The Latest: South Africa to spend big to fight virus effect

The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.


— Countries and U.S. states are moving to reopen gradually amid warnings that acting too quickly could enable the virus to come back with a vengeance.

— Serbia lets elderly outside for the first time in more than a month.

— Trial of potential vaccine for coronavirus set to begin in U.K.

— South Africa to spend big to fight the socioeconomic effects of the new coronavirus.

Britain reports a sharp increase in the number of daily deaths from COVID-19 despite believing peak may have passed.


JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s president has announced an “extraordinary budget” of $500 billion rand ($26 billion) to address the huge socioeconomic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

President Cyril Ramaphosa in a national address says the amount is roughly 10% of the country’s GDP. He says the budget will be described more fully in the coming days but that the top priorities are combating the virus and relieving “hunger and social distress” as millions of South Africans struggle to survive.

One-tenth of the new special budget will go toward the country’s most vulnerable people over the next six months. Other priorities include the protection of companies and workers in a country where the economy had been struggling even before the pandemic.

Ramaphosa says the virus and measures to contain it will continue to take a severe toll “in the weeks and months to come,” with many people losing their jobs.

Unemployment already had been 29% in one of the world’s most unequal nations.

“Our country and the world we live in will never be the same again,” Ramaphosa says.


WASHINGTON — Nine sailors from the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier have now been hospitalized and are being treated for the coronavirus as the ship continues to battle a growing outbreak.

According to the Navy, just 42 sailors have recovered from the virus since the ship docked in Guam about three and a half weeks ago. More than 4,100 of the ship’s 4,800 crew members have been moved ashore for quarantine, and 710 have tested positive.

The number of those sent to the hospital has increased very slowly, but steadily, over the past week.

None of the sailors is in the intensive care unit. One sailor has died as a result of the virus, which has taken the carrier out of service in the Pacific.


MADRID — Spain’s government is stipulating maximum prices for sale to the public of protective health equipment amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Health Minister Salvador Illa said Tuesday a face mask, for example, cannot be sold for more than 0.96 euros ($1).

The measure was recommended by a government agency which monitors drug prices. Illa said it was designed to avoid “exploitative” pricing.

Spain’s official coronavirus death toll stands at more than 21,200, behind only the United States and Italy.


BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia’s elderly ventured outside on Tuesday for the first time in more than a month as authorities eased some of the strict measures that have been in place against the new coronavirus.

The government now allows people over 65 years old to go out for a walk three times a week during a daily curfew when the rest of the population must stay indoors. Authorities say they want to keep the vulnerable elderly residents safe.

Serbia has introduced some of the toughest rules in Europe as part of efforts to curb the spread of the virus. People over 65 were only allowed to go shopping for groceries once a week and very early in the morning.

Most people who ventured out Tuesday evening were wearing face masks and some couples were holding hands. One man said he was out for the first time in 35 days.

Serbia has reported 6,890 cases of infection with the new coronavirus, while 130 people have died.


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Florida’s tourism and hospitality industry should reopen from the coronavirus pandemic slowly, focusing first on getting residents to take in-state vacations before branching out to domestic and international travelers, a business committee charged with making recommendations was told Tuesday.

Florida’s No. 1 industry has crashed since mid-March when the state’s theme parks and other attractions began closing, with hotels seeing a drop in revenue of $1.6 billion over the last six weeks compared to last year, said Dana Young, head of Visit Florida, the state’s tourism bureau. Domestic air travel to the state is down 65% and international air travel is down 80% compared to last year, she said on the committee’s conference call.

Young said reinvigorating the tourism industry will require showing people it is safe to travel and visit restaurants by adopting practices aimed at preventing the virus’s spread.

“Florida eased into the stay-at-home order and now our job is to look at how to appropriately ease out,” she said.


TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says two Canadian planes that traveled to China to secure protective medical equipment were forced to return empty.

Trudeau says there are limits as to how long aircraft are allowed to wait on the ground in China. The prime minister says supply lines and truck shipments to the airports are difficult and interrupted by checkpoints and quarantine measures that cause delays.

One of the planes was a federal charter and the other was destined for a Canadian province, Trudeau said.


THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch government has taken the first tentative steps in relaxing its coronavirus containment measures, allowing elementary school children to return to their classrooms part-time beginning May 11 and allowing children to take part in sport training starting April 29.

