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:
— Putin warns Russia yet to see peak of virus infections.
— Japan Prime Minister Abe wants more social distancing.
— Britain’s virus death toll reaches 14,500.
BANGKOK — Thailand’s leader says he’ll appeal to the country’s 20 wealthiest people for advice and assistance in overcoming the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha says in a televised address the government alone could not overcome the health and economic challenges posed by the coronavirus. He’s asking other sectors to join “Team Thailand.”
A business council advising his government this week predicted as many as 10 million Thais could lose their jobs in the next few months if the coronavirus crisis doesn’t ease up.
Thailand’s royal family controls the country’s biggest fortune, but Prayuth is calling on the business community. The Chearavanont family own the CP Group, one of the world’s biggest conglomerates.
Thai health authorities announced 28 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 2,700 and 47 deaths.
CAMILLA, Ga. — Four employees of Tyson Foods in Georgia have died from the coronavirus.
Tyson Foods spokesman Gary Mickelson says three of the employees worked at the company’s chicken processing plant in Camilla, while the fourth person worked in a supporting job outside the plant. He declined to say how many workers there have tested positive for COVID-19.
Mickelson says two other Tyson Foods workers died from the virus at its plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa.
The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which represents 2,000 workers at the Georgia chicken plant, identified the three who died as women who had worked there for 13 to 35 years.
The union wants poultry processors to require employees quarantine themselves for 14 days and get paid sick leave when they’re exposed to co-workers testing positive. It also wants individual departments shut down for 72 hours and cleaned after a positive test.
ISTANBUL — Turkey’s health minister says 126 more people have died from COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 1,769.
Fahrettin Koca says 4,353 new cases were identified, putting the total infections at 78,546. The minister urged people with symptoms to seek help before their conditions worsen.
“We are not a Spain or a United States, we have the power for early intervention,” says Koca, citing hospital capacity, the use of high frequency oxygen and drugs to delay the need for intubation.
He says Turkey has succeeded in bringing down cases requiring intubation and intensive care and expressed hope the rate of infections will reach its peak in the coming days.
Koca’s press statement came hours before 31 major provinces head into a second round of weekend lockdown. Last week, the lockdown order came just two hours before the curfew, prompting panic shopping by an estimated 250,000 people.
ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s Health Ministry says it had recorded 17 new coronavirus cases and three new deaths.
The country’s total confirmed positive cases stand at 2,224 and 108 deaths. The ministry says 71 people are intubated in intensive care units.
Greece’s government imposed a lockdown early in the country’s outbreak, shutting schools after the first few reported cases. It quickly followed with closures of most businesses.
LISBON, Portugal — While some European Union countries are flying in migrants to work on the spring harvest, Portugal is encouraging college students and laid-off people to till the soil during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Farm Ministry says students already get tax breaks if they work during the summer vacation. It says they could provide a stopgap for any labor shortage.
People who are receiving government subsidies after being laid off due to the outbreak can earn extra money on farms. foreign farm laborers whose documents expire can stay in the country if they keep working.
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin is prodding top officials to move faster to prepare for a surge in coronavirus cases.
Speaking Friday on a conference call with top federal official and regional governors, Putin told them to “act faster and more energetically” to secure ventilators, protective gear and other essential supplies.
He warned Russia is yet to see a peak of infections, adding Moscow was the first to face soaring numbers of infections and “the problem is spreading into the regions.”
Russia has registered 32,008 coronavirus cases and 273 deaths.
Putin says Russia so far has secured 72% of the 95,000 specialized hospital beds for coronavirus patients the Kremlin ordered to prepare until April 28.
Russian Defense Ministry Sergei Shoigu reported the military is building 16 specialized hospital for coronavirus patients, half of which will be completed this month.
PARIS — At least 940 people aboard a French aircraft carrier and its escort ships have been infected with the new virus.
The total number of positive cases is expected to grow because some test results are still pending, the head of the military health service, Maryline Gygax Genero, told a Senate hearing Friday.
Among those infected are two of four U.S. sailors serving on the Charles de Gaulle as part of the U.S. Navy’s Personnel Exchange program.
Those infected represent more than a third of the 2,300 military personnel aboard the Charles de Gaulle and its escort ships.
Gygax Genero says twenty people on the aircraft carrier have been hospitalized, including one in intensive care.
Two investigations are under way into the virus outbreak on the ship.
MADRID — An epidemiologist on Spain’s top advisory panel for the coronavirus says it will take at least six months to gather data that shows the real global death rate of the pandemic.
Hermelinda Vanaclocha is in charge of health vigilance for the Spanish Valencia region. She warns Spain “remains in the epidemic stage,” despite the arc of contagion plateauing in recent weeks.
Vanaclocha says mortality rates will reflect deaths recorded with an international standard that requires a doctor to certify every death. The coronavirus morbidity rates, or the prevalence of disease, are proving to be vastly different among countries and difficult to compare.
In Spain, a decentralized model has resulted in 17 different health systems for as many regions. It’s more effective in planning assistance on the ground but lacking in unity for the national reporting of statistics. Vanaclocha says years of austerity have undermined the systems for gathering information and much of the public health system.
UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council has endorsed the secretary-general’s call for the warring parties in Yemen to immediately stop fighting and focus on reaching a peace agreement and countering the outbreak of COVID-19 disease.
