Leaders of the European Union and around the world condemned President Trump’s freeze of U.S. funding to the World Health Organization.
Spain Suffering Devastating Recession
MADRID — Spain has recorded 523 new deaths attributed to the coronavirus in the past 24 hours while infections shot up again for the first time in five days.
Wednesday’s new 5,092 infections, a 3% day-to-day increase, brought the confirmed cases to 177,633. The country’s death toll stood at 18,579, the world’s third-worst after the United States and Italy, Health Ministry data showed.
Spain has eased the conditions of Europe’s strictest lockdown this week, allowing manufacturing, construction and other nonessential activity to cushion the economic impact of the pandemic.
The International Monetary Fund is forecasting a sharp recession for Spain this year, with its 1.2-trillion-euro ($1.3 trillion) gross domestic product expected to shrink by 8% and unemployment to increase from 14% to 21% before a slow recovery in 2021.
Amid sharp criticism for its handling of the coronavirus crisis, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Wednesday told lawmakers that the government’s measures have worked in slowing down the spread of the virus and called for political unity to launch the country’s “rebuilding.”
Finland Eases Blockade of Helsinki
HELSINKI — The Finnish government says it will end the blockade of a key southern region that includes the capital, Helsinki, in the first move of easing Covid-19 -related restrictions.
Justice Minister Anna-Maja Henriksson said Wednesday the government found no legal justification to continue blocking movement of citizens into and out the Uusimaa region, a restriction that entered into force on March 28.
The Uusimaa region is home to some 1.7 million people, nearly one-third of Finland’s population, including Helsinki’s 650,000 residents. The region has been the worst affected by the pandemic and the lockdown was meant to prevent the spread of virus to rest of the nation.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin said that all other coronavirus-related restrictions would remain in place in Finland, including a ban on gatherings and closure of schools. Finland has so far recorded 64 deaths and 3,237 confirmed Covid-19 cases.
Britain Says It Will Expand Covid-19 Testing
LONDON — The British government is promising to test thousands of nursing home residents and staff for the new coronavirus, as it faces criticism for failing to count care-home deaths in its tally of victims.
The government says it will begin to routinely test care workers and will also test any residents who show symptoms. Currently only the first five symptomatic residents of a home are tested to determine whether there is an outbreak.
British officials are under fire for failing to conduct more tests for Covid-19. The government has promised to change that and has set a target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of April, a more than fivefold increase.
Charities have accused the government of treating elderly people as if they don’t matter, and social-care operators say the new coronavirus is causing “devastation” in the country’s nursing homes.
Official statistics showed Tuesday that 15% more people with Covid-19 have died than were recorded in the U.K. government’s daily tally of hospital deaths — including hundreds in care homes.
Russia Expands Travel Pass System
MOSCOW — Russian social media users and news outlets reported crowds of people queuing at metro stations and traffic jamming up highways leading into Moscow on Wednesday morning after a new system of passes controlling the movement of people within Russia’s capital was introduced to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Police officers were reported to be manually checking IDs and passes of each person driving into Moscow or entering the metro, prompting long queues.
The pass system in Moscow came into effect on Wednesday as the coronavirus outbreak in Russia continued to grow exponentially, with the number of cases doubling every five days. On Wednesday, Russian authorities reported 3,388 new infections, which brought the country’s total to 24,490. Moscow accounted for 14,776 of them.
Moscow has been in lockdown since late March, with residents ordered to stay home except to buy food and medicine, walk pets or go to jobs at essential workplaces. To travel by car or on public transport, Muscovites need to apply for scannable QR-code passes online, listing their destination and purpose of travel.
Thailand Extends Travel Ban
BANGKOK — Thailand has extended through April 30 a ban on international passenger flights landing in the country as part of its effort to control the spread of Covid-19.
The ban was ordered on April 4 after chaos broke out at Bangkok’s international airport when more than 100 returning Thai citizens refused to abide by regulations requiring them to go directly to state-run quarantine centers. The original three-day ban has already been extended once.
Even before the airport incident, Thai authorities had announced the return of Thais from abroad would have to be delayed because there were not enough facilities to monitor and quarantine them.
Strict regulations requiring prior certification from foreigners that they do not have the coronavirus have effectively banned the entry of most foreign visitors.
Exceptions to the ban renewal announced Wednesday by the Civil Aviation Authority include state or military aircraft, emergency landings, technical landings without disembarkation, humanitarian, medical or relief flights, repatriation flights and cargo flights. All who do enter are subject to health crisis regulations, including a 14-day state quarantine.
Thailand has a huge tourism industry and last year welcomed about 40 million visitors.
There were 30 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 announced Wednesday, bringing the total to 2,643. Two more deaths were reported, bringing the total to 43, while 1,497 infected people have recovered.