Saturday July 4th, 2020 7:56AM

The Latest: Pope visits 2 churches despite Italy's lockdown

By The Associated Press
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The Latest on the world's coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 156,000 people and killed more than 5,800. The disease for most people causes only mild or moderate symptoms but for some, especially the elderly or people with underlying health conditions, it can cause more severe illness. Nearly 74,000 people have recovered from it so far, mostly in China.

Despite Italy's lockdown, Pope Francis has visited two churches in Rome to pray for an end to the coronavirus pandemic.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said Francis first went to St. Mary Major Basilica on Sunday. It's near Rome’s central train station.

After that, the pope walked along a stretch of a central Rome street to visit another church. The second church has a crucifix that was carried in 1522 in a procession so that a plague then afflicting Rome would end.

Bruni says the pope prayed for an end to the pandemic and the healing of those who are sick.

Italians are cooped up at home by a government decree to combat the spread of the coronavirus. More than 24,700 people in the country have been diagnosed with the disease and more than 1,800 people have died.

According to the World Health Organization, the vast majority of people who get COVID-19 recover within weeks.

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The numbercases of COVID-19 in Italy has surged higher again.

Some 3,590 more cases of the coronavirus were reported in a 24-hour period, nearly 100 more than the increase as the day before. The additional infections reported Sunday represent the country's biggest day-to-day increase.

Italy’s Civil Protection chief Angelo Borrelli announced the latest number of cases, bringing the total number of people with the new coronavirus to 24,747. The number of deaths increased by 368 to 1,809.

According to the World Health Organization, the vast majority of people who get COVID-19 recover within weeks.

Italy's national health institute chief Silvio Brusaferro said it is not known if Italy is reaching its peak and might start seeing the number of new cases decline.

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Ticket sales plunged to their lowest levels in at least 20 years at North American movie theaters, as the coronavirus pandemic led to one of Hollywood's worst weekend's ever at the box office.

Studio estimates Sunday show receipts totaled about $56 million in U.S. and Canada theaters.

According to data firm Comscore, box office revenues haven't been that low since September 2000. At that time, $54.5 million in tickets were sold on a quiet weekend.

More people went to the movies the weekend after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, in 2001.

Disney's latest release from Pixar, “Onward,” remained the top film at the box office, with $10.5 million in its second weekend. The Christian romance “I Still Believe,” from Lionsgate, brought in $9.5 million. Sony's comic-book adaptation “Bloodshot,” with Vin Diesel, grossed an estimated $9.3 million.

All of those totals were notably below expectations.

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Italy's foreign minister says China is sending 150 pulmonary respirators now and more later to help treat seriously ill COVID-19 patients in Italy, the center of Europe's coronavirus pandemic.

Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio also said Sunday that China will be shipping 5 million masks for medical staff. A day earlier, the top health official in the hard-hit region of Lombardy complained publicly about the quality of the masks that Italy's central government had shipped to hospitals in his area, likening them to toilet paper. Lombardy has 13,272 infections and 1,218 deaths alone.

China, which appears to have turned the corner on its own COVID-19 outbreak, will also be sending medical crews to aid the Italians, Di Maio said.

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The nation’s top infectious disease expert says he’s trying to get President Donald Trump to stop shaking hands.

Anthony Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said on ABC’s “This Week” that he’s “working on” getting Trump to greet people he meets with elbow bumps instead of handshakes as the coronavirus pandemic spreads around the globe.

Trump, a self-described germaphobe, avoided handshakes before jumping into politics in 2015. The president said he’s now having trouble giving up the instinctive “habit” of shaking hands.

The chief of the World Health Organization, meanwhile, says that even elbow bumps bring people too close together.

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Walmart, the largest retailer and private employer in the United States, is limiting store hours at big box stores as well as its smaller grocery locations to help ensure workers are able to stock essentials like sanitizers and toilet paper.

Starting Sunday, more than 4,700 Walmart and Neighborhood Market locations in the U.S. will be open from 6 a.m. to 11 pm. until further notice. Prior to this, most supersized stores were typically open 24 hours, and some Neighborhood stores were too.

Dacona Smith, chief operating officer, said “I don’t think any of us have been through an experience like this, and we continue to be amazed at what people, whether in the stores or in the supply chain, are doing to make sure customers have what they need,”

The list of retailers beyond Apple announcing they will temporarily close their stores as the outbreak intensifies keeps growing. They now include Urban Outfitters, Everlane, Patagonia, Nike and Abercrombie & Fitch.

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, reacting to announcement of a curfew in neighboring Hoboken, New Jersey, says that a lockdown in the nation's largest city couldn't be ruled out.

“Every option is on the table in a crisis," the Democrat said Sunday on CNN.

Also in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the Army Corps of Engineers should be mobilized by equipping facilities like military bases or college dorms to serve as temporary medical centers.

