The Latest: Swedish military against canceling May exercise
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:
— Swedish military against canceling major military exercise in May.
— U.N. weather agency says coronavirus affecting global climate change monitoring.
— Bulgaria confirms 412 cases of the new coronavirus and nine deaths.
— Prince Charles improving from coronavirus but still in general isolation.
STOCKHOLM — The Swedish military says it is against canceling a major military exercise in May even after several allies have pulled out.
The Aurora 20 military drill is scheduled to be held from May 11 through June 4 on air, land and sea in the southern Skane region with some 3,000 international troops.
Swedish public broadcaster SVT reports Canada and Germany have cancelled participation and Austria is considering not coming. Britain will substantially scale down contribution. The United States and Nordic neighbor Finland have said they will attend Aurora 20.
Spokesman Marcus Nilsson from the Swedish Armed Forces told told SVT it was utterly important for Sweden to arrange the drill in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic to show that “when the society is in a crisis, the defense must be at its strongest.”
Many national and international military excercises in Europe have been called off in the past weeks due to the coronavirus situation.
BERLIN — The U.N. weather agency says the coronavirus pandemic is affecting global efforts to monitor climate change and collect meteorological data for forecasting.
The World Meteorological Organization says most monitoring is automated, but some data in developing countries is still collected by hand. That process is now slowed by lockdowns.
It said observations in Bolivia, Uganda and Papua New Guinea have dropped by more than half over the last week compared to the average in January.
The reduction in air travel is also having an impact. Sensors on planes collect information on temperatures and wind speeds, which they transmit to meteorological stations on the ground.
With far fewer planes in the air, weather services have seen a sharp drop in available data.
SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgaria has confirmed at least 412 cases of the new coronavirus and nine deaths.
Officials say 20 people have recovered from COVID-19.
The government has extended the nationwide state of emergency by a month until May 13 to contain the spread of the outbreak.
The Balkan country of 7 million has already closed schools, restaurants, parks and sports facilities, and banned intercity travel and holiday trips.
The extension must be approved by the 240-member parliament, which must also vote on a government-proposed budget update on Apr. 2.
It is not immediately clear if the meeting will be held because all lawmakers have to undergo a test for the coronavirus after one tested positive for the disease.
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia is launching a project to test for the new coronavirus in its embattled Roma population that lives separated from the majority in poor settlements across the country.
Prime Minister Igor Matovic says the one-week testing with the help of the military and Roma activists will start on Friday in 33 such settlements.
The poorest of the poor Roma live in settlements that often lack access to running water and sewage systems.
Authorities will at first focus on 1,000 residents who recently returned from abroad or have shown symptoms of the virus.
Matovic said the virus would spread more quickly there than at any other places.
HAVANA — Cuban authorities say they are canceling the island’s trademark May Day parade because of the new coronavirus. Cuba is also tightening air and sea travel restrictions that already bar the arrival of tourists.
Exceptions in travel restrictions that allow residents of Cuba to return to the island could be eliminated, although officials did not provide details.
The May Day parade often draws hundreds of thousands of mostly state workers to the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana.
Cuba has also barred travel in and out of a Camilo Cienfuegos in Pinar del Rio province in western Cuba. Seven people have tested positive for COVID-19 there and officials believe the outbreak began by the return of a local couple from Mexico.
Cuba has 186 confirmed COVID-19 cases and six deaths.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak