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:
– Supreme Court urged not to scrap DACA program during crisis.
– Images from space show pollution reduction in Europe.
– U.S. coronavirus cases top 92,000.
WASHINGTON – Lawyers for young immigrants say the Supreme Court should not end a program that shields their clients from deportation and allows them to work in the United States during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a court filing Friday, the lawyers told the justices that 27,000 people protected by the DACA program work in health care.
â€œTermination of DACA during this national emergency would be catastrophic,â€ the lawyers wrote.
The justices have been weighing President Donald Trump’s effort to end the program since arguments in mid-November. Roughly 660,000 immigrants who were brought to the United States as children are protected by the program that began during the Obama administration.
HARARE, Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe has announced a three-week “total lockdown” to start Monday as the economically shattered country tries to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.
All citizens must stay at home except for those seeking food or essential services.
The southern African nation’s vast number of street vendors are barred from going out. Neighboring South Africa started a similar lockdown Friday.
MEXICO CITY – Mexico President AndrÃ©s Manuel LÃ³pez Obrador said Friday he will maintain his busy travel schedule dedicating infrastructure projects around the country in spite of growing restrictions prompted by the coronavirus epidemic, including a shutdown of most federal government operations.
LÃ³pez Obrador was scheduled to take commercial flights Friday to the western state of Nayarit and later to the northern border state of Baja California before finishing the weekend in Sinaloa.
However, the president said he doesn’t want people gathering in airports to see him like they usually do to shake hands and request selfies.
â€œWhoever comes to see me in the airport is there because my adversaries sent them,â€ LÃ³pez Obrador said. â€œSo that the media outlets that don’t love us can send the story, ‘There’s the president, giving a bad example.’â€
He was criticized last weekend on a similar swing in the southern state of Oaxaca for stopping to eat in a local restaurant and for urging Mexicans to continue to eat out in spite of the virus. He said Friday he would continue to evaluate the situation, but for now planned to continue travelling.
ATHENS, Greece – Greek authorities reported 74 new cases of the new coronavirus on Friday and two new deaths.
This brings the countryâ€™s total to 966 cases and 28 deaths – 23 men and 5 women, 89% of whom had an underlying disease or were aged over 70.
Health authorities have carried out a total 13,477 tests for the virus.
BERLIN – The European Space Agency published new images Friday showing the impact that lockdown measures related to the coronavirus are having on air pollution across Europe.
The Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute used data collected by ESA’s Sentinel 5P satellite to examine levels of nitrogen dioxide, which is released from the burning of fossil fuels.
Combustion engines are a major source of NO2, which can cause airway inflammation and and respiratory problems at high concentrations.
The maps show a sharp drop of NO2 levels in northern Italy, Madrid, Paris and the densely populated regions of western Germany and Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg compared to the same month a year ago.
LONDON – In a change of policy, Britain says it plans to begin routinely testing doctors, nurses and other frontline medical staff for the new coronavirus.
Britain is currently limiting testing primarily to people with serious symptoms of COVID-19 in hospitals.
Many medics who do not have symptoms are having to stay home as a precaution because they have been in contact with someone who has the virus. Testing could allow them to return to work, as well as giving a better picture of how widespread the virus is.
For days the government has promised to boost the number of tests to 10,000 and then 25,000 a day. As of Thursday the number was 7,850.
Cabinet minister Michael Gove said hundreds of people would be tested over the weekend with the program â€œdramatically scaling up next week.â€
ANKARA, Turkey – The number of coronavirus cases in Turkey surpassed the 5,000 mark on Friday, while the death toll reached 92.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca reported 2,069 more confirmed COVID-19 cases on Friday, bringing the total to 5,698.
Speaking following a meeting of Turkey’s scientific council, Koca also told reporters that 17 more COVID-19 patients have died in the past 24 hours.
A total of 344 are currently in intensive care, he said, including 241 who are intubated. So far, 42 patients have recovered.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said 12 locations across Turkey were placed under quarantine in an effort to contain the virus’ spread.
