- United States surpasses China’s toll of 3,300 deaths.
- UN chief warns world faces most challenging crisis since Second World War.
- India says hundreds at religious gathering carried virus to other parts of the country.
- U.S. State Department official dies from coronavirus.
- Spain reports 849 new coronavirus deaths.
- 12-year-old girl dies of the coronavirus in Belgium, authorities say.
- More people with coronavirus have died in Britain than previously announced.
- More than 5,000 coronavirus cases confirmed in Africa.
U.S. coronavirus death toll climbs past 3,500
The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus climbed past 3,500 Tuesday, eclipsing China’s official count.
New York’s mammoth convention centre started taking patients to ease the burden on the city’s overwhelmed health system and the tennis centre where the U.S. Open is held was being turned into a hospital.
Worldwide, more than 800,000 people have been infected and over 39,000 people have died, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. Italy and Spain accounted for half the deaths, while the U.S. had around 3,550 by midday, eclipsing China’s official toll of about 3,300.
New York was the nation’s deadliest hot spot, with about 1,550 deaths statewide, the majority of them in New York City.
Dutch government extends ‘intelligent lockdown’ to slow coronavirus spread
The Dutch government has extended what Prime Minister Mark Rutte calls an “intelligent lockdown” to slow the spread of the coronavirus until April 28.
The decision announced by Rutte in a nationally televised news conference Tuesday evening means that bars, restaurants, museums, schools and universities will have to remain closed for an extra three weeks. The government already had ordered them closed them until April 6.
All large-scale events and gatherings have been banned until June 1.
The announcement came on the day that the country’s public health institute announced that the national death toll had risen by 175 to 1,039.
UN chief warns world faces most challenging crisis since Second World War
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is warning that the world faces the most challenging crisis since the Second World War, confronting a pandemic threatening people in every country that will bring a recession “that probably has no parallel in the recent past.”
The UN chief said at the launch of a report Tuesday on the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 there is also a risk that the combination of the disease and its economic impact will contribute to “enhanced instability, enhanced unrest, and enhanced conflict.”
Guterres called for a stronger and more effective global response to the coronavirus pandemic and to the social and economic devastation that COVID-19 is causing.
He stressed that this will only be possible “if everybody comes together and if we forget political games and understand that it is humankind that is at stake.”
“The magnitude of the response must match the scale of the crisis – large-scale, co-ordinated and comprehensive, with country and international responses being guided by the World Health Organization,” the secretary-general said, noting that not all countries are following WHO guidelines.
Guterres announced the establishment of a COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to support efforts in low- and middle-income countries, with the aim of swiftly enabling governments to tackle the crisis and promote recovery.
Dr. Fauci says task force looking into recommending broader, community-wide use of masks
Dr. Anthony Fauci said the White House coronavirus task force is looking into the idea of recommending broader, community-wide use of masks to deter the spread of the new coronavirus.
Fauci said the task force first wants to make sure that such a move wouldn’t take away from the supply of masks available to health care workers.
“But once we get in a situation where we have enough masks, I believe there will be some very serious consideration about more broadening this recommendation of using masks,” Fauci said in a CNN interview Tuesday. “We’re not there yet, but I think we’re close to coming to some determination.”
He said wearing a mask may prevent an infected person from spreading the virus.
Fauci is the director National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a leader of the U.S. response to the pandemic.
President Donald Trump said Monday he could see broader use of masks on a temporary basis.
“I mean, you know, we want our country back. We’re not going to be wearing masks forever, but it could be for a short period of time,” Trump said.
The World Health Organization on Monday reiterated its advice that the general population doesn’t need to wear masks unless they’re sick. Since the epidemic began in China, the WHO has said masks are for the sick and people caring for them.
Greece reports jump in COVID-19 cases
Greece reported a jump in confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, with 102 new cases bringing the total to 1,314 in the country. Forty-nine people have died so far of the virus, the health ministry’s infectious diseases expert Sotirios Tsiodras said.
The new confirmed positive cases include 20 crew members of a passenger ship docked in the country’s main port of Piraeus, and a woman living in a refugee camp near Athens who tested positive after giving birth in a hospital in the capital.
