The Latest: Johnson still has fever, remains in isolation.
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:
__ British Prime Minister Boris Johnson still has a fever and remains in isolation.
— U.S. Embassy in Paris says no one from federal government bought masks destined for France.
— At least 30 countries have asked Japan about anti-flu drug Avigan
— European medical workers strain to save thousands of desperately ill coronavirus patients.
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 Hospital 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.
PARIS — French students won’t take the national end-of-high-school exam known as the Baccalaureat this year, a first in the country’s history due to school closures amid the coronavirus crisis.
French Education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer announced Friday that the final exam is cancelled. Instead, students in their last year of high school will be able to get the so-called “Bac” based on school grades before and possibly after the confinement period.
A jury will examine their academic transcript to ensure fair conditions for all 740,000 concerned students. The issue is sensitive in France where the exam represents an important rite of passage and a symbol of egalitarianism.
French schools have been closed since March 16 and students and teachers had to shift to online learning. They won’t be able to reopen before May, if not later, Blanquer said.
The Baccalaureat, born in 1808, is the main qualification required to pursue studies at university.
MADRID — Spain is closing Friday a black week with its death toll for the new coronavirus nearing 11,000, more than half of those during the past seven days, and more infections than any other country in Europe.
The bottleneck in Spanish labs conducting the tests has led to relatively low levels of testing in Spain compared to other European countries, authorities have acknowledged.
But even with statistics that are believed to be conservative in showing the extent of the epidemic, Spain on Friday neared 118,000 cases, second only to the United States. Official Health Ministry data showed that 7,472 of those infections had been in the past 24 hours.
Italy, with more than 115,000 reported cases as of Friday morning, has seen new infections leveling off after three weeks of the West’s first nationwide shutdown.
Spain also registered 932 new deaths, 18 less than its daily record of 950 the day before.
BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel is returning to work at the chancellery after two weeks in quarantine at home following an encounter with a doctor who tested positive for the new coronavirus.
Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said that Merkel was returning to her office on Friday after the recommended 14-day precautionary quarantine. He said that “thankfully the chancellor tested negative for the coronavirus several times.”
The 65-year-old German leader went into quarantine on March 22 after being informed that a doctor who had administered a vaccination to her had tested positive for the new coronavirus. She received the precautionary vaccination against pneumococcal infection two days previously.
Merkel has continued to lead Cabinet meetings and take part in domestic and international videoconferences from home.
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