COVID-19 world update: “Lockdown light” in one area of Italy; Russia prepares for worst

The latest on the coronavirus pandemic. These files from the Associated Press were posted by Black Press Media at 7:30 a.m., Monday, April 13.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

  • Health or wealth? Nations pressured to loosen virus rules.
  • Spain allows some people to return to work.
  • The British government reports 717 new virus deaths.
  • A region in Italy has scaled back some virus restrictions.

With “utmost caution,” some in Spain return to work

MADRID — Spanish authorities have let some workers begin returning to their jobs, but Health Minister Salvador Illa says the government will move carefully on allowing others to end their self-isolation amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Illa said officials will proceed with “the utmost caution and prudence … and always based on scientific evidence” in easing restrictions.

“We’re in no position to be setting dates” about when isolation might end, he told a Madrid news conference Monday. “We can’t get ahead of ourselves.”

The Spanish government, looking to get the economy moving again, has allowed workers to return to some factory and construction jobs. But retail stores and services must remain closed and office workers have to keep working from home.

He said Spain, a country of 47 million people where the death toll officially attributed to the coronavirus is 17,489, is carrying out some 20,000 tests a day and plans to increase that number.

Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said a program to distribute 10 million face masks began Monday.

“We’re still at an early stage” in fighting the coronavirus, Grande-Marlaska said. “Once it is defeated, we will have to rebuild our country, socially and economically.”

British death toll passes 11,000

LONDON — The British government says another 717 people who tested positive for the coronavirus have died in hospitals, taking the total to 11,329.

That daily increase is the third decline in a row but that may be partly due to delays in reporting deaths connected to the four-day Easter weekend.

On Sunday, Britain became the fourth European country, after Italy, Spain and France to record more than 10,000 deaths.

The figures may not be exactly comparable, however. The U.K. deaths reported each day occurred over several days or even weeks, and the total does not include deaths outside of hospitals, such as in care homes.

Britain was put into lockdown on March 23 and the government is expected to extend the restrictions later this week.

One area of Italy moves to “lockdown light”

SOAVE, Italy — Veneto is loosening some restrictions on movement as it enters a phase that the governor, Luca Zaia, on Monday termed “lockdown light.’’

Zaia is expanding the 200-meter (219-yard) from home radius for physical fitness and allowing open-air markets in a new ordinance that takes effect Tuesday. At the same time, the new ordinance makes masks or other face covering mandatory outside the home — not just in supermarkets or on public transportation as was previously the case.

Extending the radius for exercise is “an act of great trust,’’ Zaia said, adding that it was not permission to move “four or five kilometres from home. The law says near your home. We need to use common sense.’’ Any physical activity must be done alone, he said.

Open-air markets can resume as long as a single entrance and a single exit are established, and that everyone covers their nose and mouth with a mask or scarf, and wears gloves or has with them hand sanitizer.

Veneto has been credited with a rapid response to the virus — including a higher number of tests than the national average — that has helped limit the number of fatalities. It is the fourth-hardest hit, recording 9% of all infections but just 4% of deaths, at 779 to date.

As of Monday, 1,427 people with the virus were hospitalized and 245 were in intensive care. ‘’If these numbers rise, we will have to come down hard,’’ Zaia warned.

Popular NYC sports photographer dies at 48

NEW YORK — Anthony Causi, a highly skilled and exceedingly popular sports photographer for The New York Post who covered the city’s teams for 25 years, died Sunday from the new coronavirus. He was 48.

The newspaper reported Causi’s death on its website Sunday night and included an image of Monday’s back page. It featured a photo of Causi holding a camera with a long lens and the words “Our Eyes, Our Heart” and then below: “And our city’s loss.”

Causi was married with two young children. Many of New York’s professional teams and several players posted messages on Twitter expressing sadness, condolences and paying tribute to him.

“Do you know how many athletes reached out when they heard he was sick?” said Stephen Lynch, editor-in-chief at the Post. “Players from every team, sending thoughts, hoping he was going to be all right.”

Major League Baseball called Causi a “sports photojournalist extraordinaire” and said he “brought out the best in the players and the people of our National Pastime.”