High schools have been told to prepare for students to return to class on June 2.

At the same time, Prime Minister Mark Rutte extended a ban on all large-scale events, such as music festivals and professional soccer, until Sept. 1, while bars and restaurants will remain shut until at least May 20.

Rutte told the nation: “Caution now is better than regret later.”

The Netherlands has been in what Rutte calls an “intelligent lockdown” since mid-March that closed down schools, restaurants, bars and museums but stopped short of ordering people in the nation of 17 million to stay home.

Instead, they were urged to act responsibly to slow the spread of the virus — to work from home, stay home as much as possible and engage in social distancing if they venture outdoors.

The measures appear to be having an effect. Health officials said the number of coronavirus patients being treated in intensive care units across the country had dropped by 71 from a day earlier, the biggest single-day decline since the outbreak began.

The official Dutch death toll stands at 3,916, but that only includes people who tested positive. Authorities say the true toll is higher.


PARIS — France has registered at least 20,796 deaths from the new coronavirus as the number of hospitalized patients infected with COVID-19 continued to slowly decrease for the sixth straight day.

National health agency chief Jerome Salomon reported on Tuesday 12,900 deaths at hospitals and 7,896 in nursing homes since the beginning of the outbreak in the country.

Overall death rates nationwide were 61% higher than usual from March 30 to April 5 and 47% higher than usual from April 6 to April 12, Salomon said.

As the country is planning to lift confinement measures starting from May 11, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer provided some details about the government’s plans for schools. He said that children will progressively return to school over a three-week period depending on their age. Classes will be split in small groups of no more than 15 students and some children will practice sports and open-air activities, while others will be in classrooms.


MASERU, Lesotho – The tiny mountain kingdom of Lesotho, one of only two of Africa’s 54 countries that has not recorded a case of COVID-19, extended its nationwide lockdown another two weeks.

Prime Minister Tom Thabane said Tuesday that the lockdown which started on March 30 would be continued until May 5 to protect the country’s 2.1 million people. He said his Cabinet ministers had advised him that a continuation of the lockdown was necessary to enable the country to prepare its health services in case infections are recorded.

Lesotho currently has no testing capacity of its own, has sent 24 specimens to be tested in South Africa, and all have been negative. Lesotho is completely surrounded by South Africa, which has the most cases in Africa with 3,465.

“Fortunately, God has continued to protect us as Lesotho against the pandemic,” Thabane said. “However, we are still at a great danger … because of how easily it can be transmitted.”


LONDON — The British government is providing funding for two clinical trials of potential vaccines for the new coronavirus, one of which will begin trials on Thursday.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said at the government’s daily press briefing that the U.K. is at the “forefront of the global effort” to find a vaccine and will provide financial assistance to the “promising projects” being conducted at Oxford University and Imperial College London.

The project at Imperial will receive 22.5 million pounds ($28 million) to support its phase-two clinical trials, while Oxford’s will be trialed on people beginning Thursday and will be granted 20 million pounds ($24.5 million).

Hancock also said that the government will invest in manufacturing capacity in the event either, or both, vaccines work.

However, he cautioned about the prospects of success, saying the process of vaccine development is one of “trial and error and trial again.”


RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina health officials say five food-processing facilities in the state are each experiencing multiple cases of COVID-19 among employees.

A news release from state health and agriculture officials on Tuesday said there are outbreaks of two or more positive cases in facilities in Bladen, Chatham, Duplin, Lee and Robeson counties. The release didn’t name the plants.

The state news release said that the plants are doing temperature checks, providing personal protective equipment and encouraging social distancing when possible. State and local health officials are also offering technical assistance and on-site visits.


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Haiti is preparing for the arrival of 129 deportees from the U.S. as officials fear that some might be infected with COVID-19.

Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe said the flight is scheduled to arrive on Thursday.

Jouthe told Radio Vision 2000 on Monday that three of 68 people previously deported from the U.S. have tested positive. He said the entire group was placed under a two-week quarantine in a hotel financed by the government.

Jouthe said another group of at least 280 migrants expelled by the Turks and Caicos government also are under quarantine.

Haiti has reported just over 50 confirmed coronavirus cases and three deaths.


PASCO, Wash. — The sheriff of a county in eastern Washington state is telling residents that he will not enforce Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home orders or any guidelines that infringe on constitutional rights.

