By The Associated Press
The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 360,000 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:
— Myanmar announces first two confirmed cases of coronavirus
— British PM to address nation, may impose stricter rules to combat virus spread
— Czech government to pay up to 80% of worker salaries if companies avoid layoffs
YANGON, Myanmar — Myanmar has announced its first two confirmed cases of COVID-19, one in the nation’s biggest city, Yangon, and the other in the western state of Chin.
An announcement on the Facebook page of the Health Ministry says the Yangon patient is a 26-year-old male who had recently traveled from the United Kingdom and was hospitalized Saturday. The 36-year-old male patient from Chin State is said to have recently traveled from the United States and was hospitalized Monday.
There had been widespread skepticism that Myanmar had no cases of the coronavirus until now, because it has a long, porous border with China and a decrepit health infrastructure which would have trouble detecting the disease. The government had already restricted the entry of visitors from countries considered to have serious outbreaks and canceled April’s celebrations of the Thingyan annual traditional water festival.
LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to address the nation tonight amid mounting speculation that he is to announce more draconian restrictions to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Johnson, who cancelled his daily afternoon news conference, is currently meeting with senior members of his government and health experts within the COBRA emergency committee.
The prime minister is coming under mounting pressure to introduce tougher measures, even of an Italy-style lockdown, after many people were seen over the weekend not observing the government’s social distancing recommendations.
British government figures Monday show another 54 people who had tested positive for the COVID-19 disease had died from the previous day, taking the total to 335.
The British government has also updated its travel advice and is now urging all British travelers to return home as soon as possible.
PRAGUE — The Czech government has adopted another aid package for the economy struggling amid the outbreak of the new coronavirus.
At the same time, Finance Minister Alena Schillerova says the budget deficit for this year will increase five times to 200 billion Czech crowns ($7.8 billion). Schllerova says the economy might fall by 5.1% this year.
Labor Minister Jana Malacova says the government agreed to pay up to 80% of the salaries of people who can’t work as a result of the epidemic and companies keep them on the payroll.
“We don’t want the companies to lay off their employees,” Malacova said.
The government also suspended a system requiring businesses to report all their sales online. The businesses don’t need to use the electronic reporting system during the current state of emergency plus another three months after the coronavirus crisis is over.
The government had already agreed last week to use up to $40 billion to help the economy in direct aid and loan guarantees.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island is the latest state to postpone its presidential primary as the impact of the new coronavirus widens.
Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Monday the state will move its planned April 28 primary to June 2.
Rhode Island joins Connecticut, Maryland, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana and Ohio in postponing their April 28 primaries — dubbed the “Acela Primary” or “I-95 Primary.”
PORTLAND, Ore. — Gov. Kate Brown has ordered Oregonians to stay at home and banned all non-essential gatherings to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
Brown issued the executive order after people swarmed the state’s beaches, hiking trails and parks over the weekend. The crowds prompted several coastal towns to order non-residents out and shut down their hotels.
The order closes businesses such as malls, retail complexes, arcades, barber shops, hair salons, gyms and fitness studios, skating rinks, theaters and yoga studios. Also closed are playgrounds and sports courts.
Oregon has had five deaths from COVID-19 and 161 confirmed cases.
WASHINGTON — A senior State Department official says roughly 13,500 American citizens stranded abroad because of the coronavirus pandemic are seeking help in returning to the United States.
The official said Monday that thousands more Americans are expected to return on department arranged flights in the coming weeks, about 1,500 of whom are booked on flights over the next several days. The official said the repatriations are being done with a combination of military flights, chartered passenger planes and commercial airlines where airports are still open. The official said the Department of Homeland Security has also offered to bring Americans home on planes that it uses to return deportees to mainly Central American nations.
The official says that since late January the department has helped to evacuate more than 5,000 Americans from 17 countries, including early repatriation efforts for 800 people from China and more than 300 from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan. Some 1,200 from were transported from Morocco last week, the official said.
