The Latest: SKorea warns churches over flouting restrictions

Health News

People wearing face masks walk at a down town street in Hong Kong Monday, March 16, 2020. For most, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for a few, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illnesses, including pneumonia. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

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The Latest on the coronaviruspandemic, which has infected more than 182,000 people and killed more than 7,100. The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms but most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or people with existing health problems. More than 79,000 people have recovered from it so far, mostly in China.

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A South Korean province surrounding Seoul has threatened to shut down nearly 140 churches that have failed to implement preventive measures amid a spread of the coronavirus in the country’s most populous metropolitan region.

Gyeonggi Province said Tuesday that it has issued an administrative order for the churches to list the names of attendants, screen them for fever and ensure that they wear masks and are at least 2 meters apart during services until March 29. The province can close the churches and fine them as much as $2,400 if they fail to abide by the order.

More than 70 of the province’s COVID-19 cases have been connected to gatherings at Protestant churches. Forty-six of the infections have come from a small church in the city of Seongnam, where officials possibly worsened infections by using the same spray bottle to inject saltwater into the mouths of followers in an ill-advised effort to disinfect them.

South Korea has confirmed 84 new cases of the virus and six more deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing its total numbers to 8,320 infections and 81 fatalities.

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Sri Lanka says it will add more quarantine centers to help fight the coronavirus in the Indian Ocean island nation.

Army commander Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva said Tuesday that 23 army vacation bungalows will be used as quarantine centers for a group of travelers who arrived recently from London.

The government, meanwhile, said it has imposed new measures to limit gatherings. Court cases to be taken up from March 17 to 20 will not be called in open courts. The public can obtain information on their cases at courts in the first week of April.

Sri Lanka has confirmed 28 cases of the virus, with no deaths so far.

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Ohio’s top health official halted the state’s presidential primary over concerns about the coronavirus, hours before voting was to begin.

Gov. Mike DeWine announced the decision after failing to persuade a judge to delay in-person voting because crowds at polling places Tuesday could put people at unacceptable risk of catching and spreading the virus.

DeWine’s office later confirmed Dr. Amy Acton had issued the order.

Officials in Arizona, Florida and Illinois felt they had done enough to ensure the safety of voters, even though there may be too few poll workers and some poll locations have changed. Georgia, Kentucky and Louisiana have postponed their scheduled primaries.

Turnout is already expected to be light as only the Democrats have a contested primary, between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.

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The Philippine Stock Exchange was closed with no trading Tuesday after the president placed the northern part of the country including Manila in quarantine.

The exchange’s CEO said the end of trading activity would be “until further notice.”

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte placed the northern third of the country under an “enhanced community quarantine” that requires millions of people to stay mostly at home in an attempt to contain the coronavirus.

Most office work and mass transit on Luzon Island, including Manila, will be suspended for a month. Public movement will be restricted and large gatherings banned except for medical and other emergencies.

Banks, hospitals, drugstores and supermarkets will remain open but only one family member can make such trips and should observe “social distancing.”

The Philippines has 140 cases of infection. The 12 deaths due to COVID-19 are the most in Southeast Asia.

Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri said he had tested positive for the virus, becoming the highest Philippine official to be infected.

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President Nicolás Maduro has ordered the entire nation of Venezuela to stay home under a quarantine aimed at cutting off the spread of the new coronavirus.

The socialist leader’s directive in a national TV broadcast Monday came a day after first telling residents in the capital of Caracas and six other states to remain home. He called the latest move a “drastic and necessary measure” to halt the devastation of Venezuela.

Venezuela is especially vulnerable with poorly supplied hospitals amid the once-wealthy nation’s social and economic collapse.

Venezuela announced its first two cases on Friday. Three days later, Maduro now says the number has risen to 33.

Officials in Argentina have confirmed that its chief diplomat in Caracas is among the newly diagnosed cases.

The streets of Caracas under the first day of the initial quarantine were deserted and most businesses were closed.

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New Zealand’s government said Tuesday it would spend billions of dollars supporting hard-hit companies as it tries to shore up an economy headed for recession because of the new coronavirus.

