The Latest: Cruise docks in French port amid virus measures

0

TOP OF THE HOUR:

– EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has tested positive for coronavirus.

– Cruise carrying 1,400 people docks in French port city of Marseille.

– Italy is on track to surpass China in the number of coronavirus-related deaths.

– The coronavirus pandemic has infected 219,000 people and killed more than 8,900. About 84,000 have recovered.

___

MARSEILLE, France – The Costa Luminosa trans-Atlantic cruise ship, which has recorded several cases of COVID-19 among its passengers, has docked in the French Mediterranean port city of Marseille on Thursday morning.

More than 1,400 people, including around 200 Americans, are on the cruise. French authorities have allowed the ship entry and to stay for up to four days under strict conditions.

It is not known whether passengers will be allowed off, given the current stringent restrictions imposed in France amid the coronavirus pandemic.

___

BERLIN – The German state governor of Bavaria says a state-wide curfew may be necessary if people don’t follow official advice on restricting their social contacts.

Markus Soeder told an emergency session of the German state’s parliament that drastic steps had already been taken to limit the spread of the new coronavirus, but further measures might be necessary.

Soeder noted that a curfew has already been imposed in the small town of Mitterteich, near the Czech border, after a large number of infections there were linked to a recent beer festival.

He told lawmakers, who were seated spaced far apart from each other in the state assembly, that Bavaria was “in maximum crisis mode.”

___

VIENNA – Austria’s western province of Tyrol has placed all 279 municipalities under quarantine, banning anyone from leaving their town or village except to commute to work within the Alpine region.

The measures are a step up from those already in place for Austria as a whole because of the new coronavirus.

Tyrol governor Guenther Platter said late Wednesday that the extreme measures were necessary in light of the large numbers of infections with COVID-19. Tyrol has registered 474 cases – more than a quarter of Austria’s total of 1,646 cases.

Platter has come under fire for not moving swiftly to shut down bars in ski resorts such as Ischgl, where dozens of foreign tourists were infected and carried the virus as far as Iceland and Norway.

___

BRUSSELS – Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief negotiator for the future relationship with Britain after Brexit, says he has been infected with the coronavirus.

Barnier tweeted that he is doing well and is in good spirits.

“I am following all the necessary instructions, as is my team,” Barnier said. “For all those affected already, and for all those currently in isolation, we will get through this together.”

___

ZAGREB, Croatia – The Croatian government is limiting entry to the country for 30 days, closing cafes and most shops and banning gatherings of more than five people in its government’s latest effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The entry ban includes all non-essential travel into the country. Only returning Croatian citizens and those from European Union countries transiting to their states will be allowed to cross as of Thursday.

Food shops, pharmacies and bakeries will remain open. Cinemas and museums have closed and religious gatherings are banned.

Croatia has recorded 99 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Thursday. One person who was infected with the virus has died, but pathologists will determine whether it was from the virus.

___

BUDAPEST, Hungary – The Hungarian government says it will continue to allow convoys of Romanian and Bulgarians trying to get home to transit through the country overnight.

Gergely Gulyas, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff, said Thursday that the convoys would continue to be allowed to enter Hungary at its main border crossing with Austria as long as Romania keeps its pledge to let the cars enter its territory.

Hungary has closed its borders to passenger traffic to all except its own citizens, but has begun allowing Romanians and Bulgarians to drive through the country on roads designated as “humanitarian corridors” between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Gulyas said that Hungary may consider allowing the convoys to pass through during daytime hours if “extraordinary circumstances” arise.

___

TOKYO – Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that the government has donated 5 billion yen ($46 million) to the World Health Organization as part of Japan’s emergency economic package, to help its ongoing fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

___

ROME – Italy is on track to surpass China in the number of coronavirus-related deaths, a gruesome milestone that is being blamed on the country’s large elderly population, its overwhelmed health care system and the delayed imposition of complete lockdown measures across the epicenter, Lombardy.

Italy registered 2,978 deaths on Wednesday after another 475 people died. Given Italy has been averaging more than 350 deaths since March 15, it is likely to overtake China’s 3,249 dead when Thursday’s figures are released.

U.N. and Italian health authorities have cited a variety of reasons for Italy’s high toll, key among them its large elderly population, who are particularly susceptible to developing serious complications from the virus. Italy has the world’s second oldest population after Japan’s and the vast majority of Italy’s dead – 87% – were over age 70.

In addition, virtually all of Italy’s dead had one or more underlying medical condition, such as diabetes, cancer, hypertension or renal insufficiency.

___

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Thousands of people attended an ordination ceremony for a Catholic bishop on the Indonesian island of Flores despite calls from authorities to avoid mass gatherings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Images of the ordination ceremony posted on social media showed people inside the Ruteng cathedral seated next to each other and not complying with social distancing measures.

A priest who attended the ceremony estimated that about 4,000 people gathered inside and around the church.

Sebastian Rida, a catholic resident of Ruteng who witnessed the ceremony, said officers from the local health agency asked people to use masks and hand sanitizers, but not everyone did. Rida said he ignored the threat of the spread of the virus while attending the ceremony.

Indonesia has 309 confirmed cases of the virus and 25 deaths.

___

MOSCOW – Russia has reported its first coronavirus death, a 79-year-old woman who died in a hospital in Moscow.

Health officials said she was hospitalized last week and suffered from a variety of chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

Russia has registered 147 cases of the coronavirus and nine recoveries. The authorities have taken a variety of measures to slow the spread of the disease, such as closing the borders for foreigners and testing of everyone returning from countries affected by the pandemic. Starting from next week, all schools will be closed. The government has repeatedly urged Russians to stay home and limit all contacts.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said additional measures might be taken as the outbreak unfolds.

