The Latest: China reports further drop in virus cases

International

Faithful watch Pope Francis deliver the Angelus prayer on a giant screen, in St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, March 8, 2020. Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced a sweeping coronavirus quarantine early Sunday, restricting the movements of about a quarter of the country’s population in a bid to limit contagions at the epicenter of Europe’s outbreak. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

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ROME (AP) — The Latest on the coronavirus outbreak (all times local):

1:30 a.m.

China is reporting another slight drop in the number of new virus cases.

In its update Monday morning, China said 40 cases of infection with the new coronavirus were confirmed in the past 24 hours, down from 44 new cases the previous day.

Another 22 deaths were reported, all but one in the hardest-hit province of Hubei that has been the epicenter of the global outbreak.

China now has now recorded 80,735 total cases, among which 19,016 remain in treatment and 58,600 have been released.

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12:45 a.m.

Three cases of COVID-19 have been identified in the U.S. state of Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Sunday.

All three individuals with COVID-19 recently took a cruise in Egypt before returning home to Johnson County in Iowa. They are recovering at home in isolation.

Iowa health officials said one of the individuals is between 41 and 60 years old. The other two individuals with COVID-19 are between 61 and 80 years old.

The cruise that the three individuals were on ran from Feb. 17 to March 2. The individuals returned home on March 3.

“While these are the first cases, it may not be the last and it’s why Iowans must continue to practice safe habits like hand-washing and staying home from work when sick,” Reynolds said.

Health officials will work to determine who the three individuals had contact with since they returned, State Epidemiologist Dr. Caitlin Pedati said. It wasn’t immediately clear whether people who were in contact with the individuals will have to self quarantine.

Iowa health officials have now tested 37 individuals for COVID-19. Twenty-six tests were negative, and eight tests are still pending results. Those results are expected Monday.

The virus has infected more than 100,000 people and killed more than 3,400 globally, although most people who have contracted the virus since December have now recovered.

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12:15 a.m.

The Democratic leaders of the U.S. Congress are proposing paid sick leave for people affected by coronavirus outbreaks as well as other economic initiatives they say will help workers and their families.

In a joint statement Sunday night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer framed the proposals as a counter to the Trump administration’s call for tax cuts for major corporations reeling from the impact of the virus.

The proposals include enhanced unemployment insurance benefits for those who may lose their jobs, and expanding food stamps, school lunches and other food-related assistance. They also propose standards for and sufficient distribution of protective equipment for health care and other workers in contact with people exposed to the virus, and widespread and free coronavirus testing.

Pelosi and Schumer say that patients must be reimbursed for any noncovered coronavirus-related costs, and that consumers are protected from price gouging for medical and nonmedical essentials.

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9:35 p.m.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says American passengers of the Grand Princess cruise ship will be taken to military bases in California, Texas and Georgia to be tested for the COVID-19 virus and for a 14-day quarantine.

The department said Sunday nearly 1,000 California residents will complete the mandatory quarantine at Travis Air Force Base north of San Francisco and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar near San Diego. Residents of other states will complete the mandatory quarantine at Joint Base San Antonio Lackland in Texas or Dobbins Air Force Base in Georgia.

It says all will be monitored for symptoms of COVID-19 throughout their quarantine.

The Grand Princess ship, which is carrying more than 3,500 people from 54 countries, is expected to dock at the Port of Oakland, California, on Monday.

Federal officials say the Department of State is working with the home countries of several hundred passengers to arrange for repatriation to their countries.

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9:10 p.m.

France is banning events of more than 1,000 people to limit the spread of the coronavirus and recruiting recently retired medics and medical students to help deal with growing numbers of infections.

The country reported 1,126 cases as of Sunday, up 19% from the day before, the second largest number of cases in Europe after Italy. So far, 19 people in France have died.

“The coming weeks will be difficult,” Health Minister Olivier Veran said Sunday after President Emmanuel Macron held an emergency security meeting to develop anti-virus strategy.

Protests, exams and public transport could be exempt from the ban on large gatherings, because they are “useful to the life of the country,” Veran said. He suggested that nationwide municipal elections coming in a week would be maintained.

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6:45 p.m.

Italy’s total number known number of COVID-19 cases crept past that of South Korea, becoming the country with the second-highest number of infections Sunday after China.

Italian government authorities say the country now has 7,375 cases. That is 62 more than South Korea.

China has more than 80,000 cases.

Early in the outbreak, Italy was zealous in testing those living in hotbed areas, even if they had no symptoms or close contact with someone known to be infected. So far, Italian health personnel have performed some 50,000 tests.

Most of Italy’s deaths and cases have occurred in Lombardy, a populous northern region which the government ordered under lockdown Sunday until April 3.

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6:15 p.m.

A cruise ship is being held off the coast of Florida on Sunday awaiting test results on whether two crew members have contracted the new coronavirus.

