The Latest: UK’s Boris Johnson out of intensive care

International

(AP) – 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

— UK’s Boris Johnson out of intensive care.

— Trudeau: Canadians need to maintain social distancing.

— Spaniards staying home during Holy Week.

— Dr. Fauci: Don’t assume virus fades in warm weather.

— Germany’s Merkel stresses discipline, ‘cautious optimism’ in virus fight.

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LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been moved out of intensive care, his office says.

In a statement Thursday, a spokesman at 10 Downing Street said Johnson “has been moved this evening from intensive care back to the ward, where he will receive close monitoring during the early phase of his recovery.”

Johnson has been in intensive care for three days after his symptoms for coronavirus worsened. He tested positive for the virus two weeks ago and at first had only “mild” symptoms.

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MADRID — Spain’s parliament has endorsed a government request to extend by two more weeks the current state of emergency that allows it to enact confinement rules amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Spain has been under lockdown since March 14. The Congress of Deputies voted Thursday in favor of extending it until April 26. It is the second two-week extension.

Strict rules that keep people at home except for shopping for food and medicine and the shutting down of all non-essential industry have helped Spain reduce its daily rate of contagion growth from more than 20% two weeks ago to around 4%.

With 152,446 infections and 15,238 fatalities, Spain is alongside the United States and Italy as the hardest-hit countries by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez told lawmakers he didn’t expect the crisis to end soon.

“I’m sure that in two weeks’ time I’ll have to extend the state of emergency again,” he said.

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JOHANNESBURG — South Africa says it will extend its three-week coronavirus lockdown by two weeks.

President Cyril Ramaphosa says that if the country ends the lockdown too soon or too abruptly, “we risk a massive and uncontrollable resurgence of the disease.”

He notes that in the two weeks before the lockdown began, the average daily increase in new cases was around 42%, but since the start of the lockdown the average daily increase has been around 4%.

South Africa has the most confirmed cases in Africa with more than 1,900.

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The British government’s two chief advisers on the coronavirus pandemic voiced cautious optimism that the country’s outbreak may be near its peak even as the COVID-19 death toll rose sharply to just shy of 8,000.

In the government’s daily press briefing, chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance noted signs that the rise in new coronavirus cases and the increase in the number of people going into hospital maybe levelling off as a result of the social distancing measures imposed. He also said the transmission of the coronavirus within the community may now be “shrinking.”

And Professor Chris Whitty, the government’s chief medical adviser, also noted that the time it takes for the number of people in intensive care to double has got steadily longer over the past couple of weeks, from three days to six or more now and “extending in time.”

However, the number of people dying after testing positive for COVID-19 disease is set to carry on an upward trajectory for a couple of weeks in light of the lags involved, Vallance said.

Government figures earlier showed that the U.K. recorded 881 new coronavirus-related deaths, down from 938 in the previous 24-hour period. In total, 7,978 patients have died in hospital after testing positive for coronavirus.

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TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canadians will need to stay at home and practice physical distancing for months as the first wave of cases in the country won’t end until the summer and Canada won’t return to normal until there is vaccine.

Trudeau says a vaccine could take a year or a year and half. He made the comments as Canada’s top public health officer predicted the coronavirus pandemic could cost at least 4,500 lives and a government agency announced the Canadian economy lost 1,011,000 jobs in March.

Trudeau says the country is in the early stage of the outbreak because the virus came to Canada later and says the first wave won’t reach its peak until late spring. Trudeau calls it the “challenge of our generation.”

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PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron has flown to southern France to meet with a prominent virologist who has championed the use of anti-malaria drug chloroquine to help fighting the coronavirus.

Macron met for two hours with Didier Raoult at his Marseille hospital on Thursday afternoon to discuss his findings. Raoult said he will be able to publish new results in the coming days, Macron’s office said.

Raoult, whose study has been taken up by U.S. President Donald Trump, has emerged as a controversial figure since saying the chloroquine can help treat the COVID-19 disease.

Some other French and international scientists have said the Marseille study doesn’t show evidence of the drug’s effectiveness.

Macron’s office said the trip to Marseille is part of broader discussions of the French president with scientists about several ongoing clinical trials to find potential treatments.

On Thursday morning, Macron visited a hospital in the Paris region to meet with other researchers.

He is scheduled to make an address to the nation on Monday.

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UNITED NATIONS — United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the coronavirus pandemic is deepening already existing inequalities and is having “devastating social and economic consequences for women and girls” that could reverse limited progress toward gender equality over the past 25 years.

The U.N. chief said in a video message and policy paper that “across every sphere, from health to the economy, security to social protection, the impacts of COVID-19 are exacerbated for women and girls simply by virtue of their sex.”

While early data indicates that the mortality rates from COVID-19 may be higher for men, Gutterres said “nearly 60 percent of women around the world work in the informal economy, earning less, saving less, and at greater risk of falling into poverty.”

