The Latest: US Surgeon General Adams touts social distancing

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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 Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in intensive care, Japan declares national emergency.

– US Surgeon General more optimistic about outcomes.

– Navy crew member on NY hospital ship tests positive.

– Spain records rise in daily count of coronavirus cases and deaths.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams echoed optimistic comments by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, saying that if Americans keep practicing social distancing for the rest of April “we can start to slowly reopen in some places.”

Speaking on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Adams says U.S. officials are watching to see how China and South Korea handle reopening their societies after putting mitigation efforts in place to deal with outbreaks of the coronavirus.

Adams applauded West Coast public health officials for enacting social distancing early in California and Washington state and providing a “blueprint for how we deal with this in the rest of the country.”

Both Trump and Pence have spoken in recent days of seeing optimistic signs in the data.

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MADRID – The Spanish government has passed new measures to cushion the economic and social impact of the coronavirus pandemic in the farming industry, which has seen a shortage of nearly 80,000 workers because of the border and movement restrictions.

Agriculture Minister Luis Planas says the new rules will allow people to work until June 30 in the harvest of vegetables and fruits without giving up their unemployment subsidies. Temporary contracts for migrant workers will be extended and migrants under 21 without permission to work will be granted papers.

Roughly two thirds of Spain’s agriculture produce are exported to other countries in Europe.

Spain’s left-wing coalition government wants to extend the emergency state to deal with the outbreak until April 26, a decision that is expected to get parliamentary approval on Thursday. Spain’s far-right Vox is the only major party that has so far rejected the government’s proposal.

Spain saw a slight rise in the number of recorded deaths and coronavirus infections to 13,800 and 140,000 respectively. Health officials attributed the uptick to a backlog of reporting new data over the weekend.

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ROME – Italy’s commissioner for fighting the COVID-19 virus appealed to Italians ahead of the Easter weekend to not lower their guard and to abide by a lockdown now in its fifth week.

Domenico Arcuri cited data showing pressure on Italian intensive care wards is easing and the number of deaths is narrowing.

But Arcuri stressed repeatedly “Don’t ever forget even for an instant that this invisible, strong and unknown virus has taken 16,523 lives through yesterday.”

With warmer weather, officials are concerned the number of people out and about with nudge up. People may attempt to see family and friends or just a glimpse of nature after a month of severely restricted movement.

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COTONOU, Benin – The West African nation of Benin has ordered people in a dozen cities in the south to wear face masks.

It has “strongly encouraged” people elsewhere in the country to wear them to help prevent the coronavirus’ spread.

The order applies to the capital, Porto-Novo, and seat of government, Cotonou, that already have been isolated from the rest of the country.

Benin has 22 confirmed cases. More African nations are considering the widespread wearing of masks. Kenya already has recommended it for all citizens.

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WASHINGTON – The Navy says a crew member on board the hospital ship USNS Comfort in New York harbor tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday.

The crew member has been isolated from patients and other crew members, and the Navy says the illness will not affect the Comfort’s mission of receiving and treating patients.

The Navy had recently announced that the Comfort, which initially was taking only non-COVID patients, is now accepting trauma, emergency and urgent care patients regardless of their COVID status.

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PARIS – Paris authorities have banned all outdoor sports activities between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. after Parisians took to the streets in numbers over the weekend to enjoy the sunny weather.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo and police prefect Didier Lallement say Parisians should limit their movement to urgent or indispensable outings amid stringent lockdown measures implemented across the country. Starting Wednesday, Parisians can only exercise outdoors when “street crowd is at its lowest.”

Parisians were previously allowed to exercise outdoors for an hour while carrying a form explaining the reason why they were going out.

France has nearly 9,000 dead and some 100,000 known infections across the country.

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BEERSHEBA, Israel – A McDonald’s drive-thru in southern Israel has traded french fries and Big Macs for a product that is going like hotcakes: coronavirus tests.

With the global pandemic prompting McDonald’s to close its restaurants in Israel, a partnership with one of the country’s health care providers is turning some of the shuttered drive-thrus into drive-thru testing centers.

Ilan Tibi, the southern district director for the Clalit HMO, says patients can come to the center after receiving a referral from their doctor. Cars are greeting by medical teams in protective gear who test the passenger without having to exit the vehicle.

The center at Shoket Junction, next to the city of Beersheba, can conduct about 40 tests a day.

Israel has reported over 9,000 cases of COVID-19 and 60 deaths.

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BRUSSELS – Belgian health officials want to perform more COVID-19 screening tests in the general population and at nursing homes.

That comes after the number of new hospitalized patients across the country went down for a fifth consecutive day. Most tests have been done on seriously ill people.

Emmanuel Andre, a scientist and spokesman at the COVID-19 crisis center, says 314 people were hospitalized on Monday in Belgium, the lowest tally since March 25.

Andre says the country’s testing capacity has been massively increased in recent weeks, an evolution likely to benefit Belgium’s 1,500 nursing homes. He says health care personal and residents will be tested.

There have been 22,194 cases and 2,035 deaths in the nation of 11.5 million people.

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LONDON – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in stable condition in an intensive care unit and has not been put on a ventilator.

