Coronavirus: Spain surpasses China COVID-19 cases as deaths rise to 7,340

Spain has become the third country to confirm more cases of coronavirus than China – as its number of deaths rose by 812 in a day to reach a total of 7,340.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases have increased by 6,398 since Sunday to reach 85,195 in total, Spain‘s health ministry said.

The country has now joined the United States and Italy in having more coronavirus cases than China, which had confirmed 82,156 cases as of Monday.

At midday on Monday, a minute’s silence was held in Madrid, Spain’s hardest hit city, for those who have died as an adagio was heard in one of the capital’s best known squares, Puerta del Sol.

Monday’s figures for those who have died in Spain were slightly less than Sunday, when 838 people died – the highest number yet for the country.

Authorities stepped up the country’s 15 day lockdown on Monday, with a new two week period of “hibernation” to alleviate pressure on the healthcare system, a Spanish Cabinet member said.

Only workers in hospitals, pharmacies, the food supply chain and other essential industries are allowed to work until the end of Easter, in mid-April, while everyone else has been asked to stay at home and scale back their work.

Spain’s government has ordered that flags be flown at half-mast and a minute’s silence be observed every day to pay respects to those who have died.

With a population of 47 million compared to China’s 1.14bn, Spain’s healthcare system is struggling to cope with the number of seriously ill patients at once, with hotels converted into makeshift hospitals and a Madrid ice rink turned into a temporary morgue.

At least six of Spain’s 17 regions have reached their limit of ICU beds, with three more close as Madrid started using a convention centre as a hospital and field hospitals continue to be frantically built.

Also on Monday, a health official said Spain’s health emergency chief, Fernando Simon, had tested positive for COVID-19. He is leading the country’s coronavirus response and is in regular contact with Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

Health official Maria Jose Sierra, who replaced Mr Simon at a daily news conference, said Spain’s trend in daily infections had changed since a lockdown was imposed on 14 March, with new infections now rising at about 12% a day over the past five days instead of the previous 20%.

She also announced 12,298 health workers in Spain have tested positive for coronavirus – about 14% of the country’s cases, roughly the same proportion as last week.

Spain and nearby Italy account for more than half the world’s 34,000 coronavirus deaths, with Italian officials cheering when they reported only 756 deaths in one day on Sunday.

Italy has reported 97,689 infections and 10,779 deaths so far, but on Sunday said the number of confirmed cases had increased by only 5.4% in the past 24 hours and deaths had decreased by about 10% a day since Friday.

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EU double recession warning: Bloc poised for second crash AFTER coronavirus crisis

As Europe is the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, countries across the EU have gone into lockdown – including some of the bloc’s biggest economies. This has brought economic activity to a halt and provoked drastic measures from the European Central Bank as it bids to save the euro. President of the ECB – Christine Lagarde – launched a huge bond-buying programme earlier this month worth £680billion as she looked to stimulate the European economy.

But Professor Iain Begg tells that the move, if done without necessary caution, could lead to a second economic crisis.

He said: “It is a return to a practice the Fed, the Bank of England and later the European Central Bank used to deal with the financial crisis.

“It is simply a monetary instrument being used to stimulate the economy. With interest rates so low, the ECB has no other option but to pump money into the economy.

“The danger is if you pump too much money in, two thousand years of history tells us that leads to inflation.

“But inflation in the short term is not the problem, we may not even need to worry about it for quite some time.

“There is some view is that if you have a monetary stimulus on this scale, it diminishes the profitability of banks because they can’t charge as much interest and that in turn undermines their safety.

“Therefore there is risk of a financial crisis as a response to the previous financial crisis – in this case the coronavirus pandemic.

“But that’s speculation rather than certainty.”

The UK has dealt a similar response to the coronavirus crisis, pumping upwards of £600billion into the economy while also dropping interest rates to just 0.1percent.

The Bank of England warned: “The spread of COVID-19 and the measures being taken to contain the virus will result in an economic shock that could be sharp and large, but should be temporary.”

