The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 235,000 people and killed more than 9,700. 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 84,500 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.
TOP OF THE HOUR:
-Italy passes China for most coronavirus-related deaths.
-UN Secretary-General: World “is at war with a virus.”
-Queen Elizabeth II urging British people to “work as one” to defeat virus.
BELGRADE, Serbia – Serbia is closing its borders for all but cargo traffic in an effort to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said the measure takes effect on Friday.
The Balkan country on Thursday closed its main airport in Belgrade for all passenger flights and the national carrier Air Serbia stopped operations.
Officials say the closure of the borders was made partly because some 70,000 Serbs and their families working in West European countries have returned to Serbia in the last few days despite appeals by authorities not to do so.
Serbia, with 103 coronavirus cases confirmed so far, has introduced some of the toughest restrictive measures in Europe. They include an overnight curfew for all citizens and a ban on leaving their homes for all those older than 65.
PRAGUE – The funeral of Dana Zatopkova, an Olympic javelin champion and the wife of running great Emil Zatopek, will be held at a secret location on Friday due the outbreak of the coronavirus.
The Czech Olympic Committee said the organizers wanted to prevent a gathering of many people, which is now banned, who would like to say goodbye to the popular athlete who died Friday at age 97.
“Under the normal circumstances, we would, of course, like everyone who want to pay respect to her to come,” said Jiri Kejval, the head of the Czech Olympic Committee.
Kejval said a mass will be served for Zatopkova once the crisis with the virus is over and her remains will be buried alongside her late husband in the town of Roznov pod Radhostem in September.
TORONTO – Canada’s foreign minister is being tested for the coronavirus after experiencing flu-like symptoms after traveling.
Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne said on Twitter he is self-isolating at home for 14 days and says he expects the results of his test very shortly.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is already self-isolating at his residence after his wife tested positive following a trip to London.
Champagne says he will continue to work to support Canadians facing difficulties abroad and to help coordinate the international response to the crisis.
MIAMI – Carnival Corp. says it will make cruise ships from four of its brands available to serve as temporary hospitals in locations that need them to combat the new coronavirus.
The announcement came after President Donald Trump said at a White House news conference he had spoken with Carnival Chairman Micky Arison about the possibility.
The world’s largest cruise line says its ships could serve mainly to treat non-coronavirus patients, freeing up beds in land-based hospitals for those patients. The company says ships can provide up to 1,000 hospital rooms and are able to be quickly provisioned with the necessary medical equipment, including intensive care units.
Carnival crew would provide such things as food and beverage, and cleaning services, with local medical personnel to handle the treatment of patients, the statement said.
Trump said at a White House briefing that he would present the offer to New York and California during a teleconference later Thursday will all 50 governors.
Two Navy hospital ships also will become part of the effort.
BASSE TERRE, Guadeloupe – The French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe has declared its own COVID-19 epidemic with 45 confirmed cases.
The local government said Thursday that eight patients remain hospitalized as it urged people to remain indoors on the island of some 390,000 people. The curfew applies to places including beaches and waters surrounding the island.
Guadeloupe banned all incoming commercial passenger flights on Wednesday and starting March 23 will restrict outgoing flights to special circumstances including health-related reasons.
ROME – Italy has become the country with the most coronavirus-related deaths, surpassing China by registering 3,405 dead.
Italy reached the gruesome milestone on the same day the epicenter of the pandemic, Wuhan, China, recorded no new infections. Overall, China on Thursday counted 3,249 dead, 156 fewer than Italy, according to the Johns Hopkins University virus map.
Both Italy’s death toll and its new infections shot up again, adding 427 more dead and 5,322 more infections. Overall, Italy has recorded 41,035 infections, a little more than half of China’s positive cases.
Italy’s health care system has been overwhelmed by the virus, and on Thursday a visiting Chinese Red Cross team criticized the failure of Italians to fully quarantine and take the national lockdown seriously.
LONDON – Queen Elizabeth II has urged British people to “work as one” to defeat the coronavirus pandemic.
In a rare first-person message, the queen acknowledged that many individuals and families “are entering a period of great concern and uncertainty.“
“At times such as these, I am reminded that our nation’s history has been forged by people and communities coming together to work as one, concentrating our combined efforts with a focus on the common goal,” she said.
The queen thanked medics, scientists and emergency workers, and said “we all have a vitally important part to play” in overcoming the pandemic.
The 93-year-old monarch and her husband Prince Philip, 98, moved to their Windsor Castle residence on Thursday. They usually spend Easter there but have gone a week early, with a slimmed-down staff, because of the outbreak.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The Dutch medical care minister has resigned, a day after slumping to the floor during a parliamentary debate about the government’s handling of the coronavirus.
The Dutch royal house announced King Willem-Alexander had accepted Bruno Bruins’ resignation. It did not give a reason for the minister leaving office.
Bruins collapsed in parliament Wednesday night and was quickly helped to his feet by a fellow Cabinet minister. He later tweeted that he felt faint due to exhaustion and was heading home to rest so he could return to work Thursday.
Bruins has been one of the busiest ministers in government as Dutch authorities attempt to rein in the spread of the coronavirus.
UNITED NATIONS – U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the world “is at war with a virus” and warned that “a global recession – perhaps of record dimensions – is a near certainty.”
