The Latest: Cyprus issues nationwide stay-at-home order

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The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 372,000 people and killed over 16,000. 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 100,000 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

– Cyprus issues nationwide 3-week ban on outside excursions

– Hungry rodents hunt for food on Bourbon Street

– Navy ship heads to Los Angeles to provide extra hospital beds

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NICOSIA, Cyprus – Cyprus has stepped up restrictions on the movement of all citizens in a bid to halt the spread of the coronavirus with a nationwide three-week ban on all unnecessary trips outside the home.

President Nicos Anastasiades says that a “disobedient, ill-disciplined and reckless” minority of people who continue to flout existing restrictions are potentially putting lives at risk. He warned in a televised address that the measure is necessary to head off the unchecked spread of the new virus that could lead to the collapse of the health system.

Anastasiades ordered all citizens to remain indoors unless they have to go to work, pick up food and other essential supplies, visit the doctor or a pharmacy, go to the bank or help others in need. The order remains in effect until April 13.

Anastasiades says all citizens who must be outside have to carry their I.D. card or passport and those who don’t conform could face criminal charges and an on-the-spot fine of 150 euros ($161).

Cyprus has 116 confirmed coronavirus cases and one death.

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NEW ORLEANS – Another complication as New Orleans fights the spread of coronavirus: rats and mice abandoning their hiding places in walls and rafters of now-shuttered businesses. They venture out to look for trash to munch on.

Claudia Riegel, the city’s pest control director, says workers in protective clothing are placing poisonous bait in storm drains and setting out traps for rodents on the city’s famed Bourbon Street.

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SAN DIEGO – A U.S. Navy hospital ship set sail from San Diego and planned to spend a few days at sea getting its newly formed medical team used to working together before arriving in Los Angeles to help the city free up its hospital beds.

USS Mercy commanding officer Capt. John R. Rotruck says the ship has 1,000 beds and will begin taking patients who do not have coronavirus from area hospitals a day after it docks in Los Angeles. The ship will have 1,128 active-duty medical personnel on board, 58 reservists and nine of its 12 operating rooms will be ready to perform surgeries.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom had called on President Donald Trump to send the ship to the Port of Los Angeles because of the growing number of cases in the state.

For now, Navy officials say the ship will remain in the area as long as it’s needed. It could be sent on to other cities on the West Coast.

The USS Comfort hospital ship is preparing to go to New York, where the governor has been pressing for medical help.

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to avoid imposing a statewide lock down, saying he still believes targeting the counties hardest hit by the coronavirus for the most extreme measures is the preferable path.

DeSantis says about a third of Florida’s 67 counties have no confirmed cases and another third have few, so he doesn’t yet see the need to impose a near shutdown on their businesses that have been imposed in large, heavily infected counties such as Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach.

DeSantis has ordered statewide closures of bars and gyms and limited restaurants to takeout and delivery and some counties have gone farther, closing not only nonessential businesses but also beaches, marinas and parks.

DeSantis says he doesn’t want to cause unnecessary financial hardship or create unintended consequences such as people fleeing the state and spreading the disease.

Over 1,100 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Florida and 13 have died.

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PARIS – France’s health minister says authorities reported 186 new deaths from coronavirus in 24 hours, taking the total to 860 in the country that is experiencing Europe’s third-worst coronavirus-linked death toll.

Olivier Veran says France has 19,856 infected people, accounting for about a 20% rise in just one day.

He says 2,082 people are in intensive care with the virus across the country.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The Dutch government has tightened its measures aimed at reining in the spread of the coronavirus, including banning all gatherings until June 1.

Local mayors have been given emergency powers to shut down locations where people gather and fine people breaching the orders.

The move came after thousands of people headed to beaches and forests around the country over the weekend, openly flouting the government’s appeal to keep a distance of 1.5 meters between one another.

Announcing the new measures, Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus slammed the behavior as “sloppy, laconic and anti-social.”

Before the latest measures, the government had banned gatherings of 100 people or more until April 6.

The Dutch public health institute says 34 people died of the effects of the virus in the past 24 hours, raising the death toll in the outbreak to 213. Another 545 people tested positive, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 4,749.

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RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam says public schools will remain closed for the rest of the current school year. He had previously ordered a two-week closure.

Virginia officials say the number of people testing positive for the virus continues to rise and is now at 254.

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YANGON, Myanmar – Myanmar has announced its first two confirmed cases of COVID-19, one in the nation’s biggest city, Yangon, and the other in the western state of Chin.

An announcement on the Facebook page of the Health Ministry says the Yangon patient is a 26-year-old male who had recently traveled from the United Kingdom and was hospitalized Saturday. The 36-year-old male patient from Chin State is said to have recently traveled from the United States and was hospitalized Monday.

There had been widespread skepticism that Myanmar had no cases of the coronavirus until now, because it has a long, porous border with China and a decrepit health infrastructure which would have trouble detecting the disease. The government had already restricted the entry of visitors from countries considered to have serious outbreaks and canceled April’s celebrations of the Thingyan annual traditional water festival.

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LONDON – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to address the nation tonight amid mounting speculation that he is to announce more draconian restrictions to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Johnson, who cancelled his daily afternoon news conference, is currently meeting with senior members of his government and health experts within the COBRA emergency committee.

The prime minister is coming under mounting pressure to introduce tougher measures, even of an Italy-style lockdown, after many people were seen over the weekend not observing the government’s social distancing recommendations.

British government figures Monday show another 54 people who had tested positive for the COVID-19 disease had died from the previous day, taking the total to 335.

The British government has also updated its travel advice and is now urging all British travelers to return home as soon as possible.

