidly among elderly Swedes with hundreds of confirmed cases and dozens of deaths cases in the Stockholm region alone.
LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson still has a fever and will remain in isolation.
Johnson tested positive for the new coronavirus on March 26 and spent seven days in quarantine as recommended by U.K. health officials.
Johnson said Friday that although he is “feeling better,” he still has a fever and is following guidance to stay in isolation until his temperature has returned to normal.
Johnson in a video message warned people not to break the national lockdown on what is expected to be a warm, sunny weekend across much of the U.K.
He acknowledged people may be bored but urged Britons not to flout rules against gathering in groups of more than two people who don’t live together.
Johnson said “this country has made a huge effort, a huge sacrifice” and people should continue to follow the rules in order to save lives.
PARIS — The U.S. Embassy in Paris says no one from the federal government bought masks destined for France.
The statement Friday denied that the U.S. government was responsible after allegations by multiple French officials that Americans paid exorbitant amounts in cash for planeloads of surgical masks that the French had already ordered.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was looking into similar reports of masks destined for Canada.
Governors of multiple U.S. states have described a chaotic competition for gear that pits states and even hospitals against each other for protective gear and medical equipment in the fight against coronavirus.
In one case, the New England Patriots owner sent the team’s private plane to fetch an order of 1 million masks for Massachusetts. Masks destined for other countries appear to be going to three states — Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island.
TOKYO — At least 30 countries have asked Japan about anti-flu drug Avigan that was developed several years ago by a subsidiary of FujiFilm.
It is believed Avigan might mitigate COVID-19.
The Japanese government approved the drug in 2014 for use in Japan and has a stockpile of Avigan tablets. But the pills were never distributed to market or to hospitals.
Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Friday that Japan is interested in working with other nations to further test Avigan and will ship them for free if asked.
FujiFilm Toyama Chemical Co. stepped up production of Avigan last month and has been carrying out more tests to ensure the drug’s safety and effectiveness.
Favipiravir, the active pharmaceutical ingredient of Avigan, prevents the propagation of viruses. The coronavirus is similar in type to the flu virus.
BERLIN — Germany’s health minister says he is looking for ways for German companies to ramp up production of face masks at home and reduce the country’s reliance on hard-fought imports.
Health Minister Jens Spahn said as he visited a logistics company distributing masks imported from China on the government’s behalf there are accounts that “in some cases these masks are being fought over, in the true sense of the word.” He added some deliveries did not even arrive at their destination.
Spahn says in the future Germany shouldn’t be so dependent on the international market for protective equipment.
Spahn has asked German companies to come forward with offers stating under what conditions they would be prepared to make such equipment through the end of next year. Those offers are expected in the coming days and will then be examined.
PRAGUE — A Czech car industry organization says the country has suffered the biggest drop in car buying in history as new registrations fell by 36% in March compared with the same month a year ago.
The only option to purchase a new car is on the internet since the the government launched numerous restrictions in the middle of March,
The Czech Car Importers Association said Friday 13,685 new vehicles were registered in March. It said new motorcycle registrations dropped even more than cars. Motorcycle registrations dropped by 42% in March.
Car production has been completely halted amid the outbreak. All major car plants closed, including the local factories of Volkswagen, Hyundai and Toytota/PSA.
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia’s government has reached an agreement with the country’s banks on imposing moratoriums on mortgages and loans to help households and businesses amid the the coronavirus pandemic.
Prime Minister Igor Matovic says the deal makes private individuals, self-employed people and small and middle size companies with up to 250 employees eligible to delay payments by up to nine months.
The government has asked people to only use the delay if they need it. The program is free.
Slovakia has 450 positive tests for the coronavirus.
BANGKOK — Thailand has banned all public gatherings to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.
The order signed Friday by Chief of Defense Forces Gen. Pornpipat Benyasri prohibits people from public gatherings, carrying out activities, or gathering for unlawful purposes in a manner that risks spreading the coronavirus.