In its first statement on recent developments in Yemen issued Friday, the U.N.’s most powerful body welcomed the unilateral cease-fire by the Saudi-led coalition to support the U.N.-led peace process and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call for a cease-fire. The two-week cease-fire went into effect on April 9.
But Houthi Shiite rebels, who control the capital Sanaa and much of Yemen’s north, dismissed the offer as a ploy and clashes have continued since, casting doubt over a future peace agreement. The council “voiced concerns about the ongoing hostilities.”
Council members also underlined “the vital importance” access for humanitarian and economic aid to Yemenis in need, which is “especially important in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
STOCKHOLM — A Swedish royal has joined the ranks of those helping the health sector fight the coronavirus.
Princess Sofia, the 35-year-old wife of King Carl XVI Gustaf’s oldest son, had undergone a three-day medical course at a Stockholm university that allowed her to assist health care workers at a private hospital in the Swedish capital.
The health care institution has been relieving emergency hospitals by handling surgery, primarily in cancer. Sofia wrote on Instagram on Wednesday: “I support and relieve the care staff with various tasks, including care of patients and cleaning.”
The crash course trains up 80 people per week to help lift the burden on medical workers.
In 2015, Sofia married 40-year-old Carl Phillip who is fourth in line after his elder sister Crown Princess Victoria and her two children.
LONDON — The U.K. has recorded another 847 coronavirus deaths in hospitals, raising the overall total to 14,576.
The increase is slightly down on the 861 released on Thursday. Last week, a daily high reached 980 deaths.
The figure, which is released daily by the government, has come under increasing scrutiny. It likely underestimates the true toll because it only includes deaths in hospitals and not in nursing homes or other settings within the community.
Britain’s Office for National Statistics has indicated the figure could be around 15% higher, though others think it will be more amid growing reports of a sharp increase in coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes.
ROME — Italy’s national institutes of health says a partial survey of nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic has found more than 6,000 residents have died since Feb. 1 or about 7% of residents nationwide.
The number of dead is only a fraction of the total since the survey was based on data from a third of some 3,000 nursing homes contacted, which in turn are home to only a third of the estimated 280,000 elderly living in assisted care facilities nationwide.
The estimate is the best guess Italian authorities have about the huge toll of nursing home dead in the European epicenter of the pandemic, most of whom aren’t included in Italy’s official COVID-19 death toll because they were never tested. The institute’s Dr. Graziano Onder says about 40% were either positive or showed symptoms of COVID-19.
The scandal of the nursing home dead in Italy has sparked dozens of criminal investigations.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The European Union’s police agency is warning that counterfeiters are cashing in on the coronavirus by selling products ranging from fake tests to substandard face masks.
Underscoring the ability of organized crime gangs to quickly adapt to service new markets, Europol says they are exploiting “shortages of genuine products and the anxieties of regular citizens” across the continent.
The products, mostly sold from on websites or offered on messaging apps, come from countries within the 27-nation EU, but also from India and China.
Europol Executive Director Catherine de Bolle says the counterfeit products “do not meet the required quality standards and pose a real threat to public health and safety.”
Europol says along with personal protection gear, criminals are selling fake pharmaceuticals such as the malaria medication chloroquine.
LONDON — A round of applause for emergency workers prompted some criticism of London’s Metropolitan Police when social media images showed officers and members of the public ignoring rules of social distancing.
The tribute featured blinking blue lights from police cars lined up on central London’s Westminster Bridge to thank the National Health Service and other frontline workers.
Images shared on social media showed people leaning over the bridge beside one another and milling around while clapping.
The police say, “while many people adhered to social distancing guidance, it appears that some did not.’’
The service says it regularly reminds “our officers of the importance of social distancing where practical and will continue do so.’’
TOKYO — Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says more social distancing is still needed after he declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and other urban areas 10 days ago.
Abe expanded the monthlong state of emergency to all of Japan on Thursday in a bid to reduce movement of people ahead of “golden week” holidays. Abe says Tokyo set a record of 201 daily increase of cases for a total of almost 3,000, calling the situation “severe.”
He says social interactions were reduced by 60% in downtown Tokyo and 70% in Osaka but fell short of an 80% target needed to slow the spread to a manageable level.
Japan has about 9,900 cases and 160 deaths.
BEIJING — China is accusing the U.S. administration of attempting to shift the focus from its own defects in dealing with coronavirus by talking-up a theory that the global pandemic was started by a pathogen that escaped from a Chinese laboratory.
“Anyone discerning can tell at a glance that the purpose of the U.S. is simply to confuse the public, divert attention, and shirk responsibility,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters at a daily briefing on Friday. “We have said many times that tracing of the virus’ origin is a serious scientific issue and requires scientific and professional assessment.”
Officials including President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have suggested the lab theory may be valid, with Pompeo saying, “The mere fact that we don’t know the answers — that China hasn’t shared the answers — I think is very, very telling.”
Scientists say the virus arose naturally in bats. They say the leading theory is that infection among humans began at an animal market in Wuhan, China, probably from an animal that got the virus from a bat.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology specializes in research on animal-to-human transmission of such viruses but there is no evidence to backup the theory that the virus came from the lab.