Los Angeles Times - 03.04.2020

(C. Jardin) #1

A4 FRIDAY, APRIL 3, 2020 S LATIMES.COM


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Vol. CXXXIX No. 122
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ronavirus task force, said
this week.
The novel coronavirus “is
now so widespread that it is
highly unlikely that our cur-
rent control measures would
be able to drive this virus out
of the human population,”
said Ooi Eng Eong, deputy
director of the Emerging In-
fectious Diseases Program
at the Duke-NUS Medical
School in Singapore. “With-
out a vaccine or antiviral
drug, we should expect to
deal with this virus [for] the
long haul.”
That has become clear as
several Asian countries see
infections rising rapidly,
most commonly in people
who traveled to newer hot
spots such as the U.S. and
Europe.
Singapore and Vietnam,
despite their proximity to
the source of the outbreak in
China, managed to keep a lid
on coronavirus cases start-
ing in January thanks to vig-
ilant traveler screening, con-
tact tracing and quarantin-
ing of suspected infections.
Hong Kong quickly
closed schools, museums
and government buildings,
although residents were
otherwise spared the hugely
disruptive shutdowns and
shelter-in-place orders now
in force in much of the U.S.
As COVID-19 cases surged in
the U.S. and Europe, Asian
countries also began to close
their borders. But starting
in early March, residents
who were living or studying
abroad rushed back home,
bringing with them a second
wave of infections.
In the last two weeks, the
number of cases in Singa-
pore has quadrupled to
more than 1,000. Most were
recent travelers who were
immediately placed in isola-
tion to reduce the risk of
transmission.
New infections are also
emerging in people with no
recent travel history, a wor-
rying sign that the disease
continues to circulate in the
community more than two

months after Singapore’s
first controls were imple-
mented.
On Thursday, Singapore
notched 74 new infections,
its highest single-day total,
54 of them from transmis-
sion within the community.
Ten were linked to a senior
citizens’ home, prompting
the government to an-
nounce a monthlong ban on
visitors to nursing homes is-
land-wide.
Experts say countries
must be alert to a resurgence
of the virus when existing
measures lapse or people
start to grow complacent.
“With the second wave,
we are finding it a lot harder
to control local spread as
well as stop imported cases,”
said Paul Ananth Tambyah,
Singapore-based president
of the Asia Pacific Society of
Clinical Microbiology and
Infection. “That is some-
thing that all countries will
probably eventually dis-
cover.”
Hong Kong, known for its
nightlife, last week banned
gatherings of more than four
people but let bars and pubs
remain open, even as dozens
of infections were linked to
such venues. On Thursday,
as the government recorded
37 more cases to bring its to-
tal to 802, watering holes
were ordered to close for two

weeks.
Vietnam, among the first
countries to block travel
from China and close
schools, went three weeks
without recording a new in-
fection. In the last month,
however, the number of con-
firmed cases has risen from
16 to more than 230.
The government has
since banned all foreign visi-
tors and ordered a two-week
lockdown starting Wednes-
day, a dramatic tightening in
what had been one of Asia’s
fastest-growing economies.
Experts say that Viet-
nam is still seeing mostly
clusters of infections, mean-
ing the virus isn’t spreading
in the population in a signifi-
cant way. Vietnam’s rulers
are hoping that tough mea-
sures will keep its still-devel-
oping health system from
being overwhelmed with
COVID-19 patients.
“I’m sure that’s what’s on
their minds, that if they can
prevent transmission now
perhaps they can have an
easier time in the future,”
said Todd Pollack, an infec-
tious diseases specialist at
Harvard Medical School
who leads a Harvard-based
health initiative in Hanoi.
“But the borders can’t
stay closed forever. And if
other countries haven’t had
that same level of success

