The Latest: St. Thomas TSA officer tests positive for virus

The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 287,000 people and killed more than 11,900. 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 89,800 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

—Nearly 5,000 new infections in a day in Spain.

—More than 220,000 screened at U.S. airports.

—British residents urged to avoid panic buying.

—New York Gov. Cuomo reviewing new hospital beds at colleges, convention centers.

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WASHINGTON — A Transportation Security Administration officer at the airport on St. Thomas in U.S. Virgin Islands has tested positive for the new coronavirus.

The TSA says the officer who works at the Cyril E. King International Airport is quarantined at home.

TSA reports that a total of 19 officers at eight U.S. airports have now tested positive since Feb. 21.

The other airports are in New York City; Newark, New Jersey; Atlanta; Cleveland; Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and San Jose, California.

TSA also reports the lowest number of airport travelers in the history of an organization that has been around since November 2001. On Friday, the agency counted just under 600,000 outbound passengers. That’s down from 2.5 million at the same point in 2019.

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TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government is working with airlines and foreign governments to bring Canadians home but says they will not be able to bring back everyone.

Trudeau says the government is offering to lend up to $5,000 Canadian (US$3,480) in assistance for flights or for unexpected costs for extended time outside of the country. Canada chartered a plane for Morocco this weekend and expects to have planes for Peru and Spain soon.

Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne says many countries have closed their borders or airports and it will be impossible to return for some. Champagne says Canadian snowbirds living in the U.S. should come home now and the border will remain open for them. Canada and the U.S. have closed the border for all nonessential travel but returning citizens can get through.

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NEW YORK — Gov. Andrew Cuomo says New York is reviewing places to put new hospital beds, including New York City’s main convention center and some state university campuses.

In a news briefing on the coronavirus, Cuomo says the goal is to get hospital capacity up to 75,000 beds from around 50,000.

He says possible locations for temporary hospitals include Manhattan’s Javits Center, Stony Brook University and SUNY College at Old Westbury on Long Island and the Westchester County Center.

He says the hospitals would be operated by the Army Corps of Engineers.

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WASHINGTON — Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf says more than 220,000 Americans have been screened at airports when returning to the United States from countries impacted by the coronavirus. However, Wolf’s comments on the show “Fox and Friends” called into question the rigor of the screening process.

Americans returning from virus-affected regions have been routed to one of 13 major airports. Many have posted on social media of long waits and crowded conditions with hundreds of people crammed together for hours in packed lines. Some also noted that medical personnel didn’t check to see if they had a fever before letting them into the country.

Wolf acknowledged medical personnel in some cases are simply looking at individuals to weed out those who seem obviously ill.

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LONDON — The British government says panic-buying of groceries because of the coronavirus pandemic is leaving front-line medics unable to get the food supplies they need.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minister George Eustice says “buying more than you need may mean that others are left without.”

With Britons told to stay mostly at home and restaurants closed to slow the spread of the virus, some supermarkets are having runs on daily of staples including rice, pasta, fruit and vegetables.

Eustice urged restraint, saying “there is more than enough food to go around.” The government has loosened the limit on deliver drivers’ hours and lifted nighttime delivery curfews so stores can restock more quickly.

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TAMPA, Fla. — A Navy sailor assigned to United States Central Command headquarters in Florida has tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

CENTCOM spokesman Capt. Bill Urban made the announcement. Urban says the sailor returned to the U.S. from overseas travel on March 15 and went into precautionary quarantine at his home. He didn’t stop at CENTCOM or at Macdill Air Force base, where the command is located in Tampa.

The sailor started developing symptoms on Wednesday, called ahead to Macdill health officials, and was met outside the base by doctors. Officials say his test returned positive on Friday.

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ROME — Italy’s health minister is pleading with people to follow the rules. Minister Roberto Speranza is concerned that too many citizens are flouting lock-down restrictions imposed nearly two weeks ago to contain Italy’s relentless increase in coronavirus cases.

