The Latest: India’s PM looks to boost country’s morale

U.S. & World

In this Monday, March 2, 2020 photo, Israel’s Health Minister Yaakov Litzman delivers a statement as he visits a makeshift tent for quarantined coronavirus voters in Tel Aviv, Israel. Litzman, who has had frequent contact with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top officials, has the new coronavirus, the Health Ministry announced Thursday. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

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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:

— India’s PM urges citizens to light candles Sunday night to boost morale, spirit

— South Korea says more than 27,000 people are under self-quarantine

— South Korea reports 86 new cases of coronavirus, bringing total above 10,000.

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NEW DELHI — To bolster morale and spirit, India’s prime minister urges the country’s 1.3 billion people to switch off lights of their home for nine minutes Sunday night and light candles, lamps and even use mobile torches standing in their balconies.

In a video message broadcast Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said such a gesture will dispel the darkness created by the coronavirus and show that people are together in their fight against the epidemic.

He said social distancing was the only way to break the chain of coronavirus, which has so far claimed 53 lives in India with 1,860 positive cases.

Modi ordered a three-week lockdown across the country on March 24 to stop a massive outbreak of coronavirus infections.

On Friday, he acknowledged the hardships caused by the world’s biggest shutdown to millions of people who have been left jobless and forced tens of thousands of migrants workers to flee to their villages for food and shelter.

Indian officials have repeatedly insisted there is no evidence yet of community spread, but have conducted relatively scant testing for the disease in a country where tens of millions live in dense urban areas with irregular access to clean water.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea says more than 27,000 people are under self-quarantine in the county after it strengthened border controls to slow coronavirus infections linked to international arrivals.

Park Jong-hyun, an official from the Ministry of the Interior and Safety, said Friday that 19,567 of those under self-quarantine have recently returned from overseas while another 7,499 were isolated after contacting virus carriers.

South Korea has been enforcing 14-day quarantines on all passengers arriving from overseas since Wednesday, expanding measures that had already been applied to South Korean nationals and long-term stay foreigners coming from Europe and the United States.

Health Ministry official Koh Deuk-young said 266 short-term visitors have so far been quarantined at designated facilities after the quarantines were expanded Wednesday.

Authorities are isolating and testing passengers arriving with symptoms at airports while denying entry of anyone refusing to accept quarantines or download an app that requires users to report their daily health conditions and alerts officials when they leave their homes or facilities.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 86 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing its caseload above 10,000.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday said about half of the new cases came from the densely populous Seoul metropolitan area, where infections linked to international arrivals have been rising.

Another 22 infections were detected at airports where workers have been isolating and testing passengers arriving with fever or respiratory symptoms.

South Korea has been enforcing two-week quarantines on all passengers arriving from overseas since Wednesday to stem a rise in imported infections.

Seoul on Friday opened a huge coronavirus testing station in a sports complex built for the 1988 Summer Olympics to test hundreds of people returning to the capital each day amid broadening outbreaks in Europe and the United States.

The KCDC says at least 647 of the country’s 10,062 cases have been linked to passengers arriving from abroad, with most of the cases detected over the past three weeks in the Seoul metropolitan area.

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BEIJING — China on Friday reported 31 new confirmed virus cases, 29 of them from overseas, and four new deaths.

The National Health Commission says just 1,727 confirmed cases are now in treatment, while 12 suspected cases are under observation and 1,027 asymptomatic cases are being isolated and monitored. No new or suspected cases were reported in the city of Wuhan, where the virus was first detected in December.

China now has recorded a total of 81,620 cases and 3,322 deaths, although some speculate those figures may be too low because of a lack of testing and official candor during the worst of the outbreak in January.

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SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea says only around 500 people remain under coronavirus quarantine in the country after authorities in recent weeks released thousands of others who supposedly had no symptoms.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said Friday the country will continue to strengthen its anti-virus campaign amid the global spread of COVID-19.

The agency says officials during a recent national emergency meeting shared criticism over unspecified areas where quarantine controls had become passive.

The report didn’t say whether any of those remain under quarantine were foreigners.

The North had initially placed 380 foreigners under what it described as medical isolation, but KCNA said last week that only two of them remained quarantined. The North last month arranged a special government flight to fly out dozens of diplomats to Vladivostok, Russia.

The impoverished country has not publicly confirmed a single case of the COVID-19 illness, but state media has described anti-virus efforts as a matter of “national existence.” It has banned foreign tourists, shut down nearly all cross-border traffic with China, intensified screening at entry points and mobilized health workers to monitor residents and isolate those with symptoms.

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WASHINGTON — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday extended orders to keep non-essential businesses closed and most of the state’s more than 7 million residents home through May 4, saying that social distancing measures must remain in place an additional month in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

In recent days, Inslee had been signaling that his initial stay-at-home orders from March 23 — which were set to expire next week — would be extended. The new proclamation extends the original order from two weeks to six. Under previous actions taken by Inslee in response to the coronavirus outbreak, all bars, dine-in restaurants, entertainment and recreation facilities have been closed even longer, since March 17.

