The Latest: Russia to use virus treatment in pneumonia cases
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
— Good Friday observed at home as Japan virus divide surfaces.
— Russian doctors to use coronavirus treatment for all pneumonia patients.
— Hungary secures 2,000 ventilators; says it needs 8,000.
MOSCOW — Russian doctors will start treating all patients with pneumonia for the new coronavirus without waiting for test results to confirm the diagnosis, the country’s Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said.
“We’re seeing that the disease progresses fast, and it has specific clinical presentation, (allowing) to diagnose (it) without confirming in the lab based on the clinical presentation,” Murashko said in a TV interview that aired on Thursday night.
Murashko’s statement echoes earlier comments from Moscow doctors involved in treating coronavirus patients, saying that the vast majority of pneumonia cases in Russia are most likely caused by the new virus and should be treated as such.
“Existing tests for confirming COVID-19 are 70-80% accurate,” Denis Protsenko, chief doctor of a top Moscow hospital treating coronavirus patients, said Thursday.
Russian health officials reported 1,786 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday, bringing the country’s total to 11,917. The outbreak has picked up speed in Russia in recent weeks, with the number of cases growing exponentially and doubling every few days. Kremlin critics have been questioning the official statistics, pointing to a growing number of pneumonia cases and suggesting that Russia’s coronavirus case count might be much higher.
BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary’s prime minister says the country now has about 2,000 of the 8,000 ventilators it expects to need at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban also said Friday on state radio that he expects around 20% of Hungary’s health workers to be infected with the coronavirus.
Orban, who has extended indefinitely restrictions put in place two weeks ago to make people stay home, said Hungary was learning from measures implemented in neighboring Austria, which he called “our large laboratory,” where the pandemic is at a more advanced stage.
Hungary has 1,190 cases of the coronavirus, and 77 people with have died.
LONDON — Boris Johnson’s father says the British prime minister needs time to recover from the new coronavirus and is unlikely to be back at work imminently.
The U.K. leader spent three nights in the intensive care unit at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London after his COVID-19 symptoms worsened. He was moved back to a regular ward on Thursday evening, and his office says he is in “the early phase of his recovery.”
His father Stanley Johnson said the prime minister needed to “rest up.”
“He has to take time,” Stanley Johnson told the BBC. “I cannot believe you can walk away from this and get straight back to Downing Street and pick up the reins without a period of readjustment.”
Johnson was diagnosed with COVID-19 two weeks ago, the first world leader confirmed to have the illness. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is standing in for Johnson while he is in hospital.
MANILA, Philippines — Southeast Asian foreign ministers have endorsed in a video conference the setting up of regional fund to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and discussed a planned meeting of their leaders with counterparts from China, Japan and South Korea.
The Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila said Friday that the top diplomats of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations linked up by video Thursday in a meeting led by Vietnam. The ASEAN ministers could not hold an actual meeting due to the pandemic.
The ministers endorsed several collective steps to fight the pandemic, including the establishment of a COVID-19 ASEAN response fund, sharing of information and strategies and ways to ease impact of the global health crisis on people and the economy, the department said but did not provide details.
They also discussed a planned meeting of their leaders with counterparts from China, Japan and Korea in a video conference on April 14 to talk about the pandemic, three Southeast Asian diplomats told The Associated Press.
In Thursday’s discussion, Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. stressed the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea amid the contagion, the department said.
The Philippines has expressed solidarity with Vietnam after a Vietnamese fishing boat was reportedly rammed and sank by a Chinese coast guard ship in the disputed waters.
TOKYO — Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike on Friday asked nonessential businesses such as hostess clubs, internet cafes, as well as cinemas and fitness facilities to close down to bolster defense against the coronavirus, after gaining consent from the reluctant central government.
The measure adds to her earlier “stay home” request to the Tokyo residents, the only measure in place so far under the state of emergency declared by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan’s capital and six other prefectures Tuesday. Koike’s business closure plans outlined ahead of the declaration had to wait temporarily as Abe’ government suddenly asked her to wait for two weeks until effects of the stay-at-home requests are evaluated.
Koike’s business closure requests in Tokyo will take effect Saturday.
Koike sought stricter measures to put “people’s lives first,” while Abe’s government wanted a more relaxed approach to avoid confusion. The two sides agreed to allow barbers and hardware shops to stay open and Japanese style “iazakaya” pubs to open limited hours. The move highlighted Abe’s perceived reluctance to take tougher measures damaging to the economy.
“In order to protect people’s lives, it is only appropriate to take tougher measures first and relax as we see how they go,” not the other way around, Koike said.
Universities, movie theaters, live music venues, pachinko parlors and internet cafes are to close, while schools, nursery schools and welfare services are allowed to operate on limited conditions.
PARIS — Pharmaceutical giant Sanofi says it is donating 100 million doses of a malaria drug being tested for use as a treatment against the new coronavirus.
In a statement Friday, the company said the hydroxychloroquine doses will be given to 50 countries. The company said it also is ramping up production, aiming to quadruple is capacity to manufacture the drug.
