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:
— Detained immigrants plead for masks, protection from virus.
— Leaders in Australia critique the World Health Organization’s support of reopening wet markets in Wuhan.
— New figures show hundreds more died from the coronavirus in Britain than originally reported.
— Paris forecasts 8% drop in economic growth due to virus.
CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s prime minister has described as “unfathomable” the World Health Organization’s support for the reopening of wet markets in the Chinese city at the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.
The United Nations agency is supporting the reopening stalls at wet markets in China’s central city of Wuhan as it lifts a monthslong lockdown against COVID-19.
Asked about WHO’s position, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Nine Network television on Tuesday: “I think that’s unfathomable, frankly.
“We need to protect the world against potential sources of outbreaks of these types of viruses. It’s happened too many times. I’m totally puzzled by this decision,” Morrison said.
Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt said he was unsettled by China’s reopening of the wet markets.
“There is a very real likelihood that this disease arose from a wet market in Wuhan — it’s clear that these are dangerous vectors,” Hunt told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
WHO said in a statement wet markets should not be allowed to sell illegal wildlife for food and authorities should enforce food safety and hygiene regulations.
“COVID-19 has reminded us of the need to ensure that our food markets are well managed and regulated and provide an environment where people can safely trade and buy safe food products being it live, raw or processed,” the statement said.
“Wet markets and other food markets do not need to be closed down,” WHO added.
LONDON — New figures show that hundreds more people with COVID-19 have died in Britain than have been recorded in the government’s daily tally.
The Office for National Statistics says 5,979 deaths that occurred in England up to April 3 involved COVID-19, 15% more than the 5,186 deaths announced by the National Health Service for the same period.
The daily total released by the U.K. government only includes people who died in hospitals. The higher figure includes deaths in all settings including nursing homes, and cases where coronavirus was suspected but not tested for.
The U.K. statistics office says that so far just under 10% of deaths involving COVID-19 occurred outside hospitals.
PARIS — France is forecasting a 8% drop in growth this year because of virus confinement measures and is facing its worst recession since World War II.
And that 8% may be an optimistic estimate, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on BFM television Tuesday.
One of the world’s richest economies, France is pumping money into temporary unemployment payments and to help struggling businesses. Le Maire said France’s strategy is based on “more debt for fewer bankruptcies.”
But that spending, coupled with plunging growth, could push France’s deficit up to 9% in 2020, Budget Minister Gerard Darmanin said Tuesday.
France entered recession in the first quarter as lockdown measures around the world pummeled the tourism industry and other key parts of the French economy. President Emmanuel Macron has now extended he confinement measures until at least May 11.
The French central bank says every two weeks under lockdown could shrink the economy by 1.5%.
GENEVA — The U.N. health agency is warning that more than 117 million children in more than three dozen countries could miss out on measles vaccines as countries suspend immunizations and other services to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
The World Health Organization says 24 countries have already postponed measles vaccination campaigns to avert further spread of COVID-19 disease, and another 13 are expected to do so by the end of the year.
“If the difficult choice to pause vaccination is made due to the spread of COVID-19, we urge leaders to intensify efforts to track unvaccinated children, so that the most vulnerable populations can be provided with measles vaccines as soon as it becomes possible to do so,” WHO said in a statement Tuesday.
WHO and partners say they support a “pause of mass campaigns” in their measles and Rubella initiative to protect communities and health workers, but “this should not mean that children permanently miss out.”
MOSCOW — Russian officials say that scores of patients at a nursing home in western Russia have been infected with the new coronavirus.
The city of Vyazma 210 kilometers (130 miles) west of Moscow has been shut after contagion was found over the weekend in the local home for the elderly. Officials said one of the medics there has tested positive for COVID-19 and 86 patients have been infected.
Russia has registered 21,102 coronavirus cases and 170 deaths as of Tuesday. Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered most Russians to stay off work until the end of April as part of a partial economic shutdown to stymie the spread of the coronavirus.
On Monday, Putin ordered officials to prepare for “any possible scenarios, including the most difficult and extraordinary.” He warned regional governors that they would face charges of criminal negligence if they fail to mobilize all available resources to combat the outbreak.
BERLIN — Austria is beginning to relax its strict coronavirus lockdown measures by allowing small retailers and DIY and gardening supply stores to reopen Tuesday.
All customers will be required to wear mouth and nose covers that help reduce the risk of infection for others, and keep a distance of at least 1 meter (3 feet) from each other. There will also be a limit on the number of people allowed into stores.
