The Latest: French culture minister tests positive
ROME (AP) — The Latest on the coronavirus epidemic sweeping the globe (all times local):
Officials say the commander of the U.S. Army in Europe and several staff members may have been exposed to the new coronavirus.
The Army says in a statement Monday that Lt. Gen. Christopher G. Cavoli and the others are self-monitoring their health and working remotely.
Also Monday, French officials said that Culture Minister Franck Riester tested positive for the virus.
French Health Minister Olivier Veran says that Riester has shown “few symptoms” and is under self-quarantine at home.
Veran says Riester had spent time at the country’s National Assembly lower house of parliament where several lawmakers tested positive.
Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte says he is restricting travel nationwide to try to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.
Monday’s decree came the same day it was announced that the first COVID-19 patient in the northern Italy cluster is breathing on his own for the first time since he tested positive.
The 38-year-old named Mattia was moved out of intensive care Monday. He tested positive Feb. 21 and opened Italy’s health care crisis.
Italy has 9,172 cases of the new virus. With the latest numbers, Italy again overtook South Korea as the country with the most cases outside China. More than 460 with the virus have died in Italy.
Officials in the United States are reporting four more deaths of people infected with the new coronavirus, bringing the total in the country to 26, most of them in Washington state.
Health officials in Washington on Monday reported three more coronavirus deaths, all residents of a Seattle-area nursing home that has been racked by COVID-19.
Washington state has now at least 22 deaths linked to the coronavirus. Authorities say 19 of those are associated with the Life Care Center of Kirkland.
In California, officials reported the second COVID-19 death in the state after a Santa Clara County woman in her 60s died Monday.
The other two U.S. virus-related deaths took place in Florida.
The virus has infected at least 600 people in the U.S.
A cruise ship with a cluster of coronavirus cases has arrived at a port in the San Francisco Bay Area after it was forced to idle off the California coast for days.
The Grand Princess pulled into the Port of Oakland on Monday with more than 3,500 people aboard — 21 of them infected with the new virus. It’s unclear how many tr
avelers would get off the ship Monday.
The ship is carrying people from 54 countries. Americans will be transported to military bases in California, Texas and Georgia to be tested for the COVID-19 virus and quarantined. The State Department was working with the home countries of other passengers to arrange their repatriation.
California’s governor says about 1,100 crew members, 19 of whom have tested positive for COVID-19, will be quarantined and treated aboard the ship, which will dock elsewhere.
Canadian health officials say a man has died of the new virus at a seniors care home in North Vancouver in what is believed to be the first COVID-19 death in that country.
British Columbia Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix announced on the weekend that two elderly residents of the Lynn Valley Care Centre facility had been diagnosed with the virus.
Henry says the diagnoses followed an earlier diagnosis of a worker at the care home, making the cases especially concerning as examples of community transmission.
Health officials described the situation at the care center as an “outbreak.”
There are now 32 cases of the new coronavirus in British Columbia and more than 70 in Canada.
Slovakia, the Roman Catholic stronghold in central Europe, is banning Mass and all other religious events for the next two weeks in an effort to contain the outbreak of the new coronavirus.
Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini says that starting Tuesday all cultural, sports and social events are banned for at least two weeks. That includes the closure of movie theaters, and postponement of matches in the top Slovak soccer and hockey leagues.
Also, the Slovak nationals who return home from Italy, China, South Korea and Iran have to be quarantined for two weeks at home.
The authorities will also expand the preventive checks that are already carried out on the border with Austria to all other surrounding countries.
Slovakia has seven confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Officials at the World Health Organization said Monday that of about 80,000 people who have been sickened by COVID-19 in China, more than 70% have recovered and been discharged from hospitals.
Patients are typically released when they test negative twice for the virus within 24 hours, meaning they’re no longer carrying the virus, although some countries may be using a slightly different definition, that may include when people have no more respiratory symptoms or a clear CT scan.
The World Health Organization said it could take considerably longer for people to be “recovered,” depending on the severity of disease.
Dr. Mike Ryan, the World Health Organization’s emergencies chief, said it can take up to six weeks for people to fully recover from COVID-19 infections, which could include pneumonia and other respiratory problems in serious cases. He said the numbers of reported patients have not always been systematically provided to World Health Organization although the U.N. health agency is asking every country with cases for further information.
Ireland has canceled all St. Patrick’s Day parades across the country in an attempt to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
Prime Minister Leo Varadkar announced the cancellation and said “further advice about mass public gatherings will be issued in the next few days.”
The annual March 17 parade in Dublin is one of Ireland’s biggest tourist events, and typically draws half a million people onto the city’s streets. Tens of thousands more flock to parades in Ireland’s second-largest city, Cork, and smaller communities.
