Argentina, Ecuador deaths take LatAm virus toll to five

Passengers wearing face masks arrive at Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires

Argentina announced its second coronavirus-related death on Friday as Ecuador reported its first, taking the total death toll in Latin America to five as the virus shows signs of spreading rapidly.

Venezuela, Uruguay, Guatemala and Suriname reported their first cases of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overall cases in the region have more than doubled in the last two days to over 340 as the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) warned governments on Thursday to prepare their health services to cope.

Several Latin American countries have tightened restrictions on travel links with Europe, from where many people in the region are descended and still have family.

A 61-year-old Argentine man who returned from Italy on February 24 and had previously suffered from pneumonia died of "respiratory failure," the Chaco provincial health ministry said in a statement.

Italy is the worst affected country outside of China, where the virus originated.

Argentina reported the first Latin American coronavirus death on March 7.

In Ecuador, a 71-year-old woman who had traveled to Spain died of a "severe respiratory failure," Health Minister Catalina Andramuno said.

The woman was also the first person in Ecuador to have been diagnosed with the COVID-19 disease.

- Bolsonaro tests negative -

Following earlier press reports that he had contracted the virus, Brazil's far-right populist leader Jair Bolsonaro posted a message to his Facebook page saying he had tested negative.

"Don't believe in the fake news media!" he wrote alongside a picture of him performing an obscene gesture.

Bolsonaro was tested after his communications chief, Fabio Wajngarten, contracted the virus following a trip to the United States in which both men had met US President Donald Trump.

Venezuela announced its first two coronavirus cases: a 41-year-old who had visited the US, Italy and Spain, and a 52-year-old who visited Spain.

Both had returned from Madrid on an Iberian airways flight to Caracas that flies three times a week.

Authorities ordered everyone on that route between March 2-5 into "immediate obligatory preventative quarantine."

The government suspended all school and university classes and ordered those working at border entry points to wear face masks.

Chile and Mexico joined many other countries in banning large gatherings, while Uruguay said it had registered four cases, three in people who had returned from Milan.

Cuban medical specialists said they have developed an antiviral drug used in China to treat patients that replenishes the human immune system and had received interest from 15 countries in buying it.

But in Bolivia, panic had already started to spread despite just three recorded cases.

People outside hospitals blocked others from seeking treatment, saying the facilities were not equipped to handle coronavirus and that accepting them would spread the illness, local media reported.

- Music festivals off -

Brazil postponed until December the international Lollapalooza festival due to run from April 3-5 in Sao Paulo.

Santiago and Buenos Aires had previously postponed their festival dates until November.

Rio state closed schools, theatres, sports stadiums and concert halls for two weeks, while Sao Paulo state likewise called off public events.

Uruguay canceled a rock festival in the capital Montevideo that was expected to attract 40,000 fans.

Brazilian also authorities quarantined a Bahamas-flagged cruise ship with 600 people aboard after a 78-year-old Canadian passenger developed a fever, cough and breathing trouble.

Uruguay turned away a cruise ship from its popular tourist resort Punta de Este even though no-one on board was reported as ill.

President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador, which has reported no cases, ordered the army to detain anyone entering the country illegally to try to contain the virus.

Stock markets partially rebounded on Friday after a bruising week.

Brazil's Sao Paulo exchange climbed almost 14 percent but lost 15 percent overall this week.

Paraguay and Colombia suspended their football leagues while Bolivia and Uruguay barred fans from theirs. Brazil banned fans from matches in its two largest cities, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

  • At least 19 killed in Mexico gang clash
    News
    AFP News

    At least 19 killed in Mexico gang clash

    A gang battle in Mexico has left at least 19 people dead in the northern state of Chihuahua, officials said Saturday. At least five armed clashes have occurred in the Madera community so far this year, local authorities have said. "The state attorney general, in conjunction with the public safety

  • New York state virus toll spikes as officials plea for volunteers
    News
    AFP News

    New York state virus toll spikes as officials plea for volunteers

    New York state's coronavirus toll continued rising at a devastating pace Saturday, as authorities issued an emergency plea for volunteers to assist at US outbreak epicenter. The state has recorded 3,565 deaths as Governor Andrew Cuomo warned the worst was yet to come. New York's statewide total

