Poland may extend restrictions, no drastic new rules planned: minister

FILE PHOTO: A worker wearing protective gear disinfects a public bus during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Gdynia, Poland, April 5, 2020. REUTERS/Matej Leskovsek

WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland’s government may decide on Thursday to extend restrictions to fight the spread of the coronavirus, but no drastic new moves to combat the pandemic are not planned, Health Minister Lukasz Szumowski said on Thursday.

“(Bans) already imposed have helped to contain the virus. There would be 25,000 people infected instead of the current 5,000 if we had not imposed restrictions,” Szumowski told public radio.

Poland has already closed schools, restaurants, shopping malls and cinemas among other moves to contain the virus.

Szumowski also asked Poles, a staunchly Catholic nation, to stay at home for Easter and abstain from travelling to see their families.

Reporting by Marcin Goclowski and Pawel Florkiewicz


Britain’s William and wife Kate surprise school children with video call

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate surprised children at a school with a video-call to offer thanks to their parents who are key workers keeping the country running during the coronavirus pandemic.

Schools closed for most children three weeks ago to curb the spread of the virus but are still open to care for the children of people who work in hospitals for the National Health Service (NHS) and other key sectors.

Holding up a picture to show the royal couple, one of the children told them that it was painting of his mother who worked for the NHS.

“You should be very proud of her, they’re doing an amazing job, all the NHS workers,” Kate told the boy at the Casterton Primary Academy in Burnley, northern England.

With the United Kingdom in its third week of lockdown, the royal family have finding ways to rally the British people, with William’s father and heir to the throne Prince Charles, who himself has recovered from COVID-19, opening a new hospital last week by video link.

Queen Elizabeth, William’s grandmother, made a rare televised address on Sunday, saying that the coronavirus outbreak could be overcome if people stayed resolute in the face of lockdown and self-isolation.

William and Kate joked with the children and staff, who were all wearing bunny ears to celebrate Easter, saying that they wished that they had similar headware, as they thanked the staff caring for the children for their hardwork.

“We just wanted to say a huge thank you to you guys and well done and keep it all going,” William said.

Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by Michael Holden


Shanghai set to reopen schools after coronavirus closures

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Local schools in Shanghai that have been closed in an effort to contain the spread of the new coronavirus will reopen starting April 27, the director of the city’s education commission said on Thursday.

Lu Jing said classes for the final years of both junior and senior high schools would be permitted to resume on April 27.

Schools should make preparations to resume classes for other grades before May 6, he said, with specific timing to be announced by each school.

Reporting by Winni Zhou and Andrew Galbraith; Editing by Himani Sarkar


Thailand reports 54 new coronavirus cases, two more deaths

A vendor wearing a protective face mask sells mangoes in a market during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Bangkok, Thailand April 8, 2020. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand reported 54 new coronavirus cases and 2 more deaths on Thursday, including a 74-year-old French national.

An 82-year-old Thai man also died, said a spokesman for the government’s Center for CoVID-19 Situation Administration.

The new cases include five Thais repatriated from Indonesia who had traveled to South Sulawesi province for a religious gathering last month before the event was postponed.

Thailand has reported a total of 2,423 cases and 32 fatalities, while 940 patients have recovered and gone home since the outbreak started in January.

Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan


Factbox: Latest on the spread of the coronavirus around the world

(Reuters) – The number of confirmed infections of the novel coronavirus exceeded 1.41 million globally and the death toll crossed 83,400, according to a Reuters tally as of 1400 GMT.

Two people gesture as they lean out of their window after the applause in honour of healthcare workers, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in downtown Ronda, southern Spain, April 7, 2020. Placard reads: “Cheer up! Your efforts are our pride”. REUTERS/Jon Nazca


* For an interactive graphic tracking the global spread, open tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.

* U.S.-focused tracker with state-by-state and county map, open tmsnrt.rs/2w7hX9T in an external browser.


* The increase of hospital death fatalities in France slowed again, but the presidential palace said the national lockdown aimed at containing the disease would be extended.

* Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that Italy must stick with its rigid lockdown to try to curb the COVID-19 epidemic.

