The Latest: Spain reports fewest daily deaths for a month
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:
— Spain reports 410 deaths in last 24 hours, fewest daily since March 22
— Italy to indicate “in coming days” if restrictions will be loosened
— More than a thousand sailors contract virus on France’s flagship aircraft carrier
MADRID — Spain has reported its lowest daily death total for confirmed coronavirus victims in nearly a month as the country contains a savage outbreak that has killed more than 20,000 people there.
Spanish health officials said Sunday another 410 people have died in the last 24 hours. That is the lowest daily death toll since March 22. It takes the total to 20,453 virus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Spain also reported 4,218 confirmed new cases, pushing the total to 195,944 — second only to the United States.
Top health official Fernando Simón said the latest data gives Spain hope, adding that it shows "the rate of contagion has fallen and that we are on the correct path.”
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced Saturday he will seek a two-week extension of the state of emergency that is set to run out next week. But he also said that the government will begin to allow children to leave their homes from April 27.
ROME — Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte is promising a clear indication ‘’in the coming days’’ of loosened restrictions in the so-called Phase II of the country's response to the virus outbreak.
It is expected to allow more freedom of movement and an easing of the industrial shutdown.
Conte met with regional governors this weekend and told the right-wing conservative daily il Giornale in an interview published Sunday that ‘’we are working on some proposals to loosen the measures in a way that we can ‘live with’ the virus in the coming months in conditions of maximum security.’’
Italy’s lockdown runs through May 3. Regional governors in the hardest-hit north, which is also the nation’s economic engine, have been pushing to reopen more non-essential industry, which has been on shutdown since March 26.
Schools are expected to remain closed until September, while there is no indication yet of how Italy might be able to relaunch tourism, even domestically.
Conte said it is important to keep the curve of infection down and continue to ease pressure on hospitals and intensive care units.
Italy was the first western country to be struck by the virus and has registered the most deaths in Europe, at 23,227.
SOFIA, Bulgaria — The Bulgarian Orthodox Church has resisted calls to close churches for Easter.
It has urged worshippers to pray at home rather than going to church, however, following demands by health authorities.
The main Easter services will be broadcast live on television.
PARIS — Figures from France's military leadership show more than half the sailors aboard the country's flagship aircraft carrier contracted the new virus as the ship traveled through the Mediterranean Sea, the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
A navy official says 1,046 of the 1,760 people aboard the Charles de Gaulle tested positive for the virus.
Navy Chief of Staff Adm. Christophe Prazuck attributed the quick spread to the “great population density aboard the ship.”
Speaking Saturday evening to Europe-1 radio, Prazuck said virus protection measures weren’t followed properly, which “did not allow us to detect the beginning of the epidemic, and therefore to contain it.”
The ship is undergoing a lengthy disinfection process since returning to its home base in Toulon last week.
One person who served aboard is in intensive care and more than 20 others are hospitalized. Among those infected are two U.S. sailors serving as part of an exchange program.
Investigations are underway into what happened, and French military leaders have been questioned in parliament.
A similar outbreak on the USS Theodore Roosevelt led to the firing of its captain and the resignation of the acting U.S. Navy secretary.
BERLIN — Germany is holding virtual commemorations for the liberation of two Nazi concentration camps 75 years ago, as long-planned anniversary events have had to be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Before the outbreak occurred, dozens of survivors had planned to attend the ceremonies.
In a video message, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas recalled the over 20,000 people who died at Sachsenhausen concentration camp north of Berlin, noting that a minute’s silence for each of the victims would take two weeks.
Many of those killed at Sachsenhausen were Soviet soldiers. The camp was also used to intern Jews, political prisoners, gay people and Jehovah’s Witnesses from more than 40 countries.
The virtual ceremony also commemorated the liberation of nearby Ravensbrueck concentration camp.
Germany’s culture minister, Monika Gruetters, said the current closure of memorial sites due to the pandemic made it particularly important to hold virtual ceremonies and recall the atrocities committed by the Nazis.
Numerous further ceremonies are being affected by the lockdowns imposed to curb the virus spreading, including the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II on May 8.
CAIRO — Pope Tawadros II, the spiritual leader of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Christians, has held Easter services in an empty monastery in the desert amid coronavirus restrictions which kept the faithful from gathering at churches and monasteries across the country.
The services were held at the Monastery of Saint Pishoy, in a desert valley west of Cairo known as Wadi Natrun. Few clergies attended the services, which aired on Coptic Orthodox television station. The clerics were seen practicing social distancing during the prayers.