The International Organization for Migration said its staff continued to work in the Ritsona refugee camp with the use of safety equipment, and had distributed soap and cleansers to the camp’s residents. It said common areas in the camp were being disinfected once a week.
Greece has been on lockdown for just over a week, with people allowed to leave their homes only for certain limited reasons.
Seven deaths, 115 new coronavirus cases in Serbia
Serbia has reported its “worst day” so far in the outbreak of the new coronavirus with seven deaths and 115 new cases in a day.
The Balkan country’s crisis team said Tuesday that there are now 900 confirmed infections while 23 people have died.
Head of the Clinic for Infectious Diseases Goran Stevanovic warned at a daily briefing that unless people start to fully respect the lockdown measures and recommended social distancing, “we will be looking at the Italian and Spanish scenario.”
The doctors then walked out of the live news conference without taking questions in order to stress their message.
Serbia’s authorities have complained that the citizens have not taken the issue seriously enough and continue to go out of their homes and socialize. Thousands went out in nice weather last weekend.
Serbia has imposed an evening curfew and banned all citizens over 65 years from leaving their homes. President Aleksandar Vucic has announced that a 24-hour curfew could be introduced if the situation worsens.
U.S. State Department official dies from coronavirus, Pompeo says
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says a State Department official has died from the coronavirus, the first American fatality among the U.S. diplomatic corps from the pandemic.
Pompeo didn’t give details about the official who passed away or where the person contracted the disease. He says about four to five dozen State Department employees had tested positive for the virus, including locally employed staffers at a handful of the 220 U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.
On Monday, State Department health officials said at least two locally employed staff members had died from the virus.
Those officials say they were tracking 105 confirmed cases among the agency’s global work force of about 75,000. Of those, 75 are overseas and 30 are at State Department offices in the United States in nine cities.
Italian health official says nation has hit the ‘plateau’ in its infection rate
The head of Italy’s national institutes of health says the country has hit the “plateau” in its coronavirus infection rate, three weeks into a national lockdown.
Dr. Silvio Brusaferro says the country should start to see a decline in new cases in the epicentre of Europe’s pandemic. But he stressed it would be folly to relax Italy’s productivity shutdown and stay-at-home restrictions now, even though the rate of new virus infections is slowing.
“The curve suggests we are at the plateau,” he said. “We have to confirm it, because arriving at the plateau doesn’t mean we have conquered the peak and we’re done. It means now we should start to see the decline if we continue to place maximum attention on what we do every day.”
Tokyo reports 78 coronavirus cases
Tokyo reported 78 confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday, a record single-day increase that concerns Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike.
That exceeded 68 on Sunday and brings the total to 522. She is asking residents to stay at home as much as possible, specifically urging them to avoid hostess bars, clubs and karaoke bars as hot spots. Koike has also suggested a possibility of a lockdown of Tokyo if infections won’t slow.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government enacted a special law enabling him to declare a state of emergency. That would allow local leaders to instruct a range of measures, including closures of schools and business operations.
Koike discussed Tokyo’s latest situation with Abe and says a “judgment by the government is now needed.”
Italy’s industrial lobby says coronavirus crisis could provoke a depression
Italy’s industrial lobby says the coronavirus crisis could provoke a depression with a dramatic spike in unemployment and collapse of social structures unless officials in Italy and Europe take decisive action.
Italy has idled all non-essential industry in a bid to keep more people at home and stop the spread of the virus, which has infected more than 100,000 people in Italy and killed more than 10,000.
Confindustria says measures to contain virus have impacted consumption and production, with no clear indication when measures would ease.
It forecast a drop in second-quarter GDP of 10 per cent, assuming that production begins to resume in April, rising from 40 per cent currently to 60 per cent by the end of the month with a return to normal by the end of June.
Chief doctor of Moscow’s top hospital for coronavirus patients tests positive
The chief doctor of Moscow’s top hospital for coronavirus patients says he’s tested positive, a statement that comes a week after his encounter with President Vladimir Putin.
Putin visited the Kommunarka hospital a week ago and met with its chief doctor Denis Protsenko. The doctor says he’s feeling OK and self-isolated in his office.
