The latest on coronavirus: Italy gets a field hospital from U.S. evangelist

Published 9:53 am Wednesday, March 18, 2020

By The Associated Press undefined
The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 204,00 people and killed more than 8,200. The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms in most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or those with existing health problems. More than 82,000 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.
A Christian evangelical group headed by the son of the late televangelist Billy Graham has sent a field hospital to northern Italy to tend to coronavirus patients, joining China in offering aid to Italy’s overwhelmed health care system.
The Defense Ministry said a DC8 belonging to Samaritan’s Purse landed at the Verona airport late Tuesday. The group says it sent a 68-bed field hospital, including eight intensive care beds, 20 tons of medical equipment and 32 specialists. The hospital is to be set up for three months in hard-hit Cremona province of northern Lombardy.
Samaritan’s Purse is headed by the pastor Franklin Graham, one of President Donald Trump’s evangelical allies. Critics have accused Samaritan’s Church of proselytizing through its aid but the group says its aid is provided regardless of religious affiliation.
Aid groups say Italy has a severe shortage of the medical equipment needed to properly fight the coronavirus.
Britain’s beloved soap operas are falling victim to the new coronavirus.
The BBC says it is suspending production on shows including the prime-time soap “EastEnders” and medical dramas “Casualty,” “Doctors” and “Holby City.”
The broadcaster said it would show two episodes of “EastEnders” a week instead of the usual four, to make the stock of already-recorded shows last longer.
Broadcast since 1985, “EastEnders” follows the lives of characters in a fictional working-class London neighborhood.
The producers of Britain’s most-watched soap, “Coronation Street,” have not yet announced whether they will suspend production.
Puerto Rico’s governor has asked the Federal Aviation Administration to temporarily halt all commercial passenger flights to and from the U.S. territory for two weeks to help curb coronavirus cases. The FAA has not responded.
Gov. Wanda Vázquez on Wednesday also announced that doctors no longer need permission from the island’s Health Department to request that someone be tested for COVID-19.
The governor on Sunday announced a two-week curfew that has closed down nearly all businesses except gas stations and those in the health, finance and food sectors. Police said Wednesday they had cited 19 people overnight for violating the curfew.
Puerto Rico, which previously had a hurricane health crisis, has five confirmed COVID-19 cases and no deaths.
The European Union is trying to help repatriate around 80,000 citizens stuck outside Europe after the coronavirus hit global transport systems, but says it faces huge logistical challenges.
The EU’s executive commission said Wednesday that many Europeans have been brought back from China and Sri Lanka, and that other cases had arisen in the United States and Japan.
The EU has helped bring back more than 600 European citizens – but also some U.S., Swiss and Bosnians — from Morocco after the country said it was cancelling flights on Sunday night. EU officials helped win a reprieve and flights can now continue until Thursday. Hundreds of Europeans are also stuck in the Maldives.
Finding flights is perhaps the hardest part.
”This is not always a given, because other countries are also cancelling flights to and from Europe,” commission spokesman Eric Mamer said. “From a logistical point of view, it is clearly a major challenge.”
The Eurovision Song Contest has been canceled, becoming the latest victim of the coronavirus epidemic.
The 65th edition of the annual celebration of pop and often-trashy glamor was due to be held in the Dutch city of Rotterdam, with the grand final being held May 16.
The European Broadcasting Union said Wednesday organizers had explored “many alternative options” to allow the contest to go ahead. But it said uncertainty created by the spread of COVID-19 and restrictions put in place by many governments had made it “impossible to continue with the live event as planned.”
It said the European Broadcasting Union, the city of Rotterdam and others “will continue a conversation regarding the hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest in 2021.”
Europe has become the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.
Britain is one of the few European countries not to order the mass closure of schools in response to the coronavirus pandemic — but that has started to change.
The governments of Scotland and Wales both say schools will close on Friday.
England, which is home to 56 million of the U.K.’s 66 million people, has not yet closed schools but a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson says an announcement will be made “imminently.”
It’s not clear how long the schools will remain shut. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Wednesday that “I cannot promise they will reopen before the summer holidays.”
British schools go much later into the summer than American schools, ending in mid-July last year.
The governor of the Italian region hardest-hit by coronavirus infections is warning citizens that if they don’t stay in their homes as they should, he’ll ask the central government for even stricter measures.
Italian authorities say too many people are violating last week’s national decree, which allows people to leave homes to go to workplaces, buy food or other necessities or for brief strolls outside to walk dogs or get exercise. Of hundreds of thousands of people stopped by police for checks, tens of thousands have received a summons for going out without valid reasons.
Lombardy Gov. Attilio Fontana told a news conference Wednesday “every time out of the house is a time you put yourself at risk and put others at risk” for catching COVID-19.”