The Miami Herald reports that the Regal Princess was supposed to dock in Port Everglades on Sunday morning but was instead sailing up and down the coast. The crew members in question had transferred from the Grand Princess cruise ship in California where nearly two dozen on board have tested positive for the virus, including 19 crew members.

The Coast Guard delivered testing kits to the Regal Princess on Sunday morning and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a “no-sail order” for the ship.

It is unclear how many people are on board, but the cruise line’s website says it has a capacity of 3,560 guests. Emails and phone calls to the cruise line, Coast Guard and port were not immediately returned Sunday.

The Regal Princess’ next cruise scheduled to leave Port Everglades for a seven-day Caribbean trip was also canceled.

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4 p.m.

Germany’s health minister is urging event organizers to consider postponing any gatherings with more than 1,000 people as a measure to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Jens Spahn told the dpa news agency on Sunday that in his view, organizers are still going ahead with too many events like sports games, concerts and trade fairs.

He says “I am aware of the consequences this will have for citizens and organizers — we will talk about how we will deal with the economic consequences in the next few days.”

Germany’s governing parties are meeting Sunday night to talk about several measures, including bridge loans and possible tax deferrals for particularly hard-hit sectors such as the travel and hospitality industries.

They’re also talking about relaxing labor laws to allow more short-term employees to help companies with many workers out sick, and moving ahead a tax cut with the hope of stimulating the economy.

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2:55 p.m.

Already staggering under weeks of fears about the spread of the coronavirus, Italy’s tourism industry has now taken an even more punishing blow.

The Vatican announced Sunday that in coordination with drastic Italian government measures aimed at containing Italy’s virus outbreak, Europe’s worst, it is shutting down its museums, which include access to the Sistine Chapel, until April 3.

The chapel’s ceiling and altar wall, frescoed by Michelangelo, are one of the world’s biggest tourist attractions, and a high point of Vatican Museums visits.

The Vatican said its one case of coronavirus is that of a person who had come to the Holy See’s health facilities as part of a doctor’s visit ahead of being hired. Five people who had close contact with that person have been put in quarantine as a precaution

The Italian government’s decree also shut down outdoor sites like Pompeii’s extraordinary archaeological ruins and a blockbuster exhibit in Rome of more than 100 paintings and drawings by Raphael, which was mounted to mark the Renaissance artist’s 500th anniversary of his death from a fever in the city.

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2:55 p.m.

Dozens of Americans who are on a cruise ship off the California coast will be securely transferred to a military base outside Atlanta to undergo coronavirus testing.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said 34 Georgians are among the U.S. citizens expected to arrive at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta on either Monday night or Tuesday morning.

Kemp said people from other eastern U.S. states would also be quarantined at the military base, but he did not specify how many.

The Grand Princess is carrying more than 3,500 people from 54 countries. It is expected to dock in Oakland, California, on Monday. Vice President Mike Pence announced Friday that at least 21 people aboard the ship, including 19 crew members, have tested positive for the virus.

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2:45 p.m.

Greece’s Health Ministry has announced that all sports events in the country will take place without spectators for the next two weeks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The ministry also says that recreation and support centers for the elderly will shut down for two weeks and no school trips will take place during that period.

As of Saturday night, 66 cases of the virus had been identified in Greece, 47 of them among a group of 54 travelers to Israel and Egypt. Four other cases involve people coming in contact with those travelers. There have been no fatalities. A 66-year-old man, among the traveling group, is in intensive care.

The government is expected to announce economic measures related to the disease outbreak Monday.

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2:15 p.m.

Authorities in southern Italy have expressed concern that a mass movement of people moving from north to south would only spread the coronavirus to regions that have had relatively few cases.

The worries come after Italy announced a sweeping quarantine early Sunday for its northern regions, igniting travel chaos as it restricted the movements of a quarter of its people in a bid to halt the coronavirus’ relentless march across Europe.

Gov. Michele Emiliano, who leads the region of Puglia in the ‘’heel’’ of the boot-shaped Italian peninsula, said in his dramatic appeal, “Don’t bring the Lombard, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna epidemic into our Puglia, by running away to prevent the government decree” from effectively taking effect.

He said he signed an ordinance requiring a quarantine for all those who arrive in Puglia from Lombardy and the 11 other northern provinces covered by the lockdown. Italian state TV reported that other governors in the south, which includes the Campania region around Naples and Sicily, were intent on doing the same.

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1:50 p.m.

Britain’s health secretary has outlined emergency plans to deal with the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, pledging to do “all we can” to contain the virus.

The plans, which will likely go through Parliament by the end of the month, are expected to include measures to allow some court proceedings to be conducted via telephone or video. Volunteers who leave their main jobs to help health care systems will also be given employment safeguards.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he wants “to ensure government is doing everything in its power to be ready to delay and mitigate this threat.”

Some 206 people in the U.K. have tested positive for the virus, according to data last updated on Saturday. Two people have died.

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1:50 p.m.

