The Latest: Russia shuts down all schools for 3 weeks

By | March 18, 2020

The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 198,000 people and killed more than 7,900. The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms in most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or those with existing health problems. More than 81,000 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.

———

Russian authorities are closing all of the country’s schools for three weeks starting next Monday amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Russian education officials said Wednesday it would be an extended spring break with the opportunity to continue studies remotely.

Russia has so far reported 114 confirmed cases of the new virus. The country’s government has taken vast measures to prevent the disease from spreading, including closing the borders to foreigners starting from Wednesday and ordering coronavirus testing for everyone who returned from European countries in the last 14 days.

Authorities in different Russian regions imposed restrictions on public events and recommended that people work and study from home. Last week, Moscow officials announced the closing all schools in the city and banned gatherings of more than 50 people.

———

South Africa says it now has 116 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, nearly double the number announced two days ago.

Fourteen of the new cases are from local transmission, a worrying development in the country, which has the most cases in sub-Saharan Africa.

South Africa is one of the world’s most unequal countries, and authorities are rushing to prevent the spread of the virus to teeming low-income neighborhoods and crowded public transport.

Another concern: Six of the newly announced cases are children under 10. And authorities in Gauteng, the province that includes the commercial hub of Johannesburg, say family members of a woman and her daughter who tested positive fled quarantine but were tracked down by police.

———

Kyrgyzstan has reported its first three cases of the new coronavirus.

Kyrgyz health officials said Wednesday that the three men diagnosed with the virus returned from Saudi Arabia recently.

The infected men, along with 90 people who arrived in Kyrgyzstan on the same flight, are in isolation. Kyrgyz authorities are working to establish who else the men were in contact with.

Despite having no confirmed cases of the new virus until Wednesday, the government had already taken measures to prevent the disease from spreading in the country.

On Monday, all of Kyrgyzstan’s schools and universities were shut down for three weeks. Movie theaters, nightclubs, restaurants and cafes with more than 50 seats available are also closed for the time being. All international trains and buses have been canceled.

———

The mayor of the South Korean city worst-hit by the coronavirus says 87 new cases have been discovered from local nursing hospitals, raising concerns about a possible spike in infections after they waned over the past week.

Daegu Mayor Kwon Young-jin said Wednesday that 74 of the cases came from a single hospital and that the 57 patients who were infected would be transferred to other facilities for treatment.

The infections at nursing homes weren’t fully reflected in national figures announced by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or KCDC, which said the cases in Daegu rose by 46 in the 24 hours ending midnight Tuesday.

South Korean officials have struggled to stem infections at hospitals, nursing homes, disability institutions and other live-in facilities, which critics say have been poorly regulated for years.

The KCDC says 116 cases and 10 deaths have been linked to a hospital in Cheongdo, near Daegu, where infections surged among patients hospitalized at a psychiatric ward.

South Korea has confirmed at least 8.413 coronavirus cases, including 84 deaths.

———

The leaders of the world’s 20 biggest economies are trying to organize a virtual meeting next week to discuss a coordinated response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Saudi Arabia, which currently leads the G-20 presidency, said it is communicating with countries to convene the virtual meeting of leaders.

The kingdom said in a statement Wednesday the Group of 20 countries will act in any way deemed necessary to alleviate the impact of the pandemic and will put forward a coordinated set of policies to protect people and safeguard the global economy.

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has come under criticism by some officials around the world, including members of the U.S. Congress, over its moves to ramp up oil production to more than 11 million barrels a day after an agreement with major oil producer Russia fell apart. The Saudi decision to flood the market sent oil prices plummeting below $ 30 a barrel at a time when markets around the world are also plunging.

———

A Canadian government official said late Tuesday that Canada and the United States are working out the details of a mutual ban on non-essential travel between the countries.

The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details ahead of an announcement.

——— Contributed by AP writer Rob Gillies in Toronto.

———

Taiwan is banning foreigners from entering the island.

Chen Shih-zhong, Taiwan’s health minister and commander of the Central Epidemic Epidemic Command Center, announced the ban that starts Thursday. Taiwanese people returning will have to quarantine at home for 14 days.

Taiwan has 77 cases of infection with the virus that causes COVID-19.

———

South Korea’s vice health minister who gave daily televised briefings on the country’s anti-virus efforts is quarantining himself after meeting a hospital official who has COVID-19.

Ministry official Yoon Tae-ho on Wednesday said the vice minister, Kim Gang-lip, was among eight ministry officials who met with a group of hospital chiefs at a restaurant in Seoul last Friday to discuss quarantine and treatment for the coronavirus.

Yoon says the ministry officials were sent home Wednesday morning after the head of the Bundang Jeseng General Hospital in Seongnam, near Seoul, was confirmed to have COVID-19.

South Korea has more than 8,000 cases and a series of infections have hit government departments.

Oceans and Fisheries Minister Moon Seong-hyeok has been in quarantine after more than two dozen ministry officials tested positive for the virus, leaving health workers scrambling to sanitize rooms and shut down some of the corridors at a government complex in Sejong City.

———

Hawaii’s governor is encouraging travelers to postpone their island vacations for at least the next 30 days as the state tries to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The governor is directing bars and clubs to close and for restaurants to focus on takeout, delivery and drive-through service. He called for gatherings to be limited to a maximum of 10 people.

Officials have closed schools and facilities and postponed events to prevent the disease from spreading widely in the community and overwhelming the healthcare system. Hawaii has recorded 14 cases of the new coronavirus.

———

The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

———

Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

ABC News: Health