The Latest: Britain steps up coronavirus response

View looking up an empty Shaftesbury Avenue around what would normally be theatre opening time, as London’s theatreland goes dark, the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered public meeting places like theatres, pubs, and restaurants across the country to close in unprecedented measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. Saturday March 21, 2020. For some people the COVID-19 coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, but for others it causes severe illness. (Dominic Lipinski / PA via AP)

The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 303,000 people and killed more than 12,940. The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms in most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or those with existing health problems. More than 91,600 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.


—FAA briefly halts flights to NYC-area airports.

—Italy’s coronavirus deaths, cases continue to rise.

—U.S. approves first rapid coronavirus test.


LONDON — The British government is heightening its response to the new coronavirus, telling up to 1.5 million sick and vulnerable people to stay home and avoid contact with others for at least 12 weeks.

The government says people with certain health conditions — including recipients of organ transplants, people with cystic fibrosis, patients with blood or bone marrow cancer and some people on immune-suppressing drugs — should “shield themselves” from the spreading pandemic by living in isolation.

Special deliveries of groceries and medicine will be arranged by an alliance of public agencies, the military, food retailers and volunteers.

The move came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the spread of the virus was accelerating. He said Britain’s health system would be “completely overwhelmed” without a “heroic and collective national effort” of social isolation to slow it.

Britain has 5,018 confirmed cases of the virus, and 233 deaths, an increase of more than 50 deaths from a day earlier.


NICOSIA, Cyprus — The eastern Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus has recorded its first death as a result of the cororavirus.

The Cyprus health ministry says the man, whose age was not given, had been suffering from long-term liver, kidney and heart ailments. The ministry says the patient appears to have contracted the virus from another carrier at a hospital where he was being treated for liver disease.

At latest count, there are 84 confirmed coronavirus cases in the internationally recognized south of ethnically divided Cyprus. There are another 31 cases in the breakaway, Turkish Cypriot north.

Cyprus has banned entry to all foreign nationals except those who live and work in the country as well as diplomats. It also has enacted a 14-day ban on inbound flights from 28 countries including Germany, Israel and the U.K.


The East African nation of Uganda has announced its first case of the coronavirus. The West African nation of Ghana announced its first death. Both countries are closing their borders, but the measures don’t apply to cargo.


ROME — Losing patience over unanswered demands for stronger measures by the national government, the leader of Italy’s region most stricken by COVID-19 cases has ordered his own stiffer measures.

The ordinance by Lombardy Gov. Attilio Fontana issued Saturday night orders all guests out of hotels in Lombardy within 72 hours and directs supermarkets to take the temperature of customers before they enter the store. It also bans all outdoor sports or exercise, even if practiced by individuals at a safe distance.

Earlier in the day the mayor of Milan, Italy’s financial hub and Lombardy’s main city, warned local officials would crack down if some citizens kept flaunting national lock-down restrictions, including hanging out with others outdoors to stroll or jog.

Hotels may only now be used in case of need for Italy’s increasingly desperate efforts to contain Europe’s largest outbreak of the new coronavirus.


SAO PAULO — Brazil’s health ministry says 18 people have died so far from the new coronavirus, with 1,128 infected in Latin America’s largest nation.

The state of Sao Paulo alone has recorded 15 deaths, six of them reported on Saturday. That led Sao Paulo state Gov. João Doria to announce a two-week, statewide partial shutdown — a first in Brazil. Bars, restaurants and nonessential shops may not open, but people will be allowed to go outside.


SKOPJE, North Macedonia — North Macedonia’s government has decided to impose a curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. starting from Sunday in a bid to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus.

Caretaker Prime Minister Oliver Spasovski said after an urgent session of his cabinet that authorities were forced to impose such a ”rigorous” decision — for the first time in the tiny Balkan country’s history— in order to protect the people’s health.

Health authorities have confirmed 85 people, including a 4-year old girl, infected with the new coronavirus.

No deaths has been reported; one woman is in critical condition.

Authorities said more than 3,700 people among the country’s population of about 2.1 million are in quarantine. Two western regions have been sealed for 30 days.


ISTANBUL — Turkey has announced the death of 12 more patients, bringing the death toll from the novel coronavirus to 21.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter the number of infections has risen to 947, with 277 new cases of COVID-19 detected Saturday.

The ministry also announced a 15-minute rapid test kit was being distributed across Turkey.

Ankara took its strictest measures so far Saturday, banning people over 65 and those with chronic health problems from leaving their homes. The interior ministry ordered all restaurants shut to customers except for deliveries and pickups. Earlier, the ministry banned picnics and barbecues as Turkish citizens ignored warnings to remain at home.


ROME — One of the latest deaths in Italy’s coronavirus crisis is the father of a young man known as Italy’s Patient No. 1.

Italian state TV said the father was one of 62 deaths so far in the outbreak that have occurred in Castiglione d’Adda, one of 10 Lombard towns which were the first to be put on lockdown in northern Italy.

The man’s son, 38, is recovering after weeks of being in critical condition, but his condition has notably improved. The patient is also an expectant father, with a child due to be born with days.

Castiglione d’Adda’s has about 4,600 inhabitants. Italian news reports said the father of Italy’s first confirmed patient with COVID-19 died on Friday. In all, Italy has more than 53,500 cases of the new coronavirus.


