A man wearing a protective mask on an empty Rialto Bridge on Sunday with an unprecedented lockdown across of all Italy imposed to slow the outbreak of coronavirus, in Venice, Italy, March 15, 2020. [Photo/Agencies] The European Union on Wednesday proposed prolonging travel restrictions at its external borders to contain the novel coronavirus pandemic, while urging member states to lift export bans on medicines to avoid causing shortages in the bloc.
In a statement, the European Commission urged Schengen member states and Schengen associated states to prolong the temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU until May 15, as “the measures applied to fight the spread of the virus require more than 30 days to be effective”. The ongoing temporary 30-day restriction was introduced in mid-March.
Europe reported 634,735 cases and 55,826 deaths as of Wednesday, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Meanwhile, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday urged EU member states to lift export bans on medicines. Half of the EU states have designated long lists of drugs that cannot be exported during the coronavirus emergency. The lists include medication used to treat COVID-19 patients such as muscle relaxants and painkillers.
In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in a “stable” and “improving” condition in intensive care, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said on Thursday.
The country suffered its heaviest 24-hour loss of life yet in the outbreak with 938 new deaths in hospitals on Wednesday, taking the total toll to 7,097, according to the National Health Service.
On Wednesday, the NHS launched a mental health hotline to support its 1.4 million staff. The phone line will be open from 7 am to 11 pm every day.
In Italy, the authorities reported 139,422 infections and 17,669 deaths as of Wednesday, the country’s Civil Protection Department said.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Wednesday that Italy must stick with its rigid lockdown, rejecting calls from businesses to reopen factories.
In France, the presidential palace said on Wednesday the national lockdown would be extended and go beyond April 15.
France reported 541 additional deaths in hospitals on Wednesday, taking the toll in sanitary establishments to 7,632, director-general of health Jerome Salomon said.
The total toll stood at 10,869 on Wednesday but it was likely incomplete, as health authorities were unable to update deaths in care establishments for the elderly due to technical problems, he said.
In Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin would be tested for the novel coronavirus as often as necessary.
Putin, who met regional officials on Wednesday, said Russia has the means to solve problems caused by the pandemic, but it would not be possible to completely avoid losses, although they could be minimized.
Also, he said Russia would give full support to the “economic sectors affected by the crisis, the labor market, and the health care system”, Russian state news agency Tass reported.
The number of infections in Russia rose by 1,459, reaching 10,131 on Thursday, and the death toll stood at 76, according to the Russian anti-coronavirus crisis center.
Angus McNeice in London, Ren Qi in Moscow, Xinhua and agencies contributed to this story.
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