In an opinion piece Sunday in The New York Times, Cuomo called on President Donald Trump to authorize states to expand testing capabilities, set federal standards for shutting down commerce and schools, and mobilize the military to bolster medical treatment capabilities.

He wrote that “states cannot build more hospitals, acquire ventilators or modify facilities quickly enough,” adding they need the expertise and equipment of the Army Corps.

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German airline Lufthansa plans more than a dozen special flights from the Caribbean and Spain’s Canary Islands to bring back to Germany between 3,000 and 4,000 vacationers stranded by travel restrictions.

Lufthansa said Sunday that tour and cruise companies had asked the company to put on the flights. There will be 15 special flights, in addition to two regular flights from the Dominican Republic and Barbados.

The first people were expected to arrive Sunday on the flights to Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg and Berlin.

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Bulgaria’s government has announced financial bonus for all medics involved in the treatment of coronavirus patients. An additional 500 euros ($543) will be paid to every medical worker with their salaries, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said Sunday. Bulgaria is experiencing a shortage of medical workers, after many moved to western Europe.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo was being tested for COVID-19 on Sunday after his transportation minister, Budi Karya Sumadi, tested positive for coronavirus.

Morocco suspended all international flights Sunday to limit the spread of coronavirus. The announcement is a drastic move for the North African country, which relies heavily on international tourism to its Atlantic beaches, desert towns and northern mountains.

Hungary has reported its first death linked to coronavirus, a 75-year-old man who had been hospitalized with pneumonia.

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U.S. state officials like llinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker are upset that federal agents have created huge lines and crowds at U.S. airports as Americans return from vacations in Europe. And he says the U.S. airports are going to see even worse problems on that front Sunday because there are even more flights returning.

He tells ABC’s ``This Week" that the federal government should have known when President Donald Trump “gave the orders that European travel back to the United States was going to be cut off, that there would be influx of people.”

Pritzker said authorities should have increased the Customs and Border Patrol numbers and medical workers at airports like Chicago's O'Hare but “they did neither of those." He said the packed crowds of people are “exactly what you don’t want in this pandemic.”

He said the only communications he has received was a call from a White House staffer “who yelled at me” for pointing the problem out to Trump in a tweet.

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Alitalia, the Italian airline, is coordinating with Italy's Foreign Ministry to arrange for special flights to allow thousands of Italians to return to Italy.

The airline said Sunday said that "it will continue to operate toward some countries that have imposed restrictive measures on Italian citizens and on passengers who have been In Europe."

It noted that a special flight was departing Sunday evening for the Maldives. Alitalia will continue to operate two flights daily to New York and to London to allow Italians and foreigners, "many students among them," to return home. It will also fly to Miami and Buenos Aires until March 17, and to many other destinations, including in Europe, northern Africa, New Delhi, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro.

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The government’s top official on infectious diseases says he’s worried about the health risks of long lines and crowding at U.S. airports amid new coronavirus travel restrictions.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, told “Fox News Sunday” that “we’d like to not see crowds like that” as Americans and other travelers return from Europe. He cited the aim of social distancing to prevent spread of COVID-19.

Fauci says it’s understandable with a travel ban, people would immediately feel they want to “hunker and get home,” but if you’re an American citizen, you can get back “there is no need to rush back.”

Weary travelers returning to the U.S. amid coronavirus-related travel restrictions have been greeted by long lines and hourslong waits for required medical screenings at airports.

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Health authorities in Spain say deaths from the coronavirus have more than doubled in 24 hours, while total infections approached 8,000.

The Health Ministry said Spain has recorded 288 deaths since the start of the pandemic, up from 136 on Saturday. The European Union nation has 7,753 infections, up from 5,700 on Saturday, with around half of them concentrated in the capital of Madrid.

The jump comes a day after Spain’s government declared a state of emergency and took extraordinary measures to limit movement to commuting to work and necessary errands. It has also closed restaurants, bars, most retail shops and reduced public transport.

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The Vatican says all Holy Week ceremonies will take place without the “physical presence of the faithful” because of the health emergency over the coronavirus.

The Vatican tweeted Sunday citing an announcement by the office of the pontifical household said that until April 12, when Easter Sunday is celebrated this year, all the general audiences on Wednesday as well as Pope Francis weekly Sunday noon prayer will be streamed by the Vatican.

Among popular Holy Week ceremonies is the Good Friday Way of the Cross torchlit procession at Rome's Colosseum.

Holy Week ceremonies usually draw tens of thousands of people to Rome, but with Italy the European center of the COVID-19 outbreak, tourism in the country has vanished.

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Brunei says it will ban its citizens and residents from traveling abroad starting Monday in a drastic move to stem further cases of COVID-19. The tiny oil-rich sultanate has been hit by 50 cases in just a week since it confirmed its first case on March 9. This included 10 new cases reported Sunday.