MOSCOW — The capital of Uzbekistan is halting public transport as of Sunday, according to the country’s office for preventing spread of the novel coronavirus.

The announcement said the ban includes subways, buses and fixed-route minibuses in Tashkent, a city of 2.4 million. Taxis will be allowed to operate if they are disinfected at an official center.

Uzbekistan has reported 47 cases of infection.


BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel was seen doing some shopping Friday, stocking up on essentials for the weekend at her local supermarket.

Merkel has urged Germans to stay at home and practice social distancing to help beat the coronavirus outbreak.

Tabloid newspaper Bild reported Saturday that Merkel filled a small shopping cart with soap, preserved cherries and toilet paper. The paper also published pictures showing what appeared to be four bottles of wine.


PARIS — France’s health ministry says the country is “rapidly evolving towards a generalized epidemic on the territory” concerning COVID-19.

It says France’s current containment measures, in place since Tuesday and running 15 days, could be renewed depending “on the observance of the application of containment by the population.”

The French Ministry says severe forms of the new coronavirus are observed even in young adults: 50% of people hospitalized in intensive care are less than 60 years old.


Eritrea, one of the world’s most closed-off countries, is reporting its first coronavirus case.

Information minister Yemane Gebremeskel says the 39-year-old patient is an Eritrean national who arrived Saturday in the East African nation from Norway.

Eritrea on Monday urged citizens to refrain from domestic and foreign travel except for “extremely urgent and unavoidable” reasons. At least 41 of Africa’s 54 countries now have cases with a total over 1,100.


LEBANON, N.H. — New Hampshire’s largest hospital is encouraging volunteers to sew face masks for patients, visitors and staff so that medical-grade protective equipment can be conserved for front-line health care workers.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center is preparing kits with fabric and elastic for pickup and has set up a website with directions on how to sew the masks based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Kristin Roth, the hospital’s director of volunteer services, says the nearly 500 people who typically volunteer at the facility have been eager to step up. “We were being inundated with questions about, ‘How can I help?’” she said.


WASHINGTON — The Federal Aviation Administration has lifted a brief suspension of flights to New York City-area airports because of coronavirus-related staffing issues at a regional air-traffic control center.

In an alert posted online Saturday, the agency advised air traffic controllers to “stop all departures” to Kennedy, LaGuardia, Newark and other airports in the region.

The directive also affected Philadelphia International Airport.

The halt was lifted after about 30 minutes. Initially air traffic controllers were warned it could last several hours.


Lockdowns have begun in Africa in the latest rushed measures to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

Rwanda’s prime minister announced that all unnecessary movements outside the home are banned as of midnight except for essential services such as health care and shopping.

The East African nation has 17 cases. It has told all public and private employees to work from home. Shops and markets not selling food, fuel or health or cleaning items are closed. All bars are closed and restaurants can only provide takeaway. The measures will last for two weeks.

Tunisia earlier imposed a lockdown.


MOSCOW — The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin told Italian PM Giuseppe Conte that Russia will provide aid to help Italy cope with the new coronavirus.

Putin said Russia will provide protection means, aerosol disinfection trucks, medical and other equipment and will send teams of experts to the worst affected regions of Italy.

The supplies will be provided by the Russian Defense Ministry and carried by its transport planes.


TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted he has ordered residents to stay home and nonessential retail businesses to close by 9 p.m. Saturday.

He also said all gatherings are canceled. He ordered all residents to stay at home with some exceptions, such as obtaining essential goods or services, seeking medical attention, visiting family or close friends, reporting to work, or engaging in outdoor activities. He says gatherings such as weddings, in-person services and parties are banned.


BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced that the government will extend the curfew already in place as part of efforts to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.

Vucic said the curfew will extend by additional three hours and will last from 5 p.m. local time until 5 a.m.

Vucic said harsh measures are necessary “so we would survive.” He said a 24-hour curfew will be imposed if people continue to defy orders to stay indoors. Serbia has reported one death from the new coronavirus and 171 confirmed cases.


SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico is reporting its first COVID-19 death.

The Health Department says the victim is an elderly Italian woman who was aboard the Costa Luminosa cruise ship that stopped in the U.S. territory earlier this month.

Officials say 21 people have tested positive and another 71 are awaiting test results. Among those infected are people without a history of travel. Police also have cited more than 120 people for violating a curfew imposed earlier this week to help curb coronavirus cases.


ROME — Italy’s grim tally of coronavirus cases and deaths has continued to soar, with officials announcing new day-to-day highs: 793 dead and 6,557 cases.

The country, the heart of western Europe’s rampaging outbreak, now counts 53,578 known cases. More than 60 percent of the latest deaths occurred in the northern region of Lombardy, whose hospitals have been reeling under a staggering case load that has left intensive care beds hard to find and respirators in dire supply. The new increases come nearly two weeks into a national lock-down in a desperate bid to contain the spread of the virus.


WASHINGTON — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first rapid coronavirus test, which produces results in about 45 minutes.

An FDA spokeswoman confirmed the approval after an announcement from Cepheid, a Silicon Valley molecular diagnostics company.

It can take at least a few days to get results from current coronavirus tests, which typically are sent in batches to reference labs, said Dr. David Persing, the company’s chief medical and technology officer.

“What’s really needed is a test that can rapidly determine status of infection on site when patients are being seen,” he said on a company video.

Cepheid said it will begin shipping its tests next week.


Source: Associated Press