The Latest: WHO leader dodges questions on Trump’s criticism
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
—Pentagon: Military coronavirus cases surge to nearly 2,000.
— WHO leader dodges questions on Trump’s criticism.
—US, UK warn of cyberattacks using virus as lure.
— British official says PM Boris Johnson improving.
GENEVA — The World Health Organization chief sought to rise above sharp criticism and threats of funding cuts from U.S. President Donald Trump over the health agency’s response to the coronavirus, quipping: “Why would I care about being attacked when people are dying?”
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus admittedly dodged questions about Trump’s comments a day earlier, but said the agency was made up of humans “who make mistakes,” and said his key focus was saving lives, not playing politics.
“Please quarantine politicizing COVID,” he said, alluding to the COVID-19 disease linked to coronavirus infections. He made a heartfelt appeal with personal narrative and story-recounting to make his point.
“Without unity, we can assure you, every country will be in trouble,” said Tedros. “Unity at national level — no need to use COVID to score political points. You have many other ways to prove yourself.”
Trump on Tuesday accused WHO of being “China-centric” and criticized its alleged missteps, notably faulting WHO recommendations against travel bans to help stop the spread.
CEDAR SPRINGS, Mich. — A nursing home resident in western Michigan who died from COVID-19 complications repeatedly asked her Amazon Echo for help with pain, a TV station reported.
“Alexa, help me. … I am in pain. I have to find a way to relieve it,” LouAnn Dagen said in recordings found by her sister, Penny Dagen, and shared with WOOD-TV.
LouAnn Dagen, 66, died Saturday after arriving at Mercy Health St. Mary’s hospital in Grand Rapids.
She lived at Metron of Cedar Springs, which disclosed last week that 31 residents and five staff members had tested positive for the coronavirus and were quarantined.
Penny Dagen said her sister was getting medicine to help with pain. She said LouAnn, who had diabetes and hypertension, was taken to the hospital when her oxygen and blood pressure dropped.
“The hospital called me right away and said that they put her on a respirator,” Penny Dagen said. “They asked me about giving her CPR if her heart stopped and I said, ‘No, she didn’t want that.’ And then her heart stopped and that was it.”
Metron said LouAnn, a resident for more than 10 years, was “getting excellent care” and was taken to the hospital when her health changed.
“Alexa was LouAnn’s primary communication tool with her sister who was unable to get to our facility. … It was a very positive part of her life which we supported fully,” said operations director Paul Pruitt.
LONDON — Britain’s Treasury chief says Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s condition is improving in the intensive care unit of a London hospital.
Rishi Sunak says Johnson has been sitting up in bed and engaging with his doctors at St. Thomas’ Hospital.
Johnson was admitted to the hospital on Sunday, 10 days after being diagnosed with COVID-19. He was transferred to the ICU on Monday when his condition deteriorated.
LONDON — The British government imposed a lockdown on March 23, initially for three weeks. That period ends next week, and while the government says there will be a review, there is little chance of the measures being eased.
The number of cases and deaths is still rising, and the U.K. reported its biggest daily increase Wednesday to take the death toll to more than 7,000.
“We need to start seeing the numbers coming down,” Health Minister Edward Argar told the BBC. “That’s when you have a sense, when that’s sustained over a period of time, that you can see it coming out of that. ”
Mark Drakeford, the leader of Wales, said it was clear “these restrictions will not end” next week.
“We will not throw away the gains we have made and the lives we have saved by abandoning our efforts just as they begin to bear fruit,” he said.
WASHINGTON — The Navy says the number of sailors on the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt testing positive for the coronavirus had increased to 286.
The number has been steadily growing since the ship docked in Guam after an outbreak of the virus was discovered.
The Navy said nearly all of the crew has been tested for the virus. But they are still awaiting the results of some of the tests. Crew members who test negative are being sent ashore for quarantine.
WASHINGTON — Melania Trump released a brief video message of appreciation directed to the medical personnel and other front-line responders fighting the virus in the United States.
“It is because of you that the people of America are receiving the care and treatment they need,” the first lady says in the video, which was recorded as she stood outside on a White House balcony.
“We stand united with you and we salute your courageous and compassionate efforts. Our prayers are with all who are fighting this invisible enemy, COVID-19.”
WASHINGTON — Scientific advisers are telling the White House there’s no good evidence yet that the warmer temperatures and higher humidity of spring and summer will really help tamp down the new coronavirus without continued public health measures.
Researchers convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine analyzed studies done so far to test virus survival under different laboratory conditions as well as tracking where and how COVID-19 has spread.
“Given that countries currently in ‘summer’ climates, such as Australia and Iran, are experiencing rapid virus spread, a decrease in cases with increases in humidity and temperature elsewhere should not be assumed,” the researchers wrote in response to questions from the White House Office of Science and Technology.
They noted that during 10 previous flu pandemics, regardless of what season they started, all had a peak second wave about six months after the virus first emerged.
TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will attend a cabinet meeting in person on Wednesday after spending weeks in self isolation after his wife tested positive for the new coronavirus.