The U.N. chief said “people are suffering, sick and scared” and stressed that current responses by individual countries will not address “the global scale and complexity of the crisis.”
“This is a moment that demands coordinated, decisive, and innovative policy action from the world’s leading economies,” Guterres told reporters from U.N. headquarters. “We must recognize that the poorest countries and most vulnerable – especially women – will be the hardest hit.”
He welcomed next week’s emergency summit of leaders of the Group of 20 major economic powers to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic saying he will participate with the message that this is an unprecedented situation which requires creativity – “and the magnitude of the response must match its scale.”
BERLIN – German authorities have called off an official ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and the liberation from Nazi rule because of the coronavirus epidemic.
President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was due to speak at the event in Berlin on May 8. But the interior ministry said Steinmeier has decided the event shouldn’t go ahead in the current circumstances.
The ministry said that it hasn’t yet been decided how the anniversary of Nazi Germany’s surrender will now be marked.
Russia is still planning a massive May 9 military parade on Red Square marking the 75th anniversary of the World War II victory, the nation’s most important holiday. President Vladimir Putin has invited many global leaders.
LONDON – The Church of England says couples should scale back their special day because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Britain’s state-established Protestant church says church weddings should be attended only by the couple, the officiating minister and the two witnesses required by law. New guidance issued Thursday says attendees, apart from the couple, should observe as much distance as possible.
The church suggests the ceremony could be streamed online for those unable to attend, or couples could hold a public blessing once the outbreak is over. And it acknowledges that some couples may want to postpone their wedding altogether.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams is calling on Americans, particularly the younger generation, to consider donating blood to help assist healthcare providers battling the coronavirus outbreak.
The American Red Cross announced earlier this week that it faces a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations during the virus outbreak.
Adams said donating blood remains safe and blood centers are taking extra precautions based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
Israelis have stepped out onto their balconies and applauded health care personnel working to stop the coronavirus pandemic.
Around the country, despite rainy weather, Israelis came out to support medical staff, taking a cue from others in Europe who are taking at least a minute each night to come together in gratitude. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, joined in on the initiative.
Israel has identified more than 500 cases of the coronavirus. As elsewhere, Israeli medical staff risk infection as they try to keep the pandemic at bay.
Spain’s government is announcing new measures to deal with a wave of more than 80 deaths and hundreds of infections with the new coronavirus reported this week in elderly nursing homes across the country.
Pablo Iglesias, deputy prime minister in charge of social affairs, said Thursday that 300 million euros (323 million dollars) will be provided for regional governments to spend on additional social workers and caretakers in homes for the elderly.
Iglesias acknowledged that workers at these facilities are “overwhelmed,” and they are lacking needed protective suits and other medical material.
Authorities in Madrid, where 40% of the country’s more than 17,000 infections have been identified, are discussing whether to bring military medics and other army resources into the region’s nursing homes.
The Ministry of Health is also drafting a new series of guidelines for nursing homes to deal with infected patients. Many hospitals are reporting to be overwhelmed to deal with the influx of COVID-19 cases.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the Canada-U.S. border likely will be closed to all non-essential travel in both directions on Friday night. He says it will take “weeks to months” for social-distancing measures in his country to be lifted.
Both the U.S. and Canada have been in talks in recent days to negotiate a mutual halt to tourism and family visits but leaving the flow of trade intact. Canada relies on the U.S. for 75% of its exports and about 18% of American exports go to Canada. Much of Canada’s food supply comes from or via the U.S.
Trudeau says his government is following the advice of health experts and won’t lift restrictions on public activities and movements in Canada until it is safe to do so. Trudeau made his comments in front of his residence where he is self-isolating after his wife tested positive for the virus. Canada has about confirmed 770 cases and nine deaths.
MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin has discussed the coronavirus pandemic in a telephone call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
A Kremlin statement says Putin gave “a high assessment of the results achieved by the People’s Republic of China and the entire Chinese people in countering the spread of the disease.” The call came as the number of COVID-19 cases in Russia continues to grow, reaching 199 on Thursday. No deaths from pneumonia attributed to the disease have been reported in Russia.
MONTE CARLO, Monaco – The palace of Monaco says Prince Albert II has tested positive for the coronavirus, but says there’s little concern for his health.
In a statement, the palace says the 62-year-old is being treated by doctors from the Princess Grace Hospital, named after his U.S. actress mother.
Albert plans to continue working from his home office in the palace.
ATHENS, Greece – The government of Greece is ordering hotels to shut as part of measures to combat the spread of the new coronavirus.
The Tourism Ministry says hotels normally open year-round will shut down at midnight on the night of March 22 until the end of April to protect the health of staff.
One hotel per regional capital is allowed to remain open, along with three hotels in Athens and the country’s second largest city of Thessaloniki, in northern Greece.
MOSCOW – Russian health officials say a woman in Russia reported to have died of the coronavirus actually died from a blood clot. Officials cited the results of the autopsy.
The statement brought Russia’s official coronavirus death tally back to zero.
The 79-year-old woman was hospitalized last week and diagnosed with the virus. She was also suffering from multiple chronic conditions, including hypertension and heart disease. Pneumonia caused by the coronavirus was initially reported as the cause of death.
Russia has so far reported 199 cases of the virus and nine recoveries. Many in the country estimate the number is much higher, with infections going undetected as testing for the virus is not widespread.
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