U.S. Supreme Court to hold sessions by teleconference

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court said Monday it will hold arguments by teleconference in May in key cases, including President Donald Trump’s bid to shield his tax and other financial records.

The court will make live audio of the arguments available for the first time. It had previously postponed courtroom arguments for March and April because of the coronavirus.

The court will hear 10 cases in all between May 4 and May 13. In addition to fights over subpoenas for Trump’s financial records, they include two cases about whether presidential electors are required to cast their Electoral College ballots for the candidate who won their state.

The justices and the lawyers arguing the cases all will participate remotely. The court said a live audio feed will be provided to news organizations.

The court has never live-streamed courtroom arguments and only rarely has it made the audio available on the same day.

Six of the nine justices are 65 and older, at higher risk of getting very sick from the illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 87, and Stephen Breyer, 81, are the oldest members of the court.

The only other time Supreme Court arguments have been held outside the 85-year-old court building was in October 2001, when anthrax was detected in the court mailroom. That led the justices to hold arguments in the federal courthouse about a half mile from the Supreme Court, but only for one week.

In 1918, when the court still met inside the Capitol, arguments were postponed for a month because of the flu pandemic. Smallpox outbreaks in the late 1700s also caused postponement of court business.

U.S. sailor dies because of COVID-19

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy says an aircraft carrier crew member who was hospitalized in intensive care on the island of Guam last week has died of what officials called COVID-19-related complications.

The sailor was among nearly 600 crew members of the USS Theodore Roosevelt to have tested positive for the new coronavirus.

In announcing the death on Monday, the Navy said the sailor had been found “unresponsive” during an April 9 medical check while in isolation on Guam. The Navy said fellow sailors and an onsite medical team at the house in which the sailor was staying administered CPR.

The Navy says the sailor was then moved to an intensive care unit at a local hospital. It did not identify the sailor.

The Roosevelt aircraft carrier pulled into port at Guam on March 27, shortly after the first coronavirus cases on board were detected.

“Surreal” experience caring for British PM

LONDON — The mother of a nurse who cared for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson while he was in intensive care with COVID-19 says her daughter found the experience “surreal.”

Jenny McGee, from Invercargill on New Zealand’s South Island, and her Portuguese colleague, Luis Pitarma, were singled out by Johnson after his discharge from St. Thomas’ Hospital in London on Sunday for the care they gave him.

Caroline McGee told broadcaster TVNZ that her daughter was “very professional” and waited until Johnson was out of the ICU to let her parents know she’d had the prime minister as a patient.

She says her daughter told them “she had just had a most surreal time in her life, something she will never forget, and that she had been taking care of Boris.”

Portuguese President Rebelo de Sousa also “personally conveyed” his thanks to Luis Pitarma, who is from the city of Aveiro, for his care and supervision of Johnson.

Putin: Prepare for worst-case scenarios

MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin says Russia is facing a surge in the number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients and needs to prepare for the worst-case scenarios.

Putin told officials during a conference call that they should be ready to move medical personnel and equipment between regions to respond to the rapidly changing situation.

He said the preparations must anticipate “any possible scenarios, including the most difficult and extraordinary.”

Putin ordered officials to recruit additional personnel from universities and medical schools.

Russia had recorded 18,328 coronavirus cases and 148 deaths, as of Monday. Moscow and its surrounding region accounted for about two-thirds of all cases.

Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova reported to Putin that Russia has 40,000 hospital beds for COVID-19 patients and plans to increase the number to 95,000. She said infections have been growing steadily by 16%-18% a day.

British PM recovering, but not yet at work

LONDON — Boris Johnson’s spokesman says the British prime minister is continuing his recovery from COVID-19 and, on the advice of his doctors, is “not immediately returning to work.”

Johnson was discharged from St. Thomas’ Hospital in London on Sunday and then went to Chequers, the prime minister’s country residence, around 40 miles (65 kilometres) northwest of the capital.

James Slack confirmed that Johnson has now tested negative for the coronavirus and denied that the government had downplayed the seriousness of Johnson’s condition.

