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COVID-19: Lockdown in Spain, lawsuits in France and a war of words between US and China

Gulf News 2020-03-26 20:16:10

Dubai: On a day when world leaders held emergency online talks to build a united front against the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed more than 21,000 lives, the number of cases continued their upward spiral. Europe is now the hardest hit continent with over 250,000 infections and nearly 15,000 deaths, while fatalities in the US hit the 1,000 mark.

With three billion people around the globe locked down, countries are desperate to find ways to stop the terrifying spread of COVID-19. Here's a round-up of the major events during the day in the fight against coronavirus.

Spain extends lockdown

Spain has become the country in Europe where the coronavirus outbreak is expanding fastest. It’s second only to the United States in the number of new cases reported. Spain’s Health Ministry reported 8,578 new infections and 655 deaths on Thursday, bringing the total infections to 56,188 and more than 4,000 fatalities.

Italy’s initial steep rise in confirmed cases has started to level off more than two weeks into a nationwide lockdown. On Wednesday, the country reported 5,210 new cases and 683 deaths.

Spain extended its coronavirus lockdown on Thursday to at least April 12 as it fought “a real war” procuring medical supplies.

Lawsuits accuse French government of not acting quickly

Six lawsuits have been filed in France accusing the government of not acting quickly enough to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The suits were filed by individuals or groups seeking the prosecution of government ministers for manslaughter, putting people in danger or failing to help people in danger. More than 1,300 people have died from the virus in France. More than 25,000 cases have been confirmed.

France on Thursday carried out its first train evacuation of coronavirus patients from the hard-hit east of the country, which has registered over 1,300 hospital deaths in the fast-spiralling epidemic. The specially adapted high-speed TGV train, evacuated 20 patients from the Alsace region bordering Germany and Switzerland to help relieve overstretched facilities there, officials said.

3.3m apply for unemployment benefits in US

Nearly 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week - more than four times the previous record set in 1982 - amid a widespread economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus. The surge in weekly applications was a reflection of the damage the viral outbreak is doing to the economy.

Germany increases test abilities

Germany has increased its ability to test for coronavirus to 500,000 a week. Lothar Wieler, the head of Germany’s Robert Koch disease control center, says the number of tests being conducted in the country was likely the highest worldwide. So far, there have been 39,500 cases in Germany and 222 deaths.

A fight over terminology

China is strongly pushing back on US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s insistence on referring to the coronavirus as the “Wuhan virus” after the city in China where it was first detected. Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Thursday that it was an effort to “stigmatise China and discredit China’s efforts in an attempt to divert attention and shift responsibilities.” “He has a very sinister motive,” Geng told reporters at a daily briefing.

China will drastically cut its international flight routes in a bid to blunt the number of imported cases of the new coronavirus, the civil aviation authority said Thursday. Flights out of China will be capped at just one route a week to each country, with international airlines also permitted only one route. China has not reported any new domestic infections from the deadly virus for two consecutive days, but imported cases have now surpassed 500.

Romania health minister resigns

Romania’s prime minister has announced the resignation of the health minister, whose announcement that everyone in the capital city of Bucharest would be tested for the coronavirus had been strongly criticised. Prime Minister Ludovic Orban said Thursday in a statement that while he regretted Victor Costache’s departure, “on the other hand, I understand it and I thank him.” Orban said the government’s priority was to acquire protective equipment for hospitals to protect medical staff. Romania has registered 906 coronavirus cases, with 17 deaths.

Russia to build medical centres

Russia’s Defence Ministry has promised to build 16 medical centres for treating infectious diseases by mid-May amid the growing coronavirus outbreak in the country. The centres will be spread across a range of Russian regions, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said at a government meeting Thursday, AP reported. Earlier on Thursday, the government announced halting all international flights except for those bringing Russian nationals home from abroad. Moscow officials on Thursday ordered to close restaurants, cafes, bars, shopping malls and some parks in the city for nine days starting from Saturday.

Britain orders 10,000 ventilators

Britain’s government has ordered 10,000 ventilators to grapple with the COVID-19 crisis.

Billionaire inventor James Dyson told his staff in an email that a team of engineers had been working on a design for the last 10 days since receiving a request for help from Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Dyson says the device draws on technology used in the company’s air purifier ranges and is powered by a digital motor.

Malaysia king, queen under quarantine

Malaysia’s king and queen are under quarantine after seven palace staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

The palace said Thursday that seven staff were hospitalised on Tuesday and health authorities were trying to identify the source of the transmission. It said King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah and his wife Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah were tested for the virus, but both were negative. It said the royal couple decided to observe a 14-day self-quarantine from Wednesday, with deep cleansing to be carried out in the palace.

- with inputs from agencies