Mon. 8:11 a.m.: Latest world virus headlines — Queen’s husband praises healthcare workers
These are summaries of the latest stories worldwide on the coronavirus pandemic, including:
• Queen’s husband praises healthcare workers and those running essential services;
• Police in Kashmir arrest female journalist under anti-terror law for social media posts;
• Turkey inaugurates 2,600-bed public hospital in Istanbul;
• Bangkok have extended a ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages;
• Spain surpasses 200,000 coronavirus infections but death rate drops.
LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II’s husband has made a rare public statement praising those tackling the new coronavirus pandemic and keeping essential services running.
Prince Philip, who turns 99 in June, said he wanted to recognize the “vital and urgent” work of medical and science professionals.
He also gave thanks to key workers including people working in food production, garbage collection, and postal and delivery services.
The royal, who retired from public duties in 2017, signed off simply with “Philip.”
Philip has been staying with the queen at Windsor Castle with reduced staff for their safety.
SRINAGAR, India — Police in Indian-controlled Kashmir have booked a female journalist under a harsh anti-terror law for her social media posts.
Police today accused freelance photojournalist Masrat Zahra of “glorifying and promoting terrorism” through her posting of pictures on social media sites like Twitter and Instagram.
Tahir Ashraf, an officer who heads police’s cyber team in Srinagar, says Zahra was booked under India’s main counter-terrorism law. It’s called the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, or UAPA.
Rights activists have called the law draconian and it was amended in 2019 to allow the government to designate an individual as a terrorist. Police can now detain a person for six months at a time without producing any evidence against the accused that justifies custody.
Zahra is based in Indian-held Kashmir and her work has appeared in Indian and international media.
Ashraf says Zahra uploaded “anti-national posts with criminal intention to induce the youth and to promote offences against public tranquility.” He says she “is also believed to be uploading photographs” on her Facebook page “which can provoke the public to disturb law and order.”
In March, Vienna-based media advocacy group, International Press Institute, said journalism in Kashmir “is under a dramatic state of repression.”
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s president has inaugurated parts of a 2,600-bed public hospital in Istanbul that is under expedited construction to aid in treatment of patients the new coronavirus outbreak.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan took part in today’s inauguration of the Basaksehir City Hospital by teleconference. He also witnessed the hospital taking delivery of 100 Turkish-made ventilators, whose production was also expedited to help health officials manage the outbreak.
Erdogan says the rest of the hospital will be inaugurated on May 20. The government is separately constructing two additional hospitals in Istanbul, including one on the site of the now-closed Ataturk Airport.
Turkey has reported 86,306 cases of coronavirus and 2,017 deaths.
Authorities say 60 percent of the confirmed cases are located in Istanbul. The number of cases in Turkey has surpassed those in China and in neighboring Iran.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A Dutch privacy watchdog says it can’t evaluate if seven smartphone coronavirus apps the government tested over the weekend sufficiently protect users’ personal data.
The Dutch Data Protection Agency said today that terms given to developers were so unclear that it is not possible to work out if apps under consideration will work while safeguarding users’ data.
The announcement is a setback for the government, which wants to use a contact-tracking app to safeguard the public when coronavirus restrictions are gradually eased.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte is set to announce Tuesday evening whether restrictions he calls an “intelligent lockdown” will be partially lifted.
Chairman of the authority, Aleid Wolfsen, says that while he understands the wish to return to normality “we must avoid using a solution if it’s unclear whether it really works, with the risk that it will cause other problems.”
MADRID — Spanish authorities have gone into damage control mode after a high ranking police official said in an apparent gaffe that one of the goals of fighting misinformation was to rein in on negative coverage of the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.
During a daily press conference on Sunday, the chief of the Civil Guard police force Gen. José Manuel Santiago said that in addition to avoid the “social stress” created by false information related to the COVID-19 pandemic, law enforcement was also fighting to “minimize that climate contrarian to the government’s management of the crisis.”
The Civil Guard later issued a statement saying that battling disinformation was being conducted respecting the freedom to criticism. Late on Sunday, Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska also told La Sexta television that the general’s remarks were “erroneous.”
Grande-Marlaska also accused the conservative leading opposition PP party and the far-right Vox of being “disloyal” to the government. The two parties, together with the center-right Citizens party, want the interior minister to answer questions in parliament regarding the government’s handling of the state of emergency, now on its sixth week.
