The Latest: Spain’s daily coronavirus death toll rises again

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.


— New York virus death toll tops 9/11 deaths.

— Spain’s daily virus toll rises again, after officials said increased numbers Tuesday were due to a weekend backlog.

— African leaders defend the World Health Organization chief.


MADRID — Spain’s Health Ministry reported Wednesday 757 new deaths of patients with coronavirus and 6,180 new confirmed infections.

Both figures were slightly higher than Tuesday’s, when the first increase in five days was explained by a backlog of test results and fatalities that had gone unreported over the weekend.

But doubts about the statistics are being heard louder as fresh data starts to emerge.

Authorities have already acknowledged that a scarcity of testing kits and a bottleneck in the number of tests that laboratories can conduct on a daily basis are giving an underestimated contagion tally, which rose to 146,000 on Wednesday. A nationwide survey of 30,000 households has been launched to figure out what is the more approximate extent of the epidemic beyond hospitals and nursing homes.

Health Minister Salvador Illa said Tuesday that his department can only account for those who die and were tested. There have been few instances of post-mortem testing.

To rein in the data divide, Spain’s Justice Ministry issued an order on Wednesday requiring more than 4,000 civil registries across the country to provide new and revised data.


JOHANNESBURG — Some African leaders are bristling at President Donald Trump’s attack on the WHO chief, especially after Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke up this week against “racist” comments by two French doctors who said a coronavirus vaccine could be tested in Africa.

Tedros condemned the remarks as leftovers of a “colonial mentality.” Tedros is from Ethiopia and is the first African to lead the World Health Organization.

“Surprised to learn of a campaign by the U.S. govt against WHO’s global leadership. The African Union fully supports WHO and Dr. Tedros,” the chair of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, tweeted.

“I agree with you, my brother. WHO, under the stewardship of Dr. Tedros, has shown itself to be a true flag-bearer of multilateralism when global solidarity has become critical,” Namibia’s President Hage Geingob responded in a tweet.


GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization’s Europe office says a trend of decline in the rate of increase in new coronavirus cases does not mean it’s time to relax measures aimed to stop its spread.

Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO’s regional director for Europe, also said some countries “are experiencing a rapid increase in cases or a fresh surge,” and called for continued vigilance. He noted measures taken in many countries to shut schools and businesses.

“We still have a long way to go in the marathon and the progress we have made so far in fighting the virus is extremely fragile,” he said. “To think we are coming close to an endpoint would be a dangerous thing to do. The virus leaves no room for error or complacency.”

He said countries that any prospect of easing lockdowns or physical distancing measures “requires very careful consideration,” such as by considering if health systems are prepared.

“Many of us are looking forward to celebrating Easter with better weather but this is not the time to lower our guard,” Kluge told a video news conference from Copenhagen. “We must soldier on.”


BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Huge traffic disruptions have been reported across Slovakia amid the government’s new restrictions on movement to contain the epidemic of the coronavirus.

The restrictions were imposed for Wednesday till Monday to prevent people from travelling over Easter. Slovakia is a Roman-Catholic stronghold in central and eastern Europe.

People are only allowed to travel to work, do essential shopping or visit doctors. Only family members can stay together for outdoor activities that are restricted to take place only within one county.

Police teamed up with the military to enforce the measures on the borders of the counties, causing traffic jams.

Bratislava authorities say the traffic on all roads leading to the capital has collapsed, advising people to cancel their travel plans.

Economy Minister Richard Sulik apologized for the delays on Wednesday, saying he would like to relax the restrictions. Prime Minister Igor Matovic was against it.


PARIS — France’s defense ministry announced that French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is heading back to port amid a possible virus outbreak onboard.

The ministry said in a statement Wednesday that around 40 troops are presenting symptoms compatible with the COVID-19 disease. They have been placed under strict medical observation.

A medical team equipped with tests will get onboard Wednesday in order to confirm the potential cases and prevent the virus from further spreading, the ministry said.

The aircraft carrier, which was on a mission in the Atlantic Ocean, is returning immediately to its base in the port of Toulon, on the Mediterranean coast, where it was initially expected to dock on April 23. Its crew is composed of about 1,900 troops.

The announcement comes after a coronavirus outbreak hit U.S. aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, now at port in Guam. As of Tuesday, the U.S. Navy said at least 230 crew had been tested positive. The firing last week of the Roosevelt’s captain created a combustible controversy in the country.


BRUSSELS — A hundred non-governmental organizations including human and women’s rights groups are urging European governments to implement measures safeguarding access to abortion during the COVID-19 epidemics.

In a statement released Wednesday, they asked governments to recognize abortion as an essential care.

Their call came as Poland’s parliament prepares to put on the agenda a strict new abortion law. The eastern European country already has some of the the continent’s most restrictive abortion laws.