Ireland has 21 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
A key U.N. trade organization is warning of looming recession in the world economy as countries respond to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Richard Kozul-Wright of the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development predicts a global “hit” to the world economy of between $1 trillion and $2 trillion this year, and cautions it could be worse.
Even before oil markets plunged Monday, Kozul-Wright said countries whose economies are largely dependent on production of commodities will face pressures as an economic slowdown reduces demand for their products.
Kozul-Wright said the European Union, which faced poor economic prospects at the end of 2019, was “almost certain” to tumble into recession this year, pointing especially to pressures in Germany and Italy.
He was speaking at a release of a new UNCTAD report examining the possible impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and forecasting that annual global growth will fall below 2.5% this year.
The executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency that runs the metropolitan area’s airports, tested positive and is isolated in his home, according to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Cuomo noted that director Rick Cotton had been at the facilities while travelers were returning from hotspots.
Meanwhile, the official who runs the Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports of Paris also confirmed positive.
European financial markets have fallen into a bear market, closing the day with their heaviest losses since the darkest days of the 2008 global financial crisis.
The index in Italy, where the government shut down travel into and out of the country’s financial and industrial heartland, fell a massive 11.2%.
Britain’s FTSE 100 shed 7.3%, Germany’s DAX 7.9% and the CAC 40 in France dropped 8.4%.
The regional Stoxx 600 index fell 7.4%, more than 20% lower than its most recent peak and putting it in a bear market.
The drop comes amid widespread concerns about the mounting economic costs of containing the new coronavirus. A dramatic dive in the price of oil, which lost 20% overnight, has further shaken investors.
Germany has reported the first two deaths in the country of people infected with the new coronavirus.
Heinsberg county in Germany’s far west reported the first death on Monday. The city of Essen then reported an 89-year-old woman’s death as the second.
The Heinsberg area has seen the highest concentration of infections in Germany so far.
The German state where both Heinsberg and Essen are located, North Rhine-Westphalia, accounted for 484 of the 1,112 infections in Germany confirmed as of Monday morning.
Earlier in the day, experts credited rapid testing as the outbreak spread for the absence of virus-related deaths in Germany. They said Germany caught many cases early on, including in younger patients who were less likely to develop serious complications.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned against thinking that measures to slow the spread of the new coronavirus are in vain, insisting that they are buying “valuable time.”
Merkel spoke at a German-Greek business forum in Berlin on Monday as stock shares plunged in Europe and elsewhere amid increasing disruption caused by the worldwide virus outbreak. Germany reported 1,112 confirmed cases as of Monday morning but the country hasn’t yet reported any infection-related deaths.
The German leader said that while the virus will spread further in Germany, “that in no way means that everything we are doing in every country on this Earth, including in Germany, to break chains of infections with quarantine measures was in any way in vain.”
Disneyland Paris says a male backstage cast member has tested positive for COVID-19 but that the park will remain open.
The staffer, who was not named and whose age is not known, was already on sick leave when Disney was notified about the infection Sunday. He is receiving treatment.
Park officials said since the infected cast member worked backstage he was not in contact with the public. Cast members in contact with him with have been asked to stay at home and seek medical attention if they become ill.
Disneyland Paris had already reinforced sanitation procedures, such as extra cleaning of outdoor sites. All three Asian parks — Shanghai Disneyland, Hong Kong Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Resort – have been closed over the virus outbreak. Disney said Shanghai Disney Resort partially resumed operations Monday.
Confusion still reigns in Italy over who may travel where and under what circumstances, after the government imposed strict new limits on movements to contain the rapidly spreading virus.
Travelers at Milan’s main train station are being required to sign a form from the police, self-certifying that they are traveling either for ‘’proven work needs,’’ situations of necessity, health reasons or to return to their homes. They must provide their identity documents and contact phone numbers, and describe exactly the reason for moving.
Police officers in masks are checking tickets and documents as people line up to reach the train tracks, backed up by soldiers also in masks, and finally by railway security further back, unmasked. Procedures have tightened significantly since the blockade involving the populous region of Lombardy and 14 provinces went into effect.
Over the weekend, railway security remained the only checks, but due to recommendations to keep a meter distance between people, they had moved their positions back and were no longer checking tickets, just watching people pass by.
Iran says the new coronavirus has killed another 43 people, pushing the death toll to 237 amid 7,161 confirmed cases.
The Health Ministry announced the new figure at a news conference Monday. There are over 7,640 confirmed cases of the virus across the wider Mideast.
Some experts worry Iran may be underreporting its cases.
