COVID-19 world update: Electronic bracelets for quarantine violators; Massive police presence in France

The latest on the coronavirus pandemic. This collected of world news briefs from the Associated Press was posted by Black Press Media at 9:30 a.m., Saturday, April 11.

TOP OF THE HOUR

  • New York schools to close for remaining academic year.
  • British PM Boris Johnson makes `very good progress’ in London hospital.
  • Italy plans increased testing, voluntary contact tracing.

South Korea: Quarantine violators will have electronic bracelets

SEOUL, South Korea — In a controversial step, South Korea’s government says it will strap electronic wristbands on people who defy self-quarantine orders as it tightens monitoring to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

Senior Health Ministry official Yoon Tae-ho acknowledged the privacy and civil liberty concerns surrounding the bands, which will be enforced through police and local administrative officials after two weeks of preparation and manufacturing.

But he says authorities need more effective monitoring tools because the number of people placed under self-quarantine has ballooned after the country began enforcing 14-day quarantines on all passengers arriving from abroad on April 1 amid worsening outbreaks in Europe and the United States.

Lee Beom-seok, an official from the Ministry of the Interior and Safety, admitted that the legal grounds for forcing people to wear the wristbands were “insufficient” and police and local officials will offer consent forms for the devices while investigating those who were caught breaking quarantine.

Under the country’s recently strengthened laws on infectious diseases, people can face up to a year in prison or fined as much as $8,200 for breaking quarantine orders. Lee says those who agree to wear the wristbands could be possibly considered for lighter punishment.

France: 160,000 police at checkpoints to stop people from slipping out of cities

PARIS — French security forces were fanning out around the country to ensure people respect the “stay home” mantra over the Easter weekend.

Some 160,000 police were posted at highway entrances and other critical transiting spots for people trying to escape city life.

Police on horseback combed beaches and parks along the northern French coast. Drones were used in other areas to spot people defying strict confinement rules. Those rules end Wednesday after one month, but are expected to be extended.

Some city mayors are adding new guidelines, including a curfew in certain neighbourhoods of Nice and the removal of street benches in the southern town of Beziers. Fines for disobeying France’s confinement rules begin at 135 euros ($148).

The current death toll in France is nearly 13,200.

More testing for Italy to set up system of “immunity passports”

ROME — Italy plans to increase testing for the coronavirus and use voluntary contact tracing whenever it exits from a lockdown that’s currently in effect until at least May 3.

Italy’s special commissioner for the virus emergency Domenico Arcuri told SKYTG 24 there will be mandatory blood tests to set up a system of “immunity passports.”

The voluntary contact tracing mobile apps will allow people to know if they have come in contact with someone who is positive for the virus. Then they can be tested in an effort to limit further spread of the virus.

The blood tests identifying anti-bodies are still being developed. Virologists have cautioned the tests will not prove immunity but will give a snapshot whether a person has been in contact with the virus. If an anti-body test is positive, more testing would be needed to know if the virus is still active.

The goal of public health officials is to determine how long immunity to the virus lasts.

Spain will distribute 10 million facemasks on pubic transport as workers head back to jobs

MADRID — Spanish authorities say they will distribute 10 million face masks at major train and subway stations to help reduce a coronavirus spike.

Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska made the announcement on Saturday, two days before factory and construction workers will be allowed to go back to work. That comes after a two-week ban on commuting for all workers not involved in health care or food production and distribution.

Grande-Marlaska says police and civil protection officers will distribute the masks at “major public transport nodes” from Monday to Wednesday for those workers.

Transport official Maria Jose Rallo says loudspeakers at stations will remind people to remain at least 1 metre apart, and personnel will monitor the flow of passengers to disperse groups.

Spain has confirmed 161,852 infections and 16,353 deaths. It reported its lowest daily death count in nearly three weeks with 510. A national high of 950 deaths was reported April 2.

There’s been a slight uptick with 4,830 new cases reported Saturday, compared to 4,576 the day before.

The decision to roll back some restrictions has raised doubts among some health experts. But Health Minister Salvador Illa says the changes are minimum and the lockdown measures will probably extend beyond April 26.

India: Lockdown extended two more weeks

NEW DELHI — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended the nationwide lockdown by two more weeks to help contain the coronavirus.

New Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal agreed in a tweet with the decision. Modi held a meeting Saturday with at least 13 chief ministers of Indian states through video conferencing. The unprecedented order for lockdown is meant to keep India’s 1.3 billion people at home and prevent the virus form surging and overwhelming the nation’s already strained health care system.

The country’s current three-week lockdown was to expire Tuesday. Authorities have reported 6,565 confirmed cases and 239 deaths.

China vows to increase quality control on exported medical supplies

BEIJING — Chinese regulators say ventilators, masks and other supplies being exported to fight the coronavirus will be subject to quality inspections following complaints that substandard goods were being sold abroad.

