Russian President Vladimir Putin was being protected around the clock from coronavirus, the Kremlin had reported — but that didn’t stop him shaking hands last week with a doctor now diagnosed with COVID-19.
This story is being updated regularly. You can also stay informed with the latest episode of the Coronacast podcast.
Wednesday’s top stories
- Putin contacted doctor with coronavirus
- Spain records large death toll
- Child dies from COVID-19 in Belgium
- Brazilian president makes bold claims
Putin had contact with doctor who now has coronavirus
A doctor who gave Russian President Vladimir Putin a tour of Moscow’s main coronavirus hospital last week now says he has been diagnosed with the virus.
Mr Putin visited the Kommunarka hospital last Tuesday where he chatted to the doctor, Denis Protsenko, shook hands and rode together in a lift.
Neither man was wearing protective equipment during the exchange.
Dr Protsenko yesterday wrote on Facebook: “Yes, I have tested positive for coronavirus, but I feel pretty good. I’ve isolated myself in my office. I think the immunity I’ve developed this month is doing its job.”
The Kremlin said Mr Putin was being regularly tested for coronavirus and that “everything is okay,” the RIA news agency reported
It has previously said Mr Putin is being protected from viruses and other illnesses “around the clock”.
The Kremlin reported a coronavirus case in Mr Putin’s administration on Friday, but said the person in question had not come into contact with the president and that all measures were being taken to prevent the virus from spreading further.
Russia now has 2,337 confirmed cases of coronavirus.
UK extends medic visas as toll jumps
Britain said on Tuesday it would automatically renew the visas of foreign healthcare workers without charge to ensure they could focus on fighting the coronavirus outbreak.
The extension will apply to about 2,800 doctors, nurses and paramedics working in the stretched National Health Service (NHS) whose visas were due to expire before October 1, and the measure will also include their family members.
“Doctors, nurses and paramedics from all over the world are playing a leading role in the NHS’s efforts to tackle coronavirus and save lives. We owe them a great deal of gratitude for all that they do,” Home Secretary Priti Patel said.
“I don’t want them distracted by the visa process.”
The UK has experienced a sharp rise in the number of deaths from coronavirus, with a further 393 people dying, up from 180 the previous day.
The figures include a 19-year-old victim who had no underlying health conditions, NHS England said.
The total number of COVID-19 related deaths in the UK now stands at 1,789, while the total number of infections has increased to 25,150, with more than 140,000 people tested.
Stephen Powis, medical director of NHS England, said there was a “bit of a plateau” in the number of new people being tested but also warned not to get complacent.
“It is really important not to read too much because it is really early days,” he said.
“We are not out of the woods, we are very much in the woods.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in self-isolation after testing positive to coronavirus last week, and conducted the UK’s first ever digital Cabinet on Tuesday.
Spain records highest daily number of deaths
Spain continues to be hit hard by coronavirus with the country recording a record daily death toll of 849, its highest daily toll since the outbreak began.
With both new infections and deaths up around 11 per cent each, to a total of 94,417 confirmed cases and 8,189 fatalities, Spain is seeing a slight rebound in the outbreak.
Madrid was forced to open a second temporary morgue this week after an ice rink pressed into service last week became overwhelmed.
Spain and Italy are still struggling to avoid the collapse of their health systems, with Spain saying hospitals in at least half of its 17 regions are at or near their ICU bed limits, and more than 13,000 medical workers have been infected.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Cabinet is expected to add a new 700-million-euro aid package, including zero interest loans, as well as suspend home evictions for families who can’t afford to pay their rent.
‘Almost zero chance of death’ for under 40’s says Bolsonaro
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro says hunger is just as big a threat as COVID-19, again minimising the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak.
Mr Bolsonaro has grown increasingly isolated over his belief that keeping the economy running is more important than strict quarantine measures advocated by state governors, public health ministers and even his health minister.
On Tuesday, he reiterated that view to journalists and supporters gathered outside his the presidential residence in Brasilia.
“Those who are under 40 years of age have almost zero chance of death. So there’s no reason not to let these people work. After all, if the virus kills in some cases, hunger also kills,” Mr Bolsonaro said.
The event was marked by ugly scenes when Mr Bolsonaro’s supporters harassed reporters.
After a question about Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who has argued in favour of social isolation measures, a Bolsonaro supporter shouted that journalists were “pitting the people against the President”.
Mr Bolsonaro responded by encouraging the supporter to speak and telling journalists to be quiet.
“It is he who will speak, not you,” the President said.
When the journalists withdrew from the scene, Mr Bolsonaro appeared to mock them, asking them if they were “going to abandon the people?”
Temporary hospitals for US
US officials want to build hundreds of temporary hospitals across the country to cope with the thousands of new coronavirus cases being diagnosed daily after the United States endured its deadliest day yet on Monday, with 575 fatalities.
The US Army Corps of Engineers, which converted a New York convention centre into a 1,000-bed hospital in the space of a week, is searching for hotels, dormitories, convention centres and large open space to build as many as 341 temporary hospitals.
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“The scope is immense,” Lieutenant General Todd Semonite of the corps told ABC America’s “Good Morning America” program.
“We’re looking right now at around 341 different facilities across all of the United States.”
The US caseload rose by more than 20,000 confirmed cases on Monday, overwhelming hospitals that are running out of doctors, nurses, medical equipment and protective gear.
The number of US dead climbed past 3,000, more than the number who died in the attacks of September 11, 2001.
US officials estimate the death toll could reach 100,000 to 200,000.
12-year-old dies of COVID-19 in Belgium
Belgian authorities say a 12-year-old girl has died of coronavirus, by far the youngest person among the more than 700 victims in the country.
Announcing the news on Tuesday, national crisis-centre coronavirus spokesman Emmanuel Andre said it is “an emotionally difficult moment, because it involves a child, and it has also upset the medical and scientific community.”
“We are thinking of her family and friends. It is an event that is very rare, but one which upsets us greatly,” Mr Andre said.
No details about the girl were provided.
He said that 98 people had died from the disease over the past 24 hours, bringing the total toll to 705 in a country of around 11.5 million people. More than 12,705 cases have been confirmed in total so far.
Korea postpones school return
South Korea is cancelling the re-opening of schools as clusters of coronavirus infections flare, announcing they will launch online classes while delaying the annual college entrance exams.
After an early surge in cases, South Korea has brought down its rate of new infections to about 100 or fewer a day, but groups of cases in churches, hospitals and nursing homes, as well as imported cases, are still emerging.
Authorities have postponed the beginning of the school semester three times from early March to April 6, and have decided to do so again, given the persistence of the outbreak.
“We regret that we have not reached levels where children can go to schools safely even though we mobilised all our capabilities to substantially decrease risks of infection,” Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said.
“It is difficult to guarantee the safety of children as the sizable number of new patients emerge every day, and there are concerns that it might spread again from schools to homes and communities.”
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