Prince Charles is sick
Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, has tested positive for the coronavirus. A spokesman for the royal family said Charles, 71, “has been displaying mild symptoms but otherwise remains in good health and has been working from home throughout the last few days as usual.” His 72-year-old wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, does not have the virus, and the two are self-isolating apart at their home in Scotland. Charles last saw his 93-year-old mother, Queen Elizabeth II, one day before he could have become contagious. A spokesman said it was impossible to determine the source of transmission to the prince, because of “the high number of engagements he carried out in his public role during recent weeks.”
The U.S. military this week evacuated a women’s football team that was stranded in Honduras after the coronavirus led the Americas Women’s Bowl in Tegucigalpa to be canceled. With Honduras now under martial law, the Air Force flew out all 55 players and staff, as well as nearly 100 other Americans. But elsewhere around the world, some 13,000 Americans—many of them college students—can’t get home, and they say U.S. embassies are not offering any help. The Trump administration said it is working to get flights for everyone. “Commercial flights have been chartered, and we’re also working with the military for a backup on flights,” said Vice President Mike Pence. Officials said older Americans who are more vulnerable to the coronavirus will be given priority.
At least 23 inmates were killed this week after riots erupted in 13 Colombian lockups, where angry prisoners said chronic overcrowding puts them at high risk of catching the coronavirus. Colombia is on nationwide lockdown after registering nearly 300 infections and at least three deaths from Covid-19. The country has about 50 percent more inmates than its prisons were designed to hold, and Ariel Ávila, an expert on Colombian security issues, said unrest was inevitable. “All that was lacking was the fuse,” he explained, “and that was what coronavirus provided.” In an editorial this week, the leading newspaper El Tiempo called for prisoners ages 70 and older to be released to reduce overcrowding, and the Justice Ministry said it is considering a limited amnesty.
Virus rips across country
Spain is suffering one of the world’s worst coronavirus outbreaks, recording some 40,000 cases and close to 3,000 deaths by the middle of this week. The disease is spreading faster there than in China or Italy, with the death toll doubling from 1,000 to 2,000 in only three days. And while Italy’s coronavirus outbreak is largely focused in several northern regions, in Spain cases are springing up everywhere. Many funeral homes have stopped taking bodies because their workers lack adequate protection from the virus, and in Madrid, an ice-skating rink has been repurposed as a temporary morgue. A lockdown has been in effect since March 14 and is expected to last until at least mid-April. “There are hard days ahead,” said Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.
Asterix creator dies
Albert Uderzo, co-creator and illustrator of the wildly popular French comic Asterix, died of a heart attack in his sleep this week at age 92. The comic, which Uderzo and writer René Goscinny first published in 1959, follows the adventures of a band of plucky ancient Gauls who battle and outwit the occupying Romans. “At the time it was important to try to set yourself apart from the American superheroes,” Uderzo had said. “When we got to the Gauls—Eureka!” Goscinny died in 1977, but Uderzo continued to put out Asterix books. The diminutive, mustachioed warrior Asterix and his always-hungry best friend, Obelix, are among France’s best-loved fictional characters, spawning 11 films and a theme park.
Gangs impose order
Rio de Janeiro
Crime syndicates are enforcing their own coronavirus lockdown in the overcrowded Brazilian slums known as favelas. Unlike its neighbors, Brazil has not ordered a nationwide lockdown, but some states and cities have imposed their own. In the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, where more than 1.5 million desperately poor people live in shacks packed closely together, gangs circulated messages this week announcing an 8 p.m. curfew. Most residents, though, simply can’t afford to miss work, so they continue to go out during the day. “The people who brought this [virus to Brazil] were the rich coming back from vacations to Europe, but the people who will suffer much more will be the poor,” said Paulo Buss, a leading public-health physician.
Earthquake shatters lockdown
At least 17 people were injured this week when an earthquake struck Zagreb, Croatia’s capital, toppling an iconic cathedral spire and shaking chunks of masonry from buildings, crushing cars below. The country is on a partial lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, but panicked residents were forced to flee their cracked and swaying homes and huddle in the cold streets. Women who had just given birth hurried out of a maternity hospital, clutching their babies. “We will try to clear the streets as soon as possible,” said Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic. “Stay outside your homes and maintain distance.” The magnitude-5.3 quake was the country’s biggest in more than a century.
U.S. slashes aid
The U.S. has threatened to cut $1 billion in aid to Afghanistan because of the failure of the country’s top two politicians to form a unity government that can negotiate with the Taliban. Afghanistan has been in turmoil since both President Ashraf Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah claimed victory in September’s election, and this week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Kabul to try to persuade the two to cooperate. When that failed, he issued a sharp rebuke, saying, “This leadership failure poses a direct threat to U.S. national interests.” If the deadlock continues, he said, U.S. aid will be cut. “We’re hopeful, frankly, they’ll get their act together and we won’t have to do it.” Afghanistan is scheduled to get $4.5 billion in U.S. aid next year.
Trump reaches out to Kim
North Korea last week thanked President Trump for writing a letter to dictator Kim Jong Un in which he offered cooperation in fighting the coronavirus. “I would like to extend sincere gratitude to the U.S. president for sending his invariable faith to the chairman,” said Kim Yo Jong, Kim’s sister and policy aide. She added that Trump wrote he was “impressed” by Kim’s efforts to combat the pandemic. Officially, the secretive regime says there are no Covid-19 cases in the country, but experts doubt that is true. Meanwhile, North Korea test-fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea last week, a sign that it is continuing to bolster its military capabilities as denuclearization talks with the Trump administration remain deadlocked.
The 2020 Summer Olympics, which were supposed to start in Tokyo on July 24, have been postponed for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Rescheduling the events will be a massive undertaking with enormous ramifications for Japan’s economy—the country has spent about $28 billion preparing for the Games, money that in part will have to be spent again—and for the 10,000-plus athletes who trained for this summer. “A number of critical venues needed for the Games could potentially not be available anymore,” said International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach. “The international sports calendar for at least 33 Olympic sports would have to be adapted. These are just a few of many, many more challenges.”
Hubei province, the center of China’s coronavirus outbreak, began to reopen this week after two months of lockdown. Officials said no new infections had been detected outside of Wuhan—the city where the virus originated late last year—in 19 days. While some 4,200 Covid-19 patients remain hospitalized in Wuhan, only one new infection was reported there at the start of the week, and authorities said the city will reopen in two weeks. But Radio Television Hong Kong, Hong Kong’s public broadcaster, said Wuhan residents are reporting that their sick relatives are being denied tests by hospitals intent on keeping the official case numbers low. Volunteer worker Zhang Yi told RTHK that officials had told him the virus was still spreading. “This is a political treatment,” he said of the reopenings, “not medical treatment.”
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced all 1.3 billion people in the country must shelter in place for three weeks to halt the spread of coronavirus. “There will be a total ban of coming out of your homes,” Modi said in a televised address to the nation. India has around 600 reported infections and authorities fear a humanitarian catastrophe if the virus were to spread widely in the densely crowded cities and in villages with poor sanitation and no health-care infrastructure. Indians had just four hours to panic-shop before the ban took effect, and many crowded into stores or at outdoor markets. Later, the government clarified that groceries and other essential businesses would remain open. Millions of migrant workers packed railway stations trying to get to their home villages for the confinement.
Reuters, AP, Getty, AP, Reuters ■