The Latest: Vice President Mike Pence, wife test negative

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WASHINGTON (AP) – The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 304,500 people and killed more than 12,960. 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 91,600 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

-Vice President Mike Pence and his wife test negative.

-Chinese city of Wuhan reports no new cases.

-Washington reports 21 new cases.

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Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, have tested negative for the coronavirus.

The vice president’s press secretary, Katie Miller, tweeted the results of the tests Saturday night.

Pence had announced earlier Saturday that, out of an abundance of caution, he and his wife would be tested for the virus. A member of the vice president’s staff had tested positive for the virus.

The vice president had said the staffer, who did not have close contact with either the president or vice president, was doing well. Still, Pence stood just a few feet from President Donald Trump at the podium during their press conference.

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BEIJING – The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the global pandemic was first detected, went a fourth consecutive day on Sunday without reporting any new or suspected cases of the virus.

Elsewhere, the country reported 46 new cases over the previous 24 hours, 45 of them coming from overseas. The health ministry did not say where the domestic case was found. Another six deaths were also reported, one in Wuhan, four in the surrounding province of Hubei and one elsewhere.

China now recorded a total of 81,054 cases and 3,261 deaths. A total of 72,244 people have been declared cured and released from hospital.

Wuhan must go 14 straight days without a new case in order for draconian travel restrictions to be lifted and the city remains isolated from the rest of the province, which is itself closed off to the rest of the country. Even while social distancing and quarantines for new arrivals remain the norm, China is striving to restore activity in the world’s second-largest economy.

Wuhan is a center of China’s crucial auto industry and a special train carrying more than 1,000 employees of Dongfeng Motor Corporation arrived Saturday afternoon in the city for the first time since the outbreak. All were sent directly by bus to factories or residential communities.

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WASHINGTON – Washington DC has announced 21 new identified cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus, including a 9-year-old girl, bringing the total to 98. The new infections include a cluster of young people, with 12 victims identified below the age of 40.

District of Columbia health officials have long predicted that the local numbers would spike as more people were tested. Earlier Thursday, they announced that a third member of the DC fire department had tested positive.

Mayor Muriel Bowser has declared a state of emergency and closed all schools through the end of the month. The popular Cherry Blossom Festival has been postponed, White House and Capitol tours have been cancelled and the National Zoo, Smithsonian museum network and Kennedy Center have closed.

Washington’s tally doesn’t include people who may have been infected in Washington but live in nearby northern Virginia or southern Maryland.

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MOSCOW – The Russian Defense Ministry says it is ready to fly its mobile medical teams and disinfection equipment to Italy to help it deal with the new coronavirus.

The ministry’s statement followed Saturday’s phone call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in which the Russian leader offered to send military medical personnel and equipment to help Italy contain the outbreak of the new coronavirus.

The Russian Defense Ministry says its transport planes stand ready to airlift eight mobile medical teams along with various medical equipment and aerosol disinfection trucks to Italy.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had a call with his Italian counterpart Lorenzo Guerini, who said Italy was ready to receive Russian planes with medical personnel and equipment starting Sunday.

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WASHINGTON – An inmate at a federal jail in New York City has tested positive for the new coronavirus, marking the first confirmed case in the federal prison system.

The federal Bureau of Prisons says the man is housed at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn and complained of chest pains on Thursday, a few days after he arrived at the facility.

Officials say he was taken to a hospital and tested for COVID-19. The inmate was discharged from the hospital on Friday and returned to the jail, where he was immediately placed in isolation.

The Bureau of Prisons learned Saturday he had tested positive for COVID-19.

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The Palestinian Health Ministry has announced the first two cases of the coronavirus in the Gaza Strip.

The ministry said early Sunday that the cases were for two people who returned recently from Pakistan.

The discovery increases fears of a potential outbreak in the crowded enclave, amid an overstretched health care system that struggles under years of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade and Palestinian political division.

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ROME – Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte has told the nation he is tightening the lockdown to fight the rampaging spread of the coronavirus, shutting down all production facilities except those that are “necessary, crucial, indispensable to guarantee essential goods” for the country. Conte said Italy is living through “ïts gravest crisis since World War II.”

Conte said while it’s not easy to renounce habits, that sacrifice pales in comparison to the sacrifices made by other citizens, ranging from doctors and nurses to supermarket clerks and security forces.

