The Latest: Denmark looks to begin gradual ease of lockdown

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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:

– British virus crisis deepens, while New York sees positives.

– Denmark plans to ease restrictions of virus lockdown.

– Homeowners struggling to pay their mortgage in the Netherlands won’t be evicted.

– South Korea’s professional baseball league prepares to start practice games.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Denmark says it is planning to reopen next week kindergartners and primary schools for pupils aged up to 11 in a gradual lifting of the country’s coronavirus lockdown.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said late Monday that her government planned opening schools for younger students up until class five first because the requirement to care for them represented a greater burden on society. Reopening is planned for April 15.

She said restaurants, bars and cafes would remain closed for now. Also churches, libraries, sports venues and shopping centers would remain closed until at least May 10.

Denmark will keep in force border controls and ban gatherings of more than 10 people at least until May 10.

Frederiksen stressed the announced gradual easing of the lockdown would take place only if the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases remains stable and there is no major hike by Easter.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The Dutch government says homeowners who are struggling to pay their mortgages because of the coronavirus crisis will not be evicted.

Banks, housing organizations and the ministry of environment and housing issued a statement Tuesday pledging not to kick people out of their homes in the coming months as restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus wreak a devastating economic toll.

If people whose income has been hammered by the measures are unable to make monthly repayments, “mortgage providers together with homeowners will seek solutions” and not force them to sell their home, the statement says.

The exception to the no-eviction pledge is if a person is found to be running illegal activities in their home, such as a drug lab.

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SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea’s professional baseball league says it hopes to start practice games between teams on April 21 before possibly opening the season in early May.

The Korea Baseball Organization said Tuesday the plans were contingent on the country’s coronavirus caseload continuing to slow.

The KBO will advise players to wear face masks in locker rooms and require them to download smartphone apps to report their daily health status to league officials.

South Korea reported 47 new cases for the second consecutive day on Tuesday, the smallest daily jumps since Feb. 20, as infections continued to wane in the worst-hit city of Daegu. The country was reporting around 500 new cases per day in early March.

The KBO announced last month that it was postponing the start of its season, but that it still hoped to maintain a 144-game regular-season schedule.

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BEIJING – China and Russia are closing their land border and river port near Vladivostok following the discovery of 59 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus among Chinese citizens returning home via the crossing.

Beginning Tuesday, all Chinese citizens who arrive in the border region aboard Russian domestic flights will be forced to undergo a 14-day quarantine, according to a notice posted on the website of the Chinese consulate in Vladivostok.

Only those holding special passes will then be permitted to travel on the Russian side of the border area, the notice said. It wasn’t clear whether pass holders would be able to cross into China.

In addition, all guesthouses, nursing homes, on the Russian side of the border area will also be closed to outsiders through June 1, the notice said.

“Here, the consulate general strongly recommends and reminds relevant Chinese citizens to fully take into consideration the above situation” and not seek to return to China through the border crossing, the notice said.

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JOHANNESBURG – The African continent now has more than 10,000 coronavirus cases. That’s according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fifty-two of Africa’s 54 countries now have the virus, with island nation Sao Tome e Principe the latest to confirm cases.

Only the small kingdom of Lesotho and the island nation of Comoros have not confirmed cases. South Africa has the most cases on the continent with more than 1,600.

The shortage of testing capabilities across the continent has raised concerns that the number of actual cases in Africa could be higher.

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MOSCOW – Russian authorities registered more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases in 24 hours for the first time since the beginning of the outbreak.

The government coronavirus task force reported 1,154 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the country’s total caseload to 7,497, with 58 deaths and 494 recoveries.

The epidemic in Russia picked up speed in March, with the number of cases growing exponentially and doubling every few days.

In order to curb the outbreak, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered everyone to stay off work this month, with only essential businesses, such as grocery stores, pharmacies etc., operating. The vast majority of Russian regions are currently on lockdown, ordering residents to self-isolate at home and not go out, unless it’s to buy groceries, medications, walk their dogs or take out trash.

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LONDON – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has spent the night in an intensive care unit of a London hospital after his coronavirus symptoms dramatically worsened.

Cabinet Minister Michael Gove told the BBC that Johnson was receiving oxygen but was not on a ventilator.

Gove says that he’s “receiving the very, very best care from the team at St Thomas’ and our hopes and prayers are with him and with his family.”