The rising death toll comes as Mideast stock markets have significantly dropped amid the outbreak and oil prices are falling by levels unseen since the 1991 Gulf War.
The new virus has caused major economic disruptions, including in global aviation, which has helped slow the demand for oil.
World oil demand is expected to fall this year for the first time since the global financial crisis in 2009, the International Energy Agency said Monday.
In its monthly report, the agency says it has cut its forecast for global oil demand by 1.1 million barrels a day as the new coronavirus wreaks havoc on the global economy. That will leave demand 90,000 barrels a day below the previous year.
The IEA, which advises mainly oil-importing countries on energy matters, says it still expects demand to return close to normal in the second half of this year. But it says that the outlook is highly uncertain and depends on how governments react to halt the spread of the virus.
The publication of the report comes as the price of crude was down about 20% on Monday as major producers Saudi Arabia and Russia failed to agree on Friday on reducing output. The Saudis made a play to grab market share by increasing output, which will mean more oil on the market just as demand is plunging.
The Philippine president has declared a state of public health emergency throughout the country after health officials confirmed over the weekend the first local transmission of the new coronavirus.
Health officials reported Monday a doubling in just a day of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines to 20 confirmed infections.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration, which he made public on Monday, says the viral outbreak “constitutes an emergency that threatens national security which requires a whole-of-government response.”
Under the declaration, authorities could order mandatory reporting of infections, enforce quarantines and other disease-control actions, including calling in police and other law enforcement agencies to help deal with the COVID-19 threat.
Pope Francis has celebrated morning Mass all by himself in the chapel of the Vatican hotel where he lives, and has offered up prayers for those infected with coronavirus and those caring for them.
The Holy See live-streamed Francis’ Mass on Monday, evidence of new measures the Vatican City State has taken to contain the spread of the virus in line with restrictions adopted by the Italian government. With 7,375 people infected, Italy has the most cases outside Asia.
At 83, and with part of one lung removed, Francis would be at risk for serious complications if he were to catch the virus. He came down with a cold two weeks ago, but appears to have recovered and on Monday resumed private meetings, including with bishops from France and two departing ambassadors.
The Vatican, a 108-acre city state in the heart of Rome, has confirmed one positive case. The Vatican Museums have closed and nationwide, the Italian Catholic Church has suspended Masses and other celebrations to prevent people from congregating.
Singapore will allow the Costa Fortuna cruise ship to dock on Tuesday, after it was rejected by Thailand and Malaysia.
Singapore’s port authority and tourism board said in a joint statement Monday that the ship has declared that none of its passengers had any symptoms of respiratory illness. The statement also said all the ship’s passengers had earlier underwent temperature screening and checks on their travel history before they boarded the ship, which last departed Singapore on March 3.
The statement said the doctor on board the cruise liner will check all passengers and crew to ensure they are healthy before disembarkation. It said Singapore’s cruise terminals remain open to scheduled cruise calls out of Singapore but unscheduled calls have been banned since last month.
Thailand last week refused to let the ship, which has some 2,000 passengers, to dock at the resort island of Phuket since it carried 64 Italians. Malaysia on Saturday also banned the ship from stopping at a northern port.
Organizers of the annual Holocaust remembrance march in southern Poland say it has been postponed this year because of fears about the new coronavirus sweeping the globe.
Each year the “March of the Living” aims to walk 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) between the two parts of the former Nazi German death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. The organizing committee’s chairman Shmuel Rosenman says Monday that after consulting with health officials he was forced to announce “with a heavy heart” that this’ year’s march would be postponed.
The event was expected to draw 110 delegations from around the world.
During World War II, Nazi Germany killed some 1.1 million people in Auschwitz-Birkenau, the vast majority of them Jews. Some 300,000 people have walked in the march since it began in 1988.
Israel has so far confirmed 39 cases of coronavirus and 20,000 people have been ordered into 14-day home quarantines protectively. Scores of flights in and out of the country have been canceled.
Poland has 11 cases of the virus.
Albania’s Health Ministry has reported the country’s first two infections from the COVID-19 coronavirus, a father and son who had returned from Florence in Italy.
After exhibiting symptoms they were hospitalized. Authorities are trying to find all their contacts.
Italy, the epicenter of Europe’s outbreak, on Sunday quarantined 16 million people in the country’s north in a bold move to try to contain the virus. Italy has 7,375 confirmed infections and 366 deaths of virus patients, one of the most severe outbreaks outside of China, where the virus first emerged late last year.
Prime Minister Edi Rama held an an urgent Cabinet meeting Monday morning on the virus. Authorities said they will close schools until April 3, suspend flights to and from Italy’s “red quarantine zones” and limit gatherings.
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