It also bans any act that aggravates people’s suffering and pranks to spread the virus. That’s an apparent reference to anti-social actions such as spreading saliva on elevator buttons.
Family gatherings at residences and civic activities carried out according to safe social distancing guidelines are allowed.
Violation of the order carried a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment and a fine of 40,000 baht ($1,213).
A nationwide begins at 10 p.m. Friday night.
BERLIN — Germany’s auto industry association says new car registrations in the country dropped 38% in March compared with a year earlier. It is the steepest drop it has measured since German reunification three decades ago.
Restrictions on public life in Germany kicked in in mid-March and automakers have largely suspended production. The association says production was down 37% in March to 287,900 and the number of cars exported dropped 32% to 234,500.
LONDON — Prince Charles has formally opened the new Nightingale Hospita l at London’s main exhibition and conference center.
Charles launched the temporary facility at the ExCel center in east London via video link from his Scottish home of Birkhall and paid tribute to everyone involved in its construction, which took just nine days.
The heir to the U.K. throne said he was “enormously touched” to be asked to open the hospital that will rise from a capacity of 500 beds to an eventual 4,000.
Charles earlier this week emerged from self-isolation after testing positive for COVID-19 said he was lucky to only mild symptoms.
He says he hopes the hospital named after Florence Nightingale is only need for a short a time and as few people as possible.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka’s national carrier says it will slash staff pay and negotiate deferred payment plans and deductions with key suppliers in it’s efforts to preserve the airline’s liquidity.
SriLankan Airlines faces a grave crisis due to COVID-19. The state-run airline says it will also implement a mandatory salary reduction of 25% for three months and will freeze all salary increments in 2020.
The airline is temporarily terminating operations from April 07 to April 21 with the exception of cargo services.
RIGA, Latvia — Latvian health authorities confirmed the first death linked to COVID-19 in the Baltic nation. The fatality was a 99-year-old woman being treated in an intensive care unit at a hospital in the capital of Riga.
Public broadcaster Latvian Television says it is not clear how the woman was infected but she had been in a chronic condition for a period of time.
Latvia is a nation of nearly 2 million and has now reported 493 coronavirus cases.
LONDON — Google has started releasing location data to help public health officials track how people are responding to lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic.
The U.S. tech giant said Friday that it’s publishing aggregated, anonymized data for 131 countries and regions to highlight movement trends over time.
The information is gathered from Google Maps or the search giant’s other services, but no personal details, such as an individual’s location, contacts or movement, is disclosed. Google plans to update the reports regularly, with a lag of two to three days.
The reports chart whether more or less people are flowing into shops, parks, grocery stores, pharmacies, subway stations and offices. The company said it has heard from health officials who say the readings could be helpful for making critical decisions on how to fight the virus.
For example, “persistent visits to transportation hubs might indicate the need to add additional buses or trains in order to allow people who need to travel room to spread out for social distancing,” Google said.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The European Union’s police agency is warning that the proliferation in people working online from home or killing time in isolation by trawling the internet during the coronavirus crisis is potentially opening the door to cybercriminals.
Executive Director of Europol Catherine De Bolle says in a report published Friday, “This pandemic brings out the best but unfortunately also the worst in humanity.”
She warned in particular about criminals preying on children, saying: “I am very concerned about the rise of child sexual abuse online.”
Europol, based in The Hague, Netherlands, says some of its member states, including Spain, have already reported an increase in attempts to access illegal websites displaying “child sexual exploitation material.”
The agency adds that “Isolated and ‘bored’ offenders” are expressing increasing interest in trading such material and some countries have seen an increase in offenders trying to contact children on social media.
Cybercriminals also are launching phishing and ransomware campaigns exploiting the coronavirus, the report says, and it warns about online sales of virus protection items like masks and test kits.
“Although the intention may purport to be good, this is an easy way to sell fake, counterfeit or poor quality articles anonymously,” Europol warns.
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