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The Latest: Global coronavirus cases top 500,000

Posted on Thursday, March 26th, 2020 By The Associated Press

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

TOP OF THE HOUR:

— With more than 6,000 new infections in Italy, worldwide total exceeds 500,000.

— China temporarily bars all foreign nationals.

— U.S. jobless claims reach record 3.3 million.

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ROME — Italy has reported 6,153 new coronavirus infections, pushing the global total over half a million, based on a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Italy now has 80,539 cases, almost as many as China. Italy’s Civil Protection Agency reported 662 deaths on Thursday, bringing the country’s death toll to 8,165, which is the highest in the world.

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MOSCOW — The Russian military said its personnel have deployed to Bergamo in northern Italy on to help local clinics treat coronavirus patients.

Russian Maj. Gen. Sergei Kikot said the Russian military personnel is split in eight teams, each having doctors, nurses and support workers.

Kikot leads the group of Russian military medics sent to Italy earlier this week on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s orders to help fight the epidemic. At Italian authorities' request, they will be sent to sanitariums for the elderly patients in Bergamo to assist the local medical staff.

The Russian group also has disinfection equipment.

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SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgarian lawmakers on Thursday voted to shut down Parliament because of fears over the spread of the coronavirus. The Balkan country is in a state of emergency until April 13 and until then, sittings will only be convened when emergency laws are adopted.

The ruling parties said the temporary shutdown was a preventive measure to protect lawmakers who are sitting too close together in the chamber. The government's advice for social distancing requires everyone to stay at least 2 meters (7 feet) away from each other to limit contact.

But opposition lawmakers voiced fears that the move could jeopardize democracy and open doors for dictatorship.

Bulgaria has confirmed at least 264 cases and three deaths from the coronavirus. Of those infected with COVID-19, eight people have recovered.

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico’s top health official has resigned, the second to do so in less than two weeks amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Interim Health Secretary Concepción Quiñones stepped down on Thursday. She was appointed after former Health Secretary Rafael Rodríguez resigned earlier this month after the governor and others complained about how the department was handling COVID-19 cases.

A new health secretary has not been announced for the U.S. territory, which has reported two coronavirus deaths and more than 60 confirmed cases.

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WASHINGTON — The Navy says an outbreak of COVID-19 infections aboard an aircraft carrier in the Pacific has forced it to divert to Guam so that all 5,000 aboard will undergo testing.

The acting secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly, told reporters that the carrier remains “operationally capable.” Even so, other officials said the number of infected sailors has risen sharply, from three reported initially to “dozens” as of Thursday.

Modly said the carrier, which is the first U.S. Navy ship to have a reported outbreak while at sea, had about 800 COVID-19 test kits aboard and more were being delivered. He said the initially reported cases were sailors with relatively mild symptoms.

The Navy said earlier this week that the Theodore Roosevelt’s most recent port call was in Vietnam.

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JOHANNESBURG — South Africa's coronavirus cases are closing in on 1,000 as the total number of cases across Africa have risen above 3,000.

On the eve of a three-week lockdown, the South African government said Thursday it has 927 cases, the most of any African country. Its brief statement did not mention any deaths.

Forty-six of Africa's 54 countries now have the virus. At least 73 deaths have been reported across the continent, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government has been in discussions with the White House about persuading the U.S. not to put troops on its border with Canada amid the pandemic.

Trudeau noted Canada and the United States have the longest un-militarized border in the world and it is very much in their mutual interests for it to remain that way. He says it has benefited both economies tremendously.

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BRUSSELS — European Union leaders are calling for urgent and "massive" coordinated international action to stop the coronavirus pandemic.

Following a videoconference with G20 leaders, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel said in a joint statement that “fast, massive and coordinated global action is necessary on the health and economic fronts to save lives and avoid a further economic crisis.”

Michel and von der Leyen thanked G20 leaders for the solidarity shown to Europe. They stressed that the EU is determined to assist countries vulnerable to the crisis outside the 27-member bloc, “especially in Africa.”

