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:
– Shenzhen eyes avoiding future outbreaks with ban on eating wild animals
– Philippine president vows to forcibly ensure order during lockdown
– State Department: planeload of medical supplies from Russia were purchased
– Trump: Canada, England to evacuate passengers from cruise ships near Florida
– Trump: federal stockpile of personal protective equipment nearly depleted.
– UN: global economy could shrink by almost 1 percent.
– Pence: U.S. trajectory akin to hard-hit Italy.
BEIJING – China’s southern technology powerhouse of Shenzhen has issued the most sweeping ban yet on the breeding and consumption of wild animals in an effort to prevent a future outbreak such as the global coronavirus pandemic.
The virus, first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December, has been traced to a food market in the city that sold wild animals such as pangolins and civet cats, along as more conventional fare such as chicken and fish.
The consumption of wild animals is considered even more popular in the south where Shenzhen is located. That is where the 2002-2003 global SARS outbreak was believed to have first been spread by people who consumed or worked with wild animals in areas around Shenzhen and who may originally have caught it from wild bats.
Shenzhen’s regulations permanently ban the trade in and consumption of wild animals, a step beyond the temporary ban issued by the central government at the start of the current virus outbreak. Along with snakes, lizards and other wild animals, it also bans the consumption of dog and cat meat that have long been a local specialty, citing humanitarian reasons.
Households pets have not been found to spread the coronavirus.
The ban allows for fines beginning at 150,000 yuan ($21,400) and rising considerably depending on the value of the animals seized. It continues to permit the farming of wild animals for medicinal purposes, which has been criticized as cruel and unsanitary, although consumption of such animals for food is banned.
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine president has threatened to order law enforcers to shoot troublemakers and stop a massive food and cash aid if people resort to riots and defy a lockdown imposed on millions to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
President Rodrigo Duterte said in a televised speech Wednesday night that he also would ask the police to punish people who attack doctors and health workers with toxic chemicals by dousing the offenders with the potentially lethal substance or force them to drink it. Troublemakers will starve in jails, he warned.
Duterte, who has been condemned for his brutal anti-drugs crackdown that has left thousands of mostly poor suspects dead, issued the warnings hours after police broke up a rally by slum dwellers pleading for food aid and arrested 21 of them in suburban Quezon city.
â€œMy orders are for the police, the military and the villages, in case thereâ€™s trouble and thereâ€™s an occasion where they fight and your life is threatened, shoot them dead,â€ Duterte said, adding that the viral outbreak â€œis getting worse.â€
Amid delays and widespread complaints in the distribution of promised cash and food packs, Duterte said he was transferring that responsibility from politicians to a department led by an ex-general and warned he would be harsh to those who would steal the aid.
The Philippines has reported 2,311 cases of the COVID-19 illness, including 96 deaths, and expects infections to soar after more test kits arrived and laboratories were opened.
WASHINGTON – The State Department says a planeload of medical supplies sent from Russia to the United States on Wednesday was purchased under an agreement between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement that the supplies, including ventilators and personal protective equipment, were not a gift.
â€œBoth countries have provided humanitarian assistance to each other in times of crisis in the past and will no doubt do so again in the future,â€ she said. â€œThis is a time to work together to overcome a common enemy that threatens the lives of all of us.â€
Ortagus did not say how much the U.S. paid for the supplies, which were handed over to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in New York after the Russian cargo plane carrying them landed at John F. Kennedy international airport. She said the U.S. would continue to assist other countries in dealing with coronavirus pandemic â€œbut we cannot do it alone.â€
Earlier Wednesday, Russiaâ€™s ambassador to Washington said the delivery reflected the need to pool global efforts to counter the COVID-19 virus despite political differences. Ambassador Anatoly Antonov rejected claims that Russia was seeking political gain by providing the supplies as â€œcynical and immoral,â€ adding that Russian military medical experts there were risking their lives on daily basis.
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said arrangements had been made with the Canadian and British governments to evacuate many of the passengers on two cruise ships set to soon dock in Florida.
Trump added that officials in states overwhelmed by coronavirus infections are reluctant to have the passengers immediately return to their communities.
â€œIt’s a tough situation you know,â€ Trump said. â€œYou can understand you have people that are sick on the ships and states don’t want to take (them). They have enough problems right now. They don’t want to take them. But we have to from a humane standpoint. We don’t have a choice. I don’t want to do that but we have to. People are dying.â€
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump is acknowledging that the federal stockpile is nearly depleted of personal protective equipment used by doctors and nurses to protect themselves from the new coronavirus.
“It is,â€ Trump told reporters at a press briefing Wednesday, â€œbecause we’re sending it directly to hospitals.â€
Concerns about the stockpile levels were first reported by the Washington Post on Wednesday.
