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S.Korea reports 146 new coronavirus cases, highest in a week
28 March 2020, 5:43 AM

South Korea reported 146 new coronavirus cases on Friday, the highest number in a week, its disease control agency said on Saturday, with the country suffering a rise in imported cases from Europe and the United States during recent days.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) did not say how many of Friday’s new cases were imported as it was still investigating.

The daily tally brought the country’s total infections to 9 478 according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

The death toll rose by five to 144.

The country has reported similar daily numbers for the past two weeks, down from a high of over 900 in late February.

Of the 9 478, the number of imported cases was at 363 as of Saturday.

The recent surge in imported cases has prompted authorities to toughen entry rules for travellers from Europe and the United States.

The 64 new cases registered on March 22 was the lowest since the peak of 909 cases recorded on February 29.

As US virus cases exceed 100 000, doctors decry scarcity of drugs and equipment
28 March 2020, 4:47 AM

Doctors and nurses on the front lines of the US coronavirus crisis pleaded on Friday for more protective gear and equipment to treat waves of patients expected to overwhelm hospitals as the sum of known US infections climbed well past 100 000, with more than 1 600 dead.

Physicians have called particular attention to a desperate need for additional ventilators, machines that help patients breathe and are widely needed for those suffering from COVID-19,the respiratory ailment caused by the highly contagious novel coronavirus.

Hospitals in New York City, New Orleans, Detroit and other virus hot spots have also sounded the alarm about scarcities of drugs, medical supplies and trained staff while the number of

confirmed US cases rose by about 18 000 on Friday, the highest jump in a single day, to more than 103 000.

That tally kept the United States as the world leader in the number of known infections, having surpassed China and Italy on Thursday.

“We are scared,” said Dr. Arabia Mollette of Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in Brooklyn. “We’re trying to fight for everyone else’s life, but we also fight for our lives as well, because we’re also at the highest risk of exposure.”

The United States ranked sixth in death toll among the hardest hit countries, with at least 1 632 lives lost as of Friday night, a record daily increase of 370 according to a Reuters tabulation of official data. Worldwide, confirmed cases rose above 593 000 with 27 198 deaths, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported.

Even as hospital patient numbers steadily climbed, shortages of key medical supplies abounded.

One emergency room doctor in Michigan, an emerging epicenter of the pandemic, said he was using one paper face mask for an entire shift due to a shortage and that hospitals in the Detroit area would soon run out of ventilators.

“We have hospital systems here in the Detroit area in Michigan who are getting to the end of their supply of ventilators and have to start telling families that they can’t save their loved ones because they don’t have enough equipment,”the physician, Dr. Rob Davidson, said in a video posted on Twitter.

Emergency Powers 

US President Donald Trump on Friday invoked emergency powers to require General Motors Co to start building ventilators after he accused the largest US automaker of”wasting time” during negotiations.

He had previously resisted mounting calls for him to invoke the Defense Production Act, a Korean War-era statute that gives the president broad procurement powers in national emergencies,instead seeking to exert pressure on manufacturers to act voluntarily.

Sophia Thomas, a nurse practitioner at DePaul Community Health Center in New Orleans, where Mardi Gras celebrations late last month fueled an outbreak in Louisiana’s largest city, said the numbers of coronavirus patients “have been staggering.”

“We are truly a hotbed of COVID-19 here in New Orleans,” she said, adding that her hospital was trying to cope in part by shifting some patients to “telehealth” services that allow them to be evaluated from home.

New York-area doctors say they have had to recycle some protective gear, or resort to the black market.

Dr. Alexander Salerno of Salerno Medical Associates, a general medical practice with offices in northern New Jersey,described going through a “broker” to pay $17,000 for masks and other protective equipment that should have cost about $2 500, and picking them up at an abandoned warehouse.

“You don’t get any names. You get just phone numbers to text,” Salerno said. “And so you agree to a term. You wire the money to a bank account. They give you a time and an address to come to.”

Nurses at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York said they were locking away or hiding N-95 respirator masks, surgical masks and other supplies that are prone to pilfering if left unattended.
“Masks disappear,” nurse Diana Torres said. “We hide it all in drawers in front of the nurses’ station.”

 

Australia tightens quarantine rules to combat coronavirus, warns of fines
28 March 2020, 3:54 AM

Australian troops will begin on Saturday taking citizens returning from overseas to compulsory quarantine places to prevent spread of the coronavirus, as Victoria officials closed beaches on a warm autumn day amid public resistance, warning of fines.

The compulsory self-isolation for travellers in hotels and other lodgings across Australia comes as the country gradually tightens its social distancing rules, which have so far confused many.

