Virus Outbreak Spain

Outbreak produces statue of limitations

A face mask is put on a statue during the coronavirus outbreak in downtown Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. More than 1.5 billion around the world have been told to stay in their homes. 

UN chief urges G20 to adopt ‘war-time’ plan

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged leaders of the world’s 20 major industrialized nations on Tuesday to adopt a “wartime” plan including a stimulus package “in the trillions of dollars” for businesses, workers and households in developing countries trying to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

He said in a letter to the Group of 20 leaders that they account for 85 percent of the world’s gross domestic product and have “a direct interest and critical role to play in helping developing countries cope with the crisis.”

“Let us remember that we are only as strong as the weakest health system in our interconnected world,” the U.N. chief said. “We must create the conditions and mobilize the resources necessary to ensure that developing countries have equal opportunities to respond to this crisis in their communities and economies.”

Guterres warned: “Anything short of this commitment would lead to a pandemic of apocalyptic proportions affecting us all.”

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said G20 leaders are expected to hold a virtual meeting Thursday.

Guterres, who will participate in the meeting, said a coordinated stimulus package in the trillions of dollars “would include scaling up cash transfer measures, social protection, tax abatement, fiscal stimulus, low interest rates, access to credit, insurance and wage support schemes.”

The secretary-general stressed that “these expansionary policies must be accompanied by a clear repudiation of protectionism.”

“I urge G-20 leaders to commit to ban tariffs, quotas or non-tariff measures, and remove restrictions on cross-border trade that affect the deployment of medical equipment, medicines and other essential goods to fight the epidemic,” Guterres said.

He also encouraged countries to waive sanctions to allow delivery of food, health supplies, medical equipment and support for the COVID-19 crisis, saying: “This is the time for solidarity not exclusion.”

Likud members urge speaker to defy Israeli court

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel appeared on the verge of a constitutional crisis Tuesday as top members of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud urged their party colleague and parliament speaker to defy a Supreme Court order to let lawmakers hold a vote for his successor.

After suspending parliamentary activities last week, citing procedural issues and restrictions on large gatherings due to the spread of the coronavirus, Yuli Edelstein on Monday dismissed the court’s call to explain his delay in convening the Israeli Knesset, or parliament.

It sparked an unprecedented judicial rebuttal, with Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut ordering him to hold a vote by Wednesday and ruling that “the continued refusal to allow the vote in the Knesset plenum on the election of a permanent speaker is undermining the foundations of the democratic process.”

Even after that, at least two Likud Cabinet ministers, including Netanyahu’s surrogate interim justice minister, called on Edelstein to defy the order, deeming it a judicial “coup” against Israel’s elected officials. Cabinet Minister Yariv Levin led the charge, accusing the court of trampling the principle of separation of powers. He said it was creating “anarchy” and acting as if it “owned the country.”

Edelstein did not release any comment Tuesday on how he would proceed.

Netanyahu has yet to comment but others in the party, while equally lambasting the high court, called on Edelstein to respect its ruling to avoid a full-fledged constitutional crisis at such a sensitive time.

Bodies of virus victims found in nursing homes

MADRID (AP) — Spanish army troops disinfecting nursing homes have found, to their horror, some residents living in squalor among the infectious bodies of people suspected of dying from the new coronavirus, authorities said Tuesday.

Defense Minister Margarita Robles said the elderly residents were “completely left to fend for themselves, or even dead, in their beds.” She said the discovery over the weekend included several nursing homes but did not name them or say how many bodies were found.

A judicial probe into the horrific discovery was opened Tuesday as Spain announced a record one-day jump of nearly 6,600 new coronavirus infections, bringing the overall total to more than 39,600. The number of deaths also leaped by a record 514 to almost 2,700, second only to Italy and China.

As bodies piled up, Madrid took over a public skating rink as a makeshift morgue after the city facility overflowed. To date, 1,535 people have died in the hard-hit Spanish capital, more than half of the national total. The capital region has over 12,350 infections.

“This is a tough week,” Dr. Fernando Simón, head of Spain’s health emergency center, told a daily news briefing.

Relatives of elderly people and retirement homes’ workers expressed growing concern about the situation at the centers.

“With everything that is happening with the coronavirus, this was a ticking bomb,” said Esther Navarro, whose 97-year-old Alzheimer’s-stricken mother lives at the Usera Seniors’ Center in Madrid, where soldiers found some of the bodies.

“Now we are bracing ourselves for the worst possible outcome,” she told the Associated Press in a telephone interview.