  • 'True friend' China helps Algeria battle coronavirus
    News
    AFP News

    'True friend' China helps Algeria battle coronavirus

    As adversity strikes in the form of the coronavirus pandemic, Algeria has found a helping hand in China, an old friend and the top exporter to Africa's largest country. The supplies were donated by the state-owned China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) on behalf of Beijing to help

  • Coronavirus: latest global developments
    News
    AFP Relax

    Coronavirus: latest global developments

    More than 1,169,210 cases of infection, including 63,437 deaths, have been reported in 190 countries and territories around the world since the virus first emerged in China in December, according to an AFP tally compiled around 1900 GMT Saturday based on official sources. Italy has the highest official

  • Turkey tightens controls in public places over virus threat
    News
    AFP News

    Turkey tightens controls in public places over virus threat

    Turkey stepped up controls Saturday on crowded public spaces including markets and ferries in Istanbul, a day after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan imposed the use of face masks to curb the coronavirus outbreak. The death toll in the country of 83 million people has now topped 500, according to official

  • South Africa rolls out mobile testing in virus lockdown
    News
    AFP Relax

    South Africa rolls out mobile testing in virus lockdown

    Nurse Xola Dlomo told AFP they were asking one resident to mobilise fellow flat dwellers to come for screening and tests. "They've been coming for screening and they are even open to testing if they have symptoms," Dlomo said.

  • South Africa rolls out mobile testing in virus lockdown
    News
    AFP News

    South Africa rolls out mobile testing in virus lockdown

    South African public healthcare workers dispersed into the buzzing streets of Johannesburg's Yeoville neighbourhood as Africa's worst virus-hit country rolled out mass door-to-door testing for COVID-19. Nurse Xola Dlomo told AFP they were asking one resident to mobilise fellow flat dwellers

  • France launches terror probe after two killed in stabbing spree
    News
    AFP News

    France launches terror probe after two killed in stabbing spree

    A Sudanese refugee went on a knife rampage in a town in southeastern France on Saturday, killing two people in what is being treated as a terrorist attack. The attack in broad daylight, which President Emmanuel Macron called "an odious act", took place with the country on lockdown in a bid

  • Italy cheers first drop in critical virus patients
    News
    AFP News

    Italy cheers first drop in critical virus patients

    Pandemic-hit Italy cheered Saturday after seeing its number of intensive care cases for the coronavirus that stretched its healthcare system to breaking point drop for the first time. "This is a very important data point because the figure is decreasing for the first time," Borrelli told reporters

  • World's virus toll tops 60,000 as mask debate rages
    News
    AFP News

    World's virus toll tops 60,000 as mask debate rages

    The global death toll in the coronavirus crisis soared past 60,000 on Saturday as calls grew for citizens to wear face masks to halt the pandemic's devastating spread. There was better news from hard-hit Italy and Spain, where infection and fatality rates were slowing down, offering a glimmer of

  • New York state virus toll spikes as officials plea for medical volunteers
    News
    AFP Relax

    New York state virus toll spikes as officials plea for medical volunteers

    New York state's coronavirus toll continued rising at a devastating pace Saturday, as authorities issued an emergency plea for volunteers to assist in the crisis plaguing the US pandemic's epicenter. With already strained hospitals scrambling to prepare for a growing influx of patients, Governor

  • Stay or go? French fly home from Russia amid pandemic
    News
    AFP Relax

    Stay or go? French fly home from Russia amid pandemic

    Christian Querouix, a 69-year-old pensioner, who shares his time between France and Russia, had a difficult choice to make. Should he return to France, one of the European countries most affected by the coronavirus, or stay in Russia where the number of infected people is growing by the day? "

  • Italy's intensive care virus cases drop for first time
    News
    AFP News

    Italy's intensive care virus cases drop for first time

    Italy saw its first drop Saturday in the number of patients intensive care treatment for the coronavirus that had stretched the Mediterranean country's world-class healthcare system to breaking point. Civil protection service chief Angelo Borrelli called the drop from 4,068 on Friday to 3,994 on

  • Two dead in France stabbing rampage
    News
    AFP News

    Two dead in France stabbing rampage

    A man went on a knife rampage in a town in southeastern France on Saturday, killing two people in what is being treated as a terrorist attack. The attack in broad daylight, which President Emmanuel Macron called "an odious act", took place with the country on lockdown in a bid to stem the

