The Latest: Italy region wants more virus-control measures

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BEIJING (AP) – The Latest on the coronavirus outbreak sweeping the globe (all times local):

9:20 p.m.

The governor of Italy’s Lombardy region says he will ask the Italian government to impose tighter virus-control measures after fresh data showed the new coronavirus continues to spread in his northern region.

Regional governor Atilio Fontana told private TV channel La7 on Tuesday that the mayors of 12 provincial capitals agreed to request orders that would close non-essential stores and shut down local public transportation.

Fontana says the requested measures would not impact grocery stores and other activities deemed essential for the public good. He says mandatory closures that could cause ‘’damage to the collectivity or the economy” also won’t be imposed.

The governor didn’t provide new figures on virus cases in Italy. A national tally usually is provided later in the day.

Lombardy has been hardest hit by the virus outbreak in the country.

Fontana said stricter measures to limit travel and public events ‘’are justified by the fact that on the one hand, contagion is growing, and by the fact that the (original) red zone where they observed the most rigid measures, the trend is reversing,”

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8:10 p.m.

Europe’s airports say they expect 187 million fewer passengers this year due to the virus outbreak, which is “turning into a shock of unprecedented proportions for our industry.”

The ACI Europe, which represents the sector, estimated Tuesday that the outbreak will mean a 13.5% drop in airport passengers in the first quarter alone. That translates to 1.32 billion euros ($1.5 billion) in lost revenue.

Airports in Italy, where the government has imposed a travel lockdown on the whole country, are the most affected. Scores of nations have issued travel advisories urging their citizens to avoid Italy.

Olivier Jankovec, the head of ACI Europe, says “what they are now bracing for is a total collapse in air connectivity and the prospect of losing most of their revenues.”

He called on the Italian government to provide emergency financial support, and said that might be necessary across the EU if more authorities clamp down on travel.

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7:45 p.m.

In a dramatic move to keep the coronavirus from shifting north, Austria’s chancellor says the country is barring travelers from Italy from entering.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Tuesday that exceptions will be made for those with medical notes and authorities will help repatriate Austrians from Italy.

Malta has suspended all flights into and out of Italy. Austria, Britain and Ireland have issued travel advisories for the whole country as Italy’s extraordinary anti-coronavirus lockdown looked set to isolate the country inside and out.

Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela announced that until further notice, flights to and from Italy would be suspended and ships from Italy would only be allowed to dock if they were carrying cargo, food or medicine.

Abela said the cruise ship MSC Grandiosa, which was to dock in Malta on Tuesday would not be allowed in since it just came from Palermo in Italy.

Austria issued a full travel warning for Italy to “urgently recommend” that Austrian travelers return home. Britain and Ireland advised against all nonessential travel. Germany’s national disease control institute, is describing all of Italy as a “risk area.”

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7:30 p.m.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki says all mass events like concerts or sports events are being cancelled across the country in an attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Although Poland has only recorded 18 cases, two of whom are in a serious condition, Morawiecki said the country is trying to be proactive in light of the increases recorded elsewhere in Europe, particularly in Italy.

Over 4,000 people are under quarantined at home after having been potentially exposed. The western Poznan region, which has one case, has also closed all schools, kindergartens, sports centers and the zoo.

In Austria, the Health Minister Rudolf Anschober says all indoor events with more than 100 people and all outdoor events with more than 500 people are being canceled until mid-April.

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7:15 p.m.

A Lebanese Health Ministry official says a man has died from the coronavirus, the first known death from the COVID-19 illness in the country.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give official statements, said the 56-year-old man had recently returned from Egypt.

The Mediterranean country has 41 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus – most of them linked to Iran.

Lebanon has been hit by a severe financial and economic crisis since October, particularly after mass protests against the country’s ruling elite broke out in October. But street demonstrations have been minimal since the outbreak of the new coronavirus.

– From Zeina Karam in Beirut.

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6 p.m.

The government of China’s Hubei province, the center of the virus outbreak, announced Tuesday the launch of an electronic “health code” system in which residents will be assigned colored QR codes through a mobile app that serves as a “voucher for personal travel.” It will be implemented throughout the province.