___

BANGKOK — Two Southeast Asian countries have reported their biggest one-day jumps in confirmed cases of the coronavirus, as returnees from a religious ceremony in Malaysia push the totals up.

Indonesia reported 82 new cases for a total of 309. The total includes 25 deaths and 15 people who have recovered.

Thailand reported 60 new cases, bringing its total to 272. It has registered one death and discharged 42 recovered patients.

Meanwhile, Malaysia still leads the region with 900 cases, including 110 new ones reported Thursday. It has had two deaths.

Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Brunei, Cambodia, Vietnam and Singapore have reported cases involving people who attended a mass rally of 16,000 Muslims outside Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia at the beginning of March.

___

LONDON – Londoners are being urged to stay off public transport as authorities consider imposing tougher curbs on people mixing with one another in the British capital.

London, home to almost 9 million people, is the center of the country’s coronavirus outbreak, with about a third of its confirmed cases.

Transit operator Transport for London said it will close up to 40 London Underground stations and reduce subway and bus service starting Thursday. Mayor Sadiq Khan said the reduced service would “allow critical workers to make essential journeys.”

Britons have been urged to work from home and avoid bars, shops and restaurants to slow the spread of the virus. But unlike countries such as Italy and France, Britain has not ordered bars to close or restricted people’s movement.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said “further and faster” measures may be needed in London if people do not practice social distancing. He told reporters on Wednesday that “we rule nothing out.”

The British government plans to introduce a bill in Parliament on Thursday that will give authorities stronger powers to respond to the pandemic. The bill gives police and immigration officers powers to detain people and put them in appropriate isolation facilities if necessary to protect public health.

Britain has also doubled, to 20,000, the number of troops on standby to help civilian authorities in an emergency.

___

LONDON – A state visit to Britain by the emperor and empress of Japan has been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masakois had been due to visit in May, staying with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle. State visits are large ceremonial events involving military honor guards and state banquets.

Buckingham Palace says the trip will be rescheduled.

The 93-year-old queen is moving from Buckingham Palace in London to Windsor Castle, west of the city, during the outbreak.

___

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistani authorities closed shrines of Sufi saints in the capital and elsewhere and visits to museums, archaeological and tourist sites were banned as cases of coronavirus jumped to 301, mostly in pilgrims returning from Iran.

Two people who had returned from Saudi Arabia and Dubai became Pakistan’s first victims when they died Wednesday in the northwest.

It spread panic among those who were not taking infections seriously.

Pakistani authorities on Thursday were planning to quarantine hundreds of pilgrims who returned from Iran. These pilgrims will be kept at isolated buildings in central Pakistan for two weeks.

Pakistan has already shut schools and students have been forced to leave hostels.

___

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Health Secretary Francisco Duque III is in home quarantine after being exposed to a health officer infected with the new virus.

He leads the Philippines’ response to the epidemic. Duque says he is experiencing mild allergy symptoms and his virus test results are expected in a few days.

Duque said he would continue leading from home an inter-agency group enforcing quarantine regulations in the country’s main northern region of Luzon, which includes the densely populated capital of Manila.

The Philippines has reported 202 infections, with 17 deaths.

___

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The Dutch government is limiting entry to the country for 30 days from Thursday evening in its latest effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The entry ban covers all non-essential travel into the country for visitors from outside the European Union, the United Kingdom and countries that are part of Europe’s passport-free travel zone known as Schengen.

Exceptions also will be made for travelers with residence permits for the Netherlands and people in “vital” occupations such as health workers.

As of Wednesday, the Netherlands had recorded 58 coronavirus deaths in the outbreak and 2,051 positive tests.

___

MAKASSAR, Indonesia – Indonesia halted a mass congregation of nearly 9,000 Muslim pilgrims and began quarantining and checking their health to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

The four-day gathering in a rural area on south Sulawesi island wasn’t approved by authorities and drew fears it could widely spread the virus in the world’s fourth most populous nation.

It was organized by Jamaat Tabligh, a Muslim missionary movement that held a similar mass event in Malaysia now linked to hundreds of cases in several countries.

___

CANBERRA, Australia – Australia is banning incoming passengers who are not citizens, permanent residents or direct family members of residents.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday the change will take effect at 9 p.m. AEDT (10:00 GMT).

Morrison says 80% or cases of the new coronavirus detected in Australia have been infected overseas or by direct contact with someone who had been infected overseas. Overseas arrivals are currently expected to self-isolate for 14 days.

New Zealand also is closing its border to people who aren’t citizens or residents from Friday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she had become increasingly concerned that visitors to New Zealand have not been properly isolating themselves for 14 days as required. There are a few exceptions, including children and partners of residents.

___

MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s health department has confirmed the country’s first death from the new coronavirus.

The department wrote on Twitter late Wednesday that the person began showing symptoms on March 9 and had diabetes. It provided no more details about how, where or from whom the person became infected.

Mexico has 118 confirmed cases of infection and officials expect the numbers to rapidly increase in the coming weeks.

Authorities have been urging people to keep their distance in social situations and schools have halted classes.

Spring equinox visits to Mexico’s pre-Hispanic pyramids have also been stopped.

Mexican authorities will close off the Teotihuacan archaeological site Saturday and Sunday to prevent large gatherings and the potential spread of coronavirus.

As many as 100,000 people climb the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon at Teotihuacan each spring to receive “energy.”

The Yucatan governor earlier said the ruins at Chichen Itza will be closed Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

___

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.

The trans-Atlantic cruise ship Costa Luminosa arrives in Marseille, southern France, Thursday, March 19, 2020. The ship was allowed to stop in Tenerife in Spain on Sunday and offload three people who needed to be evacuated. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)
Advertisements