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The Latest: British PM bans gatherings of over two people

Posted on Monday, March 23rd, 2020 By The Associated Press


A passenger wearing protective gear as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 walks in the terminal 1 of the Geneve Aeroport, in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, March 16, 2020. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.(Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)

The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 375,000 people and killed over 16,000. The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms in most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or those with existing health problems. More than 100,000 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

— British PM bans gatherings of more than 2 people as part of tougher measures

— Trump: US economy could reopen in weeks, not months

— Out-of-work Australians stand in lines reminiscent of Great Depression

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LONDON — British Prime Minster Boris Johnson has ordered the closure of most retail stores and banned public gatherings of more than two people in a stepped-up response to slow the new coronavirus.

The British government had been taking a more relaxed approach to the pandemic until Johnson announced tougher measures during an address to the nation.

He told the public to "stay at home" for all but a few exceptions. Johnson ordered shops that don't sell essential items to close immediately. He says weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies will be stopped. Funerals are an exception.

Johnson says the coronavirus is the “biggest threat this country has faced for decades.”

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says he thinks the U.S. economy, which has been virtually shut down because of the coronavirus, could be reopened in weeks, not months.

When asked if doctors on his team agreed with his belief that re-opening the economy could be done while the nation continues to battle the virus, Trump says if it were up to doctors, they would shut down the entire world.

Trump says, "I'm not looking at months, I can tell you right now. We're going to be opening up the country."

The president wouldn't say when businesses would reopen. He says the lessons learned about fighting the virus in past weeks will allow the country to continue prevention and open up the country at the same time.

Trump had said earlier that the U.S. might not get back to normal until July or August.

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CANBERRA, Australia — The Australian government is asking the newly jobless to wait a few days before registering for unemployment benefits after long lines formed outside welfare offices.

The lines across the country were reminiscent of the Great Depression after a government website crashed after tens of thousands of online applications.

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston appealed for “patience and calm.”

Australia put thousands out of work by shutting down bars, gyms, cinemas, nightclubs, restaurants and a host of other places where large groups of people gather in a bid to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has signed an executive order making it a crime to excessively stockpile personal protective equipment that is needed by medical personnel fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Attorney General William Barr says the Justice Department has already launched investigations into people who are hoarding supplies and price gouging. He says investigators will go after people who are “hoarding these goods on an industrial scale for the purpose of manipulating the market.”

The executive order allows the president to designate some items as “scarce.”

Barr says, "If you are sitting on a warehouse with surgical masks, you will be hearing a knock on your door.”

No specific items have been identified yet and the Justice Department will work with Health and Human Services to enforce the president’s order.

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WASHINGTON — COVID-19 is attacking nearly 1 of every 1,000 persons in the New York metro area of New Jersey, New York City and parts of Long Island.

Deborah Birx, coordinator of the U.S. coronavirus response, says that's five times what other areas are seeing.

She says that 28% of the specimens from the New York metro area are testing positive, compared with less than 8% in the rest of the country. New York officials are asking that only people with severe symptoms get tested.

Birx says clearly the coronavirus has been circulating in the New York metro area for a number of weeks for it to have that level of penetration into the general community.

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says the federal government is postponing the deadline for obtaining REAL ID-compliant identification cards because of the coronavirus.

Travelers would have been required to present REAL ID cards to board U.S. flights starting on Oct. 1. The president says a new deadline will be announced soon.

Under the law, Americans are required to visit their state’s Department of Motor Vehicles and obtain a REAL ID-compliant card, or alternative such as a U.S. passport, if they want to fly domestically or access federal facilities.

The nation's governors have urged the Department of Homeland Security to extend REAL ID deadline for no less than a year.

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says he plans to issue an executive order mandating that anyone arriving on a flight from New York City and the surrounding area submit to self-quarantine for two weeks.

DeSantis says over 100 such flights arrive daily in Florida and he believes each one contains at least one person infected with the coronavirus. Passengers will be screened when they arrive and told they must self-quarantine. They won't be allowed to stay with family or friends because that is one way the virus is spread.

DeSantis says he's been in contact with federal officials about curtailing such flights, but hasn't heard back yet. He didn't say how the self-quarantine would be enforced.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says he understands DeSantis' order since New York is an epicenter for the virus in the U.S. However, he has mixed feelings about travel restrictions and says, “I'm not sure it's the most enlightened approach.”

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SAO PAULO — In Brazil, the head of Sao Paulo state’s center overseeing the fight to stop the spread of coronavirus has tested positive.

Gov. João Doria on his official Twitter account confirmed the diagnosis of Dr. David Uip, an infectious disease specialist.

Doria appeared with Uip in multiple news conferences recently. Doria says he was recently tested for Covid-19 and will release results once they are available.

Brazil has reported 1,891 cases of coronavirus, the most in Latin America. Almost 40% are in Sao Paulo, which is Brazil's most populous state. That's wherer 30 of the nation’s 34 deaths have occurred.

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — All commercial passenger flights bound for Puerto Rico will be forced to land at the island’s main international airport.

Gov. Wanda Vázquez says the Federal Aviation Administration approved her request in a bid to curb coronavirus cases.

The Luis Muñoz Marín airport in San Juan is the only one in the U.S. territory with temperature scanners. The National Guard is posted there and has screened over 25,000 passengers. At least nine are awaiting test results.

Puerto Rico has a total of seven airports, including a second international one located in the northwest town of Aguadilla. The island has reported two deaths and 31 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

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ROME — The man known in Italy as Patient No. 1 in the country’s devastating outbreak of the coronavirus is out of the hospital a month after he arrived in critically ill condition.