against the virus, you’re go-
ing to continually deal with
imported cases.”
In prosperous Singapore,
which had earlier banned
large gatherings and insti-
tuted temperature checks at
high-traffic buildings, strict-
er measures implemented
last week limit private
gatherings to 10 people. Au-
thorities suspended all reli-
gious services and closed
bars, karaoke lounges and
nightclubs.
Officials also ordered
commercial establishments
to ensure three feet of space
between patrons. At cafes
and shopping centers, em-
ployees taped a large “X” on
every other seat, denoting
where people aren’t sup-
posed to sit. Government in-
spectors visited office build-
ings this week to ensure that
companies were allowing
most employees to work
from home. While schools re-
main open, officials have
told campuses to prepare for
home schooling if needed.
Experts say Singapore’s
gradual approach has al-
lowed life to carry on more or
less as normal for a popula-
tion accustomed to efficient
public services. But the gov-
ernment is now working to
convince people that they
must take the pandemic
more seriously.
At a news conference this
week, Wong, the coronavirus
task force chief, lamented
that some Singaporeans
were still asking whether
they could go to malls or
have parties of fewer than 10
people. Such requests were
“missing the point” of the
need for social distancing, he
said.
Ooi at the Duke-NUS
Medical School said all gov-
ernments had to balance so-
ciety’s patience with what
was needed to tame the
virus. “Working out sustain-
able disease control mea-
sures, which may be differ-
ent from city to city due to lo-
cal nuances, are just as im-
portant as implementing
emergency measures.”

AWEDDINGin Hong Kong on Sunday is lightly attended, in keeping with new government restrictions on
public gatherings. Coronavirus cases have surged mainly among travelers from new hot spots such as the U.S.

Anthony KwanGetty Images

Virus rebounding in Asia


TABLES AREtaped off to ensure social distancing
among patrons at a restaurant in Hong Kong.

Anthony WallaceAFP/Getty Images

[Restrictions,from A1]

QUITO, Ecuador —The
corpses have been over-
whelming Guayaquil, a port
city of 2.8 million at the epi-
center of the coronavirus cri-
sis in Ecuador.
Over the last few days,
several were wrapped in
plastic and left on the
streets. Others have lain un-
claimed in hospitals and
clinics that have been over-
whelmed by infections. The
city morgue is full.
The majority of the dead
are believed to be victims of
the virus, but nobody can
say for sure how many. There
has been little testing.
The country has con-
firmed more than 3,100 infec-
tions and 120 deaths — at
least 60 of them in Guayaquil
and its immediate sur-
roundings. But municipal


officials there said they have
recovered at least 400 bodies
in recent days.
Mayor Cynthia Viteri,
who announced that she
had tested positive for the
virus, said the national gov-
ernment should be responsi-
ble for collecting the
corpses.
“They’re leaving them in
the villages, they fall in front
of hospitals,” she said in a
Twitter video message to
residents last week. “No one
wants to recover them.”
The majority of those
whose bodies have been
found on the street were
probably indigent, said Hec-
tor Galarza, a publicist in
Guayaquil. “But it is gener-
ating panic.”
On Monday, a former
mayor announced the for-
mation of a “crisis commit-
tee” of business, government
and academic leaders whose
goals include “resolving the
transport and burial of the
huge quantity of cadavers
accumulating in the clinics
and hospitals attending the
pandemic.”
Juan Carlos Freire, an at-
torney in the city, said public


frustration is growing.
“People are asking that
some authority take charge
of the dead, but the lack of
response means they are be-
ing left in central streets of
Guayaquil,” he said.
The mayor said Tuesday
that unclaimed bodies were
now being placed in three re-
frigerated cargo containers
while authorities pursue
plans for a new cemetery.
The city government is de-
nying news reports that the
new cemetery will be a com-
mon grave with all victims
buried together, saying in a
news release that all would
receive a “Christian burial.”
Between 500 and 1,000 pa-
tients per day are showing
up with respiratory com-
plaints at Guayaquil’s larg-
est hospital, Los Ceibos, offi-
cials there said. Many are
false alarms, but the high
volume has stressed the
medical center to the break-
ing point.
The national nurses as-
sociation said that up to 370
nurses across the country
are believed to have been in-
fected and that five have
died.
The country’s first
known coronavirus case —
confirmed on Feb. 29 — was
a70-year-old woman who
had arrived two weeks earli-
er from Italy and resided
outside Guayaquil.
She died two weeks later,
by which time President
Lenin Moreno had placed
strict restrictions on inter-
national and domestic trav-
el. Ecuador’s borders were
sealed March 16.
But residents of Guaya-
quil, a bustling port city
filled with open markets,
were slow to take seriously
restrictions imposed by the
national and local govern-
ments.
Two weeks ago, the may-
or used city vehicles to block
the runways at Guayaquil’s
international airport to pre-
vent the landing of a KLM
flight sponsored by Europe-
an governments to collect
citizens stranded in Ecua-
dor by travel restrictions.
The fear was that the air
crew might infect citizens.
The plane finally landed
in Quito, the capital, where
170 foreigners boarded for a
return flight to Amsterdam.
Viteri said on Twitter
that she will continue work-
ing as long as she can to
“protect Guayaquilenos in a
moment as difficult as this
one.”
“I will be where I am and
how I am,” she wrote. “Don’t
leave your houses, protect
the elderly and the weakest,
and take care of each other.”

