The Latest: Sri Lankan government imposes 2 1/2 day curfew

National News

A sign reminding people about social distancing because of the coronavirus outbreak stands next to a roadway in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)

The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 244,000 people and killed more than 10,000. 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. Almost 86,000 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

— Italy passes China for most coronavirus-related deaths.

—California governor issues statewide order for people to stay at home.

—Wuhan, China, reports no new cases for second consecutive day.

—Sri Lankan government imposes 2 1/2 day curfew to slow spread of virus.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — The Sri Lankan government on Friday imposed a 2 1/2 day curfew across the whole island in a bid to contain the spreading of the coronavirus.

The number of positive cases has risen to 59.

The curfew will be in effect from Friday 6.00 p.m. until Monday 6.00 a.m.

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CANBERRA, Australia — Australia has ratcheted up its social distancing regulations to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, demanding indoor venues provide at least four square meters (43 square feet) of space per person.

The space constraint announced Friday follows a ban on Wednesday of non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 100 people, including weddings and restaurants.

Gatherings considered essential include schools, supermarkets and workplaces which are exempt.

Australia has also tightened regulations on travel to and from remote indigenous communities in a bid to spare them COVID-19 outbreaks.

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UNITED NATIONS — Iran’s Mission to the United Nations is urging the international community to call on the United States to lift sanctions against the country immediately so it can import medicine and medical equipment desperately needed to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Iran is one of the hardest-hit countries in the world in the COVID-19 pandemic. Nine out of 10 cases in the Middle East come from the Islamic Republic, and fears remain that it may be under reporting its cases.

Iran’s U.N. Mission said in a statement late Thursday that “the inhuman and unlawful” U.S. sanctions are hampering efforts to prevent further spread of COVID-19 to other nations and are harming the health and lives of Iranians.

“In other words, while the U.S. is trying to curb the virus internally, it is helping the spread of virus externally by undermining the professional capabilities of certain affected countries who try to combat its pandemic,” the mission said.

The mission called the U.S. sanctions “tantamount to crimes against humanity,” saying they “make it virtually impossible for Iranians to import needed medicine and medical equipment.”

It said a special mechanism allowing Iran to import medicine is very difficult to use because of sanctions-related “impediments” including extreme difficulty for Iran to use its financial resources abroad.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea says it will test all passengers coming from Europe for the coronavirus starting Sunday as it strengthens border controls to prevent the illness from re-entering amid broadening outbreaks on the continent.

South Korean Health Ministry official Yoon Tae-ho on Friday said the country also from Sunday will enforce 14-day quarantines on South Korean nationals returning from Europe and foreigners arriving from Europe for long-term stay in South Korea, regardless of whether they have symptoms.

Yoon says the country has no immediate plans to expand such measures to passengers arriving from the United States.

South Korea has already strengthened screening for all passengers arriving from abroad, requiring them to undergo temperature checks, fill in health questionnaires, provide their cellphone numbers and download an app to send daily reports about their health status to authorities.

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom has put the nation’s most populous state on a stay-at-home order.

It expands to nearly 40 million people restrictions he said already applied to about half the state. He said late Thursday that the statewide restriction on any non-essential movement outside the home is needed to control the spread of the coronavirus that threatens to overwhelm the state’s medical system.

Newsom earlier in the day issued the dire prediction that 56% of California’s population could contract the virus over the next eight weeks.

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SAO PAULO — Brazil is the latest country to block international travelers from flying in, including those coming from areas hardest hit by the new coronavirus.

Foreigners coming from China, the European Union, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Japan, Malaysia, Australia and South Korea will be denied entry to the South American country for the next 30 days, starting Thursday.

Several other nations in the region already have taken the measure. Brazil has confirmed 621 cases of coronavirus, with seven people dead.

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SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea says it released thousands of people from quarantine, including all but three foreigners, while maintaining a tough campaign to stem the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

North Korea has not publicly confirmed a single case of the COVID-19 illness, but state media has described anti-virus efforts as a matter of “national existence.”

Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency on Friday said more than 4,000 people were released in the provinces of North and South Pyongan and Kangwon after health officials confirmed they no longer had symptoms.

