The Latest: Japan urges head of WHO to help speed vaccines

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:

— Spain surpasses China in coronavirus infections tally.

— Japan urges head of WHO to help speed vaccines.

— Prince Charles ends isolation period after positive test.

— Tokyo Olympics rescheduled to start July 23, 2021.

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TOKYO — Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged the head of the World Health Organization to help accelerate development of medicine and vaccines for the coronavirus by promoting information sharing and cooperation among countries.

Abe told Director-General Tedros Adhanom in a phone call that Japan is pursuing clinical research on flu drug Favipiravir with several other countries.

Japan’s Foreign Ministry says Tedros pledged WHO’s leadership in the development of medicine, vaccines and diagnostics.

Abe asked Tedros to make use of Japan’s $46 million contribution to the WHO to effectively provide technical assistance for health workers in developing countries where COVID-19 cases are sharply on the rise.

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PANAMA CITY — The administrator of the Panama Canal says two Holland America Line cruise ships completed their journey through the waterway on their way to Florida.

Administrator Ricaurte Vásquez says coronavirus was the cause of death for at least two of the four people who died on the Zaandam. He says the pilots who led the Zaandam and Rotterdam through the locks would be placed in a 14-day quarantine.

The Zaandam, which left Argentina on March 7 with some 1,800 passengers and crew, had been denied entry to South American ports and was stranded off Panama for several days until the Central American nation decided to permit it to cross the canal.

Several hundred passengers were transferred Friday to a sister ship, the Rotterdam.

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LISBON, Portugal — Portugal’s government is hoping the country’s wine producers will give up a half-million liters (132,000 gallons) of alcohol for medical use.

The country’s Farm Ministry says it will provide financial help for producers offering their alcohol stocks for use by hospitals and pharmaceutical companies.

It says alcohol for disinfection remains in short supply amid the new coronavirus outbreak

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PARIS — The United Nations scientific agency UNESCO held a virtual meeting with science ministers from 73 countries to discuss international cooperation around COVID-19.

Open science is an issue UNESCO has been pushing for months. The agency’s leadership believes the global pandemic has highlighted the need to better share information to save lives.

UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay says “the COVID-19 pandemic has made us aware of the importance of science for both research and international cooperation. This crisis also shows us the urgency of better knowledge sharing.”

The meeting, which included representatives from the United States and Israel, addressed reducing the “knowledge deficit” between countries, strengthening the link between science and political decisions and allowing free access to scientific data.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lankan police announced they will acquire the properties of those who defy the government’s order to undergo a 14-day self-quarantine after returning from abroad after March 10.

The announcement came after it was revealed that several people who tested positive for Covid-19 had not registered with the government’s self-quarantine program and hadn’t followed proper quarantine guidelines.

Health authorities have already sealed off two villages after it surfaced that several Covid-19 patients from those villages failed to follow self-quarantine procedures.

Sri Lanka’s second death due to Coronavirus was reported on Sunday. The number of confirmed cases has risen to 122.

Most of the positive cases involve those returning from abroad, especially from Italy, Britain and South Korea.

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PRAGUE — The Czech capital is working on securing shelters for the homeless, including cheap hotels and hostels.

Prague’s City Hall says it wants to prevent an uncontrolled spreading of the coronavirus in their community and beyond it.

It adds it is also nearly impossible for the homeless to comply with the restrictions on movement imposed by the government to contain the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Several charities and volunteers will be taking care of people while they’re staying in the new locations.

Prague says it was inspired by the approach to the homeless in some major cities, including Chicago, London and Paris.

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MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin says the country has managed to slow down the spread of coronavirus but should be prepared for contagions to quickly grow.

Russia has been relatively lightly hit by the outbreak, with 1,836 cases and nine deaths. But the number of new cases has mushroomed, forcing the authorities to brace up for the worst.

Putin hailed a lockdown declared Monday in Moscow and warned that other regions should prepare to take similar steps.

Speaking to his envoys in Russian provinces in a video call, a stern-looking Putin says they will bear personal responsibility for the availability of hospital beds, lung ventilators and other essential equipment. He says the authorities need to call professors of medical universities and students to help deal with the outbreak.

The Russian leader also talked about the need to counter “provocations, stupid gossip and malicious lies” about the outbreak.

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WASHINGTON — The federal government is asking hospitals to report daily data on bed capacity, supplies and test results for COVID-19.

The hope is to better track the spread of the coronavirus outbreak across the country.

The White House coronavirus task force is already getting data from public health and private labs, but now hospitals are starting to do their own testing in-house. Officials want those results to build a real-time picture of what’s happening around the country. The government is building a technology-driven system to guide decisions about when to re-open parts of the country.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is asking the nation’s 4,700 hospitals to report the data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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LONDON — Prince Charles has ended his period of isolation after testing positive for the coronavirus.

The prince’s Clarence House office says Charles is in good health after completing the seven-day quarantine recommended by U.K. health authorities for people with COVID-19 symptoms.

