A herd of goats walk the quiet streets in Llandudno, north Wales, Tuesday March 31, 2020. A group of goats have been spotted walking around the deserted streets of the seaside town during the nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus. (Pete Byrne/PA via AP)

The Latest: Ethiopian election postponed because of virus

March 31, 2020 - 2:05 pm
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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:

— Ethiopian election postponed because of virus, a first for Africa.

— U.N. chief says pandemic is biggest global crisis since World War II.

— Fauci says White House could recommend broader use of masks.

— Italy hits “plateau” in its infection rate.

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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — For the first time, a major election in Africa has been postponed as authorities say the coronavirus makes it impossible to prepare.

Ethiopia's national election board says it is ceasing all work related to the vote once set for August. It has been highly anticipated in a country that has seen sweeping political reforms but a surge of violence as people use new freedoms to settle old scores.

Both the government and opposition camps have expressed support for the election board's decision. With the government's mandate expiring in a few months, lawmakers are expected to vote to extend it.

Several African countries have upcoming presidential votes this year.

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PRAGUE — The Czech government has approved a package to help the economy hit by restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Labor Minister Jana Malacova said the government agreed to pay up to 80% of the salaries of the employees at the businesses that had to be closed after the outbreak. The companies have to keep them on the payroll.

The people who had to be quarantined will also be given 80% of their salaries by the state.

The maximum was set at 39,000 Czech crowns ($1,560) per person a month.

The government will also contribute 60% of the salaries to the employees at the companies whose revenues dropped due to the crisis with a maximum set at 29,000 Czech crowns ($1,160) per person a month.

Finance Minister Alena Schillerova said self-employed people will receive a one-time payment of $1,000.

The government previously agreed to use up to $40 billion to help the economy in direct aid and loan guarantees.

The Czech Republic had 3,138 people infected while 29 have died, according to figures released on Tuesday.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey reported 46 deaths from the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, raising the total number of fatalities in the country to 214.

According to the Health Ministry figures released Tuesday, the country also registered 2,704 more confirmed cases, bringing the total number to 13,531. At least 243 patients have recovered.

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LONDON — The medical director of the National Health Service's operations in England says there is evidence that the social distancing measures imposed by the British government to get on top of the coronavirus pandemic are working.

At a press briefing Tuesday, Professor Stephen Powis said this was not a time for complacency.

Though there's been “a bit of a plateau,” Powis insisted "we must not take our foot off the pedal."

His comments came after figures showed that 381 people who had tested positive for COVID-19 had died in the previous 24-hour period, taking the total to 1,789. The increase was by far the biggest daily rise.

Powis said the number of deaths will continue to increase over the coming weeks as it is the last indicator that will turn after the number of infections and the number of hospitalizations.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch government has extended what Prime Minister Mark Rutte calls an “intelligent lockdown” to slow the spread of the coronavirus until April 28.

The decision announced by Rutte in a nationally televised press conference Tuesday evening means that bars, restaurants, museums, schools and universities will have to remain closed for an extra three weeks. The government already had ordered them closed them until April 6.

All large-scale events and gatherings have been banned until June 1.

The announcement came on the day that the country’s public health institute announced that the national death toll had risen by 175 to 1,039.

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PHILADELPHIA — A federal judge in Pennsylvania has ordered the immediate release of 10 people held in the state by U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement because their health makes them particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus while in custody.

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III said in his ruling Tuesday that social distancing and adequate hygiene are not possible in the three detention facilities where the people are being held while they pursue immigration cases in the U.S.

The case is among a series brought on behalf of people held in immigration detention in recent days across the U.S. Judges in about a half a dozen cases have ordered the immediate release of detainees.

ICE had no immediate comment about whether it would appeal the ruling.

There are around 37,000 people held in immigration detention in the U.S. ICE has reported that at least four have tested positive for COVID-19.

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TORONTO — Canada's most populous province says school closures will last at least until May 4 and another province says schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford confirmed that Ontario's decision and Manitoba's education minister says says schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year unless health officials say they can be reopened.

School boards have been working on plans to help children learn from home.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault, meanwhile, is warning the province could run out of some kinds of medical supplies in three to seven days. He made the announcement as the total number of cases in Quebec rose to 4,162, which is an increase of 732 from yesterday. Canada has more than 7,708 cases, including 89 deaths.

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UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is warning that the world faces the most challenging crisis since World War II, confronting a pandemic threatening people in every country that will bring a recession “that probably has no parallel in the recent past.”

The U.N. chief said at the launch of a report Tuesday on the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 there is also a risk that the combination of the disease and its economic impact will contribute to “enhanced instability, enhanced unrest, and enhanced conflict.”

Guterres called for a stronger and more effective global response to the coronavirus pandemic and to the social and economic devastation that COVID-19 is causing.

He stressed that this will only be possible “if everybody comes together and if we forget political games and understand that it is humankind that is at stake.”

“The magnitude of the response must match the scale of the crisis — large-scale, coordinated and comprehensive, with country and international responses being guided by the World Health Organization,” the secretary-general said, noting that not all countries are following WHO guidelines.

Guterres announced the establishment of a COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to support efforts in low- and middle-income countries, with the aim of swiftly enabling governments to tackle the crisis and promote recovery.