When combining the numbers from previous state media reports, it’s presumed that the North has so far released around 8,000 people from quarantine.

The country had initially placed 380 foreigners under quarantine, but the KCNA says only three of them remain under medical isolation. The North earlier this month arranged a special government flight to fly out dozens of diplomats to Vladivostok, Russia.

Experts say an epidemic in North Korea could have dire consequences due to the country’s poor health system and shortage of medical supplies.

The country has banned foreign tourists, shut down nearly all cross-border traffic with China, intensified screening at entry points and mobilized health workers to monitor residents and isolate those with symptoms.

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MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s Foreign Relations Minister says he has held talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about travel restrictions at the border “that won’t paralyze economic activity, and leave the border open to commerce and workers.”

Marcelo Ebrard said Thursday he would give more details tomorrow.

Pompeo wrote in his Twitter account that he and Ebrard “have been working closely on travel restrictions that balance protecting our citizens from further transmission of #COVID19. Together, we can reduce public health risks and prioritize essential cross-border commerce and trade.”

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 87 new cases of the novel coronavirus and three more deaths, bringing its totals to 8,652 cases and 94 deaths.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday said 316,600 people have so far been tested for the virus and 2,230 have been released from hospitals.

While infections have slowed in the worst-hit city of Daegu, there’s growing concern about a steady rise in cases in the Seoul metropolitan areas, where about half of South Korea’s 51 million people live.

The country has recently strengthened screening of all passengers arriving from abroad to stem the virus from re-entering amid broadening outbreaks in Europe and North America.

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WASHINGTON — The District of Columbia has announced 32 new cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus, including an eight-year-old boy, bringing the total to 71. The new infections include a cluster of young people, with 12 identified below the age of 35.

DC health officials have long predicted that the local numbers would spike as more people were tested. Earlier Thursday, they announced that a third member of the DC fire department had tested positive.

Mayor Muriel Bowser has declared a state of emergency and closed all schools through the end of the month. The popular Cherry Blossom Festival has been postponed, White House and Capitol tours have been cancelled and the National Zoo, Smithsonian museum network and Kennedy Center have closed.

Washington’s tally doesn’t include people who may have been infected in Washington but live in nearby northern Virginia or southern Maryland.

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MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is indefinitely banning the entry of foreigners after the government declared a state of calamity and public health emergency amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement late Thursday that it is temporarily suspending visa issuances in all its foreign posts effective immediately.

“This goes one imperative step forward: a total ban on incoming foreign visitors of all nationalities,” Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin said in a tweet. ”Outgoing foreign visitors should be given all the help to get out. Idiotic to detain them.”

The drastic move exempts foreign government and international organization officials and their dependents as well as foreign spouses and children of Filipino citizens, the department said.

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BEIJING — Some flights to Beijing are being rerouted to regional airports to relieve pressure on the capital for screening large numbers of incoming passengers.

China has not banned travelers from abroad, but Beijing and other cities are requiring that all undergo 14-day quarantines, either at home or at a government-designated facility such as a hotel or makeshift observation center.

China is very slowly coming back to life, with the government saying about 80% of economic activity has been restored, although millions of workers remain stranded by travel bans.

Beijing’s tourism industry is still on hold, just as it should be ramping up for the summer season. The Great Wall is largely shut and it remains forbidden to visit the Forbidden City, the ancient former palace of China’s emperors.

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CASTRO VALLEY, Calif. — In Alameda County, Sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Kelley said a gun shop called Solar Tactical in Castro Valley has refused to close, despite the shelter at home order. He said officers have advised the shop to close.

“We’ll start out nice,” Kelley said Thursday. “Then we’ll post a notice to close and then we will take enforcement.”

The shop did not answer phone calls Thursday and did not immediately respond to messages. A message on its Facebook page said the store is now operating on an appointment-only basis and urged customers to call local police to protest the effort to close it and other gun stores.

“Your 2nd Amendment right is no longer considered essential during forced shelter in place,” the shop said. “Please share and get the word out. Call your local officials, news stations, and Alameda County Sheriffs office to let them know how you feel about your 2nd Amendment rights being taken away.”

