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Medical staff decontaminate their protective suit, after helping carry a suspected patient out of her house in Yonkers, New York on April 14.

Japan declares State of Emergency: Global Virus Update

Medical staff decontaminate their protective suit, after helping carry a suspected patient out of her house in Yonkers, New York on April 14.

Key Developments

  • Virus Tracker: Cases top 2 million; deaths exceed 138,400
  • Japan’s Abe expands state of emergency
  • Consumer habits in virus-ravaged Wuhan may forever be changed
  • FDA shifts its stance on COVID-19 vaping, smoking impact

UK Total Cases Cross 100,000

The number of cases in the UK rose to 103,093 from 98,476. The country reported 861 new deaths, taking the total to 13,729.

Airbus CEO Says Aviation Faces Gravest Crisis Ever

The global aerospace sector is facing its greatest challenge ever, according to the chief executive officer of Airbus SE. The world’s biggest planemaker has seen demand slump as its airline customers, riding high on record demand before the virus hit, ground planes and suddenly seek to slash orders and delay jet handovers.

Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury, addressing investors in a virtual annual meeting, called the situation “unprecedented.”

Switzerland to Allow Businesses to Open Gradually

Switzerland’s businesses and schools will be allowed to reopen in three stages starting April 27.

The first cohort will be establishments like hair dressers, tattoo studios, beauty salons, hardware stores, garden centers and flower shops, where people can keep a safe distance. Hospitals will also be once again allowed offer a full range of medical services, the government said on Thursday.

Portugal Reports Biggest Case Increase in Six Days

Portugal reported 750 new cases, the most in six days, taking the total to 18,841. The total number of deaths rose to 629 from 599, and hospitalized cases climbed to 1,302 from 1,200.

Facebook Put Warnings on 40 Million Misleading Posts

Facebook Inc. added warnings to 40 million pieces of misinformation about the coronavirus on its main social network in March, part of an effort to stem the spread of bad advice and misleading articles.

Hundreds of thousands of posts deemed harmful were removed entirely, according to a blog post on Thursday by Guy Rosen, the company’s vice president for integrity. In the next few weeks, users who liked, commented or reacted to misleading posts that were later taken down will be shown messages in their news feeds linking to factual information about Covid-19, the company said.

UK Will Reject Any EU Request to Extend Transition

“Extending the transition would prolong business uncertainty,” government spokesman James Slack said on a conference call with reporters on Thursday. “UK business needs to know what its future trading arrangements will be and how to adapt to them.”

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva earlier told the BBC that the UK and EU would be “wise not to add more” to the uncertainty from the virus by refusing to extend the Dec. 31 deadline for Brexit trade deal negotiations.

Japan’s Abe Declares Nationwide State of Emergency

Prime Minister Abe declared a nationwide state of emergency, expanding it from seven prefectures, as the infection spreads and his support rate sags. Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is leading government efforts on the virus emergency had said earlier that the period will last to May 6 and is designed to limit people’s movements during a peak travel period of several national holidays in late April and early May known as “Golden Week.”

South African Mines to Resume Work at 50% Capacity

Cooperative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma announced the easing of lockdown restrictions in a televised media briefing. The state will ease sanitation requirements for imported goods and Dlamini-Zuma said fuel refineries must ramp up output. The government plans to loosen curbs gradually and will retain some restrictions when the lockdown ends on April 30.

Men Die of COVID-19 at Twice the Rate of Women

The rate of death among men due to COVID-19 was double that of women in England and Wales last month, according to an analysis from the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics. Overall, there were 3,912 deaths involving the coronavirus in March, with 86% having COVID-19 as the underlying cause. The pandemic was the third most frequent underlying reason for death during the month.

About 91% of people who died from issues related to COVID-19 had at least one pre-existing health condition, the statistics agency said. The most common one was chronic ischaemic heart disease, which was involved about 14% of the time. The mortality rate increased with age, with the highest among people at least 90 years old. One person who was between 15 to 19 years old died. Males had a higher age-specific mortality rate than females overall.