He said the state’s efforts to date have been robust “but we have an obligation to ourselves and to our loved ones to recognize this is a hard road ahead of us.”

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UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. General Assembly has unanimously approved a resolution recognizing “the unprecedented effects” of the coronavirus pandemic and calling for “intensified international cooperation to contain, mitigate and defeat” COVID-19.

The 193-member world body did not approve a rival resolution sponsored by Russia calling for U.N. solidarity in the face of the challenges posed by COVID-19 and urging countries not to apply unilateral sanctions without U.N. Security Council approval in order to tackle the virus.

Under new voting rules instituted because the General Assembly isn’t holding meetings, if a single country objects a resolution is defeated.

Diplomats said the European Union, United Kingdom, United States and Ukraine objected to the Russian draft, and the General Assembly was extending the deadline for objections until 6 p.m. EDT on Tuesday. It wasn’t clear if Russia would make changes to try to win approval.

General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande sent a letter to all U.N. member nations Thursday night informing them that there were no objections to the resolution entitled “Global Solidarity to fight the coronavirus disease” sponsored by Ghana, Indonesia, Liechtenstein, Norway, Singapore and Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. He said the resolution was approved and is in effect.

The resolution also recognizes COVID-19’s “severe disruption to societies and economies, as well as to global travel and commerce, and the devastating impact on the livelihood of people,” and that “the poorest and most vulnerable are the hardest hit.”

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BOSTON — The New England Patriots’ private team plane returned to Boston from China carrying most of an order of 1 million masks critical to health care providers fighting to control the spread of the coronavirus.

“This shipment comes at a critical time as we prepare for an anticipated surge in the coming weeks ahead,” Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said. “What we were able to accomplish with this particular mission will go a long way forward in this fight.”

Baker secured the N95 masks from Chinese manufacturers, but had no way of getting them to the U.S. Baker said Thursday an earlier order for 3 million masks had been confiscated at the Port of New York and this time he wanted a direct humanitarian delivery to the state.

In an interview with Patriots.com radio Thursday, Kraft Sports and Entertainment chief operating officer Jim Nolan said the Chinese government didn’t sign off on the trip until March 27. He said the hurdles included legal logistics that were only cleared thanks to cooperation involving multiple state, U.S. and international entities. Nolan said the Patriots received permission to land in China and got a waiver of a 14-day quarantine because the pilots didn’t get off the plane.

Baker said some masks will go to New York and Rhode island. The story was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is considering intervening to stop the release of some prisoners amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Correctional facilities in states such as California, Michigan and Pennsylvania have begun releasing certain inmates as the prisons face a shortage of medical supplies.

Trump said Thursday that “we don’t like it.”

The president added that “we’re looking to see if I have the right to stop it in some cases.”

He did not elaborate what measures, or under what legal authority, he would take to stop or reverse the releases.

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DETROIT — A Detroit bus driver who had expressed anger on Facebook about a coughing passenger has died from COVID-19, officials said Thursday.

Jason Hargrove felt ill about four days after posting a passionate video on social media on March 21. He died Wednesday, said Glenn Tolbert, the head of the drivers union.

Hargrove posted a profanity-laced video complaining about a woman whom he said had repeatedly coughed while on his bus. The coronavirus can spread through coughs. The woman was not in the video.

Hargrove said drivers are “public workers doing our job, trying to make a honest living, take care of our families.”

“For you to get on the bus … and cough several times without covering up your mouth and you know (we’re) in the middle of a pandemic — that lets me know that some folks don’t care,” Hargrove said. “At some point in time, we’ve got to draw the line and say enough is enough. I feel violated.”

On March 17, the city eliminated fares, promised more cleaning and told bus riders to enter and exit from the rear door only. The changes occurred after drivers declined to work that day to protest conditions.

Mayor Mike Duggan said “everybody in America” should watch Hargrove’s video.

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WASHINGTON — White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx says incoming infection data suggests not enough Americans are abiding by guidelines in the national “call to action” to stem the spread of the virus.

Administration officials say the United States’ infection and death rate from the virus is akin to what hard-hit Italy is facing. Italy has a population of about 60 million and has recorded nearly 14,000 deaths and 115,000 infections. The United States, with a population of about 327 million, has recorded more than 5,800 deaths and more than 240,000 infections.

Birx noted that Spain, Italy, France, and Germany have begun “to bend their curves.” But she says Americans will need to do a better job abiding by social distancing guidelines issued by the White House so the U.S. can do the same.

The White House issued its social distancing guidelines on March 16. Americans were advised to work from home when possible, cancel onsite learning and frequently wash hands.

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s administration is looking to crack down on a growing black market of medical supplies.

The national Defense Production Act policy coordinator, Peter Navarro, says there is a “black market springing up” to drive up prices of protective gear.

He said the federal government would step in to stop the practice.

But Trump added that states would remain the primary purchaser of medical supplies and that the federal government would remain in a backup role.

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Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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