Trump has said that the stockpile has almost 10,000 ventilators but that the administration has been keeping close hold on them so they can be deployed quickly to states that need them. But he said the administration had agreed to ship out 1,000 ventilators.
He says, â€œwe have to have the flexibility of moving the ventilators to where the virus is going.â€
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump says he is â€œthinking aboutâ€ enacting new restrictions on domestic flights as coronavirus cases continue to spike across the country.
Trump told reporters at a White House briefing Wednesday that â€œwe’re certainly looking at it.”
He says, â€œweâ€™re getting into a position now where we want to do that, we have to do that … and we may have some recommendations.â€
Flights continue across the U.S., including between coronavirus hotspots such as New York and Detroit, though the number of passengers had plummeted.
Trump says heâ€™s worried, however, about the impact on already-struggling airlines, saying that, once you do that, â€œyou really are clamping downâ€ on â€œan industry that is desperately needed.â€
Also, Trump says his administration is â€œlooking very seriouslyâ€ at building two additional Navy hospital ships of the kind that have been deployed to New York and Los Angeles to help ease the burden on local hospitals.
Trump says the idea is to either build two â€œbrand newâ€ hospital ships or convert an existing large ship to serve as a floating hospital. He offered no timeline or estimated cost.
Building two new ships likely would take many months, if not years, suggesting Trump could be aiming to expand this capacity for future health crises.
The USNS Mercy in Los Angeles and the USNS Comfort in New York are each equipped with about 1,000 beds and large medical staffs. Their mission is to handle trauma cases, rather than COVID-19 patients.
UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations says the global economy could shrink by almost 1 percent this year because of the coronavirus pandemic instead of growing at a projected 2.5 percent.
A new report from the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs on Wednesday warned that world output could contract even further from this yearâ€™s 0.9 percent forecast if restrictions on economic activities extend to the third quarter of the year, and if fiscal responses fail to support income and consumer spending.
The report said the negative effects of current economic restrictions in richer developed nations will soon spill over into developing countries which will see lower trade and investment.
The severity of the economic impact – whether a moderate or deep recession – will largely depend on the duration of restrictions on the movement of people and economic activities in major economies, and the size and impact of fiscal responses, it said.
U.N. Undersecretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Liu Zhenmin said: â€œUrgent and bold policy measures are needed, not only to contain the pandemic and save lives, but also to protect the most vulnerable in our societies from economic ruin and to sustain economic growth and financial stability.â€
NEW YORK – New York City is enlisting its recently retired police commissioner as a coronavirus supply czar to ensure hospitals on the front lines of the fight have sufficient equipment.
James Oâ€™Neill, who left the New York Police Department in November, is taking the role on a voluntary basis and will remain a senior vice president and global security chief at credit card giant Visa Inc.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Oâ€™Neill will develop a system of checks to ensure supplies such as protective masks, gowns and gloves and vital pieces of equipment such as ventilators are where they need to be. New York City accounts for most of the state’s COVID-19 deaths, which doubled in 72 hours to more than 1,900.
Oâ€™Neill was with the police department for 36 years, the last three as commissioner. In that role, he led a move away from controversial policies, guided its response to terrorist attacks and oversaw continuing drops in crime.
ATHENS, Greece – The Orthodox Church of Greece says this monthâ€™s Easter Week and Easter Sunday services will be held behind closed doors, with only a few priests allowed in and no members of the general public, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Orthodox Easter is the most popular date on Greeceâ€™s religious calendar, with large crowds flocking to Easter Week — which falls this year on April 12-19 — services daily, attending candle-lit mourning processions on Easter Friday and often rowdy celebrations for the Resurrection at midnight on Easter Saturday.
The Church of Greece on Wednesday urged the faithful to pray at home, in an act of “sacrifice.” The government has already warned Greeks that traditional Easter Sunday festivities, that include open-air family feasts with mass roasting of lambs, will not be allowed this year.
WASHINGTON – U.S. military officials say they are sending another 540 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to help the Department of Homeland Security bolster efforts to keep COVID-19-infected migrants from crossing the border.
Gen. Terrance O’Shaughnessy, commander of U.S. Northern Command, which is responsible for the defense of the United States, told reporters Wednesday that the extra troops would help â€œseal offâ€ the flow of coronavirus. Mexico has far fewer reported cases of the virus than does the U.S.
Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson, who commands land forces under O’Shaughnessy, says the extra troops will be deployed â€œvery soon.â€
The U.S. already has about 2,700 active-duty troops and about 2,500 members of the National Guard on the border.
A 7-week-old baby who died at a hospital in the Hartford area had the coronavirus, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said Wednesday. The cause of death is unknown.