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PRAGUE – The Czech government has adopted another aid package for the economy struggling amid the outbreak of the new coronavirus.

At the same time, Finance Minister Alena Schillerova says the budget deficit for this year will increase five times to 200 billion Czech crowns ($7.8 billion). Schllerova says the economy might fall by 5.1% this year.

Labor Minister Jana Malacova says the government agreed to pay up to 80% of the salaries of people who can’t work as a result of the epidemic and companies keep them on the payroll.

“We don’t want the companies to lay off their employees,” Malacova said.

The government also suspended a system requiring businesses to report all their sales online. The businesses don’t need to use the electronic reporting system during the current state of emergency plus another three months after the coronavirus crisis is over.

The government had already agreed last week to use up to $40 billion to help the economy in direct aid and loan guarantees.

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Rhode Island is the latest state to postpone its presidential primary as the impact of the new coronavirus widens.

Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Monday the state will move its planned April 28 primary to June 2.

Rhode Island joins Connecticut, Maryland, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana and Ohio in postponing their April 28 primaries – dubbed the “Acela Primary” or “I-95 Primary.”

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Gov. Kate Brown has ordered Oregonians to stay at home and banned all non-essential gatherings to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

Brown issued the executive order after people swarmed the state’s beaches, hiking trails and parks over the weekend. The crowds prompted several coastal towns to order non-residents out and shut down their hotels.

The order closes businesses such as malls, retail complexes, arcades, barber shops, hair salons, gyms and fitness studios, skating rinks, theaters and yoga studios. Also closed are playgrounds and sports courts.

Oregon has had five deaths from COVID-19 and 161 confirmed cases.

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WASHINGTON – A senior State Department official says roughly 13,500 American citizens stranded abroad because of the coronavirus pandemic are seeking help in returning to the United States.

The official said Monday that thousands more Americans are expected to return on department arranged flights in the coming weeks, about 1,500 of whom are booked on flights over the next several days. The official said the repatriations are being done with a combination of military flights, chartered passenger planes and commercial airlines where airports are still open. The official said the Department of Homeland Security has also offered to bring Americans home on planes that it uses to return deportees to mainly Central American nations.

The official says that since late January the department has helped to evacuate more than 5,000 Americans from 17 countries, including early repatriation efforts for 800 people from China and more than 300 from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan. Some 1,200 from were transported from Morocco last week, the official said.

The official urges Americans abroad seeking help to enroll in the department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, or STEP, at https://step.state.gov/ to get alerts from embassies. The official says the department had over the weekend doubled the capacity of the server that handles STEP enrollments to address complaints that the system was not working well. The department has also set up call lines for Americans needing assistance: 888-407-4747 (toll free) or (202) 501-4444.

A second official says fewer than 30 State Department employees at 220 embassies, consulates and other diplomatic facilities have thus far tested positive for the virus and that the number of U.S.-based employees is in the single digits, with clusters of one or two testing positive at offices in Washington, Boston, Houston, Seattle and Quantico, Virginia. The State Department employs some 75,000 people worldwide. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak on the matter by name.

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TORONTO – Canada’s most populous province is ordering the closure of all non-essential businesses.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the order will be effective at midnight Tuesday and will be in place for at least 14 days.

Ford says he will release the list of businesses that will be allowed to stay open, but food will remain on store shelves and people will still have access to pharmacies.

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ROME – Italy’s day-to-day increases of new cases of COVID-19 have dropped considerably compared to figures from a day earlier.

According to data released on Monday by Italy’s Civil Protection agency, new cases rose from a day earlier by 4,789 cases.

That’s nearly 700 fewer new cases that were reported in the day’s previous day-to-day increases. Italy has been anxious to see daily new case loads drop as it health system struggles to keep up with the world’s largest outbreak after China.

Day-to-day increase in deaths also were fewer than the day before: 602 compared to 651 reported by authorities on Sunday.

Health authorities have said it will need a few more days to see if a positive trend holds, including in northern Lombardy region, which is the nation’s worst stricken region.

The latest numbers come nearly two weeks into a national lock-down in a desperate bid to contain Europe’s largest outbreak.

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ANKARA, Turkey – Turkey’s health minister says the country will begin the mass production of respirators for domestic use and to export to countries in need.

Fahrettin Koca said the government will also employ 32,000 more health workers across Turkey to fight the virus. A number of health personnel had contracted the virus, Koca said, adding that the exact figure would be released at a later date.

The minister also said that Turkey has imported and started using a drug from China that was effective in treating coronavirus patients there.

The virus has claimed the lives of 30 people in Turkey while at least 1,236 people have been confirmed as COVID-19 positive. Koca said some of those infected have recovered, but would not provide numbers.

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WASHINGTON – The Transportation Security Administration is reporting that 24 screening officers at 10 airports around the country have now tested positive for the coronavirus.

It also says an additional five employees who have limited interaction with travelers have also tested positive. Those numbers from Monday are up from just seven employees a week earlier.

Hardest hit is New York City’s John F. Kennedy Airport where five screening officers have tested positive.

TSA says security lanes remain open there are fewer passenger than have ever been counted by the agency at U.S. airports.

In addition to both New York City airports, officers have tested positive at airports in Newark, New Jersey; Washington, D.C.; New York City; Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, Florida; Atlanta; Cleveland; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; and San Jose, California.

Sanitation operations on an ambulance for the transport of COVID-19 patients are being carried out in Settimo Torinese, Northern Italy, Monday, March 23, 2020. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness, especially in older adults and people with existing health problems. (Fabio Ferrari/LaPresse via AP)
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