The Latest: Madrid, with half of Spain’s cases, clamps down
The Latest on the world’s coronavirus pandemic:
Authorities in the Madrid region have ordered the closure of all establishments except those selling food and other essential items, such as pharmacies.
The measure Friday came as the number of COVID-19 cases in the Spanish capital region surpassed 2,000 and deaths reached 64.
That means the Madrid region accounts for about half of the country’s cases and deaths, which national health officials said stood at 4,209 cases and 120 dead.
From midnight local time Saturday and through March 26, government offices, cinemas and gyms, among other premises, are to shut. Restaurants and bars providing home delivery will be allowed to continue operating.
Gibraltar’s government has announced that due to the coronavirus pandemic it is postponing a planned March 19 referendum on whether to allow abortion.
The government of the tiny speck of British territory on Spain’s southern tip says it is taking the step so as not to expose vulnerable elderly voters to the new coronavirus. It had previously advised elderly people to remain at home.
A government statement says the vote will be held at a date to be decided by parliament. In mostly Catholic Gibraltar, abortion currently is a crime, with “child destruction” punishable by life in prison.
Gibraltar’s population is around 34,000. It has so far recorded one case of the virus.
Pakistan government has postponed the upcoming March 23 national day military parade amid increasing cases of coronavirus, information minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said.
Pakistan showcases its military hardware at the parade. Thousands of people witness the parade at a open public place in the capital Islamabad.
So far, 28 people have been tested positive across the country. The latest seven cases were detected at the Taftan border near Iran where about 4000 people returning from Iran have been quarantined.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced in a tweet on Friday that an extraordinary summit of G7 leaders would be held Monday by videoconference to coordinate efforts on a vaccine and treatment of the COVID-19 virus, and “work on an economic and financial response.”
Macron had announced during an address to the nation on coronavirus Thursday night his plan to try to organize a G7 summit. He said he would be discussing that Friday with President Donald Trump as the United States currently holds the G7 presidency.
“It’s not division that will allow us to respond today to a world crisis,” Macron said during his solemn address to France in which he announced the closing of all schools and other measures.
His reference to divisions apparently referred to Trump’s announcement of sharp restrictions on travel to the United States from 26 European countries — without advance consultations.
The U.N. children’s agency says handwashing with soap is critical in the fight against the new coronavirus but billions of people around the world don’t have ready access to a place to wash their hands.
UNICEF said in a statement that according to the latest data only three out of five people worldwide — 60% — have basic handwashing facilities.
According to the latest estimates, UNICEF said 40% of the world’s population, or three billion people, don’t have a facility with water and soap at home, and in the world’s poorest countries the figure rises to 75%.
UNICEF Director of Programs Sanjay Wijesekera said the agency is continuing its efforts to make basic hygiene and sanitation available to people in every country.
Italian civil protection authorities say the number of coronavirus infections has soared by more than 2,500 in the last 24 hours while virus-related deaths make largest single-day jump of 250.
That brings the total number of infected in Italy to 17,660 since the outbreak began on Feb. 21, and the number of related deaths to 1,266.
Italy is the epicenter of the virus outbreak in Europe.
Nearly 400 doctors in Oregon have signed a letter to Gov. Kate Brown asking her to take more dramatic steps to protect Oregonians from the coronavirus and prepare the state’s health care system for an influx of patients.
The letter says “we see ourselves making decisions in the next two weeks on who will live and who will died because we don’t have resources sufficient to care for them.”
The doctors are asking Brown to create a statewide call center, a statewide helpline for medical workers and a medical ethics team, whose members would create guidelines on how to use medical resources if there are not enough supplies to treat everyone equally. It also says the state should create a tracking system for those in self-quarantine, create nursing homes for coronavirus-negative patients and positive patients.
Brown did not immediately respond to the letter but all Oregon schools will be closed for two weeks starting Monday.
Science policy leaders from around the globe are calling on publishers to immediately make available all research and data on the new coronavirus.