The stimulus package is equivalent to 4% of GDP. A large chunk of the new spending will go to businesses that have lost more than 30% of their income as a result of the downturn. Other money will go toward health costs, income support, and the airline industry.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said a recession in New Zealand is now almost certain and would likely be more severe than the downturn after the 2008 global financial crisis.

The government currently has a net debt level much lower than many other countries that gives it room to borrow.

New Zealand has so far been largely spared from the disease itself, with only eight confirmed cases of COVID-19. But many parts of the economy have already been hard it, especially the tourism industry, the nation’s single largest earner of foreign income.

The government is also requiring nearly every new arrival to quarantine themselves for two weeks, effectively halting the flow of tourists.

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South Korea has reported 84 new cases and six more deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing its total numbers to 8,320 cases and 81 deaths.

Infections continued to slow in the worst-hit city of Daegu, where 32 new cases were reported. The city’s daily increase of COVID-19 infections has been in the double digits since last Thursday after averaging around 500 new cases per day in early March.

But there’s concern growing over a steady rise of infections in the Seoul metropolitan area, where infection clusters have emerged around an insurance company call center, a number of churches and a computer gaming room. As of Tuesday, 558 cases have been confirmed in the capital and nearby Incheon and Gyeonggi province cities.

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China recorded a slight increase in virus cases on Tuesday to 21, with 13 deaths, all but one in the hardest-hit province of Hubei where the outbreak began.

The country reported the first cases of the then-unidentified illness in December before COVID-19 grew into a pandemic with 181,000 cases across the world. China now accounts for less than half the world’s caseload and less than half of the global death toll.

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Dollar General is dedicating the first hour of its daily store operations to senior citizens in response to the coronavirus.

The discount retailer with stores in 44 U.S. states said starting Tuesday, it is strongly encouraging younger customers to visit later in the day so seniors can shop early and avoid crowds.

“We appreciate our customers’ understanding of our decision and request they visit our stores later in the morning to allow at-risk populations the ability to purchase the items they need at affordable prices,” said Dollar General CEO Todd Vasos.

COVID-19 symptoms are mild for most people but the illness can be severe in older people and those with existing health problems.

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The International Rescue Committee is launching an emergency campaign to raise $30 million to help refugees, people displaced in their own countries and those living in nations with weak health systems respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

IRC President and CEO David Miliband said that “while coronavirus is a serious threat where there is a health system, its dangers are magnified in communities where there is no such system.”

He said in a statement that “refugees, families displaced from their homes, and those living in crisis will be hit the hardest by this outbreak.”

COVID-19 is now confirmed in crisis-affected countries where the IRC operates like Afghanistan, Iraq, Burkina Faso and Venezuela, Miliband said, warning that the virus “will thrive in active war zones like Yemen and Syria, putting the lives of thousands of civilians in even more danger.”

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A Pennsylvania distillery owner who grew increasingly angry as he saw the skyrocketing price of hand sanitizer has decided to temporarily convert his operation into a production line for the suddenly hard-to-find, alcohol-based disinfectant.

Eight Oaks Farm Distillery filled its first 20 bottles Monday, a batch destined for charitable groups that need hand sanitizer but haven’t been able to get it because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The family-owned distillery plans to dramatically boost production this week and distribute the bottles to charities as well as offer them online and at farmers markets where it sells its spirits. The price: Whatever people decide to donate.

Other distilleries are also putting their spirits to work to help fill the shortage of hand sanitizers. Green Mountain Distillers is Morrisville, Vermont, is giving away a hand sanitizing solution and Durham Distillery in Durham, North Carolina, is donating one to hospitality colleagues, using high-proof alcohol and other ingredients.

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Health officials report that six more people have died of the new coronavirus in Washington state, bringing the death toll there to 48.

King County officials said Monday that the latest victims ranged in age from 50 to a woman in her 90s who was a resident of nursing center in Redmond. None was identified as being a resident of the Life Care Center in Kirkland, which has been the epicenter of the virus in the state.

Washington has nearly two-thirds of the total coronavirus deaths in the United States.

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The governor of the only U.S. state without a confirmed case of the new coronavirus has declared a state of emergency so certain rules on personnel and purchasing could be waived.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said Monday that he doesn’t want the state to be “asleep at the switch” because it hasn’t had a positive test.

Justice has repeatedly said the virus is likely in the state but is undetected because of a national lack of testing.

