The Latest: Britain says too early to tell if virus peaked
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
—Britain's Health Secretary says it's too early to tell whether the peak of infections there has passed.
—Japan broadens request for people to stay away from bars and restaurants nationwide.
LONDON -- British Heath Secretary Matt Hancock says it is too soon to determine whether the peak of coronavirus infections in the country has passed.
That's despite data suggesting that the rate of increase in the number of people being hospitalized with the COVID-19 disease is leveling out.
Hancock tells BBC radio that the “good news” is that the number of hospital admissions shows signs of flattening out. However, he says the government requires more evidence before it can start making changes to its lockdown measures.
Britain has been in lockdown for nearly three weeks and the government is expected to extend the restrictions in coming days.
On Friday, the government said a total of 8,958 people had died in hospital after testing positive for the new coronavirus, up 980 from the previous day. That daily increase was bigger than anything witnessed in Italy and Spain, the two European countries with the greatest number of coronavirus-linked fatalities.
Hancock also says that 19 front-line workers in the National Health Service have died after contracting the virus.
TOKYO — Japan has broadened a request for people to stay away from bars, clubs and restaurants across the whole country.
The measure previously covered seven urban areas, including Tokyo.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says at a meeting of the national coronavirus task force that “many cases of infections have been confirmed at places where people are going out at night, and that spread is nationwide.”
Japan's state of emergency, issued April 7, carries no penalties but asks people to stay home as much as possible.
Abe reiterated his plea for companies to allow people to work from home, stressing that commuter train crowds had thinned, but more was needed. Although department stores and movie theaters have closed, some retail chains are still open.
Japan has about 6,000 coronavirus cases, and about 100 deaths. Worries are growing cases will surge dramatically, and hospitals will be overloaded. The Tokyo city government has asked pachinko parlors and karaoke bars to close but allows small “izakaya” bars and barbershops to stay open.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- Police in Sri Lanka say they are trying to stop people swapping instructions for how to produce illicit liquor during a curfew imposed due to the new coronavirus.
Liquor stores and bars are closed under Sri Lanka’s curfew measures. That has caused black market liquor prices to triple.
Posts on social media like Facebook and WhatsApp have been widely shared with tips for producing moonshine using locally available items such as sugar, coconut water and yeast.
Police spokesman Ajith Rohana says that people who promote consumption of liquor or methods to produce it could face a prison sentence of up to two years. He says special teams are examining posts on social media.
Sri Lanka has recorded 197 cases of the new coronavirus and seven infected people have died. Nearly 20,000 people have been arrested for curfew violations.
SYDNEY — About 1,300 Australian travelers being kept in mandatory quarantine in Sydney ended their two-week confinement in time for the Easter Sunday holiday. They had arrived at Sydney International Airport after a government-ordered clampdown on March 29 and were finishing their 14-day quarantine, New South Wales police said.
They will undergo a final health check before they are allowed to leave for their homes around the country. Police are overseeing the departures, assisted by health authorities, the Australian defense force and hotel staff.
Buses will run to Sydney’s airport throughout the day, but some won’t be able to return to their home states on Saturday due to flight schedules.
The New South Wales health minister issued an order directing all overseas arrivals to go directly to a quarantine facility from March 29 to combat the new coronavirus pandemic.
SEOUL, South Korea -- In a controversial step, South Korea’s government says it will strap electronic wristbands on people who defy self-quarantine orders as it tightens monitoring to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
Senior Health Ministry official Yoon Tae-ho on Saturday acknowledged the privacy and civil liberty concerns surrounding the bands, which will be enforced through police and local administrative officials after two weeks of preparation and manufacturing.
But he said authorities need more effective monitoring tools because the number of people placed under self-quarantine has ballooned after the country began enforcing 14-day quarantines on all passengers arriving from abroad on April 1 amid worsening outbreaks in Europe and the United States.
Lee Beom-seok, an official from the Ministry of the Interior and Safety, admitted that the legal grounds for forcing people to wear the wristbands were “insufficient” and that police and local officials will offer consent forms for the devices while investigating those who were caught breaking quarantine.
Under the country’s recently strengthened laws on infectious diseases, people can face up to a year in prison or fined as much as $8,200 for breaking quarantine orders. Lee said those who agree to wear the wristbands could be possibly considered for lighter punishment.