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Tuesday, April 07, 2020, 22:51
Vigilance urged as outbreak shows signs of leveling off in NY
By Agencies
Tuesday, April 07, 2020, 22:51 By Agencies

A customer wearing face mask carries his purchases as he leaves a Target store in the Brooklyn borough of New York, April 6, 2020. (MARK LENNIHAN / AP)

BERLIN / NEW YORK / WASHINGTON / LISBON / CAPE TOWN / OSLO / STOCKHOLM / BOGOTA / MEXICO CITY / PANAMA CITY / PARIS / TRIPOLI / SANTIAGO / COPENHAGEN / MOSCOW / SAO PAULO / TIRANA / ZURICH / CAIRO / TUNIS / NAIROBI / WARSAW / BRUSSELS / MADRID / BUDAPEST / HELSINKI / AMSTERDAM - Governors of New York, New Jersey and Louisiana pointed to tentative signs on Monday that the coronavirus outbreak may be starting to plateau but warned against complacency.

The number of deaths from COVID-19 in the United States surpassed 11,000 as total cases topped 360,000, according to the data published by Johns Hopkins University around 10:20 am EST.

New York state's overall tally of confirmed cases grew by 7 percent from the previous day to 130,680. But hospitalizations, admissions to intensive care units and the number of patients put on ventilator machines to keep them breathing had all declined - signs the crisis may be leveling off, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

Hospitalizations, admissions to intensive care units and the number of patients put on ventilator machines to keep them breathing had all declined - signs the crisis may be leveling off, New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo said

To keep his state from back-sliding, Cuomo extended until April 29 an order to keep non-essential businesses and schools closed, and doubled the maximum fine for ignoring social distancing rules to US$1,000.

In neighboring New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy noted a 12 percent day-to-day growth rate in confirmed positive cases on Monday, half the rate from March 30.

In Louisiana, Governor John Bel Edwards said that new hospital admissions were "trending downward".

The rates of increase also appeared to be slowing in the New York-adjacent state of Connecticut.

Despite the upbeat signs, a national US health official said the country was entering the "peak death week" of the coronavirus.

"It's going to be the peak hospitalization, peak ICU week and unfortunately, peak death week," Admiral Brett Giroir, a physician and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, told ABC's "Good Morning America" TV program on Monday.

READ MORE: Trump warns of 'horrendous' phase, many fatalities from virus

President Donald Trump said that he and others, without specifying who, would be regularly tested for the coronavirus. 

Meanwhile, a second US company was poised to begin safety test of a vaccine against COVID-19 on Monday.

Inovio Pharmaceuticals said Monday that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has accepted the company's Investigational New Drug (IND) application for INO-4800, its DNA vaccine candidate designed to prevent COVID-19 infection.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefs the media about measures taken by the German government to avoid further spread of the coronavirus. At the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, April 6, 2020. (MARKUS SCHREIBER / POOL PHOTO / AP)

EU

It’s crunch time for the European Union as it strives to overcome internal differences and agree to a plan that would stem a virus-led downturn, which may eclipse the severity of the Great Recession more than a decade ago.

The EU’s finance ministers on Tuesday will seek to endorse a list of measures worth more than half a trillion euros to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus on the region’s economies. If enough headway is made, the bloc’s leaders could debate and sign-off on the measures later in the week.

With the euro area facing an economic slump of unprecedented scale, countries have instituted fiscal measures worth 3 percent of EU gross domestic product as well as liquidity guarantees worth 18 percent of the bloc’s output. The European Central Bank has also launched massive bond purchases in what could end up becoming the biggest economic rescue package the continent has seen in peacetime.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday said that the pandemic was the EU’s biggest challenge since its founding and that “the answer can only be: more Europe, a stronger Europe and a well-functioning Europe.”

Globally, the coronavirus figures remain stark, and show no sign of plateauing yet. A Reuters tally at 1400 GMT put the number of confirmed cases at 1.27 million - just three days after it crossed the 1 million mark - and deaths up by 17,000 over the same period to 70,395.

Merkel stressed that Germany and Europe would have to develop their own production of protective equipment. Some German companies are already starting to produce protective masks.