There was no immediate comment from the Kremlin on whether Putin had undergone a coronavirus test following Protsenko’s announcement.
The president wore a business suit and shook hands with Protsenko before the meeting, drawing a buzz on social networks over his neglect of safety precautions.
Later that day, Putin put on a yellow protective suit and mask to visit the rooms with patients.
On Tuesday, Russia had 500 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the biggest spike since the start of the outbreak. The country has 2,337 cases so far.
Macron visits regional factory, says France is urgently manufacturing masks
French President Emmanuel Macron visited a regional mask factory and reassured the quarantine-hit nation that France was urgently manufacturing masks.
Macron called for “sovereignty and solidarity” in a televised address as he touted advances in production of safety equipment. Critics of the government have said France has been too slow in providing masks for its 67 million inhabitants.
Macron says “the aim is to increase national production from 3.3 million masks per week to 10 million,” suggesting this figure will reached in late April.
He says the government will inject 4 billion euros into the National Public Health organization to place “orders for masks, respirators and medicines.”
Russia’s parliament approves harsher punishments for violating quarantine, spreading misinformation
Russian parliament approved harsher punishments for violating quarantine regulations and spreading “fake news.”
Evading quarantine will be punishable by heavy fines, and if it leads to two or more people dying, by up to seven years in prison.
Heavy fines are outlined for those who spread misinformation about the outbreak. If it results in a death, then the perpetrator faces up to five years in prison.
Russia has so far reported 2,337 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus. It reported 500 new cases on Tuesday, the biggest spike since the start of the epidemic.
Many regions and cities are ordering lockdowns and sweeping self-isolation protocols.
Italy constructs intensive care field hospital in Milan
Italy constructed a 200-bed intensive care field hospital at the Milan fairgrounds to help relieve the pressure on northern Italy’s overwhelmed health care system.
The hospital, an outpost of Milan’s Polyclinic hospital, was constructed in 10 days by 500 workers with the help of 21 million euros (23 million U.S.) in donations, nearly half of which came from Lombardy native and former Premier Silvio Berlusconi.
Officials says it’s a specialized wing, with a pharmacy, radiology wards and other specialized pavilions. They say it could be replicated in central and southern Italy.
Late Monday, Lombardy accounted for 1,330 of Italy’s 3,981 ICU patients.
Indonesia orders large-scale social restriction
Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo has ordered a large-scale social restriction to ensure people obey the implementation of physical distancing.
He’s instructed the National Police to take legal measures to enforce the restriction and urged local leaders to follow the current regulation and not issue their own policy.
Indonesia’s death toll from COVID-19 has risen to 136 and1,528 cases. It’s prompted local leaders to impose partial lockdown in their regions.
Sierra Leone announces its first coronavirus case
Sierra Leone has announced its first coronavirus case.
The West African nation already announced a year-long state of emergency over the pandemic. Sierra Leone was one of the three nations hit hard from 2014-16 by the Ebola outbreak, which killed more than 11,000 people.
Forty eight of Africa’s 54 countries now have the coronavirus.
Spain reports 849 new coronavirus deaths
Spain recorded on Tuesday 849 new coronavirus deaths, the highest number since the pandemic hit the southern European country, according to the country’s health ministry.
With both new infections and deaths up around 11 per cent each, to a total of 94,417 confirmed cases and 8,189 fatalities, Spain is seeing a slight rebound in the outbreak.
That’s despite an overall timid slowdown in its spread for the past week, allowing authorities to focus on avoiding the collapse of the health system. At least one third of Spain’s 17 regions were already at their limit of capacity in terms of intensive care unit usage, while new beds are being added in hotels, exhibition and sports centres across the country.
At least 14 per cent of those infected are much needed medical personnel. Many of them lack proper protective gear.
The government also wants to cushion the social effects of a major economic slowdown. Spain is officially “hibernating,” with new measures halting all but essential economic activity coming into full force on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s left-wing Cabinet is expected to add a new 700-million-euro aid package, including zero interest loans, as well as suspend evictions for families who can’t afford to pay their home rent.
