The Latest: Norway to perform random coronavirus tests

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The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

– Norway to perform random coronavirus tests

– Pope Francis backs U.N. chief’s call for a cease-fire in all conflicts

– Spain reports 838 more deaths in last 24 hours

– Boris Johnson urges Brits to following the rules

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OSLO, Norway – Norwegian health authorities say they are set to start performing random coronavirus tests, following the experiment Iceland has done.

Citing officials at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Norwegian public broadcaster NRK said Sunday such random testing among all citizens will provide answers to two key questions: how many of those who appear to be infected actually have the coronavirus and how wide the spread of the virus is.

NRK said Iceland, with its 12,000 random tests among its population of 340,000, has the largest number of tests per capita in the world. Norway, a nation of 5.4 million, has so far reported 4,054 coronavirus cases with 25 deaths.

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VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis is backing the U.N. chief’s call for a cease-fire in all conflicts raging across the globe to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. He also said his thoughts are with those constrained to live in groups, citing in particular rest homes for the elderly, military barracks and jails.

During his traditional Sunday blessing, the pope called for ‘’the creation of humanitarian aid corridors, the opening of diplomacy and attention to those who are in situations of great vulnerability.’’

He cited U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ appeal this past week for a global truce ‘’to focus together on the true fight of our lives’’ against the coronavirus.

Francis, as he has throughout most of the coronavirus emergency due to bans on public gatherings, addressed the faithful from his private library in the Apostolic Palace, and not from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square as is tradition.

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BEIJING – Airline flights from the Chinese province at the center of the coronavirus outbreak resumed Sunday in another step toward lifting restrictions that kept tens of millions of people at home.

The first flight took off from Yichang, a city in Hubei province, bound for the eastern city of Fuzhou with 64 passengers, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Most access to Wuhan, the city where the first coronavirus cases were reported in December, was suspended on Jan. 23. Restrictions spread to other cities in Hubei, cutting train, air and road links.

The government has been gradually relaxing restrictions since the Communist Party declared victory over the outbreak. Subway and bus service in Wuhan resumed Saturday and the city’s train station reopen.

Airports in Hubei were scheduled to have a total of 98 departing flights on Sunday, Xinhua reported.

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MADRID – Spain says it has hit a new daily record for coronavirus deaths with 838 fatalities in the last 24 hours for a total of 6,528, the world’s second-highest death count behind Italy.

Sunday’s number is slightly up from Saturday, when 832 people were reported to have died from the virus.

The number of infections rose by more than 6,500 from Saturday to Sunday for a new total of 78,797. The rate of that increase in infections, however, continues to decrease.

Spain has been in lockdown for two weeks under a national state of emergency. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Cabinet will approve on Sunday a new decree to tighten those controls and impede workers from commuting to work in all industries unrelated to health care and food production and distribution for two weeks.

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BERLIN – Health officials in Berlin are calling on the chronically ill and people with symptoms of strokes or heart attacks not to avoid seeking necessary medical treatment during the coronavirus crisis.

Berlin’s state health ministry and hospitals’ and doctors’ associations said Sunday that local hospitals that treat stroke victims are seeing a significant decline in stroke patients. They said in a statement that they suspect many patients who suffer mild strokes or heart attacks are staying at home for fear of being infected with the virus.

They said that not seeking treatment may be more dangerous than the “relatively small probability” of being infected with the coronavirus when visiting a doctor’s practice or emergency unit.

Germany has reported a large number of infections with the coronavirus but a relatively low death rate. Berlin itself had 2,337 confirmed cases, including nine deaths, as of Saturday.

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PARIS – A French politician who for decades was in the limelight as a mainstay of the conservative right is the first politician in France to have died after being tested positive for the coronavirus.

Patrick Devedjian died early Sunday at the age of 75 after being hospitalized earlier in the week, the regional council of the Hauts-de-Seine region, which he presided over, announced.

