The Latest: Virus causes activists to cancel climate protest

BEIJING (AP) — The Latest on the coronavirus outbreak sweeping the globe (all times local):

12:40 a.m.

The environmental group Fridays for Future says it is canceling planned demonstrations in Germany at the end of this week because of the virus outbreak.

The group has become a powerful voice in the youth movement demanding that world leaders take action to tackle climate change. Its Friday protests sometimes have drawn tens of thousands of students nationwide.

In a tweet Tuesday citing the hashtag #FlattenTheCurve, the group said it wanted to “take responsibility” by helping slow the spread of the new coronavirus, which has infected 116,000 people worldwide and killed over 4,000. It said “with a heavy heart, we are canceling the planned large-scale climate strike on Friday.”

The group said it would instead take its protest online.

The idea of slowing the spread of COVID-19 to prevent more serious consequences later echoes the theory that reducing carbon emissions sooner can help the world avoid some of the more catastrophic impacts of climate change.


12:20 a.m.

Congo has confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus — a Belgian citizen who tested positive at the airport and who is in quarantine — bringing the number of infections in Africa to 105 in 11 countries.

Burkina Faso late Monday confirmed its first two cases — a husband and wife who returned from a trip to France.

South Africa announced four more cases, bringing its total to seven, all part of a group that returned from Italy. Senegal has reported four cases. Nigeria and Cameroon each have two cases and Togo has one.

In North Africa, there have been two deaths, one each in Morocco and Egypt. Egypt now has 59 cases, Algeria has 20, Tunisia has five and Morocco now has one remaining case.

Although Africa’s numbers are low compared to Asia, Europe and the U.S., experts warn that COVID-19 spreading across the continent could be catastrophic given the poor health systems in many African countries.


12:10 a.m.

Spaniards spooked by a big jump in coronavirus infections have rushed into supermarkets in Madrid, a day after virus cases nearly tripled in the capital.

One supermarket in Madrid saw long lines with dozens of customers in each waiting to pay for carts packed with food and household products.

“There is a huge panic,” said 59-year-old shopper Ángeles Gómez. “There are people queuing from the cash register to the other end of the supermarket.”

Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa says the country has not seen any food shortages. Nearly half of Spain’s over 1,600 infections are in the capital and the country has seen 35 deaths.

Regional authorities in Madrid and in two regions in northern Spain are closing schools and universities for two weeks to try to slow the spread. But some folks thought that was a bad idea.

“We leave our children with the grandparents? They are the ones who are most at risk,” said Toni Flix, a parent of two, in Madrid. “They should close other things but not schools.”


11:35 p.m.

UNESCO says the coronavirus outbreak has interrupted schooling for nearly 363 million students worldwide and is urging nations to work harder to make sure affected students are still learning.

The U.N. education agency has set up an emergency group to help nations implement better remote education practices as the spread of COVID-19 continues to severely impact schools and universities.

On Tuesday, the Paris-based agency held a global video conference of education officials in 72 countries, including 27 education ministers, to share strategy on minimizing disruptions due to the epidemic. The agency has published a list of free learning applications and platforms for use by teachers.

UNESCO says 15 countries have ordered nationwide school closures and 14 have implemented localized closures, spanning Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America.

Greece and Macedonia on Tuesday announced all schools, universities and kindergartens will be shut for the next 14 days.


11:10 p.m.

Trips and conferences are being canceled due to the new coronavirus in all corners of the globe.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has postponed a trip to India, Pakistan and Uzbekistan that was to begin Monday due to the coronavirus crisis. Pentagon press secretary Alyssa Farah said Tuesday the move was done “out of an abundance of caution.”

Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina canceled plans for a two-day official visit to Japan starting March 30 because of the global outbreak. The foreign minister says the visit will be rescheduled.

The Endocrine Society, whose members are doctors that treat diabetes, obesity and other hormone-related conditions, has canceled its annual conference, which was to be March 28-31 in San Francisco. The meeting was expected to draw nearly 10,000 people. It’s the first time the scientific conference has not been held since World War II.


10:55 p.m.

Two hundred guests who had been detained under quarantine for two weeks in a hotel on Spain’s Canary Islands have been allowed to leave.

On Tuesday they completed the 14-day quarantine ordered by authorities after an Italian guest tested positive for the coronavirus on Feb 24.

Authorities for the Canary Islands say that seven guests were eventually found to be infected, six Italians and one British citizen. Four of them remain in the hospital but without symptoms. The other three have been released.

Health authorities applied the quarantine to over 600 guests staying at the H10 Costa Adeje Palace on the island of Tenerife. After passing medical screenings, small groups had been allowed to leave before the final guests left on Tuesday.


10:35 p.m.

Major European airlines are canceling flights to and from Italy after the country put a nationwide lock down on travel

British Airways said Tuesday it is canceled all flights and could not confirm the status of future flights.