The pandemic has produced a "symmetrical shock" and all countries are "equally affected," Merkel said

ALSO READ: Europe takes no chances in outbreak battle

Germany

Germany's confirmed coronavirus infections rose by 3,834 in the past 24 hours to 99,225 on Tuesday, rising again after four consecutive days of drops, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 173 to 1,607.

Tuesday's number of new cases was higher than the 3,677 new infections reported on Monday. Deaths had risen by 92 on Monday.

In view of the social restrictions on daily life that are currently in effect in Germany, Chancellor Merkel said on Monday it was important to ensure that the German health system was not overburdened. 

She said that it was too early to give the all-clear. Last week, the German government had extended the restrictive anti-coronavirus measures until at least April 19. 

Italy

Italy's government approved on Monday a new emergency decree that will offer more than 400 billion euros (US$432 billion) worth of liquidity and bank loans to companies hit by the coronavirus crisis.

The legislation, combined with a previous stimulus package unveiled in March, would allow banks to offer credit totalling more than 750 billion euros to try to stave off the collapse of the euro zone's third largest economy.

The pandemic has claimed 16,523 lives in locked-down Italy, bringing the total number of infections, fatalities and recoveries since the pandemic began to 132,547, according to fresh data released by the country's Civil Protection Department on Monday.

The department's chief, Angelo Borrelli, said that there were 1,941 new active coronavirus infections compared to Sunday, bringing the nationwide total to 93,187.

Monday saw 636 new deaths, bringing the toll to 16,523 since the pandemic first broke out in northern Italy on Feb 21.

A woman walks on the deserted Trocadero square in front of the Eiffel Tower, in Paris, April 6, 2020. (THIBAULT CAMUS / AP)

Netherlands


The number of confirmed new coronavirus cases in the Netherlands rose by 777 to 19,580, health authorities said on Tuesday, as a slowing trend in the rate of increase continued.

Deaths increased by 234 to 2,101, the Netherlands’ Institute for Health said in its daily update, though it underlined that the death figures it reports on Tuesdays include some patients who died over the weekend and were reported later.

France

French authorities tightened their lockdown measures in the capital on Tuesday by banning Parisians from outdoors sports activity between 10 am and 7 pm local time, aiming to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

The move came after many French politicians and doctors expressed dismay at the fact that the streets of Paris still feature people jogging or congregating near markets, despite government orders to get people to stay in as much as possible.

France has confined residents to their homes since March 17 to stem the spread of the virus. The measures have been extended until April 15, and are likely to be extended again.

The latest death toll from the coronavirus in France stood at 8,911 on April 6, while the total number of cases reached 98,010.

Spain

The pace of coronavirus deaths in Spain ticked up slightly for the first time in five days on Tuesday, with 743 people succumbing overnight to reach a total of 13,798.

That compared to 637 people who died during the previous 24 hours in the nation with the second highest toll of fatalities in the world from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Total cases rose to 140,510 on Tuesday from 135,032 on Monday, the health ministry said.

Health personnel wear protection gear before attending to a patient, in Barcelona, Spain, April 6, 2020. (EMILIO MORENATTI / AP)

Belgium

The number of COVID-19 deaths in Belgium reached 2,035 deaths on Tuesday, according to latest figures released by the Belgian health authorities. 

UK

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth on Tuesday sent a message of “enduring appreciation and good wishes” to health workers around the world for World Health Day.

“I want to thank all those working in the healthcare profession for your selfless commitment and diligence as you undertake vitally important roles to protect and improve the health and well-being of people,” the queen said.

British Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove is self isolating as a member of his family is displaying COVID-19 symptoms, an ITV reporter said.

Gove, one of the most senior members of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government, continues to work, ITV said.

The death toll of those hospitalized in Britain for the novel coronavirus reached 5,373 as of Sunday afternoon, a daily increase of 439, the Department of Health and Social Care said Monday.

As of Monday morning, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Britain hit 51,608, up 3,802 in the past 24 hours, said the department.

PM Johnson was being treated for worsening coronavirus symptoms in an intensive care unit on Tuesday, with his foreign minister deputizing for him as the nation tackles the COVID-19 crisis.