Franklin County Sheriff J.D. Raymond sent a letter to constituents on Monday in which he said believes the coronavirus pandemic is real and “needs to be dealt with appropriately.” But Raymond, who has been sheriff for six years in the county of about 95,000 people, also said he believes adults are capable of policing themselves.

Sheriffs in Michigan and Wisconsin have also said they won’t enforce social-distancing mandates. There have been mounting calls for Inslee to ease the state’s stay-at-home order after a weekend protest drew about 2,500 to the state Capitol. Inslee’s directive runs through May 4.


PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Donald Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago club in Florida is temporarily laying off 153 workers because of the new coronavirus, according to a notice posted this week to a state website.

The club’s director of human resources, Janine Gill, wrote in a letter to state and local officials that Mar-a-Lago began halting business last month as a result of mandated closures issued in Palm Beach County in response to the virus’s spread in South Florida.

The furloughs are temporary, but the club doesn’t know when it will resume regular operations, Gill said. The furloughed workers include bartenders, cooks, dishwashers, drivers, attendants, housekeepers, servers and valet attendants. The workers are not unionized.

Mar-a-Lago serves as Trump’s refuge from Washington, and the president often spends his time there mixing work, business and pleasure in the company of dues-paying members.

The Trump National Doral Miami resort, where President Trump initially wanted to host this year’s Group of Seven summit, also has temporarily laid off 560 workers.


LONDON — A summit of the 54-nation Commonwealth scheduled to be held in Rwanda in June has been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said that with the virus wreaking economic and human havoc around the world, “we must be mindful of the risks large meetings pose to all.”

The Commonwealth says the biannual heads of government meeting will still take place in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, “at a time to be announced in due course.”

Headed by Queen Elizabeth II, the Commonwealth is an association of the U.K., its former colonies and several like-minded countries.


ROME — Italy’s number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, including those in intensive care, has continued to decrease.

There was a day-to-day-increase of 2,729 confirmed cases, according to figures released on Tuesday by the Health Ministry, but the majority of Italy’s known coronavirus infections are isolated at home.

In all, Italy has nearly 184,000 confirmed cases since the outbreak began. There were 534 deaths from Monday evening to Tuesday evening, according to the latest figures, raising to 24,648 the number of people with COVID-19 infections who have died. Italy has the highest number of deaths in Europe during the pandemic.


LONDON — The British government says an additional 823 people with the new coronavirus have died in U.K. hospitals, a sharp increase on the previous day’s daily increase of 449.

The number of people dying in hospitals traditionally has spiked sharply on Tuesday following a Monday decline that has been attributed to reporting delays related to the weekend.

In total, 17,337 people have died in U.K. hospitals after testing positive for the coronavirus. The country’s death toll is the fourth highest in Europe, behind Italy, Spain and France, which have all reported more than 20,000 deaths.

However, there has been increasing scrutiny of the U.K. figures in recent days because they don’t include those who died in care homes or elsewhere in the community.

Earlier, scientists said there are signs the virus peak may have passed. Using data from the Office for National Statistics for England and Wales, which account for around 90% of the U.K. population, a panel convened by the Science Media Centre said the peak likely occurred on April 8.


UNITED NATIONS — The head of the U.N. food agency is warning that as the world is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic it is also “on the brink of a hunger pandemic” that could lead to “multiple famines of biblical proportions” within a few months if immediate action isn’t taken.

World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday that even before COVID-19 became an issue he was telling world leaders that “2020 would be facing the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.” That’s because of wars, locust swarms in Africa, natural disasters and economic crises.

Beasley said 821 million people go to bed hungry every night all over the world, 135 million more people are facing “crisis levels of hunger or worse” and a new World Food Program analysis shows that as a result of COVID-19 an additional 130 million people “could be pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of 2020.”

He said WFP is providing food to nearly 100 million people on any given day, including “about 30 million people who literally depend on us to stay alive.”

Beasley, who is recovering from COVID-19, said if those people can’t be reached, “our analysis shows that 300,000 people could starve to death every single day over a three-month period,” and that doesn’t include increased starvation due to the coronavirus.

He warned that in a worst-case scenario “we could be looking at famine in about three dozen countries.”

Beasley urged greater humanitarian access, coordinated action to deliver aid, an end to trade disruptions and accelerated and increased funding including $350 million to set up a network of logistics hubs and transport systems to keep supply chains running worldwide.


