The Latest: Trump adviser promotes use of drug for virus
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:
— Senior Trump administration adviser promotes use of of drug hydroxychloroquine.
— Albania stops immigrants from entering country.
—- Portugal records lowest daily rise in coronavirus cases since outbreak started.
WASHINGTON — The debate over using an anti-malaria drug that has not yet officially been approved for fighting COVID-19 has erupted.
Trump administration adviser Peter Navarro on Monday emphatically promoted using the drug even though scientists say more testing is needed before it’s clear it’s safe and effective against the virus.
Navarro is a trade adviser who is on the White House coronavirus task force. He acknowledged on CNN that he had a heated debate over the drug with top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci during a weekend meeting in the Situation Room.
Fauci says the current studies provide only anecdotal findings that the drug works. Navarro says he responded: “I would have two words for you ‘second opinion.’”
The drug hydroxychloroquine is officially approved for treating malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, but not COVID-19.
Small, preliminary studies have suggested it might help prevent coronavirus from entering cells and possibly help patients clear the virus sooner. Doctors can already prescribe the malaria drug to patients with COVID-19, a practice known as off-label prescribing.
But Fauci says more testing is needed before it’s clear that the drug works against the coronavirus.
Navarro told “Fox & Friends” that doctors in New York hospitals are already giving out the drug to COVID-19 patients and that health care workers are taking it in hopes it will protect them from being infected.
He says the confrontation in the Situation Room was over whether the administration should take 29 million doses of the drug in FEMA warehouses and surge them into hard-hit cities. It was unanimous that it should be done.
Asked on CNN why he thinks he’s qualified to dispute Fauci, Navarro cited his doctorate degree in social science.
TIRANA, Albania — Albania’s prime minister has called on Albanian immigrants to only come home to check on families.
Prime Minister Edi Rama says 19 vehicles have been blocked at a border crossing point with neighboring Greece. He says the arrival of Albanians who live in other countries is unacceptable. He added the borders are closed to protect the life of the people inside and outside of Albania.
Only those coming for an emergency will be allowed to enter the country. But they must immediately shelter at a quarantine hotel after crossing the borde. Their expenses for 14 days of quarantine will be billed to their families.
Albania has 377 COVID-19 cases and 21 deaths as of Monday. Those low figures are attributed to the rigid restrictions in the country.
Albania is in a total lockdown with all its land, sea and air routes shut. Schools, shops, cafes, restaurants and gyms also closed and public gatherings prohibited.
One person per family may go shopping a day during specific hours.
Drivers or any small business violating the restriction rules are heavily fined and the vehicle is sequestered or the offender even imprisoned.
MADRID — Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa says authorities aim this week to consolidate the slowdown in the country’s number of new coronavirus cases. But he warned against complacency.
Spain’s latest figures showed the increase in new cases has slowed to 3% from 22% on March 16.
Illa says authorities have been working for several days on how to eventually scale back the measures, which include self-isolation. He indicated there would be a transition period, as measures are gradually eased.
Transport, Mobility and Urban Affairs Minister José Luis Ábalos says the data shows Spain is entering “a new phase of the battle.”
Spain last weekend extended its national state of emergency through April 26.
LISBON, Portugal — Portugal has recorded its lowest daily rise in the coronavirus infection rate since the outbreak started.
The total of 11,730 official cases reported Monday was up just 4% from the previous day.
The General Directorate for Health says the total coronavirus related deaths rose just over 5% from Sunday to 311.
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has earmarked an initial $750,000 for a new fund for hospitals, schools, nursing homes and other structures run by the Catholic Church in poor countries to use to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
Francis on Monday urged church entities around the world to contribute to the fund being run by the Pontifical Mission Societies, which is the pope’s official outreach arm to 1,110 mostly poor dioceses in Asia, Africa, Oceania and the Amazon region.
The fund is the latest example of papal charity amid the pandemic. The Vatican in late March purchased 30 ventilators to be distributed to hard-hit Italian hospitals.
And Francis’ chief alms-giver hand-delivered milk, yogurt and other products from the papal gardens outside Rome to two communities of nuns in Rome who were put in quarantine after several of them tested positive.
Francis also sent special rosaries to medical personnel at Rome’s Gemelli hospital who have been caring for COVID-19 patients.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch public health institute says the country’s coronavirus death toll saw the lowest daily increase in a week. The number of deaths rose by 101 to 1,867.
The institute says the number of people who have tested positive for the virus rose by 952 to 18,803. That is also a smaller rise than the increase of 1,224 reported on Sunday.
The number of people suffering the effects of the virus who were admitted to a hospital rose by 260, slightly higher than Sunday’s 253 increase.