* Spain’s official coronavirus death toll edged higher again, but questions persisted over the veracity of numbers.

* British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was “clinically stable” in intensive care on Wednesday and responding to treatment.

* President Vladimir Putin likened Russia’s fight against the coronavirus to its battles against medieval invaders and said the next few weeks would be decisive.

* The president of the European Union’s main science organisation quit over frustration at the response to the pandemic.

* Switzerland’s government, which said its economy could contract by as much 10.4% this year, extended the nation’s restrictions for another week but said a gradual loosening of measures would begin this month.

* The World Health Organization’s regional director described the outbreak in Europe as “very concerning” and urged governments to give “very careful consideration” before relaxing measures to control its spread.

* Pope Francis condemned people he said were exploiting the pandemic to turn a quick profit and decried the “hypocrisy” of how some politicians are dealing with the crisis.

* The European Union is drawing up common rules for using mobile apps to track the spread, aiming to make better use of the technology and address privacy concerns.

* Refugees in eastern German are sewing face masks for pensioners in a retirement home.


* The number of cases in New York state alone approached 150,000, the most anywhere in the world, even as authorities warned the state’s actual death toll could be higher.

* Some 60,000 Americans could die in the pandemic, a university model often cited by U.S. and state policymakers projected, a 26% reduction in its most recent forecast, as total cases in the country reached 395,011, with the death toll at 12,754.

* The head of the World Health Organization gave a strident defence of his agency’s handling of the pandemic, in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s criticism.

* U.S. immigration officials have rapidly deported nearly 400 migrant children intercepted at the U.S.-Mexico border in the past two weeks under new rules.

* At least 20 doctors at a public hospital outside Mexico City have tested positive for the coronavirus.

* Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra extended the country’s state of emergency for two more weeks to April 26.


* The Chinese city of Wuhan ended its two-month lockdown, even as a small northern city ordered restrictions on its residents amid concern about a second wave of infections.

* India is considering plans to seal off hotspots in Delhi, Mumbai and parts of the south while easing restrictions elsewhere as a way out of a three-week lockdown that has caused deep economic distress.

* Tokyo recorded its biggest daily jump on Wednesday since the start of the pandemic, the city’s governor said on the first day of a state of emergency.

* Expatriates in Hong Kong are buying up masks to send to family and friends back home as supplies return to shops.

* Thailand automatically extends visas for all foreigners who entered legally, to prevent long queues at immigration centres and stem the spread, a senior immigration official said.

* East Timor’s prime minister withdrew his resignation as the government approved a $250-million fund.


* Ethiopia and Liberia declared states of emergency, a day after cases on the continent surged past 10,000.

* Lebanon’s food importers, already hit by a dollar crunch, have struggled to book new cargoes as the pandemic threatens supplies and sparks fears of more painful price hikes.

* Egypt will extend a nationwide night-time curfew by 15 days until April 23.

* Ethiopia declared a state of emergency.

* A coronavirus lockdown kept the streets of Jerusalem and other Israeli cities nearly empty on the Jewish Passover holiday, which typically draws crowds of people.

* The Gaza Strip has no more coronavirus test kits, Palestinian health officials said.

* Somalia has registered its first death from coronavirus. ECONOMIC FALLOUT

* World equity markets surged and oil prices jumped on Wednesday on hopes the coronavirus pandemic is getting close to peaking and that more government stimulus measures could be on the way. [MKTS/GLOB]

* Democratic congressional leaders said they would back the Trump administration’s request for another $250 billion for small businesses if the bill includes more funding for hospitals, local governments and food assistance.

* Faced with an accelerating global health crisis, Federal Reserve officials agreed last month they needed a pull-out-all-the-stops response.

* Canada said it would temporarily loosen rules for an emergency wage subsidy program to ensure more businesses qualify, while jobless claims triggered by the outbreak soared beyond 4 million.

* European Union finance ministers failed in all-night talks to agree on more economic support, spurring Spain to warn the bloc’s future was on the line without a joint response to the crisis.