Royal officials said last week the 71-year-old heir to the British throne was showing mild symptoms of COVID-19 and self-isolating at the royal family’s Balmoral estate in Scotland. His wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, tested negative but will be in self-isolation until the end of the week.

Charles’ mother Queen Elizabeth II, 93, is at her Windsor Castle home west of London with her 98-year-old husband, Prince Philip.

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BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman says it would be “irresponsible” to offer false hope of a quick end to restrictions on public life in Germany, amid increasing calls for an exit strategy.

Germany is a week into a ban on gatherings of more than two people in public. It also has closed schools and most nonessential shops. Merkel’s chief of staff has made clear the measures won’t be loosened before April 20.

There has been little direct questioning of that, but increasing calls to map a way out of the restrictions. Merkel’s government wants to keep the focus on ensuring that Germany’s health system isn’t overstretched.

Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert says the chancellor “would be the first who would announce the loosening of the measures on the basis of facts, and with pleasure.”

Germany has the world’s fifth-largest number of coronavirus cases but a relatively low death rate so far. Seibert says the increase in infections remains too fast to loosen restrictions.

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TOKYO — Japan’s health ministry says a former passenger of a cruise ship, a woman in her 60s from Hong Kong, died of the COVID-19 pneumonia after being treated at a hospital.

She is the 11th victim from the Diamond Princess, on which 712 of the 3,711 people were infected during a two-week quarantine in the port of Yokohama, near Tokyo.

In all, Japan has about 2,600 confirmed cases and 65 deaths.

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WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci says smaller U.S. cities that don’t yet have large numbers of COVID-19 cases are ripe for the acceleration that occurred in New York City.

The U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert told ABC’s “Good Morning America” the “dynamics of the outbreak” of the coronavirus in New Orleans and Detroit show signs that “they’re going to take off.”

He’s also concerned about smaller cities across the country.

“There are a number of smaller cities that are sort of percolating along, couple hundred cases, the slope doesn’t look like it’s going up,” Fauci said. “What we’ve learned from painful experience with this outbreak is that it goes along almost on a straight line, then a little acceleration, acceleration, then it goes way up.”

Fauci says that “very consistent pattern” is the same as what’s occurred in New York, Italy, France, Germany and Spain.

“We’re going to have all of these little mini outbreaks throughout various cities in our country,” he said.

Asked about how long the Trump administration’s recommended social distancing guidelines might be in effect, Fauci says, “I think April might do it…but we kept an open mind when we presented it to the president.”

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ATHENS, Greece — Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas says Greeks they will have to forgo their Easter traditions this year.

Orthodox Easter, which this year falls on April 19, is by far the largest religious holiday in Greece. Families and friends gather, often in summer homes or their native villages in the countryside and on islands, for church services and an Easter Sunday lunch of roasted lamb.

But the government has imposed strict restrictions on movement, banning anyone from traveling to islands unless they are permanent residents and imposing a lockdown on the country in an effort to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

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TOKYO — The Tokyo Olympics will open next year in July, the same slot scheduled for this year’s games.

Tokyo organizers say the opening ceremony will take place July 23, 2021. That is almost exactly one year after the games were due to start this year. The IOC and Japanese organizers last week postponed the Olympics because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The rescheduled Olympics will start July 23, with the closing ceremony on Aug. 8. The Paralympics were rescheduled to Aug. 24-Sept. 5.

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MADRID — Authorities in Spain say 12,298 health workers in the country have so far tested positive for the coronavirus.

The figure is 14.4% of the total reported infections, which rose on Monday above 85,000. It placed Spain ahead of China and only behind the United States and Italy in the list of nations with greater contagion.

Medical staff has been a cluster for contagion in Spain, where at least nine of Spain’s 17 regions are close or beyond their limit of occupation of intensive care units.

In the hard-hit Madrid region, the military was building additional field hospitals on Monday.

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LISBON, Portugal — Foreigners in Portugal awaiting an official decision on whether they can reside in the country are getting access to public services, such as health care and social security benefits.

The Portuguese government is shutting down the offices of its immigration service on Monday because of the coronavirus. That leaves foreigners waiting for a decision on their legal status in an administrative limbo.

The government says anyone who applied in writing for a residence permit before a state of emergency was declared on March 18 is allowed to work.

The immigration service offices hope to re-open on July 1.

Portugal, which has a population of just over 10 million, has recorded 6,408 cases of the COVID-19 disease and 140 deaths.

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TOKYO — An executive member of Japan’s main medical association urged government officials to consider issuing a state of emergency, saying it will be too late once the coronavirus infection reaches an explosive state.

Satoshi Kamayachi, an executive director of Japan Medical Association and a member of the government-commissioned panel of experts, says the situation warrants a declaration of a state of emergency.

He says most experts at a meeting earlier in the day suggested a state of emergency be issued.