MADRID – A team of veterinary researchers is leading a volunteer effort at a Madrid university to analyze tests for the coronavirus and assist in Spainâ€™s national struggle against the outbreak.
Professor of Veterinary Sciences Bruno Gonzalez-Zorn said that the team at Madridâ€™s Complutense University had received on Friday a first batch of 200 samples from hospitalized patients to analyze them for the COVID-19 virus.
The help comes with Spain having serious difficulties to test patients and health workers while infections spike to over 64,000.
â€œSpain is one of the most heavily hit places in the world and we have to help out,â€ Gonzalez-Zorn told The Associated Press by phone. â€œWe veterinarians know about epidemics; we are used to working with them. The diagnostic process is the same.â€
The team consists of around 30 researchers who, with the backing of the university, contacted Spainâ€™s Health Ministry to offer their expertise and installations.
The effort will rely on the veterinary schoolâ€™s facilities, which are equipped to safely handle the incoming samples. They will employ equipment they usually use for animal research.
TORONTO – Canada’s most populous province is sending out out emergency alerts to cell phones, radios and TVs warning recent travelers to stay at home.
The alert in Ontario will tell travelers returning to Canada that they are required by law to self-isolate for 14 days as they are at high risk of spreading COVID-19.
It will tell them, â€œDO NOT visit stores, family or friends.â€
About a million Canadians and permanent residents returned home last week.
The message will go out Friday afternoon and it will also say that everyone should stay home to help stop the spread of the virus.
NEW YORK – The United States continues to lead the world in coronavirus infections even after a spike of new cases reported in Italy.
According to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. has more than 92,000 cases of the virus. Italy reported a total of more than 86,000 infections on Friday.
Italy has recorded the most deaths of any country, with 9,134. More than 1,200 people have died in the U.S.
Worldwide, more than 560,000 people have contracted the virus and more than 127,000 have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins.
BANGKOK – A Muslim separatist group in Thailand that has been staging an armed insurgency has called on its followers to take active measures to protect against the spread of the coronavirus.
The Barisan Revolusi Nasional – National Revolutionary Front – has been leading guerrilla groups fighting for autonomy for Thailand’s three southernmost provinces, the only ones with Muslim majorities in the predominantly Buddhist nation. About 7,000 people have been killed since the conflict flared up in 2004.
The group, generally called the BRN, called on its followers to maintain their hygiene and health and work together in their communities to control the spread of the disease. It said they should not wait for policies from the government or other parties, because more people are succumbing to the illness every day.
Thailand has 1,136 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including five deaths.
ROME – Italy has become the second country to overtake China in coronavirus infections, recording a total of 86,498 on the same day it recorded its single biggest leap in coronavirus deaths, with 969 more victims.
The gruesome milestones nevertheless came on the same day Italian health officials said they were seeing a slight slowing down in new positive cases, two weeks into a nationwide lockdown.
Italy has recorded more virus-related deaths than any other country in the world. On Friday the death toll reached 9,134.
WASHINGTON – A senior member of the city government in Washington has died from the new coronavirus.
Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Friday that George Valentine, deputy director of the mayorâ€™s office of legal counsel, had died Friday morning.
Bowser said Valentineâ€™s death was â€œdevastating for everybodyâ€ and that contact tracing was in progress to determine who Valentine may have come into contact with and who might have been exposed to him.
According to his LinkedIn page, Valentine came to the mayorâ€™s office just over a year ago after spending more than 15 years with the Washington D.C. Attorney Generalâ€™s office. Bowser said he was admitted to a hospital and diagnosed with COVID-19 on Wednesday.
LONDON – The British governmentâ€™s top medical adviser is the latest senior official to say he has the new coronavirus.
Chris Whitty, who is chief medical officer for England, tweeted: â€œAfter experiencing symptoms compatible with COVID-19 last night, in line with the guidance, I will be self-isolating at home for the next seven days. I will be continuing to advise the Government on the medical response to Coronavirus, supported by my deputies.â€
Whitty did not say whether he has been tested for the virus.