The leaders come from a dozen countries, including the United States, Italy, Japan and South Korea. They are asking in a letter addressed to members of the scholarly publishing community to make coronavirus research available in the PubMed Central repository and the World Health Organization’s COVID data base.
Kelvin Droegemeier, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, helped lead the effort. The science advisers said a prompt response from the scientific and publishing committee will accelerate global efforts to contain the virus “and thus save lives.”
They want the information to be in human and machine-readable format to allow for text and data mining using artificial intelligence.
The Los Angeles Unified School District and San Diego school districts will close starting March 16 because of the coronavirus threat.
The decision was announced by superintendents of both districts, which together serve 750,000 students.
They are the latest in a growing number of districts across the U.S. By Monday, more than 1 million of Georgia’s 1.8 million public school students will have been kept home by 50 or more school districts.
Public schools in Washington D.C. were closed beginning Monday until April 1 affecting some 47,000 students. Fairfax County, Virginia also closed schools on Friday, affecting 180,000 students.
West Virginia, Idaho and Montana are the last states without a confirmed case of the coronavirus after Alabama announced one.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice still shuttered schools statewide on Friday in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. has 1,701 cases and 41 deaths.
Greece has announced new sweeping closures in an effort to stop the spread of the new coronavirus, amid a significant jump in confirmed cases.
Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said the extra measures were being taken because people were not adhering to advice for social distancing.
Greece’s confirmed cases jumped Friday from 117 to 190. The Health Ministry’s head of infectious diseases, Sotiris Tsiodras, said the source of infection was unclear for 11 of the people involved. Five positive cases are in serious condition and one person has died.
Tsiodras said closures would now extend to all shopping malls, cafes, bars and restaurants, except those that provide only take-away food. Greece has already shut down schools and universities, gyms, cultural centers and cinemas.
The mayor of Miami has tested positive for the new coronavirus after meeting with a Brazilian senior official who was also in close proximity to President Donald Trump.
Mayor Francis Suarez said Friday he was not feeling any symptoms and advised anyone who shook hands with him or was close to him to self-isolate for 14 days.
Florida politicians such as U.S. Sen. Rick Scott had expressed concerns about coming into contact with the Brazilian president’s press secretary Fábio Wajngarten, who tested positive after joining Bolsonaro in a visit to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate last weekend.
Florida has reported about 43 cases of the new coronavirus.
The head of the World Health Organization says Europe, not China, is now the epicenter of the world’s coronavirus pandemic.
Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva that “more cases are now being reported every day than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic.”
He noted that “5,000 people have lost their lives, a tragic milestone.”
He says Europe now has “more reported virus cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, apart from China.”
Over 135,000 people have been infected worldwide, the most in China, where over 3,000 patients have died and over 62,000 have already recovered.
The number of people in the U.K. testing positive for the new coronavirus jumped 35% over the past day as criticism over the government’s approach to the outbreak escalated.
The British government said 798 people had tested positive for the COVID-19 disease by Friday, up from 590 the day before. Ten people have now died. In total, 32,771 people have been tested.
The Conservative government’s strategy to contain the outbreak has come under criticism for not yet ordering the mass closure of schools, banning large events or introducing “social distancing” measures” that have been adopted elsewhere in Europe.
Instead, Britons have been urged to wash hands frequently and asked to stay at home for a week if they have a new persistent cough or signs of a fever.
Venezuela has confirmed its first two cases of the new coronavirus, raising concerns about the crisis-stricken nation’s ability to curb the spread of the illness and care for patients.
Vice President Delcy Rodriguez on Friday confirmed the illness in a man and woman who recently traveled from the United States, Italy and Spain. She said classes across the nation have been suspended.
Venezuela has been paralyzed by a political crisis that’s led to an economic and social collapse, leaving its hospitals and health care system in a shamble.
The Dutch government is banning passenger flights into the country from China, Iran, Italy and South Korea in its latest measure aimed at reining in the spread of the coronavirus.