The customs agency says masks, ventilators, surgical gowns, goggles and other supplies will be treated as medical goods. That requires exporters to show they meet the quality standards of their destination market.

The agency gave no details, but the newspaper Beijing Daily says shipments would be inspected by a government agency before being approved for export.

China is the biggest producer of surgical masks and other medical products and has increased output following the coronavirus outbreak.

Regulators in Australia, the Netherlands and other countries have complained masks, virus test kits and other products were faulty or failed to meet quality standards.

Germany’s president: Show patience and discipline over Easter

BERLIN — Germany’s president is urging citizens to show patience and discipline over Easter during the coronavirus crisis.

Germany has largely shut down public life to slow the spread of the virus and banned gatherings of more than two people in public. The restrictions currently expire April 19. Federal and state government leaders will consider the next steps on Wednesday.

In a rare television address, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier says, “what happens next, when and how the restrictions can be loosened, is not something politicians and experts alone will decide on.”

Steinmeier says Germany must help its European neighbours emerge from the crisis. He say, “30 years after German unification, 75 years after the end of the war, we Germans are not just called on to show solidarity in Europe — we are obliged to.”

The German presidency is largely ceremonial but carries moral authority.

Srik Lanka extends curfew

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka has extended the curfew in key parts of the country.

A government statement says the curfew will continue in six districts, including Colombo, until further notice. These six districts have been identified as “high risk zones.”

Sri Lanka has been divided into 25 districts for administrative purposes and the curfew in 19 districts will be briefly lifted next Thursday.

Sri Lanka has been under curfew since March 20, and the government has banned nonessential travels during the curfew hours. Police strictly enforce curfew and have arrested nearly 20,000 people for violations.

Seven infected people have died in Sri Lanka. The number of positive cases is 198.

NYC’s schools to be closed for the rest of the academic year

NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio says public schools in New York City’s 1.1 million-student district will be shuttered for the rest of the academic year.

He says online education will continue for students.

School buildings in the nation’s largest public system have been closed since March 16. A massive effort to move instruction online has met mixed success. Many low-income students lack Wi-Fi and devices for connecting to their virtual classrooms.

Officials in other states, including Virginia and Pennsylvania, previously announced schools will be closed for the rest of the year.

U.K. death toll approaches 10,000 people

LONDON — The British government is reporting 917 more deaths from the coronavirus, totalling 9,875 people in the U.K. who have died in the hospital after testing positive for COVID-19.

The increase was slightly lower than the daily high of 980 recorded in the previous 24-hour period. That increase was higher than the daily peaks recorded in Italy and Spain, the two European countries with the highest total number of coronavirus-related deaths.

Comparisons may not be precise. The U.K. deaths reported each day occurred over several days or even weeks, and the total only includes deaths in hospitals.

Pachelbel’s Canon performed to honour medical professionals

MILAN — Musicians from the La Scala Philharmonic Orchestra have collaborated on a video performance of Pachelbel’s Canon to honour medical professionals fighting the coronavirus.

The video was released on social media Saturday ahead of a call for people to play instruments or the recording from their windows and balconies on Easter Sunday.

The orchestra chose Pachelbel’s Canon for its “universality and for its wonderful architecture: a simple musical passage that repeats itself in increasingly complex variations.”

Marco Ferullo, who co-ordinated the project, says it’s “in the DNA of people. In its simplicity, it becomes complex. It’s an analogy of life, of relaunching, of hope.”

Shroud of Turin to be streamed online

ROME — The Shroud of Turin, a burial cloth some believed covered Jesus, will be on display through video streaming for the faithful worldwide.

Turin Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia says he had received thousands of requests from people young and old. The linen, which is kept behind bulletproof glass, will be viewed by streaming on the evening of Holy Saturday, the vigil of Easter. Pope Francis wrote to Nosiglia during Holy Week to express appreciation for the gesture.

Skeptics say the linen bearing the figure of a crucified man is a medieval forgery. The cloth belongs to the Vatican, which has allowed scientific testing.U.N. chief calls for religious leaders to work for peace and focus on fighting COVID-19

UNITED NATIONS — United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is appealing to religious leaders of all faiths “to work for peace around the world and focus on our common battle to defeat COVID19.”

The U.N. chief say Christians will be celebrating Easter, Jews are marking Passover and Muslims will soon begin the holy month of Ramadan.

Guterres says the coronavirus pandemic, with its lockdowns and social distancing, has led to a “surreal world” of silent streets and worry “about our loved ones who are equally worried about us.”

The secretary-general urged people to remember the “vulnerable around the world” and health workers on the front lines.

Guterres says, “Together, we can and will defeat this virus — with co-operation, solidarity, and faith in our common humanity.”