However, Professor Begg also highlights how the EU has become divided as a result of the ECB’s measures, as German banks feel they may be forced to share damage with Southern Europe as happened in 2008.

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The economist added: “In political terms there has been a strong resistance, especially from Germany and some of the other creditor countries inside the eurozone to this action by the European Central Bank.

“It was very much seen in the days of Mario Draghi (former President of the ECB) as something he was doing as it suited Italy, and was against the German ethos of having monetary stability.

“So you might see that kind of objection resurfacing not immediately, but a few months down the line you could see opposition to what Christine Lagarde did from German sources.”

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India's COVID-19 lockdown hits HIV+ and chronic patients hard

HIV+ and other patients with critical conditions face problems in accessing health services amid strict lockdown.

On the morning of March 26, the third day of lockdown in India’s capital over coronavirus fears, 15-year-old Himanshu’s mother tried to board a state-run bus to collect her son’s medicines for HIV from a government-run hospital.

It was her scheduled day to pick up the monthly anti-retroviral therapy (ART) drugs, the HIV-suppressing drug that has to be taken lifelong, provided free of charge to patients registered with government hospitals.


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But with strict travel restrictions in place, the conductor did not allow her on the government-run bus, despite her furnishing the “green book” provided by the Kalawati Saran Children’s hospital located in central New Delhi’s Gole Market area.

Himanshu’s father volunteered to go by bicycle to pick up the drugs instead, but a policeman stopped him and turned him back, as well.

“Sometimes, the Delhi police see your hospital book and let you go. But sometimes, they will see the word HIV and chase you,” says Loon Gangte, co-ordinator of the Delhi Network of Positive People – a collective that works for people living with HIV.

“It is the term HIV. They think we are all sex workers and drug addicts. Yesterday [March 25], police beat up one of our outreach workers who was trying to organise. There is still prejudice even though it is now against the law to discriminate against persons with HIV.”

HIV-positive people

India is believed to be home to the third-largest population of HIV-positive people in the world. There are 21.4 million Indians living with HIV, according to the National Aids Control Organisation data in 2017.

The Indian government provides ART to all HIV+ people registered in government hospitals, most of whom are overwhelmingly the poor and rely on public transport.

But public transport across the country, including metro rails, taxis as well as buses, have been banned as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a lockdown on Wednesday and urged people to maintain social distancing to prevent the spread of coronavirus that has killed more than 30,000 people worldwide.

The move seems to be taking a toll on the HIV-positive people along with other patients with chronic conditions.

The government clarified that people would be allowed to go out for essential supplies, including groceries and medicines, without being asked for documentation to prove the nature of their trip. 

Many patients, who live in smaller towns or rural areas but are registered with the government hospitals in cities are finding it difficult to travel amid the ban on public transport. Many were forced to use private transport, such as cycles or motorbikes to travel.

Himanshu’s parents, who live in a working-class neighbourhood of Jahangirpuri in New Delhi, eventually walked to the hospital and walked back home, 19km (11.8 miles) on foot each way. 

“I have applied to the police for a traffic permit. I want to be able to reach them on my bike when the police stops anyone,” Gangte said.

“But the lines at the police station are so long, the first day it was almost two kilometres (1.25 miles) long. I came away because I am already immune-compromised; HIV itself means immunity deficiency. But when my outreach worker was beaten, I decided to brave the crowds to apply for the permit.”

Lack of planning

Critics have accused the government of imposing the lockdown for 1.3 billion people without proper planning.

Over the past week, social media has been full of imagery and stories of policemen beating up vendors, smashing shops, deflating the tyres of vendor carts. In one striking photograph, a policeman is beating a person with a lathi while speaking on the phone.

Tens of thousands of migrant workers have been stranded in cities following the shutdown of businesses and factories, with many walking hundreds of kilometres to reach their homes amid lack of transport.

