The Latest: China to inspect shipments of masks, ventilators
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
— Worldwide coronavirus death toll hits 100,000.
—Spain reports lowest daily death count in nearly three weeks, with rise in number of people infected
—Britain’s Health Secretary says it’s too early to tell whether the peak of infections there has passed.
BEIJING — Chinese regulators say ventilators, masks and other supplies being exported to fight the coronavirus will be subject to quality inspections following complaints that substandard goods were being sold abroad.
The customs agency says masks, ventilators, surgical gowns, goggles and other supplies will be treated as medical goods. That requires exporters to show they meet the quality standards of their destination market.
The agency gave no details but the newspaper Beijing Daily said shipments would be inspected by a government agency before being approved for export.
China is the biggest producer of surgical masks and other medical products and has increased output following the coronavirus outbreak.
Regulators in Australia, the Netherlands and other countries have complained masks, virus test kits and other products were faulty or failed to meet quality standards.
JOHANNESBURG — Nigeria is the latest African nation to publicly confront China over the mistreatment of Africans in the Chinese city of Guangzhou.
Some African traders have reported being evicted or discriminated against amid coronavirus fears.
In an unusually open critique, the speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives tweeted a video of him pressing the Chinese ambassador on the issue.
“It’s almost undiplomatic the way I’m talking, but it’s because I’m upset about what’s going on,” Femi Gbajabiamila says. “We take it very seriously,” Ambassador Zhou Pingjian replies.
Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama also summoned the ambassador to express “extreme concern” and call for an immediate government response. Kenya also has spoken out about the mistreatment.
Sierra Leone in a separate statement says African diplomats in Beijing have met with Chinese officials and “stated in very strong terms their concern and condemnation of the disturbing and humiliating experiences our citizens have been subjected to.”
MADRID — Spain has reported its lowest daily death count in nearly three weeks after 510 people died with the new coronavirus between Friday and Saturday. That is down from a national high of 950 fatalities reported on April 2.
The country saw a slight uptick in confirmed infections with 4,830 new cases reported, compared to 4,576 the day before.
Spain has confirmed 161,852 infections and 16,353 deaths since the beginning of the outbreak, making it and Italy the hardest hit countries in Europe. Over 59,000 Spaniards have recovered from COVID-19.
A month-long national lockdown has helped Spain slow the daily increase in the numbers of infected people from over 20% two weeks ago to 3%.
Given the harsh economic impact of the measures which threaten to hurl the country into recession, the government will start to roll back some controls on Monday when factory and construction workers will be allowed to return to work for the first time in two weeks. All other activities, except for leaving home for essential food and medicine, will still remain prohibited.
Roadblocks have been set up to prevent unauthorized travel during the Easter holidays.
LONDON — British Heath Secretary Matt Hancock says it is too soon to determine whether the peak of coronavirus infections in the country has passed.
That’s despite data suggesting that the rate of increase in the number of people being hospitalized with the COVID-19 disease is leveling out.
Hancock tells BBC radio that the “good news” is that the number of hospital admissions shows signs of flattening out. However, he says the government requires more evidence before it can start making changes to its lockdown measures.
Britain has been in lockdown for nearly three weeks and the government is expected to extend the restrictions in coming days.
On Friday, the government said a total of 8,958 people had died in hospital after testing positive for the new coronavirus, up 980 from the previous day. That daily increase was bigger than anything witnessed in Italy and Spain, the two European countries with the greatest number of coronavirus-linked fatalities.
Hancock also says that 19 front-line workers in the National Health Service have died after contracting the virus.
TOKYO — Japan has broadened a request for people to stay away from bars, clubs and restaurants across the whole country.
The measure previously covered seven urban areas, including Tokyo.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says at a meeting of the national coronavirus task force that “many cases of infections have been confirmed at places where people are going out at night, and that spread is nationwide.”
Japan’s state of emergency, issued April 7, carries no penalties but asks people to stay home as much as possible.
Abe reiterated his plea for companies to allow people to work from home, stressing that commuter train crowds had thinned, but more was needed. Although department stores and movie theaters have closed, some retail chains are still open.
Japan has about 6,000 coronavirus cases, and about 100 deaths. Worries are growing cases will surge dramatically, and hospitals will be overloaded. The Tokyo city government has asked pachinko parlors and karaoke bars to close but allows small “izakaya” bars and barbershops to stay open.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Police in Sri Lanka say they are trying to stop people swapping instructions for how to produce illicit liquor during a curfew imposed due to the new coronavirus.
Liquor stores and bars are closed under Sri Lanka’s curfew measures. That has caused black market liquor prices to triple.
Posts on social media like Facebook and WhatsApp have been widely shared with tips for producing moonshine using locally available items such as sugar, coconut water and yeast.
Police spokesman Ajith Rohana says that people who promote consumption of liquor or methods to produce it could face a prison sentence of up to two years. He says special teams are examining posts on social media.
Sri Lanka has recorded 197 cases of the new coronavirus and seven infected people have died. Nearly 20,000 people have been arrested for curfew violations.
SYDNEY — About 1,300 Australian travelers being kept in mandatory quarantine in Sydney ended their two-week confinement in time for the Easter Sunday holiday. They had arrived at Sydney International Airport after a government-ordered clampdown on March 29 and were finishing their 14-day quarantine, New South Wales police said.
They will undergo a final health check before they are allowed to leave for their homes around the country. Police are overseeing the departures, assisted by health authorities, the Australian defense force and hotel staff.
Buses will run to Sydney’s airport throughout the day, but some won’t be able to return to their home states on Saturday due to flight schedules.
The New South Wales health minister issued an order directing all overseas arrivals to go directly to a quarantine facility from March 29 to combat the new coronavirus pandemic.
SEOUL, South Korea — In a controversial step, South Korea’s government says it will strap electronic wristbands on people who defy self-quarantine orders as it tightens monitoring to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
Senior Health Ministry official Yoon Tae-ho on Saturday acknowledged the privacy and civil liberty concerns surrounding the bands, which will be enforced through police and local administrative officials after two weeks of preparation and manufacturing.
But he said authorities need more effective monitoring tools because the number of people placed under self-quarantine has ballooned after the country began enforcing 14-day quarantines on all passengers arriving from abroad on April 1 amid worsening outbreaks in Europe and the United States.
Lee Beom-seok, an official from the Ministry of the Interior and Safety, admitted that the legal grounds for forcing people to wear the wristbands were “insufficient” and that police and local officials will offer consent forms for the devices while investigating those who were caught breaking quarantine.
Under the country’s recently strengthened laws on infectious diseases, people can face up to a year in prison or fined as much as $8,200 for breaking quarantine orders. Lee said those who agree to wear the wristbands could be possibly considered for lighter punishment.
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