The duo also insisted it’s crucial to keep trade flows and supply chains open in the economic response to the crisis in order “to maintain our ability to manufacture and provide the necessary protective and medical equipment.”

The EU also asked G20 members “to assist each other in repatriating citizens stranded abroad who wish to return home.”

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RABAT, Morocco — Hundreds of tourists who were traveling in Morocco in motorhomes have found themselves stranded in a parking lot near a Tangier highway that authorities turned into a makeshift quarantine center.

The mostly British tourists were told they were no longer allowed to wait at the Moroccan side of the Spanish enclave of Ceuta.

They were there in the hope of being allowed entry into Spain. Ceuta is just over 20 kilometers across the sea from Gibraltar, which is British.

Moroccan authorities are in the process of equipping the parking lot with electricity and essential accommodation. The tourists fear they may have to stay there for months. The British embassy declined to comment.

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ATHENS, Greece — A group of lawyers has appealed to Greece’s highest court against the ban on services in churches and places of worship across the country, imposed last week to fight the coronavirus spread.

In a legal action made public Thursday, the four lawyers claim the temporary prohibition is unconstitutional and illegal.

The measure was taken March 16 and applies through March 30. The appeal is set to be heard May 5.

Greece’s powerful Orthodox Church had initially hesitated to take substantial measures to address the epidemic, and refused to stop the Communion sacrament in which the faithful sip from a common spoon. People are still allowed to visit churches to pray, so long as they keep a 6-foot distance from each other.

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BEIJING — China is temporarily barring all foreign nationals from entry as it seeks to curb the number of imported COVID-19 cases.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that foreign nationals with residence permits will be prevented from entering the country starting on Saturday. All visa-free transit policies also will be temporarily suspended.

Diplomatic workers will be exempt, while foreign nationals coming to China for “necessary economic, trade, scientific or technological activities or out of emergency humanitarian needs” can still apply for visas, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“The suspension is a temporary measure that China is compelled to take in light of the outbreak situation and the practices of other countries,” the statement said.

As the number of China’s reported domestic COVID-19 cases has dwindled, it has had to contend with imported infections from recent overseas arrivals. These individuals have accounted for the majority of China’s new cases for more than a week.

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LOS ANGELES — The FBI has arrested a Southern California man who officials say falsely claimed to have developed a cure for the coronavirus.

The U.S. Justice Department says in a statement that Keith Lawrence Middlebrook told his 2.4 million Instagram followers that his company would return hundreds of millions of dollars in profit and solicited investments in the company to market the medication.

The statement says Middlebrook claimed he had developed pills to prevent COVID-19 infections and a drug to cure those suffering from the virus.

There are no known cures or vaccinations for the coronavirus. It wasn't known if Middlebrook has an attorney who could comment.

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DENVER — A statewide stay-at-home order is in effect in Colorado to stem the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

Gov. Jared Polis announced Wednesday he was taking the “extreme measure" because the restrictions taken to date haven't been enough to reduce the spread of the virus. Polis says if people don't follow the order there will be a much worse economic disaster with greater disruption for a longer time.

Starting Thursday, the state's 5.7 million people should only leave home for grocery shopping, medical care, exercise or taking care of a vulnerable person. It's in effect until April 11.

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JERUSALEM — Israeli airline El Al says it is suspending all flights to and from Israel beginning at midnight.

The suspension will last until April 4.

A statement from the company says it made the decision because of a sharp decline in demand and to protect passengers and crew from infection.

Like other airlines, El Al has faced a crisis following the spread of the coronavirus and is seeking government assistance.

The company, which had previously suspended flights from certain countries with outbreaks, has already laid off a chunk of its workforce.

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MADRID — Officials say a U.S. Navy sailor stationed at a naval base in southern Spain has tested positive for the coronavirus.

A statement from Naval Station Rota says an investigation is under way to track who had contact with the sailor.

