The Latest: India links virus cases to religious gathering

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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:

– United States poised to surpass China’s toll of 3,300 deaths.

– India says hundreds at religious gathering carried virus to other parts of the country.

– More than 5,000 coronavirus cases confirmed in Africa.

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NEW DELHI – A neighborhood in the Indian capital where a religious sect is headquartered has been sealed off from outsiders after police evacuated more than 1,000 people believed to have been exposed to the coronavirus during a religious gathering earlier this month before the government imposed the world’s largest lockdown.

Police said on Tuesday that hundreds of people, many of them foreign nationals, carried the virus to several other parts of India after attending a mosque in the crowded majority-Muslim enclave of Nizamuddin West.

Paramedics have transported hundreds of Muslim worshippers to nearby quarantine facilities. Officials say at least 300 people have symptoms of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus.

Officials in other Indian states raced to confine others who attended the Nizamuddin mosque.

India has 1,200 confirmed cases of the coronavirus across the country, including 32 deaths, a quarter of which have been linked to the gathering.

A 21-day long nationwide lockdown that began last week has resulted in the suspension of trains and airline services and effectively kept 1.3 billion Indians at home for all but essential trips to places like markets or pharmacies.

The overall number of known cases in India is small compared with the United States, Italy and China, but health experts say India could be weeks away from a huge surge that could overwhelm its already strained public health system.

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JOHANNESBURG – Africa’s confirmed coronavirus cases are now above 5,000.

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 47 of the continent’s 54 countries now have cases, with 5,255 in all. That includes 173 deaths. But shortages of testing materials mean the real number of cases could be higher.

South Africa’s president on Monday night announced that the country, which has the most cases in Africa with 1,326, will launch a mass screening and testing program with about 10,000 field workers going door-to-door. And, Uganda and Botswana are the latest countries to impose a lockdown in an effort to prevent the virus’ spread.

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ATHENS, Greece – Greek authorities are banning access to a popular pedestrian waterfront area in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, after good weather saw people congregating despite the country’s lockdown measures due to the new coronavirus.

Greece’s civil protection authority said access would only be allowed between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekdays, starting Tuesday. Barriers were to be set up on roads and paths leading to the waterfront to prevent people from reaching the pedestrian area.

Greece’s lockdown regulations allow people to leave their houses only for specific reasons: to buy food or medicine, visit a doctor, help someone in need, exercise, walk a pet or attend the funeral of an immediate relative. Self-declaration documents must be carried, and many used the reasons of exercise or walking a pet to access the Thessaloniki waterfront on Sunday and Monday.

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LONDON – British Airways has suspended all its flights at Gatwick Airport amid a collapse in demand because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The carrier says that “restrictions and challenging market environment,” led to the decision.

The aviation industry has been hard-hit by the pandemic that has prompted travelers around the world to stay home.

Airports themselves are also slowing down. Just 33 flights were due to take off or land at Gatwick on Tuesday, according to aviation data provider FlightStats. Beginning Wednesday, Gatwick’s runway will only be open for scheduled flights between 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. and will close one of its two terminals.

London City Airport closed its runway to usual traffic last week.

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SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea has pushed back its national college exam by two weeks to Dec. 3 following a delay in school years amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae’s announcement on Tuesday came hours after Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun revealed a government decision to keep schools shut while they launch unprecedented online classes beginning next week.

College admissions are a highly sensitive matter in South Korea, where graduating from elite universities is seen as critical in career and wealth prospects.

During the national exam day, government offices and companies start work an hour late, flights are put on hold and police use their cars and motorbikes to transport students running late, while parents flock to churches and Buddhist temples to pray.

South Korea had postponed the beginning of the new school year at kindergartens, elementary, middle and high schools three different times amid the spread of the virus. The previous plan was to open on April 6, which was five weeks later than usual.

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NEW YORK – The mounting death toll from the virus outbreak had the United States poised Tuesday to surpass China’s grim toll of 3,300 deaths, with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo saying up to 1 million more healthcare workers were needed. “Please come help us,” he urged.

Hard-hit Italy and Spain have already overtaken China and now account for more than half of the nearly 38,000 COVID-19 deaths worldwide, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

But the World Health Organization warned that while attention has shifted to epicenters in Western Europe and North America, the coronavirus pandemic was far from over in Asia.

“This is going to be a long-term battle and we cannot let down our guard,” said Dr. Takeshi Kasai, the WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific. “We need every country to keep responding according to their local situation.”

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JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesia will close its doors to foreign arrivals in an attempt to curb the coronavirus spread, and the country plans to bring home more than a million nationals working abroad.

Foreign minister Retno Marsudi announced Tuesday that all foreigners will be temporarily banned from visiting and traveling in Indonesia territories, except for diplomatic corps and those who hold a residence permit.

The restriction will take effect later this week, Marsudi said.

She said the government would protect the health of nationals stranded abroad amid the coronavirus crisis, and has decided to repatriate more than a million Indonesian migrant workers from neighboring Malaysia.

Indonesia’s latest tally of COVID-19 cases rose to 1,414, with 122 reported deaths.

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HANOI – Vietnam will lock down the country for at least two weeks starting at midnight Wednesday in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.

In an order by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on Tuesday, no gathering of more than two people will be allowed, and businesses must be closed except for essential services and manufacturing.

“It’s going to be the crucial two weeks for Vietnam to curb the spread of the virus,” Phuc said to his cabinet during a televised meeting.

Vietnam has reported 204 cases of the new coronavirus, but no deaths.

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CANBERRA, Australia – South Australia state authorities have announced a cluster of six new coronavirus cases among Qantas Airways baggage handlers at Adelaide airport.

State Chief Public Health Officer Dr Nicola Spurrier said on Tuesday anyone who flew through the airport in the previous 24 hours should wipe down their luggage with disinfectant.

Spurrier says Qantas has been told a “significant number of staff” will have to go into quarantine because of the infections.

Around 100 Qantas baggage handlers used the confined area for working and eating meals. She says “a large majority” of those employees will require quarantine.

Qantas is working around the infected work space and Spurrier says she hopes flights won’t be affected.

She could not say when the six tested positive or how they became infected.

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TOKYO – Japanese electronics maker Sharp Corp., which converted its liquid crystal display factory into one churning out medical masks, sent its first shipment Tuesday.

The plant in central Japan is set to make 150,000 masks a day, with production being ramped up later to 500,000 masks a day. The shipment was in response to a Japanese government order, and details were not immediately available on how the masks would get distributed.

The masks will be sold to consumers online later, according to the company, owned by Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., also known as Foxconn. Masks are in short supply at stores in some parts of Japan because of a surge in demand.

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LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who was sued by gun-rights groups after trying to shut down firearms dealers in the wake of coronavirus concerns, said he is abandoning the effort.

The sheriff said he’s heeding a federal Department of Homeland Security advisory issued on Saturday that listed gun and ammunition dealers as “essential critical infrastructure workers.”

Villanueva called the non-binding memo “persuasive” and announced that his department won’t order or recommend closing businesses that sell or repair firearms or sell ammunition in the nation’s most populous county.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has said each of the state’s 58 counties can decide for themselves whether to list firearms dealers as nonessential businesses that should be subject to closure while the state seeks to limit the spread of COVID-19.

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Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Indian paramedics prepare to transport a group of residents to a quarantine facility, amid concerns over the spread of the new coronavirus at the Nizamuddin area of New Delhi, India, Tuesday, March 31, 2020. Police has cordoned off the area after several people who attended an Islamic congregation earlier this month here tested positive for Covid-19. 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)
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