Numerous other French politicians have tested positive, but Devedjian was the first known to die. For decades, he served as a lawmaker and was a minister under former presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac.

As of Saturday, 2,314 people had died of COVID-19 in France, the fifth highest death rate in the world.

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BRATISLAVA, Slovakia – Slovakia’s government has unveiled a massive package to help the economy struggling amid the pandemic of the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Igor Matovic said on Sunday that as part of the “First Aid” measures, the state will be paying 80% of wages of employees from the companies and businesses that had to be closed because of the government’s response to the outbreak.

The state will contribute up to 540 euros ($593) a month for wages of employees or self-employed people based on the drop in revenues of their firms.

The moves are meant to help businesses retain their employees.

The government will also provide 500 million euros ($549 million) a month as loan guarantees.

Those who had to stay at home because they are quarantined or have to take care of their children because the schools are closed will receive 55% of their gross salaries.

The government said this aid package, the biggest in the country’s history, will help about 1 million people in the country of 5.5 million.

Slovakia has only 292 cases of the virus, mainly due to a low numbers of tests.

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SYDNEY – Australia has announced that public gatherings will be limited to two people, down from 10, and has enacted a six-month moratorium on evictions for those who cannot pay their rent as part of its latest measures in the face of the coronavirus crisis.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the new measures on Sunday night after earlier in the day flagging a 1.1 billion Australian dollar ($680 million) welfare package boosting mental health care, domestic violence support, public health care services for those self-isolating at home, and emergency food relief.

Morrison said the reduction in the maximum size of public gatherings had come after the latest advice from medical experts to slow the spread of the virus. It does not apply to families.

Morrison said Australia’s states and territories would implement the six-month ban on evictions of people from residential and commercial properties as a “result of financial distress if they are unable to meet their commitments”.

Australia had 3,966 confirmed cases of the virus as of Sunday afternoon, including 16 deaths.

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LONDON – Prime Minister Boris Johnson is writing to every household in the U.K. to urge people to stay home and follow the rules amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The letter from Johnson – who has tested positive for the virus – warns Britons that “things will get worse before they get better,” as he urged people to stay indoors to slow the spread of the virus.

The letter, landing on 30 million doorsteps this week, will be accompanied by a leaflet spelling out the advice.

Johnson says that the “more we all follow the rules, the fewer lives will be lost and the sooner life can return to normal.’’

Johnson has been accused of sowing confusion in his messages about the crisis.

The 55-year-old leader has been accused of failing to follow the British government’s distancing measures after he, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack and the chief medical officer for England, Chris Whitty, began self-isolating with symptoms.

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KATHMANDU, Nepal – Rescue flights have flown 114 foreign trekkers and Nepali guides out of the Mount Everest area to Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu.

Nepal Tourism Board official Sudan Subedi said 11 flights on small planes on Sunday ferried back the tourists and guides who had been stranded in the mountain village of Lukla for days.

Malaysian tourist Yeoh Wan Xin said she and four friends were trekking to the Everest base camp when they cut short their trip and headed to Lukla airport hoping to get a flight. They waited at the village for five days before they were able to get on the rescue flights.

Similar rescue flights had brought in 178 tourists and guides on Saturday.

Subedi said Sunday’s flights were the last of the flights out of the Everest region. The airstrip at Lukla village is the only airport in the area.

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DENPASAR, Indonesia – Countries are scrambling to evacuate their citizens stranded amid the coronavirus crisis while vacationing on Indonesia’s resort island of Bali after airlines canceled thousands of flights and more countries enforce travel restrictions.

The total number of stranded tourists in Bali is not known, but more than 169,000 travelers came to Bali this month alone, according to government data.

The data showed that some 2,500 travelers had extended their visas to avoid penalties for overstaying them before Indonesia’s government granted all tourists automatic extensions last week.

Bali Airport Authority head Elfi Amir said Sunday that the evacuations have been taking place since Thursday through chartered flights from the tourists’ home nations.