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BEIJING — The Chinese city of Wuhan where the virus at the heart of the global pandemic was first detected has recorded a second consecutive day with no new confirmed or suspected cases.

Nationwide, a total of 39 cases were recorded Friday, the health ministry said, all of them brought from overseas. Three more deaths were also registered, bringing China’s total to 3,248, a figure surpassed on Thursday by Italy as the highest in a single nation.

China still leads in overall cases, with 80,967, more than 71,000 of whom have been declared healthy and sent home.

China has loosened some travel restrictions in Hubei, the province surrounding Wuhan, although its provincial border remains closed and Wuhan itself remains under lockdown. Officials say they will only lift the quarantine after Wuhan goes 14 consecutive days with no new case.

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MADISON, Wis. — Two Wisconsin residents have died from the coronavirus pandemic, the first to be reported in the state.

Gov. Tony Evers announced Thursday that a man in his 50s from Fond du Lac County and a man in his 90s from Ozaukee County had died. No other details about their circumstances was reported.

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HONOLULU — Hawaii state Sen. Clarence Nishihara was informed Thursday that he tested positive for coronavirus.

Nishihara is the first known Hawaii lawmaker to test positive and the first at the Hawaii State Capitol building, Senate communications spokesman Jesse Broder Van Dyke said.

Senate President Ron Kouchi sent a memo recommending all Senate offices close until further notice.

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Haiti has confirmed its first two cases of the new coronavirus.

President Jovenel Moise said the unidentified patients that tested positive for COVID-19 have been quarantined. He declined to release further details out of fear for their safety.

Moise also said he would close all airports, schools, factories and seaports.

The announcement comes just days after officials closed the border that Haiti and the Dominican Republic share on the island of Hispaniola.

Haiti is the poorest country in the western Hemisphere, and many worry the country is not equipped to handle a possible spread of coronavirus.

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SEATTLE — A federal judge has declined to order the release of immigration detainees who may be especially vulnerable to the new coronavirus because they are old or have underlying health conditions.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project sought the release of nine detainees at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Northwest detention center in Tacoma.

U.S. District Judge James L. Robart said he was aware of the gravity and rapidly evolving nature of the COVID-19 crisis, but that there is no evidence of an outbreak at the privately run jail or that the agency’s precautions are inadequate.

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MINNEAPOLIS — Compass Airlines is shutting down operations in April due to the coronavirus outbreak.

A statement from the Minneapolis-based company says Compass Airlines “has made the difficult decision to cease operations, effective April 7.” According to the statement, “Radical capacity reductions left Compass without the ability to fly even minimally viable schedules.”

The Star Tribune also reports that Compass’ Delta-affiliated operations will end March 31 instead of winding down later this year as scheduled.

President Sara Nelson of the Association of Flight Attendants calls the shutdown “devastating.” The union represents more than 200 cabin crew members at Compass. Under parent Trans States Airlines, Compass exclusively flies in western states but kept its corporate headquarters in the Twin Cities.

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SEATTLE — The death toll in Washington state from the new coronavirus has increased to 74, and the number of cases has topped 1,300, according to state health officials.

King County reported four new deaths — bringing its total to 60 — while Snohomish, Benton and Island counties each reported one death.

Gov. Jay Inslee issued an order Thursday prohibiting non-urgent medical and dental procedures in an effort to secure protective equipment used by front-line health care workers. The order applies to any procedure that would require someone to wear protective gear.

“We know the health care personal protective equipment supply chain in Washington has been severely disrupted by the significant increased use of such equipment worldwide,” Inslee said in a statement. “We will do all we can to protect the women and men who protect us.”

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — U.N. World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley says he has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Beasley says in a statement he began to feel ill after returning from an official visit to Canada and put himself into quarantine at his South Carolina home last Saturday.

Beasley says his symptoms have been mild and he is in good spirits. He says he continues to work from home and his employees are helping him inform anyone he had contact with during his trip.

Beasley has run the program since 2017 that provides food to more than 80 million starving and hungry people around the world.

