The Latest: Judge orders improvements to Zimbabwe quarantine
The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 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.
HARARE, Zimbabwe — A Zimbabwean judge has ordered the government to improve conditions at mandatory quarantine centers, where people returning to the country are kept for 21 days to confirm they are not carrying the coronavirus. The conditions are so bad that scores are escaping.
The southern African nation has reported more than 200 cases of coronavirus, with the majority recorded at the quarantine centers. More than 100 people have escaped from the centers, leading the health minister to describe them as “our source of danger.”
The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, which took the matter to court, described conditions at the centers as “deplorable” and putting “seriously at stake” the lives of people living there, health professionals and security agents enforcing the isolation.
People detained at the centers are forced to share “some few dirty ablution and bathing facilities while others have no access to medication,” said the association in its court application. Social distancing is nonexistent, the doctors said.
High Court Judge Philda Muzofa granted the application, and ordered Zimbabwe’s ministry of health to improve conditions by supplying running water and providing “segregated sanitary and hygienic conditions with proper control and protection.”
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— The World Health Organization recommends that trials of hydroxychloroquine resume after reviewing safety data.
— Italy has opened its borders, but many of its neighbors see the move as premature.
— Sweden’s chief epidemiologist acknowledges regrets over handling of pandemic.
— Wuhan has finished a mass testing effort of nearly all its 11 million people, resulting in 300 being put in isolation.
— Pandemic pushes Australia’s economy into 1st recession in 29 years.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING TODAY:
TALLAHASSEE, Florida — Florida bars, bowling alleys and theme parks will be part of the next phase of reopening the state in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday.
DeSantis made his announcement at Universal Parks and Resorts, which opened to passholders for Wednesday and Thursday, and will open to the public on Friday.
“Universal did a great job, had a great plan, and I think as you’ve seen, they’re taking safety very seriously to keep their guests safe,” DeSantis said.
Friday is also the day where Phase 2 of the reopening will begin, with bars allowed to open at 50% capacity with social distancing and sanitation.
“You’re seated to get served. People go, enjoy, have a drink, that’s fine, We want to kind of not have huge crowds piling in,” DeSantis said.
Phase 2 applies to 64 of Florida’s 67 counties. The hardest hit — Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach — will have to submit plans for the next step in their reopening.
Florida allowed restaurants and retail shops to open at 25% capacity on May 4 and expanded that later in the month.
Movie theaters, bowling alleys and pari-mutuel betting facilities also have a path to reopen if they submit a plan for social distancing and sanitizing, DeSantis said.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s health minister says Turkey and Russia have agreed to cooperate in the development of a coronavirus vaccine and plan to carry out joint clinical trials.
Fahrettin Koca said Wednesday that scientific advisers from both countries are scheduled to hold a second round of talks on the cooperation later this week.
A total of 22 Turkish universities and research are working to develop a vaccine and four of them have advanced to the animal testing stage, he said.
The minister also said that Turkey has seen the benefit of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and will continue to administer it to COVID-19 patients, despite concerns raised over the drug.
Koca said unlike other countries, Turkey has been administering the drug to treat COVID-19 patients at the early stage of the disease.
MADRID — Spanish lawmakers have voted to extend for two additional weeks the state of emergency that allows the government to restrict movement and other rights as part of its fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says Spain has “overcome the worst of the pandemic” and declared that he won’t seek further extensions beyond the end date of the special powers at midnight on June 21.
The extension was passed Wednesday with 177 votes in the 350-seat Congress of Deputies. There were 155 votes against it, while 18 lawmakers abstained.
Sánchez also said that a new government decree next week will set out procedures to handle any resurgence of the outbreak after most of the restrictions, first imposed on March 14, are lifted.
Spain has recorded 27,128 COVID-19 deaths and just over 240,000 confirmed infections.
MOSCOW — Russia’s second-largest city, St. Petersburg, says the number of deaths there in May was about one-third higher than the same month last year.
A city government website said there were 6,427 deaths in May; 4,875 deaths were reported in May 2019. It was not clear if the sharply higher death toll was connected to the coronavirus pandemic.
Russia’s national coronavirus taskforce says 230 deaths due to COVID-19 have been recorded in the city. Russia’s comparatively low COVID-19 mortality rate — 5215 deaths out of more than 432,000 infections — has prompted skepticism at home and abroad. Russian officials say the count contains only those confirmed to have died directly of the infection, not those who tested positive for the virus but died of other causes.
LONDON — After suspending the hydroxychloroquine arm of a clinical trial of experimental COVID-19 drugs, the director-general of the World Health Organization said experts had reviewed the safety data and were now recommending the trial continue as planned.
The recommendation means doctors will soon be able to resume giving the drug to patients enrolled in the U.N. health agency’s study.
Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday that the WHO’s safety monitoring committee for the global trial had now examined all available mortality data about hydroxychloroquine. Some studies had suggested that people who were taking the drug for COVID-19 had a higher chance of dying than those who were not.
Tedros said: “The members of the committee recommended that there are no reasons to modify the trial protocol.”
