Coronavirus headlines: Italy’s daily death toll was at its lowest in more than two weeks

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Sunday, April 5, 2020

9:00 p.m. update:

(AP) — Europe’s hardest-hit country is finally seeing a sign of hope: Italy’s daily death toll was at its lowest in more than two weeks and health officials noted with caution Sunday that the infection curve was finally descending.

7:00 p.m. update:

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to a hospital Sunday for tests, his office said, because he is still suffering symptoms, 10 days after he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Johnson’s office said the admission to an undisclosed London hospital came on the advice of his doctor and was not an emergency. The prime minister’s Downing St. office said it was a “precautionary step” and Johnson remains in charge of the government.

Johnson, 55, has been quarantined in his Downing St. residence since being diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26 — the first known head of government to fall ill with the virus.

Johnson has continued to preside at daily meetings on Britain’s response to the outbreak and has released several video messages during his 10 days in isolation.

In a message Friday, a flushed and red-eyed Johnson said he said he was feeling better but still had a fever.

The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most people, but for some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause pneumonia and lead to death.

U.S. President Donald Trump offered encouragement to Johnson as he opened a White House briefing on the pandemic Sunday. ”All Americans are praying for him,” Trump said.

Johnson has received medical advice remotely during his illness, but going to a hospital means doctors can see him in person.

Dr. Rupert Beale, a group leader of the cell biology of infection lab at the Francis Crick Institute for biomedical studies, said doctors would likely “be monitoring important vital signs such as oxygen saturations,” as well as performing blood tests, assessing Johnson’s organ function and possibly performing a CT scan on his chest to assess his lungs.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who has been designated to take over if Johnson becomes incapacitated, is set to lead the government’s coronavirus meeting Monday.

Johnson’s fiancee, Carrie Symonds, 32, revealed Saturday that she spent a week in bed with coronavirus symptoms, though she wasn’t tested. Symonds, who is pregnant, said she was now “on the mend.” She has not been staying with the prime minister in Downing St. since his diagnosis.

The government said Sunday that almost 48,000 people have been confirmed to have COVID-19 in the U.K., and 4,934 have died.

Johnson replaced Theresa May as Conservative prime minister in July and won a resounding election victory in December on a promise to complete Britain’s exit from the European Union. But Brexit, which became official Jan. 31, has been overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe.

Johnson’s government was slower than those in some European countries to impose restrictions on daily life in response to the pandemic, leading his critics to accuse him of complacency. He imposed an effective nationwide lockdown March 23, but his government remains under huge pressure to boost the country’s number of hospital beds and ventilators and to expand testing for the virus.

London has been the center of the outbreak in the U.K., and politicians and civil servants have been hit hard. Several other members of Johnson’s government have also tested positive for the virus, including Health Secretary Matt Hancock and junior Health Minister Nadine Dorries. Both have recovered.

News of Johnson’s admission to hospital came an hour after Queen Elizabeth II made a rare televised address to the nation, in which she urged Britons to remain “united and resolute” in the fight against the virus.

“We will succeed — and that success will belong to every one of us,” the 93-year-old monarch said, drawing parallels to the struggle of World War II.

“We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again,” she said.

5:00 p.m. update:

(CNN) — Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II addressed the nation Sunday in a rare televised speech and called for unity amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Together we are tackling this disease, and I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it,” the Queen said. “I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge.”

Speaking in a pre-recorded video shot at Windsor Castle, the Queen also thanked frontline staff at the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, carers and others carrying out essential roles.

“The moments when the United Kingdom has come together to applaud its care and essential workers will be remembered as an expression of our national spirit; and its symbol will be the rainbows drawn by children,” she said.

The monarch said this “challenging” time reminded her of addressing the nation in World War II.

“It reminds me of the very first broadcast I made, in 1940, helped by my sister. We, as children, spoke from here at Windsor to children who had been evacuated from their homes and sent away for their own safety,” the Queen said, adding “today, once again, many will feel a painful sense of separation from their loved ones.”

The Queen concluded by again calling for unity saying, “we will succeed.”

“This time we join with all nations across the globe in a common endeavor, using the great advances of science and our instinctive compassion to heal. We will succeed — and that success will belong to every one of us,” the Queen said.

The Queen rarely makes national addresses, typically speaking to the country only at Christmastime and when a new Parliament is installed.

Her address comes as UK authorities issue warnings to people to stay at home over the weekend, as the country emerges from winter and the weather gets warmer. Sunday, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged people in the UK not to sunbathe. Crowds have filled parks in central London as shops and other attractions across the country have closed.

Britain has reported more than 4,000 coronavirus-related deaths, the fourth-highest recorded in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The country is carrying out social distancing measures, closing schools and nurseries to most children, and all non-essential businesses.

After initially deciding not to carry out widespread testing, the UK government has reversed its policy and aims to test 100,000 people a day.

The decision appeared to have been made as 8% of NHS staff were unable to work because of illness or to take periods of self-isolation.

