Nations employ drastic tactics to fight microscopic foe

A top government official from Australia said that he tested positive for the novel coronavirus, just days after he returned from a meeting with Ivanka Trump and a Justice Department event in Washington that was attended by Attorney General William Barr and acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf.

Peter Dutton, Australia’s home affairs minister, said Friday that he woke up with a fever and sore throat and would be checking into a hospital.

On March 5, Dutton had visited Justice Department headquarters for a news conference about an initiative to fight online sexual exploitation of children. Dutton was one of six government officials who spoke at the news conference, including Barr and Wolf.


With counterparts from Britain, New Zealand, and Canada, the officials stood together on a dais for about 45 minutes to discuss the initiative. Given the number of countries involved in the announcement, there were scores of people who attended the gathering.

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The group also met that day with White House officials, and Dutton was photographed standing directly next to the president’s daughter and a few feet from Barr.

Officials said Barr was staying home from work Friday but was feeling well, and medical experts have not recommended he get tested.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said Ivanka Trump, who worked from home on Friday, was evaluated by the White House Medical Unit and it was determined that because she was exhibiting no symptoms she does not need to self-quarantine.

Kellyanne Conway, a White House counselor also present at the meeting, confirmed she met with Dutton but said she had not been tested for the virus.

Washington Post

Blarney Stone kissing ban


LONDON — For almost 600 years, nothing has stopped anyone so inclined from kissing Ireland’s Blarney Stone to gain the gift of the gab.

No longer. The new coronavirus outbreak that caused the Irish government to strictly limit social interactions, including by shutting schools, universities, and day care centers, on Friday interrupted one of the country’s most-cherished traditions.

“This is a necessary step in the current climate, and for the first time in its history, no one will be kissing the Blarney Stone,” said Charles Colthurst, the owner of Blarney Castle, home of the famous block of limestone.

Legend has it that one of Colthurst’s 15th-century predecessors had a speech impediment, said Paul O’Sullivan, the castle’s marketing manager. According to the local lore, the castle proprietor saved a witch drowning in the lake on castle grounds. The witch told him that he would receive the gift of eloquence if he kissed the stone.

Associated Press

Canada Parliament shutters

TORONTO — Canada shut down Parliament and advised against all nonessential travel outside the country Friday while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau governed remotely from his home, in self-imposed quarantine after his wife tested positive for the coronavirus.


Dr. Theresa Tam, the chief public health officer, advised more social distancing and no handshakes and kisses, while the Canadian government advised canceling large events like concerts and Transport Minister Marc Garneau said cruise ships with more than 500 people will not be able to dock in Canada until July 1.

Overseas flights returning to Canada will also be restricted to a small number of airports.

Canada’s House of Commons voted to shut down for at least five weeks to help ensure lawmakers do not contribute to the viruspread of the virus.

Associated Press

State of emergency in Spain

MADRID — With Italy already submerged in a national quarantine, Spain took a major step Friday toward a similar lockdown as it struggles to ride the wave of the coronavirus pandemic spawning illness and fear around the globe.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said his government will declare a two-week state of emergency on Saturday, giving itself extraordinary powers including the mobilization of the armed forces, to confront the Covid-19 outbreak.

The positive cases could be over 10,000 by next week, the prime minister warned in his televised address, from more than 4,200 confirmed by midday Friday. A total 120 people have died, and 189 have been declared as recovered.

A state of emergency allows the central government to limit free movement, legally confiscate goods, and take over control of industries and private facilities, including private hospitals. It’s only the second time that the government has evoked it since the return of democracy in the late 1970s. The other was declared during a 2010 air traffic controllers’ strike.

Over 60,000 people awoke Friday in four towns near Barcelona confined to their homes and with police blocking roads, in the country’s first mandatory lockdown. The southeastern region of Murcia since announced it was locking down coastal areas popular with tourists.

Associated Press

Brazil’s president negative

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has tested negative for the new coronavirus, according to a post Friday on his official Facebook profile.

Concern about Bolsonaro’s exposure to virus — and possibly that of President Trump — had grown after confirmation that the Brazilian leader’s communications director tested positive. The senior official had joined Bolsonaro just days earlier at a meeting with Trump and senior aides in Florida.

There had been a swirl of confusing information earlier Friday, with some media reporting Bolsonaro had received an initial positive test result. But the president’s official social media account later said tests were negative, and also posted a photo of Bolsonaro making an offensive arm gesture to reporters earlier this year.

‘‘Don’t believe the fake news media!’’ he wrote in a subsequent post.

Bolsonaro’s meeting this week at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort also included Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump, son-in-law Jared Kushner, Brazil’s Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo, and Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo, who is a federal lawmaker, among others. Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani also went to Mar-a-Lago that evening.

Associated Press