The Latest: Putin warns Russia yet to see peak of infections

International

There is little traffic on 125th Street, Thursday, April 16, 2020, in the Harlem neighborhood of New York during the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended stay-at-home restrictions Thursday through mid-May. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

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.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

— Trump gives governors options on how to reopen the economy.

— Putin warns Russia yet to see peak of virus infections.

— Japan Prime Minister Abe wants more social distancing.

— Britain’s virus death toll reaches 14,500.

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MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin is prodding top officials to move faster to prepare for a surge in coronavirus cases.

Speaking Friday on a conference call with top federal official and regional governors, Putin told them to “act faster and more energetically” to secure ventilators, protective gear and other essential supplies.

He warned Russia is yet to see a peak of infections, adding Moscow was the first to face soaring numbers of infections and “the problem is spreading into the regions.”

Russia has registered 32,008 coronavirus cases and 273 deaths.

Putin says Russia so far has secured 72% of the 95,000 specialized hospital beds for coronavirus patients the Kremlin ordered to prepare until April 28.

Russian Defense Ministry Sergei Shoigu reported the military is building 16 specialized hospital for coronavirus patients, half of which will be completed this month.

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PARIS — At least 940 people aboard a French aircraft carrier and its escort ships have been infected with the new virus.

The total number of positive cases is expected to grow because some test results are still pending, the head of the military health service, Maryline Gygax Genero, told a Senate hearing Friday.

Among those infected are two of four U.S. sailors serving on the Charles de Gaulle as part of the U.S. Navy’s Personnel Exchange program.

Those infected represent more than a third of the 2,300 military personnel aboard the Charles de Gaulle and its escort ships.

Gygax Genero says twenty people on the aircraft carrier have been hospitalized, including one in intensive care.

Two investigations are under way into the virus outbreak on the ship.

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MADRID — An epidemiologist on Spain’s top advisory panel for the coronavirus says it will take at least six months to gather data that shows the real global death rate of the pandemic.

Hermelinda Vanaclocha is in charge of health vigilance for the Spanish Valencia region. She warns Spain “remains in the epidemic stage,” despite the arc of contagion plateauing in recent weeks.

Vanaclocha says mortality rates will reflect deaths recorded with an international standard that requires a doctor to certify every death. The coronavirus morbidity rates, or the prevalence of disease, are proving to be vastly different among countries and difficult to compare.

In Spain, a decentralized model has resulted in 17 different health systems for as many regions. It’s more effective in planning assistance on the ground but lacking in unity for the national reporting of statistics. Vanaclocha says years of austerity have undermined the systems for gathering information and much of the public health system.

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UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council has endorsed the secretary-general’s call for the warring parties in Yemen to immediately stop fighting and focus on reaching a peace agreement and countering the outbreak of COVID-19 disease.

In its first statement on recent developments in Yemen issued Friday, the U.N.’s most powerful body welcomed the unilateral cease-fire by the Saudi-led coalition to support the U.N.-led peace process and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call for a cease-fire. The two-week cease-fire went into effect on April 9.

But Houthi Shiite rebels, who control the capital Sanaa and much of Yemen’s north, dismissed the offer as a ploy and clashes have continued since, casting doubt over a future peace agreement. The council “voiced concerns about the ongoing hostilities.”

Council members also underlined “the vital importance” access for humanitarian and economic aid to Yemenis in need, which is “especially important in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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STOCKHOLM — A Swedish royal has joined the ranks of those helping the health sector fight the coronavirus.

Princess Sofia, the 35-year-old wife of King Carl XVI Gustaf’s oldest son, had undergone a three-day medical course at a Stockholm university that allowed her to assist health care workers at a private hospital in the Swedish capital.

The health care institution has been relieving emergency hospitals by handling surgery, primarily in cancer. Sofia wrote on Instagram on Wednesday: “I support and relieve the care staff with various tasks, including care of patients and cleaning.”

The crash course trains up 80 people per week to help lift the burden on medical workers.

In 2015, Sofia married 40-year-old Carl Phillip who is fourth in line after his elder sister Crown Princess Victoria and her two children.

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LONDON — The U.K. has recorded another 847 coronavirus deaths in hospitals, raising the overall total to 14,576.

The increase is slightly down on the 861 released on Thursday. Last week, a daily high reached 980 deaths.

The figure, which is released daily by the government, has come under increasing scrutiny. It likely underestimates the true toll because it only includes deaths in hospitals and not in nursing homes or other settings within the community.

Britain’s Office for National Statistics has indicated the figure could be around 15% higher, though others think it will be more amid growing reports of a sharp increase in coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes.

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ROME — Italy’s national institutes of health says a partial survey of nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic has found more than 6,000 residents have died since Feb. 1 or about 7% of residents nationwide.

The number of dead is only a fraction of the total since the survey was based on data from a third of some 3,000 nursing homes contacted, which in turn are home to only a third of the estimated 280,000 elderly living in assisted care facilities nationwide.