* The European Central Bank told euro zone finance ministers the area could need fiscal measures worth up to 1.5 trillion euros this year.

* Germany’s economy will probably shrink by 9.8% in the second quarter, its biggest decline since records began, the country’s leading think tanks said.

* The pandemic has cost Austria $12 billion so far, or 2.8% of its annual gross domestic product, according to its central bank.

* A second stimulus package India is poised to announce in coming days will be worth around $13 billion and focus on helping small and medium businesses, senior officials said.

* Hong Kong announced relief measures worth $17.7 billion to help businesses and people crippled by the outbreak to stay afloat.

* Nearly 140 campaign groups and charities urged the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, G20 governments and private creditors to help the world’s poorest countries by cancelling debt payments.

Compiled by Sarah Morland, Milla Nissi and Aditya Soni; Editing by Tomasz Janowski, Arun Koyyur and Anil D’Silva


Taiwan rebuffs accusations it racially attacked WHO chief

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan on Thursday angrily condemned accusations from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) boss that racist slurs against him had come from the island, saying racism did not exist in Taiwan in an escalation of its bitter quarrel with the body.

Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-Wen and soldiers wear face masks to protect them coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a military camp in Tainan, Taiwan, April 9, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang

Taiwan’s exclusion from the WHO, due to objections from China which claims the island as its own, has infuriated the Taipei government during the coronavirus outbreak.

Taiwan says it has been unable to get timely information and that Taiwanese lives have become political pawns. The WHO denies this.

Taiwan has long described this as a pattern of behaviour that puts it at risk because of Chinese pressure to exclude it from international bodies.

On Wednesday, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus rejected “racist slurs” against him, which he said had originated in Taiwan.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said Taiwan opposed any form of discrimination.

“For years, we have been excluded from international organisations, and we know better than anyone else what it feels like to be discriminated against and isolated,” she said in a statement. “If Director-General Tedros could withstand pressure from China and come to Taiwan to see Taiwan’s efforts to fight COVID-19 for himself, he would be able to see that the Taiwanese people are the true victims of unfair treatment.”

Tedros is not a popular figure in Taiwan due to suspicion he is too close to China and the WHO’s listing of Taiwan’s virus case numbers under China’s, despite it being totally separately governed.

U.S. President Donald Trump sharply criticised the WHO on Tuesday, accusing it of being too focused on China and issuing bad advice during the coronavirus outbreak.

Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said Tedros’ accusations were groundless and “imaginary” and Taiwan had not made any racist comments nor encouraged anyone to do so.

Tedros’ comments were irresponsible and he should clarify them and apologise to Taiwan, Ou said.

“The concept of racism does not exist in Taiwan. We do not have a problem of racism,” she told reporters.

Taiwan has been proud of its early and so far effective measures against the coronavirus, logging just 379 cases and five deaths to date, far lower than many of its neighbours.

The WHO said last month it was closely following the development of the coronavirus in Taiwan and learning lessons from how they are fighting it.

Slideshow (2 Images)

However, Taiwan says the WHO ignored its questions at the start of the outbreak and has not shared with member states information Taiwan has provided, including details on its coronavirus cases and prevention methods.

Under the slogan “Taiwan can help”, the government last week announced the donation of 10 million faces masks to the United States, Europe and the 15 countries which still maintain formal diplomatic ties with the island.

Ou said Taiwan would donate another six million masks, to northern and eastern Europe, Latin America, Southeast Asia and U.S. states hardest hit by the pandemic.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Lincoln Feast.


Chinese stay close to home after coronavirus brought under control

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s first test of travel demand after its coronavirus outbreak was the Qingming festival last weekend, but rather than hopping on a plane or train, Shan Mingyu and five of her family drove to a resort town close to her eastern home of Yixing.

FILE PHOTO: People wearing face masks enjoy a picnic at a park during Chinese Qingming festival holiday in Beijing, amid an outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country, China April 6, 2020. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang/File Photo

“We did not want to travel too far away and we did not want to take public transport,” said the 22-year-old student, who spent about a month cooped up at home during China’s lockdown to rein in the virus.