U.S. Sen Joe Manchin, a Democrat, echoed concerns about the small amount of available testing.

“If it gets a hold of our state, we don’t have the health care in order to defend ourselves. It could be devastating,” he said in a conference call.

About 20% of West Virginia’s population is over age 65, one of the highest rates in the nation.

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President Donald Trump says the United States “may be” headed toward a recession as the economy continues to be battered amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Trump spoke to reporters Monday at a White House briefing as cases in the U.S. continue to spike.

The president says his administration’s focus is on stemming the virus. Once the spread of the virus is stopped, Trump said he believes the U.S. economy will see a “tremendous, tremendous surge.”

The president also is pledging federal support for airlines struggling because of the pandemic, saying he’s “going to back the airlines 100%.”

Trump also says governors that need ventilators, respirators, masks and other equipment for medical professionals should first try to acquire the items on their own before turning to the federal government for help.

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France is imposing nationwide restrictions on how far from their homes people can go and for what purpose as part of the country’s strategy to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

French President Emmanuel Macron said “movements will be very strongly reduced” for 15 days starting at midday Tuesday.

He says residents will only be permitted to leave their homes for necessary trips such as going to work or the supermarket.

Macron said in televised remarks that the government decided to order the restrictions because people haven’t complied with earlier public health measures and “we are at war.”

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Top public health officials are urging Americans to abide by new recommendations aimed at halting the spread of the coronavirus that will dramatically alter American life.

The White House is urging all older Americans and those with underlying health conditions to stay home and away from other people. And it is recommending that all Americans work from home, avoid bars and restaurants, and avoid social gatherings or groups of more than ten people.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci says the recommendations are commensurate to the crisis and warns that, “They will fail if people don’t adhere to them”

Trump says the U.S. could be coping with the virus until July or August,” and maybe “longer than that.”

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Sirens blared across Puerto Rico’s busiest beaches as police cleared hundreds of tourists from the U.S. territory’s coast in a crackdown on people violating a newly imposed curfew aimed at curbing the new coronavirus.

Using loudspeakers, police in patrol cars ordered people off the beach Monday: “Please stay at home. Governor’s executive orders. The beach is closed.”

The sweep surprised many tourists in the capital of San Juan, some of whom disregarded orders to stay inside their hotels on a sunny day.

Other tourists heeded the warnings and shuffled back to their hotels, many carrying take-out meals before locking themselves in.

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The Russian government says that it has decided to bar entry to all foreigners starting Wednesday.

Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin announced the decision Monday to deny entry to all foreign nationals starting from Wednesday until May 1.

The decision will not apply to diplomats, foreigners permanently staying in Russia, plane and ship crews and truck drivers.

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Actor Idris Elba says he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Elba tweeted Monday that he has no symptoms so far and has been isolated since Friday when he found out about his possible exposure.

Elba is the latest high profile celebrity to have tested positive for the virus. Last week, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson said they had also tested positively in Australia.

Elba in a video message said that his wife has not been tested yet but is feeling OK.

“This is serious. Now’s really the time to think about social distancing, washing your hands,” Elba said.

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The lead U.S. agency handling the coronavirus outbreak says it is investigating a potential cyber incident.

Federal agencies are under continual cyberattack, and the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement Monday that it had put extra protections in place as it prepared to deal with the coronavirus.

Spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said in a statement that the department on Sunday “became aware of a significant increase in activity on HHS cyber infrastructure and are fully operational as we actively investigate the matter.”

HHS said it’s coordinating with federal law enforcement to find out what happened.

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Britain is dramatically ramping up measures to combat the new coronavirus, telling U.K. residents to avoid “all unnecessary contact” with others.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says people should work from home whenever possible and avoid pubs, theaters and restaurants. If anyone in a household has a fever or persistent cough, everyone there should stay at home for 14 days.

He said that these new restrictions are “particularly important” for people over 70, pregnant women and those with underlying health conditions. Johnson said the most vulnerable should be shielded from social contact for 12 weeks starting this weekend.

Until Monday, the U.K. had resisted taking some of the tough measures seen in other European countries. But Johnson said that the “without drastic action” cases of the virus in the U.K. could double every five to six days.

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The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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