The Latest: Italy tops 19,000 coronavirus deaths

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

—New York schools to close for remaining academic year.

—British PM Boris Johnson makes ‘very good progress’ in London hospital.

—Italy plans increased testing, voluntary contact tracing.

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MILAN, Italy — Italy has topped 19,000 deaths and 150,000 cases of the coronavirus. The milestones were hit Saturday, even as the country continued to see a slight decrease in numbers of people hospitalized and in intensive care.

Deaths rose by 3.2%, or 619, to 19,468, while the number of people who tested positive for the virus reached 152,271, an increase of 4,694, or 3.1%.

Officials have been warning Italians not to keep their guard down even if the number of new cases and deaths is narrowing, especially on the Easter holiday weekend when many are tempted to go to the countryside or seashore.

Police checkpoints were set up around major arteries in Milan, the capital of the hardest-hit region of Lombardy — with 38% of all cases and more than half of all deaths.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greek authorities are reporting three new fatalities due to the COVID-19 virus over the past 24 hours, raising the total for the country to 93. The total number of confirmed cases is 2,081, up 72 from Friday afternoon.

Officials remain concerned that people might be tempted by warmer weather to defy the restrictions on movement imposed in March. They are on the lookout for next weekend, when the Christian Orthodox Easter, is celebrated.

“There is no margin for relaxation” of the curfew, Nikos Hardalias, the minister in charge of civil protection, said Saturday during the government’s daily briefing on the pandemic.

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SKOPJE, North Macedonia — North Macedonia has decided to significantly slash the wages of elected officials, from the president downwards, senior civil servants and state company managers for April and May. They will be paid the minimum wage, around 250 euros, each month.

The government expects to save about 4 million euros from the measure, which will be pumped back to an economy expected to shrink 3.8% this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Macedonia has not been severely affected by COVID-19 so far; there are 760 confirmed cases and 34 fatalities among the 2.1 million population.

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MADRID — Spanish authorities say they will distribute 10 million face masks at major train and subway stations to help reduce a coronavirus spike.

Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska made the announcement on Saturday, two days before factory and construction workers will be allowed to go back to work. That comes after a two-week ban on commuting for all workers not involved in health care or food production and distribution.

Grande-Marlaska says police and civil protection officers will distribute the masks at “major public transport nodes” from Monday to Wednesday for those workers.

Transport official María José Rallo says loudspeakers at stations will remind people to remain at least 1 meter apart, and personnel will monitor the flow of passengers to disperse groups.

Spain has confirmed 161,852 infections and 16,353 deaths. It reported its lowest daily death count in nearly three weeks with 510. A national high of 950 deaths was reported April 2.

There’s been a slight uptick with 4,830 new cases reported Saturday, compared to 4,576 the day before.

The decision to roll back some restrictions has raised doubts among some health experts. But Health Minister Salvador Illa says the changes are minimum and the lockdown measures will probably extend beyond April 26.

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BERLIN — Germany’s president is urging citizens to show patience and discipline over Easter during the coronavirus crisis.

Germany has largely shut down public life to slow the spread of the virus and banned gatherings of more than two people in public. The restrictions currently expire April 19. Federal and state government leaders will consider the next steps on Wednesday.

In a rare television address, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier says, “what happens next, when and how the restrictions can be loosened, is not something politicians and experts alone will decide on.”

Steinmeier says Germany must help its European neighbors emerge from the crisis. He say, “30 years after German unification, 75 years after the end of the war, we Germans are not just called on to show solidarity in Europe — we are obliged to.”

The German presidency is largely ceremonial but carries moral authority.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka has extended the curfew in key parts of the country.

A government statement says the curfew will continue in six districts, including Colombo, until further notice. These six districts have been identified as “high risk zones.”

Sri Lanka has been divided into 25 districts for administrative purposes and the curfew in 19 districts will be briefly lifted next Thursday.

Sri Lanka has been under curfew since March 20, and the government has banned nonessential travels during the curfew hours. Police strictly enforce curfew and have arrested nearly 20,000 people for violations.

Seven infected people have died in Sri Lanka. The number of positive cases is 198.

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PARIS — French security forces were fanning out around the country to ensure people respect the “stay home” mantra over the Easter weekend.

Some 160,000 police were posted at highway entrances and other critical transiting spots for people trying to escape city life.

Police on horseback combed beaches and parks along the northern French coast. Drones were used in other areas to spot people defying strict confinement rules. Those rules end Wednesday after one month, but are expected to be extended.

Some city mayors are adding new guidelines, including a curfew in certain neighborhoods of Nice and the removal of street benches in the southern town of Beziers. Fines for disobeying France’s confinement rules begin at 135 euros ($148).

The current death toll in France is nearly 13,200.

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NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio says public schools in New York City’s 1.1 million-student district will be shuttered for the rest of the academic year.

He says online education will continue for students.

School buildings in the nation’s largest public system have been closed since March 16. A massive effort to move instruction online has met mixed success. Many low-income students lack Wi-Fi and devices for connecting to their virtual classrooms.

Officials in other states, including Virginia and Pennsylvania, previously announced schools will be closed for the rest of the year.