Lithuanian city using drones to prevent public gatherings
The Vilnius municipality says it has started a pilot initiative where drones are patrolling the skies over the Lithuanian capital as authorities try to prevent citizens from gathering in public.
IT adviser to the municipality Egle Radvilaite said that seven unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with loudspeakers were launched Monday and dozens more are expected to join this enforcement task shortly.
The drones are operating daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in parks, squares and other places where people tend to gather. Two weeks ago, Lithuania gradually imposed restrictions due to the coronavirus, banning, among others, crowds of more than five people.
Indonesia to release 30,000 prisoners to help prevent coronavirus spread
Indonesia plans to release 30,000 prisoners to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Indonesia Law and Human Rights Ministry’s spokesman Bambang Wiyono says the Ministry has issued a Ministerial Decree to regulate the release of adult prisoners that had served two-thirds of their sentences and half of the sentences for children prisoners.
Indonesia Law and Human Rights Ministry recorded 270,386 prisoners across the country while the capacity of the prisons is only 131,931 prisoners.
Indonesia has reported 1,528 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 136 deaths.
Slovakian government health institute estimates number of ill could reach peak by mid-July
A government health institute in Slovakia estimates the number of people ill with coronavirus could reach the peak by mid-July with some 170,000 infected.
Director Martin Smatana says the strict restrictions approved by the government seems to be helping to slow the spreading of the virus.
Smatana says if the country keeps complying, it has a chance to avoid what happened in the countries and places the worst hit by the pandemic.
Prime Minister Igor Matovic says the authorities are working to double the number of ventilators to 1,000.
Slovakia, the country of nearly 5.5 million, has 363 cases of COVID-19. No one has died.
Philippine government mulls deploying ships to serve as ‘floating quarantine hospitals’
The Philippine government is studying the possibility of deploying ships that can serve as “floating quarantine hospitals” for people infected by the coronavirus after leading hospitals are filled up to capacity.
The government says in a report to Congress that ships could be fitted with medical equipment and deployed anywhere in the archipelago. At least six private metropolitan Manila hospitals have announced they were full and can no longer accept COVID-19 patients.
The Department of Public Works and Highway also created a special group to convert unused public buildings and evacuation shelters into treatment centres, containment areas and emergency food hubs.
Philippine health officials reported 538 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, bringing the country’s total to 2,084 and 88 deaths. The number of infections is expected to spike after more testing laboratories open.
Poland further restricting regulations after too many people fail to practice social distancing
Poland’s government is further restricting regulations in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus because too many people are failing to practice the required social distancing and the number of infections is rising.
In announcing the new measures on Tuesday, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that too many people were seen out in public spaces on a weekend that saw warm, springlike weather. The number of infections is still lower than in western Europe but is growing, with 2,132 infections and 31 confirmed deaths as of Tuesday.
Among the new rules which take effect at midnight, people will not be allowed to walk in parks anymore, only three people will be allowed per cash register in shops at any given time and home improvement stores will be closed, leaving only food shops and pharmacies allowed to operate.
“We must further reduce social distancing,” Morawiecki said. “Let’s stay home and avoid contact with other people.”
Italy observes moment of silence for victims, their families
Italy has observed a minute of silence and flown its flags at half-staff in a collective, nationwide gesture to honour the victims of the coronavirus and their families.
The Vatican also lowered its flags Tuesday to honour the dead in the country with the greatest toll from the virus, which stands at more than 11,500.
The noon minute of silence was observed in cities and towns around the country.
The office of Premier Giuseppe Conte said the gesture was a sign of national mourning and solidarity with the victims, their families “and as a sign of collective participation in mourning with the hardest-hit communities.”
Chinese officials say epidemic isn’t over, daunting challenges remain
Chinese officials say the coronavirus epidemic isn’t over in their country and that daunting challenges remain.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Tuesday that authorities need to make sure that infected people arriving from abroad don’t spread the disease and start new outbreaks.
She hit back at U.S. criticism of her country’s handling of the epidemic, saying that China and the U.S. should work together to fight it.
“We also hope that some U.S. officials can follow through in the spirit of the two heads of states’ call and create more favourable conditions for the two countries to co-operate in the fight against the disease,” she said. The two leaders talked late last week.