“At the resort, we booked a villa so the whole family could stay together. We even brought a bottle of ethanol to sterilise the place.”

The global tourism industry is closely watching trends in China for clues to travel patterns in other major markets once the virus, which has infected 1.4 million and killed 83,400 worldwide, is under control and curbs on movement are lifted.

Shan’s family is not alone in its caution even as China, where the pandemic originated late last year, pulls the virus situation under control, data from Ctrip, run by online travel giant Trip.com Group Ltd (TCOM.O), shows.

Almost all visitors to China’s top 10 tourist hotspots during the Qingming holiday were locals, said Ctrip, as travellers now prefer weekend getaways of two to three days, and travel agents are barred from running run cross-province trips.

Aviation experts expect domestic travel in most markets will recover before international travel, as is happening in China.

Domestic airline capacity in China fell slightly this week from the last as airlines try to balance available capacity against demand, data firm OAG said.

“Those green shoots of recovery (are) proving difficult to sustain, it seems,” OAG senior analyst John Grant said in a weekly update.

Tourism revenue plunged about 80% during the Qingming tomb-sweeping holiday from a year earlier, with the number of travellers falling more than 60%, data from the China Tourism Academy shows.

Travel within China is also complicated by movement curbs retained in some regions, such as Beijing, the capital, to guard against a second wave of infections from aboard.

Sherry Shen, a 29-year old finance worker in Beijing, said she had considered taking a camping trip with her boyfriend in the mountains of northwestern Qinghai province after her initial hopes of a surfing holiday in the Philippines were dashed.

“But now, I can’t even get out of Beijing, because once you return, you’re most likely to be quarantined for 14 days,” she said, adding that after such a trip she also ran the risk of being denied entry to restaurants, supermarkets and malls.

“It’s suffocating.”

Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.

Reporting by Stella Qiu and Se Young Lee in Beijing; Additional reporting by Beijing Newsroom; Writing by Jamie Freed; Editing by Clarence Fernandez


Australia promises aid to coronavirus-alert Pacific as cyclone tears through

FILE PHOTO: Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne speaks with a delegate from the Democratic Republic of the Congo during an event hosted by the U.S. Department of State’s Energy Resources Governance Initiative at the Palace Hotel on the sidelines of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, New York, U.S., September 26, 2019. REUTERS/Darren Ornitz

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia said on Thursday it stood ready to help nearby Pacific Island nations in the aftermath of a powerful cyclone that has cut a path through a region already under restricted movement to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Cyclone Harold, a category 5 storm packing winds in excess of 251 km/h, hit Tonga early on Thursday, cutting power and destroying popular holiday resorts. Tonga Police posted images of flattened beachfront resort buildings on its official Twitter page.

The storm has already passed through Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands, flattening homes, cutting communication lines and bringing high seas. Dozens of people were killed when they were swept off a ferry off the Solomon Islands.

Although the Pacific has relatively few cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and no reported deaths, much of the region has restricted personal movement to slow any spread.

“We are acutely conscious that this comes on top of the impact and difficulties created by COVID-19 for those countries and so our support is all the more important,” said Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne in a televised news conference.

Australia has already started helping with the cleanup in Solomon Islands, promised relief supplies like tents and water containers to Vanuatu and would also offer support in Fiji, Payne added.

“We stand ready to provide what further help we can to our Pacific family in whatever ways we can,” she said.

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said Harold had left “a path of destruction in its wake”.

“This storm must not compromise our #coronavirus containment, lest we risk damage far more painful than any cyclone,” Bainimarama’s posted on his official Twitter account. “It’s vital every Fijian follows all of our public health directives.”

Reporting by Byron Kaye; editing by Jane Wardell


Germany’s coronavirus cases rise by 4,974, deaths by 246: RKI

A woman takes a picture at the Cherry Blossom Area, a magnet for tourists from all over the world during blossom-time of the cherry trees, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in Bonn, Germany, April 8, 2020. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen

BERLIN (Reuters) – The number of confirmed coronavirus infections in Germany rose by 4,974 in the past 24 hours to 108,202 on Thursday, climbing for the third straight day after four previous days of drops, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 246 to 2,107.

