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:
— Japan adds 49 countries to list of countries barred from entering.
— Scottish government discusses alternatives to temporarily ending jury trials during lockdown.
— Former Marseille president Pape Diouf dies at 68.
— Europe rushes to build field hospitals amid ICU bed crunch.
TOKYO — Japan’s Prime Minister says Japan has banned entry from 49 more countries, including the U.S., Canada, all of China, South Korea and seven Southeast Asian countries.
That brings the total number of countries banned from entering Japan to 73.
Shinzo Abe says the government has tightened visa restrictions and will require a two-week quarantine to visitors and returnees from places Japan has designated as eligible for non-essential trips.
Abe cited views presented by a panel of experts at a meeting earlier Wednesday that new cases are rapidly on the rise in Japan and that its medical system is increasingly under pressure. He has faced calls for a declaration of a state of emergency, but his government is assessing the situation due to concerns of an economic impact.
Tokyo reported 65 new cases Wednesday, after reporting a record 78 daily new cases Tuesday. Nationwide, Japan has about 3,000 cases including 712 from a cruise ship, with 78 deaths.
BRUSSELS — The European Commission will propose a plan supporting short-time work across the continent in a move aimed at helping businesses and workers weather the economic shock of the new coronavirus.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc’s executive arm will unveil the new tool dubbed “Sure” — an initiative she said will be supported by the EU’s 27 member states and will help the countries affected by the crisis.
Von der Leyen said the plan will mitigate the effects of the economic downturn by helping workers keep their jobs. She says companies should not lay off workers, even if duties have decreased because of the coronavirus.
Von der Leyen said the plan will also help the economy restart “without delay” once lockdown measures will be lifted across the continent.
ATHENS — Greece’s main opposition party has urged the government to protect refugees and migrants at the country’s largest camp from the spread of the new coronavirus.
Some 22,000 people are currently at the camp at Moria on the island of Lesbos. Most live in crowded tents outside the grounds.
The letter to the Health Ministry was signed by nine parliament members from the left-wing Syriza party. It follows similar warnings from human rights groups and public health campaigners.
The government has imposed movement restrictions at the camp and is creating isolation areas. Plans to re-house the migrants have been delayed by disputes between the government and local authorities over alternatives.
Severe conditions of overcrowding also exist at other Greek island camps. There have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus at any of the island refugee camps.
BERLIN — European researchers say it’s possible to create apps for tracing contacts to curb the coronavirus outbreak without ditching cherished privacy standards.
A group of some 130 researchers from eight countries say they have devised a way to detect whether a smartphone was close to one belonging to someone who later tested positive for COVID-19.
Governments across the world are examining ways to use technology to track the spread of the virus and trace those who may have become infected. Human rights activists have warned of the dangers of mass smartphone surveillance.
The new project is dubbed Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing. It is backed by dozens of universities like the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and companies such as cellular provider Vodafone.
LONDON — The Scottish government has dropped controversial plans to temporarily bring an end to trial by jury during the coronavirus lockdown.
Constitution Secretary Mike Russell told Scottish lawmakers that the government was withdrawing the proposals from emergency legislation, and that “intensive and wide-ranging” discussions with interested parties, including victims, about alternatives will now take place. Other measures within the emergency legislation include the early release of prisoners and a ban on evictions.
Russell said new proposals over the justice system will be brought forward this month.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had said that bringing a temporary end to jury trials was necessary so serious criminal trials did not halt entirely.
The proposals regarding trial by jury met with criticism across Scotland, which has a wide array of devolved powers from the U.K., particularly on legal matters.
The Scottish Criminal Bar Association said they included attacks on “principles that have been built over more than six hundred years and are the very cornerstone of not just Scotland’s Criminal Justice System, but those of almost every advanced liberal democracy in the developed world.”
TALLINN, Estonia — Estonian authorities say inmates at the Baltic country’s penitentiaries have been ordered to produce protective face masks for themselves and prison employees as the two groups remain under high risk of getting the coronavirus.
Prisoners working for the state-owned AS Eesti Vanglatoostus production company are currently able to produce some 400 face masks a day, the region’s main news agency Baltic News Service reported Wednesday.
Many of the hundreds of drug addicts and HIV-positive carriers in the nation of 1.3 million have been diagnosed with infectious diseases ahead of their imprisonment. That may have seriously weakened their immune system, and COVID-19 may pose a high risk to their lives, the news agency reported.
DAKAR, Senegal — Pape Diouf, a former president of French soccer club Marseille, has died in Senegal after contracting the coronavirus, the West African country’s first COVID-19-related death. He was 68.
Senegalese health officials said Diouf died Tuesday. He had been treated since Saturday in intensive care at Fann Hospital in Dakar, said Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr, the minister of health.
Relatives say he was meant to be moved to France. He had recently traveled to several countries in the region, including Ivory Coast.
Senegal President Macky Sall offered condolences to Diouf’s family in a message posted on Twitter.
MADRID — Spain reports a new record of 864 deaths in one day while total infections broke the 100,000 mark, making it the third country to surpass that milestone behind the United States and Italy.
Spanish health authorities said Wednesday that the total number of deaths reached 9,053 since the beginning of the outbreak.
Total infections hit 102,136. But the 24-hour increase of 7,719 was 1,500 fewer than the increase from the previous day, offering hope that the contagion rate is stabilizing.
Spain is two-and-a-half weeks into a national lockdown with stay-at-home rules for all workers except those in health care, food production and distribution, and other essential industries.
