TOP OF THE HOUR:
— China reports no new deaths for ninth straight day
— Sharp Corp holding lottery for popular masks
— Denver meatpacking plant that closed because of a coronavirus outbreak is set to reopen
TOKYO — Masks from Japanese electronics maker Sharp Corp. have proved so popular with consumers there is going to be a lottery.
Sharp said Friday that access got so massive for online orders, which began Tuesday, not a single sale was completed.
As a fix, Sharp announced a lottery for 30,000 boxes of the masks, each with 50 masks.
A person is entitled to one 2,980 yen ($28) box each.
Applications are accepted all day Monday next week, with lottery winners announced Tuesday.
“We apologize for causing inconveniences to our customers,” spokesman Kentaroh Odaka said.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, Sharp, owned by Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., also known as FoxConn, of Taiwan, made displays for TVs and theaters.
Sharp’s masks were shipped from last month, but initially just to medical facilities.
Some Japanese hospitals have complained about a mask shortage. Masks have been sometimes hard to find at stores around Japan.
HONG KONG — Hong Kong’s university entrance examinations began on Friday morning, complete with social-distancing measures, after a one-month delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than 52,000 students are expected to sit for the city’s Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) examinations over the next month, the results of which are used to determine university admissions.
Any student found to have a body temperature of above 38 degrees Celsius will be refused entry.
At exam venues, desks are required to be spaced just over 3 feet apart, with the recommended distance being nearly 6 feet between candidates.
The nationwide exams will take place between April 24 and May 25. Candidates were originally meant to take the exams from March 27, but exams were postponed as Hong Kong saw a surge in COVID-19 cases in March.
BEIJING — China on Friday reported no new COVID-19 deaths for the ninth straight day, and just six new cases of the virus.
Two of those were brought from overseas, with three domestic cases in Heilongjiang on the Russian border and one in the southern business hub of Guangdong.
Hospitals are still treating 915 cases, 57 listed as serious, while 999 people are being isolated and monitored as either suspected cases or for having tested positive without showing symptoms. The country’s death toll from the global pandemic first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year remains at 4,632 among 82,804 cases.
TOKYO — An Italian cruise ship docked in a southern Japanese port city of Nagasaki had 43 more new cases in an outbreak that erupted this week, bringing the total infected to 91, local officials said Friday.
The outbreak on the Costa Atlantica surfaced Tuesday when officials from Nagasaki and Mitsubishi Heavy Industry, which is in charge of repairs and maintenance on the ship, announced that a crew member developed a cough and fever.
The ship has no passengers and 623 crew, whose nationalities are not disclosed. Officials suspect they had contracted the virus while in town or when the ship switched crew.
Officials said they plan to have all the remaining crew members tested by the end of Friday
All but one of the infected crew, who was sent to a hospital and is in serious condition, remain on board and self-quarantining themselves in single rooms each.
Japanese officials are still investigating how the outbreak started on the ship. The case has puzzled authorities because the southern port city has a relatively low number of infections and the vessel has been docked since the end of January.
In Tokyo, the health minister Katsunobu Kato said that the central government and Italy were to discuss ways to arrange repatriation of healthy crew members, as well as an earliest possible departure of two other Italian cruise ships, Costa Cerena and Costa Neo Romantica, also docked in Nagasaki.
MANILA, Philippines — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has angrily threatened to declare martial law after accusing communist rebels of killing two soldiers, who escorted the delivery of cash and food aid to villagers as his government scrambled to deal with a growing number of coronavirus infections.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Friday that Duterte also approved during a meeting with Cabinet officials the extension of a lockdown in metropolitan Manila and several provinces and cities up to May 15. A lockdown in the main northern Luzon region of more than 50 million people is set to expire on April 30.
“I’m warning everybody and putting the armed forces and the police on notice that I might declare martial law. There will be no turning back,” Duterte said in a televised speech beamed nationwide. “I have two more years. I will try to finish all of you, including you the legal (fronts), you should go and hide.”
Duterte renewed his attacks on the New People’s Army guerrillas, who he said has extorted large amounts of money from big companies and stole firearms of slain soldiers in an insurgency that has dragged on for more than a half century. The rebels have denied his accusations and said they were helping villagers cope with the pandemic.
The Philippines has reported nearly 7,000 cases of COVID-19 disease, including 462 deaths. It’s among the highest in Southeast Asia but many believe the toll is higher given the limited coronavirus tests specially in provincial and rural regions.
DENVER -- A major meatpacking plant in Colorado that closed because of a coronavirus outbreak that claimed the lives of four workers is set to reopen Friday after a two-week disinfection, even as some question how employees can maintain social distancing inside the facility to curb the spread of the disease.
The JBS USA plant in Greeley was partially closed April 11 after health officials in Weld County cited the close proximity of workers to each other and employees working while they were sick as factors in the outbreak. At least 102 workers have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to state health officials.
A spokesman for JBS, which employs about 6,000 workers at the Greeley plant, did not immediately return a telephone call and an email seeking comment Thursday. But state health officials said JBS has made progress in sanitizing the plant.
“We feel that we are there,” Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of Colorado’s health department, said during a news briefing.
Ryan said officials from the state and Weld County, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have worked at the plant along with “industrial hygienists” hired by JBS.
SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea says it will send one million face masks to foreign veterans of the 1950-53 Korean War as it expands efforts to help other countries deal with the coronavirus epidemics while its own caseload slows.
South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun during a virus meeting on Friday said the country could send more masks overseas at a level that doesn’t disrupt domestic supply.
South Korea since early March has banned the exports of masks and channeled most domestically produced masks to pharmacies, where people have been limited to buying two masks per week.
The nationwide rationing program was a drastic attempt at calming public anger over shortages and reduce hour-longs lines that formed in stores across the country in previous weeks as infections soared.
But Chung said supply has stabilized and that the government will increase the weekly allowance to three masks from next week.
South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported six more cases but no new deaths, bringing national totals to 10,703 and 240 fatalities.
MEXICO CITY -- Mexico has reached 1,069 coronavirus deaths and 11,633 confirmed cases as lock-down measures were tightened Thursday and the country’s capital shut down 20% of subway stations and enforced a partial driving ban.
Mexico City has the largest number of cases and its closed over three dozen of its least-used subway stations. Authorities say that stopping at fewer stations would make trains run more frequently and thus reduce crowding. The city also banned one-fifth of cars from driving one day a week as part of an effort to keep people at home.
As deaths mounted, Mexican officials predicted an even greater toll. The federal government ordered public registry offices to stay open in order to quickly issue death certificates. That was to prevent unclaimed bodies from piling up at hospitals and morgues.
WALLULA, Washington — A Tyson beef plant in eastern Washington state is temporarily shutting down to test workers for the coronavirus.
Tyson says health officials in surrounding counties will test the plant’s more than 1,400 employees. The plant is located in Wallula, near the city of Pasco.
As the number of COVID-19-infected workers at the plant climbed to over 100 this week, family and friends of employees joined together to urge the plant to shut down. Tyson says workers will be paid during the closure.
BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards says it was “grossly irresponsible” for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to suggest states hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak should be allowed to seek bankruptcy protections rather than be given federal aid.
The Democratic governor says he favors Senate legislation co-sponsored by Louisiana’s Bill Cassidy, a Republican, that would let states share in part of a $500 billion aid package.
“I’m heartened to say that publicly the president has agreed that in the next phase of coronavirus relief coming out of Congress, states should be included," Edwards said. "I’m hopeful that the president’s view wins out and that Senator McConnell has a change of heart on this.”
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