MOSCOW — Russia has sent a planeload of medical aid to the United States amid the growing coronavirus pandemic.
A military aircraft loaded with medical equipment and masks took off from Moscow early Wednesday morning, according to the Defense Ministry.
Footage from the Russian Defense Ministry showed boxes of equipment inside an Antonov An-124 Ruslan aircraft at Moscow’s Chkalovsky Airbase.
The delivery follows a phone call between President Vladimir Putin and President Trump on Monday, when they discussed cooperation in the fight against the new coronavirus. A Kremlin statement said the call took place at Washington’s initiative.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday that Trump accepted Russia’s aid “with gratitude.”
“Offering aid to the American colleagues, the president (Vladimir Putin) is assuming that when American production of medical equipment and materials picks up speed, they will be able to reciprocate if necessary,” Peskov told the Interfax news agency.
LONDON (AP) — The British government is under fire for failing to keep its promise to increase the number of tests performed for Covid-19.
The U.K. has restricted testing to hospitalized patients, leaving many people with milder symptoms unsure whether they have had the new coronavirus. Many scientists have urged wider testing to allow medics who are negative to remain at work, and to better understand how the virus spreads.
That has happened in Germany, which has the capacity to do 500,000 tests a week.
The U.K. initially performed about 5,000 tests a day, but the government promised to increase that number to 10,000 by the end of last week. The target has not been met, with just over 8,000 tests performed Monday, the last day for which figures were available.
Officials blamed a shortage of the chemicals needed to perform the tests.
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said Wednesday that the number of tests should hit 15,000 a day “within a couple of days” and rise to 25,000 a day by mid-April. He conceded, “We do need to go further and we need to do that faster.”
He told ITV that “it isn’t easy to procure the tests in a global pandemic because there is a great deal of demand.”
LONDON — Britain’s largest banks are scrapping dividend payments amid pressure to secure cash for businesses struggling with the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority requested the suspension of all plans to return money to shareholders. All outstanding dividend payments from last year will also be canceled.
Barclays, Lloyds and NatWest are among the banks accepting the move.
The PRA says the decisions “are a sensible precautionary step given the unique role that banks need to play in supporting the wider economy through a period of economic disruption, alongside the extraordinary measures being taken by the authorities.”
The authority also expects bonuses to be canceled for senior staff members.
The move may offer a moment of redemption for the big banks, many of whom suffered reputational damage during the 2008 financial crisis.
Royal Bank of Scotland CEO Alison Rose said the institution is “focused on ensuring we support our customers and help them to navigate the immediate and longer-term challenges they are facing as a result of Covid-19.”
LONDON — The Scottish government has dropped controversial plans to temporarily bring an end to trial by jury during the coronavirus lockdown.
Constitution Secretary Mike Russell told Scottish lawmakers that the government was withdrawing the proposals from emergency legislation, and that “intensive and wide-ranging” discussions with interested parties, including victims, about alternatives will take place. Other measures within the emergency legislation include the early release of prisoners and a ban on evictions.
Russell said new proposals on the justice system will be brought forward this month.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had said that bringing a temporary end to jury trials was necessary so serious criminal trials did not halt entirely.
The proposals regarding trial by jury met with criticism across Scotland, which has a wide array of devolved powers from the U.K., particularly on legal matters.
The Scottish Criminal Bar Association said they included attacks on “principles that have been built over more than six hundred years and are the very cornerstone of not just Scotland’s Criminal Justice System, but those of almost every advanced liberal democracy in the developed world.”
TALLINN, Estonia — Estonian authorities say inmates at the Baltic country’s penitentiaries have been ordered to produce protective face masks for themselves and prison employees as the two groups remain under high risk of getting the coronavirus.
Prisoners working for the state-owned AS Eesti Vanglatoostus production company are able to produce some 400 face masks a day, the region’s main news agency Baltic News Service reported Wednesday.
Many of the hundreds of drug addicts and HIV-positive carriers in the nation of 1.3 million have been diagnosed with infectious diseases ahead of their imprisonment. That may have seriously weakened their immune system, and Covid-19 may pose a high risk to their lives, the news agency reported.
DAKAR, Senegal — Pape Diouf, a former president of French soccer club Marseille, has died in Senegal after contracting the coronavirus, the West African country’s first Covid-19-related death. He was 68.
Senegalese health officials said Diouf died Tuesday. He had been treated since Saturday in intensive care at Fann Hospital in Dakar, said Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr, the minister of health.
Relatives say he was meant to be moved to France. He had recently traveled to several countries in the region, including Ivory Coast.
Senegal President Macky Sall offered condolences to Diouf’s family in a message posted on Twitter.
MADRID — Spain reports a new record of 864 deaths in one day while total infections broke the 100,000 mark, making it the third country to surpass that milestone behind the United States and Italy.
Spanish health authorities said Wednesday that the total number of deaths reached 9,053 since the beginning of the outbreak.
Total infections hit 102,136. But the 24-hour increase of 7,719 was 1,500 fewer than the increase from the previous day, offering hope that the contagion rate is stabilizing.
Spain is two and a half weeks into a national lockdown with stay-at-home rules for all workers except those in health care, food production and distribution, and other essential industries.
The country is frantically working to add to the number of intensive care units in hospitals which are quickly filling up in the country’s hardest-hit regions.
Spanish authorities are bringing into the country 1,500 purchased ventilator machines and asking local manufacturers to ramp up production, with some creative solutions employed, such as snorkeling masks repurposed as breathing masks.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka’s president Gotabaya Rajapaksa is asking that international financial organizations provide debt moratorium or debt deferment to developing nations such as Sri Lanka, which are staggered by the new coronavirus.