Today, without referring to his previous statement, Gen. Santiago said that during four decades of career he had prioritized the well being of people and had not been at any time moved by ideology.
BANGKOK — City authorities in the Thai capital Bangkok have extended a ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages to the end of April as efforts continue to contain the spread of COVID-19.
A ban was originally imposed for April 10-20, during which Thais would normally celebrate the annual Songkran Lunar New Year festival with drinking-fueled merrymaking at large public gatherings. Official celebrations of the holiday were postponed until a date to be decided.
Sales bans were separately ordered in all 76 of Thailand’s provinces with different ending dates, according to the Interior Ministry.
Pongsakorn Kwanmuang, a spokesman for the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, announced the extension, and said other provinces were expected to follow suit.
He also said people with alcohol dependency problems could be treated for free at the city’s medical facilities.
Health officials today confirmed 27 new cases of the disease, bringing the nation’s total to 2,792, including 1,999 recoveries and 47 deaths. New cases have dropped from a March 22 high of 188 to 45 or less for the past 10 days.
LONDON — Hospital organizations are slamming Britain’s government for its failure to give medical staff appropriate clothing and equipment to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak.
With so many promises dashed, Chris Hopson of the NHS Providers told the BBC there is “relatively low confidence” that a shipment of 400,000 surgical gowns due to arrive last weekend from Turkey will arrive today.
The NHS Confederation, which represents organizations across healthcare, described the failed delivery at a time of critically low stocks as making “a difficult situation worse.”
The confederation’s CEO Niall Dickson, says it “would have been better had the government not made the announcement in the first place.”
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden says he’s hopeful “that later today that flight will take off and we will get those gowns.”
British medical personnel have been arguing for weeks that the ongoing debacle in getting the right equipment to the right people is forcing doctors to put their own lives in danger to treat the sick and hurting medical care across the board.
MADRID — Spain has surpassed the 200,000 mark of coronavirus infections while recording the lowest number of new deaths in four weeks.
Health ministry data shows today that 399 more people have succumbed to the COVID-19 disease created by the virus in the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s total death toll to 20,852. Spain had counted more than 400 daily deaths since March 22.
The outbreak’s spread has continued at a slower pace than in previous weeks, with 4,266 new infections that is bringing the pandemic’s total tally to 200,210.
The Spanish government is starting to relax its confinement measures, trying to re-activate the economy after a two-week freeze and allowing children under 12-years-old to venture out to the streets for brief periods from next week.
The government had been under pressure from regional governments, parents and some educators to ease the lockdown for children. The government says they will be allowed to get out for brief periods on a daily basis starting on April 27 but that all the details need to be ironed out with experts this week.
MADRID — Spain is proposing members of the European Union to create a fund with up to 1.5 trillion euros (1.63 trillion dollars) to help the bloc’s countries worst hit by the new coronavirus pandemic, according to an internal Spanish government document.
Italy and Spain are among the worst hit EU members by the COVID-19 pandemic, leading the region in the number of confirmed infections and recorded deaths.
The document, seen by The Associated Press, says that the new economic recovery fund should draw from members states’ grants in order not to raise public debt levels.
The fund should be financed through “perpetual EU debt,” the document reads.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez aims to discuss the proposal during Thursday’s meeting of EU leaders, said a government official who wasn’t allowed to be named in media reports.
With over 20,000 deaths and nearly 200,000 confirmed infections, Spain is starting to relax its confinement measures, trying to re-activate the economy and allowing children under 12 years-old to venture out to the streets for brief periods from next week.
BERLIN — The German state of Bavaria plans to make wearing masks, or some other form of face covering, compulsory in shops and public transport starting next week. It’s the most populous German region to take the step so far.
Governor Markus Soeder said today that the measure will take effect in a week’s time when Bavaria reopens small shops. The southern state of over 13 million, which has Germany’s highest per capita coronavirus infection rate, is waiting a week longer than many other regions to let most shops open.
The federal government is recommending that people wear masks, but Soeder said that “appeals alone probably won’t be the necessary safeguard.”
Neighboring Saxony instituted a similar mask rule today. The northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania will make them obligatory in public transport next week.
Infections have slowed in Germany but Soeder warned that “the development is fragile.” He said officials will have to watch closely whether figures stabilize before loosening more restrictions.
He said: “my recommendation is: better a bit slower and more cautiously, but more sustainably.” He warned against “a constant stop and go.”