The Latest: Domestic violence reports trouble WHO in Europe

By | May 7, 2020

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:

— Fears of ‘second wave’ hang over coronavirus successes.

— World Health Organization leader in Europe expresses concerns about domestic violence.

— China fires back at U.S. comments about the origin of the coronavirus.

— Health official in Africa says there hasn’t been enough virus testing.

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LONDON — The head of the World Health Organization’s Europe office said the agency is “deeply troubled” by reports of increasing domestic violence against women, men and children in countries including Belgium, Britain, France, Russia, Spain and others amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In a press briefing on Thursday, Dr. Hans Kluge said that although data were scarce, countries across Europe are reporting up to 60% of women are suffering domestic violence, noting that calls to help hotlines have jumped about five times. He warned that continued restrictive measures needed to suppress COVID-19 could have a devastating impact on vulnerable women and children.

“If lockdowns were to continue for six months, we would expect an extra 31 million cases of gender-based violence globally,” Kluge said, citing data from the UN Population Fund. “Evidence shows that interpersonal violence increases during every type of emergency,” he said. Kluge said authorities should consider it a “moral obligation” to ensure help services are available to communities.

He said that some countries have already responded to the emerging crisis, noting Italy’s development of an app where people can request help without making a phone call, and programs in Spain and France where pharmacists can be alerted to problems by people using code words. Kluge said the reported numbers were still only a small measure of the actual problem since people suffering from abuse often decline to report it.

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BEIJING — China is firing back at U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s claim that there is “enormous evidence” that the coronavirus originated in a Chinese laboratory, accusing him of “making up lies and covering up a lie by fabricating more lies.”

The strong language from Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying at a Thursday briefing came as U.S. President Donald Trump and his allies have continued to express confidence in an unsubstantiated theory linking the origin of the outbreak to a possible accident at a Chinese virology laboratory.

U.S. officials say they are still exploring the subject and describe the evidence as purely circumstantial. But Trump, aides say, has embraced the notion to further highlight China’s lack of transparency.

Pompeo told ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” that there is “enormous evidence” that the virus began in the Wuhan Institute of Virology in the city where the outbreak was first detected.

“Under the situation that no scientists and experts can even draw any conclusions, why did Secretary Pompeo want to rush to the conclusion to hold the Wuhan laboratory accountable? Where is his evidence?,” Hua told reporters, while defending the integrity of the Wuhan lab.

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JOHANNESBURG — Around 850,000 people across Africa — population 1.3 billion — have been tested for the coronavirus since the pandemic began. That’s according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Director John Nkengasong again tells reporters that “we are not testing enough.” The Africa CDC last month said it hoped to test 1 million people within four weeks and 10 million within about six months. But the supply of testing kits remains a challenge.

“Without tests, we’ll be fighting blindly,” Nkengasong said. He added that “we are in for a very long fight, let me be clear with everyone.” Africa’s confirmed virus cases are now above 51,000.

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BRUSSELS — All passengers on high-speed Thalys trains will have to wear masks as of next week as the company prepares to start operating more trains.

In an email to customers, the French-Belgian operator also said the frequency of trains will be increased as of June 9, with five daily round trips between Brussels and Paris, except on Sundays, and more trains linking Amsterdam, Paris and Dortmund.

The number of Thalys trains has been strongly reduced during the coronavirus pandemic, with just one daily round trip between Brussels and Paris, and one round trip between Belgium’s capital city and Amsterdam currently operated.

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WARSAW, Poland — A hospital director in southern Poland says that treatment with plasma from a COVID-19 survivor has led to a rapid improvement of a woman suffering from the disease and being in serious condition and on ventilator after emergency cesarean section.

Dr. Jacek Mazur of the Kedzierzyn-Kozle hospital said that 36 hours after receiving the plasma the 31-year-old woman was taken off the ventilator and began breathing on her own. After another 24 hours her condition allowed for her to be moved from intensive care to a regular ward, Mazur told TVN24.

“It was a spectacular improvement,” Mazur said.

Before the plasma was applied, the woman had spent a week in intensive care in serious and deteriorating condition, said Mazur who is the hospital’s director for medical matters.

The woman remains in hospital since April 23, currently in good condition. The baby girl born in the 30th week of pregnancy was not infected, but needed intensive care and was taken to another hospital. Her condition is also improving.

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MOSCOW — Russian health officials reported more than 11,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday — a new record daily spike which brought the country’s total over 177,000 confirmed cases.

Russia’s official caseload has thus surpassed that of Germany and France, becoming the 5th largest in the world. The actual number of cases is likely to be much higher as not everybody is getting tested and many people infected with the virus don’t show any symptoms.

Last week, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin suggested in his blog that as many as 2% of Moscow’s 12.7 million population — more than 200,000 people — may be infected with the coronavirus. Moscow has currently registered about 93,000 confirmed cases.

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MOSCOW — The International Monetary Fund announced allocating $ 189.5 million to Tajikistan to help the Central Asian nation to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

The funds “will help prevent severe economic and human disruption and preserve fiscal space for essential COVID-19-related health and social expenditure,” a statement released by the Fund on Wednesday reads.

Until late April, Tajikistan was one of the few countries that hadn’t reported a single case of the new coronavirus. Tajik authorities have been denying that the nation is affected by the outbreak for weeks, attributing a surge of respiratory diseases to other infections and viruses. As of Thursday, the country’s health officials registered nearly 400 confirmed cases and eight deaths.

On April 25, Tajikistan’s government ordered to close schools, theaters and cinemas and suspend all mass gatherings. The authorities also temporarily banned exports of certain foods, such as grains, meat, eggs and potatoes.