Hua noted that some local Chinese governments and companies have provided virus-related medical supplies to the United States, even as the demand for those supplies remains high in China.
Dubai’s government to inject equity into Emirates airlines
Dubai’s government says it will inject equity into Emirates airlines as the Middle East’s largest carrier grounds nearly all of its flights due to coronavirus restrictions on travel at its hub in the world’s busiest airport for international travel.
Dubai’s Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said in a statement Tuesday that liquidity would be given to the state-owned airline “considering its strategic importance” to Dubai and the economy of the United Arab Emirates, but he did not say how much credit would be pumped into the airline.
Emirates carried around 58 million passengers last year, helping to transform Dubai’s airport into the world’s busiest for international travel for several years running.
Also Tuesday, low-cost carrier flydubai became the latest airline to announce pay cuts of its staff of nearly 4,000, though not all staff are being affected the same.
The company told The Associated Press it was reducing salaries to between 25-50 per cent for a three-month period starting in April.
More people with coronavirus have died in Britain than previously announced
More people with the new coronavirus have died in Britain than previously announced, according to newly published figures that include deaths both in and out of hospitals.
The Office for National Statistics says that 210 deaths recorded England and Wales up to March 20 mentioned COVID-19 on the death certificate. That is 40 more than the 170 deaths among people with the virus reported by the Department of Health for the same period.
The two sets of figures use different reporting methods and timing. The Department of Health statistics record hospital deaths. Tuesday’s higher figure includes people who died in nursing homes and other settings. Some of those are people who were not tested for the virus but were suspected of having it.
German zoos ask government for aid package
German zoos are asking the government for a 100 million-euro ($110-million) aid package to help cover costs as their revenue has fallen away due to the coronavirus crisis.
Germany has largely shut down public life and introduced a ban over a week ago on gatherings of more than two people in public. The restrictions are expected to remain in place until after Easter. An association representing 56 zoos wrote to Chancellor Angela Merkel, her finance and economy ministers as well as state governors on Tuesday.
The group’s chairman, Leipzig zoo director Joerg Junhold, said that “unlike other facilities, we cannot simply shut down our operations – our animals still have to be fed and cared for.”
With zoos closed to visitors, he said that “at the moment we are working without revenues but with expenses at a consistently high level.” He said that a big zoo currently has a weekly revenue shortfall of about 500,000 euros.
12-year-old girl dies of the coronavirus in Belgium, authorities say
Belgian authorities say a 12-year-old girl has died of the coronavirus, by far the youngest person among the more than 700 victims in the country.
Announcing the news Tuesday, national crisis-centre coronavirus spokesman Emmanuel Andre said it is “an emotionally difficult moment, because it involves a child, and it has also upset the medical and scientific community.”
“We are thinking of her family and friends. It is an event that is very rare, but one which upsets us greatly,” Andre said. No details about the girl were provided.
He said that 98 people had died from the disease over the last 24 hours, bringing the total toll to 705 in a country of around 11.5 million people. More than 12,705 cases have been confirmed in total so far.
Andre said that Belgian authorities expect the spread of the disease to reach its peak in coming days, and that “we will arrive at a point where we’re close to saturation point at our hospitals.”
Russia records 500 coronavirus cases on Tuesday
Russia registered 500 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus on Tuesday in the biggest spike since the beginning of the outbreak that brought the country’s total to 2,337 cases.
The report comes as Russia edges closer to declaring a state of emergency, with many regions and cities ordering lockdowns and sweeping self-isolation protocols.
Moscow, the country’s capital, has been on lockdown since Monday, with most businesses closed and residents not allowed to leave their apartments except for grocery shopping, buying medicines, taking out trash or walking their dogs. Similar regimes are in place in more than 30 Russian regions.
Human rights advocates and lawyers in Russia argue that, in accordance with the Russian legislation, such lockdowns can’t be legally enforced until the state of emergency is declared by the president. The Kremlin has so far said that Moscow authorities have been within their rights to impose a lockdown.
On Tuesday, the State Duma, Russia’s lower parliament house, hastily adopted a law allowing the Cabinet to declare the state of emergency, rubber-stamping it through all three required readings in one day.