He said millions of women’s jobs have been lost at the same time that their unpaid work has “increased exponentially” as a result of school closures and children being at home and the increased needs of older people.

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LONDON — London’s mayor has appealed to supermarkets to lend a helping hand to food banks struggling with a collapse in donations amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Mayor Sadiq Khan says food banks are reporting critical shortages of food, and that some have closed or are at risk of closing. The shortages come amid a surge in demand for food during the crisis — particularly pantry staples such as pasta, rice and canned goods that are usually are stocked by foodbanks.

The mayor appealed to grocers to organize additional direct donations to food banks and to lift the restriction on the amount of items per person an individual can purchase to enable foodbanks to properly restock.

Khan says “there is a real risk of people going without food during this crisis and in particular, for those in some parts of London, the risk will be even greater over the coming Easter weekend.’’

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey reported 96 COVID-19 deaths in the past 24 hours — its highest single-day number of fatalities since the outbreak began. The losses increased the death toll to 908.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca also reported 4,056 new COVID-19 infections on Thursday, raising the total number of cases in the country to 42,282.

A total of 1,552 people with infections are in intensive care, including 1,017 intubated patients, while 2,142 patients have recovered, according to figures Koca posted on Twitter.

Koca said 28,578 tests were conducted in the past 24 hours, bringing Turkey close to its aim of carrying out 30,000 tests daily.

The World Health Organization expressed alarm over the “dramatic increase in virus spread” in Turkey over the past week.

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ROME — The virus-ravaged region of Lombardy crossed the 10,000-death mark in its battle against the coronavirus, while Italy as a whole continued its slow pace to bring the numbers of new infections down.

Lombardy accounted for 300 of the 610 deaths nationwide over the past 24 hours, evidence that the original epicenter of Europe’s COVID-19 pandemic remains its most deadly. Overall, Italy has the world’s highest coronavirus death toll, at 18,279.

Nearly 2,000 more people were declared cured of the virus over the past day, but 4,204 more tested positive, bringing Italy’s official caseload to 143,626. Two-thirds of those currently infected are being treated at home, further easing pressure on the hospital system.

Officials are urging Italians to adhere rigidly to the nationwide lockdown that marks its one-month mark Friday, particularly with the long Easter weekend starting.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greek authorities have reported 71 new coronavirus infections, bringing the total to 1,955, and three deaths, raising the overall toll to 86.

Authorities also said on Thursday that 79 people remain intubed in intensive care, while a total 33,634 tests for the virus have been carried out.

Health officials added that there is no need right now to recommend the use of masks for the healthy general population, while widespread use of gloves by the public may not serve much purpose.

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JAKARTA, Indonesia — Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan announced that people who violate large-scale social restrictions in the capital city will face a maximum of one year’s imprisonment and/or a 100 million rupiah ($6,355) fine.

Baswedan on Thursday issued the gubernatorial decree on the imposition of large-scale social restrictions in Jakarta that start on Friday as the part of efforts to prevent more transmission of COVID-19.

The local government will ban every event that will involve more than five participants.

As of Thursday, the government recorded more than half of the infection cases of COVID-19 are found in Jakarta. There are 1,706 COVID-19 cases in Jakarta from total 3,293 cases in Indonesia. Indonesia recorded a total 280 deaths and 142 of them are in Jakarta.

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BATON ROUGE, La. — Hundreds of Carnival cruise ship workers who have tested negative for the coronavirus disease disembarked in New Orleans and are returning to their home countries, the Louisiana governor’s office said Thursday.

The Carnival Valor, a New Orleans-based ship that typically carries about 3,000 guests for Caribbean cruises, didn’t have passengers when it arrived at its home port Wednesday night.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said 300 international crew members without symptoms of the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus, in addition to testing negative, were being bused to charter flights that would take them to their home countries. Carnival said in a statement that those workers were cleared to fly by immigration authorities.

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ROME — Italian authorities have arrested a Rome businessman in a bid-tampering investigation stemming from the government’s urgent purchase of surgical masks and protective equipment to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

Consip, the government’s centralized purchasing agency, said it had excluded two companies linked to the businessman from procurement contract tenders because of what it said were false declarations. It flagged the irregularities in the bids to Italy’s financial police, who made the arrest after determining that promised shipments of masks from China were nonexistent.

Italy has been on a frantic purchasing spree trying to outfit its medical personnel with protective masks and gear, which before the pandemic weren’t produced domestically.

Inadequate and insufficient protective gear has been blamed in part on the infections of more than 13,500 medical personnel and the deaths of more than 100 doctors.

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SINGAPORE — Singapore has registered its highest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases, increasing by 287 to total 1,910.

Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong says more than 200 of the new cases were linked to foreign workers living in dormitories.