Speranza called for a “great alliance” between citizens and institutions, saying “what counts more is the behavior of every individual.” He warned that until the virus is defeated, Italy’s economy – nearly stagnant for years before the outbreak – won’t get going again.

After local officials clamored for days for stronger measures, Speranza on Friday night ordered the closures of all parks and playgrounds and forbade people to travel to weekend homes from Friday through Monday.

Giuseppe Sala is the mayor of Milan, the capital of Lombardy and Italy’s hardest-stricken region. He tried to rally Milan’s 1.4 million citizens, tweeting “by now, we have understood, this is a marathon, not a sprint.”

People currently can go to work, food shop or exercise near their homes. Sala says he’s consulting with other mayors and the regional governor about imposing their own additional measures if the national government won’t.

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The number of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in Germany rose above 20,000, with 70 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Germany’s official Robert Koch Institute listed 16,662 case and 47 deaths, but officials have acknowledged that their count lags behind figures provided by regional health authorities.

Some German states, such as Bavaria, have stepped up measures to contain the outbreak by further restricting the reasons people can leave their homes. That’s prompted some criticism about stricter curfew measures.

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ISTANBUL — Turkey is suspending flights to 46 more countries, the transport ministry announced, bringing the number of banned flights to 68 countries.

The interior ministry banned picnics and barbecues, expanding measures that included the closure of cafes, bars, schools and communal prayers. The official Anadolu news agency says restaurants would have to set up tables one meter (3 feet) apart. The agency also reported send-off gatherings for new soldiers would temporarily be banned.

At least 670 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and nine people have died.

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LONDON — The London tourist sites were eerily empty on Saturday, a day after the government ordered the closure of all bars, restaurants, movie theaters and other places where people congregate. Pigeons outnumbered people in the usually bustling Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square.

Parks filled with people strolling and jogging on a cool, sunny spring day, and business continued at the outdoor Portobello Road market — though produce-sellers and some shoppers wore masks and gloves.

There were long lines outside some supermarkets. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is meeting with supermarket executives over the weekend about how to keep the shelves filled.

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JOHANNESBURG — A few African heads of state have defied coronavirus-related travel restrictions to attend Namibian President Hage Geingob’s inauguration.

Angola closed its air, land and sea borders this week, but Namibian media showed President Joao Lourenco at Saturday’s ceremony. Also in attendance was President Mokgweetsi Masisi of neighboring Botswana, which this week suspended international travel by all government employees.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa was there. He announced a national disaster even before his country confirmed its first virus case on Friday.

Confirmed cases in Africa have totaled more than 1,000.

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NICOSIA, Cyprus — A Cyprus police spokesman says authorities have turned away a boat carrying around 100 migrants, citing government directives banning the entry of foreign nationals to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Christos Andreou told state-run Cyprus News Agency on Saturday that police patrol vessels approached the boat as it was nearing the country’s southeastern coast late Friday and told passengers that they couldn’t disembark because of the ban. Andreou said the passengers, who were offered food, water and fuel, initially refused to change course, but eventually sailed away.

The spokesman said the chief of police has ordered stepped-up patrols around Cyprus’ coastline as well as along the 120-mile-long United Nations-controlled buffer zone that separates a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north from the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south.

Meanwhile, Turkish Cypriot police said a boat carrying 175 Syrians that included 69 minors and 30 women landed on the shores of the Karpas peninsula in the pre-dawn hours Saturday. They were taken to a sports hall for a medical check-up. The Cypriot government accuses Turkey of channeling migrants to Cyprus, especially through the north.

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MADRID — Spain has recorded almost 5,000 new coronavirus infections in 24 hours as it climbed into third place in the global ranking of infections behind China and Italy.

Health authorities said Saturday that virus infections have reached 24,926, up from 19,980 the day before. Total deaths were 1,326, up from 1,002 on Friday. Over 1,600 patients are in intensive care units that authorities admit are at their limits. Madrid is the hardest hit region with almost 9,000 infections.