Modi addressed the nation twice in the past 10 days but failed to spell out specifics of how people are to manage their essential needs during the 21-day lockdown period, in particular, people with special needs and chronic conditions, who need regular access to medicines, diagnostic tests and other healthcare.

A government circular listing released after PM’s speech last Tuesday failed to mention support services for chronic patients. There were no directives on the vast numbers of health personnel who work in small concerns or provide home services and lack company ID cards.

What has followed is confusion, delays and anxiety.

Naresh Lama, husband of a cancer patient

Mary Lama* (name changed), an HIV-positive patient diagnosed with cancer of the tongue, has been advised a number of tests before her surgery initially scheduled for early April.

This week, she received an SMS informing her that her MRI appointment was delayed minutes before she was about to leave home for it. Her calls to the laboratory received a standardised response that all tests were delayed by the lockdown.

“I am unable to contact her doctors at the hospital to tell them about the tests, and the treatment is also delayed,” said Naresh Lama, Mary’s husband.

“Will the cancer not spread without treatment?” There are 1.6 million living with cancer as of 2018, according to Indian government data.

Auto-immune and rare conditions

Karishma Khemlani, who describes herself on her Twitter as a person with 17 incurable conditions, is used to planning ahead because she cannot afford to take chances.

It is a preparedness for crises developed over 17 years of living with auto-immune and rare conditions. A week before the Janta Curfew (public curfew last Sunday), she placed an order for her immunosuppressant drug CellCept at her local pharmacy. These drugs are specialised, lifesaving and rarely available without order. But as March 22 drew near, her pharmacy and all the pharmacies in her locality in Andheri, Mumbai, was unable to deliver the drug.

Khemlani is an enterprising social media activist and a tweet about running out of medicines was retweeted several times. Eventually, a journalist with a press pass scoured the city, and secured supplies for her. 

There is little data available on patients with rare, chronic conditions like Khemlani’s. The government estimate relies on a global statistic – 6 to 8 percent of the population has rare diseases – the population of 1.3 billion A sudden lockdown like this may have left many without stocks of their hard-to-source medication.

In other places, drugs are available, but transport is not. An official of the pharmaceutical giant Novartis, who did not want to be identified, said immunosuppressants are available at their centre in the eastern city of Kolkata, but patients have to travel to collect medicine that their agents and courier companies would normally have delivered.

Immunosuppressants are a lifeline for organ transplant patients. India maintains no national organ transplant registry, and data is, therefore, based on projections.

The government’s own undated estimate is that 6,000 kidney, 1,500 liver and 25,000 corneal transplants are performed annually, in addition to much smaller numbers of heart and lung transplants. All transplant patients require immunosuppressants to ensure their bodies do not reject the transplanted organs. 

“We could quickly be facing a non-COVID humanitarian crisis if the government fails to act to restore health services, particularly for those with critical conditions that require sustained medication/treatment,” said Malini Aisola, public health activist and co-convenor of the All India Drug Action Network.

“Measures can be put in place, such as stringent infection control protocols and triaging systems, to make the necessary care available. As sound public health policy, the government should be concerned with meeting needs of special groups because they are in fact more vulnerable and risk worse outcomes in the event of COVID-19 infection due to lower immunity and preexisting conditions. Unfortunately, from the stories emerging, the government seems to be lurching from crisis to unfolding disaster.”

Kidney transplant patients

The stories of kidney transplant candidates dealing with exhausting trips to hospital for their weekly dialysis appointments have been reported from Mumbai and the southern city of Chennai.

Sejal Jobanputra, a chronic kidney disease patient who lives in Kandivali in Mumbai city, said her Whatsapp group of kidney patients all spoke of long strenuous, and sometimes harassed, trips to hospital as some policemen did not understand why they were travelling, even after they showed their hospital records. Other policemen, however, were helpful.

“I realised I am lucky among them because my hospital is also in Kandivali,” said Jobanputra, over a chat on Whatsapp. A phone conversation was not possible because she suffers from hearing impairment.

