The Latest: Printing of ‘The Plague’ in Japanese surges

By | April 8, 2020

The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.


— New York virus death toll tops 9/11 deaths.

— Printing of Albert Camus’ “The Plague” in Japanese surges amid virus crisis.

— The Bank of France says the French economy has entered recession.

— The unemployment rate in the Czech Republic remains unchanged.


TOKYO — The printing of Albert Camus’ “The Plague” in Japanese shot above the cumulative million mark, with 154,000 copies going into extra printing seven times since February.

People have been snatching up copies since the coronavirus pandemic hit, and a bookstore chain limited purchases to one copy per buyer to curtail literary hoarding.

“The book is offering insight for people on the basic question of how we must live life when we are all faced with these insular times,” publisher Shinchosha spokesman Morito Mamiya said Wednesday.

The novel, first published in French in 1947, and in Japanese in 1969, portrays the dilemma of human existence as a North African city gets overtaken by the plague. On a regular year, about 5,000 copies of the classic get sold in Japan, but it’s now No. 1 for literature at major Japanese bookstores.


PARIS — The Bank of France said the French economy has entered recession with an estimated 6% drop in the first quarter of this year compared to the previous three months, amid the lockdown of the country due to the coronavirus crisis.

In a statement Wednesday, the Bank de France said that every two weeks under lockdown could lead the French annual economic activity to shrink by 1.5%.

Confinement measures have been implemented since March 17 and are likely to be extended after the current April 15 deadline.

French Finance minister Bruno Le Maire said this week that the country will probably face this year its deepest recession since the end of World War II.

The French government launched a 45-billion euro ($ 48.8 billion) economic rescue package to support businesses. The sectors of construction, transport, restaurants and hotels are especially impacted.


PRAGUE — The unemployment level in the Czech Republic surprisingly remained at same level in March as the previous despite the epidemic of the coronavirus.

The Labor Ministry said on Wednesday the unemployment was unchanged at 3.00% last month. That is 225,678 people were without a job, the lowest number since 1997.

Analysts estimated a growth in unemployment would already come in March and expected the impact of the coronavirus crisis to be fully felt in April.

The unemployment might reach up to 10% later in the year, analysts predicted.

The government has approved various packages to help the struggling economy amid tough restrictions to contain the virus. It pledged to use up to $ 40 billion in direct aid and loans guarantees.

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The number of infected in the Czech Republic surpassed 5,000 and was at 5,033 on Wednesday morning, according to Health Ministry, 91 have died.


LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson has spent a second night in intensive care unit as his condition remained stable while he fought the new coronavirus.

Health Minister Edward Argar told the BBC on Wednesday that Johnson is receiving oxygen but is still not on a ventilator — a suggestion that at least his condition is not getting worse.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has temporarily taken over many of the prime minister’s duties to lead the country’s response to the pandemic as Johnson receives care. Britain has no official post of deputy prime minister.

Johnson is the first major world leader confirmed to have COVID-19. He was admitted to St. Thomas’ Hospital late Sunday with a fever and cough that persisted 10 days after he was diagnosed with the virus.

The 55-year-old was moved to the ICU on Monday evening after his condition worsened.

The news comes as the makeshift hospital installed at London’s ExCel convention center began receiving its first patients on Tuesday. The hospital was built to boost treatment capacity in London.


KATHMANDU, Nepal — Stranded British nationals boarded a chartered flight in Kathmandu on Wednesday in their first chance to leave Nepal since the country went on a complete lockdown more than two weeks ago.

The flight arranged by the British government had 268 passengers on board and was headed to London. Each passengers paid 800 pounds ($ 985).

Luke Tiller, a welder from Essex, said he and his partner waited for days before the flight was finally arranged while friends from other nations left Nepal days earlier.

Nepal’s government ordered a complete lockdown last month to stop the spread of the coronavirus; halting all flights and other transportation, shutting down markets, schools and offices. Nepal has nine confirmed cases of which one has already recovered.


BANGKOK — Thailand’s Immigration Bureau says the government has agreed to automatically extend the deadlines for tourists whose visas have expired in the past two weeks without requiring them to apply in person at government offices. Many were stranded by travel curbs instituted to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Immigration Police Deputy Spokesman Col. Cherngron Rimpadee said Wednesday the measure to extend visas until April 30 would become effective when signed by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, probably this week. The date may be extended depending upon the state of the coronavirus outbreak.

