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Mon. 8:12 a.m.: Latest worldwide virus headlines — Many health care workers test positive in Spain

Spanish Royal Guard soldiers during disinfection work at a hospital Sunday to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in Madrid, Spain. Spain and Italy demanded more European help as they fight still-surging coronavirus infections amid the continent's worst crisis since World War II. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Here’s the latest on the coronavirus pandemic.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

• Spain surpasses China in coronavirus infections tally.

• Japan’s main medical association suggests declaring a state of emergency.

• British prime minister’s chief adviser shows signs of coronavirus.

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MADRID — Authorities in Spain say 12,298 health workers in the country have so far tested positive for the coronavirus.

The figure is 14.4 percent of the total reported infections, which rose today above 85,000. It placed Spain ahead of China and only behind the United States and Italy in the list of nations with greater contagion.

Medical staff has been a cluster for contagion in Spain, where at least nine of Spain’s 17 regions are close or beyond their limit of occupation of intensive care units.

In the hard-hit Madrid region, the military was building additional field hospitals today.

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LISBON, Portugal — Foreigners in Portugal awaiting an official decision on whether they can reside in the country are getting access to public services, such as health care and social security benefits.

The Portuguese government is shutting down the offices of its immigration service today because of the coronavirus. That leaves foreigners waiting for a decision on their legal status in an administrative limbo.

The government says anyone who applied in writing for a residence permit before a state of emergency was declared on March 18 is allowed to work.

The immigration service offices hope to re-open on July 1.

Portugal, which has a population of just over 10 million, has recorded 6,408 cases of the COVID-19 disease and 140 deaths.

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TOKYO — An executive member of Japan’s main medical association urged government officials to consider issuing a state of emergency, saying it will be too late once the coronavirus infection reaches an explosive state.

Satoshi Kamayachi, an executive director of Japan Medical Association and a member of the government-commissioned panel of experts, says the situation warrants a declaration of a state of emergency.

He says most experts at a meeting earlier in the day suggested a state of emergency be issued.

Japan until now was seen as keeping the outbreak under control, but the number of new cases in Tokyo and other cities have spiked since last week. Nationwide, Japan has about 2,600 cases, including 712 from a cruise ship, with 64 deaths. About 1,000 have recovered.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike last Wednesday warned its residents that the city is on the verge infection explosion. She asked its 14 million residents to stay at home over the weekend and suggested a possibility of a hard lockdown in the capital city.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters today that Japan is on the edge, but has not reached a stage that requires a state of emergency.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s prime minister is calling on all his cabinet ministers and the lawmakers of his center-right New Democracy party to donate 50 percent of their salaries over the next two months.

In a Facebook post today, Kyriakos Mitsotakis says the country’s politicians “must stand in the front line of solidarity.” He said the money generated from the “symbolic gesture” would be deposited in a special account set up to tackle COVID-19.

“We are all equal in the face of the health threat. But in the fight against it, each one of us must contribute according to their means,” Mitsotakis wrote in his post. “I am sure that the other (political) parties will also follow this choice.”

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BRUSSELS — The European Council says EU member states have suspended airport slot requirements until Oct. 24.

The move aims to ease the impact of the coronavirus crisis on aviation and help airlines adjust to the falling demand caused by the epidemics.

Under EU regulations, airlines are required to operate 80 percent of their allocated slots for take off or landing at a congested airport at a certain time of the day. If they don’t abide by this rule, they face losing their right to the slot.

“It seems clear now that this crisis will not be over very soon. Waiving the ‘use it or lose it’ rule until October will help mitigate the heavy economic impact on airlines and give them certainty over the whole summer season,” said Oleg Butković, the Croatian minister for the Sea, Transport and Infrastructure.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said this month abandoning the rule temporarily will not only help the aviation industry, but also have a positive impact on the environment by not flying mostly empty planes to keep their slots.

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MADRID — Spain’s main spokesman in the coronavirus crisis has tested positive for the COVID-19 disease but the results need to be confirmed, authorities announced as the country of 47 million became the third to surpass China in number of infections.

Dr. Fernando Simón, who had become the Spanish government’s face and voice during the crisis, was replaced at today’s daily press conference by his deputy, Dr. María José Sierra.

Simón was initially praised for relaying calm and clarity in the early days of the crisis. But as infections and deaths for the virus mounted, he was heavily criticized for having played down the severity of the outbreak.

Sierra says the increase of daily cases had dropped from an average of 20 percent before March 25, to 12 percent in the past five days. She says the drop was due to social distancing and confinement measures in place for the past two weeks.

The official says the main worry for the government now was the pressure on the country’s intensive care units because it could arrive 2 or 3 weeks after the infection.

Sierra says,”Reducing the pressure on the ICUs will be important for considering de-escalation measures.”

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LONDON — One of the scientists advising the British government on the coronavirus pandemic says there are signs that the effective lockdown of much of the country is working.

Professor Neil Ferguson thinks the epidemic is “just about slowing” as a result of the social distancing measures the government has imposed over the past couple of weeks.

That’s evidenced by the number of new hospital admissions, he told BBC radio.

“It’s not yet plateaued so the numbers can be increasing every day but the rate of that increase has slowed,” he said.

Ferguson, who had to self-isolate himself a couple of weeks ago after showing signs of the COVID-19 illness, says the number of deaths will continue to rise on a daily basis as it is a lagging indicator. Latest figures show that 1,228 people in the U.K. who have tested positive for the virus have died.

The epidemiologist thinks that between 3 percent to 5 percent of people in London may have been infected, with between 2 percent and 3 percent in the country as a whole.

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BANGKOK — The Southeast Asian nation of Laos, which detected its first COVID-19 cases last week, has instituted a nationwide lockdown.

The state news agency KPL reports that Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith issued an order effective today through April 19 prohibiting all citizens and foreigners from leaving their accommodations except for essential activity such as buying food or medical care. Those engaged in agricultural production are allowed out according to rules from their local authorities.

All international checkpoints are closed except for transport of goods and to allow foreigners to return to their countries.

Laos has nine confirmed cases of the coronavirus with no deaths reported. The country of about 7.4 million people is one of the poorest in Asia.

Myanmar, which also reported its first COVID-19 cases last week, is closing its airports to all commercial passenger flights at midnight tonight through April 13. Exceptions are allowed with official permission for relief flights, all cargo flights and medical evacuations.

Myanmar, with a population of more than 56 million, is also one of the region’s poorer countries. It has 10 confirmed COVID-19 cases with no deaths.

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LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, is the latest senior government figure to show symptoms of the coronavirus.

Johnson’s office says Cummings developed symptoms over the weekend and is self-isolating at home.

Johnson announced Friday he has tested positive for COVID-19 and has mild symptoms. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has also tested positive, while the chief medical officer of England, Chris Whitty, says he is self-isolating after showing symptoms.

Senior U.K. officials have been criticized for holding face-to-face meetings until recently, even while urging the rest of the country to stay home and avoid all but essential contact with others.

Cummings is a controversial figure — a self-styled political disruptor who helped lead Britain’s pro-Brexit referendum campaign in 2016. He has been blamed for briefing journalists that the U.K. was seeking “herd immunity” against the coronavirus by letting most of the population get it.

The government and its scientific advisers deny that ever was their strategy

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