The Trump administration on Friday named a testing “czar” at the Department of Health and Human Services after numerous complaints about the shortage of coronavirus tests in the U.S.
Separately, the FDA posted on Twitter that labs having problems getting supplies for collecting patient samples for testing should call the agency’s toll-free information hotline.
The testing czar is Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health. He will be responsible for coordinating between CDC and FDA, as well as private labs and state and local governments.
The United States has tested far few people per capita than other countries like South Korea and Italy.
Canada’s House of Commons voted Friday to shut down for at least five weeks to help ensure lawmakers do not contribute to the spread of for new coronavirus.
The moves comes after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife tested positive. The prime minister himself has been in self-imposed quarantine.
Trudeau says his government will recommend that Canadians avoid travel outside the country except for essential purposes.
Spain’s leader says he is declaring a state of emergency for two weeks, a measure that will let him “mobilize all resources,” including the military, to contain sharp rise in coronavirus cases.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez made the televised announcement Friday as health authorities confirmed Spain has more than 4,200 infections, with nearly half of those in Madrid. So far 120 patients have died.
Earlier Spain ordered its first mandatory lockdown, confining over 60,000 people to four towns as infections soared.
Sánchez says the special measure allows the government to limit free movement, legally confiscate goods and take control of industries and private facilities, including private hospitals.
He says cases could skyrocket to more than 10,000 next week.
Buckingham Palace says Queen Elizabeth II is canceling some public events “as a sensible precaution” during the coronavirus outbreak.
The palace says two planned visits by the 93-year-old monarch in London and northwest England have been postponed on medical advice. The queen will still hold audiences at Buckingham Palace.
The queen’s son, Prince Charles, and his wife Camilla have postponed a trip planned for next week to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus and Jordan because of the pandemic.
Switzerland’s president says the Alpine country is reintroducing controls along its borders, expanding the ban on public events and closing all schools until April 4.
Its minister for justice and police said Switzerland will ban entry of anybody from a risk areas including a general ban on those coming in from Italy.
The English Premier League has been suspended after three clubs put their entire playing squads in self-isolation because of coronavirus.
The league had expected to continue with a full schedule this weekend with fans, but later decided to suspend all matches until April 3 “at the earliest.”
The same suspension applies for the three lower divisions overseen by the English Football League and to England’s top two women’s divisions.
Italy has welcomed a team of Chinese medical experts and 31 tons of ventilators, protective masks and other medical equipment as its fight against coronavirus turns a nation that usually donates aid into one that receives it.
Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and the head of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent, Francesco Rocca, were on hand Friday to welcome the Chinese delegation at Red Cross headquarters in Rome.
Italy is the epicenter of the outbreak in Europe, registering more than 15,000 infections and 1,000 dead. Italy has imposed a nationwide lockdown, with stores and restaurants closed and restrictions on individual movement. But the restrictions still pale in comparison to the severe lockdown China imposed in Wuhan.
The Trump administration is awarding $1.3 million in federal money to two companies trying to develop rapid COVID-19 tests that could detect whether a person tests positive for the new coronavirus within an hour.
The Department of Health and Human Services says Friday it is awarding $679,000 to DiaSorin Molecular, of Cypress, California, and $598,000 to QIAGEN LLC of Germantown, Maryland, to accelerate development of the tests.
The Trump administration has been criticized for its lack of testing for the virus, compared to other nations around the world.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has told the U.N. that his nation wants to conduct joint research on drugs and vaccines and offer “as much assistance as it can” to countries where the novel coronavirus is spreading.
State media reported Friday that Xi told U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres by phone that economic and daily life are gradually returning to normal in China thanks to “arduous endeavors” at prevention and control.
He was also quoted as saying that the Chinese people’s “hard work has won precious time for and made important contributions to other countries’ epidemic prevention and control.”
China, where the virus was first discovered, recorded just eight new infections on Friday.
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