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The Latest: US advises Americans to reconsider travel abroad

by The Associated Press

The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic:

The U.S. Department of State advises U.S. citizens to reconsider travel abroad due to the global impact of COVID-19.

The extraordinary global health advisory late Wednesday followed President Donald Trump’s announcement of European travel restrictions. Earlier in the day, the World Health Organization had declared the illness a pandemic and urged aggressive action by all nations to stop it.

Many areas throughout the world are now experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and taking action that may limit traveler mobility, including quarantines and border restrictions.

Even countries, jurisdictions, or areas where cases have not been reported may restrict travel without notice.

Thai health authorities say a new cluster of coronavirus infections has occurred among people who shared drinks and cigarettes with a visitor who had symptoms of the illness.

The 11 people newly infected were at a social gathering with the traveler from Hong Kong.

The cases announced Thursday raise Thailand’s total to 70 cases of infection, with 34 of them recovered.

South Korea says it will tighten screening and monitoring of travelers arriving from Europe as the coronavirus pandemic shifts beyond Asia.

South Korean Health Ministry official Yoon Tae-ho said Thursday that visitors from France, Germany, Spain, Britain and the Netherlands, as well as passengers who have stopped at Dubai and Moscow in the past two weeks, will undergo strengthened screening at airports and other entry points from Sunday.

Those travelers will undergo two separate temperature checks and be required to fill out health questionnaires detailing whether they had symptoms like cough and fever. Those who pass the screening will be required to download an app that requires them to report their health conditions once a day. Such screening measures have so far been applied to visitors from mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, Italy and Iran. South Korea reported 114 new cases Thursday, raising its total to 7,869 with 66 deaths. Nineteen new cases were in Seoul, where several infections are tied to workers at a call center.

Cuba has announced its first three cases of the new coronavirus.

An official statement read Wednesday on state television’s evening news says all three are Italian tourists who developed symptoms while in the city of Trinidad and have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 disease. It says the three are out of danger.

The statement from Cuba’s Ministry of Health says a fourth Italian tourist also showed symptoms but tested negative.

The ministry says the patients have been transferred to the Pedro Kouri Institute of Tropical Medicine in Havana.

China has reported a new record low of 15 new coronavirus cases as other countries have become epicenters of the pandemic.

The health ministry on Thursday reported another 11 deaths, bringing China’s totals to 80,793 cases of infection with the virus and 3,169 deaths from COVID-19, the illness it causes. A total of 14,831 patients remain in treatment, while 62,793 have recovered and been released.

The hardest-hit province of Hubei and its capital Wuhan continue to account for the bulk of cases and deaths.

Thirty-three suspected new cases indicated a continuing retreat from the outbreak’s peak in China in late January and February.

The World Health Organization declared the illness a pandemic on Wednesday, citing concerns about its global spread and severity and some governments’ lethargy in trying to stop the disease.

El Salvador’s president has imposed a national quarantine that prohibits any foreigners from entering the Central American country for 30 days to try to keep out the new coronavirus.

President Nayib Bukele also said public and private schools would be closed for 21 days. El Salvador has no confirmed cases of the virus.

Wednesday’s announcement comes one day after Bukele said residents of Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala would need a passport to enter El Salvador rather than just a national identification card. He reversed that move hours later.

Guatemala earlier Wednesday announced that it would not allow Europeans or citizens from China, Iran and North and South Korea to enter the country. It also has no confirmed cases.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is placing limits on who can visit nursing homes and assisted living facilities in his state in an attempt to protect those most at risk from the new coronavirus.

The governor issued an executive order on Wednesday that prohibits anyone who recently arrived from a foreign country from visiting those facilities.

He took that step a day after eight more people in Florida tested positive for the virus. DeSantis noted that most of the infections stem from international travel.

The order came as public universities across the state were closing classrooms in favor of remote instruction.

Italy’s premier is urging people not to hoard food, saying they don’t need to because stores where they can buy it will remain open.

Premier Giuseppe Conte made the comments late Wednesday as he announced closures of most stores around the country in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Included in the ban are coffee bars, a staple of Italian life. Restaurants will also close but will be allowed to make home deliveries.

Gas stations were not included in the order mandating which businesses will be forced to close and Conte announced no new restrictions on using public transportation, used by many Italians.

