By The Associated Press
The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 428,000 people and killed over 19,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. 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 109,000 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.
TOP OF THE HOUR:
— Canada orders returning travelers to self-isolate, offers cash to affected workers.
— Cuomo: 3,800 hospitalized in New York.
— London City Airport closes, offers aid.
TORONTO — Canada announced Wednesday it is imposing mandatory self-isolation for those returning to the country under the Quarantine Act.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu said on Twitter that the government is making it mandatory to better protect Canada’s most vulnerable.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the requirement will begin at midnight Wednesday and last for 14 days.
LONDON — London City Airport, which is widely by business people for short-haul journeys to Europe, will suspend operations for commercial and private flights until the end of April but said it is ready to help out in the coronavirus relief effort.
The airport, which handles around 5.1 million passengers a year, said it has made the decision after a dramatic collapse in demand. It said it could remain open to support emergency flights or the military or other government agencies.
“At this time of national crisis, we stand ready to keep the aerodrome open and to work with the emergency services and government to support the relief effort in any way we can to ensure that people and communities get the vital care they need,” CEO Robert Sinclair said.
One potential use could be helping out the nearby 4,000-bed NHS Nightingale Hospital, which will open next week at the Excel Centre. The military is helping in its construction.
London is the hotspot of the pandemic in the U.K.
CANNES, France — The French Riviera city of Cannes has opened the doors of the site of the city’s world-famed film festival to the homeless. Converting the Palais des Festivales into a shelter is aimed at helping those without a roof respect confinement measures in France to fight the spread of the coronavirus.
The ground floor of the Palais des Festivales, home of the annual gathering of stardust and glitter, can hold up to 80 homeless people. There, they can shower, sleep, eat and even keep their dogs in a kennel in a hall. The homeless center opened Friday, and the town hall said that 61 people were present on Tuesday.
Social distancing and sanitary considerations are assured at the center, according to a statement.
The homeless are particularly challenged by the confinement orders, which risk continuing for weeks. Empty streets mean that handouts vital to many homeless people to survive have evaporated.
The Cannes Film Festival originally set for May 12-23 has been postponed.
LOS ANGELES — Immigrant advocates on Wednesday asked a federal court in Los Angeles to order the Office of Refugee Resettlement to release unaccompanied immigrant children held in government-contracted shelters for more than 30 days to eligible sponsors to help protect them, and the public, from the coronavirus.
Two staff members from such facilities in New York have already tested positive for the virus, and children typically share rooms, participate in required group activities and eat together, advocates said in court papers.
Advocates said about a third of the 3,600 children currently in custody have been there for at least 30 days and want the court to order them released to fitting sponsors who can take them.
“The urgency here cannot be overstated,” Leecia Welch, senior director of child welfare and legal advocacy at the National Center for Youth Law. “Without immediate steps to reduce the population of youth in congregate care and strict adherence to social distancing, many ORR facilities could become sites of massive infection.”
The Office of Refugee Resettlement declined to comment on the litigation but said in a statement that its priority is to unify children with suitable sponsors as quickly and safely as possible. Facilities that house unaccompanied children are required to check their temperatures twice daily and have received guidance regarding the coronavirus, the statement said.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — World-renowned Dutch flower garden Keukenhof will not open this year after the Dutch government extended its ban on gatherings to June 1 in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“This means that Keukenhof cannot open in 2020,” the popular attraction, which only opens during the flowering season in spring, announced Wednesday.
The garden in the middle of the Dutch bulb fields had been due to open March 21, but that date was canceled due to restrictions that initially were put in place until early April.
“The park is already blooming beautifully and will become even more beautiful in the coming weeks,” the garden said in a statement. Instead of opening, it will allow people to virtually visit its colorful floral displays through its social media and online channels.
SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico health officials on Wednesday announced the state’s first death related to the coronavirus.
The man in his late 70s was hospitalized in southeastern New Mexico on Sunday and died the same day as his condition deteriorated rapidly.