READ MORE: UK's Johnson fights worsening virus symptoms in intensive care

Poland

Poland's lower house of parliament controlled by ruling nationalists approved late on Monday draft legislation to allow a May presidential election to be held as a postal ballot due to the coronavirus, state news agency PAP said.

The draft legislation will now be sent to the upper house of parliament, the opposition-controlled Senate, which has the power to delay it. But any veto can be overruled by the lower house, the Sejm.

Poland has reported a total of 4,413 cases of the coronavirus and 107 deaths, and expects the number of infections to peak in May or June. The election is scheduled for May 10 and could spill into a run-off vote on May 24.

Finland

Finland will start tracking the spread of the new coronavirus in its population with randomised antibody tests, its public health authority said on Tuesday.

The main hospitals will mail invitation letters to randomly chosen citizens of all ages to be tested for the antibodies which patients suffering from COVID-19 develop, including those who have contracted the illness without showing any symptoms.

Finland has confirmed 2,176 confirmed coronavirus cases. Twenty-seven people in the European Union member state have died after contracting the virus.

Finland's government on Tuesday extended and tightened border controls restricting travel to and from the country until May 13 in order to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

"The government's aim is to further reduce movement in the inherent commute area across the borders with Sweden and Norway," Finland's government said in a statement.

Sweden

Sweden's government will act to keep vital domestic airline routes open, despite the impact on travel caused by the coronavirus, it said on Monday. 

The government said a total of eight routes, seven to Northern Sweden and one to the island of Gotland, would be kept open by the government, which will purchase the service from the airlines companies that previously occupied the routes.

Sweden's tally stood at 7,206 with 477 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.

Norway

The COVID-19 epidemic is under control in Norway, the Nordic country's health minister said on Monday, pointing to the low rate of transmission of the disease.

A person carrying the novel coronavirus in Norway contaminates now on average 0.7 other individual, Bent Hoeie told a news conference. The government's goal was to limit the spread to maximum one other person.

The government will decide on Wednesday whether to extend ongoing restrictions, including the closures of schools and nurseries, beyond mid-April.

Hungary

Hungary's government will put around 500 billion forints (US$1.51 billion) worth of state guarantees behind preferential loans granted to Hungarian firms to help them weather the coronavirus crisis, a senior minister said on Tuesday.

Hungary's Minister of Innovation and Technology Laszlo Palkovics said at a news conference that the government would grant loans to companies worth about 2 trillion forints.

Brazil

Brazil's southeast state of Sao Paulo, the most populated and hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, has decided to extend lockdown measures through April 22, Governor Joao Doria said on Monday.

"No gatherings of people will be allowed," said Doria, warning "the police will be able to take action to prevent people from gathering in public places."

Of Brazil's total number of 486 fatalities from the virus as of late Sunday, 275 were in Sao Paulo, which is home to 46 million people.

The state has also registered 4,620 cases of infection out of the 11,130 reported nationwide.

Workers disinfect a street in Mexico City, Mexico, April 6, 2020. (FRANCISCO CANEDO / XINHUA)

Mexico

Mexico’s health ministry on Tuesday warned that the country was facing an acute shortage of doctors as the country seeks to ramp up hospital care to fight the fast-spreading novel coronavirus outbreak.

Mexico registered 296 new coronavirus infections, bringing the country's total to 2,439 cases and 125 deaths, health officials said at a news conference.

Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said the country's predicament would become more dire after April 30, when the "epidemic curve" would begin rising.

Panama

Panama has registered 112 new coronavirus infections, bringing the country's total to 2,100 confirmed cases and 55 deaths, the health ministry said on Monday.

Colombia

Colombia will extend a nationwide quarantine meant to stem the transmission of the coronavirus until April 27, President Ivan Duque said on Monday.

More than 1,500 people have been confirmed infected with the coronavirus in Colombia and 46 have died. Infection numbers are lower than initially expected, Health Minister Fernando Ruiz said during the broadcast.

The country expected to have over 5,700 cases by Saturday, Ruiz said, but had reached just over 1,400 by that day.