The decision also comes as evidence grows that people can carry the virus but show no symptoms.

Hancock said Friday the deadliest peak of the coronavirus outbreak in the United Kingdom could hit on Easter Sunday.

A leading UK epidemiologist, Neil Ferguson, told the BBC on Saturday that social distancing rules could be relaxed in weeks if there are signs the coronavirus spread is slowing, but he also hinted that special measures could be needed until the end of May.

Prince Charles, the 71-year-old heir to the throne, tested positive for Covid-19 recently and underwent a period of self-isolation. Friday, the Prince of Wales opened the temporary NHS Nightingale hospital at a London convention center via videolink, saying that he considered himself “lucky” to have experienced only mild symptoms.

2:20 p.m. update:

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The virus outbreak is compromising the ability of nations to prepare for natural disasters and deal with the aftermath. Every year, the world contends with devastating typhoons, wildfires, tsunamis and earthquakes. That dynamic doesn’t change just because the globe also happens to be fighting a pandemic. But many nations prone to natural disasters appear to have done little to prepare for a dual disaster. Experts fear the usual protocols for coping with the aftermath of natural disasters could further spread the virus, compounding the death toll from both. Already, the virus has hindered preparations to fight wildfires in California after a particularly dry winter. And when a strong quake struck Croatia’s capital Zagreb, people ran out and briefly ignored social distancing. 

1:30 p.m. update:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Biden says the Democratic National Convention may need to take place online as the pandemic continues to reshape the race for the White House. The convention in Milwaukee already has been pushed back from mid-July until August. The former vice president tells ABC’s “This Week” that the party “may have to do a virtual convention.” He says Democrats may not be able to put tens of thousands of people in one place. Biden has a commanding lead in delegates needed to clinch his party’s presidential nomination. Biden also said he plans to wear a mask in public, heeding new federal guidelines.

11:30 a.m. update:

NEW YORK (WJW) — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is offering an update on the state’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

As of Sunday, New York has 122,031 positive cases of the virus and 4,159 deaths. 16,479 people have been hospitalized, 4,376 people are in the ICU and more than 12,000 people have been discharged from the hospital due to the virus.

The Governor says it is unknown if New York is reaching the apex of the virus or simply hitting a plateau. However, he reiterates that the state’s most vulnerable citizens must be protected and isolated.

The federal government is deploying approximately 1,000 medical experts to New York. This includes doctors, nurses, respiratory technicians and therapists. According to Governor Cuomo, priority deployment will be to New York City public hospitals.

“The number of beds doesn’t really matter anymore. We have the beds, it’s the ventilators and then it’s the staff. That’s the problem,” he explained. Adding that they would “get through it because we are New York State tough.”

9:30 a.m. update:

LONDON (AP) — In a rare address to the nation, Queen Elizabeth II plans to exhort Britons to rise to the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic. The queen will be drawing on wisdom from her decades as Britain’s head of state to urge discipline and resolve in a time of crisis. The 93-year-old monarch is expected to acknowledge the suffering that many families have experienced because of the COVID-19 crisis, which has infected over 42,000 citizens and killed at least 4,313 of them. She will seek to lift spirits and offer hope to the country in its hour of need. The queen gives yearly Christmas messages but has given an address like this on only three previous occasions.

8 a.m. update:

CLEVELAND (WJW) — The coronavirus death toll has risen past 8,000 in the United States and White House experts predict at least 100,000 Americans could die from the virus, assuming residents strictly abide by federal social distancing guidelines.

President Donald Trump says he’s trying to brace the nation for what is likely ahead in the next couple weeks, as the COVID-19 pandemic approaches its peak in the US.

The federal government is working to move ventilators from states that don’t need them to areas that are hard hit, such as New York City.

The President also says he wants the nation to open for business soon, repeating the phrase “the cure can’t be worse than the disease.” However, he explained that reopening is not the priority in the immediate future.

Meanwhile, in Ohio the confirmed number of coronavirus cases has reached 3,739 with more than 100 deaths. Hospitals are treating more than 1,000 patients with 326 of them in the ICU. Over 41,000 Ohioans have been tested for the virus.

Following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new guidelines, Governor Mike DeWine is now urging all Ohioans to wear a mask or facial covering in public.

He says he plans to cover his nose and mouth in public wearing masks that his wife, Fran DeWine, has already sewn for him.

The Governor also says the state and hospitals are continuing to work together to increase the number of available hospital beds. They are doing this by including cutting down elective surgeries and offering physical buildout of facilities.

Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted, who’s been the point man on the economy for the state, is warning Ohioans that the federal government is way behind the curve regarding unemployment benefits.

Husted said the wait times to file unemployment claims for benefits administered through the state is going down and the online filing system is being increased to 20 times its original capacity. Additionally, 1,000 people are being trained for the call center.

Ohioans are eligible to receive unemployment back to the date you first lost your job. Once you’re able to file, Husted says benefits may start arriving in 7 to 10 days.

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