TIRANA, Albania — The European Union has donated 20,000 coronavirus tests to Albania.

The EU ambassador in Tirana, Luigi Soreca, says the bloc gave the tests to the Balkan nation to better calibrate the local health laboratories’ equipment.

“The more reliable are the tests, the more effective is the fight,” he wrote Tuesday on Twitter.

Last month the European Union agreed to launch full membership negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia.

The virus has infected 609 people in Albania and killed 26, as of Tuesday.

Albania is in a total lockdown since mid-March, with all border crossings closed, private and public transport blocked, and schools, cafes, restaurants and gyms shut. One person per family may go out for 90 minutes a day for shopping or other most needed services.

This week the government started a gradual ease of the restrictions, letting most of the small businesses and the country’s big industries like mining and oil resume work.


COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka has ordered all liquor stores to close indefinitely, as a part of its stringent measures aimed at containing the spread of the new coronavirus.

The government’s decision came amid warnings by the doctors’ union and association, which cautioned that consumption of alcohol can exacerbate health vulnerability, risk-taking behavior, mental health issues and violence. They also warned that it could disrupt social distancing guidelines.

Doctors’ warnings came as the number of confirmed cases rose to 310. Seven people have died while 102 have recovered.

Liquor stores and bars were opened on Monday in some parts of the country, after the government partially lifted a monthlong curfew during which all liquor shops remained close.

Sri Lanka had been under a 24-hour curfew since March 20. It was lifted during daytime hours in more than two-thirds of the country on Monday and will continue in the remaining districts including the capital, Colombo, until next week.

The curfew will remain in effect from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. until further notice.


PARIS — The palace of Monaco says its ruler, Prince Albert, has decided to cut the palace spending by about 40% amid the coronavirus crisis.

Albert, who announced last month he had contracted the virus, has decided to extend confinement measures in the Mediterranean principality until May 3.

In a statement Tuesday, the palace said Monaco’s budget will be “very deeply impacted” by the consequences of the pandemic, leading to an estimated deficit of 500 million euros ($543 million) this year due to emergency measures to support the economy and a planned decrease of the state revenues.

The operational budget for the palace will drop from 13.2 million euros to 8 million euros ($14.3 million to $8.7 million).


ROME — Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte says the easing of lockdown restrictions will be gradual and evenly distributed throughout the country.

Italians have been eagerly awaiting to learn what limits they still will have on their personal, social and work life after the government decree on restrictive measures expires on May 3.

In a speech to the Senate on Tuesday, Conte gave no specifics on what his center-left government would mandate after evaluating recommendations on how to continue to contain Italy’s devastating COVID-19 outbreak from the fields of science, business, labor and psychology. But he said the country would see a “progressive, homogenous opening up” of the country across all of Italy.

The north, which is Italy’s most productive industrial region and also the most stricken with infections, has been pushing for a resumption of factories and other businesses that so far have been considered nonessential. Conte cautioned against haste.

“Any imprudence or rashness in this phase, dictated by the legitimate desire to get going again, can compromise all the sacrifices that citizens have made with responsibility and discipline up to now,” Conte said.


ANKARA, Turkey — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan believes Turkey has reached a plateau in cases of the new coranavirus.

In an address to officials from his ruling party on Tuesday, Erdogan said Turkey could “transition to a normal life” in June, following a holiday that marks the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan — as long as measures aimed at curbing the virus’ spread are adhered to.

Erdogan described the pandemic as the “biggest crisis since the Second World War in terms of the economic impact.”

Turkey has reported 90,980 coronavirus cases and 2,140 deaths. The country is imposing weekend curfews and among other measures has banned people above the age of 65 and below the age of 20 from leaving homes.


ISTANBUL — A Turkish media report says a British air force plane has arrived in Istanbul to transport medical equipment back to Britain.

The DHA news agency said the military cargo plane landed at Istanbul Airport on Tuesday and is scheduled to take off after a consignment of medical equipment is loaded onto it.

British officials have been scrambling to source much-needed personal protective equipment for medical staff and said a consignment of 84 tons, including 400,000 gowns, would arrive from Turkey.


MADRID — Spain will begin allowing children age 14 and younger out of their homes starting next week, though they must be accompanied by an adult they live with and their movements will be limited.