People with green codes, who are deemed healthy and not at risk, can travel freely within the province. Yellow codes are issued to people who have had close contact with infected patients, while red codes are for those who are confirmed or suspected cases or have a fever. The movement of people with red and yellow codes will be restricted.

A similar system was first put into place in the eastern city of Hangzhou.

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5:45 p.m.

The weekly Tuesday market normally set up inside the Medieval walls of Soave, an Italian wine-producing town near Verona, was canceled even before the government extended a virus containment order over the entire country.

The action was taken after the first case was confirmed in the town of 6,000 residents a day earlier, but word didn’t get out and at least one vendor showed up to set up his stand before told being business would be closed.

Normally bustling on market day, the center of the town was nearly deserted Tuesday morning. The local newspaper vendor said people had mocked her for putting up shelves as a barrier next to the cash register, saying incredulously, ‘’after just one case.’’

Cafe owner Valentino Bonturi said he was enforcing new restrictions to ensure patrons weren’t bunched too closely, meaning people needed to be seated rather than stand at a counter, as is customary.

“We follow the rules,” he said.

Monica Chiamenti was buying bread in the center of town. ‘’We have to do it for our grandparents,’’ she said of the new strict limits on movement. Her two sons have been keeping up with school at home but have been running into glitches on an app meant to stream video instruction.

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5:30 p.m.

Lebanon has been hit by a severe financial and economic crisis since October, particularly after mass protests against the country’s ruling elite broke out in October. But street demonstrations have been minimal since the outbreak of the coronavirus.

A Lebanese Health Ministry official says a man has died from the virus, the first known death from the COVID-19 illness in the country.

The official says the 56-year-old man recently returned from Egypt. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give official statements.

The Mediterranean country has 41 confirmed cases of the new virus — most of them linked to Iran.

At least one patient who returned from Iran has left the hospital after two weeks of treatment.

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4:45 p.m.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called on citizens of the Netherlands to stop shaking hands to prevent spreading the new coronavirus and then — oops! — shook hands with the head of the infectious diseases department of the national public health institute.

“From this moment on, we stop shaking hands,” Rutte said at a news conference following a crisis meeting of government ministers Monday night to discuss the virus, which has killed three people and infected 321 in the country.

“You can do a foot kiss, bump elbows, whatever you want,” he said. “I see all kinds of great variations on shaking hands emerging at schools, but from today we stop shaking hands.”

As he wrapped up the news conference, he shook hands with Jaap van Dissel of the public health institute, who quickly pointed out the prime minister’s error.

“Sorry, sorry, we can’t do that anymore! Do it again!” Rutte said as he bumped elbows with van Dissel.

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4:30 p.m.

The Czech Republic is banning all public events with more than 100 people and is closing schools in response to the new coronavirus outbreak in Europe.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis said the measures include cultural and sports events, concerts, exhibitions and trade fairs, religious services and other public gatherings.

The sessions of Parliament are not affected.

Starting Wednesday, all elementary and secondary or high schools be closed.

“We want to prevent what happened in Italy,” Babis said.

“We understand it’s not a pleasant decision for the public,” he added. “I hope they’ll understand it.”

The Czech Republic has 40 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

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4 p.m.

The Italian government is assuring its citizens that supermarkets will remain open and stocked after panic buying erupted after broad anti-virus measures were announced nationwide, sparking overnight runs on 24-hour markets.

Shoppers lined up overnight outside a Rome Carrefour to stock up after the government extended restrictions on movement from hard-hit northern Italy to the rest of the country. Some shoppers wore masks as they waited with their carts to be allowed into the store a few at a time.

Premier Giuseppe Conte’s office issued a clarifying statement after he signed the new decree late Monday, stressing that movement outside homes for “normal necessities” such as grocery shopping will be allowed, as well as for work or health reasons.

The statement said runs on supermarkets were contrary to the intent of the new decree which aims to prevent Italians from congregating. The government assured citizens that markets would be regularly supplied.

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3:30 p.m.

Pope Francis is urging priests to courageously go out to visit those sick from the coronavirus, even though Italy has imposed a nationwide lockdown to limit movement and prevent the virus’ spread.

