TOP OF THE HOUR:
— Japan surpasses 10,000 domestic cases.
— California is on its way to acquiring 15,000 hotel rooms to house the homeless during the pandemic
— US, Canada to keep border closed 30 more days.
— Africa surpasses 20,000 cases, more than 1,000 deaths.
The number of cases is still relatively small compared to the U.S. and Europe, but that’s only as many as Japan’s limited testing has detected and actual infections are believed to be far more widespread.
Japan has finally started setting up additional testing centers in Tokyo and elsewhere, allowing primary care doctors to send suspected patients directly to testing stations rather than having them go through public health centers to screen eligibility, an earlier requirement that had prevented and delayed testing and treatment of many people.
Experts have noted that their strategy of going after clusters to trace infections is no longer effective to keep up with the surging cases and more tests are needed.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday expanded a state of emergency, which was limited to Tokyo and six other urban areas, to all of Japan, in a bid to prevent further spread of the virus nationwide amid concerns that hospitals are already overburdened with influx of patients.
It took two months for the cases to reach 1,000 since the first case was detected in mid-January, but the spread of the infections has accelerated in recent weeks and the number doubled from around 5,000 in just 10 days.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported eight more cases of the coronavirus over the past 24 hours, the first time for a daily jump in the country to drop to a single digit in about two months.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the additional figures released Sunday took the country’s total to 10,661 with 234 deaths.
It says 8,042 of the total have been recovered and released from quarantine and that 12,243 others were under tests to determine whether they contracted the virus.
South Korea’s caseload has been waning in recent weeks since it recorded hundreds of new cases every day between late February and early March, mostly in the southeastern city of Daegu and nearby areas.
Despite the recent downward trend, South Korean officials have warned about the possibility of a broader “quiet spread” with people easing up on social distancing.
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina retail stores and public beach access points that had been closed to halt the spread of the coronavirus will be allowed to reopen next week, The Post and Courier reported Saturday.
Gov. Henry McMaster will issue orders Monday to allow for the reopenings to take place on Tuesday, the governor’s chief of staff, Trey Walker, told the newspaper.
The order will apply to numerous nonessential stores, including department stores, flea markets, florists, bookstores and music shops. Grocery stores, pharmacies, home improvement stores and medical facilities have been allowed to stay open during the pandemic.
Occupancy in each store will be limited to five customers per 1,000 square feet of retail space or 20% occupancy, whichever is less, the newspaper said.
Local governments will still be allowed to make their own rules about waterway access.
The governor’s stay-at-home order will remain in place, as will the ban on eating inside restaurants, Walker said.
RIO DE JANEIRO -- Hundreds of people denouncing pandemic lockdown measures opposed by President Jair Bolsonaro snarled traffic in major Brazilian cities on Saturday.
Protesters in trucks, cars and on motorcycles honked horns on the streets of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and the capital of Brasilia, calling for governors to resign over measures that have forced most businesses to close for weeks.
Bolsonaro has been a fierce critic of the states’ stay-at-home measures, arguing that the economic harm could be more damaging than the illness. The protests took place a day after Bolsonaro fired his health minister, who had been promoting isolation measures.
In Rio de Janeiro, about 100 vehicles took part in the gridlock and temporarily shut down Copacabana Beach.
In Brasilia, Bolsonaro reiterated his intention to start reopening the economy.
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. -- The Navajo Nation is ordering all people on the tribe’s sprawling reservation to wear protective masks when out in public to help fight the spread of the coronavirus.
Tribal officials announced Friday night that the Navajo Department of Health issued an emergency health order for the reservation, which includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
The Navajo Nation has been hit harder by the coronavirus than any other Native American tribe.
The tribe and the Navajo Area Indian Health Service said the number of positive coronavirus tests reached 1,127 as of Friday with 44 deaths attributed to COVID-19.
SAN FRANCISCO -- California is on its way to acquiring 15,000 hotel rooms to house the homeless during the pandemic, said Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday as he reminded people to stay indoors while outbreaks continue to crop up throughout the state.
Standing in front of a Motel 6 outside the city of San Jose, Newsom said more than 4,000 people have been moved out of shelters and off the streets and into motel rooms. He took the opportunity to scold leaders of unnamed cities for blocking efforts to house the homeless, asking them to “please consider the morality” of their decisions.
His announcement came a day after the state reported another 87 deaths from the coronavirus. Meanwhile, California’s death toll from the virus rose above 1,050 on Saturday, according to a tally by John Hopkins University.
INDIANAPOLIS — More than 200 people upset over restrictions on Indiana residents because of the coronavirus protested outside the state mansion of Gov. Eric Holcomb, urging him to back off and restart the economy.
Holcomb, a Republican, said a stay-at-home order that expires Monday will be extended to May 1 while he works on a plan to reopen businesses.
In Austin, Texas, a few hundred people rallied at the state Capitol in another protest over stay-at-home orders. The demonstration came a day after Republican Gov. Greg Abbott announced that next week Texas will begin reopening state parks and letting retailers sell items curbside.
Abbott says more restrictions will be lifted before the end of April.
TIRANA, Albania — About 2,400 Kosovo citizens stranded abroad due to the new coronavirus will begin returning home.
A Foreign Ministry statement Saturday said the first two flights from Switzerland and Turkey would be next week.
Kosovo has been in a total lockdown for more than a month. The Kosovar Foreign Ministry selected the first 600 people based on criteria set by the Health Ministry. More citizens will be allowed to return once quarantines are lifted.
ATHENS, Greece — There have been two new fatalities from COVID-19 in Greece since Friday, raising the total to 110.
The country’s health ministry also announced Saturday the number of confirmed cases rose by 11, to 2,235. There are 68 people hooked to ventilators in intensive care units, down from 71 on Friday, and 39 patients have exited ICUs.
The average age of the victims is 74, the ministry said.
MADRID — Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says the government will seek to extend the country's state of emergency by two weeks to fight the new coronavirus outbreak but will start easing the total confinement of children.
Spain imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe in mid-March that brought economic activity to a near standstill. The government, which has been under pressure from regional governments, parents and some educators to ease the lockdown for children, will begin to do so in nine days.
Sánchez said Saturday that children will be allowed “to get out of their houses for a period on a daily basis” but the specifics need to be ironed out with experts. He says rolling back the national lockdown will only come when the country’s embattled health system is ready for possible rebounds. The state of emergency extension until May 9 needs to be approved by parliament.
PARIS -- France’s national health agency says the number of virus patients in intensive care dropped for the 10th straight day, while the number of overall virus hospitalizations has fallen for three consecutive days.
Health officials say confinement is “stopping the viral spread.”
The total number of deaths in France from COVID-19 reached 19,323, and nursing home deaths amount to more than one third of the total.
DETROIT — A Michigan prisoner who declined to be paroled earlier this year after decades behind bars has died from COVID-19 complications.
William Garrison died at a hospital after nearly 44 years in prison. The coronavirus outbreak has infected more than 500 inmates in Michigan prisons and killed 17.
The 60-year-old Garrison was sentenced to life in prison for killing a man during a 1976 robbery when Garrison was 16 years old. He could have been paroled two weeks ago but decided to wait until September, when he would be eligible for a complete release without the rigors of parole supervision, the Detroit Free Press reported.
The parole board approved his application in March.
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