Rajapaksa made the request on Wednesday during a telephone discussion with the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Rajapaksa asked Ghebreyesus to speak with the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, president of the World Bank, president of the Asian Development Bank and leaders of the leading bilateral lending nations “to provide debt moratorium or debt re-profiling facilities for vulnerable developing countries like Sri Lanka whose economies depend on tourism, exports, remittances and foreign investment in debt and equity markets.”
Ghebreyesus said on Twitter that he discussed with Rajapaksa the health and economic impacts Covid-19 can have on Sri Lanka and the whole region.
“I thanked him for mobilizing the whole-of-government in the fight against the coronavirus.” he added.
Sri Lanka imposed a curfew on March 20, locking down the whole country and banning nonessential travel. Police are strictly enforcing the law and have arrested thousands who violated the curfew regulations.
Two people have died of Covid-19 and there are 142 positive cases.
The coronavirus has dealt a severe blow to the country’s important tourism and garment industries.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean health officials say 43 patients have been placed under isolation in one of the biggest hospitals in the capital of Seoul after a hospitalized 9-year-old girl tested positive for the coronavirus.
Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Wednesday said around 50 medical staff who worked at the Asan Medical Center’s pediatric department will be quarantined at their homes although they tested negative.
Jeong and Seoul city officials say the girl was tested for the virus after doctors found she had been treated for a headache at another hospital in Euijeongbu, near Seoul, where a dozen patients and medical staff have been infected with Covid-19.
Officials did not release details about the girl’s conditions.
South Korea’s nationwide caseload has slowed from early March, when it reported around 500 new infections a day, but the country has struggled to stem infections at hospitals, psychiatric wards, nursing homes and other live-in facilities.
Hundreds of patients and medical staff have been infected in hospitals in the worst-hit city of Daegu, where more than 6,700 of the country’s 9,887 infections have been reported.
PARIS — France on Wednesday is evacuating 36 patients infected with the coronavirus from the Paris region onboard two medicalized high-speed TGV trains.
The patients, all treated in intensive care units, are being transferred to several hospitals in Britany, as western France is less affected by the epidemic.
The operation seeks to relieve hospitals in the Paris region, hard-hit by the coronavirus that has claimed more than 3,500 lives in France.
The country has already operated several transports of patients by train, helicopter, military aircraft and onboard a Navy ship. Some patients from eastern France have been transferred to hospitals in neighboring Germany, Luxembourg and Switzerland.
France has increased its capacity of 5,000 ICU beds before the crisis to 8,000 and is aiming at getting 14,000 ICU beds in coming weeks, according to health authorities.
In the Paris region alone, the number of ICU beds has risen from 1,200 to 2,000, with almost the same number of patients needing intensive care.
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia’s plant that belongs to Korean carmaker Kia says it is planning to renew production as planned on April 6.
Kia halted its production lines located near the northwestern city of Zilina on March 21 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It says workers are coming back to work “under strict preventive measures.” The plant employs about 3,800 workers.
Slovakia has reported 363 cases of Covid-19, according to government figures Wednesday morning.
Across the border in the Czech Republic, Kia’s affiliate Hyundai said on Wednesday it extended the closure of its Czech plant by one week until April 14.
In another Slovak neighbor, Hungary, Suzuki said it is extending its plant’s closure by two weeks, until April 17. Hungary’s Mercedes-Benz plant also has extended its factory’s closure, until April 21.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey has sent a planeload of masks, hazmat suits, goggles and disinfectants to Italy and Spain to help the countries combat the coronavirus pandemic.
State-run Anadolu Agency said a military cargo plane carrying the medical equipment took off from an air base near Ankara Wednesday.
The equipment was produced by military-owned factories and sewing workshops.
The items were being sent in crates displaying in Italian and Spanish the words of 13th century Sufi Poet Jalaluddin Rumi: “There is hope after despair and many suns after darkness.”
The report did not say how many masks and other equipment were dispatched.
SINGAPORE — Singapore will introduce a bill to offer temporary relief to businesses and people who cannot fulfill contractual obligations, such as rent payments and scheduled events, because of Covid-19.
The bill, to be introduced in parliament next week and to be in place for at least six months, will prevent contracting parties from taking legal action such as forfeiting a deposit placed for a wedding that will be postponed, or terminating leases on commercial property for rent that has gone unpaid.
For individuals, the minimum amount of debt before filing for bankruptcy has been raised from S$15,000 to S$60,000. The threshold for companies to apply for insolvency has been raised tenfold to S$100,000.
The relief measures come as Singapore has imposed stringent social distancing rules on residents. Gatherings have been limited to 10 people or fewer, and people in Singapore who intentionally do not abide by the 1-meter social-distancing rule in a public place could be fined and jailed.
As of March 31, Singapore had reported 926 cases of Covid-19 cases, and three deaths.
NEW YORK — As the number of coronavirus deaths continues to surge in the United States, officials are warning the disease could kill between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans, even if people continue to stay home and limit their contact with others.
Experts made the prediction at a Tuesday media briefing with President Donald Trump. But they said they hope the figure won’t soar that high if everyone does their part to prevent the virus from spreading.
“I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead,” said Trump, who also extended social distancing guidelines until April 30. “We’re going to go through a very tough two weeks.”
The U.S. recorded a big daily jump of 26,000 new cases, bringing the total to more than 189,000. The death toll leaped to over 4,000, including more than 1,000 in New York City.