El Salvador

The president of El Salvador warned on Monday that security forces had been ordered to enforce quarantine orders more rigorously to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, confining offenders to "containment centers" and confiscating their cars.

President Nayib Bukel also said that national quarantine measures would be extended by 15 days, without specifying the precise date when they would end. Bukele also outlined a plan to track down people who are carriers of the virus and place them in observation.

The country has confirmed 78 cases of the virus, with four deaths so far.

Russia

The number of coronavirus cases in Russia rose by more than 1,000 for the first time to reach 7,497 in the past 24 hours, the country's crisis response centre said on Tuesday.

The number of reported cases rose by 1,154 while deaths rose by 11 to 58, the centre said.

Russia on Monday said it had resumed some international flights to repatriate its citizens after having suspended all flights last week to curb a potential new wave of coronavirus infections.

The operational centre monitoring the outbreak said two flights carrying Russian nationals - one from the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek and one from Dhaka, Bangladesh - were going ahead on Monday.

South Africa

South Africa on Monday reported 31 more COVID-19 cases as massive community testing was gaining momentum, raising the total to 1,686 with 12 deaths, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said.

Thousands of health workers have been deployed across the country, going door to door to ask people standard questions.

Depending on the answers, some people will be asked to take a test for the virus.

As of Monday, 58,098 tests have been conducted in both public and private sectors, according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

Portugal

Portugal will boost its credit lines for businesses struggling with the coronavirus outbreak to 4.2 billion euros on Wednesday, the government said, after a state aid package from the European Commission helped shore up the country's finances.

The additional funds are earmarked for firms in the commerce and services sector, Economy Minister Pedro Siza Vieira said at a news conference late on Monday. Freight and passenger transport will also be added to the list of eligible sectors, he added.

Earlier on Monday, Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa called for national unity to overcome the ongoing public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which he described as the biggest challenge in the past 100 years.

"We have had many social, economic and financial challenges, many crises, but this is the biggest challenge in the field of life and health in the last 100 years, in size and duration of time," said the president.

The Directorate-General for Health (DGS) announced on Monday that 311 people have died from COVID-19, and 11,730 have been infected so far.

Greece

Greece on Monday reported the lowest number of coronavirus cases since March 12, indicating a flattening of the curve, but warned against complacency.

The country reported 20 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the total number of patients with the virus to 1,755. Seventy-nine people have died.

Greece has imposed a nationwide lockdown and banned arrivals from non-EU countries as well as Germany, Italy and Spain. 

"I think it's clear to us that in the past few days there is a slowdown and we expect to see a reduction, which means the measures are showing results," said Professor Sotiris Tsiodras, the government's chief scientific adviser on the coronavirus.

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe will allow citizens to access remittances from the diaspora and permit farmers to take their produce to the market, easing a three-week coronavirus lockdown.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has risen to 10 in the country after one more person tested positive for the virus, the Ministry of Health and Child Care said Monday.

The other nine COVID-19 patients are under quarantine at home and recovering, according to the ministry.

Libya

The National Center for Disease Control of Libya's UN-backed government on Monday announced the country's first COVID-19 recovery.

The center also announced a new COVID-19 case, bringing the tally in the country to 19.

The country reported its first death from COVID-19 on Thursday.

Chile

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera on Monday inaugurated a hospital in southern Chile to bolster the region's capacity to tackle the COVID-19 epidemic.

The hospital in Padre Las Casas, a town in the La Araucania region, one of the most affected by the outbreak, makes 280 beds available for the area's 380,000 residents.

To date, 4,815 Chileans have tested positive for COVID-19, which has claimed 37 lives. 

Morocco

Morocco made wearing face masks mandatory starting on Tuesday for anyone allowed to go out during the coronavirus outbreak, the government said.

Morocco has so far reported 1,120 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 80 deaths and 81 recoveries.

Also on Monday, the government lifted the country's US$3-billion ceiling on external loans in order to borrow more amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The measure will allow the North African country to benefit from additional loans from international institutions, such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank, and will also help the government offset an expected sharp drop in the international reserves.

Denmark

The promised "gradual and controlled" reopening of Denmark will begin on April 15, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said Monday.