Whitty has become a familiar figure to millions of Britons for his cool-headed appearances at televised daily press conferences on the outbreak.
The announcement comes the same day Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock both said they had tested positive for COVID-19.
GENEVA – The head of the World Health Organization is decrying the “tragic” count of more than a half-million cases of coronavirus, and more than 20,000 deaths.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus said: â€œThese are tragic numbers. But let’s also remember that around the world, more than 100,000 people have recovered.â€
PARIS – France is extending its nationwide confinement measures another two weeks until April 15, as the virus continues to claim victims around the country.
Saying â€œwe are only at the beginningâ€ of the virus wave, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced the extension Friday. It had been scheduled to end Tuesday.
Philippe warned that the number of cases is expected to rise in the Paris region and northern France, after heavily hitting eastern France.
France has reported nearly 1,700 deaths of people with the virus in hospitals, the fifth-highest number of any country worldwide. France’s numbers have continued to mount since the confinement began March 17.
MADRID – Spain is prohibiting companies from using the virus outbreak as a justification for firing workers.
Labor Minister Yolanda Diaz said Friday redundancies as a result of the virus outbreak were unnecessary as the government had established temporary layoff mechanisms by which businesses can halt paying staff during the crisis, with the state picking up the tab.
â€œNobody can exploit this health crisis. Nobody can make the most of the COVID-19 to make layoffs,â€ she said.
The minister added that temporary contracts still in effect cannot be terminated but rather suspended for the duration of the crisis.
Spanish National Television on Friday said there had been 240,000 temporary layoff agreements affecting 1.2 million workers so far.
The Spanish government has been adamant it will look after every citizen during the crisis.
Before the virus crisis, Spain had 14% unemployment, the second highest in the European Union after Greece.
TORONTO – Canada is increasing a payroll subsidy to small businesses to now cover up to 75% of salaries.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the increase over the original 10% subsidy plan. Trudeau says it became clear the government needed to do much more.
Trudeau says it means people will continue to be paid even though their employer has had to slow down or stop its operations because of COVID-19.
The prime minister says he hopes employers who are being pushed to lay off workers will think again.
Benjamin Bergen, Executive Director of the Council of Canadian Innovators, says the wage subsidies show the government is finally hearing the concerns from the business front lines. He says many companies may go bankrupt in April.
WASHINGTON – Chinese President Xi Jinping told President Donald Trump that China “understands the United States’ current predicament over the COVID-19 outbreak and stands ready to provide support, the official Xinhua News Agency said Friday.
The White House said only that the two leaders spoke on the phone Thursday and â€œagreed to work together to defeat the coronavirus pandemic and restore global health and prosperity.â€
According to the Chinese news agency, Xi also urged Trump to take â€œsubstantive action in improving bilateral relations.â€
BRUSSELS – Belgiumâ€™s health minister says video appointments with psychologists will be reimbursed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Maggie De Block says remote consultations with the mental health specialists will help patients suffering from anxiety because of the deadly virus.
She says its important for people who have already consulted a psychologist to continue their treatment.
In Belgium, there have been 7,284 cases of COVID-19 and 289 deaths.
MILWAUKEE – Tests led by U.S. government scientists found the coronavirus can remain viable on cardboard for up to a day.
Julie Fischer, a microbiologist at Georgetown University’s global health security research center, says it was a controlled lab situation and doesnâ€™t reflect what might happen in daily life or with other materials.
â€œIn the real-world environment, those packages and envelopes would be moving from place to place under various weather, temperature conditions that are affected by air and sunlight” that could impact viral viability, she said.
Even if virus was on the mail, it would need to make its way to the mouth or nose to cause infection.
“As long as you wash your hands thoroughly and regularly after opening it and don’t touch your nose and mouth … that mail itself, that package, poses very little risk,” Fischer said.
She says postal workers are at risk because they are coming into contact with each other and the public. She notes â€œthe biggest risk is still exposure to an infected person.â€