The Vatican on Tuesday livestreamed Francis’ morning Mass, which he celebrated alone in the chapel of the Vatican hotel where he lives. The celebration came hours after the Italian government extended restrictions on movement from virus-hit northern Italy to the rest of the country in a bid to slow the epidemic. Exceptions include for work or health reasons, or for “necessities,” such as grocery shopping.

In his homily, Francis prayed for the sick and the doctors and nurses who are caring for them. He said: “Let us pray to the Lord also for our priests, that they may have the courage to go out and go to the sick people bringing the strength of God’s word and the Eucharist and accompany the health workers and volunteers in this work that they are doing.”

The Vatican, a walled city-state in the heart of Rome, is respecting the Italian lockdown and has imposed restrictions on movement and contact among personnel. One person inside Vatican City has tested positive and five people who came into contact with that person are under precautionary quarantine.

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3 p.m.

Authorities in the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north of ethnically split Cyprus on Tuesday reported the first virus case in the region, a 65-year-old German tourist who arrived on Sunday and developed a high fever.

The hotel where she and the group of 30 tourists she traveled with has been quarantined.

The Cypriot government on Monday announced the country’s first two cases. They include the head of the cardiology unit at the country’s largest state hospital in the capital, Nicosia. The unit has been placed under quarantine while staff are being tested. All hospital visits and admissions have been suspended for 48 hours.

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2 p.m.

Mongolia says its first coronavirus case is a French energy worker who didn’t follow instructions to isolate himself.

Authorities say the 56-year-old man works for an exploration company affiliated with the French energy company Areva.

He arrived on March 2 from Moscow and was instructed to isolate himself in himself in his hotel. Instead, authorities say, he visited several restaurants and met with colleagues at his company’s office before traveling by train to the East Gobi region where he worked.

All incoming and outgoing traffic to the capital Ulaanbaatar was closed from Tuesday to March 17. Authorities are working to identify more than 500 people who may have contact with the patient.

Mongolia closed its border with China weeks ago because of the virus outbreak there, and flights to Beijing and Seoul have been canceled. The northern border with Russia remains open and flights to Moscow and Berlin are continuing.

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1:30 p.m.

The European Central Bank says a staff member has the new coronavirus.

The ECB said in a statement late Monday that about 100 colleagues who worked near the infected staff member have been told to work from home as a precaution.

The Frankfurt-based central bank says it is also “undertaking a deep clean of potentially affected office spaces.”

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A cruise ship barred from Thailand and Malaysia due to coronavirus fears has returned to Singapore a week after it set sail from the city-state.

Passengers wheeling luggage off the Costa Fortuna were ushered to waiting coaches and ferried away Tuesday morning. Most were not wearing masks. Some passengers told reporters at the scene everything was great and that everyone aboard the ship was fine.

No cases of infection with the new virus has been confirmed in the ship. Singapore authorities previously said doctors would check people before they disembarked.

The ship was refused docking in Thailand because it carried 64 Italians and that country has been the epicenter of Europe’s outbreak. Malaysia also turned away the ship.

Singapore allowed the ship to dock because it had been scheduled and all passengers on board had been screened before the ship sailed.

The virus is a concern on cruise ships after hundreds became infected on a ship that was under quarantine at a Japanese port last month. A ship that docked in California on Monday let off its passengers to face quarantines at U.S. facilities or in their home countries. Twenty-one people on that ship are infected.

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South Korea’s professional baseball league has postponed its season to sometime during mid-April due to the coronavirus.

The Korea Baseball Organization said Tuesday it still hopes to maintain a 144-game regular-season schedule but will consider banning spectators from some games when risks of infections are high.

South Korea’s professional basketball league has halted its regular season since Feb. 29, while the soccer league has postponed the start of its new season.

The Japanese baseball league season was postponed earlier after playing preseason games without spectators.

The season was to open on March 20. It might start some time in April.

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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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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

A traveler wears a mask as she fills out a form at a check point set up by border police inside Rome’s Termini train station, Tuesday, March 10, 2020. In Italy the government extended a coronavirus containment order previously limited to the country’s north to the rest of the country beginning Tuesday, with soldiers and police enforcing bans. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
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