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LONDON — Prince Charles, the oldest son of Queen Elizabeth II and heir to the British throne, has contracted the coronavirus, Buckingham Palace said Wednesday, adding that he had been suffering from mild symptoms since last weekend.

Medical advisers said that Charles was otherwise in good health and that they did not expect the virus to develop into a more serious illness, according to an official at the palace. But Charles, 71, met with the queen March 12 — a day before the advisers said it was possible that he became infectious.

The prince’s illness, and his potential exposure to the queen and other members of the royal family, rattled an already nervous Britain, which has seen the number of cases and deaths accelerate rapidly over the past few days, prompting Prime Minister Boris Johnson to put the country into a virtual lockdown.

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Buckingham Palace said the queen, who turns 94 next month, “remains in good health.” She sequestered herself in Windsor Castle last week with her husband, Prince Philip, 98, saying that she and her family would follow the social distancing guidelines set out by the government.

Charles, also known as the Prince of Wales, was tested by the National Health Service in Scotland on Monday, according to a palace official. He received a positive result the next day and is recuperating at Birkhall, a cottage on the grounds of Balmoral, the queen’s Scottish residence. He is isolated from his wife and staff, the official said.

“He has been displaying mild symptoms but otherwise remains in good health and has been working from home throughout the last few days as usual,” the palace said in a statement. It added that his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, “has also been tested but does not have the virus.”

The description of Charles’s symptoms as mild raised questions about whether he was granted preferential treatment in being tested. The guidelines for the National Health Service in Scotland say that people will generally be tested only “if you have a serious illness that requires admission to the hospital.” The palace said Charles and his wife “met the criteria required for testing.”

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New York Times

Spain now the hardest-hit country in deaths after Italy

MADRID — The number of coronavirus deaths in Spain surpassed 3,400 on Wednesday, as health authorities struggled to cope with what has emerged as the worst outbreak in the world after Italy.

The overnight increase of 738 deaths, taking the death toll to 3,434, was the biggest increase the country has reported so far. A total of 47,610 people have tested positive, according to Spain’s ministry of health.

The rise meant Spain leapfrogged ahead of the official death tally in China, where the global pandemic began but the rate of reported new infections has tapered off. There have been 3,285 deaths in China, according to Johns Hopkins data. Italy remains the world’s worst-hit country, with more than 6,800 dead.

The picture in Spain is grim. Soldiers have discovered bodies abandoned in nursing homes where dozens have died. The capital Madrid, the worst-hit area, has turned an ice-skating rink into a morgue, but municipal workers say they lack the protective supplies to collect the dead. Spanish television has broadcast images of sickened patients sleeping in hospital corridors, while staff complain that medical supplies are so low they’ve been forced to use plastic garbage bags as protection instead of gowns.

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Health specialists expect the situation to get worse before it gets better, warning that hospitals could reach their capacity for new intensive care patients as early as this week, as the number of serious cases peak.

Italy has been the hardest-hit nation in Europe with more than 69,000 infections and 6,800 deaths. Authorities are investigating whether a hotly contested Champions League soccer game in Milan in February poured rocket fuel on the crisis that is overwhelming Italian hospitals. Italian doctors are being forced to choose who will receive desperately needed ventilators and who won’t.

Washington Post / associated Press

Citing virus, Putin delays vote to extend his rule

MOSCOW — Citing the coronavirus, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday postponed a nationwide vote on proposed constitutional amendments that include a change potentially allowing him to stay in office until 2036.

Putin didn’t set a new date for the plebiscite originally scheduled for April 22, saying it would depend on how the pandemic develops in Russia.

He also announced during a televised address to the nation that the government doesn’t want Russians to go to work next week, except for those in essential sectors. Stores, pharmacies, and banks will stay open, he said.

Russian authorities reported 163 more virus cases in the country Wednesday from a day earlier, bringing the national total to 658. That marked a significantly bigger daily increase from previous days, when the number of new infections grew only by several dozens.

Russia’s comparatively low number of cases given its size and shared border with China raised questions and doubts about the veracity of official statistics. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin told Putin Tuesday that the low number could reflect insufficient screening in Russia rather than the actual scale of the outbreak and said the situation was “serious.”

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Kremlin critics have accused the authorities of manipulating coronavirus statistics to ram the constitutional vote through at any cost — allegations that the government has rejected.

Associated Press

Canada imposes mandatory self-isolation for returnees

TORONTO — Canada announced Wednesday it is imposing mandatory self-isolation for those returning to Canada under the Quarantine Act.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu said on Twitter that the government is making it mandatory to better protect Canada’s most vulnerable.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said it will begin at midnight Wednesday and the requirement will be for 14 days.

Associated Press