Air France is reducing its traffic to Italy by half for all of March, and suspending flights to Hong Kong and Taipei until March 29. Air France has canceled 3,600 flights this month.

Ryanair, Europe’s busiest airline, canceled all international flights to and from Italy from Saturday until April 9. The carrier said passengers currently in Italy could fly home on one of the flights operating up to Friday night.

Spain’s Cabinet has banned direct flights between Italy and Spanish airports. Routes between Spain and Italy amount to 9% of all Spanish international air traffic. Some 16 million passengers took flights between the two countries last year.


10:30 p.m.

Florida state health officials say three employees of a company that greets cruise ship passengers in Florida have tested positive for the new coronavirus.

State health officials on Tuesday are urging anyone who recently traveled through Port Everglades to isolate themselves for 14 days if they start experiencing symptoms.

The Florida Department of Health confirmed the connection to the Metro Cruise Services company in a news release. Health officials also are trying to connect with all employees of Metro Cruise Services who may have come into contact with the three infected co-workers.


10:20 p.m.

Morocco has reported its first death of a person with the new virus, an 89-year-old woman with underlying medical problems who died in a Casablanca hospital.

It was only the second confirmed death in Africa, after one in Egypt over the weekend. The woman in Morocco had arrived from Italy, and was one of just two people in Morocco confirmed to have the virus.

Italy now has more coronavirus cases than anywhere but China, registering 9,172 infections with 463 deaths, and officials say they expect many, many more.


10 p.m.

Hollywood continued to reschedule its upcoming movie releases due to the coronavirus, as Sony Pictures on Tuesday announced that it’s moving “Peter Rabbit 2” to August.

“Peter Rabbit 2” had been set to hit U.K. and European theaters on March 27, and open in the U.S. on April 3. Instead, Sony said the sequel to 2018’s “Peter Rabbit” will launch on Aug. 7.

Cinemas have been closed in China for several weeks. On Monday, Italy shuttered all of its theaters.

In many countries, health experts are advocating social distancing to help prevent the spread of the virus. Last week, the James Bond film “No Time to Die,” postponed from early April to November.


9:20 p.m.

The governor of Italy’s Lombardy region says he will ask the Italian government to impose tighter virus-control measures after fresh data showed the new coronavirus continues to spread in his northern region.

Regional governor Atilio Fontana told private TV channel La7 on Tuesday that the mayors of 12 provincial capitals agreed to request orders that would close non-essential stores and shut down local public transportation.

Fontana says the requested measures would not impact grocery stores and other activities deemed essential for the public good. He says mandatory closures that could cause ‘’damage to the collectivity or the economy” also won’t be imposed.

The governor didn’t provide new figures on virus cases in Italy. A national tally usually is provided later in the day.

Lombardy has been hardest hit by the virus outbreak in the country.

Fontana said stricter measures to limit travel and public events ‘’are justified by the fact that on the one hand, contagion is growing, and by the fact that the (original) red zone where they observed the most rigid measures, the trend is reversing,”


8:10 p.m.

Europe’s airports say they expect 187 million fewer passengers this year due to the virus outbreak, which is “turning into a shock of unprecedented proportions for our industry.”

The ACI Europe, which represents the sector, estimated Tuesday that the outbreak will mean a 13.5% drop in airport passengers in the first quarter alone. That translates to 1.32 billion euros ($1.5 billion) in lost revenue.

Airports in Italy, where the government has imposed a travel lockdown on the whole country, are the most affected. Scores of nations have issued travel advisories urging their citizens to avoid Italy.

Olivier Jankovec, the head of ACI Europe, says “what they are now bracing for is a total collapse in air connectivity and the prospect of losing most of their revenues.”

He called on the Italian government to provide emergency financial support, and said that might be necessary across the EU if more authorities clamp down on travel.


7:45 p.m.

In a dramatic move to keep the coronavirus from shifting north, Austria’s chancellor says the country is barring travelers from Italy from entering.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Tuesday that exceptions will be made for those with medical notes and authorities will help repatriate Austrians from Italy.

Malta has suspended all flights into and out of Italy. Austria, Britain and Ireland have issued travel advisories for the whole country as Italy’s extraordinary anti-coronavirus lockdown looked set to isolate the country inside and out.

Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela announced that until further notice, flights to and from Italy would be suspended and ships from Italy would only be allowed to dock if they were carrying cargo, food or medicine.

Abela said the cruise ship MSC Grandiosa, which was to dock in Malta on Tuesday would not be allowed in since it just came from Palermo in Italy.

Austria issued a full travel warning for Italy to “urgently recommend” that Austrian travelers return home. Britain and Ireland advised against all nonessential travel. Germany’s national disease control institute, is describing all of Italy as a “risk area.”