The estimate is the best guess Italian authorities have about the huge toll of nursing home dead in the European epicenter of the pandemic, most of whom aren’t included in Italy’s official COVID-19 death toll because they were never tested. The institute’s Dr. Graziano Onder says about 40% were either positive or showed symptoms of COVID-19.

The scandal of the nursing home dead in Italy has sparked dozens of criminal investigations.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The European Union’s police agency is warning that counterfeiters are cashing in on the coronavirus by selling products ranging from fake tests to substandard face masks.

Underscoring the ability of organized crime gangs to quickly adapt to service new markets, Europol says they are exploiting “shortages of genuine products and the anxieties of regular citizens” across the continent.

The products, mostly sold from on websites or offered on messaging apps, come from countries within the 27-nation EU, but also from India and China.

Europol Executive Director Catherine de Bolle says the counterfeit products “do not meet the required quality standards and pose a real threat to public health and safety.”

Europol says along with personal protection gear, criminals are selling fake pharmaceuticals such as the malaria medication chloroquine.

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LONDON — A round of applause for emergency workers prompted some criticism of London’s Metropolitan Police when social media images showed officers and members of the public ignoring rules of social distancing.

The tribute featured blinking blue lights from police cars lined up on central London’s Westminster Bridge to thank the National Health Service and other frontline workers.

Images shared on social media showed people leaning over the bridge beside one another and milling around while clapping.

The police say, “while many people adhered to social distancing guidance, it appears that some did not.’’

The service says it regularly reminds “our officers of the importance of social distancing where practical and will continue do so.’’

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TOKYO — Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says more social distancing is still needed after he declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and other urban areas 10 days ago.

Abe expanded the monthlong state of emergency to all of Japan on Thursday in a bid to reduce movement of people ahead of “golden week” holidays. Abe says Tokyo set a record of 201 daily increase of cases for a total of almost 3,000, calling the situation “severe.”

He says social interactions were reduced by 60% in downtown Tokyo and 70% in Osaka but fell short of an 80% target needed to slow the spread to a manageable level.

Japan has about 9,900 cases and 160 deaths.

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MADRID — Spain’s state prosecutor’s office says at least 38 probes have been launched into how nursing homes handled the coronavirus outbreak.

Half of the judicial investigations are looking into the situation of 19 nursing homes in Madrid, which has been the hardest-hit national capital amid the spread of the pandemic. The region’s authorities say nearly 5,000 elderly people have died since March 8 with the virus’ symptoms and only 781 were confirmed with a test.

The prosecutor’s office says there could be more probes in coming weeks. The office didn’t release information on what are the specific crimes that are being investigated.

Overall, Spain has recorded nearly 20,000 deaths of patients who tested positive for the virus and 190,000 confirmed infections.

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STOCKHOLM — The Swedish government defended its relatively liberal policies to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Ann Linde, the country’s foreign minister, says, “It is a myth that life goes on as normal in Sweden. There is no full lockdown of Sweden, but many parts of Swedish society have shut down.”

Johan Carlson, head of Sweden’ Public Health Agency says it was the tone that differed from other countries: “Rather than saying ‘you need to stay at home, you’re not allowed to do that and that,’ we are trying to explain to the population why this should be done, the reason for it.”

Swedish authorities have advised the public to practice social distancing. Schools, bars and restaurants are still open, and only gatherings of more than 50 people have been banned.

In neighboring Denmark, another small step toward reopening the country was taken late Thursday when the government, backed by the opposition, agreed to allow hair salons, dentists, physiotherapists, among others, to reopen on Monday.

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ISLAMABAD — Worshipers around Pakistan have defied a ban on gatherings by attending prayers at mosques Friday. That’s despite the deployment of police and government warnings that people could become infected by the coronavirus.

Among those defying the ban was a radical cleric at the Taliban-linked Red Mosque in the capital, Islamabad.

Police are expected to file cases against prayer leaders who allow worshipers to gather in their mosques as the number of virus cases in the country increases. Figures released Friday brought national totals to 7,025 cases and 135 deaths.

Pakistan has extended a nationwide lockdown for two weeks to help curb the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, Pakistani officials say a team of physicians from China who came to assist Pakistan in fighting the virus will return home. China has provided critical medical supplies, including face masks, testing kits, ventilators and thermal scanners to Pakistan.

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BEIJING — China is accusing the U.S. administration of attempting to shift the focus from its own defects in dealing with coronavirus by talking-up a theory that the global pandemic was started by a pathogen that escaped from a Chinese laboratory.

“Anyone discerning can tell at a glance that the purpose of the U.S. is simply to confuse the public, divert attention, and shirk responsibility,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters at a daily briefing on Friday. “We have said many times that tracing of the virus’ origin is a serious scientific issue and requires scientific and professional assessment.”

Officials including President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have suggested the lab theory may be valid, with Pompeo saying, “The mere fact that we don’t know the answers — that China hasn’t shared the answers — I think is very, very telling.”

Scientists say the virus arose naturally in bats. They say the leading theory is that infection among humans began at an animal market in Wuhan, China, probably from an animal that got the virus from a bat.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology specializes in research on animal-to-human transmission of such viruses but there is no evidence to backup the theory that the virus came from the lab.

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