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LAS VEGAS — Homeless people in Las Vegas have been directed to sleep in rectangles painted on the pavement in a makeshift parking lot camp as a way to limit the spread of the coronavirus, a move that is stirring outrage by some on social media.

City officials said they decided to temporarily place the homeless in a parking lot of a multi-use facility rather than inside buildings that include a stadium, a theater, exhibit space and meeting rooms, because officials planned to reserve them for potential hospital overflow space if needed.

Former Obama administration housing chief Julian Castro suggested in a post on Twitter that the city's homeless should be temporarily placed in empty hotel rooms.

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WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci said the White House coronavirus task force is looking into the idea of recommending broader, community-wide use of masks to deter the spread of the new coronavirus.

Fauci said the task force first wants to make sure that such a move wouldn’t take away from the supply of masks available to health care workers.

“But once we get in a situation where we have enough masks, I believe there will be some very serious consideration about more broadening this recommendation of using masks,” Fauci said in a CNN interview Tuesday. “We're not there yet, but I think we're close to coming to some determination.”

He said wearing a mask may prevent an infected person from spreading the virus.

Fauci is the director National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a leader of the U.S. response to the pandemic.

President Donald Trump said Monday he could see broader use of masks on a temporary basis.

“I mean, you know, we want our country back. We're not going to be wearing masks forever, but it could be for a short period of time,” Trump said.

The World Health Organization on Monday reiterated its advice that the general population doesn't need to wear masks unless they're sick. Since the epidemic began in China, the WHO has said masks are for the sick and people caring for them.

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NEW YORK — The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus climbed past 3,500 Tuesday, eclipsing China's official count.

New York's mammoth convention center started taking patients to ease the burden on the city's overwhelmed health system and the tennis center where the U.S. Open is held was being turned into a hospital.

Worldwide, more than 800,000 people have been infected and over 39,000 people have died, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. Italy and Spain accounted for half the deaths, while the U.S. had around 3,550 by midday, eclipsing China's official toll of about 3,300.

New York was the nation's deadliest hot spot, with about 1,550 deaths statewide, the majority of them in New York City.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greece reported a jump in confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, with 102 new cases bringing the total to 1,314 in the country. Forty-nine people have died so far of the virus, the health ministry’s infectious diseases expert Sotirios Tsiodras said.

The new confirmed positive cases include 20 crew members of a passenger ship docked in the country’s main port of Piraeus, and a woman living in a refugee camp near Athens who tested positive after giving birth in a hospital in the capital.

The International Organization for Migration said its staff continued to work in the Ritsona refugee camp with the use of safety equipment, and had distributed soap and cleansers to the camp’s residents. It said common areas in the camp were being disinfected once a week.

Greece has been on lockdown for just over a week, with people allowed to leave their homes only for certain limited reasons.

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BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia has reported its “worst day” so far in the outbreak of the new coronavirus with seven deaths and 115 new cases in a day.

The Balkan country’s crisis team said Tuesday that there are now 900 confirmed infections while 23 people have died.

Head of the Clinic for Infectious Diseases Goran Stevanovic warned at a daily briefing that unless people start to fully respect the lockdown measures and recommended social distancing, “we will be looking at the Italian and Spanish scenario.”

The doctors then walked out of the live press conference without taking questions in order to stress their message.

Serbia’s authorities have complained that the citizens have not taken the issue seriously enough and continue to go out of their homes and socialize. Thousands went out in nice weather last weekend.

Serbia has imposed an evening curfew and banned all citizens over 65 years from leaving their homes. President Aleksandar Vucic has announced that a 24-hour curfew could be introduced if the situation worsens.

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ROME — The head of Italy’s national institutes of health says the country has hit the “plateau” in its coronavirus infection rate, three weeks into a national lockdown, and should start to see a decline in new cases.

Dr. Silvio Brusaferro stressed Tuesday that it would be folly to relax Italy’s productivity shutdown and stay-at-home restrictions now, even though the rate of new virus infections is slowing.

But he said, “The curve suggests we are at the plateau. We have to confirm it, because arriving at the plateau doesn’t mean we have conquered the peak and we’re done. It means now we should start to see the decline if we continue to place maximum attention on what we do every day.”

The daily numbers released by Italy’s civil protection agency confirmed the trend, showing another 4,053 infections — in line with a leveling off in recent days — to bring Italy’s total confirmed cases to 105,792. Another 837 people died, bringing Italy’s toll to 12,428, the highest in the world.

Brusaferro confirmed that Italy’s R0, the average number of people who will get infected from one contagious person, is nearing one, down from estimates as high as two or three. Officials are aiming to get the R0 under one to rein in the epidemic.

In the absence of a virus vaccine that would bring that rate closer to zero, Brusaferro said governments around the world will have to come up with a mixture of measures to keep the infection curve down while gradually allowing some activity to restart.

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WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says a State Department official has died from the coronavirus, the first American fatality among the U.S. diplomatic corps from the pandemic.

Pompeo didn't give details about the official who passed away or where the person contracted the disease. He says about four to five dozen State Department employees had tested positive for the virus, including locally employed staffers at a handful of the 220 U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.

On Monday, State Department health officials said at least two locally employed staff members had died from the virus.

Those officials say they were tracking 105 confirmed cases among the agency’s global workforce of about 75,000. Of those, 75 are overseas and 30 are at State Department offices in the United States in nine cities.

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

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