The Latest: Merkel awaits coronavirus results in quarantine

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The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 343,400 people and killed over 14,700. 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 98,800 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

– Merkel awaits coronavirus results in quarantine.

– Denmark extends lockdown until April 13.

– Dutch public health institute records slight drop in deaths and positive tests.

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BERLIN – Angela Merkel’s spokesman says the chancellor’s doing well and awaiting the results of a coronavirus test in quarantine after possible exposure from her doctor.

Steffen Seibert said Merkel led the government Cabinet meeting by telephone.

Merkel went into self-quarantine after being informed Sunday that a doctor who gave her a precautionary vaccine on Friday against pneumococcal infection had tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Seibert said Merkel was tested Monday and that he did not know when the results would be ready, but that the public would be informed once the details were known.

Seibert said there had been no need to go into quarantine himself despite being at a Sunday press conference with Merkel. He said he strictly followed guidance on keeping distance from each other and others.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Denmark’s Prime Minister Metter Frederiksen extended a lockdown through April 13.

Schools, restaurants and public and private businesses had previously been ordered closed until March 30.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The Dutch public health institute has recorded a slight drop in the number of new coronavirus deaths and positive tests.

The institute said Monday that 34 people died from the virus in the past 24 hours, raising the death toll to 213. Another 545 people tested positive, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 4,749.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands: The Dutch foreign ministry has partnered with travel organizations and insurers to help residents of the Netherlands stranded overseas by the coronavirus.

There are believed to be tens of thousands of Dutch tourists and travelers who can’t get home because of restrictions imposed by countries around the world aimed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The new initiative launched Monday set up a website where stranded travelers can register so the government and travel groups can organize flights home or find them safe places to stay.

The organizations already have been rescuing stranded travelers. Last week, they organized extra flights to bring home Dutch tourists stuck in Morocco.

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MOSCOW – Hundreds of migrants from Central Asia are stuck in Moscow airports as countries close borders and airlines cancel flights amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Footage from state TV showed dozens of people lying on the floor at airport terminals, using camping mats to sleep on. Many of them say they’ve been there for several days.

As of Monday, there were 180 Kyrgyz nationals, 202 Uzbek nationals and more than 250 Tajik nationals waiting for flights to their home countries in three Moscow airports.

They all rushed home in panic over the ruble dropping along with oil prices and closing borders.

Several dozen people ended up trapped in the transit zone of the Moscow Sheremetyevo airport, having learned that their flights were canceled after they went through passport control.

Russia has reported 438 coronavirus cases and closed the border for foreigners and restricted air traffic with all countries last week.

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DHAKA, Bangladesh – Bangladesh has ordered a 10-day general holiday through April 4 for all government and private organizations to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The country’s Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam said all government offices not involved in emergency services have been closed. The Monday announcement came after health authorities confirmed a third death due to COVID-19.

Officials also confirmed another six new cases of the virus, including two children below 10 and a doctor and two nurses.

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska – The state of Alaska fears it will run out of money to pay doctors, hospitals and clinics who treat Medicaid patients.

The Anchorage Daily News reported effects of the shortfall on health care expected to begin Monday could not be precisely determined. The shortfall is a consequence of last year’s budget cuts and the Legislature’s failure this year to approve a $360 million supplemental budget.

Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy and the Legislature cut nearly $170 million from the Medicaid budget last year. The governor has proposed to reverse cuts, but in the meantime the state’s Medicaid accounts have been depleted.

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JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s coronavirus cases jumped to 402 on Monday. That is an increase of 128 cases from the day before as it is the country with the most cases in Africa.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to speak to the nation about the growing threat and many expect him to announce new restrictive measures to try to slow the spread of the disease.

More than half of South Africa’s total cases are in the Gauteng province, which include Johannesburg and Pretoria. Johannesburg has 5.7 million people, South Africa has 57 million people.