Japan until now was seen as keeping the outbreak under control, but the number of new cases in Tokyo and other cities have spiked since last week. Nationwide, Japan has about 2,600 cases, including 712 from a cruise ship, with 64 deaths. About 1,000 have recovered.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike last Wednesday warned its residents that the city is on the verge infection explosion. She asked its 14 million residents to stay at home over the weekend and suggested a possibility of a hard lockdown in the capital city.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters Monday that Japan is on the edge, but has not reached a stage that requires a state of emergency.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s prime minister is calling on all his cabinet ministers and the lawmakers of his center-right New Democracy party to donate 50% of their salaries over the next two months.

In a Facebook post Monday, Kyriakos Mitsotakis says the country’s politicians “must stand in the front line of solidarity.” He said the money generated from the “symbolic gesture” would be deposited in a special account set up to tackle COVID-19.

“We are all equal in the face of the health threat. But in the fight against it, each one of us must contribute according to their means,” Mitsotakis wrote in his post. “I am sure that the other (political) parties will also follow this choice.”

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BRUSSELS — The European Council says EU member states have suspended airport slot requirements until Oct. 24.

The move aims to ease the impact of the coronavirus crisis on aviation and help airlines adjust to the falling demand caused by the epidemics.

Under EU regulations, airlines are required to operate 80 percent of their allocated slots for take off or landing at a congested airport at a certain time of the day. If they don’t abide by this rule, they face losing their right to the slot.

“It seems clear now that this crisis will not be over very soon. Waiving the ‘use it or lose it’ rule until October will help mitigate the heavy economic impact on airlines and give them certainty over the whole summer season,” said Oleg Butković, the Croatian minister for the Sea, Transport and Infrastructure.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said this month abandoning the rule temporarily will not only help the aviation industry, but also have a positive impact on the environment by not flying mostly empty planes to keep their slots.

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MADRID — Spain’s main spokesman in the coronavirus crisis has tested positive for the COVID-19 disease but the results need to be confirmed, authorities announced as the country of 47 million became the third to surpass China in number of infections.

Dr. Fernando Simón, who had become the Spanish government’s face and voice during the crisis, was replaced at Monday’s daily press conference by his deputy, Dr. María José Sierra.

Simón was initially praised for relaying calm and clarity in the early days of the crisis. But as infections and deaths for the virus mounted, he was heavily criticized for having played down the severity of the outbreak.

Sierra says the increase of daily cases had dropped from an average of 20% before March 25, to 12% in the past five days. She says the drop was due to social distancing and confinement measures in place for the past two weeks.

The official says the main worry for the government now was the pressure on the country’s intensive care units because it could arrive 2 or 3 weeks after the infection.

Sierra says,“Reducing the pressure on the ICUs will be important for considering de-escalation measures.”

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LONDON — One of the scientists advising the British government on the coronavirus pandemic says there are signs that the effective lockdown of much of the country is working.

Professor Neil Ferguson thinks the epidemic is “just about slowing” as a result of the social distancing measures the government has imposed over the past couple of weeks.

That’s evidenced by the number of new hospital admissions, he told BBC radio.

“It’s not yet plateaued so the numbers can be increasing every day but the rate of that increase has slowed,” he said.

Ferguson, who had to self-isolate himself a couple of weeks ago after showing signs of the COVID-19 illness, says the number of deaths will continue to rise on a daily basis as it is a lagging indicator. Latest figures show that 1,228 people in the U.K. who have tested positive for the virus have died.

The epidemiologist thinks that between 3% to 5% of people in London may have been infected, with between 2% and 3% in the country as a whole.

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BANGKOK — The Southeast Asian nation of Laos, which detected its first COVID-19 cases last week, has instituted a nationwide lockdown.

The state news agency KPL reports that Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith issued an order effective Monday through April 19 prohibiting all citizens and foreigners from leaving their accommodations except for essential activity such as buying food or medical care. Those engaged in agricultural production are allowed out according to rules from their local authorities.

All international checkpoints are closed except for transport of goods and to allow foreigners to return to their countries.

Laos has nine confirmed cases of the coronavirus with no deaths reported. The country of about 7.4 million people is one of the poorest in Asia.

Myanmar, which also reported its first COVID-19 cases last week, is closing its airports to all commercial passenger flights at midnight Monday through April 13. Exceptions are allowed with official permission for relief flights, all cargo flights and medical evacuations.

Myanmar, with a population of more than 56 million, is also one of the region’s poorer countries. It has 10 confirmed COVID-19 cases with no deaths.

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LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, is the latest senior government figure to show symptoms of the coronavirus.

Johnson’s office says Cummings developed symptoms over the weekend and is self-isolating at home.

Johnson announced Friday he has tested positive for COVID-19 and has mild symptoms. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has also tested positive, while the chief medical officer of England, Chris Whitty, says he is self-isolating after showing symptoms.

Senior U.K. officials have been criticized for holding face-to-face meetings until recently, even while urging the rest of the country to stay home and avoid all but essential contact with others.

Cummings is a controversial figure — a self-styled political disruptor who helped lead Britain’s pro-Brexit referendum campaign in 2016. He has been blamed for briefing journalists that the U.K. was seeking “herd immunity” against the coronavirus by letting most of the population get it.

The government and its scientific advisers deny that ever was their strategy

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Categories: National News