The unidentified child was unresponsive when taken to the hospital and later died. The infant tested positive during a postmortem exam for the virus that causes COVID-19, said Josh Geballe, the governor’s chief operating officer.
A spokesman for Lamont said officials did not know whether the infant had underlying medical conditions.
“That baby was less than 7 weeks old. And just a reminder that nobody is safe with this virus,â€ Lamont said at a news conference after touring a temporary hospital set up at Southern Connecticut State University.
Children have made up a small fraction of coronavirus cases worldwide. A letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine by Chinese researchers last month month reported the death of a 10-month-old with COVID-19. The infant had a bowel blockage and organ failure and died four weeks after being hospitalized.
Separate research published in the journal Pediatrics traced 2,100 infected children in China and noted one death, a 14-year old. The study found less than 6% of children were seriously ill.
JACKSON, Miss. – Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced Wednesday that he is ordering people statewide to stay at home to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
The order will take effect at 5 p.m. Friday and last until 8 a.m. April 20. The Republican governor said: “This will not be easy for anyone, but we believe it is the right course of action.â€
Reeves was not the only Southern governor to reverse course Wednesday. Two of his Republican counterparts who had repeatedly resisted statewide stay-home orders – Ron DeSantis of Florida and Brian Kemp of Georgia – also issued the mandate.
Mississippi has surpassed 1,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and has more than 20 deaths, according to numbers released Wednesday.
LAS VEGAS – Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak issued a statewide directive telling Nevadans to stay at home, with an exception for essential trips.
The Democratic governor had already asked Nevada residents two weeks ago to stay home and ordered a closure of casinos and non-essential businesses, but on Wednesday he decided to formalize his request that Nevadans stay home with a written order.
Unlike the orders issued by some other governors, Sisolakâ€™s directive does not include a penalty for those who violate it.
The governorâ€™s order doesnâ€™t apply to the homeless or people making essential trips such as to get groceries, receive health care or receive goods or services from businesses that have been allowed to stay open, such as pharmacies, hardware stores and restaurants that offer take-out only.
All Pennsylvania residents must stay home as much as possible to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Tom Wolf said Wednesday as he dramatically expanded the footprint of the quarantine to include the entire state.
The Democratic governor added 34 counties to his existing stay-at-home order, meaning that residents of all 67 of Pennsylvaniaâ€™s counties are now asked to stay put unless they have a legitimate reason to go out.
The expanded order will take effect at 8 p.m. Wednesday and last through at least April 30.
LONDON – The United Nationsâ€™ international climate summit is being postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The British government says the meeting, due to take place in Glasgow in November, will now be held in 2021. The date has yet to be decided.
The government said in a statement that â€œin light of the ongoing, worldwide effects of COVID-19, holding an ambitious, inclusive COP26 in November 2020 is no longer possible.â€
Glasgowâ€™s SEC Arena, which had been due to hold the event, has been named as the site of a temporary hospital for COVID-19 patients.
THE VILLAGES, Fla. – Golf will go on in one of the largest retirement communities in the nation, though other activities will be curtailed amid concerns the coronavirus is starting to take hold there.
County officials in central Florida issued a stay-at-home advisory for The Villages on Tuesday that recommends residents remain at their houses except to get groceries, seek medical attention, work, care for another person or exercise outdoors.
Golf was specifically noted as permissible in the orderâ€™s exercise category. The Villages has dozens of golf courses.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a statewide stay-at-home order Wednesday after weeks of resisting the move.
Sumter County Administrator Bradley Arnold said the statewide order didn’t change anything in regards to golf.
GORDONSVILLE, Va. – Vice President Mike Pence says Americans will have enough food and supplies to get through the coronavirus pandemic.
Pence said Americaâ€™s food supply is â€œvery strongâ€ on Wednesday as he toured a Virginia distribution center for Walmart, the worldâ€™s largest retailer.
Shelves at grocery and other stores across the U.S. were picked clean of toilet paper and other essentials at the onset of the pandemic.
Pence toured a chilly warehouse for perishable goods ranging from potatoes to bananas. He had removed his suit jacket and sported a Walmart associateâ€™s badge that said â€œMike.â€
The vice president told a Walmart truck driver that he and all drivers are considered â€œcritical infrastructure.â€
Pence used the intercom to tell all employees theyâ€™re on the â€œfront linesâ€ of the pandemic. He thanked them for doing a â€œgreat jobâ€ and for â€œkeeping food on the table for the American people.â€
WASHINGTON – Vice President Mike Pence says the White Houseâ€™s models for the coronavirus outbreak show the country on a trajectory akin to hard-hit Italy.
Speaking to CNN, Pence says, â€œWe think Italy may be the most comparable area to the United States at this point.”