U.S. President Trump has said he is taking hydroxychloroquine even though he has not tested positive for the coronavirus; there are no studies that have proven the drug is effective against COVID-19.
Tedros said the executive group running the WHO’s trial endorsed the continuation of all arms of the trial, including hydroxychloroquine. Other treatments being tested, including remdesivir and an HIV combination therapy drug, were unaffected.
Tedros said that to date, more than 3,500 people have been recruited into the trial in 35 countries.
ISLAMABAD — Health officials say two more Pakistani lawmakers have died after testing positive for the coronavirus amid an alarming spike in infections.
Mian Jamshed Kakakhel, a member of a provincial assembly in the northwest, and Shaukat Manzoor Cheema, who was a member of the Punjab Assembly, both died on Wednesday.
Another two lawmakers with the virus died at different hospitals in Pakistan on Tuesday, and one died earlier.
Pakistan recorded its highest single-day increase in infections on Wednesday, when 4,131 new cases and 67 deaths were confirmed in 24 hours.
Information Minister Shibli Faraz held a televised news conference in which he didn’t wear mask.
Faraz said: “You need to hold an umbrella when it rains, otherwise you will get soaked. Similarly, if you want to avoid getting infected, you must take the necessary precautions.”
Critics accuse Prime Minister Imran Khan of easing virus restrictions last month when there was a need to enforce a stricter lockdown.
Pakistan has recorded a total of 80,463 confirmed cases and 1,688 deaths since February.
MADRID — Spain has recorded its first COVID-19 death in three days as the coronavirus outbreak recedes in what has been one of Europe’s hardest-hit countries.
The Spanish Health Ministry on Wednesday reported one death and 291 new confirmed cases over the previous 24 hours.
Fernando Simón, head of the country’s medical emergency response, said wider testing is detecting more cases of people who are asymptomatic than before.
He said of Spain’s number of deaths and infections: “The trend is downwards,.
ROME — The majority of Italy’s regions had no or only a handful of new confirmed coronavirus cases in 24 hours as people were allowed to resume travel throughout the nation and tourists from Europe were permitted into Italy.
The easing of lockdown restrictions on Wednesday reflects the government’s decision to start rebooting many sector, especially the devastated tourist industry.
According to Health Ministry data, Italy registered 321 confirmed virus cases in the 24-hour period ending Wednesday, for a total of 233,836 cases overall. Two-thirds of the new cases were in Lombardy, the northern region where Italy’s coronavirus outbreak erupted in February.
Italy’s death toll increased by 71 during the same day-to-day period, bringing the country’s known total during the pandemic to 33,601. Authorities acknowledge that many people who died in Italy these past months likely had coronavirus infections but weren’t tested.
DAKAR, Senegal — A nonprofit biomedical research institute in Senegal that has been working on a rapid coronavirus testing kit says a number of its personnel have tested positive for the virus, including one who died.
Pasteur Institute of Dakar Assistant Director Camille Abbey said Wednesday that the cases were confirmed at different times and that none of the staff members who tested positive worked as virologists.
Measures to prevent the spread of the virus remain in place at the institute.
The research institute’s director, Dr. Amadou Sall, said both staff members and scientific collaborators had tested positive.
Sall said in a statement last week that researchers and their family members “face the same life risk and reality constraints that all Senegalese people share … The virus does not spare anyone.”
He did not specify how many people affiliated with the institute. Media reports in Senegal suggested about five.
The West African nation has confirmed 3,932 cases and 45 deaths.
The Pasteur Institute of Dakar is working with biomedical company Mologic to create a rapid coronavirus test that will only cost $1. Trials are underway at an infectious disease testing facility.
BRUSSELS — Bars and restaurants in Belgium will be allowed to reopen starting Monday after more than two months of closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic as the country enters a new phase in its lockdown exit plan.
Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes said Wednesday that cinemas and other cultural venues will have to wait until July 1 before opening to audiences limited to 200 people.
Wilmes said tables at bars and restaurants will have to be spaced at least 1.5 meters apart and seat a maximum of 10.
She said: “It’s not the finish line, but it’s a big step forward.”
The prime minister added: “But make no mistake, the epidemic has not disappeared. The virus is not gone, and neither are the risks.”
Wilmes also announced the reopening of Belgium’s borders with other countries from Europe’s 26-nation Schengen Area and from Britain as of June 15.
Belgium has recorded more than 9,500 virus-related deaths but the number of new confirmed cases has nosedived in recent weeks.
MADRID — Spain’s national statistics body says nearly 44,000 more people have died since the beginning of 2020 than in the same period a year earlier — an increase of 24% amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The data released Wednesday also revealed a shocking 155% spike in mortality during the week from March 30 to April 5. This year there were 20,575 deaths in Spain that week, compared with 8,081 in 2019.
The region around the Spanish capital has seen the highest increase in estimated fatalities, the National Statistics Institute said.
The institute’s data is higher than the official Health Ministry death toll of the pandemic, which on Wednesday stood at 27,127. That counts only those who died having tested positive for COVID-19. Officials say the disparities are due to people who died without being tested or from other causes. The figure for excess deaths is seen as a more accurate reflection of the toll wreaked by the pandemic.
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