British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is the world’s first known head of government to fall ill with COVID-19, in an April 7, 2020 story. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Virus puts UK PM in intensive care; Japan declares emergency

LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was in intensive care Tuesday with the coronavirus, while Japan’s leader declared a monthlong state of emergency for Tokyo and six other regions to keep the virus from ravaging the world’s oldest population.

The 55-year-old Johnson, the world’s first known head of government to fall ill with the virus, was in stable condition and conscious at a London hospital and was breathing without a ventilator or other assistance, said his spokesman James Slack. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was designated to run the country in the meantime.

“We’re desperately hoping that Boris can make the speediest possible recovery,” said Cabinet minister Michael Gove, who is among scores of British officials in self-isolation. Johnson’s pregnant fiancee is recovering from coronavirus symptoms.

Japan’s prime minister made the emergency declaration after a spike in infections in Tokyo, but it was a stay-at-home request — not an order — and violators will not be penalized. Despite having relatively few infections and deaths, Japan is a worrying target for a virus that has been killing the elderly at much higher rates than other age groups.

Deaths in the U.S. reached about 11,000, with about 370,000 confirmed infections.

In New York and in some European hot spots, authorities were hoping that plateaus in deaths and new hospitalizations meant that the outbreak was turning a corner.

In Spain, one of the hardest-hit countries, new deaths Tuesday rose to 743 and infections climbed by 1,000 after five days of declines, but the increases were believed to reflect a weekend backlog. Authorities said slowing the contagion will be a long process and were confident in the downward trend.

New coronavirus cases were also slowing in Italy and France, while Portugal reported its lowest daily rise in new infections since the outbreak began. To keep up social distancing, Paris banned daytime jogging just as warm spring weather settled in for a week.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the first, faint signs that the outbreak there may be nearing its peak. But h e cautioned against relaxing social distancing restrictions and warned that the health care system is still under extreme pressure.

“This is a hospital system where we have our foot to the floor and the engine is at red line and you can’t go any faster,” Cuomo said.

The state has averaged just under 600 deaths daily for the past four days, a horrific toll that was still seen as a positive sign because it was relatively steady. Cuomo also said the number of new people entering hospitals has dropped, as has the number of critically ill patients needing ventilators.

The U.S. government’s top infectious-disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, was cautiously optimistic, saying that in New York, “what we have been doing has been working.”

China, the first country to go into lockdown and among the strictest, reported no new deaths over the past 24 hours for the first time since it began publishing statistics on the virus that emerged in December in the city of Wuhan. Many experts, however, have been skeptical of China’s virus figures. The final travel restrictions in Wuhan are being lifted Wednesday.

Denmark planned to reopen schools next week for students up to 11 years old — a development that still felt impossibly distant elsewhere in the world.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte promised residents that they will soon “reap the fruit of these sacrifices” in personal liberties, though he declined to say when a nationwide lockdown would end. Italy has the world’s highest death toll — over 16,500 — but intensive care units in the north are no longer airlifting patients to other regions.

Worldwide, more than 1.3 million people have been confirmed infected and over 75,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. The true numbers are almost certainly much higher, because of limited testing, different rules for counting the dead and deliberate underreporting by some governments.

For most people, the virus causes mild to moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. But for some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause pneumonia. Close to 300,000 people have recovered worldwide.

Global shares were up Tuesday after the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained nearly 8% on Monday on hopes that the epidemic could be slowing.

One of the main models on the outbreak, from the University of Washington, is now projecting about 82,000 U.S. deaths through early August, or 12% fewer than previously forecast, with the highest number of daily deaths occurring on April 16.

One lockdown exception in the U.S. was Wisconsin, which asked hundreds of thousands of voters to ignore a stay-at-home order to participate in its presidential primary Tuesday.

China and Russia decided to close their land border and river port near the far eastern city of Vladivostok following the discovery of 59 confirmed cases.

As effective as the lockdowns may be, they come at a steep toll, especially for the poor.

In a housing complex in the Moroccan city of Sale, over 900 people live in crowded rooms without running water or incomes. While the North African country entered total lockdown in mid-March, self-isolation and social distancing are a luxury that few families in this complex can afford.

In Sale, children hang around the communal courtyard and run through narrow alleys. Families share one room and fill buckets of water at public fountains.

“I am scared for my children. I have to lock them indoors and stay with them, but how am I supposed to feed them?” asked Warda, a mother of three.

Other nations also feared food shortages, with Cambodia banning exports of rice and fish.

Medical workers around the world worry they are not being protected well enough against the virus, with doctors in Pakistan and Greece protesting Tuesday against a lack of resources.

To boost spirits, New Zealand’s leader clarified the definition of who are considered essential workers.

“You will be pleased to know that we do consider both the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny to be essential workers,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said just a few days before Easter.

By The Associated Press

CoronavirusUnited Kingdom

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