Sanofi said it “will continue to donate the medicine to governments and hospital institutions if ongoing clinical studies demonstrate its efficacy and safety in COVID-19 patients.”
But the company also cautioned that hydroxychloroquine has “several serious known side effects” and tests are so far inconclusive over its safety and efficacy in treating COVID-19.
It said that “while hydroxychloroquine is generating a lot of hope for patients around the world, it should be remembered that there are no results from ongoing studies, and the results may be positive or negative.”
United States President Donald Trump has been among the drug’s proponents, tweeting that hydroxychloroquine plus an antibiotic could be “one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine” and should “be put in use immediately.”
MULTAN, Pakistan — Pakistani police and rescue officials say at least one woman was trampled to death and 20 others were injured in a stampede as authorities distributed money among families affected by a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.
Pandemonium broke out Friday at a school in Multan, a city in eastern Punjab province, when hundreds of women gathered there to receive 12,000 rupees (about $70) promised by the government for each family.
Pakistan plans to distribute financial assistance among 10.2 million low-income families across the country. The program began in Multan.
JERUSALEM — The number of coronavirus infections has risen to more than 10,000 in Israel, which imposed strict measures to contain the pandemic early on but has seen it tear through the insular ultra-Orthodox religious community.
The Health Ministry on Friday reported a total of 10,095 cases, including 92 deaths.
Israeli authorities moved quickly in mid-March to close borders, ground flights and shut down all non-essential businesses. But in the early days and weeks of the pandemic many in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community ignored guidelines on social distancing, which health experts say is key to containing the outbreak.
ALBANY, New York — People around the world began celebrating Good Friday and Easter from the safety of their homes, as rare divisions surfaced in Japan over how to tackle the growing coronavirus outbreak there.
Politicians and public health officials have warned that the hard-won gains against the pandemic must not be jeopardized by relaxing social distancing over the holiday weekend. Across Europe, where Easter is one of the busiest travel times, authorities set up roadblocks and otherwise discouraged family gatherings.
In a measure of how fast the coronavirus has brought world economies to their knees, a staggering 16.8 million Americans lost their jobs in just three weeks. And still more job cuts are expected. The U.S. unemployment rate in April could hit 15% — a number not seen since the end of the Great Depression.
There was some measure of relief in Britain as Prime Minister Boris Johnson was moved out of intensive care at the London hospital where he is being treated for the virus. The 55-year-old took a turn for the worse earlier in the week as his country descended into its biggest crisis since World War II.
Worldwide, the number of dead topped 95,000 and confirmed infections reached 1.6 million, according to Johns Hopkins University, though the true numbers are believed much higher, in part because of different rules for counting the dead and cover-ups by some governments.
The U.S. appeared on course to overtake Italy within days as the country with the highest number of fatalities. However, virus deaths as a proportion of the population in the U.S. remains about one-sixth of those in hard-hit Italy and Spain.
TOKYO — Aichi, home to Toyota Motor Corp. in central Japan, has declared its own state of emergency, saying it cannot wait for a slow-moving decision by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government to add the prefecture to an ongoing emergency declared this week.
Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura said one-third of about 300 new coronavirus cases in the prefecture have been confirmed in the past week as the infection spreads rapidly in the region, making it the fifth-most infected prefecture in the country.
“The situation is critical,” Omura said. “We decided to do everything we can to protect Aichi residents’ lives and health.”
Omura issued a request to all residents to stay home and work remotely until May 6, when the government-issued state of emergency is to end. Omura, however, did not request closures of non-essential businesses and facilities for now.
His announcement came just as Tokyo’s outspoken governor, Yuriko Koike, was to request closures of non-essential businesses and facilities in the city after agreeing with Abe’s government that had asked her to wait two weeks, apparently to avoid impact on the economy.
Earlier on Friday, leaders of Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital, urged Abe to add that prefecture to part of the state of emergency to allow them to issue stricter social-distancing measures. Such actions by local leaders are unusual in Japan and come as Abe faces criticism for slow and lax measures.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that additional state of emergency declarations in Aichi and Kyoto are not immediately planned.
Japan as of midday Friday had 5,246 confirmed coronavirus cases, as well as 712 from a cruise ship, with 99 deaths.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Authorities in Indonesia’s capital began implementing stricter restrictions Friday to slow the spread of the new coronavirus in a city where COVID-19 deaths have spiked in the past week.
Jakarta is home to 10 million people, 30 million including those in a greater metropolitan area that’s become Indonesia’s coronavirus epicenter with 1,706 cases out of 3,293 nationwide. The country has recorded 280 deaths, with 142 of them in the capital alone.
The decree, giving authorities more power to press people to stay home and businesses to close, will be re-evaluated every two weeks. It will be imposed in Jakarta, where people who violate the restriction will face up to a year in jail and a 100 million rupiah ($6,350) fine.
Televison footage showed padlocked parks and empty roads where lines of cars once idled in bumper-to-bumper traffic as motorbikes zoomed through the narrow gaps in between.
According to the decree, police can ban any event that would involve more than five participants, including preventing people from going to mosques to pray on Friday.
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