Reporting by Riham Alkousaa; Editing by Michelle Martin


Japan coronavirus infections reach at least 5,000 cases: NHK

TOKYO (Reuters) – The total number of Japanese novel coronavirus infections hit at least 5,002 on Thursday, NHK public broadcaster said, showing no signs of slowing despite a state of emergency being imposed this week on Tokyo and six other areas.

Statues wearing protective face masks are seen after the government announced the state of emergency for the capital following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at Shibuya shopping and entertainment district in Tokyo, Japan April 8, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato

The milestone came as the central bank warned the coronavirus pandemic had created an “extremely high” level of uncertainty for the world’s third-largest economy, with regional economies facing their worst conditions since the global financial crisis a decade ago.

Japanese authorities are hoping to contain the outbreak without imposing a mandatory lockdown that could deal a major blow to an economy already struggling to cope with the virus outbreak.

Once declared by the central government, the state of emergency gives local governors stronger legal authority to urge people to stay home and businesses to close.

In contrast to stringent lockdowns in some countries, mandating fines and arrests for non-compliance, enforcement will rely more on peer pressure and a deep-rooted Japanese tradition of respect for authority.

Tokyo’s nightlife districts of Shibuya, Akasaka and Ginza areas were much quieter than usual overnight as the state of emergency took effect, but elsewhere on Thursday things seemed as busy as usual.

The number of new infections rose by at least 29 on Thursday to 5002, while the death toll edged up by 1 to 105, according to Japanese media reports.

Hideaki Omura, the governor of the central Japan prefecture of Aichi, said he would declare a state of emergency on Friday even if the central government did not add it to the national list of emergency prefectures.

Aichi includes the city of Nagoya and hosts Toyota Motor Corp.

“If we watch what’s happened in the last week it doesn’t look good and so we’re making preparations,” he said.


Even with less stringent restrictions compared with other countries, analysts polled by Reuters expect Japan to slip into a deep recession this year as the virus outbreak wreaks havoc on business and daily life.

While aggressive central bank actions across the globe have eased financial market tensions somewhat, corporate funding strains were worsening, Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda told a quarterly meeting of the bank’s regional branch managers on Thursday.

“The spread of the coronavirus is having a severe impact on Japan’s economy through declines in exports, output, demand from overseas tourists and private consumption,” he said.

“For the time being, we won’t hesitate to take additional monetary easing steps if needed, with a close eye on developments regarding the coronavirus outbreak.”

The BOJ cut its assessment on all of Japan’s nine regions for the first time in 11 years, saying their economies were weakening or under strong downward pressure.

“The situation is quite severe. Business sentiment is souring. Firms dealing with inbound tourism and consumption are seeing sharp declines in sales,” Yasuhiro Yamada, the BOJ’s Osaka branch manager overseeing the Kinki western Japan region, told a news conference.

Shares of Oriental Land Co fell on Thursday after the operator of Tokyo Disneyland said it would keep the amusement park shut until mid-May.

Entertainment facility operator Uchiyama Holdings said it was closing 43 karaoke shops and 11 restaurants until May 6.

Fast Retailing said sales at its Uniqlo outlets were down 27% in March from a year earlier. But retail group Seven & i Holdings Co reported a 3% rise in annual operating profit, thanks to robust sales of food and other daily necessities.

Kuroda’s remarks highlight the strong concern policymakers have over the outlook for Japan’s economy and how companies continue to struggle to generate cash, despite government and central bank promises to flood the economy with funds.

At its policy meeting later this month, the BOJ is likely to make a rare projection that the economy will shrink this year, sources have told Reuters.

The BOJ eased monetary policy in March by pledging to boost purchases of assets ranging from government bonds, commercial paper, corporate bonds and trust funds investing in stocks.

The government also rolled out a nearly $1 trillion stimulus package to soften the economic blow.

Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.

Reporting by Leika Kihara; Additional reporting by Yoshifumi Takemoto, Elaine Lies and Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Chris Gallagher and Stephen Coates