Malini Aisola, public health activist and co-convenor of the All India Drug Action Network

“But it is exhausting for me to stand for even 10 minutes. Policemen kept directing me to the bus-stand, but it is physically impossible. I went back home, and rescheduled my appointment. My family will drop me to hospital.”

India has 34 million patients in need of dialysis as of 2018, according to the national dialysis registry, with 220,000 patients added every year.

Although age is not a chronic disease, the elderly are also left vulnerable in the lockdown. There is no government data available, but an estimate by the home healthcare service venture Medwell suggested that India has the second-largest geriatric population in the world, numbering 104 million.

Medwell defined geriatric as those over the age of 60, and estimated home healthcare services to be $1.5bn market in India, mainly providing care for chronic conditions at home.

Home healthcare workers have been severely affected by the closure of transport services, especially as they often do not possess company identification cards stating they are health workers. 

This leaves many of the elderly, who live alone and are sick, without essential support.

Even those who live with family face the real possibility of dying without medical help. 

On Thursday, journalist Joanna Lobo tweeted to the chief minister of Goa state about her grandmother, Lourdes Lobo, in the village of Camurlim, who is 111 years old.

She had taken a turn for the worse during the previous weekend as the state went into lockdown. 

No doorstep medical assistance was available, no grocery stores were open, and her parents who live nearby were unable to step out of their homes. The family increasingly prepared for the traumatic possibility that the old lady might pass away at home without any assistance.

“At least my aunts are with gran,” said Lobo. “There are octogenarians who live alone in our village. I wonder how it is for them.”

The special secretary in the Delhi government’s health and family welfare department, the principal secretary of the country’s health and family welfare department and the National Aids Control Organisation did not respond to emails before the time of the publication of this article.

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Polish presidential challenger urges boycott of May vote, halts campaign

WARSAW (Reuters) – The main Polish opposition candidate running for president called on Sunday for a boycott of the country’s May election due to the coronavirus and completely suspended her campaign, adding to doubts about whether the vote will go ahead as planned.

The ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party has so far defied calls to postpone the May 10 election, infuriating the opposition by introducing postal voting rules less than six months before the vote in a move branded unconstitutional by critics.

“Let’s boycott these elections. Poles stay home, your life is the most important thing,” Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska, the presidential candidate of the center right Civic Platform (PO) party, told reporters, calling on other candidates to suspend their campaigns.

Her appeal followed protests from numerous mayors, who have said it will be impossible to hold the vote safely in May.

On Sunday, the mayor of the southern town of Bedzin, Lukasz Komoniewski, wrote on Facebook that he would not sign documents to allow elections to take place there.

Incumbent President Andrzej Duda, a PiS ally, is well ahead in the polls and his election is crucial to the government’s hopes of implementing its socially conservative agenda as the president holds the power to veto laws.

Critics say PiS is keen to hold the elections in May to capitalize on Duda’s current strong position and avoid a later election where the fallout from the pandemic could dent his popularity.

Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, the agrarian Polish Peasants’ Party’s (PSL) presidential candidate, was quoted by state-run news agency PAP as saying he was focusing on amendments to the government’s package of anti-crisis economic measures.

The campaign manager of left-wing candidate Robert Biedron likened Kidawa-Blonska’s move to “political retirement”, PAP reported.

On Saturday, Duda said he hoped the election would go ahead as planned but the situation was unpredictable.

“If it did happen that the epidemic was raging … then in that situation the election date could turn out to be unsustainable, but I am counting on it that we will be able to calmly hold these elections,” he told state-run news channel TVP Info.

Health Minister Lukasz Szumowski said on Thursday that an assessment should be made in two weeks.

Nearly three-quarters of Poles believe the election should be postponed, according to an opinion poll on Wednesday.

France and Bavaria in Germany held local elections on March 15. Jaroslaw Flis, a sociologist with the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, estimates that the Bavarian elections resulted in around 2,000 extra coronavirus cases.