As of Tuesday, Lombardy had slightly more than half of Italy’s 31,506 virus cases and 1,640 of Italy’s 2,503 deaths. Italy is the second hardest-hit nation after China in the pandemic.
Not all Parisians are obeying the rules to stay inside to contain the new virus.
Paris police said Wednesday hey checked more than 10,000 people after new confinement measures went into effect at midnight, and by late morning had fined 522 violators.
Most were individuals who defied rules against non-essential movement around town, but four people were also fined for keeping non-essential businesses open.
People are required to carry a special document if they leave their homes explaining why. It can be handwritten or saved on a phone if people don’t have printers at home.
France has 7,730 cases of the virus, including 175 people who have died.
A top British expert on the coronavirus outbreak has had to self-isolate after showing symptoms of the COVID-19 disease.
Professor Neil Ferguson from Imperial College London, who has been a voice of calm and expertise across the British media, said in a tweet Wednesday he had “developed a slight dry but persistent cough” and a “high fever.” Central London is the outbreak’s “hotspot” in the U.K.
Ferguson, who has been in contact with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his main scientific advisers, was one of the lead authors on a paper this week that predicted around 250,000 people could die if the U.K. did not move to announce social distancing measures to combat the outbreak.
The warning prompted the British government to ratchet up its response to the crisis.
The Dutch public health institute says 15 more people have died of the coronavirus in the last 24 hours, bringing the country’s death toll to 58.
In the same period, 346 people have tested positive, raising the number of infections to 2.051. The number includes 485 health care workers. The patients who have died were from 63 to 95 years old.
Most cases are clustered in two southern regions where many people celebrated Carnival in the days before the first Dutch case was diagnosed.
A spokesman for Germany’s Justice Ministry said the government is examining legal possibilities to protect tenants from losing their home if they can’t pay the rent due to income shortfall because of the virus outbreak.
The spokesman, Marius Leber, said the measures currently being examined would include commercial tenants.
More than half of all households in Germany live in rented properties, a higher proportion than in many other developed countries.
Tens of thousands of Russians and Ukrainians have been stranded abroad as countries close borders and suspend air traffic amid the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 35,000 Ukrainians await evacuation in different countries, Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Vladyslav Krykliy said Wednesday. He asked the government to allocate $4 million for flights to bring them back home. Earlier this week 175 flights brought more than 33,000 Ukrainians back home.
At the same time Russian authorities are working to help tens of thousands of Russian tourists facing difficulties returning home. According to Russia’s state tourism watchdog Rosturizm, there are 100,000 Russian tourists still abroad.
More than 1,000 Russians found themselves trapped in Montenegro after its air space was closed. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called the situation “critical.”
Zakharova added the situation was difficult in Latin America and Moldova as well.
Hong Kong health authorities are using electronic wristbands to monitor the self-quarantining of all travelers returning to the Asian financial hub from abroad.
The devices are intended to ensure that those placed under 14-day home quarantine remain at home. Travelers from mainland China have been required to wear them since Feb. 8, but their use was being expanded Wednesday to all travelers. Thousands of students are expected to return home in coming days.
Hong Kong Chief Information Officer Victor Lam said a wristband which linked to a smart phone would be used together for some quarantine cases. Lam said the electronic bracelet cannot be removed by the wearer and will not collect personal data.
Hong Kong has 181 confirmed COVID-19 infections so far, with four deaths. All but one of 14 new cases on Wednesday was from abroad.
The European Union’s medicines agency says there is currently no evidence that taking ibuprofen makes the disease caused by the coronavirus worse.
The statement Wednesday by the European Medicines Agency came amid widespread messages on social media suggesting that ibuprofen can compound the effects of the virus.
Britain’s National Health Service is advising people to take paracetamol rather than ibuprofen to treat virus symptoms, while acknowledging online “there is currently no strong evidence that ibuprofen can make the coronavirus (COVID-19) worse.”
The Amsterdam-based EU medicines agency said: “There is currently no scientific evidence establishing a link between ibuprofen and worsening of COVID‑19.”
Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine, or NSAID.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced his country will impose an entry ban for people from parts of Italy, Spain and Iceland, citing the World Health Organization declaration that Europe is now the center of the world’s coronavirus pandemic.
Abe also said Japan will step up quarantines for visitors from 38 countries including most of the rest of Europe, as well as Iran and Egypt. It will require a self-quarantine at designated locations and restraint in using public transportation for 14 days. Visas issued in those countries will be revoked.
Abe also urged the Japanese citizens to reconsider any overseas trips “regardless of the area.”
Malaysia reported another 117 new cases Wednesday, on the first day of a near complete lockdown nationwide, for a total of 790 infections with two deaths.