The authorities in Thailand are looking for 70-80 workers who returned from South Korea but did not immediately go into a required 14-day quarantine to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

Deputy Minister of Public Health Satit Pitutecha said Sunday the workers must report to the authorities within three days or face legal penalties.

Thailand last week announced a policy under which all workers returning from South Korea must be quarantined for 14 days.

The arriving workers who left Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport without going into quarantine all arrived before midnight Saturday, according to Thanarak Plipat, deputy chief of the health ministry’s Department of Disease Control.

Thanarak said 60 more Thais who returned from South Korea on flights arriving after 1 a.m. Sunday were sent as planned to a naval base at Sattahip in eastern Thailand, which is the country’s main official quarantine facility. He said the operation to provide escorts for the returning workers began only after midnight Saturday.

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1:20 p.m.

The Israel Airports Authority has announced massive cutbacks in response to the coronavirus’ devastating effects on air travel.

The authority said Sunday it is putting 70% of its temporary workforce on unpaid leave and overtime has been canceled for all employees. To protect those with families, it was decided that single employees would be put on leave first. Senior management has announced it is forfeiting 50% of its bonuses as well.

Israel has confirmed 25 cases of the virus, including a 38-year-old man who was in serious condition on Sunday. Some 20,000 people have been ordered into 14-day home quarantine protectively. The local travel sector has taken a beating, as scores of flights in and out of the country have been canceled.

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12:40 p.m.

In an extraordinary measure aimed at discouraging crowds, Pope Francis didn’t appear at a Vatican palazzo window to deliver his Sunday noon Angelus blessing and remarks.

Instead, a video of his reading his comments and reciting prayers standing at a lectern near a microphone in the Vatican’s apostolic library was beamed on maxi-screens set up in St. Peter’s Square to the faithful.

The bells of St. Peter’s Basilica tolled as the window opened and Francis appeared for a few seconds to wave to the people below in the square. But he made no comments from the window, having already delivered the broadcast remarks.

The measure — which was announced on Saturday — was aimed at discouraging crowds from gathering in the square, where on days with good weather like this Sunday as many as 40,000 people can turn out to watch the pope in the window. Several thousands of tourists and faithful turned out anyway, scattered across the vast, cobblestone square.

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11:05 a.m.

Italy’s Rai state TV says the governor of Piedmont in northern Italy has the coronavirus, the latest Italian governor to test positive.

On Saturday, the governor of Lazio, the region including Rome, announced that he was staying in quarantine because he had been told he’s positive for the virus.

Earlier in the outbreak, the governor of Lombardy, the populous northern region at the heart of the outbreak, announced he was putting himself in quarantine because a close aide had tested positive.

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10:40 a.m.

On the first day of a sweeping quarantine in northern Italy, even outdoor sites like the sprawling ruins of Pompeii, the ancient Roman city destroyed by volcanic eruption in 79 A.D., were shut to tourists.

In Rome, the blockbuster exhibition of “Raffaello,” a tribute to one of the Renaissance’s greatest artists for the 500th anniversary of his death, was shuttered Sunday, only three days after it opened to the public. A notice on its website said advance ticket holders would be contacted about the closure, which lasts until April 3.

The show, which assembled 120 works of Raphael in what was described as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to see so many of his paintings and drawings loaned from museums and private collections worldwide, is due to close on June 2. Curators have said it would be nearly impossible to prolong it, with some many works on loan from museums eager to have them back.

Italy announced the quarantine early Sunday for its northern regions, igniting travel chaos as it restricted the movements of a quarter of its people in a bid to halt the coronavirus’ relentless march across Europe.

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10:40 a.m.

Bulgaria has announced its first four coronavirus cases.

The national coronavirus task force confirmed Sunday that a 27-year-old man from the northern town of Pleven and a 75-year-old woman from the central town of Gabrovo had tested positive for the virus.

Chief state health inspector Angel Kunchev said the two had not traveled or contacted anyone who had returned from a country with a coronavirus outbreak.

Both had been hospitalized a few days ago with severe respiratory problems.

After health officials tested a total of 70 people who had been in contact with the two infected, they announced that the samples of a 61-year-old man from Pleven and a female health worker from Gabrovo had tested positive.

The Balkan country of 7 million, which is one of the last in the region to report coronavirus cases, is already facing a nationwide influenza epidemic, with schools closed and hospitals packed with patients.

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10:40 a.m.

Japan’s ancient sport of sumo is grappling with the harsh reality of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Spring Grand Sumo Tournament kicked off on Sunday in Osaka at Edion Arena with no spectators as part of Japan’s extraordinary efforts to halt the spread of the virus.

Wrestlers arrived wearing face masks and were required to use hand-sanitizing spray before entering the arena. They were also required to take their temperatures before entering the raised ring. If a wrestler has a temperature above 37.5 degrees celsius (99.5 degrees Fahrenheit) for two or more days, he will be forced to sit out the tournament.

Sumo officials have said if a wrestler is diagnosed with the coronavirus, the 15-day tournament will be immediately halted.

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