The state Health Department said he had multiple underlying conditions. Confirmed infections in New Mexico have climbed past 100 with schools shut down and a stay-at-home order in effect.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called it a tragic day and urged residents to stay home and take precautions to limit the spread of the COVID-19 disease.
“For anyone in our state who had not yet acknowledged this virus as the urgent public health crisis that it is, who has not accepted the extremely compelling need to stay home, today lays bare the very real, very life-or-death consequences of this disease,” she said.
MOSCOW — Russia has reported its first deaths from the novel coronavirus infection, two elderly patients who also had underlying conditions.
The commission directing Russia’s response to the virus said Wednesday the patients died of pneumonia and were 88 and 73 years old.
Russia has reported 658 cases of infection nationwide. Last week an infected patient died, but doctors said that was due to a blood clot rather than the virus itself.
TALLINN, Estonia — Health officials in Estonia have confirmed the Baltic nation’s first coronavirus death. Officials said an 83-year-old woman treated with other illnesses died in a hospital in western Estonia.
Estonia, a small nation of 1.3 million, has reported over 400 coronavirus cases so far.
The Estonian government led by Prime Minister Juri Ratas on Tuesday imposed new coronavirus-related restrictions for citizens. They include a requirement to keep a 2-meter (7-foot) distance from each other in public spaces, a ban of meetings of more than two people and a closure of shopping malls and limits to opening hours of bars and restaurants.
UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has launched a $2 billion appeal to help vulnerable and conflict-torn countries in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and South America tackle the coronavirus pandemic and prevent COVID-19 from again circling the globe.
The U.N. chief called the amount a “drop in the ocean,” noting Wednesday that the U.S. Senate is seeking $2 trillion for the U.S. economy.
U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock announced a $60 million contribution from the U.N.’s emergency relief fund to kick-start the appeal.
Guterres said $2 billion is essential to keep economies and health systems in the developing world afloat to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. He said it will also help countries already in the midst of a humanitarian crisis caused by conflicts, natural disasters and climate change.
He said, “The worst thing that could happen is to suppress the disease in developed countries and let it spread like fire in the developing world.”
BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel has again tested negative for the new coronavirus.
Merkel went into quarantine Sunday after learning that a doctor who had administered a vaccination to her two days earlier was tested positive for COVID-19.
Merkel’s office said Wednesday that the 65-year-old has now tested negative twice and will receive a further test next week.
Her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said Merkel is continuing her work from home, including taking part in video meetings with other world leaders.
ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state has climbed to 3,800, with close to 900 in intensive care.
New York officials are keeping a close eye on already-stressed hospitals as the number of cases is projected to rise for perhaps three more weeks.
Cuomo said Wednesday that as many as 140,000 hospital beds may be needed in a state with 53,000. The state has more than 30,000 confirmed cases and 285 deaths. The nation-high figures are driven mostly by New York City.
TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government will offer $2,000 Canadian (U.S. $1,395) a month, for the next four months, for workers who lose their income as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Trudeau says Canada is facing a once-in-a-generation challenge and noted that one million Canadians applied for employment insurance in a week.
Trudeau says if a Canadian loses their job because of COVID-19 — whether they are full-time, contract, or self-employed — the new benefit is available. He says if you are sick or quarantined, or looking after someone sick, the benefit is available. And he says even if a worker is still employed, but not receiving income because of the crisis, the benefit is available.
The prime minister also says his government will also announce supports to keep journalists working.
Trudeau made the remarks outside his residence where he is self-isolating after his wife tested positive for the virus. He says his wife is doing “much much better” and he and his kids have no symptoms.
SANTA FE, N.M. — The Santa Fe New Mexican has announced nearly a dozen layoffs, salary reductions and a shortened workweek amid an economic downturn caused by the spread of COVID-19.
Publisher Tom Cross said Tuesday the moves are intended to keep the family-owned newspaper, its website and other operations as healthy as possible while the media outlet deals with a decline in advertisements.
