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Saturday March 28th, 2020 8:27PM

The Latest: Russia reports its first coronavirus deaths

By The Associated Press
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The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 428,000 people and killed over 19,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms in most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or those with existing health problems. More than 109,000 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

— Cuomo: 3,800 hospitalized in New York.

— Putin cancels vote, orders military to help with virus outbreak.

— Trudeau offers $2,000 Canadian a month for affected workers.

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MOSCOW — Russia has reported its first deaths from the novel coronavirus infection, two elderly patients who also had underlying conditions.

The commission directing Russia's response to the virus said Wednesday the patients died of pneumonia and were 88 and 73 years old.

Russia has reported 658 cases of infection nationwide. Last week an infected patient died, but doctors said that was due to a blood clot rather than the virus itself.

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TALLINN, Estonia — Health officials in Estonia have confirmed the Baltic nation's first coronavirus death. Officials said an 83-year-old woman treated with other illnesses died in a hospital in western Estonia.

Estonia, a small nation of 1.3 million, has reported over 400 coronavirus cases so far.

The Estonian government led by Prime Minister Juri Ratas on Tuesday imposed new coronavirus-related restrictions for citizens. They include a requirement to keep a 2-meter (7-foot) distance from each other in public spaces, a ban of meetings of more than two people and a closure of shopping malls and limits to opening hours of bars and restaurants.

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UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has launched a $2 billion appeal to help vulnerable and conflict-torn countries in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and South America tackle the coronavirus pandemic and prevent COVID-19 from again circling the globe.

The U.N. chief called the amount a “drop in the ocean,” noting Wednesday that the U.S. Senate is seeking $2 trillion for the U.S. economy.

U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock announced a $60 million contribution from the U.N.’s emergency relief fund to kick-start the appeal.

Guterres said $2 billion is essential to keep economies and health systems in the developing world afloat to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. He said it will also help countries already in the midst of a humanitarian crisis caused by conflicts, natural disasters and climate change.

He said, “The worst thing that could happen is to suppress the disease in developed countries and let it spread like fire in the developing world.”

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BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel has again tested negative for the new coronavirus.

Merkel went into quarantine Sunday after learning that a doctor who had administered a vaccination to her two days earlier was tested positive for COVID-19.

Merkel's office said Wednesday that the 65-year-old has now tested negative twice and will receive a further test next week.

Her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said Merkel is continuing her work from home, including taking part in video meetings with other world leaders.

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ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state has climbed to 3,800, with close to 900 in intensive care.

New York officials are keeping a close eye on already-stressed hospitals as the number of cases is projected to rise for perhaps three more weeks.

Cuomo said Wednesday that as many as 140,000 hospital beds may be needed in a state with 53,000. The state has more than 30,000 confirmed cases and 285 deaths. The nation-high figures are driven mostly by New York City.

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TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government will offer $2,000 Canadian (U.S. $1,395) a month, for the next four months, for workers who lose their income as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Trudeau says Canada is facing a once-in-a-generation challenge and noted that one million Canadians applied for employment insurance in a week.

Trudeau says if a Canadian loses their job because of COVID-19 — whether they are full-time, contract, or self-employed — the new benefit is available. He says if you are sick or quarantined, or looking after someone sick, the benefit is available. And he says even if a worker is still employed, but not receiving income because of the crisis, the benefit is available.

The prime minister also says his government will also announce supports to keep journalists working.

Trudeau made the remarks outside his residence where he is self-isolating after his wife tested positive for the virus. He says his wife is doing "much much better" and he and his kids have no symptoms.

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SANTA FE, N.M. — The Santa Fe New Mexican has announced nearly a dozen layoffs, salary reductions and a shortened workweek amid an economic downturn caused by the spread of COVID-19.

Publisher Tom Cross said Tuesday the moves are intended to keep the family-owned newspaper, its website and other operations as healthy as possible while the media outlet deals with a decline in advertisements.

Under the plan, New Mexican managers will see reduced salaries and staff will have reductions in hours worked. The newspaper will publish seven days a week and will continue its commercial printing operations. The newspaper has been in business since 1849.

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MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul is leading a coalition of 16 attorneys general in urging President Donald Trump to use the Defense Production Act to boost production of masks and respirators in the fight against COVID-19.

Kaul says healthcare workers, law enforcement and other first responders “need resources now.” The Democratic attorney general says Trump must act now and use his broad power to address shortages in critical supplies.

Trump has balked at using his authority under the recently invoked Defense Protection Act to compel the private sector to manufacture masks and ventilators, even as he encourages them to spur production.

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LONDON — Irish Health Minister Simon Harris says two people approached him in public and deliberately coughed in his face.

Harris says he was targeted Tuesday when walking to his department in Dublin.

“A man and woman on the street thought it was hilariously funny to come up and cough at me out loud and run off laughing,” he said.

In recent days, a challenge has emerged on social media for young people to post videos of themselves coughing into people's faces.

Harris called it “quite pathetic” and anything similar on social media will be dealt with the “full levers" of the state's powers.

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BUDAPEST — Hungary's foreign minister says the country's border with Romania will be opened soon to those living near the border who work in the neighboring country.

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto says the arrangement, similar to one announced recently with Slovakia, is meant to protect the functioning of the economy.

The agreement applies to people living within 30 kilometers (19 miles) of the Hungary-Romania border and commuting to work.

Hungary has closed off its borders to all passenger traffic except its own citizens, with a few exceptions.

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NAIROBI, Kenya — Riot police in western Kenya have fired tear gas after traders resisted police attempts to close a crowded market in Kisumu to help curb the coronavirus' spread.

The country has not imposed a lockdown.