The visa issue had generated concern because the need to apply in person had caused crowded lines of people to form at the main immigration office on the outskirts of Bangkok, waiting for hours in unhealthy conditions that did not allow them to practice social distancing.

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Although Thailand is one of the world’s major tourist destinations, its immigration procedures for visitors and resident expatriates can be complicated and time-consuming.

Other Asian tourist destinations such as Indonesia have already allowed automatic visa extensions.


BRUSSELS — Finance ministers from the 19 countries that use the euro single currency have broken off talks amid deep divisions over how best to respond to the ravages of the coronavirus on European economies and will meet again Thursday.

Eurozone chief Mario Centeno had been scheduled to hold a news conference Wednesday morning, but EU headquarters said the event was cancelled, following talks deep into the night.

European governments are scrambling to put together hundreds of billions of euros to save lives as well as companies and families from going bankrupt. Many countries worst hit by the virus are also those that can least afford the costs, like Italy and Spain.

But they are divided over how best to tackle the challenge. Italy and Spain, backed by France, want to throw all the EU’s economic might into fighting the virus and damage from the disruption it’s caused as soon as possible.

However, nations like Germany and the Netherlands want to keep something in reserve should things get even worse. They are reluctant to share debt with EU partners without strict conditions out of concern that they might end up having to foot the bill.


TOKYO — Japan’s economy is headed to a record 25% contraction in the current quarter, even with the just announced government fiscal aid package, as the new coronavirus slams consumer spending and business growth, Goldman Sachs said Wednesday.

The dismal report by economists Naohiko Baba and Yuriko Tanaka said exports are expected to dive by 60% in the April-June period.

The contraction for the world’s third largest economy would be a record, since GDP, or gross domestic product, began to be tracked in 1955, according to the report.

The measures in Japan to curtail the spread of the pandemic don’t carry penalties, and public transportation continues to run. The declaration of a state of emergency centers around requests to work from home, and for department stores, restaurants and events to shut down. Grocery stores and banks remain open.

The report says the declaration “will meaningfully change the behavior of individuals, business owners and event organizers.”

The government announced a 108 trillion yen ($ 1 trillion) rescue package, but the report estimates the perk to GDP will total only 14 trillion yen ($ 130 billion), from the cash handouts to needy families and monetary help to small businesses.

The report doesn’t take a view on the outbreak’s future. But it says Japan’s economic activity will likely recover with the third quarter as overseas economies pick up and will “gradually normalize” next year, picking up with the postponed Olympics held in the summer. Japan’s GDP is expected to grow 3.1% in 2021, it said.

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SEOUL, South Korea — The South Korean capital of Seoul has shut down more than 400 hostess bars, night clubs and discos amid concerns over coronavirus transmissions.

The measures announced by Mayor Park Won-soon on Wednesday came a day after two female bar employees were found to have contracted the coronavirus after one of them contacted a pop-star customer who also tested positive, triggering public calls for stronger controls on entertainment venues.

Park says the temporary gathering bans imposed on the 422 venues through April 19 will shut down all such businesses in the city for now as 1,700 others had already closed or suspended operations under the city’s anti-virus recommendations.

Park says officials have placed 118 of the bar employees’ contacts under self-quarantine and are testing them for COVID-19. So far, 18 of them have tested negative.

The singer, Yoon Hak, of the K-pop boy band Supernova, had visited the southern Seoul bar in late March before testing positive on April 1.

South Korea’s government has shut schools and issued social-distancing guidelines for the public to slow the spread of the virus, but has not enforced lockdowns or broad business closures.


TOKYO — Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe repeated his request to the people to stay home and cooperate Wednesday, the day after he declared a monthlong state of emergency to Tokyo and six other prefectures.

The measure allows Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and her counterparts in six prefectures to issue stricter requests to the residents to stay home and businesses and organizations to shut down, though there will be no penalties to violators.

“I hear many company workers are switching to working from home. Only your cooperation can allow us to get out of the state of emergency in a month,” Abe said. He asked everyone to reduce interactions with people by up to 80%.

Abe has been criticized for being too slow to take significant steps over concerns about the Tokyo Olympics and a possibility of a severe economic impact from social distancing measures. Abe said Tuesday he took the measure as a surge of untraceable cases has made Japan’s strategy of cluster analysis difficult and medical systems were facing a risk of collapsing

Japan’s health ministry on Wednesday, said 351 new cases were reported from around the country, bringing the national total of the virus infections to 4,257 with 81 deaths. Tokyo alone had 80 cases for a prefectural total of 1,196.


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