Under earlier rules set for the nationwide lockdown, people are allowed to travel for work, medical appointments or to care for family members in need.

Italy’s premier says all stores except pharmacies and grocery stores are being closed nationwide in response to the country’s coronavirus outbreak.

Premier Giuseppe Conte thanked the public for cooperating with the already unprecedented travel and social restrictions that took effect Tuesday.

But he said Wednesday night on Facebook Live that Italy must “go another step″ by closing all shops and businesses except for food stores, pharmacies and other shops selling ″essential″ items.

The tighter restrictions on daily life are the government’s latest effort to respond to the fast-moving crisis that took Italy’s number of cases from three to 12,462 in less than three weeks.

A woman with underlying health conditions has died of the coronavirus in the most populous county in the U.S., making her one of at least 33 people nationwide to succumb to COVID-19.

Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday that the woman lives outside the county and had been visiting friends after recent travel, with a long layover in South Korea. She was over 60 and died in a hospital.

It’s the first death from the virus in the Los Angeles County, which has 27 cases. Most of the deaths have been in Washington state.

Separately, seniors at a Northern California assisted living facility have been placed in a two-week quarantine after a woman in her 90s died of the coronavirus.

Full Coverage: Virus Outbreak


Iran’s information and communications technology minister has tweeted a map of Iran that shows the virus affecting almost the entire country.

Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi said Wednesday that the image was based on data exploration and analysis from a website on which some 3.5 million Iranians shared their information regarding the virus.

Iran reported another jump in deaths, by 62 to 354 — behind only China and Italy.

Jahromi said asked people not to travel to tourist spots.

The website ac19.ir gathers personal information from participants who share their health information.

The United Nations has postponed two major meetings on biodiversity and indigenous issues over concerns about the new coronavirus, and the Security Council is making changes to prevent its spread.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Wednesday that no cases of COVID-19 have been reported at U.N. headquarters. But he confirmed that a teacher at the private United Nations International School about a mile away has tested positive and that the school has been closed.

Dujarric said there are plans for the U.N. to operate remotely if necessary.

China’s U.N. ambassador, Zhang Jun, the current Security Council president, said all 15 members of the U.N.’s most powerful body have agreed to scale down staff at meetings and move consultations from a small room to the main council chamber to ensure “we have more space and we have less people.”

The Seattle Public School system will close due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak in Washington state, which prompted the governor to ban all events and gatherings of more than 250 people in Seattle’s metro area.

The closure announced by Seattle Public Schools in a statement affects about 53,000 students and came after Gov. Jay Inslee made his announcement about events and gatherings.

The school system’s statement issued Wednesday did not say how long the closure would last, saying only that all instruction and activity is canceled until further notice.

The Seattle district’s closure came after a suburban district north of Seattle with 22,000 students closed schools and started using online lessons.

Italy is welcoming China’s offer to send a team of experts to the European nation to share clinical data about efforts to contain the coronavirus.

The head of infectious disease at the National Institutes of Health says Italy “had a lot to learn” from China. Dr. Giovanni Rezza says that particularly includes data about its experimental anti-viral drug regimens and intensive care treatments.

Italy is the epicenter of the outbreak in Europe and, with more than 12,000 infections, ranks second only to China in terms of caseload. Some hospitals in hard-hit Lombardy are at a saturation point given limited intensive care beds.

China has offered to send teams of experts as well as surplus protective gear, respirators and other equipment it no longer needs now that the virus is on the retreat there but spreading in other countries.

India has suspended some visas until April 15 to try to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.

Some categories, like diplomatic, official or employment visas, are exempt. The restrictions start Friday. Foreign nationals who need to travel to India for a “compelling reason” were asked to contact the nearest India mission.

All travelers who have arrived from or who visited China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, France, Spain and Germany after Feb. 15 will be quarantined for 14 days.

Indian authorities have confirmed 60 cases of the new virus, and no deaths have been reported. Indians have been advised against traveling abroad.

A Philippine senator says he and President Rodrigo Duterte will get tested for the new coronavirus after meeting with Cabinet officials who were exposed to people with infections.

Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, a former Duterte aide, said late Wednesday that he and the president have not had symptoms and plan to undergo testing Thursday as a precaution.

