Daily COVID-19 pandemic roundup: March 20

(Adds information from Cuba, Brazil, the US, Peru and Mexico)

Miami Desk, Mar 20 (efe-epa).- Here is a roundup of stories from around the world related to the coronavirus pandemic:

CUBA: Starting next Tuesday, Cuba will deny entry to all but Cuban citizens and permanent residents, President Miguel Diaz-Canel said. The government will organize the repatriation of 60,000 non-resident foreigners. Cubans and permanent residents returning from abroad will be quarantined for two weeks in Health Ministry facilities to ensure they are not infected with the coronavirus. Cuba has 21 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and is keeping at least 500 other people in isolation.

RELIGION: A Catholic priest near the US capital is hearing drive-up confessions in the parking lot of St. Edward the Confessor Church in Bowie, Maryland. The Rev. Scott Holmer said he got the idea after having to cancel Mass at the last minute after the Archdiocese of Washington ordered services suspended because of the coronavirus.

BRAZIL: President Jair Bolsonaro complained about steps taken by mayors and state governors to stop Covid-19 that he described as poising a threat to the Brazilian economy. He said that the shutdown of ports, airports and highways could disrupt shipments of food and other basic necessities as well as of products needed in the fight against coronavirus, which has claimed 11 lives in Brazil.

PERU: President Martin Vizcarra announced the firing of Health Minister Elizabeth Hinostroza during a Cabinet meeting broadcast live on Peruvian television. He named Victor Zamora, a physician with a background in public health management, to take charge of the ministry after Hinostroza came under criticism from medical professionals for her handling of the coronavirus. The disease is blamed for four deaths in Peru.

TELEVISION: The producers of several medical dramas that air on US television are donating masks, gowns and gloves to health care workers and institutions who are running short of what is known as personal protective equipment as they scramble to deal with Covid-19. Shows taking part in the effort include “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Station 19,” “The Good Doctor” and “The Resident.”

MEXICO: Mexico will accept Mexican and Central American asylum-seekers turned away from the United States after testing positive for Covid-19 and will provide those migrants with medical assistance, Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said.

AUSTRIA: More than 50 essential workers at Wien Energie, Vienna’s public energy company, have cut all ties to the outside world and have moved to plants to guarantee the electricity supply of the Austrian capital.

The 53 employees, who are key for operations to continue, will be kept in total isolation to avoid any contagion, Wien Energie reported. Austria has so far recorded 2,203 COVID-19 infections and six deaths.

BULGARIA: Starting Saturday, nobody will be able to leave any cities in Bulgaria without serious reasons and walking in the parks will also be banned due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At a press conference, the head of the task force to combat COVID-19, Vencislav Mutafchiyski, Health Minister Kiril Ananiev and Interior Minister Mladen Marinov announced controls at exit and entry points in Sofia and other cities in the country to enforce the quarantine, which does not affect smaller towns. The country, which has been in a state of emergency for a week, has so far registered 127 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with three deaths.

GERMANY: Requests from German companies to reduce working hours have soared in the last week because of the coronavirus, multiplying by 130 compared to last year’s average, the Federal Employment Agency (BA) reported on Friday.

This week some 76,700 companies have requested to join the Kurzarbeit option, a reduction in working hours with a job guarantee, when in 2019 the weekly average number of requests stood at 600 (at the end of the year they reached 1,000).

INDONESIA: Jakarta has declared a state of emergency to combat COVID-19, as the number of confirmed infections in the country continue to rise, the metropolis governor announced. So far, 369 cases of COVID-19 have been detected in Indonesia, 215 of them in the capital, with a total of 32 deaths.

COLOMBIA: The mayor of the Colombian city of Popayán, Juan Carlos López, tested positive for coronavirus, making him the first political leader in the country to be infected by the disease. There are 128 cases in Colombia.

SOUTH KOREA: South Korea will impose mandatory virus testing and two-week self-isolation periods on all arrivals from Europe, starting Sunday. It reported 87 new cases, 65 fewer than the day before, bringing the total to 8,652, with 2,233 discharges and 94 deaths with a mortality rate of 1.09 per cent.

THAILAND: The World Health Organization announced that Thailand will join a multi-country clinical “Solidarity Trial” of Covid-19 treatments testing four drugs or combinations and which will include Argentina, Bahrain, Canada, France, Iran, Norway, South Africa, Spain and Switzerland. The government reported 50 new coronavirus cases on Friday, bringing the total to 322, with one death.

BRAZIL: Automotive multinationals Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Ford and General Motors announced the temporary suspension of vehicle production in Brazil.

SUMMITS: The United States has canceled holding the June 10-12 G7 summit at Camp David and will teleconference instead. The 36th ASEAN Summit scheduled for April 8-9 in Da Nang, Vietnam, has been postponed to the end of June.

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