Panama posts nearly 200 new coronavirus cases, extends flights ban

PANAMA CITY (Reuters) – Panama registered 191 new cases of the coronavirus on Monday, bringing the country’s total to 4,658 cases, the Health Ministry said.

Officials also confirmed 10 more deaths, raising Panama’s death toll from the highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the virus to 136.

Earlier on Monday, the Central American country’s aviation authority said in a resolution it will extend by one month a suspension on international flights for what it said was public health reasons.

The suspension, which was set to expire April 22, will now extend through at least May 22. Exceptions will be made for humanitarian flights as well as those transporting medical supplies deemed necessary to fight the viral outbreak, one of the worst in the region.

(Reporting by Elida Moreno; Editing by David Alire Garcia, Sandra Maler and Leslie Adler)

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More Than 200 COVID-19 Patients From Other EU Countries Treated In Germany

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A French military helicopter bringing coronavirus patients for treatment lands in Muehlheim, Germany on March 29.

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Intensive care units in German hospitals are treating more than 200 coronavirus patients from neighboring EU countries, Germany’s health minister has said.

Jens Spahn said Monday there was a “willingness and the capacity to accept more [patients] if necessary.” Spahn said that Germany would cover the costs of the treatments. “That is our understanding of European solidarity,” he added.

A German health ministry spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that the patients were mainly from France, Italy and the Netherlands, with dozens of critically ill people from some of the European areas hardest hit by the coronavirus airlifted to hospitals in several German regions.

Together with @SanDstBw the @Team_Luftwaffe flew to Bergamo at 6:00 a.m. to support our Italian friends. They bring intensive care patients to Germany for treatment 🇮🇹🇩🇪🇪🇺. @GermaniaItalia @europainitalia @ItalyinEU #FuerEuchGemeinsamStark #StrongerTogether

A first group of patients treated at the university hospital in Essen returned to France last week.

Quel moment émouvant de l’amitié franco-allemande🇫🇷🇩🇪Lorsque les lits de soins intensifs pour les patients atteints du #COVID19 manquaient en France,nous avons proposé un traitement en Rhénanie-du-Nord-Westphalie. Aujourd’hui marque la rentrée en F 🇫🇷des premiers patients guéris

According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, the cost of providing the treatment is around 20 million euros (about $21.75 million).

Germany has been praised for its response to the coronavirus as its official statistics show that it has suffered far fewer deaths from the virus than other European countries.

But the acts of solidarity by Germany come as the EU has been criticized for its response to the pandemic, with people in some countries feeling abandoned by the bloc’s slow reaction, despite a recent uptick in measures and an apology from European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Support for the EU has collapsed in Italy, which has suffered more coronavirus deaths than any other European country, multiple polls have shown. A recent poll showed that 42% of Italian voters want to leave the EU, up from 26% in 2018. Another survey found trust in the EU among voters had dropped 13 points to 25% since January alone. Nearly six in 10 voters feel that the EU as it is makes no sense, a third poll found, with support for membership dropping even among voters of normally pro-EU parties.

As well as paying to treat coronavirus patients from neighboring EU states, Germany has supplied 7.5 tons of equipment, including ventilators and face masks to Italy, and has also sent a team of doctors and nurses to work in a hospital near Naples.

Germany has expanded its intensive care beds to 40,000 and ventilation units to 30,000, one of the highest rates per capita in Europe. Before the crisis, there were 28,000 intensive care beds nationwide, including 20,000 with ventilation.

According to data published by Germany’s national health institute based on a register of 30,058 intensive care units, 17,393 (58%) beds are currently occupied and 12,665 beds are currently available. Among these, there are 2,889 COVID-19 patients in intensive care as of this weekend.

The institute’s data shows that 139,897 people have tested positive to the virus so far in Germany and 4,294 have died.

Ina Fassbender / Getty Images

A French COVID-19 patient is brought to a helicopter for his transport back to France following his recovery from the virus at the University Hospital in Essen, Germany.

Meanwhile, EU leaders are deep in debate over which financial measures to adopt to support the bloc’s economic recovery. Southern European countries, including Spain, Portugal and Italy, as well as France, have been pushing for a joint fund supported by common debt and guarantees. But such proposals have so far been resisted by northern members of the euro area, with the Netherlands the most vociferously opposed.

As the continent is expected to be hit by its hardest recession in recent history, both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have warned that the EU is facing its biggest challenge since its foundation. The French president told the Financial Times in an interview last week that the EU risked unravelling if it failed to embrace financial solidarity.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s foreign minister, said on Monday that the pandemic threatened the multilateral world order.

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