Malaysia is the worst-hit nation in Southeast Asia. Nearly two-third of the cases are linked to a 16,000-strong religious gathering at a mosque in a Kuala Lumpur suburb.
Malaysia on Wednesday sealed its borders and shut schools, businesses and government offices for two weeks to slow the spread of the virus. Health director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah urged people to take the restriction movement order seriously.
“We have a small window of opportunity to break the chain,” Noor Hisham said in a Facebook message. “Failure is not an option here, otherwise we might face a third wave of the virus. The next one will be as big as a tsunami, more so if we have a lackadaisical attitude.”
Spain’s Foreign Ministry says the April 21 visit by Spanish King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia to the White House has been postponed to let the United States and Spain focus all of their resources and attention to the COVID-19 response. T
he Spanish monarchs had been invited by U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump for a state banquet, the third of the Trump administration.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his government is readying further financial help for workers and measures to protect those who rent to see through the economic harm caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
During weekly questions in a sparsely attended House of Commons as lawmakers were told to keep their distance to try to slow the spread of the virus, Johnson said it is only right “whatever their circumstances, we should ensure that workers get the support that they need.”
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the main opposition Labour Party, has argued that the legal minimum for sick pay should be increased from the current $112 a week and extended to all types of workers.
The government has already loosened policies over sick pay and has announced a 350 billion-pound ($416 billion) support package of mainly cheap government-backed loans for businesses to support them through the inevitable economic damage caused by the crisis.
The traffic jam on the Czech-Polish border has gone from bad to worse despite the efforts from those countries’ leaders to deal with coronavirus supply chain disruptions.
The line of trucks waiting on the Czech side to enter Poland at the northern Nachod – Kudowa-Slone crossing was more than 50 kilometers (31 miles) long on Wednesday. It was 40 kilometers (25 miles) the previous days.
To ease the situation, Poland opened three more crossings on Wednesday after Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis and Interior Minister Jan Hamacek spoke to their Polish counterparts.
A police spokeswoman said the Polish border guards were currently able to check about 40 trucks per hour.
The miles of trucks have been also queuing at northeastern Czech Republic at another crossing to Poland and on the border with Slovakia in the east.
Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, is restricting the entry of travelers from countries with more than 1,000 coronavirus cases and suspending visas on arrival for their citizens.
The Nigeria Center for Disease Control lists the countries as China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, the U.S., Norway, Britain, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
Nigeria, which has eight confirmed cases, urges its citizens to cancel or postpone all nonessential travel to those countries.
Spain announced 2,538 new cases of coronavirus infections, bringing the country’s total to 13,716. Nearly half of those have been hospitalized and 774 are requiring intensive care, according to national health authorities. There are 588 deaths officially recorded, 67 more than on Tuesday.
Spanish regions where clusters have been identified in elderly nursing homes are showing a higher rate of fatalities and required hospitalization, has said the head of the Spanish health emergency center, Fernando Simón. That’s the case of Madrid, where at least 17 people have died only in one nursing home and dozens more have been infected.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has called for political unity to combat the new virus, saying “the worst has yet to come” with many more deaths expected and increased pressure on the country’s strained health service. “The COVID-19 pandemic has overwhelmed everyone’s predictions,” Sánchez told a virtually empty lower house of parliament.
A Louisiana pastor says he welcomed more than 305 people to worship together, declaring that the coronavirus is politically motivated and nothing to be concerned about.
Police showed up after Tuesday night’s service at the church near Baton Rouge, WAFB-TV reported. Officers told the Rev. Tony Spell that the National Guard would break up any future services with more than 50 people gathered at Life Tabernacle Church in the city of Central.
“The virus, we believe, is politically motivated,” Spell told the Baton Rouge station. “We hold our religious rights dear and we are going to assemble no matter what someone says.”
He said Sunday services drew even more worshipers — 1,170 — than on Tuesday night.
One of Britain’s biggest summer music events, the Glastonbury Festival, has been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Organizers say the festival, due to take place June 24-28, will be postponed until 2021.
Glastonbury organizers Michael Eavis and Emily Eavis said there would “inevitably be severe financial implications” for staff, suppliers, charities supported by Glastonbury and more. But they said there was no choice in light of government advice for people to avoid contact with others.
Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar, the Pet Shop Boys and Paul McCartney were among the acts announced for the 50th anniversary edition of the music extravaganza.
South Africa says it now has 116 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, nearly double the number announced two days ago.
Fourteen of the new cases are from local transmission, a worrying development in the country, which has the most cases in sub-Saharan Africa.
South Africa is one of the world’s most unequal countries, and authorities are rushing to prevent the spread of the virus to teeming low-income neighborhoods and crowded public transport.
The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
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