Local authorities in Italy’s northern regions have been pleading with the national government to enact ever stricter measures. The most hard-hit region, Lombardy, accounts for more than 60% of Italy’s rapidly surging death toll.

Italy’s economy has been stagnant for several years, and some in the country were reluctant to shut down industry, in a move that would deepen Italy’s economic crisis.

The new stricter measures will be in effect until April 3.

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PARDUBICE, Czech Republic – A giant transport plane landed late Saturday at an airport in the Czech Republic loaded with over 100 tons of much needed supplies for the medical sector to combat the outbreak of the coronavirus. The transport was part of a NATO program.

The Czech Defense Ministry said the plane was flying from the city of Shenzhen in south-eastern China with over 106 metric tons (117 tons) of equipment.

The Czech Republic has 995 infected people with the coronavirus.

The flight was made possible by the Strategic Air Lift International Solution (SALIS), whose goal is to provide to participating NATO allies a capability to transport heavy and outsized cargo.

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LONDON – The British government is heightening its response to the new coronavirus, telling up to 1.5 million sick and vulnerable people to stay home and avoid contact with others for at least 12 weeks.

The government says people with certain health conditions – including recipients of organ transplants, people with cystic fibrosis, patients with blood or bone marrow cancer and some people on immune-suppressing drugs – should “shield themselves” from the spreading pandemic by living in isolation.

Special deliveries of groceries and medicine will be arranged by an alliance of public agencies, the military, food retailers and volunteers.

The move came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the spread of the virus was accelerating. He said Britain’s health system would be “completely overwhelmed” without a “heroic and collective national effort” of social isolation to slow it.

Britain has 5,018 confirmed cases of the virus, and 233 deaths, an increase of more than 50 deaths from a day earlier.

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NICOSIA, Cyprus – The eastern Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus has recorded its first death as a result of the cororavirus.

The Cyprus health ministry says the man, whose age was not given, had been suffering from long-term liver, kidney and heart ailments. The ministry says the patient appears to have contracted the virus from another carrier at a hospital where he was being treated for liver disease.

At latest count, there are 84 confirmed coronavirus cases in the internationally recognized south of ethnically divided Cyprus. There are another 31 cases in the breakaway, Turkish Cypriot north.

Cyprus has banned entry to all foreign nationals except those who live and work in the country as well as diplomats. It also has enacted a 14-day ban on inbound flights from 28 countries including Germany, Israel and the U.K.

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The East African nation of Uganda has announced its first case of the coronavirus. The West African nation of Ghana announced its first death. Both countries are closing their borders, but the measures don’t apply to cargo.

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ROME – Losing patience over unanswered demands for stronger measures by the national government, the leader of Italy’s region most stricken by COVID-19 cases has ordered his own stiffer measures.

The ordinance by Lombardy Gov. Attilio Fontana issued Saturday night orders all guests out of hotels in Lombardy within 72 hours and directs supermarkets to take the temperature of customers before they enter the store. It also bans all outdoor sports or exercise, even if practiced by individuals at a safe distance.

Earlier in the day the mayor of Milan, Italy’s financial hub and Lombardy’s main city, warned local officials would crack down if some citizens kept flaunting national lock-down restrictions, including hanging out with others outdoors to stroll or jog.

Hotels may only now be used in case of need for Italy’s increasingly desperate efforts to contain Europe’s largest outbreak of the new coronavirus.

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SAO PAULO – Brazil’s health ministry says 18 people have died so far from the new coronavirus, with 1,128 infected in Latin America’s largest nation.

The state of Sao Paulo alone has recorded 15 deaths, six of them reported on Saturday. That led Sao Paulo state Gov. Jọo Doria to announce a two-week, statewide partial shutdown Рa first in Brazil. Bars, restaurants and nonessential shops may not open, but people will be allowed to go outside.

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SKOPJE, North Macedonia – North Macedonia’s government has decided to impose a curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. starting from Sunday in a bid to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus.

Caretaker Prime Minister Oliver Spasovski said after an urgent session of his cabinet that authorities were forced to impose such a ”rigorous” decision – for the first time in the tiny Balkan country’s history- in order to protect the people’s health.

Health authorities have confirmed 85 people, including a 4-year old girl, infected with the new coronavirus.