Go told reporters in a statement that he and the president regularly interact with some Cabinet members who decided to self-quarantine after being exposed to people with the COVID-19 virus.

A presidential spokesman says the 74-year-old Duterte postponed a trip to the central resort island of Boracay on Thursday over concerns about COVID-19.

Philippine health officials have reported 49 cases. Two of the infected patients, a Chinese and a Filipino, died.

Guatemala is barring Europeans and citizens from China, Iran and North and South Korea to try to keep the new coronavirus out of the Central American country.

Health Minister Hugo Monroy said Wednesday that “starting tomorrow, entry by all European citizens is prohibited.”

Authorities in the Central American nation also ordered 14-day quarantines for Guatemalans who arrive after traveling to Europe.

Guatemala has no confirmed cases of the new virus. The World Health Organization has declared the worldwide outbreak a pandemic.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says it will hold a major conference that features speeches by top leaders without any attendees next month to try to avoid spread of the new coronavirus.

The Utah-based faith with 16 million members worldwide said Wednesday that the speeches will be broadcast on television and the internet with no one from the public attending.

The twice-yearly conference usually brings about 100,000 people to Salt Lake City over two days.

The only people allowed inside the church conference center on April 4-5 will be top leaders, their spouses, musicians, choir members and technicians.

Officials have banned large gatherings and events in the Seattle metro area and in San Francisco to try to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced the ban Wednesday on events with more than 250 people in three counties with nearly 4 million people. At least 25 people have died in the state.

The order lasts through March and could be extended. It wouldn’t shut down businesses or schools but applies to sporting events like Seattle Sounders soccer games. The Mariners baseball team will move home games from Seattle.

Also Wednesday, the San Francisco mayor banned gatherings of 1,000 or more people, including Golden State Warriors games.

California’s Santa Clara County, home to San Jose and Silicon Valley, announced a ban Monday on all gatherings of 1,000 people or more.

More European countries are reporting their first deaths of people with the new coronavirus.

The death in Sweden of an elderly woman who had been in intensive care represented the first virus-related death for the whole Nordic-Baltic region.

A doctor with the regional hospital authority in Stockholm emphasized that the experience elsewhere indicates it’s “the elderly and especially the elderly with other underlying illnesses that have the most serious consequences of COVID-19.

Ireland also recorded the country’s first death of a person infected with the new coronavirus. The Department of Health said the person had an underlying illness but gave no other details. There have been 34 confirmed cases of the virus in Ireland.

Belgium, Bulgaria and Albania reported their first virus-related deaths earlier on Wednesday.

World Health Organization officials are telling national governments it’s time for aggressive action now that the worldwide coronavirus outbreak has reached the level of a pandemic.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that with the U.N. health agency’s pandemic declaration on Wednesday, countries were being called upon “to scale up your emergency response mechanisms.”

His advice included: “Ready your hospitals, protect and train your health workers, and let’s all look out for each other because we need each other.”

Illustrating the severity and speed of the virus’ spread, Italian officials said Wednesday evening that coronavirus cases in the country grew to 12,462 infections and 827 deaths.

They attributed the one-day increase to the heavily impacted Lombardy region not fully reporting its numbers on Tuesday.

Dr. Mike Ryan, WHO’s emergencies chief, gave a blunt warning about the urgency of the public health emergency.

Ryan said: “Iran and Italy are in the frontline now. They’re suffering, but I guarantee you other countries will be in that situation soon.”


The World Health Organization has declared the worldwide outbreak of the new coronavirus a pandemic.

Speaking in Geneva on Wednesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the spread of COVID-19 had reached the level of a pandemic, noting there are now more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries and 4,291 deaths.

He said that while the declaration “doesn’t change what countries should do” to aggressively contain the virus, the U.N. health agency is “deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity.”

Tedros said: “We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear.

The U.S. State Department says foreign ministers from leading industrial nations who had planned to meet in Pittsburgh this month will instead hold a video teleconference because of coronavirus concerns.

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement on Wednesday that the change in the Group of Seven meeting was made “out of an abundance of caution.”

The G-7 consists of the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan. The meeting was scheduled for March 24-25.

The worldwide epidemic also led more universities to move their classes online, the pope’s weekly catechism lesson to be live-streamed and governments to ban public gatherings.

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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