The Latest: Adidas reverses, will pay rent on closed stores

The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

— Prince Charles improving from coronavirus but still in general isolation.

— Adidas to pay rent on closed shops after backlash.

— Turkey expediting opening of a new public hospital in Istanbul.

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BERLIN — Adidas has backed off a move to defer rent payments for closed shops after facing persistent criticism from the German government and others.

The Germany-based spots apparel maker apologized in an open letter Wednesday and said it had paid its landlords the rent for April.

It acknowledged that many people felt that its decision to seek the deferral of April rents had lacked solidarity, adding: “your opinion is clear: you are disappointed by Adidas.”

Non-essential shops have been closed in much of Europe and beyond in an effort to slow the coronavirus pandemic.

German Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht said over the weekend that it was “indecent and unacceptable” for financially strong companies not to pay their rent.

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BERLIN — The United Nations’ atomic watchdog agency says it’s sending equipment to more than 40 countries to give them the capability to use a highly accurate, nuclear-derived, coronavirus detection technique.

The International Atomic Energy Agency says 4 million euros ($4.4 million) worth of supplies will help countries use the technique to detect in real time the coronavirus in samples sent to their labs.

The test is known as RT-PRC, or “real time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction.”

The Vienna-based agency says dozens of labs in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean will receive diagnostic machines and kits as well as other supplies to speed up national testing.

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi says the assistance is part of the agency’s response to requests for support from around 90 member states. The IAEA is also drawing from extra money provided by member states, including $6 million from the U.S., $3.5 million from Canada and $550,000 from the Netherlands.

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ANKARA, Turkey — A Turkish government decision to block fundraising campaigns by opposition-run municipalities aiming to help households impacted by the coronavirus outbreak has caused outrage on social media.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government declared fundraising campaigns by the municipalities of Istanbul and Ankara as illegal. The government has blocked bank accounts and urged citizens to channel donations to a campaign he launched this week.

Many took to Twitter to denounce the move largely seen as the latest among a series of political maneuvers by Erdogan’s government to obstruct opposition municipalities.

Erdogan accused the municipalities of trying to act like a “state within a state.” The mayors have said they will challenge the decision at Turkey’s administrative court.

Erdogan’s party lost control of the municipalities of Ankara and Istanbul in local elections last year.

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LONDON — Prince Charles has applauded the work of charities helping the elderly during the new coronavirus outbreak.

His video remarks on royal social media accounts are the prince’s first appearance since he self-isolated after contracting the virus.

The video was made at Birkhall, the prince’s home in Scotland. Charles said he finds himself “on the other side of the illness but still in no less a state of social distance and general isolation.”

The 71-year-old went into self-isolation last week with mild symptoms of COVID-19. His wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, tested negative.

Charles is patron of Age U.K., while his wife is the patron of Silver Line, a helpline offering support to the elderly.

He said their “hearts go out to all those older people throughout this country who are experiencing great difficulty.”

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BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary’s government wants to strip autonomy from mayors across the country by tying their decisions to approval by appointed administrators during the new coronavirus outbreak.

The proposal is part of an extensive draft bill on changes in public administration. It came a day after Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government gained powers to rule during the coronavirus crisis.

The measure has been widely criticized for not including an end-date to the emergency powers.

Opposition parties that made significant gains in nationwide municipal elections last year decried the proposal as unnecessary meddling and retaliation by Orban.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s president says his government is expediting the opening of a new public hospital in Istanbul amid the new coronavirus outbreak.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the regional heads of his ruling party in a video conference the new hospital will be inaugurated on April 20. Some sections will open a month later.

The new Ikitelli City Hospital would increase Turkey’s capacity by 2,000 beds and 500 ventilators.

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KATHMANDU, Nepal — Stranded tourists from Australia and New Zealand have boarded a chartered flight out of Nepal.

The Nepal Airlines flight had 222 Australians and 28 New Zealand nationals and permanent residents aboard and is scheduled to arrive in Brisbane on Thursday. Passengers will face a 14-day quarantine upon arrival.

Nepal’s government has imposed a lockdown until April 7 halting flights, ordering vehicles off the roads, shutting down businesses and shuttering major markets.

Similar flights have rescued stranded Germans, French and American nationals out of Nepal in the past few days. Nepal has reported five confirmed cases including one person who has recovered from it.

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MANILA, Philippines — Police have arrested 21 slum dwellers in the Philippines who were demanding government food aid for staging an “unauthorized protest” during the lockdown to fight the coronavirus.