With temperatures reaching 28 Celsius on Friday, hundreds of people in the state of Victoria defied pleas to stay home and flocked the beaches, forcing the police to close them on Saturday.

While Australia shut down mass gathering venues, closed many businesses and introduced the mandatory 14-day quarantine for those returning from abroad, there is no national order to stay home, although the government has said that those who can must stay inside.

“If you don’t, you’ll do nothing but spread the virus and that will kill people,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews told journalists at a televised briefing. “Unless we work together,be responsible, do the smart and decent thing and the lawful thing, we will finish up with our health system overrun and people dying.”

Victoria, where about a quarter of Australia’s 25.5-million population lives, saw its largest daily increase of coronavirus cases of 111 on Saturday, bringing the total in the state to 685 cases.

As of late Friday, there were 3 166 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia, with 13 deaths related to the virus.

Victoria Police Minister Lisa Neville said those flouting coronavirus restrictions could face on-the-spot fines of more than A$1 600 ($986.40), while businesses could be penalised more than

$10 000 if they do not adhere to strict social distancing and quarantining requirements.

New South Wales, where about a third of Australians live, introduced similar fines earlier this week.

“If you need to go for a walk, exercise, great, but this is not about spending a day at the beach,” Neville said

China reports no local virus transmissions as foreigners barred
28 March 2020, 3:12 AM

China on Saturday reported no locally transmitted coronavirus infections for the previous day and a small reduction in new cases involving travellers from overseas, as new restrictions on the entry of foreigners kicked in.

Effective Saturday, China has temporarily suspended the entry of foreign nationals with valid Chinese visas and residence permits.

The new restriction reflects worries in Beijing over the risk posed by so-called imported cases of the virus after widespread lockdowns within China helped to bring domestic transmissions under control.

Beijing has also ordered airlines to sharply cut international flights from Sunday.

A commentary in the Communist Party’s official People’s Daily newspaper on Saturday reflected the concern.

“At this time, we must be extremely vigilant and cautious,and we must prevent the post-epidemic relaxation from coming too soon, leading to the loss of all our achievements,” it said.

China’s National Health Commission said on Saturday that 54 new coronavirus cases were reported on the mainland on Friday,all involving so-called imported cases. There were 55 new cases a day earlier, one of which was transmitted locally.

The total number of infections for mainland China now stands at 81 394, with the death toll rising by three to 3 295, the commission said.

Hubei province reported no new cases, and three new deaths.

The province of 60 million, where the virus was first detected,has recorded 67 801 coronavirus cases and 3 177 deaths.

Chinese President Xi Jinping told US President Donald Trump on Friday that China would support US efforts to fight the coronavirus.

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States rose by at least 16 000 on Friday to nearly 102 000, the most of any country.

Famously boisterous Nigerian mega-city Lagos adjusts to coronavirus lockdown
28 March 2020, 3:01 AM

Fear of the coronavirus has induced an extraordinary calm in Lagos, Nigeria’s famously boisterous mega-city where streets known for miles of gridlock have emptied of traffic and eateries serving takeaways are almost the only shops open.

The largest city in sub-Saharan Africa, with an estimated 20 million population, has been transformed by a week-long shutdown of public life imposed as part of efforts to stem the spread of the highly infectious disease in Nigeria.

The lockdown order by Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu applies to all non-essential shops – those not selling food, water or medicine – in the sprawling market megalopolis near Nigeria’s Atlantic Ocean coast.

He also banned gatherings of over 25 people and told everyone to stay home with the majority of Nigeria’s confirmed cases – 44 out of 65 – surfacing in Lagos and the state’s health minister warning that the coronavirus is spreading.

As the lockdown began, most residents were compliant but afraid – both of getting sick and of losing much-needed income.

“I believe some of our traders will be stubborn or so because most of them do not have (food) to eat at home,” said Fatai Adedabo, head of Computer Village, a collective market selling electronic accessories and offering phone repairs.

“We still have to monitor them and make sure the market is shut down totally.”

Adedabo was not alone in worrying that poverty could hinder containment of the respiratory pandemic, which has infected more than 531,600 people worldwide and killed more than 24,000.

Sanwo-Olu conceded that a 100% lockdown was not possible due to the large numbers of Lagos residents who could not afford to stockpile essentials. Nigeria’s Senate president said on Thursday authorities needed to help shield the poor from suffering the most on account of blanket closures.

Sanwo-Olu on Friday announced that food packs would be distributed to help Lagos residents.

The packs – whose contents would include rice, beans, bread, drinking water and vitamins – are intended to last for 14 days. He said they would initially be sent to 200,000 households but he hoped distribution would be ramped up.

By mid-morning on Friday, the first full day of the lockdown, most in the typically teeming and exuberant city appeared to be soberly accepting the closure.

Weather

 

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