Spain is approaching one week of tight restrictions on free movement and the closure of most shops as hospitals and nursing homes buckle under the burden of the virus outbreak. But authorities admit that they expect infections to continue to rise before the measures can hopefully reverse the trend.

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MOSCOW — A deputy mayor of the Russian capital says workers are laboring around-the-clock to build a center that can treat hundreds of coronavirus victims, and that completion is expected within a month.

Placards in the style of Soviet propaganda posters have been placed at the site, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) outside Moscow’s center, exhorting builders to work at maximum speed; one shows Mayor Sergei Sobyanin pointing at the viewer and the slogan “Builders — Minutes count!”

Deputy Mayor Andrei Bochkarev said Saturday that the new facility will be able to accommodate up to 500 patients. Russia so far has recorded 253 cases of coronavirus infection.

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BERLIN — Germany’s southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg is opening its hospitals to patients from the neighboring region of eastern France that’s struggling with a surge of infections with the new coronavirus.

A spokesman for the state’s health ministry confirmed a report Saturday by the daily Schwaebische Zeitung that governor Winfried Kretschmann has offered assistance to France amid a growing shortage of ICU beds there.

Markus Jox said authorities have asked all hospital in Baden-Wuerttemberg with free capacity to take in French patients requiring ventilators.

Jox said that while the state’s own capacity is limited and there are already some bottlenecks, “we will naturally try to help our French neighbors.”

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LONDON — Britain lags behind Italy, Spain and France in the spread of the new coronavirus, but already the country’s overstretched health system is creaking.

The U.K.’s state-funded National Health Service has about 4,000 critical-care beds and some 5,000 ventilators, and officials say that’s far fewer than will be needed as the number of cases spikes in the coming weeks.

On Thursday, a London hospital temporarily declared a “critical incident,” meaning it could take no more critically ill patients. Unpublished NHS figures seen by The Guardian say the number of confirmed of suspected COVID-19 patients in intensive care in south London rose from seven on March 6 to 93 on March 17.

Engineering firms and automakers are stepping in to manufacture ventilators, and the government says it is shipping large supplies of protective equipment to hospitals. But some medics say they do not have confidence that they will receive the equipment they need to treat patients and keep themselves safe.

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BANGKOK — The governor of Bangkok has ordered the city’s popular shopping malls to shut down except for their supermarkets and pharmacies to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

The malls’ restaurant outlets are also allowed to operate, but only for takeout and delivery orders. Convenience stores, as well as food stalls and traditional standalone markets selling fresh food, can keep operating.

Other venues in the Thai capital now ordered closed from Sunday until April 22 include swimming pools, golf courses, tattoo parlors and cockfighting rings. Public and private schools and colleges, movie theaters, gyms and bars were already ordered closed.

The latest restrictions come as Thailand announced 89 new confirmed coronavirus cases, bringing its total to 411.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch military is stepping in to help transfer coronavirus patients from the hardest-hit region in the Netherlands to hospitals elsewhere in the country.

Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld tweeted that military logistics specialists will be deployed Saturday to help with transfers between hospital intensive care units.

The decision to deploy the military came after hospitals in the hard-hit Brabant region of the southern Netherlands said they are struggling to cope with all the cases.

The head of infection prevention at the Amphia Hospital in the city of Breda Jan Kluytmans told national broadcaster NOS that “hospitals in Brabant can’t handle on their own the stream of patients we expect in the short term.”

The Netherlands has confirmed around 3,000 coronavirus cases, including 106 deaths.

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ATHENS, Greece — China has sent 18 tons of medical supplies to Greece, including hundreds of thousands of surgical and protection masks.

An Air China flight landed in Athens on Saturday morning bringing in the supplies. They include 8 tons of equipment donated by the Chinese government, among them the 550,000 masks, and 10 tons donated by Chinese businesses and organizations.

China’s ambassador to Greece, Zhang Qiyue, said her country will do anything it can “to help our friends in Greece.” She also commended Greece for the “timely and strong” measures it has taken to limit the spread of the new virus.

Greece has confirmed at least 495 coronavirus cases, including 10 deaths.

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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.

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