France postponed the second round of its local elections.

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Coronavirus: France moves patients on high-speed trains to ease pressure on worst-hit hospitals

Thirty-six critically-ill coronavirus patients have been transferred across France in two high-speed trains.

They were transported from eastern France, where hospitals risk becoming overwhelmed, to the Nouvelle-Acquitaine region in the southwest.

“We urgently need to relieve congestion in the region’s intensive care units, because you have to stay one step ahead,” Francois Braun, head of SAMU paramedics, told RTL radio.

Carriages carrying 36 people were specially converted, and a line of ambulances waited outside Bordeaux station on their arrival.

Paramedics in hazmat suits also loaded several patients on life-support onto a German Airbus A400M aircraft in Strasbourg and transferred them across the border to the German city of Ulm.

The first region to be hit by coronavirus was Grand Est in northeastern France, before the pandemic moved west and began to engulf the Paris area.

French health authorities reported another 292 new deaths from COVID-19 on Sunday – a 13% rise on the previous day.

The total number of deaths since 1 March is now 2,606, with known infections reaching 40,174.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has warned the country’s 67 million people that the toughest weeks are still ahead.

Ventilators are being removed from operating theatres and student doctors are being drafted in.

As in the UK, retired doctors are returning to the wards.

President Emmanuel Macron has brought in the army to help move those unwell with COVID-19, while a field hospital has been set up in the eastern city of Mulhouse.

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Germany's coronavirus support will last two months, think tank tells paper

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Germany’s 750 billion euro ($834 billion) package to soften the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak on Europe’s largest economy will last for about two months, an independent economics think tank told a German newspaper group.

“In the short term, we are in a kind of war economy in which the state plays a bigger role in coordinating the economy than normally,” Reint Gropp, head of the Leibniz Institute for Economic Research told RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland.

If Germany’s lockdown lasts beyond two months, another rescue package would be needed and could stretch the country’s finances to an extent that would result in unprecedented budget deficits, he said.

Several economic think tanks and politicians have said that Germany needs to make sure its shutdown does not cripple the economy, but Chancellor Angela Merkel and several of her ministers spoke out at the weekend against a quick loosening of restrictions.

Gropp said that Germany should now devote large resources to conducting regular, perhaps weekly, coronavirus tests for all workers and let them return to work if possible.

“If someone is not infected or already immune, he or she should be able to move about and work freely,” he said. “It is not a viable solution to keep everyone in quarantine for several months, no matter if they belong to a high-risk group, are healthy or already immune.”

Armin Laschet, premier of Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, and a possible successor to Merkel as Chancellor, told a sunday newspaper that more and faster tests are needed.

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Coronavirus strain related to COVID-19 first spotted THREE YEARS AGO, scientists say

The disease first emerged in the city of Wuhan towards the end of last year – but much is yet to be discovered about the mechanism by which it did so. Last week a 57-year-old trader at Huanan seafood market was tentatively identified as the first person there to contract the illness, on December 10. However, she suggested she did so by using toilet facilities shared with wild meat sellers, meaning the search for Patient Zero – the first person infected after COVID-19 jumped species – continues.

The study, published in the scientific journal Nature, and co-authored by Yi Guan from the University of Hong Kong and Yan-Ling Hu from Guangxi Medical University in China, seeks to shed light on the mystery.

They write: “Although bats are likely reservoir hosts for SARS-CoV-2, the identity of any intermediate host that might have facilitated transfer to humans is unknown.”

Their research had identified COVID-19-related coronaviruses in Malayan pangolins (Manis javanica) which had been seized in anti-smuggling operations in southern China.

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Strikingly, a strain similar to the one which is now rampaging through the human population appears to have been present in five out of a total of 18 Malayan pangolins obtained from anti-smuggling operations in southern China between August 2017 and January 2018.