Government spokeswoman María Jesús Montero says that beginning Monday, younger children can go along on family errands to the supermarket, pharmacy or bank. Those between the ages of 15 and 17 already were allowed. There will be no time limit, and the children won’t be required to wear masks.

Montero said Tuesday after the government’s weekly Cabinet meeting that the children have been inside for the past five weeks and are unlikely to be infected with the new coronavirus. Restrictions on movement are part of the country’s state of emergency rules.

Spain’s official coronavirus death toll stands at more than 21,200, behind only the United States and Italy, and the country has imposed one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns.


WASHINGTON — This year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee has been canceled after U.S. organizers concluded there is “no clear path to safely set a new date in 2020” because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision announced Tuesday by Scripps means kids who are in eighth grade this year will miss their final opportunity to compete in the national finals. Scripps won’t change eligibility requirements for next year’s bee, which is scheduled for June 1-3, 2021, at a convention center outside Washington.

Televised by ESPN since 1994, the bee had only previously been canceled in 1943-45 because of World War II. The first Scripps bee was held in 1925.


MINSK, Belarus — The World Health Organization is urging the government of Belarus to cancel public events and implement measures to ensure physical and social distancing amid the growing coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement released Tuesday, a team of WHO experts who had assessed the country’s response to the pandemic said the country “needs to introduce community-wide steps to increase physical distancing,” postpone “large gatherings, including sports, religious and cultural events,” introduce options “for teleworking, and distance learning for schools, universities and other educational institutions” and suspend nonessential business.”

Belarus has registered 6,264 coronavirus cases and 51 deaths and remains one of the few countries affected by the pandemic that hasn’t gone into lockdown or imposed restrictions on public life in order to halt the spread of the virus. Factories, stores and restaurants conduct business as usual in Belarus, stands at sports events are filled with spectators and masks are a rare sight in the capital of Minsk.

President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet nation with an iron fist for more than two decades, has repeatedly dismissed concerns about the pandemic as “coronapsychosis.” On Monday, he allowed the country’s schools to reopen after an extended spring break. On Sunday, he attended an Easter church service with his 15-year-old son.

The government has also refused to evacuate its stranded citizens from abroad unless they pay the air fare and cover state costs of organizing flights. Several thousands of Belarusians are currently stuck abroad, unable to return home amid worldwide closure of border and flight halts.


NEW DELHI, India — Indian authorities say they have arrested 29 people, including 16 foreign nationals who participated in an Islamic missionary meeting last month in New Delhi that resulted in a large cluster of coronavirus cases in the country.

The foreigners include nationals from Indonesia and Thailand.

A local university professor who had arranged the shelter for Indonesians in a mosque in the Indian city of Allahabad was also arrested, police officer Brijesh Kumar Shrivastava said Tuesday.

He said the arrested have been booked on charges of violating the Foreigners Act and colluding with one another on providing shelter to foreign nationals and shielding information about them from the police.

One of the Indonesians had earlier tested positive for COVID-19 and the arrested have been kept in isolation, police said.

In India, the global Muslim missionary movement Tablighi Jamaat came under fire when the government blamed it for a surge in the number of coronavirus cases.

India has 18,601 confirmed cases of the virus, and authorities have linked more than 4,200 cases to the missionary meeting.


SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Police in Bosnia have begun moving hundreds of migrants and refugees off the streets of the northwestern city of Bihac and transferring them into a nearby emergency tent camp speedily set up amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The tent camp Lipa, where migrants and refugees were being bused Tuesday, can accommodate up to 1,000 people, according to the International Organization for Migration, which manages all such facilities in Bosnia.

The tent camp was “equipped with all necessary infrastructure to provide the beneficiaries with … accommodation, food, hygiene, sanitation and medical care,” IOM said in a statement.

The organization previously reported serious overcrowding in six migrant centers it has been running in the country since 2018, when previous migration routes to Western Europe from the Balkans closed off and the migration shifted toward Bosnia.

The six camps were housing 6,200 people, or nearly 20% more than they were before the coronavirus outbreak in Bosnia in mid-March.

Despite strict social distancing measures imposed by the authorities, some 1,500 migrants and refugees were estimated last week to be sleeping in squalid and insanitary conditions in Bihac and several other cities in the northwestern Krajina region bordering the European Union member Croatia.

As of Tuesday, Bosnia’s coronavirus caseload reached 1,342, with 51 deaths.


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