The official urges Americans abroad seeking help to enroll in the department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, or STEP, at https://step.state.gov/ to get alerts from embassies. The official says the department had over the weekend doubled the capacity of the server that handles STEP enrollments to address complaints that the system was not working well. The department has also set up call lines for Americans needing assistance: 888-407-4747 (toll free) or (202) 501-4444.
A second official says fewer than 30 State Department employees at 220 embassies, consulates and other diplomatic facilities have thus far tested positive for the virus and that the number of U.S.-based employees is in the single digits, with clusters of one or two testing positive at offices in Washington, Boston, Houston, Seattle and Quantico, Virginia. The State Department employs some 75,000 people worldwide. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak on the matter by name.
TORONTO — Canada’s most populous province is ordering the closure of all non-essential businesses.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the order will be effective at midnight Tuesday and will be in place for at least 14 days.
Ford says he will release the list of businesses that will be allowed to stay open, but food will remain on store shelves and people will still have access to pharmacies.
MADRID — Spain’s defense minister says troops helping fight the coronavirus outbreak have come across elderly people apparently abandoned in their retirement homes.
Defense Minister Margarita Robles says some of those found were dead.
She tells Spain’s Telecinco says they were “completely left to fend for themselves, or even dead, in their beds.”
She did not say how many the soldiers encountered, nor where.
She said authorities will use the full force of the law to punish those responsible.
Spain reported 4,517 new infections of the coronavirus Monday, bringing the overall number since the beginning of the outbreak to 33,089. It has 2,182 fatalities.
ROME — Italy’s day-to-day increases of new cases of COVID-19 have dropped considerably compared to figures from a day earlier.
According to data released on Monday by Italy’s Civil Protection agency, new cases rose from a day earlier by 4,789 cases.
That’s nearly 700 fewer new cases that were reported in the day’s previous day-to-day increases. Italy has been anxious to see daily new case loads drop as it health system struggles to keep up with the world’s largest outbreak after China.
Day-to-day increase in deaths also were fewer than the day before: 602 compared to 651 reported by authorities on Sunday.
Health authorities have said it will need a few more days to see if a positive trend holds, including in northern Lombardy region, which is the nation’s worst stricken region.
The latest numbers come nearly two weeks into a national lock-down in a desperate bid to contain Europe’s largest outbreak.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s health minister says the country will begin the mass production of respirators for domestic use and to export to countries in need.
Fahrettin Koca said the government will also employ 32,000 more health workers across Turkey to fight the virus. A number of health personnel had contracted the virus, Koca said, adding that the exact figure would be released at a later date.
The minister also said that Turkey has imported and started using a drug from China that was effective in treating coronavirus patients there.
The virus has claimed the lives of 30 people in Turkey while at least 1,236 people have been confirmed as COVID-19 positive. Koca said some of those infected have recovered, but would not provide numbers.
WASHINGTON — The Transportation Security Administration is reporting that 24 screening officers at 10 airports around the country have now tested positive for the coronavirus.
It also says an additional five employees who have limited interaction with travelers have also tested positive. Those numbers from Monday are up from just seven employees a week earlier.
Hardest hit is New York City’s John F. Kennedy Airport where five screening officers have tested positive.
TSA says security lanes remain open there are fewer passenger than have ever been counted by the agency at U.S. airports.
In addition to both New York City airports, officers have tested positive at airports in Newark, New Jersey; Washington, D.C.; New York City; Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, Florida; Atlanta; Cleveland; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; and San Jose, California.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico has announced a record $777 million financial package to help alleviate the economic impact of the coronavirus in the U.S. territory.
The package is the biggest so far compared to any U.S. state.
Gov. Wanda Vázquez said Monday there will be a 90-day moratorium for mortgages as well as car, personal and commercial loans. She also announced a flurry of bonuses including ones ranging from $2,000 to $4,000 for nurses, police and other emergency workers.