EU Targets Super-Charged Crisis Budget

The heads of the European Union’s main institutions said the bloc must increase its budget firepower to repair its devastated economy as they seek a way around the gridlock over joint bond issuance.

An expanded budget should be “the mothership” of efforts to revive growth after the coronavirus pandemic, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen told EU lawmakers in Brussels on Thursday. The bloc’s leaders will have a “strategic discussion” about the spending plan during a conference call next week, said European Council President, Charles Michel, who leads their meetings.

Amazon’s Bezos Wants to Test All Employees

Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos said the online retail giant is developing COVID-19 testing capabilities as a first step toward a system of regular checks on its employees globally.

In an annual letter to shareholders, the billionaire founder outlined other steps the e-commerce giant has taken to curb the coronavirus, from shutting down non-essential services like Amazon Books to overhauling processes at Whole Foods. The next step was regular testing for all staff — including those who showed no symptoms, he said. On Thursday, Bezos said his company had assembled a team comprising scientists, managers and software engineers to build internal testing capacity, and hoped to build its first testing lab soon.

Spain New Cases Rise Most in a Week

Spain confirmed 5,183 new cases, the most in a week, taking the total to 182,816. There were 551 deaths in past 24 hours, for a total of 19,130 since outbreak began. The government said this week that the country has already overcome the peak of the virus, in what is the world’s second-most extensive outbreak. It’s starting to focus more on how to relax restrictions imposed under a national state of emergency.

WHO Concerned by Spread in UK, Turkey, Ukraine

“The storm clouds of this pandemic still hang heavily over the European region,” said Hans Kluge, European regional director of the World Health Organization at a press briefing. The number of cases in Europe doubled within 10 days to one million. “The next few weeks will be critical for Europe.”

While there have been “small positive signals” in countries such as Spain, Italy, Germany, France and Switzerland, that’s tempered by sustained or increased levels of incidents in the UK, Turkey, Ukraine, Belarus and the Russian Federation. Lifting lockdowns isn’t necessarily a one-way process, and Kluge urged countries to rethink their plans to ease measures if they aren’t fully prepared to step up testing and boost medical capacity.

“We think of ourselves in a period of new normal until such a time that a vaccine may be available,” WHO officer Katie Smallwood said, adding that researchers aim to do that within 18 months though it can’t be predicted because it usually takes years. Healthcare workers represent 1 in 13 reported cases in Europe, though there’s a bias in that statistic because healthcare workers are more likely to get tested, she said.

Iran Deaths Slow Again

Iran reported 1,606 new coronavirus cases and 92 more deaths in the past 24 hours, marking the fifth day in a row where the daily death toll has decreased. The country has so far reported 77,995 cases and 4,869 fatalities.

Austria Rolls Out Targeted Mass Testing

Austria will test all 130,000 workers and residents in the 918 elderly care institutions for the novel coronavirus because that population is particularly at risk, Health Minister Rudolf Anschober told journalists in Vienna. It will also roll out mass testing of workers in the health sector and in the retail industry, he said. The massive increase in testing of targeted populations is accompanying the Austrian government’s gradual easing of lockdown measures, Anschober said.

Deadliest Day in Belgium

Belgium reported a record 417 fatalities in the past 24 hours, taking the death toll to 4,857. Belgium includes suspected coronavirus infections among the deceased: 198 deaths in the past 24 hours weren’t confirmed by a diagnostic test. The situation in Belgian hospitals continues to improve slowly. The number of ICU patients declined by 22 to 1,182 and total hospitalizations fell by 206 to 5,309.

China Factories May Halt Output Again on Weak Demand

Chinese manufacturers that resumed work after the outbreak may be forced to halt production again due to weak demand, rising costs and difficulties in funding and logistics, Xu Kemin, an official with the industry ministry, said at a briefing in Beijing.

Russia New Case Growth Rate Slows

Confirmed infections rose by 3,448 in the past day to 27,938, Russian consumer health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor said. At 14%, the daily growth rate is the lowest since April 11. Moscow reported 1,370 new cases compared with 1,774 the day before, the first daily decline since April 11. Total fatalities rose to 232, with 34 people dying overnight.