Russia: Victory parade to be held, the question is when

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman says the traditional parade marking the defeat of Nazi Germany will take place even if it doesn’t happen on the May 9 Victory Day holiday.

The Red Square parade featuring thousands of soldiers and an array of military equipment is a centerpiece of Russia’s most important secular holiday. There have been concerns about whether it would be held amid the restrictions imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Dmitry Peskov says on state TV Saturday that “no one should have doubts that the Victory Day parade and the celebration of Victory Day will be obligatory. I don’t know whether it will be May 9 or later, but it will be obligatory.”

British PM’s health continues to improve

LONDON — The office of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he “continues to make very good progress” in a London hospital after contracting COVID-19.

The 55-year-old Johnson was diagnosed with COVID-19 more than two weeks ago, becoming the first world leader confirmed to have the illness. His office has said he’s taken “short walks” between periods of rest and had spoken to his doctors to thank them “for the incredible care he has received.”

His coronavirus symptoms at first were mild, including a cough and a fever. He was admitted to St. Thomas’ Hospital on Sunday after his condition worsened. He was transferred to the intensive care unit the following day where he received oxygen but was not put onto a ventilator.

He spent three nights there before moving back to a regular ward on Thursday night.

Bangladesh: Military enforces distancing rules

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Bangladesh recorded three more deaths and 58 more cases of infection from coronavirus.

Health Minister Zahid Maleque says over the last 24 hours, 954 samples have been tested and 54 cases confirmed positive.

The total number of deaths stood at 30, with 482 infections since the first case was reported on March 8.

Bangladesh has extended its nationwide lockdown until April 25 to keep its 160 million people at home and help contain the virus.

Security officials, including army soldiers, are enforcing social distancing rules.

Italy: The end of the tunnel is still far away

ROME — Italy’s special commissioner for the virus emergency urged people to stay at home for Easter and Easter Monday, days when Italians customarily visit friends and relatives or take outings into the countryside.

Domenico Arcuri says, “The virus has not been defeated, but we are on the right path. We see the indicators, but not the end of the tunnel. In fact, the end of the tunnel is still far away.”

He says the next phase, a gradual reopening, would be complex and require discipline to prevent another wave of contagion. He says, “This dramatic emergency will only be behind us when an efficient and effective vaccine is

China accused of mistreating Africans

JOHANNESBURG — Nigeria is the latest African nation to publicly confront China over the mistreatment of Africans in the Chinese city of Guangzhou.

Some African traders have reported being evicted or discriminated against amid coronavirus fears.

In an unusually open critique, the speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives tweeted a video of him pressing the Chinese ambassador on the issue.

“It’s almost undiplomatic the way I’m talking, but it’s because I’m upset about what’s going on,” Femi Gbajabiamila says. “We take it very seriously,” Ambassador Zhou Pingjian replies.

Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama also summoned the ambassador to express “extreme concern” and call for an immediate government response. Kenya also has spoken out about the mistreatment.

Sierra Leone in a separate statement says African diplomats in Beijing have met with Chinese officials and “stated in very strong terms their concern and condemnation of the disturbing and humiliating experiences our citizens have been subjected to.”

Britain: Too soon to say if disease has peaked

LONDON — British Heath Secretary Matt Hancock says it is too soon to determine whether the peak of coronavirus infections in the country has passed.

That’s despite data suggesting that the rate of increase in the number of people being hospitalized with the COVID-19 disease is levelling out.

Hancock tells BBC radio that the “good news” is that the number of hospital admissions shows signs of flattening out. However, he says the government requires more evidence before it can start making changes to its lockdown measures.

Britain has been in lockdown for nearly three weeks and the government is expected to extend the restrictions in coming days.

On Friday, the government said a total of 8,958 people had died in hospital after testing positive for the coronavirus, up 980 from the previous day. That daily increase was bigger than anything witnessed in Italy and Spain, the two European countries with the greatest number of coronavirus-linked fatalities.

Hancock also says that 19 front-line workers in the National Health Service have died after contracting the virus.

Japan intensifies request to stop visiting bars, clubs and restaurants

TOKYO — Japan has broadened a request for people to stay away from bars, clubs and restaurants across the whole country.

The measure previously covered seven urban areas, including Tokyo.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says at a meeting of the national coronavirus task force that “many cases of infections have been confirmed at places where people are going out at night, and that spread is nationwide.”

Japan’s state of emergency, issued April 7, carries no penalties but asks people to stay home as much as possible.

Abe reiterated his plea for companies to allow people to work from home, stressing that commuter train crowds had thinned, but more was needed. Although department stores and movie theatres have closed, some retail chains are still open.

Japan has about 6,000 coronavirus cases and about 100 deaths.

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