The announcement comes amid a 13-year recession on an island that is still struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria and a string of recent strong earthquakes that together caused billions of dollars in losses.
SEATTLE_— Boeing is suspending operations at its Seattle area facilities due to the spread of the coronavirus in the area.
Operations would be reduced beginning Wednesday and production would be suspended for a two weeks.
“This necessary step protects our employees and the communities where they work and live,” said Boeing President and CEO Dave Calhoun.
The aerospace ginat employs more than 60,000 people in Washington state.
BRUSSELS — European Union finance ministers agreed Monday to activate an “escape clause” in the rules underpinning the euro single currency to give countries the budgetary flexibility they need to protect their economies from the ravages of the coronavirus.
The ministers insist that they remain committed to the rules, known as the Stability and Growth Pact, but that the escape clause allows them to take measures “departing from the budgetary requirements” so they can more effectively tackle the economic consequences of coronavirus.
It would allow EU countries to support their health and civil protection systems with steps such as further discretionary stimulus and coordinated actions.
Increasingly worried about the economic fallout of the global shutdown, EU member nations and Britain have announced major rescue packages worth billions of euros.
The EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, has also temporarily eased state aid rules so countries can help sectors at risk. (edited)
INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb on Monday ordered state residents to remain home for two weeks starting Wednesday.
Exceptions are allowed for workers in essential industries or to go outside for groceries and medicine.
Holcomb’s order mirrors orders in adjacent states and runs until April 6 but could be extended if needed. It directs the state’s 6.8 million residents to stay at home.
Holcomb said that the next two weeks “are critical if we are to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Mark Esper said at the Pentagon he has put five military field hospitals, with equipment and medical personnel, on “prepare-to-deploy” orders and expects two of them to go to Seattle and New York this week.
Esper told reporters that he has spoken to as many as 10 governors in recent days who are all requesting military field hospitals. He said FEMA is making final decisions on what locations are top priorities. Esper said he sees the military field units as stopgap measures that can be deployed to cities for a few weeks at a time until the communities can get gyms, hotel rooms and other facilities transformed into additional hospital space.
UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called Monday for an immediate cease-fire in conflicts around the world to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
The U.N. chief said: “It is time to put armed conflict on lock down and focus together on the true fight of our lives.”
Guterres said people caught in armed conflicts, which are raging around the world, are among the most vulnerable and “are also at the highest risk of suffering devastating losses from COVID-19.”
He told reporters from U.N. headquarters in New York that it’s time to silence guns, stop artillery, end airstrikes and create corridors for life-saving aid.
“End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world,” the secretary-general said.
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia’s prime minister said the new Slovak government is planning to increase testing for the coronavirus
Prime Minister Igor Matovic said on Monday that the number of tests should reach 3,000 a day “as soon as possible.”
Until now, the country was averaging about 300 tests daily. It’s one possible reason the country has only 186 reported cases of COVID-19.
The four-party coalition government led by Matovic’ populist center-right Ordinary People group was sworn in on Saturday after it won February’s parliamentary election.
GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization says the coronavirus outbreak is accelerating but insists “we can change the trajectory of this pandemic.”
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that COVID-19 has now been reported in nearly every country in the world.
He said it 67 days from the first reported case to reach the first 100,000 cases; 11 days for the second 100,000 cases and just four days for the third 100,000 cases.
Tedros said he would speak with heads of state and government from the G20 countries, saying he would ask them to help increase production, avoid export bans, and ensure fair distribution of “lifesaving tools” that are facing a growing shortage.
He noted measures put in place to slow the spread of the virus may be exacerbating shortages of essential protective gear and the materials.
BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman says the German leader has tested negative for the coronavirus.
Spokesman Steffen Seibert told news agency dpa on Monday that “further tests will be conducted in the coming days.”
Merkel went into quarantine at home on Sunday evening after being informed that a doctor who had administered a vaccine to her had tested positive for the coronavirus.
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