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JOHANNESBURG — The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Africa has surpassed 50,000 and deaths have surpassed 2,000. That’s according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Africa now has 51,698 cases, but the widespread shortage of testing materials means the actual number is unknown.

South Africa has the most virus cases with more than 7,800 but has been testing assertively with more than 10,000 tests carried out per day.

All but one of Africa’s 54 countries, tiny Lesotho, have confirmed cases.

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BEIJING — China is touting its assistance to countries struck by the coronavirus, saying it has provided direct government aid to 150 nations, including millions of testing kits.

“The virus knows no borders. Unity and cooperation is international society’s most powerful weapon to defeat the epidemic,” the foreign ministry said in a statement to The Associated Press.

It said China has been providing within its means, including, 3.3 million testing kits, 2.6 million gowns, 53 million masks and 729 ventilators, among other supplies.

Meanwhile, commercial contracts with 76 countries and regions and six international organizations have resulted in the export of 26.6 billion masks, including 1.5 billion of the N95 type used by health workers, 130 million gowns and 48,000 ventilators between March 1 and April 29, the ministry said citing customs figures.

China has in part promoted its assistance and role as a source of personal protective equipment as a way to deflect criticism that it delayed reporting information about the outbreak first detected in the central industrial city of Wuhan late last year. Beijing has angrily denied such accusations, saying it has been open and transparent throughout the crisis and that countries such as the U.S. squandered the opportunity China provided them to better prepare.

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UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations is increasing its appeal to fight the coronavirus pandemic in fragile and vulnerable countries from $ 2 billion to $ 6.7 billion.

U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock reiterated that the peak of the pandemic is not expected to hit the world’s poorest countries for three to six months. But he said there is already evidence of incomes plummeting and jobs disappearing, food supplies falling and prices soaring, and children missing vaccinations and meals.

Since the original appeal on March 25, the U.N. said $ 1 billion has been raised to support efforts across 37 fragile countries to tackle COVID-19.

The updated appeal launched Thursday includes nine additional vulnerable countries: Benin, Djibouti, Liberia, Mozambique, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Togo and Zimbabwe.

Lowcock said “in the poorest countries we can already see economies contracting as export earnings, remittances and tourism disappear.

“Unless we take action now, we should be prepared for a significant rise in conflict, hunger and poverty,” he warned. “The specter of multiple famines looms.”

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SEOUL, South Korea —— South Korea says it’ll expand its humanitarian shipments of masks to other countries amid waning domestic cases of the coronavirus.

The country’s food and drug safety minister, Lee Eui-kyung, told reporters Thursday that a total of 70 countries had requested for mask shipments from South Korea.

Lee says South Korea will focus on assisting countries with bigger outbreaks which urgently need masks. She says diplomatic and security relations will also be considered before choosing which countries South Korea will support.

Lee says the South Korean government will purchase masks for free overseas provisions or allow domestic companies to export them. Since March, South Korea has largely banned the exports of masks.

Earlier Thursday, South Korea reported four more virus cases over the past 24 hours in a continued slowdown of news cases in the country.

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NEW YORK — Democratic members of the state’s Board of Elections filed an appeal Wednesday of a federal judge’s reinstatement of the New York presidential primary.

The appeal by board Commissioner Andrew Spano and other members comes a day after the June 23 primary was reinstated by U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres in Manhattan, who said canceling it would be unconstitutional and deprive withdrawn presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang of proper representation at the Democratic convention.

Torres said there was enough time before the primary to plan how to carry it out safely.

Torres’ decision came after lawyers for Sanders and Yang argued Monday that their clients would be harmed irreparably.

Asked for comment on the appeal Wednesday night, Sanders’ attorney Arthur Schwartz said it’s disappointing and there are safe ways to have a primary on June 23.

The Democratic members of the State’s Board of Elections voted last week to cancel the presidential primary even though New York still planned to hold its congressional and state-level primaries June 23.

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BEIJING — China on Thursday declared all areas of the vast country have been downgraded from high to low virus risk, as the numbers of new cases falls to near zero and no new deaths have been reported in more than three weeks.

The last region to be downgraded was Linkou county outside the city of Mudanjiang in the province of Heilongjiang that borders on Russia and where the most recent spike in cases had been reported. Authorities shut an emergency field hospital in the region after the closing of the land border and strict social distancing measures appeared to have effectively brought the number of new cases to zero.

China’s National Health Administration on Thursday reported just two new coronavirus cases, both of them brought from overseas, and said 295 people remained in hospital with COVID-19. Another 884 people were under isolation and monitoring for being suspected cases or for having tested positive while showing no symptoms.

In total, China has reported 4,633 deaths among 82,885 cases of the virus that is believed to have originated in the central industrial city of Wuhan late last year before spreading worldwide.

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SEOUL, South Korea — Military aircraft will be used to transport 500,000 masks intended for U.S. veterans of the 1950-53 Korean War as South Korea expands efforts to help other countries deal with the coronavirus while its own outbreak slows.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry said Thursday the C-130J cargo plane will depart from an air base in the southern town of Gimhae on Friday.

The ministry says another 500,000 masks will be distributed to Korean War veterans in other nations through diplomatic offices and that they would be able to receive them by mid-May or earlier.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported four new cases of the virus and one more death, bringing national totals to 10,810 and 254 deaths. The country was reporting around 500 new cases a day in early March, but last saw a daily jump over 100 on April 1.

South Korea since March has banned the exports of masks and channeled most domestically produced masks to pharmacies, where people are currently limited to buying three masks per week. The nationwide rationing program was a drastic attempt at calming public anger over shortages, but officials say supply has now stabilized and that the country may send more masks overseas at a level that doesn’t disrupt domestic use.

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

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