Under the plan, New Mexican managers will see reduced salaries and staff will have reductions in hours worked. The newspaper will publish seven days a week and will continue its commercial printing operations. The newspaper has been in business since 1849.
LONDON — Irish Health Minister Simon Harris says two people approached him in public and deliberately coughed in his face.
Harris says he was targeted Tuesday when walking to his department in Dublin.
“A man and woman on the street thought it was hilariously funny to come up and cough at me out loud and run off laughing,” he said.
In recent days, a challenge has emerged on social media for young people to post videos of themselves coughing into people’s faces.
Harris called it “quite pathetic” and anything similar on social media will be dealt with the “full levers” of the state’s powers.
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has postponed a nationwide vote on proposed constitutional amendments that include allowing him to seek another term in power.
Putin didn’t set a new date for the vote originally scheduled for April 22, saying it would depend on how the new coronavirus pandemic develops.
He also announced during a televised address to the nation that the government doesn’t want Russians, except those working in essential sectors, going to work next week. He says stores, pharmacies and banks will stay open.
“Health, life and safety of the people is an absolute priority for us,” Putin said.
Russian authorities reported 658 cases of the virus on Wednesday, with 163 new cases registered since the previous day. That marked a significantly larger daily increase from previous days.
LONDON — One of the scientists advising the British government on the coronavirus pandemic says the outbreak will likely peak in Britain in about three weeks.
Imperial College London epidemiologist Neil Ferguson says he’s “reasonably confident” the country’s health system can cope.
Ferguson, who sits on the Scientific Advice Group for Emergencies, says without the lockdown measures imposed by the government this week, the demand for intensive care hospital beds would have exceeded the supply threefold — even with thousands more beds being set up in response to the pandemic.
But if the measures are adhered to, he says “we are reasonably confident — which is all we can be at the current time — that at the national level we will be within capacity.”
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has reaffirmed the need to protect all life, rallying Christians around the world to pray together for those sick with the coronavirus and the medical personnel who are caring for them.
Francis presided over a global noontime prayer Wednesday, in which he begged for God’s mercy amid the pandemic.
The prayer fell on the 25th anniversary of a landmark Vatican document reaffirming the inviolability of all human life from conception to natural death. Francis dedicated his comments to the document, which strongly reaffirmed church teaching opposing abortion and euthanasia.
Francis says it is imperative to “relaunch this teaching in the context of a pandemic that threatens human life and the global economy.”
Some conservative Christian commentators, as well as U.S. President Donald Trump, have warned the consequences of the financial shutdown aimed at preventing the virus’ spread and protecting the elderly and sick are worse than the virus itself.
LONDON — Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, has tested positive for the new coronavirus.
The prince’s Clarence House office says the 71-year-old is showing mild symptoms of COVID-19 and is self-isolating at a royal estate in Scotland.
It says his wife Camilla has tested negative.
The palace says Charles “has been displaying mild symptoms but otherwise remains in good health and has been working from home throughout the last few days as usual.”
MADRID — Spain has now the world’s second highest tally of coronavirus deaths after a 738 spike was recorded Wednesday, the highest so far in one day. With 3,434, Spain surpassed China’s 3,285 and has more than half of Italy’s 6,820.
Infections also rose on Wednesday by 20% from a day earlier to 47,610, Spain’s Ministry of Health announced. More than 5,000 people have recovered, the ministry said.
The outbreak has hit Spain and put a tragic strain on its healthcare system, especially in the central region around Madrid, with one third of the positive cases and roughly half of the casualties.
WASHINGTON — The White House and Senate leaders of both U.S. political parties have struck an agreement on a sweeping $2 trillion measure to aid workers, businesses and a health care system strained by the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak.
Top White House aide Eric Ueland announced the agreement in a Capitol hallway shortly after midnight. The agreement comes after days of often intense haggling and mounting pressure and still needs to be finalized in detailed legislative language.
The unprecedented economic rescue package would give direct payments to most Americans, expand unemployment benefits and provide a $367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home.
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