Johnson was admitted to St. Thomas’ on April 5 after his condition worsened and he was transferred the following day to its intensive care unit, where he received oxygen but was not put onto a ventilator. He spent three nights there before moving back to a regular hospital ward. After leaving the hospital, Johnson expressed his gratitude to the staff of the National Health Service for saving his life when it could have “gone either way.”

Slack said Johnson spoke over the weekend to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who has been deputizing for the prime minister during his illness.

Serbian police arrest nursing home boss

BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbian police have arrested the head of a nursing home in the southern city of Nis after 139 people were infected with the new coronavirus at the institution.

The manager, identified only by his initials M.S., is suspected of “committing a grave criminal act against public health,” police said in a statement on Monday. The suspect did not undertake all necessary measures and actions to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 disease, the statement added.

Police say that those infected include 135 residents and four staff. The head of the Gerontology Center Nis has been ordered into a 48-hour detention pending questioning by the prosecutors, said the police statement.

Serbia has banned all people over 65 years old from leaving their homes to protect the elderly population from getting infected with the new coronavirus. Other strict measures include daily and weekend curfews.

Migrants and refugees amass near Greek islands

ATHENS, Greece — Authorities in Greece say they are concerned about indications of a build-up of migrants and refugees on the Turkish coast near Greek islands despite movement restrictions in effect in both countries aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19.

“We have seen signs of activity on the shores facing (the islands),” Stelios Petsas, the Greek government spokesman, said. “We will … continue to do whatever it takes to defend our sovereign rights and guard the borders of Greece and Europe.”

The Greek islands last year were the European Union’s busiest entry point for illegal migration, according to the border protection agency Frontex.

In early March, daily clashes broke out at the Greek-Turkish land border after the Turkish government said it would no longer stop migrants heading to Europe.

Greek Defence Ministry officials say the military has remained on alert at the land and sea borders with Turkey since that crisis.

Lockdown in Bangladesh as number of dead rises

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Bangladesh has recorded five new deaths and another 182 new cases of infections from the coronavirus over the last 24 hours, the country’s health minister said Monday. With the latest figures, the death toll stood at 39 while the number of confirmed cases rose to 803, said Zahid Maleque.

He said transmission of the virus has spread in many areas. Dhaka has remained a major hotspot of the virus while some neighbouring districts are also in trouble.

Bangladesh, a densely populated nation of 160 million people, is desperately trying to contain the virus from spreading by enforcing a nationwide lockdown until April 25.

The country has suspended all programs to celebrate the Bengali New Year on Tuesday. In the South Asian country, community transmission has taken place for weeks through Bangladeshi expatriates who returned from Italy and some other hard-hit countries.

Pope prays for “rulers, scientists, politicians”

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis says he prays for all the countries struggling with COVID-19 cases, the United States and European nations among them.

He has also expressed his closeness and affection to these nations, “several with great numbers of the infected and the deceased.

“Italy, the United States, Spain, France, the list is long,’’ said Francis before giving a blessing to mark what is celebrated in many places Monday as “Little Easter.” He also hailed the contribution of women working in hospitals, on police forces or in stores during the pandemic while juggling care of children, elders or disabled relatives at home. He noted during weeks of stay-at-home orders, women are at risk of suffering domestic violence.

At an early morning Mass in the Vatican hotel where he lodges, Francis prayed for “rulers, scientists, politicians, who have begun to study the way out, the post-pandemic, this ‘after’ that has already begun.” He urged them to “find the right path, always in favour of the people.”

23 detained over burial fracas

CAIRO — Egypt’s chief prosecutor late Sunday ordered 23 people to remain in detention for 15 days pending an investigation into blocking a road to a cemetery in a Nile Delta village to prevent the burial of a physician who died from the coronavirus.

Public Prosecutor Hamada el-Sawy described preventing her burial as a “terrorist act.”

The 64-year-old physician died on Friday in a quarantine-designed hospital in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, and her body was being transferred to her husband’s village of Shubra el-Bahou in the Nile Delta when dozens of villagers tried to stop her burial. They feared that the burial would spread contagion. Police fired tear gas to displace the protesters and arrested 23 of them.

Egypt has reported at least 159 fatalities, and 2,065 confirmed cases.

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