The country is frantically working to add to the number of intensive care units in hospitals which are quickly filling up in the country’s hardest-hit regions.
Spanish authorities are bringing into the country 1,500 purchased ventilator machines and asking local manufacturers to ramp up production, with some creative solutions employed, such as snorkeling masks repurposed as breathing masks.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka’s president Gotabaya Rajapaksa is requesting that international financial organizations provide debt moratorium or debt deferment facilities to developing nations such as Sri Lanka, which are adversely affected due to the new coronavirus.
Rajapaksa made the request on Wednesday during a telephone discussion with the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Rajapaksa requested Ghebreyesus to speak with the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, president of the World Bank, president of the Asian Development Bank and leaders of the leading bilateral lending nations “to provide debt moratorium or debt re-profiling facilities for vulnerable developing countries like Sri Lanka whose economies depend on tourism, exports, remittances and foreign investment in debt and equity markets.”
Ghebreyesus said on Twitter that he discussed with Rajapaksa the health and economic impacts COVID-19 can have on Sri Lanka and the whole region.
“I thanked him for mobilizing the whole-of-government in the fight against the coronavirus.” he added.
Sri Lanka has imposed a curfew since March 20, locking down the whole country and banning nonessential travel. Police are strictly enforcing the law and have arrested thousands who have violated the curfew regulations.
Two people have so far died due to COVID-19 while there are 142 positive cases.
The coronavirus has dealt a severe blow to the country’s lucrative tourism and garment industries.
LONDON — The British government is under fire for failing to keep its promise to increase the number of tests performed for COVID-19.
The U.K. has restricted testing to hospitalized patients, leaving many people with milder symptoms unsure whether they have had the new coronavirus. Many scientists have urged wider testing to allow medics who are negative to remain at work, and to better understand how the virus spreads.
That has happened in Germany, which has the capacity to do 500,000 tests a week.
The U.K. initially performed about 5,000 tests a day, but the government promised to increase that number to 10,000 by the end of last week. The target has not been met, with just over 8,000 tests performed Monday, the last day for which figures are available.
Officials have blamed a shortage of the chemicals needed to perform the tests.
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said Wednesday that the number of tests should hit 15,000 a day “within a couple of days” and rise to 25,000 a day by mid-April. He conceded, “We do need to go further and we need to do that faster.”
He told ITV that “it isn’t easy to procure the tests in a global pandemic because there is a great deal of demand.”
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean health officials say 43 patients have been placed under isolation in one of the biggest hospitals in the capital of Seoul after a hospitalized 9-year-old girl tested positive for the coronavirus.
Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Wednesday said around 50 medical staff who worked at the Asan Medical Center’s pediatric department will be quarantined at their homes although they tested negative.
Jeong and Seoul City officials say the girl was tested for the virus after doctors found she had previously been treated for a headache at another hospital in Euijeongbu, near Seoul, where a dozen patients and medical staff have been infected with COVID-19.
Officials didn’t release specific details about the girl’s conditions.
South Korea’s nationwide caseload has slowed from early March when it reported around 500 new infections a day, but the country has struggled to stem infections at hospitals, psychiatric wards, nursing homes and other live-in facilities.
Hundreds of patients and medical staff have been infected in hospitals in the worst-hit city of Daegu, where more than 6,700 of the country’s 9,887 infections have been reported.
PARIS — France is evacuating on Wednesday 36 patients infected with the coronavirus from the Paris region onboard two medicalized high-speed TGV trains.
The patients, all treated in intensive care units, are being transferred to several hospitals in Britany, as western France is less impacted by the epidemic.
The operation aims at relieving hospitals in the Paris region, hardly hit by the coronavirus that has claimed more than 3,500 lives in France.
The country has already operated several transports of patients by train, helicopter, military aircraft and onboard a Navy ship. Some patients from eastern France have also been transferred to hospitals in neighboring Germany, Luxemburg and Switzerland.
France has increased its capacity of 5,000 ICU beds before the crisis to 8,000 now and is aiming at getting 14,000 ICU beds in the coming weeks, according to health authorities.
In the Paris region alone, the number of ICU beds has risen from 1,200 to 2,000 now, with almost the same number of patients needing intensive care.
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia’s plant that belongs to Korea’s carmaker Kia says it is planning to renew production as planned on April 6.
Kia halted its production lines located near the northwestern city of Zilina on March 21 amid the outbreak of the coronavirus.
It says that workers are coming back to work “under strict preventive measures.” The plant creates some 3,800 jobs.
Slovakia has 363 cases of COVID-19, according to the government figures available on Wednesday morning.
Across the border in the Czech Republic, Kia’s affiliate Hyundai said on Wednesday it extended the closure of its Czech plant by one week until April 14.
In another Slovak neighbor, Hungary, Suzuki announced that it is extending its plant’s closure by two weeks, until April 17. Earlier, Hungary’s Mercedes-Benz plant also extended its factory’s closure, until April 21.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey has sent a planeload of masks, hazmat suits, goggles and disinfectants to Italy and Spain to help the countries combat the new coronavirus outbreak.
State-run Anadolu Agency said a military cargo plane carrying the medical equipment took off from an air base near Ankara on Wednesday.
The equipment was produced by military-owned factories and sewing workshops.
The items were being sent in crates displaying — in Italian and Spanish — the words of 13th century Sufi Poet Jalaluddin Rumi: “There is hope after despair and many suns after darkness.”
The report did not say how many masks and other equipment were dispatched.
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