China to delay national college entrance exam by one month
China will delay the national college entrance exam by a month to ensure the health of students and allow more time for them to prepare, the education ministry announced Tuesday.
Amid sharply declining numbers of virus cases, the hugely important exam will now be held on July 7 and 8. However, the capital Beijing and hardest-hit Hubei Province “can put forward their proposals on the exam dates for their regions” and publish the schedule after gaining approval from the ministry, the announcement said.
More than 10 million students plan to take the exam this year. Schools in some regions have begun to reopen, although ministry officials say the restart of classes will happen gradually, under tight hygienic conditions and only in areas where the threat of the virus is lowest.
China “has passed through the most dangerous, most critical stage of the crisis,” but can’t afford to let its guard down, Ma Xiaowei, director of the National Health Commission, told reporters at a separate news conference Tuesday.
India links virus cases to religious gathering
A neighbourhood in the Indian capital where a religious sect is headquartered has been sealed off from outsiders after police evacuated more than 1,000 people believed to have been exposed to the coronavirus during a religious gathering earlier this month before the government imposed the world’s largest lockdown.
Police said on Tuesday that hundreds of people, many of them foreign nationals, carried the virus to several other parts of India after attending a mosque in the crowded majority-Muslim enclave of Nizamuddin West.
Paramedics have transported hundreds of Muslim worshippers to nearby quarantine facilities. Officials say at least 300 people have symptoms of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus.
Officials in other Indian states raced to confine others who attended the Nizamuddin mosque.
India has 1,200 confirmed cases of the coronavirus across the country, including 32 deaths, a quarter of which have been linked to the gathering.
A 21-day long nationwide lockdown that began last week has resulted in the suspension of trains and airline services and effectively kept 1.3 billion Indians at home for all but essential trips to places like markets or pharmacies.
The overall number of known cases in India is small compared with the United States, Italy and China, but health experts say India could be weeks away from a huge surge that could overwhelm its already strained public health system.
Africa’s confirmed coronavirus cases are now above 5,000
The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 47 of the continent’s 54 countries now have cases, with 5,255 in all. That includes 173 deaths. But shortages of testing materials mean the real number of cases could be higher.
South Africa’s president on Monday night announced that the country, which has the most cases in Africa with 1,326, will launch a mass screening and testing program with about 10,000 field workers going door-to-door. And, Uganda and Botswana are the latest countries to impose a lockdown in an effort to prevent the virus’ spread.
Greece to close off waterfront paths due to crowding
Greek authorities are banning access to a popular pedestrian waterfront area in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, after good weather saw people congregating despite the country’s lockdown measures due to the new coronavirus.
Greece’s civil protection authority said access would only be allowed between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekdays, starting Tuesday. Barriers were to be set up on roads and paths leading to the waterfront to prevent people from reaching the pedestrian area.
Greece’s lockdown regulations allow people to leave their houses only for specific reasons: to buy food or medicine, visit a doctor, help someone in need, exercise, walk a pet or attend the funeral of an immediate relative. Self-declaration documents must be carried, and many used the reasons of exercise or walking a pet to access the Thessaloniki waterfront on Sunday and Monday.
British Airways suspends all Gatwick flights
British Airways has suspended all its flights at Gatwick Airport amid a collapse in demand because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The carrier says that “restrictions and challenging market environment,” led to the decision.
The aviation industry has been hard-hit by the pandemic that has prompted travellers around the world to stay home.
Airports themselves are also slowing down. Just 33 flights were due to take off or land at Gatwick on Tuesday, according to aviation data provider FlightStats. Beginning Wednesday, Gatwick’s runway will only be open for scheduled flights between 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. and will close one of its two terminals.
London City Airport closed its runway to usual traffic last week.
South Korea extends school closures, delays college exams
South Korea has pushed back its national college exam by two weeks to Dec. 3 following a delay in school years amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae’s announcement on Tuesday came hours after Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun revealed a government decision to keep schools shut while they launch unprecedented online classes beginning next week.
College admissions are a highly sensitive matter in South Korea, where graduating from elite universities is seen as critical in career and wealth prospects.