Special correspondents
Jaramillo Viteri and Kraul
reported from Quito and
Bogota, Colombia,
respectively.

Bodies being


left on streets


in Ecuador city


In Guayaquil, some


corpses lie unclaimed


in medical facilities as


toll grows in outbreak.


By Pablo
Jaramillo Viteri
and Chris Kraul


‘They’re leaving


them in the


villages.... No one


wants to recover


them.’


—Cynthia Viteri,
mayor of Guayaquil, referring
to uncollected corpses

NEW YORK — The num-
ber of coronavirus infections
worldwide has hit 1 million,
with more than 52,
deaths, according to the
tally kept by Johns Hopkins
University.
The figures were another
bleak milestone in the pan-
demic that has forced the
lockdown of entire countries
and brought economies to a
shuddering halt.
Still, the true numbers of
deaths and infections are
believed to be much higher,
in part because of differenc-
es in counting practices,
many mild cases that have
gone unreported, testing
shortages, and suspicions of
acover-up in some coun-
tries.
The coronavirus out-
break has thrown 10 million
Americans out of work in
just two weeks, the swiftest,
most stunning collapse the
U.S. job market has ever wit-

nessed, and economists
warn unemployment could
reach levels not seen since
the Depression, as the econ-
omic damage piles up
around the world.
The bleak news Thurs-
day — a record-shattering
6.6 million new unemploy-
ment claims on top of
last week’s unprecedented
3.3 million — came as the
competition for scarce venti-
lators, masks and other pro-
tective gear seemed to grow
more desperate and deaths
mounted with alarming
speed in Italy, Spain and
New York, the most lethal
hot spot in the nation, with
at least 2,400 lives lost.
The mounting economic
fallout almost certainly sig-
nals the onset of a global re-
cession, with job losses that
are likely to dwarf those of
the Great Recession more
than a decade ago.
“My anxiety is through
the roof right now, not know-
ing what’s going to happen,”
said Laura Wieder, laid off
from her job managing a
now-closed sports bar in
Bellefontaine, Ohio.
About half of all working
Americans report some kind
of income loss affecting
themselves or a member of

their household because of
the pandemic, and poor peo-
ple and those without col-
lege degrees are especially
likely to have lost a job,
according to a poll from the
Associated Press-NORC
Center for Public Affairs Re-
search. Sixty percent of
Americans say the national
economy is “poor,” an alarm-
ingly swift reversal from the
67% who called it “good” in
January.
With more than 243,
people infected in the U.S.
and the death toll topping
5,900, sobering preparations
were underway. The Federal
Emergency Management
Agency asked the Pentagon
for 100,000 body bags be-
cause of the possibility fu-
neral homes will be over-
whelmed, the military said.
The Democratic Party
pushed its nominating con-
vention back a month, to
mid-August. And federal au-
thorities proposed a $611,
fine against the Seattle-area
nursing home connected to
at least 40 coronavirus
deaths, accusing it of infrac-
tions that included failure to
report and rapidly manage
the outbreak.
Elsewhere around the
world, the number of people

applying for welfare benefits
in Britain increased nearly
tenfold to almost 1 million in
the last couple of weeks.
European worker unions
estimate at least a million on
the continent lost their jobs
over the same period, and
say the actual number is
probably far higher. Spain
alone added more than
300,000 to its unemployment
rolls in March.
But the job losses there
appear to be far smaller than
in the U.S. because of Eu-
rope’s greater social safety
nets, including government
programs to reduce workers’
hours without laying them
off, in the hope of bringing
them back quickly once the
crisis passes.
With its healthcare sys-
tem in dire shape, Spain re-
ported a record one-day
number of deaths, 950,
bringing its overall toll to
about 10,000, despite signs
that the infection rate is
slowing.
Italy recorded 760 more
deaths, for a total of 13,900,
the worst of any country, but
new infections continued to
level off. More than 10,
medical personnel in Italy
have been infected and 69
doctors have died.

Global COVID-19 cases top 1 million


More than 52,


have died. U.S. makes


sobering preparations


as outbreak toll soars.


associated press
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