Daycares, kindergartens and elementary school will be reopening from April 15 "if we keep the figures stable," announced Frederiksen.

People will remain working at home, as cinemas, hairdressers and major shopping centers stay closed and gatherings of more than ten people in one place remain forbidden until May 10. Large assemblies such as festivals are now officially prohibited until August, said Frederiksen.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Denmark has reached 4,681, while the death toll increased to 187, according to the Statens Serum Institut. 

Egypt

Egypt reported on Monday 149 new COVID-19 cases and seven more deaths, bringing the death toll to 85.

Khaled Megahed, spokesman for Egyptian Health Ministry, said that the total number of coronavirus infections in the country has climbed to 1,322.

He added that 12 more patients, including 11 Egyptians and a foreign lady, fully recovered from the virus, bringing the number of recoveries to 259.

Switzerland


The Swiss death toll from the new coronavirus has reached 641, the country's public health agency said on Tuesday, rising from 584 people on Monday.

The number of positive tests also increased to 22,242 people from 21,652 on Monday, it said. The government is due to give an update later on Tuesday on the epidemic situation.

Switzerland's largest ever aid package launched to counter the economic impact of the coronavirus epidemic should help the country avoid a massive wave of joblessness, the head of the government's labour department said on Tuesday.

Under the so-called "Kurzarbeit" scheme - part of Switzerland's 62 billion Swiss franc (US$63.7 billion) aid package - employees get 80 percent of their wages from the government.

Although the unemployment rate will rise in the weeks ahead, measures like the extended short-time working compensation scheme will ease the burden on companies and workers, Boris Zuercher said.

Switzerland's jobless rate rose to 2.9 percent in March from 2.5 percent in February.

Tunisia

The Tunisian Health Ministry announced Monday that the number of COVID-19 cases in Tunisia has risen to 596 after 22 new cases were confirmed.

A total of 22 deaths have been reported in the country so far, the ministry said.

Czech Republic

The Czech government on Monday decided to gradually ease the measures adopted recently for the prevention of the rapid spread of COVID-19.

Starting from Tuesday, running and cycling in open areas will be allowed without a mask. 

From Thursday, people will be able to visit hobby markets, hardware stores, building materials and bicycle shops. 

In addition, from April 14, the current ban on traveling from the Czech Republic will be slightly lifted, said the government. 

As of Monday evening, there have been 4,735 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country, with 121 recoveries and 78 deaths.

Slovenia

Slovenia reported 24 new coronavirus cases in a day, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 1,021 with 30 virus-related deaths, the latest statistics released by the government on Monday showed.

Algeria

Algeria on Monday reported 103 new cases of COVID-19 and 21 more deaths, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 1,423 and the death toll to 173.

Albania

The residents of Albania's capital have to go through disinfection tunnels at the entries and exits of main markets when shopping for vegetables and fruits there starting from Monday, a stringent measure imposed by the government in the framework of preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

As of Monday, Tirana has a total of 177 COVID-19 confirmed cases, according to health authorities. 

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases climbed to 377 in Albania with 22 fatalities as of Monday, of which 22 were fatalities, Mira Rakacolli, deputy minister of health and social protection, said.

Lithuania

Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said Monday that his government will impose travel ban between cities and towns during the upcoming festive Easter weekend.

According to the data from the National Public Health Surveillance Laboratory, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Lithuania climbed to 843 as of Monday morning.

Since the beginning of the outbreak in Lithuania, 14 people have died, while seven have recovered.  

Guinea-Bissau

Guinea-Bissau reported 15 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the number of confirmed cases to 33, Tumane Balde, spokesman for the Interministerial Commission of COVID-19 prevention and control, announced on Monday.

Kenya

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday ordered a halt to all movement in parts of the country affected by the new coronavirus, including the capital Nairobi, a tightening of measures to stem the spread of the outbreak.

The order includes a ban on all entry into and exit out of the areas affected.

Other areas of the country where movement has been restricted include the coastal city of Mombasa and the counties of Kilifi and Kwale.

Kenya has reported 158 coronavirus cases and six deaths, with four individuals declared fully recovered.

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