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Latest worldwide virus headlines — U.S says the checks are on the way

Newlyweds Alla and Modzi kiss through protective face masks after the wedding ceremony today with only witnesses, as public gatherings are banned as part of Lithuania's lockdown measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Vilnius, Lithuania. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)

The latest stories worldwide on the coronavirus pandemic include:

— Trudeau warns U.S. not to block 3M from sending respirators to Canada.

— Family unable to attend 13-year-old British boy’s funeral.

— U.S. military has flown 3.5 million swabs test for coronavirus from Italy to Tennessee.

— Chancellor Angela Merkel urging Germans to stay home over Easter.

— President Trump’s economic adviser Larry Kudlow says government checks are on their way; economy will rebound quickly.

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BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel is urging Germans to stay home over Easter and says it would be “absolutely irresponsible” for her to set a date now for the loosening of restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Germany has largely shut down public life and banned gatherings of more than two people in public. Those restrictions will apply until at least April 19 and are to be reviewed after Easter.

Merkel, speaking in her first video message after emerging from two weeks of quarantine at home, says this will be a “very different” Easter and impressed on her compatriots that “even short trips inside Germany, to the seaside or the mountains or relatives, can’t happen over Easter this year.”

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ROME — Italy’s increase both in new cases of COVID-19 and deaths of infected patients is similar to the previous day’s increase.

Epidemiologists and other health experts have described for several days now a kind of plateauing in the numbers, welcome news compared to the steep increases that alarmed the world earlier in Italy’s outbreak.

The general leveling off of the daily increases in new cases has bolstered cautious assessments that Italy’s national lockdown, now in its fourth week, is bearing fruit in containing the new coronavirus.

Civil Protection agency chief Angelo Borrelli announced today that the nation’s death toll stood at 14,681. Total cases number nearly 120,000. Growing seemingly relentlessly was the list of dead doctors caring for COVID-19 patients, with the toll reported to be at 77.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greek health authorities say the country’s confirmed positive cases of the new coronavirus have climbed to a total of 1,613. Six new deaths were recorded, reaching a total of 59.

The positive cases include 119 people on a passenger ship with 380 people on board, chartered by a Turkish company to carry workers of various nationalities to Spain for a construction project.

Civil Protection Deputy Minister Nikos Hardalias says the passengers who had tested negative were being transferred from the ship to hotels ahead of their repatriation. The 119 who tested positive are to remain on board in quarantine for 14 days.

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TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it would be a mistake for the United States to block 3M from sending respirators to Canada.

3M said today the Trump administration has requested 3M cease exporting respirators that they currently manufacture in the U.S. to Canada and Latin America. The company says there are significant humanitarian implications of ceasing respirator supplies to health care workers in Canada and Latin America, where 3M is a critical supplier of respirators.

Trudeau noted the U.S. also receives essential medical supplies and personnel from Canada and says they are making that point to the Trump administration. He says that message is getting through.

The prime minister says he is confident that the close and deep relationship between Canada and the U.S. will hold strong and that will not have to see interruptions in supply chains in either direction.

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LONDON — A 13-year-old British boy who died from the new coronavirus has been buried at a ceremony his family was not able to attend.

Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab died Monday at London’s King’s College Hospital. He is the youngest known victim of the pandemic in Britain.

He was interred today in a Muslim burial ground in Chislehurst, south London. Mourners wearing face masks stood apart from one another to observe social distancing rules as the boy’s coffin was lowered into the ground by four people wearing in protective body suits and face masks.

None of Ismail’s immediate family could attend because they are in isolation after two of his six siblings developed symptoms of the virus.

Family friend Mark Stephenson said Ismail’s younger brother and older sister have developed mild symptoms including a fever and loss of taste.

He said Ismail’s family was “devastated” at not being able to attend the funeral but had been “very moved by the warmth and very positive messages of support from people” after his death.

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WASHINGTON — A senior U.S. general says the military has now flown 3.5 million swabs used to test for the coronavirus from Italy to Memphis, Tennessee.

Lt. Gen. Jon Thomas is deputy commander of the U.S. military’s Air Mobility Command. He says a shipment arrived Thursday night and another one is scheduled to arrive today with 500,000 more swabs for national distribution.

He says there will be another shipment next week.

Thomas also says the military is preparing for the possibility that it will be needed to transport infected patients. He says there have been no requests for transport yet.

Medical professionals from the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine are training medics at Joint Base Charleston on the use of an isolation system that can be used on aircraft to transport infected patients.

The system is a containment unit that would protect aircrew and other medical personnel while also allowing them to provide care during the flight.

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser today lamented rising unemployment in America due to the new coronavirus.

Larry Kudlow says government checks are on their way and predicted the economy would rebound quickly. He says COVID-19 and stimulus efforts only interrupted what was a strong U.S. economic boom.

Kudlow spoke after the government reported that the U.S. unemployment rate jumped to 4.4 percent in March from a 50-year low of 3.5 percent. The job loss of 701,000 was the worst since the depths of the Great Recession in 2009 and foreshadows what’s to come.

“Those numbers and those hardships are going to get worse before they get better,” Kudlow told reporters at the White House.

Earlier on “Fox News Channel,” Kudlow predicted that upcoming economic numbers will be equally negative.

“This is a very deep contraction. The numbers are going to come in very badly,” Kudlow said.

He added: “There’s also no question that we are providing more relief and assistance for unemployment than ever before in our nation’s history.”

He said regular unemployment checks are going out now and that the extra $600 in unemployment money has been given to the states for distribution.