“Our government keeps telling us to stay indoors yet we don't have money to eat,” said one trader, Joash Okoth Abute. “There are only a few people with money and many without money, so I am pleading with the government to ensure all Kenyans are secure. Help us.”

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MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has postponed a nationwide vote on proposed constitutional amendments that include allowing him to seek another term in power.

Putin didn't set a new date for the vote originally scheduled for April 22, saying it would depend on how the new coronavirus pandemic develops.

He also announced during a televised address to the nation that the government doesn't want Russians, except those working in essential sectors, going to work next week. He says stores, pharmacies and banks will stay open.

“Health, life and safety of the people is an absolute priority for us,” Putin said.

Russian authorities reported 658 cases of the virus on Wednesday, with 163 new cases registered since the previous day. That marked a significantly larger daily increase from previous days.

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NEW YORK — The U.N.'s top human rights official is calling on governments to ensure that prisoners aren't put at risk by the coronavirus outbreak.

Michelle Bachelet. the U.N. High Commissioner for Human rights, says the virus could be "rampaging" through prisons, immigration detention centers and psychiatric hospitals

In a statement, she noted facilities in many countries are overcrowded, often unhygienic and have limited or non-existent access to health care. That makes it impossible for people to adequately distance themselves to avoid spreading the virus.

Outbreaks in prisons have been reported in several countries, including the United States. Many authorities have proposed limited, temporary prisoner releases to ease overcrowding in jails.

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LONDON — One of the scientists advising the British government on the coronavirus pandemic says the outbreak will likely peak in Britain in about three weeks.

Imperial College London epidemiologist Neil Ferguson says he’s “reasonably confident” the country’s health system can cope.

Ferguson, who sits on the Scientific Advice Group for Emergencies, says without the lockdown measures imposed by the government this week, the demand for intensive care hospital beds would have exceeded the supply threefold — even with thousands more beds being set up in response to the pandemic.

But if the measures are adhered to, he says “we are reasonably confident -- which is all we can be at the current time -- that at the national level we will be within capacity."

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ROME — The head of Italy’s civil protection agency overseeing the response to the coronavirus pandemic has a fever and canceled his daily briefings to provide an update of infections and deaths.

The briefing will be suspended and replaced by a statement.

Angelo Borrelli’s televised press conference has become a central appointment for many Italians under lockdown and in the epicenter of the pandemic in Europe. Borrelli gives a rundown of new infections, deaths and Italy’s intensive care capacity and fields questions from journalists.

He’s also been joined by a member of the National Institutes of Health or the government’s scientific advisory committee.

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BERLIN — Germany’s health minister says his country has about 1,000 COVID-19 patients in intensive care and its health system can cope with the numbers for now.

Germany has the fifth-largest number of infections in the world, with well over 30,000 people having tested positive. But officials say relatively wide testing has picked up a lot of mild cases, and the country’s death rate has been low so far compared with those in southern Europe.

Germany has 172 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Health Minister Jens Spahn says the number of patients in intensive care “is a figure that the health system can still deal with.” But he cautioned that it’s unclear how the situation will develop over the next two to four weeks.

Germany has largely shut down public life and banned gatherings of more than two people in public.

___

TORONTO — Canada's House of Commons has passed emergency legislation to free up $82 billion Canadian (US $57.7 billion) to help Canadians during the pandemic.

The bill will go to the Senate, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government is hoping for quick passage by signing the measures into law by the afternoon.

Parliament adjourned on March 13 until at least April 20 as part of a effort to curb the spread of the virus. But it was recalled Tuesday to deal with the emergency aid package.

The bill boosts employment insurance, delays tax deadlines and gives government the power to approve spending "all money required to do anything" to deal with a public health emergency.

___

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has reaffirmed the need to protect all life, rallying Christians around the world to pray together for those sick with the coronavirus and the medical personnel who are caring for them.

Francis presided over a global noontime prayer Wednesday, in which he begged for God’s mercy amid the pandemic.

The prayer fell on the 25th anniversary of a landmark Vatican document reaffirming the inviolability of all human life from conception to natural death. Francis dedicated his comments to the document, which strongly reaffirmed church teaching opposing abortion and euthanasia.

Francis says it is imperative to “relaunch this teaching in the context of a pandemic that threatens human life and the global economy.”

Some conservative Christian commentators, as well as U.S. President Donald Trump, have warned the consequences of the financial shutdown aimed at preventing the virus’ spread and protecting the elderly and sick are worse than the virus itself.

___

LONDON — Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, has tested positive for the new coronavirus.

The prince's Clarence House office says the 71-year-old is showing mild symptoms of COVID-19 and is self-isolating at a royal estate in Scotland.

It says his wife Camilla has tested negative.

The palace says Charles "has been displaying mild symptoms but otherwise remains in good health and has been working from home throughout the last few days as usual."

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MADRID — Spain has now the world’s second highest tally of coronavirus deaths after a 738 spike was recorded Wednesday, the highest so far in one day. With 3,434, Spain surpassed China’s 3,285 and has more than half of Italy’s 6,820.

Infections also rose on Wednesday by 20% from a day earlier to 47,610, Spain’s Ministry of Health announced. More than 5,000 people have recovered, the ministry said.

The outbreak has hit Spain and put a tragic strain on its healthcare system, especially in the central region around Madrid, with one third of the positive cases and roughly half of the casualties.

___

WASHINGTON — The White House and Senate leaders of both U.S. political parties have struck an agreement on a sweeping $2 trillion measure to aid workers, businesses and a health care system strained by the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak.

Top White House aide Eric Ueland announced the agreement in a Capitol hallway shortly after midnight. The agreement comes after days of often intense haggling and mounting pressure and still needs to be finalized in detailed legislative language.

The unprecedented economic rescue package would give direct payments to most Americans, expand unemployment benefits and provide a $367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home.

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