Authorities in Italy's hardest hit region of Lombardy played an audio message recorded by the 38-year-old man in which he says, “You can get cured of this illness.”

The man identified only by his first name of Mattia spent 18 days in intensive care on a respirator. After that time, he says he began to do on his own “the most simple and beautiful thing: that is, to breathe.”

The man is awaiting the birth of a child within days. Last week, Italian media reported the death of his father, who lived in one of the first towns in Lombardy that were at the heart of the outbreak’s start.

Italian doctors say that even before Mattia's case, they suspect the virus was circulating in Italy and that some patients who died of pneumonia last fall might have had coronavirus.

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PHOENIX — An Arizona man has died and his wife is in critical condition after the couple took an additive used to clean fish tanks.

Banner Health says the couple in their 60s took chloroquine phosphate and got sick within 30 minutes.

Last week, Trump misstated that the malaria medication chloroqine was a known treatment for COVID-19. Even after the FDA chief clarified that the drug still needs to be tested, Trump overstated the drug’s potential upside in containing the virus.

Dr. Daniel Brooks, medical director of Banner Poison and Drug Information Center, says the last thing health officials want is for emergency rooms to be swamped by patients who believe they found a vague and risky solution that could potentially jeopardize their health.

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KIRKLAND, Wash. — Federal inspectors say they found three serious problems during their check of a Seattle-area nursing home hard-hit by the new coronavirus.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, along with state regulators, found in a March 16 inspection that the Life Care Center of Kirkland failed to rapidly identify and manage sick residents and didn't notify the Washington Department of Health about the increasing rate of respiratory infections among residents. The nursing home also lacked a backup plan in the absence of Life Care's primary doctor, who fell ill.

At least 35 COVID-19 deaths are linked to the nursing home. Life Care officials didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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VATICAN CITY — The Vatican’s daily newspaper is suspending its print edition as a result of the coronavirus-related shutdown.

It is only the second time in its more than 150-year history that L’Osservatore Romano will cease printing starting Thursday. The other time was on Sept. 20, 1870, when Italian forces entered Rome in the final major push of the process to unify the Italian peninsula and defeat the Papal States.

Editor-in-chief Andrea Monda says the newspaper's online edition will continue unchanged throughout the crisis, and the print edition will return as soon as possible. Italy, the European epicenter of the virus pandemic, has ordered all non-essential industry to shut in a bid to contain the virus.

L’Osservatore Romano prints a daily edition in Italian and weekly or monthly editions in English, Spanish, French, German and Polish. The content skews heavily toward international news and features on religion and culture, though the daily also publishes papal speeches, decrees and appointments.

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CAIRO — Sudan’s transitional authorities say they are releasing over 4,200 prisoners as part of government measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

SUNA, the official news agency, says the first group went free Monday from a prison in Om Dorman, the twin city of the capital Khartoum. It said the rest would be released in the coming days.

Sudan announced a nightly curfew across the country starting Tuesday to stem the spread of coronavirus. Sudan has two cases, including a fatality.

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NEW YORK — Gov. Andrew Cuomo promises 1,000 temporary hospital beds will be set up inside a Manhattan convention center as officials race to prepare for an overwhelming number of coronavirus patients.

Cuomo says the pandemic is “is going to get much worse before it gets better.”

The number of positive coronavirus cases in New York state has surged to over 20,000, with more than half the cases in New York City. The city has emerged as a worldwide hotspot for the outbreak, with more than 12,000 known cases.

In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot says the city plans to reserve thousands of hotel rooms for people with mild cases of the coronavirus and others unable to return to their homes while awaiting test results.

Lightfoot says the city has partnered with five hotels and will have 1,000 rooms available by Tuesday. Chicago officials describe the plan as a proactive measure to keep hospital beds available for people with severe symptoms.

Illinois officials have reported 1,285 cases as of Monday and 12 deaths; that's up from 1,049 cases and nine deaths a day earlier.

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NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus has stepped up restrictions on the movement of all citizens in a bid to halt the spread of the coronavirus with a nationwide three-week ban on all unnecessary trips outside the home.

President Nicos Anastasiades says that a “disobedient, ill-disciplined and reckless” minority of people who continue to flout existing restrictions are potentially putting lives at risk. He warned in a televised address that the measure is necessary to head off the unchecked spread of the new virus that could lead to the collapse of the health system.

Anastasiades ordered all citizens to remain indoors unless they have to go to work, pick up food and other essential supplies, visit the doctor or a pharmacy, go to the bank or help others in need. The order remains in effect until April 13.

Anastasiades says all citizens who must be outside have to carry their I.D. card or passport and those who don’t conform could face criminal charges and an on-the-spot fine of 150 euros ($161).

Cyprus has 116 confirmed coronavirus cases and one death.

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SAN DIEGO — A U.S. Navy hospital ship set sail from San Diego and planned to spend a few days at sea getting its newly formed medical team used to working together before arriving in Los Angeles to help the city free up its hospital beds.

USS Mercy commanding officer Capt. John R. Rotruck says the ship has 1,000 beds and will begin taking patients who do not have coronavirus from area hospitals a day after it docks in Los Angeles. The ship will have 1,128 active-duty medical personnel on board, 58 reservists and nine of its 12 operating rooms will be ready to perform surgeries.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom had called on President Donald Trump to send the ship to the Port of Los Angeles because of the growing number of cases in the state.

For now, Navy officials say the ship will remain in the area as long as it's needed. It could be sent on to other cities on the West Coast.

The USS Comfort hospital ship is preparing to go to New York, where the governor has been pressing for medical help.


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