PARIS — Europe’s leading human rights body is calling on governments to safeguard the rights and health of people in prison during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights urged the organization’s member states to make use of all available alternatives to detention whenever possible.
Dunja Mijatović says any restrictions imposed on detainees should be “non-discriminatory, necessary, proportionate, time-limited and transparent.”
Restrictions to family visits should “imperatively” be mitigated by alternative arrangements such as extended access to phone or video communications.
Many European countries have initiated the release of certain categories of prisoners or adapted their criminal justice policies to reduce their prison population.
The Council of Europe is based in Strasbourg, France and gathers 47 European countries, regardless of whether they are in the EU or not.
At least 12 prison inmates died of drug overdoses earlier this month in Italy and 16 others escaped during riots at more than two-dozen prisons sparked by coronavirus containment measures.
LONDON — Britain Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reportedly in good spirits following his first night in the hospital for what his office described as a “precautionary step” after contracting the new coronavirus.
Johnson remains in charge of government despite being sent to St Thomas’ Hospital after COVID-19 symptoms of a cough and fever persisted. His spokesman James Slack says he remains in hospital under observation.
The 55-year-old leader had been quarantined in his Downing Street residence since being diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26. He is the first known head of government to fall ill with the virus.
He has released several video messages during his 10 days in isolation.
MADRID — Health officials in Madrid say the strain of incoming patients is easing in hospitals and allowing authorities to think about how to start reverting those facilities to normal operations.
Patients awaiting treatment in emergency wards across the region of 6.6-million that has been hard hit by the new coronavirus went down Monday to 390 cases. That’s one tenth of the arrivals that were seen one week ago.
The number of people being treated for the coronavirus in intensive care units had fluctuated but stabilized at around 1,500 for five straight days.
Regional health minister Enrique Ruíz Escudero says officials are considering returning beds that have been used for positive COVID-19 patients to beds used for normal activity in hospitals.
The development follows a week of social media postings showing patients resting on the floor and in chairs at the suburban hospital.
LONDON — Ireland’s premier will directly assist with the new coronavirus pandemic by returning to the health service for one shift a week.
Leo Varadkar is a qualified medical doctor and has rejoined the medical register.
He is one of thousands across Ireland who have answered the call to return to the health sector during the pandemic.
BERLIN — The organization that handles claims on behalf of Jewish victims of the Nazis says it is making millions of extra dollars available for elderly Holocaust survivors who are particularly vulnerable to the new coronavirus.
The New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany says the $4.3 million in initial funding would be made available to agencies around the world providing care for some 120,000 survivors.
All survivors are elderly and many suffered from illness, malnutrition and other deprivations either at the hands of the Nazis or as they hid from them. Those early ailments continues to affect their health today.
There are no statistics yet as to how many Holocaust survivors have been infected by the new coronavirus. Israel’s first reported COVID-19 fatality was an 88-year-old survivor. About a third of the elderly population in Israel are survivors.
The additional funds will be used to “address critical gaps” in providing survivors help with homecare, food, medicine and other assistance as it is needed.
It is in addition to approximately $350 million in direct compensation, the Claims Conference is providing to more than 60,000 survivors in 83 countries this year and some $610 million in grants to more than 300 social service agencies.
Since 1952 through the Claims Conference the German government has paid more than $80 billion in Holocaust reparations.
KARACHI, Pakistan — Pakistan opened its first drive-thru COVID-19 test facility in the southern Sindh provincial capital of Karachi.
A team of doctors and medical staff are operating the first drive-thru facility in Pakistan’s latest attempt to stem the spread of the virus.
Pakistan has carried out 35,875 tests countrywide and has 3,277 positive cases, 881 of them in southern Sindh province.
The majority of the cases are in eastern Punjab province, where 60 percent of Pakistan’s 220 million people live.
According to news reports, a team of visiting Chinese doctors has recommended the Punjab province remain under lock down for another 29 days. Pakistan is in a countrywide lock down until April 16, when it will be reviewed.
There have been 50 reported deaths from the coronavirus.
BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary’s prime minister has announced a second package of economic measures meant to protect the country’s economy from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Monday that the measures would reallocate some 18-20% of Hungary’s state budget, or as much as around $32 billion, while raising the budget deficit from 1% of GDP to 2.7%.
Orban said that “the aim is for us to create as many jobs as the virus ruins.”
Orban said the state will help pay some wages in the private sector and spend about $1.33 billion to support investments targeting job creation.
Hungary will also make available loans totaling some $5.9 billion for businesses and gradually boost pension payments from February 2021.
Opposition parties called for extending unemployment benefits and for immediate extra payments to pensioners and workers in the health sector.
Hungary has registered 744 coronavirus cases, with 38 deaths linked to COVID-19.
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