Sophie Gregoire Trudeau announced on March 28 that she recovered from the virus but the prime minister continued to self-isolate at home on the advice of health officials.
Trudeau’s office announced on March 13 that she had tested positive after she fell ill upon returning from a trip to London.
Justin Trudeau has been giving daily news conferences outside his residence. His wife took their three children to the prime minister’s summer residence after she recovered.
ATHENS, Greece — Greek authorities are tightening lockdown enforcement ahead of Orthodox Easter, when Greeks traditionally flock to rural family homes.
The government says police have set up roadblocks on all national highways, roads out of major cities and secondary roads to check that all motorists observe travel restrictions. It will impose 300-euro ($326) fines for people trying to reach country homes.
Easter celebrations will be scaled down, with church services held behind closed doors on Easter Day, April 19.
Tougher restrictions also apply to island ferry travel, and the measures will be enforced until April 27.
Health officials recorded 52 infections Wednesday, bringing the total to 1,884 and 83 deaths.
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon says the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the military has surged to nearly 2,000.
Last weekend the number topped 1,000, and one week ago it stood at 771.
Among the services, the active duty Navy has the most cases, with more than 500. The Army has 470.
GENEVA — Switzerland plans to lift some restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus crisis by the end of the month.
Switzerland, like other European countries, has closed nonessential shops and schools and banned events. President Simonetta Sommaruga says the existing restrictions will remain in place until April 26.
But she says officials are planning a gradual reopening, and the government will consider a strategy on April 16.
Sommaruga didn’t specify what measures might be relaxed first.
Switzerland has recorded more than 22,000 infections, including 858 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
SKOPJE, North Macedonia — North Macedonia’s government has tightened movement restrictions and extended curfew hours, with authorities expecting infections to peak by the end of the month.
The new curfew will extend from 4 p.m. to 5 a.m. during working days. A complete lockdown will be in effect on weekends, from 4 p.m. on Friday to 5 a.m. on Monday.
Health Minister Venko Filipce says infections are expected to peak at 2,000-2,500 by the end of April.
Authorities have recorded 617 infections and 29 deaths. About 10% of infected people are doctors, nurses and medical technicians.
North Macedonia has already closed borders, schools, malls, bars, restaurants and casinos, and declared a state of emergency.
The World Trade Organization estimates global trade will fall between 13% and 32% this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Geneva-based body, which oversees the rules of trade, says in a report the drop would be worse than during the global financial crisis of 2008-2009.
The wide range in its forecast is due to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, as it remains uncertain when business will return toward more normal levels. Governments around the world have locked down on business and travel to contain the outbreak, disrupting supply chains.
WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo says, “The unavoidable declines in trade and output will have painful consequences for households and businesses, on top of the human suffering caused by the disease itself.
“These numbers are ugly – there is no getting around that. But a rapid, vigorous rebound is possible.”
ZAGREB, Croatia — Croatian authorities plan to reopen open air markets, signaling easing of strict measures designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic says the crisis team dealing with the virus outbreak has signed permission to gradually reopen the markets in the coming days.
Authorities say this means buyers and merchants at the markets selling fruit and vegetables will need to respect protection measures such as social distance, protective gear and sanitizers to stay open.
Croatia has reported 1,343 cases of infection and 19 deaths.
WASHINGTON — U.S. and U.K. security agencies have issued a joint security warning about cyberattacks using the coronavirus outbreak as a lure.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Britain’s National Cyber Security Center says criminals and what they call “persistent threat” groups are attempting to transmit ransomware and malware that are tied to the COVID-19 outbreak. One example includes emails that purport to come from the World Health Organization. Others are phishing attempts that appear to come from Microsoft or other tech companies whose remote tools are often used by people working from home.
The statement says they have not detected an overall increase in cybercrime. But they have noted a growing use of malicious threats involving COVID-19 related themes.
MOSCOW — Russian president Vladimir Putin announced new measures to help businesses and people cope with economic shocks from the coronavirus outbreak.
Speaking in a conference call with top officials, Putin says the government will allow small- and medium-business to reduce social insurance payments and reschedule debts, among other measures. He also announced new payments for families with children and people who lost jobs because of the outbreak.
Putin previously ordered most Russians except those working in essential industries to stay off work until the end of the month as part of a partial economic shutdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus. He urged provincial governors to be flexible and ensure key industries keep running while strictly observing sanitary norms.
Russia has registered 8,672 cases and 63 deaths.
NEW DELHI, India — The number of confirmed cases in India has crossed the 5,000 mark, with 149 deaths.
Although the cases are spread over roughly 40% of India’s districts, they are concentrated in India’s densely populated urban centers. Mumbai, previously known as Bombay, is the worst impacted.
India’s strategy is focused around identifying “containment zones” where efforts would be targeted on restricting the virus “within a defined geographic area” to break the chain of transmission. But officials say the next week would be pivotal. India has only conducted 121,271 tests, but is likely to scale up testing in the coming days.
India has put its entire population, one-fifth of the worlds’ population, under lockdown until April 14.
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