He said China, Germany, France, Thailand, Poland, Britain, Brazil, Lithuania and Russia were among the countries that were evacuating or planning to evacuate their nationals from Bali, where two people have died from the coronavirus, including a British woman, out of 10 positive tests.

Indonesia has confirmed a total of 1,285 cases, including 114 deaths.

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NEW YORK – James Dolan, the executive chairman of Madison Square Garden Company and owner of the New York Knicks, has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Knicks announced Dolan’s diagnosis Saturday night. It is not clear when he was tested or when he received the diagnosis.

The 64-year-old Dolan is the first U.S. major pro sports owner known to have tested positive for the virus.

“The Madison Square Garden Company Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim Dolan has tested positive for coronavirus,” the team’s statement said. “He has been in self-isolation and is experiencing little to no symptoms. He continues to oversee business operations.”

New York has been the hotspot for the pandemic in the U.S.

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Federal health authorities in Pakistan report the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 is increasing, raising the country’s total number of confirmed patients to 1,495. They also report another death of a man in the country’s commercial hub, Karachi, increasing the death toll to 12.

A breakout shows the largest Punjab province has 557 patients, and southern Sindh province has 469. Southwestern Baluchistan, which borders Iran and Afghanistan, has 133, and Khyber Pakhtukhwa, which borders Afghanistan, has 188. The Gilgit Baltistan region has 107 patients, while the federal capital, Islamabad, has 39. Pakistan controlled Kashmir has two confirmed cases.

The count shows there is increase of 87 cases, with seven of the patients stated to be in critical condition.

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand – New Zealand has reported its first death from the new coronavirus.

Health authorities said Sunday the victim was a woman in her 70s, They said she was admitted to a West Coast hospital last week with what they initially thought was influenza, and hospital staff did not wear full protective equipment.

As a result, 21 staffers have been put in self-isolation for two weeks.

The country has reported 514 cases of COVID-19. Last Wednesday, New Zealanders began a strict four-week lockdown.

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WASHINGTON – Vice President Mike Pence has tweeted that the CDC is urging residents of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut “to refrain from non-essential travel for the next 14 days.”

The advisory from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came after President Donald Trump backed away from calling for a quarantine for coronavirus hotspots. Instead, Trump directed Saturday night that a “strong Travel Advisory” be issued to stem the spread of the outbreak.

The notion of a quarantine had been advocated by governors, including Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who sought to halt travelers from the heavily affected areas to their states. But it drew swift criticism from the leaders of the states in question, who warned it would spark panic in a populace already suffering under the virus.

Trump announced he reached the decision after consulting with the White House task force leading the federal response and the governors of the three states. He said he had directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “to issue a strong Travel Advisory, to be administered by the Governors, in consultation with the Federal Government.”

He added: “A quarantine will not be necessary.”

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BEIJING – The city at the center of China’s virus outbreak has reopened subways and long-distance train service in another step toward ending restrictions that confined millions of people to their homes.

Subway passengers in Wuhan in the central province of Hubei were required to wear masks and be checked for fever after service resumed Saturday, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. It said signs posted in subway cars tell passengers to sit with empty seats between them.

Most access to Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, was suspended Jan. 23. Bus and subway service within the city was suspended.

Restrictions have gradually been relaxed. The last controls that block residents of Wuhan from leaving Hubei are due to be lifted April 8.

Also Saturday, more than 12,000 passengers arrived by high-speed train as the Wuhan train station reopened, Xinhua said.

Meanwhile, the first cargo train to Europe since the start of the outbreak left for Germany on Saturday carrying auto parts, electronic productions, optical communication fiber and medical supplies, Xinhua reported.

Undertakers take a moment while a priest and family, not seen, pray during the burial of an elderly victim of the COVID-19 at the Almudena cemetery in Madrid, Spain, Saturday March 28, 2020. In Spain, where stay-at-home restrictions have been in place for nearly two weeks, the official number of deaths is increasing daily. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Olmo Calvo)
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