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The Latest: Moscow orders 9-day closure for many locations

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:

— Moscow orders nine-day closure of several businesses and some parks.

— Sweden, Denmark and Finland consider new restrictions.

— Britain's government orders 10,000 ventilators.

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MOSCOW — Moscow officials on Thursday ordered to close restaurants, cafes, bars, shopping malls and some parks in the city for nine days starting from Saturday.

The move, aimed at keeping people at home amid the coronavirus outbreak, comes a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared next week a holiday, during which only essential businesses — such as pharmacies, grocery stores and banks — will continue to operate.

The number of coronavirus cases in Russia has been growing rapidly this week. Russian authorities reported 840 cases of the new coronavirus on Thursday, with 182 new cases registered since the day before.

On Tuesday, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin told Putin that the situation is "serious." Russia's comparatively low caseload could reflect insufficient screening rather than the actual scale of the epidemic, he said, and urged Putin to ramp up testing all across the country.

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STOCKHOLM — Sweden saw a surge in the number of deaths that could change the Scandinavian’s rather lax approach keeping primary and elementary schools, restaurants and bars open and even encouraging people to go out and enjoy the spring sun.

Health officials have within the past 24 hours seen an increase of 18 deaths since Wednesday, bringing the total to 62 deaths in the country of 10 million that has had 2,510 people tested positive of which 176 are in intensive care.

The head of Stockholm’s health service Bjorn Eriksson said “the storm is over us,” hours after Anders Tegnell of the Public Health Agency of Sweden told a news conference that the situation was “stable.”

In neighboring Denmark, the government allegedly was planning to further tighten the law so that smaller groups — less than 10 — can be banned.

And in Finland, the government says it will in an exceptional move block the movement of citizens into and out of a key southern region that includes the Nordic nation's capital, Helsinki, to prevent the spreading of coronavirus to other areas. The Uusimaa region includes Helsinki and affects the daily lives of some 1.7 million people, nearly a third of Finland's population.

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LONDON — Britain’s government has ordered 10,000 ventilators to grapple with the COVID-19 crisis.

Billionaire inventor James Dyson told his staff in an email that a team of engineers had been working on a design for the last 10 days since receiving a request for help from Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Dyson says the device draws on technology used in the company's air purifier ranges and is powered by a digital motor.

The device was created in partnership with Cambridge-based science engineering firm TTP and still must face regulatory approval.

Britain wants to increase the availability of ventilators from 8,000 to 30,000.

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TOKYO — Tokyo Olympic organizers announced Thursday that they are canceling a cultural event featuring collaborative performances of kabuki and opera next month due to the spreading of the coronavirus.

The event already had a setback last year after world-famous tenor Placido Domingo withdrew following his sexual harassment allegations.

The cancellation follows Tuesday’s agreement between Tokyo’s Organizing Committee and the International Olympic Committee to postpone the Tokyo Games until the summer of 2021 due to the ongoing global pandemic.

The revised “Tokyo 2020 Nippon Festival” scheduled for April 18, was to feature Japanese kabuki actor Ebizo Ichikawa and opera singers — Italian soprano Anna Pirozi and Uruguayan bass-baritone Erwin Schrott — in a performance aimed at bringing together the east and the west and contrasting the traditional and the modern.

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia's king and queen are under quarantine after seven palace staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

The palace said Thursday that seven staff were hospitalized Tuesday and health authorities were trying to identify the source of the transmission. It said King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah and his wife Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah were tested for the virus, but both were negative. It said the royal couple decided to observe a 14-day self-quarantine from Wednesday, with deep cleansing to be carried out in the palace.

Malaysia, which has 21 deaths and the highest total of cases in Southeast Asia at 1,796, has extended its lockdown by another two weeks to April 14.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka: — Sri Lanka’s president Gotabaya Rajapaksa has requested international donor agencies to provide a debt moratorium or debt deferment facility to all developing nations facing the risk of being severely affected by coronavirus.

Rajapaksa had urged Director General of the World Health Organization to forward this request to multi-lateral and bilateral lending agencies.

He has pointed out that such “a relief would be helpful to manage COVID-19 Social Distancing, Public Health and Social Security Systems in those countries.”

His statement comes as Sri Lanka will have to repay a US $4.8 billion external debt this year amid an economy that performed poorly last year. The island nation’s economy suffered a severe blow last year due to the Easter Sunday bomb attacks by Islamic militants.

Sri Lanka’s economic growth is estimated to hit an 18-year low of 2.7 to 2.8% in 2019.

However, the International Monetary Fund said in February that Sri Lanka’s economy is gradually recovering from the terrorist attacks last April. The IMF said the real GDP growth is estimated at 2.6% in 2019 and that the GDP growth in 2020 is projected at 3.7%.

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MOSCOW — Russian government officials announced the halting of all international flights starting from Friday amid the coronavirus pandemic.

An exception will be made for flights bringing Russians home from abroad, according to a statement published Thursday on the cabinet’s website.

Earlier this month, Russian authorities limited its air traffic to regular flights to world capitals and charter flights.

The new measure comes as the number of coronavirus cases in Russia rapidly grows. On Wednesday, the government reported a total of 658 cases, with 163 new cases registered since the previous day. That is a significantly bigger daily increase than in previous weeks, when the number of cases was growing by several dozens a day.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s central bank says it will temporarily provide an “unlimited” amount of money to eligible banks and other financial institutions for three months through repurchase agreements as it tries to calm financial markets rattled by the global coronavirus crisis.

The Bank of Korea on Thursday said the measure was unprecedented but didn’t provide an estimate on how much money would be supplied to financial markets through the short-term borrowings.

The bank last week executed an emergency rate cut of 0.5 percentage points to help ease the economic fallout from the coronavirus, which brought its policy rate to an all-time low of 0.75%.

Some experts say it’s unclear whether traditional financial tools to boost money supplies would be effective now when the global pandemic has damaged both supply and demand, decimating industrial hubs in China and Italy and forcing millions to stay at home under tightened quarantines.


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