He says the spike was partly because of increased testing among such workers, whose dormitory living conditions make them more vulnerable to infections.

Singapore, with a population of about 6 million, is one of the region’s most prosperous nations but reliant on migrant labor for many lower-paid jobs. Its recorded six deaths from the virus.

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BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary’s prime minister says restrictions introduced March 28 to make people stay at home will be extended indefinitely.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban credited the “judicious and successful” restrictions with slowing the rate of coronavirus infections.

Orban says the restrictions would be reviewed weekly and mayors may impose stricter rules in their own jurisdictions until Monday night. This is meant to prevent tourists from overwhelming popular destinations during the Easter break.

Hungary has 980 cases of the coronavirus and 66 deaths.

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MADRID — Holy Week is the busiest travel period in Spain — aside from August vacations — when families normally flee cities for the country and its centuries-old religious processions.

Spaniards have responded to the strict confinement rules applied more than three weeks ago to stem a coronavirus outbreak that has left more than 15,000 dead and 150,000 infected. People are only allowed to leave home for essential shopping and dog walking.

Authorities have made extra calls for people to remain at home during the traditional April break.

Transit official María José Rallo says traffic dropped by nearly 80% this week compared to the same time last year. Police say roadblocks set up on Wednesday handed out nearly 4,000 citations for unauthorized travel.

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BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel says Germany’s coronavirus figures give grounds for “cautious optimism” but the situation is “fragile.”

She is urging people to remain disciplined in respecting restrictions on public life during Easter.

Germany has shut schools, bars, most shops and banned gatherings of more than two people in public. Those restrictions will remain at least through April 19.

There are increasing calls in Germany for an exit strategy from the restrictions.

Merkel says, “We must keep this up over Easter and the days afterward, because we could very, very quickly destroy what we have achieved.”

Germany has more than 113,000 infections. About 2,300 people have died, a death rate lower than most countries.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says border crossings with Germany and Belgium could be temporarily closed over the Easter weekend if there is too much traffic.

Belgian and German tourists traditionally flock to the Netherlands over Easter. But the Dutch government is actively discouraging them from visiting amid restrictions and social distancing measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Rutte says Dutch authorities are working with Belgian and German colleagues and “where necessary security authorities in the border regions can decide to completely close certain roads, if that is necessary.”

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MINSK, Belarus — The mayor of Ukraine’s capital says the coronavirus has hit the Pechersk Monastery, infecting more than half the monks at the renowned religious and tourist site.

Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko says 26 of the 44 monks at the monastery have been diagnosed with infections. No deaths have been reported.

The monastery is known for its extensive system of caves and tunnels, containing centuries-old cells for monks and burial places.

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BERLIN — Germany’s national disease control center says it plans to conduct a series of blood tests to determine how many people in the country are immune to COVID-19 and how many were infected without knowing it.

Lothar Wieler, the head of the Robert Koch Institute, says starting next week antibody tests will be carried out on blood given by donors around the country. His institute anticipates up to 5,000 samples conducted every 14 days, with results starting in early May.

A second survey will examine blood from about 2,000 people from each of four infection “hot spots” in Germany. And a third will look at a representative sample of some 15.000 people across the country, with results expected in June.

Germany has confirmed more than 113,000 infections, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. More than 2,300 people have died, a death rate lower than many countries.

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WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, says don’t assume the coronavirus will fade during warm weather.

Fauci told ABC’s “Good Morning America” there’s precedent with other infections like influenza that “when the virus gets warmer that the virus goes down in its ability to replicate, to spread.”

But Fauci added “having said that, one should not assume that we are going to be rescued by a change in the weather. You must assume that the virus will continue to do its thing. If we get some help from the weather, so be it, fine. But I don’t think we need to assume that.”

He was asked about the New York Times story that research indicates the coronavirus that began circulating in New York in mid-February came mainly from Europe, not Asia.

“I think that’s probably correct,” Fauci said. He notes that “Europe became the epicenter pretty quickly after China really exploded with their cases.”

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TOKYO — Tokyo reported 181 new coronavirus cases Thursday, setting another record daily increase.

The total exceeds 1,500, with infections accelerating in the Japanese capital under a state of emergency.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike urged companies to more quickly shift to remote working and cooperate with the stay-at-home request.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently declared the state of emergency in Tokyo and six other prefectures, allowing Koike and other leaders to take tougher steps to ensure social distancing. He urged the people to reduce human interactions by as much as 80%, a level that experts say can help control the outbreak in about a month if strictly observed.

Many people still commuted to work Thursday. Japanese companies have been slow to allow their employees to work remotely. Subway operators say their ridership was less than half. But mobile phone carriers showed crowd sizes in downtown Tokyo were only reduced by 30-40%.

On Wednesday, Japan had 4,768 confirmed cases and 96 deaths.

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