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LONDON — The British government is reporting 917 more deaths from the coronavirus, totaling 9,875 people in the U.K. who have died in the hospital after testing positive for COVID-19.

The increase was slightly lower than the daily high of 980 recorded in the previous 24-hour period. That increase was higher than the daily peaks recorded in Italy and Spain, the two European countries with the highest total number of coronavirus-related deaths.

Comparisons may not be precise. The U.K. deaths reported each day occurred over several days or even weeks, and the total only includes deaths in hospitals.

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MILAN — Musicians from the La Scala Philharmonic Orchestra have collaborated on a video performance of Pachelbel’s Canon to honor medical professionals fighting the coronavirus.

The video was released on social media Saturday ahead of a call for people to play instruments or the recording from their windows and balconies on Easter Sunday.

The orchestra chose Pachelbel’s Canon for its ‘’universality and for its wonderful architecture: a simple musical passage that repeats itself in increasingly complex variations.’’

Marco Ferullo, who coordinated the project, says it’s “in the DNA of people. In its simplicity, it becomes complex. It’s an analogy of life, of relaunching, of hope.”

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ROME — The Shroud of Turin, a burial cloth some believed covered Jesus, will be on display through video streaming for the faithful worldwide.

Turin Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia says he had received thousands of requests from people young and old. The linen, which is kept behind bulletproof glass, will be viewed by streaming on the evening of Holy Saturday, the vigil of Easter. Pope Francis wrote to Nosiglia during Holy Week to express appreciation for the gesture.

Skeptics say the linen bearing the figure of a crucified man is a medieval forgery. The cloth belongs to the Vatican, which has allowed scientific testing.

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ROME — Italy plans to increase testing for the coronavirus and use voluntary contact tracing whenever it exits from a lockdown that’s currently in effect until at least May 3.

Italy’s special commissioner for the virus emergency Domenico Arcuri told SKYTG 24 there will be mandatory blood tests to set up a system of ‘’immunity passports.’’

The voluntary contact tracing mobile apps will allow people to know if they have come in contact with someone who is positive for the virus. Then they can be tested in an effort to limit further spread of the virus.

The blood tests identifying anti-bodies are still being developed. Virologists have cautioned the tests will not prove immunity but will give a snapshot whether a person has been in contact with the virus. If an anti-body test is positive, more testing would be needed to know if the virus is still active.

The goal of public health officials is to determine how long immunity to the virus lasts.

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UNITED NATIONS — United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is appealing to religious leaders of all faiths “to work for peace around the world and focus on our common battle to defeat COVID19.”

The U.N. chief say Christians will be celebrating Easter, Jews are marking Passover and Muslims will soon begin the holy month of Ramadan.

Guterres says the coronavirus pandemic, with its lockdowns and social distancing, has led to a “surreal world” of silent streets and worry “about our loved ones who are equally worried about us.”

The secretary-general urged people to remember the “vulnerable around the world” and health workers on the front lines.

Guterres says, “Together, we can and will defeat this virus – with cooperation, solidarity, and faith in our common humanity.”

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MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman says the traditional parade marking the defeat of Nazi Germany will take place even if it doesn’t happen on the May 9 Victory Day holiday.

The Red Square parade featuring thousands of soldiers and an array of military equipment is a centerpiece of Russia’s most important secular holiday. There have been concerns about whether it would be held amid the restrictions imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Dmitry Peskov says on state TV Saturday that “no one should have doubts that the Victory Day parade and the celebration of Victory Day will be obligatory. I don’t know whether it will be May 9 or later, but it will be obligatory.”

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LONDON — The office of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he “continues to make very good progress” in a London hospital after contracting COVID-19.

The 55-year-old Johnson was diagnosed with COVID-19 more than two weeks ago, becoming the first world leader confirmed to have the illness. His office has said he’s taken “short walks” between periods of rest and had spoken to his doctors to thank them “for the incredible care he has received.”

His coronavirus symptoms at first were mild, including a cough and a fever. He was admitted to St. Thomas’ Hospital on Sunday after his condition worsened. He was transferred to the intensive care unit the following day where he received oxygen but was not put onto a ventilator.

He spent three nights there before moving back to a regular ward on Thursday night.

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DHAKA, Bangladesh — Bangladesh recorded three more deaths and 58 more cases of infection from coronavirus.

Health Minister Zahid Maleque says over the last 24 hours, 954 samples have been tested and 54 cases confirmed positive.

The total number of deaths stood at 30, with 482 infections since the first case was reported on March 8.

Bangladesh has extended its nationwide lockdown until April 25 to keep its 160 million people at home and help contain the virus.

Security officials, including army soldiers, are enforcing social distancing rules.

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NEW DELHI — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended the nationwide lockdown by two more weeks to help contain the coronavirus.

New Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal agreed in a tweet with the decision. Modi held a meeting Saturday with at least 13 chief ministers of Indian states through video conferencing. The unprecedented order for lockdown is meant to keep India’s 1.3 billion people at home and prevent the virus form surging and overwhelming the nation’s already strained health care system.

The country’s current three-week lockdown was to expire Tuesday. Authorities have reported 6,565 confirmed cases and 239 deaths.

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

Categories: National News