The new government figures put South Africa ahead of Egypt, which has 372 cases. South Africa has not registered a death from the disease.

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TAIPEI – Taiwan will ban airline passenger transits through the country starting Tuesday through April 7.

Taiwan confirmed 26 more COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the island to 195.

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WARSAW, Poland – Poland has joined those calling for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Polish Olympic Committee says in a statement there is too much uncertainty at the moment to go ahead. It said that because of the rising number of COVID-19 cases, “Polish athletes have increasingly limited training options, Olympic qualifications are being cancelled and there is too much uncertainty.”

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LONDON — Irish premier Leo Varadkar has warned further restrictions may be made on people’s movements during the coronavirus pandemic because of failure to follow social distancing advice.

Varadkar says more recommendations are needed in light of weekend images of crowded public places in Ireland. They will be delivered Tuesday.

The Irish government has said four people have died from the COVID-19 disease and there are currently 906 positive cases of coronavirus.

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CANBERRA, Australia: Australia’s Parliament has passed 83.6 billion Australian dollars ($48.4 billion) in economic stimulus measures to dampen the impact of the coronavirus.

A scaled-down Parliament passed the legislation in a single day on Monday. Dozens of lawmakers have been excused from attending to reduce the chances of spreading COVID-19.

A fourth lawmaker announced on Monday he had contracted the disease.

Australia has more than 1,700 confirmed cases in a population of 25 million and seven people have died with the respiratory illness.

HONG KONG – Foreign non-residents of Hong Kong will be barred from entering the semi-autonomous Chinese territory for 14 days beginning Wednesday.

The Asian financial hub will also ban travelers from mainland China, along with the nearby Chinese region of Macao and the self-governing island of Taiwan that is claimed by Beijing, if they have visited foreign countries over the past two weeks.

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BERLIN – The German government has approved another large aid package to help companies and individuals affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The aid package breaks six years of balanced budgets by borrowing 156 billion euros ($167 billion) to finance it.

The government announced Monday that it will give small companies and self-employed people aid of up to 15,000 euros each over three months.

The decision was made at a Cabinet meeting that Chancellor Angela Merkel joined by telephone.

Merkel went into home quarantine on Sunday evening after learning that a doctor who administered a vaccination to her had tested positive for the coronavirus.

The new package comes on top of a previous pledge of at least 460 billion euros in loan guarantees to help Europe’s biggest economy handle the fallout from running down public life to a minimum.

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PRAGUE – Czech authorities have established an air bridge with China to acquire medical equipment. The effort was done with help from NATO and Czech and Chinese airlines.

NATO provided a giant transport An-124 Ruslan plane as part of its program to help participating allies transport heavy and outsized cargo.

The first flight from the city of Shenzhen in south-eastern China delivered over 106 metric tons (117 tons) of equipment. Two more NATO backed flights are expected later in March.

Also, two planes by the China Eastern airline arrived on Friday and Sunday while the first plane by Czech airline CSA landed in Prague early Monday.

They all have been loaded with millions of face masks and respirators, protective googles and suits as well testers for the virus much needed by the health sector.

Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said three flights a week will be landing with the supplies for at least six weeks.

The Czech Republic has 1,165 cases of COVID-19, and one death.

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CAIRO – Egypt’s state-run television has reported the death of a senior military officer from the coronavirus.

Major General Safea Abdel-Halim Dawood tested positive to the virus following his participation in sterilization efforts which the military. He was head of major projects at the engineering authority of the Egyptian armed forces.

Dawood was the second highest official infected by the virus to date in Egypt, which has around 330 cases and 16 deaths.

On Sunday, the military announced the death of Major General Khaled Shaltout, who was infected also while taking part in sterilization.

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WARSAW, Poland – The coronavirus pandemic is hitting some of Catholic Poland’s best loved traditions like the blessing of food in churches on Holy Saturday.