The 55-year-old Conservative leader was admitted to St. Thomas’ Hospital late Sunday, 10 days after he was diagnosed with COVID-19, the first major world leader to be confirmed to have the virus.

He was moved to intensive care after his condition deteriorated Monday.

Britain has no official post of deputy prime minister, but Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has been designated to take over should Johnson become incapacitated.

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SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea says it will soon announce a guideline for hospitals on experimental coronavirus treatments using donated blood from patients who survived.

Kwon Jun-wook, an official from South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Tuesday the guideline will draw from the country’s experience with similar treatments on patients who contracted the MERS virus during an outbreak in 2015.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, discovered in 2012, is caused by a coronavirus in the same family as the common cold, SARS and the new virus that’s causing the COVID-19 illness. The 2015 outbreak killed 36 people and sickened nearly 200 in South Korea.

Kwon said officials were examining recent recoveries of two elderly COVID-19 patients at a hospital in Seoul who had been infused with survivors’ plasma – the liquid part of blood that contains antibodies – after other treatment attempts failed to improve their conditions.

He cautioned there’s still no guarantee that plasma treatment will work, and that health authorities and civilian experts are continuing to debate its effectiveness.

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand – New Zealand has decided there is some magic in the world after officially declaring children’s favorites the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy are essential workers.

That means they can carry on with their work while others stay at home during a monthlong lockdown.

“You will be pleased to know that we do consider both the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny to be essential workers,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday. “But, as you can imagine at this time, of course, they are going to potentially be quite busy at home with their family as well and their own bunnies.”

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TOKYO – Japan’s Defense Ministry said it has sent a group of soldiers to a Tokyo hotel to prepare rooms for COVID-19 patients with no or slight symptoms to stay.

It is an attempt to relieve overburdened hospitals and save beds for patients with more serious symptoms as Tokyo sees the number of cases surge. The Defense Ministry said 10 soldiers were to support the transfer of the patients, deliver meals and provide other assistance.

The measure, under the health ministry’s new medical care guideline for the coronavirus, is designed to relieve overburdened hospitals amid a growing fear of a medical system collapse. Monday’s pilot case began at Toyoko Inn, where about 100 people can stay in single rooms while being monitored.

The step comes hours before Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was to declare a state of emergency in Tokyo and six other prefectures later Tuesday to bolster social-distancing measures in the hard-hit areas.

Tokyo has seen a surge of new cases since late March, with its city total doubling every few days to 1,116 as of Monday, a sign experts say of an infection explosion. Nationwide, Japan has 4,618 cases including 712 from a cruise ship.

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NEW DELHI – India says it will lift a ban on some drug exports including hydroxychloroquine after President Donald Trump threatened retaliation if India failed to send the anti-malarial drug to the United States.

Foreign ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said in a statement Tuesday that having confirmed sufficient supplies for India’s needs, export restrictions “have been largely lifted.”

The White House has been championing hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19, even though it hasn’t been proven effective against the disease. The drug is officially approved in the U.S. for treating malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, and experts warn it can cause heart rhythm problems.

Trump has said that he spoke to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week about lifting the ban, and in a news conference Monday said that he would be surprised if Modi didn’t comply.

“If he doesn’t allow it to come out, that would be OK, but of course there may be retaliation. Why wouldn’t there be?” Trump said.

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand – New Zealand’s health minister has described himself as an “idiot” and has been stripped of some responsibilities after breaching the country’s strict lockdown measures.

David Clark drove about 12 miles to the beach to take a walk with his family. He said that at a time when the government was asking New Zealanders to make historic sacrifices by staying at home, he had let them down.

“I’ve been an idiot, and I understand why people will be angry with me,” he said in a statement.

Clark had earlier admitted to driving to a park near his home to go mountain biking.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said under normal circumstances, she would sack Clark. But she said the country couldn’t afford massive disruption in its health sector while it was fighting the virus. Instead, she said, she was stripping Clark of his role as Associate Finance Minister and demoting him to the bottom of the Cabinet rankings.

New Zealand is nearly halfway through a planned four-week lockdown aimed at minimizing the spread of the virus.

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Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen speaks during a coronavirus press conference, in Copenhagen, Denmark, Monday, April 6, 2020. (Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)
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