Additionally, they detected similar coronaviruses in three out of 12 additional animals seized in another Chinese province in 2018, and in another animal in a third province from which a sample was taken in 2019.

The viruses isolated have a sequence similarity of between 85 and 92 percent to SARS-CoV-2, the scientific name for the coronavirus which causes COVID-19.

One sample showed strong similarities in a region which encodes the “spike” of the virus, thereby facilitating entry into host cells.

None of the pangolin coronaviruses identified so far have a specific alternation in their sequences which is seen in human SARS-VoV-2, meaning the role the animals have playing in the transmission of the illness to humans remains unclear.

Nevertheless, the study authors highlight pangolins as the only mammals other than bats to date which have been found to be infected with a SARS-CoV-2-related coronavirus, suggesting they play an important role in the “ecology of coronaviruses”.

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Their report concludes: “The discovery of multiple lineages of pangolin coronavirus and their similarity to SARS-CoV-2 suggests that pangolins should be considered as possible hosts in the emergence of novel coronaviruses and should be removed from wet markets to prevent zoonotic transmission.”

Co-researcher Prof Edward Holmes of the University of Sydney added: “The role that pangolins play in the emergence of Sars-CoV-2 is still unclear.

“However, it is striking that the pangolin viruses contain some genomic regions that are very closely related to the human virus.

“The most important of these is the receptor-binding domain that dictates how the virus is able to attach and infect human cells.”

The pangolin is heavily hunted in China, both for its meat, and its skin and scales, which are used in traditional medicine.

Epidemiologists are keen to identify Patient Zero, the discovery of whom would offer vital clues about the origins of the outbreak and the way in which it has spread.

While the World Health Organization’s first press release about the subject, issued on January 5, indicated it first became aware of the illness on December 30, leaked Chinese Government data has suggested the first case was identified on November 17 at the latest, and possibly significantly earlier.

The study’s findings, specifically the confirmation that a strain closely related to SARS-CoV-2 was spotted in 2017, raises the possibility of the illness being in circulation significantly longer than previously believed.

Johns Hopkins University in the US put the total number of COVID-19 cases worldwide at 678,720 as of 12.50pm this afternoon, with 31,700 deaths.

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Britain orders 10,000 ventilators in fight against coronavirus: source

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain has placed an order for 10,000 ventilators to be made by a consortium of companies including Ford (F.N), Airbus (AIR.PA) and Rolls-Royce (RR.L) as part of efforts to fight the coronavirus, an industry source told Reuters.

Governments around the world are trying to boost the number of ventilators – mechanical breathing devices that can blow air and oxygen into the lungs – available to their health services.

The equipment is crucial for the care of people who suffer lung failure, which can be one of the complications suffered by patients with severe COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. But they do not necessarily save people.

An announcement is due on Monday, the source said.

British media previously reported the news. A spokeswoman at Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Downing Street office declined to offer an immediate comment when contacted by Reuters.

Britain’s publicly funded National Health Service has a little more than 8,000 ventilators at its disposal, senior government minister Michael Gove said on Sunday.

The government is boosting capacity through agreements made with the private sector and overseas suppliers as well as domestic production.

“We’ve done a deal with (vacuum cleaner company) Dyson, which means that – provided all the appropriate tests are passed – we can have an additional 10,000 ventilators,” Gove said.

“There are other companies, from McLaren to Rolls-Royce and others, who are changing the way in which they manufacture in order to join in the national effort to increase the ventilator capacity available.”

McLaren said its Formula One car-making, data and electronics operations are fulfilling a number of tasks to help with the crisis, including making components.

“McLaren Automotive is facilitating duplicating and expanding the production of existing devices to meet demand …(and) is designing bespoke trolleys on which the ventilators are fixed for use in clinical settings.”

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China guards against second wave of coronavirus coming from abroad

WUHAN, China (Reuters) – The growing number of imported coronavirus cases in China risked fanning a second wave of infections at a time when “domestic transmission has basically been stopped”, a spokesman for the National Health Commission said on Sunday.