7:30 p.m.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki says all mass events like concerts or sports events are being cancelled across the country in an attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Although Poland has only recorded 18 cases, two of whom are in a serious condition, Morawiecki said the country is trying to be proactive in light of the increases recorded elsewhere in Europe, particularly in Italy.

Over 4,000 people are under quarantined at home after having been potentially exposed. The western Poznan region, which has one case, has also closed all schools, kindergartens, sports centers and the zoo.

In Austria, the Health Minister Rudolf Anschober says all indoor events with more than 100 people and all outdoor events with more than 500 people are being canceled until mid-April.


7:15 p.m.

A Lebanese Health Ministry official says a man has died from the coronavirus, the first known death from the COVID-19 illness in the country.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give official statements, said the 56-year-old man had recently returned from Egypt.

The Mediterranean country has 41 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus — most of them linked to Iran.

Lebanon has been hit by a severe financial and economic crisis since October, particularly after mass protests against the country’s ruling elite broke out in October. But street demonstrations have been minimal since the outbreak of the new coronavirus.

— From Zeina Karam in Beirut.


6 p.m.

The government of China’s Hubei province, the center of the virus outbreak, announced Tuesday the launch of an electronic “health code” system in which residents will be assigned colored QR codes through a mobile app that serves as a “voucher for personal travel.” It will be implemented throughout the province.

People with green codes, who are deemed healthy and not at risk, can travel freely within the province. Yellow codes are issued to people who have had close contact with infected patients, while red codes are for those who are confirmed or suspected cases or have a fever. The movement of people with red and yellow codes will be restricted.

A similar system was first put into place in the eastern city of Hangzhou.


5:45 p.m.

The weekly Tuesday market normally set up inside the Medieval walls of Soave, an Italian wine-producing town near Verona, was canceled even before the government extended a virus containment order over the entire country.

The action was taken after the first case was confirmed in the town of 6,000 residents a day earlier, but word didn’t get out and at least one vendor showed up to set up his stand before told being business would be closed.

Normally bustling on market day, the center of the town was nearly deserted Tuesday morning. The local newspaper vendor said people had mocked her for putting up shelves as a barrier next to the cash register, saying incredulously, ‘’after just one case.’’

Cafe owner Valentino Bonturi said he was enforcing new restrictions to ensure patrons weren’t bunched too closely, meaning people needed to be seated rather than stand at a counter, as is customary.

“We follow the rules,” he said.

Monica Chiamenti was buying bread in the center of town. ‘’We have to do it for our grandparents,’’ she said of the new strict limits on movement. Her two sons have been keeping up with school at home but have been running into glitches on an app meant to stream video instruction.


5:30 p.m.

Lebanon has been hit by a severe financial and economic crisis since October, particularly after mass protests against the country’s ruling elite broke out in October. But street demonstrations have been minimal since the outbreak of the coronavirus.

A Lebanese Health Ministry official says a man has died from the virus, the first known death from the COVID-19 illness in the country.

The official says the 56-year-old man recently returned from Egypt. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give official statements.

The Mediterranean country has 41 confirmed cases of the new virus — most of them linked to Iran.

At least one patient who returned from Iran has left the hospital after two weeks of treatment.


4:45 p.m.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called on citizens of the Netherlands to stop shaking hands to prevent spreading the new coronavirus and then — oops! — shook hands with the head of the infectious diseases department of the national public health institute.

“From this moment on, we stop shaking hands,” Rutte said at a news conference following a crisis meeting of government ministers Monday night to discuss the virus, which has killed three people and infected 321 in the country.

“You can do a foot kiss, bump elbows, whatever you want,” he said. “I see all kinds of great variations on shaking hands emerging at schools, but from today we stop shaking hands.”

As he wrapped up the news conference, he shook hands with Jaap van Dissel of the public health institute, who quickly pointed out the prime minister’s error.

“Sorry, sorry, we can’t do that anymore! Do it again!” Rutte said as he bumped elbows with van Dissel.


4 p.m.

The Italian government is assuring its citizens that supermarkets will remain open and stocked after panic buying erupted after broad anti-virus measures were announced nationwide, sparking overnight runs on 24-hour markets.

Shoppers lined up overnight outside a Rome Carrefour to stock up after the government extended restrictions on movement from hard-hit northern Italy to the rest of the country. Some shoppers wore masks as they waited with their carts to be allowed into the store a few at a time.

Premier Giuseppe Conte’s office issued a clarifying statement after he signed the new decree late Monday, stressing that movement outside homes for “normal necessities” such as grocery shopping will be allowed, as well as for work or health reasons.

The statement said runs on supermarkets were contrary to the intent of the new decree which aims to prevent Italians from congregating. The government assured citizens that markets would be regularly supplied.


The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.


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