Kudlow said tax rebate checks part of the $2.2 trillion rescue package signed into law March 27 will likely arrive in a couple weeks.

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MEXICO CITY — Social distancing measures and calls for Mexicans to remain in their homes have not produced a drop in violent crime.

There had been hope that the measures implemented in late March to slow the spread of COVID-19 would lead to a significant decrease in criminality. But President Andrés Manuel López Obrador says that has not been seen in the numbers.

López Obrador blamed the stubbornly high murder rate on “confrontations between gangs. They continue disputing territory, clashing amongst themselves.”

He said they were not seeing, as some have suggested, higher incidence of domestic violence because people have been confined to their homes in a stressful situation.

As of today, 50 people had died in Mexico of COVID-19 and more than 1,500 had tested positive for coronavirus.

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MOSCOW — An international media freedom watchdog says the autocratic ex-Soviet nation of Turkmenistan is largely silent about the coronavirus pandemic.

The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders has corrected its previous report earlier this week about an outright official ban of the word “coronavirus,” saying the term was not censored in the Turkmen media.

At the same time, the group reaffirmed that the gas-rich Central Asian nation has put its citizens in danger by deterring the spread of information about the new coronavirus.

The desert Central Asian nation that neighbors Iran so far has reported no cases of the new coronavirus. Iran has reported more than 50,000 cases.

Turkmenistan is one of the world’s most closed countries and ranked last in the RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has ruled the country since 2006 through an all-encompassing personality cult that styles him as Turkmenistan’s “arkadaq,” or protector.

The president is a former dentist and last month ordered the cleaning of public areas with a traditional plant called “harmala” to protect against infectious diseases.

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UNITED NATIONS — United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says warring parties in 11 countries have responded positively to his appeal for a global ceasefire to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

But there are enormous difficulties in turning words into peace, Guterres says, and fighting has escalated in major conflicts including Yemen, Libya and Afghanistan.

Guterres is calling on all governments, groups and people with influence “to urge and pressure combatants around the world to put down their arms.” He says the need is urgent because COVID-19 is now headed to all conflict areas.

Guterres told a briefing at U.N. headquarters in New York today that his appeal 10 days ago was rooted in the recognition that “there should be only one fight in our world today: our shared battle against COVID-19.”

The U.N. chief cited a growing number of endorsements for the cease-fire from 70 countries, civil society, religious leaders including Pope Francis, and more than one million people in an online appeal.

He said parties to conflicts in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Colombia, Libya, Myanmar, the Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen have also expressed their acceptance.

But Guterres said: “There are enormous difficulties to implementation as conflicts have festered for years, distrust is deep, with many spoilers and many suspicions.”

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WASHINGTON — The District of Columbia has announced 104 new positive infections of the new coronavirus. That brings the total 757 with 15 deaths.

Mayor Muriel Bowser has issued a stay-home order for Washington’s approximately 700,000 residents. Neighboring Maryland and Virginia have done the same.

Bowser has declared a state of emergency, shuttered all schools and ordered all non-essential businesses to close. White House and Capitol tours have been cancelled and the National Zoo, Smithsonian museum network and Kennedy Center have closed.

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MOSCOW — The Russian capital has imposed its first fines for violating self-quarantine orders.

Yevgeny Danchikov is head of Moscow’s city services department and was quoted by state television today saying three people were fined 4,000 rubles ($57) each after video surveillance cameras recorded them leaving their residences.

The violators had been diagnosed with symptoms of coronavirus infection but allowed to recuperate under quarantine at home. Moscow has imposed a general lockdown requiring most people to say home except to shop for food and medicine or go to workplaces if required.

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WASHINGTON — The Pentagon says is it will begin accepting COVID-19 positive patients at Pentagon-supported medical facilities in Dallas and New Orleans that previously had been designated as non-COVID hospitals.

COVID-19 positive patients in convalescent care and those deemed non-urgent cases will be accepted at the Morial federal medical station in New Orleans and at the Kay Bailey Hutchison federal medical center in Dallas. These patients must first be screened at a local hospital.

President Donald Trump on Thursday announced that he had approved New York’s request that COVID-19 patients be accepted for care at the Pentagon-supported Javits center, which previously had taken on non-COVID patients.

The Pentagon also said today that screening for care of non-COVID-19 patients on the hospital ship USNS Comfort in New York harbor is being modified in an effort to reduce a backlog at some New York hospitals.

Instead of requiring patients to be tested for COVID-19 at the hospital from which they are being transferred, each patient transferred to the Comfort will be screened by temperature and given a short questionnaire pier-side.

The Pentagon also announced that the number of COVID-19 positive cases in the active-duty military had risen to 978 as of this morning. That is up 85 from a day earlier.

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PHILADELPHIA — Meek Mill’s criminal justice reform group says it’s donating 100,000 face masks to some of the nation’s most notorious jails and prisons.

The celebrity-backed REFORM Alliance says 50,000 masks will go to the Rikers Island jail complex in New York City, 40,000 will be sent to the Tennessee Department of Correction, and 5,000 are headed to the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman.

The Philadelphia-based group includes Jay-Z among its founding members and has been pressing the nation’s jails and prisons to thin their inmate populations, improve sanitation, protect prison workers and take other precautions to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Hundreds of inmates and staff at U.S. correctional facilities have tested positive for the virus. Health experts say people inside prisons and jails are at heightened risk because of tight inmate quarters, a lack of sanitation and substandard medical care.

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