“China already has an accumulated total of 693 cases entering from overseas, which means the possibility of a new round of infections remains relatively big,” Mi Feng, the spokesman, said.

In the last seven days, China has reported 313 imported cases of coronavirus but only 6 confirmed cases of domestic transmission, the commission’s data showed.

There were 45 new coronavirus cases reported in the mainland for Saturday, down from 54 on the previous day, with all but one involving travelers from overseas.

Most of those imported cases have involved Chinese returning home from abroad.

Airlines have been ordered to sharply cut international flights from Sunday. And restrictions on foreigners entering the country went into effect on Saturday.

Five more people died on Saturday, all of them in Wuhan, the industrial central city where the epidemic began in December. But Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, has reported only one new case on the last 10 days.

A total of 3,300 people have now died in mainland China, with a reported 81,439 infections.

Saturday marked the fourth consecutive day that Hubei province recorded no new confirmed cases. The sole case of domestically transmitted coronavirus was recorded in Henan province, bordering Hubei.

With traffic restrictions in the province lifted, Wuhan is also gradually reopening borders and restarting some local transportation services.

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“It’s much better now, there was so much panic back then. There weren’t any people on the street. Nothing. How scary the epidemic situation was,” a man, who gave his surname as Hu,

told Reuters as he ventured out to buy groceries in Wuhan.

“Now, it is under control. Now, it’s great, right?”

All airports in Hubei resumed some domestic flights on Sunday, with the exception of Wuhan’s Tianhe airport, which will open to domestic flights on April 8. Flights from Hubei to Beijing remain suspended.

A train arrived in Wuhan on Saturday for the first time since the city was placed in lockdown two months ago. Greeting the train, Hubei Communist Party Secretary Ying Yong described Wuhan as “a city full of hope” and said the heroism and hard work of its people had “basically cut off transmission” of the virus.

More than 60,000 people entered Wuhan on Saturday after rail services were officially restarted, with more than 260 trains arriving or traveling through, the People’s Daily reported on Sunday.

On Sunday, streets and metro trains were still largely empty amid a cold rainy day. Flashing signs on the Wuhan Metro, which resumed operations on Saturday, said its cars would keep passenger capacity at less than 30%.

The Hubei government on Sunday said on its official WeChat account that a number of malls in Wuhan, as well as the Chu River and Han Street shopping belt, will be allowed to resume operations on March 30.

Concerns have been raised that a large number of undiagnosed asymptomatic patients could return to circulation once transport restrictions are eased.

China’s top medical adviser, Zhong Nanshan, played down that risk in comments to state broadcaster CCTV on Sunday. Zhong said asymptomatic patients were usually found by tracing the contacts of confirmed cases, which had so far shown no sign of rebounding.

With the world’s second-biggest economy expected to shrink for the first time in four decades this quarter, China is set to unleash hundreds of billions of dollars in stimulus.

The ruling Communist Party’s Politburo called on Friday for a bigger budget deficit, the issuance of more local and national bonds, and steps to guide interest rates lower, delay loan repayments, reduce supply-chain bottlenecks and boost consumption.

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Florida man leaves whopping $10K tip for serving staff to split amid coronavirus spread

Restaurant employees are feeling the pressure as people stay safe at home to avoid getting the novel coronavirus.

In many cities, restaurants have been forced to partially shut down and offer only take-out, significantly reducing business and income for servers and staff.

But one man, a regular at Skillets restaurant in Naples, wanted to help out with a generous tip of US$10,000.

“He said, ‘I want each person in this restaurant to get $500. The manager distributed it to all the employees,” restaurant owner Ross Edlund told WKRG-TV.

The huge sum was distributed evenly between Edlund’s 20 employees, he told Fox News.

“People come in and they become family. We know where they are from, we know how many kids they have, and we know what’s going on in their lives. They become a part of our team, a part of our restaurant,” Edlund said.

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