During the national exam day, government offices and companies start work an hour late, flights are put on hold and police use their cars and motorbikes to transport students running late, while parents flock to churches and Buddhist temples to pray.
South Korea had postponed the beginning of the new school year at kindergartens, elementary, middle and high schools three different times amid the spread of the virus. The previous plan was to open on April 6, which was five weeks later than usual.
U.S. to surpass China’s death toll
The mounting death toll from the virus outbreak had the United States poised Tuesday to surpass China’s grim toll of 3,300 deaths, with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo saying up to 1 million more health care workers were needed. “Please come help us,” he urged.
Hard-hit Italy and Spain have already overtaken China and now account for more than half of the nearly 38,000 COVID-19 deaths worldwide, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.
But the World Health Organization warned that while attention has shifted to epicentres in Western Europe and North America, the coronavirus pandemic was far from over in Asia.
“This is going to be a long-term battle and we cannot let down our guard,” said Dr. Takeshi Kasai, the WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific. “We need every country to keep responding according to their local situation.”
Indonesia bans all foreign arrivals
Indonesia will close its doors to foreign arrivals in an attempt to curb the coronavirus spread, and the country plans to bring home more than a million nationals working abroad.
Foreign minister Retno Marsudi announced Tuesday that all foreigners will be temporarily banned from visiting and travelling in Indonesia territories, except for diplomatic corps and those who hold a residence permit.
The restriction will take effect later this week, Marsudi said.
She said the government would protect the health of nationals stranded abroad amid the coronavirus crisis, and has decided to repatriate more than a million Indonesian migrant workers from neighbouring Malaysia.
Indonesia’s latest tally of COVID-19 cases rose to 1,414, with 122 reported deaths.
Vietnam enters lockdown at midnight
Vietnam will lock down the country for at least two weeks starting at midnight Wednesday in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.
In an order by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on Tuesday, no gathering of more than two people will be allowed, and businesses must be closed except for essential services and manufacturing.
“It’s going to be the crucial two weeks for Vietnam to curb the spread of the virus,” Phuc said to his cabinet during a televised meeting.
Vietnam has reported 204 cases of the new coronavirus, but no deaths.
Australia reports six Qantas Airways baggage handlers have COVID-19
South Australia state authorities have announced a cluster of six new coronavirus cases among Qantas Airways baggage handlers at Adelaide airport.
State Chief Public Health Officer Dr Nicola Spurrier said on Tuesday anyone who flew through the airport in the previous 24 hours should wipe down their luggage with disinfectant.
Spurrier says Qantas has been told a “significant number of staff” will have to go into quarantine because of the infections.
Around 100 Qantas baggage handlers used the confined area for working and eating meals. She says “a large majority” of those employees will require quarantine.
Qantas is working around the infected work space and Spurrier says she hopes flights won’t be affected.
She could not say when the six tested positive or how they became infected.
Japan’s Sharp begins medical mask shipments
Japanese electronics maker Sharp Corp., which converted its liquid crystal display factory into one churning out medical masks, sent its first shipment Tuesday.
The plant in central Japan is set to make 150,000 masks a day, with production being ramped up later to 500,000 masks a day. The shipment was in response to a Japanese government order, and details were not immediately available on how the masks would get distributed.
The masks will be sold to consumers online later, according to the company, owned by Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., also known as Foxconn. Masks are in short supply at stores in some parts of Japan because of a surge in demand.
L.A. sheriff gives up effort to close firearms shops
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who was sued by gun-rights groups after trying to shut down firearms dealers in the wake of coronavirus concerns, said he is abandoning the effort.
The sheriff said he’s heeding a federal Department of Homeland Security advisory issued on Saturday that listed gun and ammunition dealers as “essential critical infrastructure workers.”
Villanueva called the non-binding memo “persuasive” and announced that his department won’t order or recommend closing businesses that sell or repair firearms or sell ammunition in the nation’s most populous county.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has said each of the state’s 58 counties can decide for themselves whether to list firearms dealers as non-essential businesses that should be subject to closure while the state seeks to limit the spread of COVID-19.