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Britain’s top health official says the government plans to set out emergency powers this week to deal with the viral outbreak, including requiring the elderly to self-isolate and banning mass gatherings.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Sunday the government’s bill laying out its emergency action plan would be unveiled on Tuesday and published Thursday.

Britain has taken a different approach and hasn’t yet heavily restricted everyday activities in the same way other countries across Europe have done, but Hancock’s comments suggested the government was ready to escalate its efforts. Britain has 1,140 confirmed virus cases and 21 deaths.

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Pope Francis has praised people for their continuing efforts to help vulnerable communities, including the poor and the homeless, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Francis for a second Sunday delivered noon remarks and the spoken blessing from inside the Apostolic Library instead of from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square. He later waved from the window and gave a silent blessing with his arm, but this time there were no members of the public in the square.

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Italians are being left even more isolated Sunday amid a national lockdown to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Italy’s transport minister signed a decree Saturday banning passengers from taking ferries to Sardinia, a large Mediterranean island.

Sardinia’s governor had asked for the ban to stop travelers from bringing possible infection from the mainland peninsula. Cargo can still go by ferry to the island, but every day people will need special permission from the governor to hop aboard.

The minister also banned overnight train trips, which many in the north had been taking to reach homes and families in the south. Italy has the largest outbreak outside of China, with 21,000 infections and 1,441 deaths.

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Spain awoke to its first day of a nationwide quarantine on Sunday after the government declared a two-week state of emergency.

The government imposed the special measures including the confinement of people to their homes unless shopping for food and medicine, going to and from work, and to meet other basic needs.

Restaurants and hotels are closed and public transport reduced.

In Barcelona, people who ventured out on quiet streets to buy bread at one bakery formed long lines with a meter (about three feet) in between each person as recommended by authorities to reduce the risk of contagion. Police patrolled parks and told people who weren't taking their dog on a quick walk to go home.

The state of emergency declared by the government of Pedro Sánchez includes the temporary centralization of Spain’s health care system which is run by regional authorities.

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Singapore has announced that all travelers arriving from Southeast Asian countries, Japan, Switzerland and the United Kingdom or with a travel history to these countries within 14 days upon arrival will have to self-isolate under new efforts to battle the coronavirus.

The health ministry said the measure, starting Sunday, will also apply to Singapore residents. Southeast Asian visitors will also be required to submit information on their health for approval before their travel, it said.

The city-state, which has recorded 212 virus cases, has already banned visitors from China, Iran, Italy, France, Germany, South Korea and Spain. The new measure will not apply to sea and land crossings with Malaysia due to high inter-dependency between the neighbors.

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Austria is further tightening restrictions on public life, closing restaurants and sports facilities and halting flights to a number of countries in an effort to fight the coronavirus.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced the new measures in a parliamentary session on Sunday. The Austria Press Agency reported that he announced flight bans for Britain, Ukraine and Russia.

Restaurants will now have to close entirely starting on Tuesday.

Austria has confirmed 758 cases of the new coronavirus, including one death.

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Travelers returning to the U.S. from Europe have been greeted with hourslong waits for required medical screenings at airports.

While American citizens, green card holders and some others are allowed to return to the U.S. amid new European travel restrictions, they're being funneled to 13 U.S. airports where they're subject to health screenings and quarantine orders.

Acting Secretary Chad Wolf says the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is trying to add additional screening capacity and work with airlines to expedite the process.

Videos and photos posted to social media showed packed, winding lines of returning travelers. On Twitter, airports like Dallas/Fort Worth and Chicago O'Hare acknowledged the delays and asked for patience. But local politicians were incensed.

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South Korea’s president has declared southeastern parts of the country hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak as “special disasters zones,” a designation that makes residents there eligible for emergency relief, tax benefits and other state financial support.

The Daegu city and some areas in the southeastern Gyeongsang province were declared disaster zones. It’s the first time South Korea has declared any area a special disaster zone due to an infectious disease.

South Korea has so far reported 8,162 coronavirus cases and 72 deaths.

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Australia's prime minister says all travelers arriving in the country will have to self-isolate for 14 days to try and stem the spread of the new coronavirus.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the announcement Sunday, saying in Sydney that the measures are indefinite and will be reviewed periodically.

Morrison also banned all cruise ships from docking in Australian ports for at least 30 days. The measures are similar to what New Zealand announced on Saturday.

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Just across the Hudson River from New York City, a New Jersey city is imposing a curfew on residents amid the virus outbreak.

Hoboken residents must stay in their homes from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. beginning Monday, a daily curfew that's among the first and most far-reaching such measures taken in the U.S.

Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla announced Saturday night that exceptions will be made for emergencies and people required to work. He also said bars and restaurants can only offer takeout and delivery services.

New Jersey has 69 virus cases statewide and two virus-related deaths.

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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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