Poland’s bishops have advised against holding the tradition this year to avoid drawing the usual crowds to churches. People bring baskets of food to church that are placed together on a large table, the foods get a blessing and a sprinkle of Holy Water from the priest, as do the families gathered around the table.

With a “national quarantine” currently in place in the fight against the spreading virus, the bishops advise against the blessing and against the use of Holy Water in Easter liturgies in April.

Poland has 649 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and seven fatalities.

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The second death from COVID-19 in Puerto Rico is a tourist from the United States.

The Health Department says the victim is a 73-year-old man who was vacationing in the U.S. territory with his wife and had other health problems.

The island has 31 confirmed coronavirus cases and at least 69 pending test results. Police have detained and cited more than 200 people for violating a two-week curfew imposed last week.

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MADRID – The number of new infections of the coronavirus in Spain rose for the second day in a row.

Spain’s new 4,517 new Monday brought the overall number since the beginning of the outbreak to 33,089. The day-to-day increase of around 15% is similar to the one seen the day before.

The exponential growth of infection was lower than in previous days, but the number of deaths jumped by 462. Spain now has 2,182 fatalities.

The Spanish government says deputy prime minister Carmen Calvo has been hospitalized with a respiratory infection and doctors are testing her for the coronavirus.

Spaniards are beginning their second week of confinement as worry spreads for the collapse of the country’s healthcare system amid an influx of COVID-19 patients requiring assisted respiration.

The Spanish government is seeking parliament approval to extend the state emergency for two more weeks until April 11, but harsher measures like halting overall industrial production have been ruled out.

No incoming travellers from outside Europe’s Schengen border area are allowed into the country starting from Monday.

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LONDON – British Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said people ignoring the government’s social distancing advice are “very selfish.”

Hancock warned on BBC radio the government may have to take “more action” if people continue to ignore the government’s advice to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

His comments came after a series of images over the weekend showing crowds congregating in open spaces.

Snowdonia National Park in Wales, which experienced “its busiest ever visitor day” on Saturday, urged the government to be more explicit in its advice.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to hold his daily news conference Monday and has warned that Britain may soon have to endure an Italy-style lockdown if people continue to disregard the advice.

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DHAKA, Bangladesh – Bangladesh now has three deaths from the coronavirus. The number of confirmed infections is 33.

Meerjady Sabrina Flora, director of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research, said that six new infections were reported Monday. The new infections include two children under 10 years, a doctor and two nurses.

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BUDAPEST, Hungary – Hungarian lawmakers will discuss a government proposal to extend the state of emergency declared on March 11 because of the coronavirus epidemic.

The bill would allow Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government to rule by decree. The government would not need parliament to approve new or amended laws as long as it considers it necessary because of the epidemic.

The government also has asked the opposition to agree to the urgent passage of the legislation, which would require support from four-fifths of lawmakers. Orban’s Fidesz party and a small ally control two-thirds of the seats.

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LISBON, Portugal — A community of nuns living in silence at a Portuguese convent have offered tips on how to make the best of being stuck at home during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The nuns living in central Portugal say people should take the opportunity to develop their creative side and eat meals together as a family.

They say in an article for the Roman Catholic news agency in Portugal, Ecclesia, that people should place value on the simple things in life — a friendly word, a tender gesture, taking time to listen to others.

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TOKYO – Japan’s health ministry said Monday that two former passengers of a cruise ship died, becoming the ninth and 10th fatalities from the Diamond Princess.

The two men had tested positive for the virus while on board and were treated at hospitals. The ministry didn’t disclose the direct cause of their deaths.

Japan now has 1,801 confirmed cases, including 712 from the ship. The death toll now totals 51, including 10 from the ship.

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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.

The chair of German Chancellor Angela Merkel is empty prior to the weekly cabinet meting at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Monday, March 24, 2020. Merkel attends the meeting by video, since she has gone into home quarantine as a precaution, after a doctor she had contact with, was tested positive for the coronavirus. (Fabrizio Bensch via AP, Pool)
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