“European governments must act urgently to guarantee safe and timely access to abortion care during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Leah Hoctor, the regional director for Europe at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “They should move swiftly to eradicate all medically unnecessary requirements that hamper access to abortion care and should authorize women to access early medical abortion from their homes.”

The groups said the current health crisis has affected reproductive health services at hospitals and clinics because of staff shortages or reassignments of affected personnel to tasks related to the deadly virus.

“In many places, accessing normal clinical services has become extremely difficult,” they said. “Restrictions to reproductive health services disproportionately affect women living in poverty, women with disabilities, Roma women, undocumented migrant women, adolescents, trans and gender non-binary people, and women at risk of or who are survivors of domestic and sexual violence.”


BEIJING — China says the struggle against the global coronavirus pandemic provides a “platform for China-U.S. cooperation,” despite sniping between the sides over blame and responsibility.

Citing recent comments between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and President Donald Trump, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters at a briefing Wednesday that the sides would “benefit from cooperation and stand to lose from conflict, and cooperation is the only correct choice.”

Some in Congress are calling for China to be held accountable for initially covering up the outbreak, an accusation Beijing strongly denies despite growing evidence. Anticipating a backlash, China’s official Xinhua News Agency has suggested Beijing could retaliate against the U.S. by banning the export of medical products that would leave the U.S. stuck in the ”ocean of viruses.”

Zhao drew attention last month when he suggested without evidence that the U.S. military transported the virus to Wuhan or that the virus was released from a U.S. lab.

“It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!” Zhao tweeted March 12.

Asked about the tweet on Tuesday, Zhao said it had been “a response to the stigmatization some US politicians made against China previously, and it also reflected the indignation of many Chinese people about these practices.”


TOKYO — The printing of Albert Camus’ “The Plague” in Japanese shot above the cumulative million mark, with 154,000 copies going into extra printing seven times since February.

People have been snatching up copies since the coronavirus pandemic hit, and a bookstore chain limited purchases to one copy per buyer to curtail literary hoarding.

“The book is offering insight for people on the basic question of how we must live life when we are all faced with these insular times,” publisher Shinchosha spokesman Morito Mamiya said Wednesday.

The novel, first published in French in 1947, and in Japanese in 1969, portrays the dilemma of human existence as a North African city gets overtaken by the plague. On a regular year, about 5,000 copies of the classic get sold in Japan, but it’s now No. 1 for literature at major Japanese bookstores.


PARIS — The Bank of France said the French economy has entered recession with an estimated 6% drop in the first quarter of this year compared to the previous three months, amid the lockdown of the country due to the coronavirus crisis.

In a statement Wednesday, the Bank de France said that every two weeks under lockdown could lead the French annual economic activity to shrink by 1.5%.

Confinement measures have been implemented since March 17 and are likely to be extended after the current April 15 deadline.

French Finance minister Bruno Le Maire said this week that the country will probably face this year its deepest recession since the end of World War II.

The French government launched a 45-billion euro ($48.8 billion) economic rescue package to support businesses. The sectors of construction, transport, restaurants and hotels are especially impacted.


PRAGUE — The unemployment level in the Czech Republic surprisingly remained at same level in March as the previous despite the epidemic of the coronavirus.

The Labor Ministry said on Wednesday the unemployment was unchanged at 3.00% last month. That is 225,678 people were without a job, the lowest number since 1997.

Analysts estimated a growth in unemployment would already come in March and expected the impact of the coronavirus crisis to be fully felt in April.

The unemployment might reach up to 10% later in the year, analysts predicted.

The government has approved various packages to help the struggling economy amid tough restrictions to contain the virus. It pledged to use up to $40 billion in direct aid and loans guarantees.

The number of infected in the Czech Republic surpassed 5,000 and was at 5,033 on Wednesday morning, according to Health Ministry, 91 have died.


LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson has spent a second night in intensive care unit as his condition remained stable while he fought the new coronavirus.

Health Minister Edward Argar told the BBC on Wednesday that Johnson is receiving oxygen but is still not on a ventilator — a suggestion that at least his condition is not getting worse.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has temporarily taken over many of the prime minister’s duties to lead the country’s response to the pandemic as Johnson receives care. Britain has no official post of deputy prime minister.

Johnson is the first major world leader confirmed to have COVID-19. He was admitted to St. Thomas’ Hospital late Sunday with a fever and cough that persisted 10 days after he was diagnosed with the virus.

The 55-year-old was moved to the ICU on Monday evening after his condition worsened.

The news comes as the makeshift hospital installed at London’s ExCel convention center began receiving its first patients on Tuesday. The hospital was built to boost treatment capacity in London.


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