No deaths has been reported; one woman is in critical condition.

Authorities said more than 3,700 people among the country’s population of about 2.1 million are in quarantine. Two western regions have been sealed for 30 days.

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ISTANBUL – Turkey has announced the death of 12 more patients, bringing the death toll from the novel coronavirus to 21.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter the number of infections has risen to 947, with 277 new cases of COVID-19 detected Saturday.

The ministry also announced a 15-minute rapid test kit was being distributed across Turkey.

Ankara took its strictest measures so far Saturday, banning people over 65 and those with chronic health problems from leaving their homes. The interior ministry ordered all restaurants shut to customers except for deliveries and pickups. Earlier, the ministry banned picnics and barbecues as Turkish citizens ignored warnings to remain at home.

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ROME – One of the latest deaths in Italy’s coronavirus crisis is the father of a young man known as Italy’s Patient No. 1.

Italian state TV said the father was one of 62 deaths so far in the outbreak that have occurred in Castiglione d’Adda, one of 10 Lombard towns which were the first to be put on lockdown in northern Italy.

The man’s son, 38, is recovering after weeks of being in critical condition, but his condition has notably improved. The patient is also an expectant father, with a child due to be born with days.

Castiglione d’Adda’s has about 4,600 inhabitants. Italian news reports said the father of Italy’s first confirmed patient with COVID-19 died on Friday. In all, Italy has more than 53,500 cases of the new coronavirus.

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MOSCOW – The capital of Uzbekistan is halting public transport as of Sunday, according to the country’s office for preventing spread of the novel coronavirus.

The announcement said the ban includes subways, buses and fixed-route minibuses in Tashkent, a city of 2.4 million. Taxis will be allowed to operate if they are disinfected at an official center.

Uzbekistan has reported 47 cases of infection.

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BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel was seen doing some shopping Friday, stocking up on essentials for the weekend at her local supermarket.

Merkel has urged Germans to stay at home and practice social distancing to help beat the coronavirus outbreak.

Tabloid newspaper Bild reported Saturday that Merkel filled a small shopping cart with soap, preserved cherries and toilet paper. The paper also published pictures showing what appeared to be four bottles of wine.

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PARIS – France’s health ministry says the country is “rapidly evolving towards a generalized epidemic on the territory” concerning COVID-19.

It says France’s current containment measures, in place since Tuesday and running 15 days, could be renewed depending “on the observance of the application of containment by the population.”

The French Ministry says severe forms of the new coronavirus are observed even in young adults: 50% of people hospitalized in intensive care are less than 60 years old.

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Eritrea, one of the world’s most closed-off countries, is reporting its first coronavirus case.

Information minister Yemane Gebremeskel says the 39-year-old patient is an Eritrean national who arrived Saturday in the East African nation from Norway.

Eritrea on Monday urged citizens to refrain from domestic and foreign travel except for “extremely urgent and unavoidable” reasons. At least 41 of Africa’s 54 countries now have cases with a total over 1,100.

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WASHINGTON – The Federal Aviation Administration has lifted a brief suspension of flights to New York City-area airports because of coronavirus-related staffing issues at a regional air-traffic control center.

In an alert posted online Saturday, the agency advised air traffic controllers to “stop all departures” to Kennedy, LaGuardia, Newark and other airports in the region.

The directive also affected Philadelphia International Airport.

The halt was lifted after about 30 minutes. Initially air traffic controllers were warned it could last several hours.

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MOSCOW – The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin told Italian PM Giuseppe Conte that Russia will provide aid to help Italy cope with the new coronavirus.

Putin said Russia will provide protection means, aerosol disinfection trucks, medical and other equipment and will send teams of experts to the worst affected regions of Italy.

The supplies will be provided by the Russian Defense Ministry and carried by its transport planes.

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Puerto Rico is reporting its first COVID-19 death.

The Health Department says the victim is an elderly Italian woman who was aboard the Costa Luminosa cruise ship that stopped in the U.S. territory earlier this month.

Officials say 21 people have tested positive and another 71 are awaiting test results. Among those infected are people without a history of travel. Police also have cited more than 120 people for violating a curfew imposed earlier this week to help curb coronavirus cases.

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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.

Vice President Mike Pence speaks as President Donald Trump listens during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, Saturday, March 21, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
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