Pence was referencing the prediction models unveiled by the White House on Tuesday that project 100,000 to 240,000 U.S. deaths in the coronavirus pandemic. Those figures assume that the country maintains rigorous social-distancing practices for the duration of the public health crisis.
Italyâ€™s health system was stretched beyond capacity weeks ago leading to soaring death tolls. U.S. governors and local officials have warned their states need urgent federal help to avoid a similar fate.
ROME – Premier Giuseppe Conte has extended Italyâ€™s nationwide lockdown and industrial shutdown for another 10 days until April 13, arguing that the coronavirus emergency is far from over even if the rate of new infections is starting to slow.
Conte said Wednesday that if Italy were to ease its restrictions now, before the virus is fully under control, â€œall our efforts would be in vain and we would pay a high price – psychologically, economically and socially – because weâ€™d be forced to start over.â€
Italy went into nationwide lockdown on March 10, after a preliminary quarantine of a dozen small towns in northern Italy failed to stop the virusâ€™ spread. Last week, Italy became the first western developed nation to idle all but essential industry, adding to a production shutdown that industrial lobby Confindustria forecasts will result in a 6% drop in GDP that could provoke a depression.
On Wednesday, Conte signed a new decree extending the shutdown until at least April 13. Conte said he knew it was asking a lot of Italians in particular to refrain from Easter celebrations April 12 but assured them that the government was already at work gaming out how Italy can begin slowly reopening once infections show a sustained decline.
He said the next phase would be living with the virus amid some activity and working toward a final phase of economic reconstruction.
Italy has seen a leveling off in the exponential growth of virus infections this week, registering 4,782 confirmed new infections for a total of 110,574. Italyâ€™s death toll remains the highest in the world at 13,155.
PARIS – France has registered a record number of 509 hospital deaths from the coronavirus in 24 hours, the chief of the health service said Wednesday.
That brings the total number of deaths from COVID-19 in hospitals since March 1 to 4,032, Jerome Salomon said at a daily news conference. Those deaths do not include people who died outside a hospital setting.
A raft of deaths over the past month in homes for the aged, those considered the most vulnerable to the virus, has raised a stir.
On Wednesday, it was revealed that 19 people had died since March 20 in a home named The Riviera in the town of Mougins on the Cote dâ€™Azur.
Salomon said he hopes to provide on Thursday a count of the number of people who have died in institutions for the aged. In eastern France, the hardest hit region in France, 411 out of 620 homes for the aged have cases of COVID-19.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe last week ordered those in special homes confined to their rooms after an earlier ban on family visits.
KYIV, Ukraine – Ukraineâ€™s president on Wednesday likened the coronavirus pandemic with the Chernobyl nuclear disaster as he urged citizens to stay home.
A reactor exploded at Chernobyl nuclear power plant in then-Soviet Ukraine in 1986, spewing radiation across vast territories in the worldâ€™s worst nuclear catastrophe. Soviet authorities initially tried to hide the explosion from the public and many people remained unaware of the radiation hazard for several days.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a video address that â€œno one was afraid because the radiation is invisible – just as the coronavirus.â€ He chastised Ukrainians from flouting government calls to stay home, saying â€œIâ€™m asking you all to grow up.â€
Ukraine so far has registered 669 coronavirus cases and 17 deaths.
GENEVA – The head of the World Health Organization says he is â€œdeeply concernedâ€ about the rapid spread of the new coronavirus and infection related to it.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that the death toll from COVID-19 disease – now at more than 45,000 people worldwide – has more than doubled over the past week alone.
â€œIn the next few days we will reach 1 million confirmed cases and 50,000 deaths,â€ he told reporters in Geneva.
Tedros noted that many developing countries, which are so far less affected than richer Western countries and China, will struggle to cope. He appealed for debt relief for those countries.
Tedros also said that over the three months since the coronavirus outbreak first erupted in China, â€œwe have learned an enormous amount and every day we learn more.â€
While some countries have ordered people to stay-at-home and have ordered lockdowns of businesses, school and travel to limit the spread, he said such measures can also â€œhave unintended consequences for the poorest and most vulnerable people.â€
ROME – Italy added another 4,782 virus infections to bring its official total to 110,574. And Italyâ€™s death toll, already the highest in the world, increased by another 727 victims to 13,155. But the rate of new infections continued its leveling off, and Lombardy officials reported continued easing of the pressure on intensive care units, where the numbers have fluctuated from 1,328 patients on Sunday to 1,342 on Wednesday.
Local officials and statisticians, however, have noted that Lombardyâ€™s ICU numbers might not be rising because ICU are full and because many elderly people arenâ€™t being brought to hospitals and are dying at home or in nursing homes where their deaths might not even be recorded as COVID-19 because they were never tested.
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