Austria closed almost all stores apart from supermarkets in mid-March in an effort to curb the spread of the virus and has so far managed to keep the number of infections and deaths relatively low compared to other countries.
Austrian authorities have said they plan to let all stores reopen on May 2, followed by restaurants in mid-May, provided the pandemic remains under control.
ANKARA, Turkey — Haydar Bas, the founder and leader of a small, nationalist party has become the latest victim of the coronavirus in Turkey.
Bas, 73, died Tuesday in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Trabzon, northern Turkey, where he was being treated for COVID-19, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
Eight members of his family are also infected.
Bas founded his Independent Turkey Party in 2001. The party does not have seats in Turkey’s parliament.
LONDON — The boss of one of Britain’s biggest nursing home operators says the number of reported coronavirus deaths among elderly residents is much higher than has been officially reported.
The government says outbreaks of COVID-19 have been reported in one in eight U.K. care homes.
But David Behan, chairman of home operator HC-One, said cases of the new coronavirus had been reported in 232 of the firm’s homes — two-thirds of the total. He says 311 residents have died with confirmed or suspected COVID-19.
Ros Altmann, a former government minister who campaigns for older people, said frail elderly people were being overlooked in the pandemic. She said “we must not forget that the mark of a civilized society must reflect how it treats its most vulnerable and oldest citizens.”
The U.K.’s official daily tally of COVID-19 deaths, which stands at more than 11,000, includes only people who have died in hospitals. Deaths in other settings are reported separately once a week. Figures are due later Tuesday.
WARSAW, Poland — Poland is to start on Sunday to gradually lift restrictions that have been imposed on businesses and daily life in the fight against coronavirus spread.
Health Minister Lukasz Szumowski said Monday that starting the “de-freeze of the economy” should be “good news, if we look at the costs of the isolation” that was initiated March 13.
Government spokesman Piotr Mueller said the details will be decided later this week as data of new infections comes in and can be assessed. He said number of clients allowed into shops is expected to be raised and some restrictions on open air activity will be lifted, like a ban on entering woods, parks and other public spaces.
Szumowski said he does not expect the virus to vanish under hot summer weather and that fight with the epidemic in Poland will take a year.
The nation of 38 million has reported almost 7,050 cases of infection, including 251 deaths.
BERLIN — Germany’s foreign minister is calling for a single smartphone app to be used across the European Union to help countries coordinate when and how to relax their pandemic lockdown measures.
Heiko Maas said in an interview published Tuesday that “it’s important we don’t end up with a patchwork of 27 corona(virus) apps and 27 data protection regimes, but coordinate as best as possible.”
Maas told Germany’s Funke media group that this would help roll back travel restrictions and border closures imposed across the bloc in recent weeks to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.
He said a contract tracing app already being jointly developed by several countries showed that the EU “doesn’t have to copy the Big Brother methods of authoritarian states” but can instead safeguard personal privacy.
JOHANNESBURG — Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, has extended its coronavirus lockdown of the continent’s biggest city, Lagos, and the capital, Abuja, for another two weeks.
President Muhammadu Buhari in a national address Monday night said the measures severely disrupt livelihoods but have given authorities time for advances including the raising of testing capacity to 1,500 per day. Nigeria has nearly 350 cases but many new ones are from local spread.
“The repercussions of any premature end to the lockdown are unimaginable,” Buhari said.
The lockdown also affects Ogun state.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s parliament has approved legislation that will free some 90,000 prisoners to ease overcrowding in prisons amid the coronavirus pandemic.
However, that doesn’t include journalists and activists, who will remain behind bars.
The legislation, approved early on Tuesday, reduces some sentences and places 45,000 convicts who are currently serving terms in open prisons, under temporary house arrest.
Prisoners convicted of drug-related charges, sexual abuse, murder, domestic abuse and terrorism were however, kept out of the scope of the measure designed to reduce the country’s more than 280,000-strong prison population. Dozens of journalists, activists opposition politicians and others will remain incarcerated because many of them have been imprisoned on terror-related charges.
Opposition parties and human rights groups have criticized the measure that was passed with the votes of the ruling party and its nationalist allies.
“Those convicted in unfair trials under Turkey’s overly broad anti-terrorism laws are … now condemned to face the prospect of infection from this deadly disease,” said Amnesty International’s Turkey Campaigner, Milena Buyum.
As well as reducing some prison terms, the legislation releases women with young children, the sick and prisoners above the age of 65.
The prison releases were expected to begin this week.
On Monday, the justice minister announced that 17 prisoners in open prisons were infected and three of them died.
Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
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