Johnson spokesman James Slack says “the prime minister has been stable overnight and remains in good spirits. He is receiving standard oxygen treatment and is breathing without any other assistance.”

He said Johnson was not receiving mechanical ventilation and does not have pneumonia.

Johnson was admitted to St. Thomas’ Hospital late Sunday with a fever and cough that persisted 10 days after he was diagnosed with COVID-19. He was moved to the intensive care unit Monday evening after his condition worsened.

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BERLIN – Germany’s national disease control center has launched a new app that it says it hopes will help scientists better understand the spread of the new coronavirus by analyzing users’ smartwatch or fitness band data.

The Robert Koch Institute called on volunteers to install the “Corona Data Donation” in a pilot project. It says smartwatches and fitness bands record resting heart rates, sleep patterns and the level of activity of their users, and “in the case of acute respiratory illness, these vital signs change significantly in most cases.”

Robert Koch Institute head Lothar Wieler says pairing the health information with the location could help scientists detect a new outbreak.

Wieler stressed that the app is not a diagnostic tool for people to use to self-test for the coronavirus. The institute is hoping for 1 million people to sign up, about 10% of the population.

Germany has reported more than 100,000 cases of the coronavirus and more than 1,800 deaths.

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LISBON, Portugal – Portugal’s president estimates that the worst of the coronavirus outbreak in his country will be over by the end of April.

President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa told public broadcaster RTP there can be no “decompression” of restrictions until May, in reference to government orders for almost everybody to stay indoors.

The head of state has placed Portugal in a state of emergency through April 17. He warns If people let down their guard now, there could be a relapse.

Portugal has 11,730 official coronavirus cases and 311 deaths.

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ATHENS, Greece – Hospital doctors have staged protests around Greece to press demands for the government to hire additional medical staff and use more resources from the private sector.

Doctors and other staff members led the silent demonstrations Tuesday at the front entrance of Greece’s largest hospital in central Athens, wearing surgical and protective gear.

Holding up banners reading “We fight for you. Shout for us,” the doctors said more resources were needed to deal with the pandemic in Greece. The national coronavirus death toll reached 79 on Monday and still remains below the number of fatalities attributed to seasonal flu.

The protests were held outside more than a dozen hospitals, organized by the national hospital doctors’ union. It also had the backing from the Greek Communist Party, which sent lawmakers to several of the demonstrations.

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MADRID – Spain is recording again a rise of daily coronavirus infections and deaths for the first time in five days, a result consistent with previous Tuesdays when a weekend backlog of tests and fatalities are reported.

With 743 new deaths in the last 24 hours, some 100 more than the fatalities seen from Sunday to Monday, Spain’s death toll neared 13,800 since the beginning of the pandemic, Health Ministry data showed. The total of confirmed infections rose over 140,000, with 5,478 new ones on Tuesday, 1,000 more than on Monday. Both figures had been declining since April 2.

Authorities have said flattening of the contagion arc will be a long process but they have pinned hopes in how pressure is easing in hospitals, mostly in emergency wards.

As part of deescalating measures being debated for coming weeks, Spain’s left-wing government wants to test 30,000 households to draw the national map of the outbreak. The goal is to measure how much has the virus spread beyond hospitals and nursing homes, which had become big contagion clusters.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchéz’s Cabinet is expected to approve Tuesday new measures to cushion the economic and social impact of the pandemic, including subsidies for farmers and flexibility to temporarily hire migrant workers for harvesting vegetables and fruits.

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PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Cambodia’s leader says he is ordering a ban on exports of rice and fish to ensure there are no local shortages of the staple foods during the coronavirus crisis.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said he wanted to make sure there was a sufficient supply of salt and noodles as well. He appealed to Cambodians to plant vegetables and other crops to supply local markets “during this difficult time.”

Expensive gourmet varieties of rice that Cambodia has contracts to sell abroad are exempted from the export ban.

Hun Sen also announced that the Lunar New Year holiday scheduled for April 13-16 has been canceled to reduce the risk of people spreading COVID-19.

Hun Sen in February had been skeptical that the coronavirus would impact Cambodia, but as cases mounted he has imposed restrictions on gatherings and travel and welcomed medical assistance and experts from China.

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JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesian government has been forecasting the new coronavirus may infect about 95,000 people in the country by next month as the virus was spreading rapidly.

Indonesia marked the biggest daily increase in COVID-19 cases since the country announced its two first cases early last month: 247 people tested positive on Tuesday, bringing the country caseload to 2,738.

Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati revealed the dire estimation during a hearing with the House’s Commission XI, which overseeing economic issues at the parliament on Monday to discuss strategic steps needed to curb the peak of the virus transmission.

She says the estimate was discussed at a cabinet meeting held by President Joko Widodo earlier based on a projection by the country’s intelligence agency and academic experts.

Widodo has declared a national health emergency and ordered large scale social distancing to contain the spread of the new coronavirus in the archipelago nation, which is home for nearly 270 million.

While Indonesia’s death toll from the new coronavirus outbreak at 221 on Tuesday, it marked the highest in Asia after China.

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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.

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

Vice President Mike Pence holds his notes as he departs after speaking about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Monday, April 6, 2020, in Washington, as Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary of Health and Human Services, watches. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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