  • Stay or go? French fly home from Russia amid pandemic
    News
    AFP News

    Stay or go? French fly home from Russia amid pandemic

    Christian Querouix, a 69-year-old pensioner, who shares his time between France and Russia, had a difficult choice to make. Should he return to France, one of the European countries most affected by the coronavirus, or stay in Russia where the number of infected people is growing by the day? "

  • Spain to extend lockdown, as deaths down for second day
    News
    AFP News

    Spain to extend lockdown, as deaths down for second day

    Spain's prime minister announced Saturday an extension of the country's lockdown to combat the coronavirus, saying the measures are "bearing fruit" as the number of deaths fell for a second day in a row. A nationwide 15-day state of emergency was first announced on March 14 barring

  • Canada PM says will not retaliate against U.S. over block of mask exports
    News
    Reuters

    Canada PM says will not retaliate against U.S. over block of mask exports

    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would not retaliate for U.S. President Donald Trump blocking 3M Co's exports of N95 respirator masks that protect doctors and nurses from the spread of coronavirus. Trudeau said on Saturday that he expected to speak with Trump in the coming days and

  • Amid virus fears, Pakistan searches for pilgrims from mass gathering
    News
    AFP News

    Amid virus fears, Pakistan searches for pilgrims from mass gathering

    Pakistani authorities are searching for tens of thousands of worshippers who attended an Islamic gathering in Lahore last month just as the novel coronavirus was taking root in the impoverished nation, officials told AFP on Saturday. Authorities want to test or quarantine those who congregated at the

  • Some plateauing of London coronavirus outbreak, UK says
    News
    Reuters

    Some plateauing of London coronavirus outbreak, UK says

    It will take a week or two before Britain's social distancing measures start to translate into lower hospitalisation rates but there has been a bit of a plateauing in London in recent days, NHS England Medical Director Stephen Powis said. "There is reason to be hopeful that some of the changes

  • In Italy, support groups fear lockdown is silencing domestic abuse victims
    News
    Reuters

    In Italy, support groups fear lockdown is silencing domestic abuse victims

    Italy has seen a sharp fall in official reports of domestic violence as it approaches a month under coronavirus lockdown, raising concern among some support groups that forced confinement is leaving victims struggling to seek help. Citing official data, a parliamentary committee into violence against

  • Brazil's lawmakers approve coronavirus 'war budget' to shield economy
    News
    Reuters

    Brazil's lawmakers approve coronavirus 'war budget' to shield economy

    Brazil's lower house of Congress approved a constitutional amendment for a "war budget" to separate coronavirus-related spending from the government's main budget to shield the economy from the crisis. The war budget, which was proposed by lower house speaker Rodrigo Maia and other

  • 130 Hong Kong police to be quarantined after colleagues infected with COVID-19
    News
    AFP News

    130 Hong Kong police to be quarantined after colleagues infected with COVID-19

    About 130 of Hong Kong's frontline riot police officers will be sent to quarantine camp after two of their colleagues were confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus, a police source told AFP late Saturday. Another officer, 31, from the same police tactical unit was also infected to COVID-19

  • Coronavirus: furloughed CERN physicists release design for Covid-19 patient ventilator
    News

    Coronavirus: furloughed CERN physicists release design for Covid-19 patient ventilator

    A group of physicists and engineers affiliated with the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) have developed a prototype ventilator designed for Covid-19 patients as health authorities in the US and Europe scramble to treat those stricken by the respiratory ailment.The high energy ventilator

  • Mask slips: U-turn as leaders tell public to cover their faces
    News
    AFP News

    Mask slips: U-turn as leaders tell public to cover their faces

    Having told their populations that wearing masks was all but useless against the coronavirus, several Western countries have performed dramatic U-turns in the last few days. The most spectacular about-turn has been in the United States where President Donald Trump on Friday urged all Americans to wear

  • UK PM Johnson's pregnant fiance had COVID-19 symptoms but on the mend
    News
    Reuters

    UK PM Johnson's pregnant fiance had COVID-19 symptoms but on the mend

    Carrie Symonds, the pregnant fiance of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said she had spent the past week in bed with symptoms of the novel coronavirus but after seven days of rest felt stronger and was on the mend. Johnson said on Friday he was remaining in isolation with mild symptoms of COVID