Those arrested in suburban Quezon City included six women. Police Brig. Gen. Ronnie Montejo said they will face face criminal charges of violating a new law that requires millions of people to stay home under quarantine. The residents ignored an appeal by the police to return home.

Urban poor group Kadamay says desperate residents gathered spontaneously to ask for food and medical aid. The group denied it was a left-wing move to undermine President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

Other residents later held a rally to demand the release of those arrested, holding posters that read, “mass tests not mass arrests.”

The main northern Philippine region of Luzon is home to more than 50 million people and under a month-long lockdown. Health officials reported 227 new infections Wednesday, bringing the country’s total to 2,311, with 96 deaths.

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NEW DELHI — India’s top court has ordered media to carry the government’s “official version” of developments in the new coronavirus pandemic. It echoes actions in other countries to curb independent reporting.

The Supreme Court said it was acting to prevent false news from causing panic in India but did not intend to interfere with free speech.

The order came in response to a petition claiming that an exodus of thousands of migrant workers last week from New Delhi and other Indian cities heading home to rural villages was spurred by false reports that the government’s declared 21-day lockdown would in fact stretch on for months.

The News Broadcasters Association represents India’s private television news and current affairs broadcasters and welcomed the Supreme Court order. It said media should report responsibly on the pandemic and weed out any “fake news” on social media.

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BERLIN — A Berlin city official says he let himself get infected with the new coronavirus so his girlfriend wouldn’t have to undergo quarantine for her own infection alone.

But Stephan von Dassel, mayor of the German capital’s Mitte district, says the sickness was much worse than he expected. He said that after his girlfriend tested positive for the virus he “consciously” became infected to join her in isolation.

The 53-year-old says the coronavirus knocked him out for two weeks. He says he hopes now to be back to work later this week.

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LONDON — The Edinburgh International Festival has been canceled for the first time since it launched in 1947 in an attempt to bring arts to the community after World War II.

The event has been held every August in Edinburgh. The festivals comprises all the arts, including stand-up comedy, theater, music and books.

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TOKYO — Japan’s Prime Minister says Japan has banned entry from 49 more countries, including the U.S., Canada, all of China, South Korea and seven Southeast Asian countries.

That brings the total number of countries banned from entering Japan to 73.

Shinzo Abe says the government has tightened visa restrictions and will require a two-week quarantine to visitors and returnees from places Japan has designated as eligible for non-essential trips.

Abe cited views presented by a panel of experts at a meeting earlier Wednesday that new cases are rapidly on the rise in Japan and that its medical system is increasingly under pressure. He has faced calls for a declaration of a state of emergency, but his government is assessing the situation due to concerns of an economic impact.

Tokyo reported 65 new cases Wednesday, after reporting a record 78 daily new cases Tuesday. Nationwide, Japan has about 3,000 cases including 712 from a cruise ship, with 78 deaths.

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BRUSSELS — The European Commission will propose a plan supporting short-time work across the continent in a move aimed at helping businesses and workers weather the economic shock of the new coronavirus.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc’s executive arm will unveil the new tool dubbed “Sure” — an initiative she said will be supported by the EU’s 27 member states and will help the countries affected by the crisis.

Von der Leyen said the plan will mitigate the effects of the economic downturn by helping workers keep their jobs. She says companies should not lay off workers, even if duties have decreased because of the coronavirus.

Von der Leyen said the plan will also help the economy restart “without delay” once lockdown measures will be lifted across the continent.

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ATHENS — Greece’s main opposition party has urged the government to protect refugees and migrants at the country’s largest camp from the spread of the new coronavirus.

Some 22,000 people are currently at the camp at Moria on the island of Lesbos. Most live in crowded tents outside the grounds.

The letter to the Health Ministry was signed by nine parliament members from the left-wing Syriza party. It follows similar warnings from human rights groups and public health campaigners.

The government has imposed movement restrictions at the camp and is creating isolation areas. Plans to re-house the migrants have been delayed by disputes between the government and local authorities over alternatives.

Severe conditions of overcrowding also exist at other Greek island camps. There have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus at any of the island refugee camps.

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BERLIN — European researchers say it’s possible to create apps for tracing contacts to curb the coronavirus outbreak without ditching cherished privacy standards.

A group of some 130 researchers from eight countries say they have devised a way to detect whether a smartphone was close to one belonging to someone who later tested positive for COVID-19.

Governments across the world are examining ways to use technology to track the spread of the virus and trace those who may have become infected. Human rights activists have warned of the dangers of mass smartphone surveillance.

The new project is dubbed Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing. It is backed by dozens of universities like the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and companies such as cellular provider Vodafone.

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Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Categories: National News

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