The Coptic Orthodox Church, one of the world’s oldest Christian communities, decided this month to suspend Easter prayers and celebrations at churches and monasteries because of the spread of the virus.
Christians constitute around 10% of Egypt’s more than 100 million predominantly Muslim population. Egypt has 3,032 cases including 224 deaths.
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Two dozen crew members of a Taiwanese naval ship have tested positive for the new coronavirus after returning from a nearly two-month training mission that took them to the Pacific island nation of Palau.
Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control said Sunday that 21 more cases had been identified from a refueling ship, on top of three reported Saturday. More than 700 officers and sailors from the refueling ship and the two warships that took part in the mission are in quarantine for 14 days.
The CDC said that a Taiwanese student returning from the United States had also tested positive. That brought the total for Sunday to 22, an upward spike for the self-governing island. New cases had fallen to single digits in the past week, including three days in which none were reported.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s prime minister says the country will maintain much of its social distancing guidelines until May 5 but will relax some limits.
The comments by Chung Sye-kyun came hours after South Korea’s health authorities reported eight more coronavirus cases, the first time a daily increase has dropped to a single digit in about two months.
Chung says the government will stop “strongly advising” religious organizations, gyms and bars to suspend their operations and allow less risky outdoor public facilities, like recreational parks, to be reopened.
He says outdoor sports games also can be held if there are no spectators. He says the government will allow a limited number of essential employment- and license-related examinations to take place if stringent quarantine steps are in place.
Despite a recent continued downward trend, Chung says that “it’s definitely not time to feel relieved.”
While saying South Korea must find ways to revitalize the economy, Chung says the government will toughen its social distancing rules if the danger of a spread of the virus increases again.
ISLAMABAD — Even as Pakistan’s daily confirmed cases inches upward, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government buckled to pressure from religious clerics refusing to order mosques throughout the country closed during Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.
Pakistan recorded 7,993 confirmed cases on Sunday, an increase of 514. Sixteen people died of the virus in the last 24 hours bringing the death toll to 159. But in Pakistan religious clerics have become a powerful force, holding sway often using fear of bringing mobs onto the street as leverage to force the government to bow to their demands.
Pakistan has been blamed for contributing to the outbreak of the virus in other parts of the world including Gaza after it refused to stop a gathering of tens of thousands of Tableeghi Jamaat (Islamic missionaries) until early March. By the time it was cancelled thousands were already in Pakistan and many returned to their countries infected. In Pakistan there are still several hundred of the Tableeghi jamaat in quarantine because they tested positive and hundreds more who spread throughout the country carrying the virus.
By some estimates nearly 2,000 confirmed cases in Pakistan can be traced to the Tableeghi Jamaat. Yet Khan’s government agreed Saturday to leave the mosques open and instead requesting the faithful to practice safe social distancing. The request is not likely to be followed after several prominent religious clerics called for adherents to pack the mosques.
TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s unpopular handouts of old-fashioned cloth masks as part of his coronavirus measures faced complaints, as thousands of those sent to pregnant women were dirty..
The health ministry said over the weekend that it has received at least 1,900 cases of the problems reported by 80 municipalities that the masks came with stains, dust and other contamination. The dirty masks were among a half million masks that the government started sending to pregnant women in Japan as a priority last week. Abe announced a plan on April 1 to mail two cloth masks each to all 50 million households in Japan amid dire shortage of masks.
The faulty masks were the latest embarrassment for Abe’s government already criticized for its coronavirus measures inadequate, off-target, too little and too late.
The cloth masks also seem to have a size problem. When the masks also arrived at elderly care centers, television talk shows showed some caregivers struggling to fit the mask, saying the it was too small to cover both nose and mouth at the same time.
The ministry said it has urged mask makers to resolve the contamination problem, while asking municipal officials to visually inspect the masks before mailing them.
SINGAPORE — Fast-food giant McDonald’s says it will suspend all operations in Singapore for two weeks from Sunday after seven of its employees tested positive for the coronavirus.
McDonald’s said in a Facebook post it decided to follow the health ministry’s advise to shutdown until May 4 when Singapore’s partial lockdown ends as part of a preventative action in the battle against the COVID-19 outbreak. It said it would continue to pay the salary of 10,000 employees working in more than 135 outlets across the city-state during this period.
The fast-food chain, which serves six million customers every month, didn’t give further details. Seven of its employees working in several outlets have been diagnosed with the virus in the past week.
The city-state Saturday reported a record daily jump of 942 new infections, the highest one-day spike seen in Southeast Asia, to bring its total to 5,992. The government has made it mandatory for people to wear masks outside them homes and imposed strict social distancing measures.