The base supports U.S. and NATO vessels.

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WARSAW, Poland — The chief rabbi of Poland says the Jewish community in Warsaw is saying kaddish, or a reciting special prayer for the dead, for communities in the United States, Israel and elsewhere in Europe as synagogues in most places can no longer holds services because of the coronavirus.

Rabbi Michael Schudrich, originally from New York, told The Associated Press on Thursday the historic Nozyk Synagogue in the Polish capital is still holding prayers services. A minyan, or a gathering of at least 10 adult males, is required for kaddish to be said under Jewish law.

He says requests for prayers for departed loved ones have come in from New York, New Jersey, Texas and elsewhere in the United States, as well Canada, the U.K. and Israel.

Schudrich says the prayers offer “some consolation at a difficult time” for the mourners. Poland was home to Europe's largest Jewish community before the Holocaust.

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MADRID — Real Madrid and Spanish sports authorities say the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium will be used to store donations of medical supplies to help combat the coronavirus outbreak.

The soccer club says it will use the stadium to store private donations. They will be distributed by government authorities to hospitals.

Spain has 56,188 infections and more than 4,000 deaths from the COVID-19 virus.

Civic groups, businesses and individuals are donating much-needed masks and any material that can used to make protective gear for doctors and nurses.

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PARIS — Six lawsuits have been filed in France accusing the government of not acting quickly enough to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

A judicial official told The Associated Press on Thursday the suits were filed by individuals or groups seeking the prosecution of government ministers for manslaughter, putting people in danger or failing to help people in danger.

More than 1,300 people have died from the virus in France. More than 25,000 cases have been confirmed.

One case was filed by a 46-year-old man from the Paris region who contracted the virus, his lawyer told France-Info radio. It accuses the government of “stalling” as the virus spread around the world.

France imposed nationwide confinement measures last week, nearly two months after the first cases appeared in the country.

The lawsuits were filed with a special court for prosecuting government ministers. It will decide whether to take the cases.

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MOSCOW — Kazakh authorities announced they’re tightening the quarantine in the country’s two largest cities to prevent further spread of the coronavirus.

Starting Saturday, residents of Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan’s capital, and Almaty, the country’s largest city, can leave their homes only to buy groceries and medicine or go to work.

A government statement also says public places, such as parks and playgrounds, will be closed. Groups of more than three people will be banned except for families.

In Shymkent, Kazakhstan’s third largest city, the airport, the railway station and all kindergartens will be closed. Kazakh officials also announced “gradual” restrictions on public transport in the cities.

Kazakhstan has reported 109 cases of the virus.

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WASHINGTON — Nearly 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week — more than quadruple the previous record set in 1982 — amid a widespread economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus.

The surge in weekly applications was a stunning reflection of the damage the viral outbreak is doing to the economy. Filings for unemployment aid generally reflect the pace of layoffs.

The pace of layoffs is sure to accelerate as the U.S. economy sinks into a recession. Revenue has collapsed at restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, gyms, and airlines. Auto sales are plummeting, and car makers have close factories. Most such employers face loan payments and other fixed costs, so they're cutting jobs to save money.

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BERLIN — Germany has increased its ability to test for the new coronavirus to 500,000 a week.

Lothar Wieler, the head of Germany's Robert Koch disease control center, says the number of tests being conducted in the country was likely the highest worldwide, both in absolute numbers and per capita.

Christian Drosten, a leading virologist at Berlin's Charite hospital, says about 6-7% of tests come back positive.

So far, there have been 39,500 cases in Germany and 222 deaths.

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PRAGUE — The Czech Republic is offering 10,000 protective suits to Italy and Spain to help the two countries hardest hit by the outbreak of the coronavirus in Europe.

Interior Minister Jan Hamacek says the country “can afford it and they desperately need them.”

Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek says he was in touch with the ambassadors of the two countries about how to transport the protective equipment.

The Czech Republic has 1,775 people infected with the coronavirus, six people have died.


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