The 63-year-old Beasley was governor of South Carolina for four years starting in 1995.

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand’s government is bailing out its national airline by offering more than $500 million in loans.

Air New Zealand has already stopped most international routes and cut back on domestic flights due to the coronavirus outbreak. Beginning Friday, New Zealand has closed its borders to everyone but citizens and residents, ending most airline travel to the South Pacific nation.

Air New Zealand said it will cut its workforce of 12,500 by 30%. The airline is 52% owned by the government, which has offered loans of 900 million New Zealand dollars ($511 million) over two years.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said that without the intervention, New Zealand was at risk of not having a national airline. New Zealand has had 28 confirmed cases of COVID-19, all connected to international travel. There have been no signs yet of a local outbreak.

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BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards told President Donald Trump that a growing number of new coronavirus cases could push the state past its capacity to deliver health care in seven days.

Edwards stressed at a later news conference that the number was a “worst case scenario,” which he said was “sobering.”

The number of people known to be infected with the virus in Louisiana jumped to nearly 380, Edwards said Thursday afternoon. That was up from 280 a day earlier.

“My fear, based on modeling that I’ve received today, is that in as little as seven days we could start to exceed our capacity to deliver health care,” Edwards told Trump during a conference call the president held with governors that was carried by news networks.

“We’ve got some requests in, for example we have a VA hospital in New Orleans where we’ve requested to be able to surge patients there,” Edwards said.

“I’m going to try to get you immediate approval on the hospital,” Trump told Edwards.

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SAO PAULO — Brazil is closing its borders with most of its South American neighbors, a decision most of them had already made, and treating any patients with “severe flu” as a coronavirus case.

Latin America’s largest nation is still negotiating with Uruguay. Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta also said families of people who tested positive will receive medical permission to stay home for two weeks.

President Jair Bolsonaro, who initially dismissed the outbreak as “hysteria,” is trying to regain control of the fight against the virus that Mandetta and state governors have led thus far. Brazil has 621 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus and reported six deaths.

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LISBON, Portugal — Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa announced that people infected with the coronavirus are to be confined to their residences and most retail outlets must close as part of a 15-day state of emergency in the European country.

Those over 70 years old or with chronic ailments should only leave home for short walks for health reasons. Costa said the rest of the population should only leave home to commute to work, shop for necessities, to help a family member, to accompany children, or to walk a pet.

Costa added that all retail shops except supermarkets, bakeries, pharmacies, gas stations, and newsstands are ordered to close.

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CANNES, France — France’s Cannes Film Festival, arguably the world’s most prestigious film festival and cinema’s largest annual gathering, has postponed its 73rd edition.

Organizers of the French Riviera festival, scheduled to take place May 12-23, say they are considering moving the festival to the end of June or the beginning of July.

Organizers had been reluctant to cancel Cannes. But as the coronavirus pandemic spread through France, it became all but inevitable that a massive gathering like Cannes couldn’t go on as scheduled. “See you very soon,” the festival said in a statement.

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WASHINGTON — Army officials say one Army combat support hospital and one field hospital will soon be deployed.

The combat hospital normally has 248 beds, including 48 for intensive care with ventilators, and the field hospital has 32 beds, but can be increased by another 60 beds. Of those, there could be as many as 24 intensive care beds with ventilators.

The two units going are a combat hospital from Joint Base Lewis McCord in Washington and the 586th Field Hospital from Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

According to a defense official, the likely two locations at this point are New York City and Seattle.

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JOHANNESBURG — Another U.S. embassy in Africa is reporting anti-foreigner sentiment over the coronavirus.

The embassy in Cameroon says Americans and other foreigners in the major cities of Yaounde and Douala reported “verbal and online harassment, stone throwing and banging on vehicles occupied by expatriates.”

Many of Africa’s more than 600 confirmed cases of the coronavirus are people who recently arrived from the United States, Britain, Italy and other high-risk countries.

The U.S. embassy in Ethiopia issued a similar security alert, prompting the prime minister’s office to announce that COVID-19 “is not related to any country or nationality.

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