The Latest: Hong Kong to remain closed to foreigners

The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

— Hong Kong to remain closed to foreigners indefinitely

— G20 leaders urged to approve $8 billion in funding for coronavirus vaccine

— Philippine president extends lockdown in northern region to April 30

— South Korea reports 47 new cases, six deaths from coronavirus

— China is reporting no coronavirus deaths over last 24 hours

___

Hong Kong will continue to be closed to foreigners, extending the initial two-week entry restrictions on non-residents indefinitely.

Non-residents coming from overseas to Hong Kong by plane will be denied entry, and those coming from mainland China, Macao and Taiwan will be barred from entering if they have been overseas in the past 14 days.

The move to continue shutting out foreigners was announced by the government on Monday, and comes as the number of COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong rose to 915. Hong Kong has seen a rise in the number of imported cases in the city, and its confirmed cases has more than doubled in the last two weeks.

On Sunday, Hong Kong’s airport saw only 813 arrivals, a drop of close to 82% compared to before the restrictions were put in place on March 24.

Hong Kong’s entry restrictions exempt certain groups, including aircraft crew, government officials on duty, spouses and minor children of Hong Kong residents as well as personnel engaged by the government in anti-epidemic work.

___

UNITED NATIONS — More than 160 current and former global leaders and other VIPs are urging the world’s 20 major industrialized nations to approve $8 billion in emergency global health funding to hasten the search for a vaccine, cure and treatment for COVID-19 and prevent a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

In an open letter to governments of the Group of 20 nations released Monday night, the leaders, ministers, top executives and scientists also called for $35 billion to support countries with weaker health systems and especially vulnerable populations, and at least $150 billion for developing countries to fight the medical and economic crisis.

They also urged the international community to waive this year’s debt repayments from poorer countries, including $44 billion due from Africa,

While the communique from the G20 leaders’ summit on March 26 recognized the gravity and urgency of the health and economic crisis sparked by the pandemic, the letter said “we now require urgent specific measures that can be agreed on with speed and at scale.”

The group called for a global pledging conference, co-ordinated by a G20 task force, to commit resources to meet the emergency needs to tackle COVID-19.

The 165 signatories included former U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, 92 former presidents and prime ministers, the current prime ministers of Ethiopia and Bangladesh, Sierra Leone’s president, philanthropist George Soros, former Irish president Mary Robinson who chairs The Elders, and Graca Machel, the group’s deputy chair.

___

SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korean officials are considering using electronic wristbands to monitor the growing number of people placed under self-quarantine to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

Health Ministry official Yoon Tae-ho on Tuesday said such devices were one of several measures discussed by officials as they search for “practical and effective ways” to monitor people isolated at homes and facilities.

Yoon acknowledged that wristbands would come with privacy concerns and didn’t offer a specific answer when asked how likely it was that the government would enforce their use.

The number of people placed under quarantine has ballooned since last week when South Korea began enforcing 14-day quarantines on all passengers arriving from overseas to stem a rise in imported infections.

Lee Byeong-cheol, an official from the Ministry of the Interior and Safety, said more than 46,500 people were under self-quarantine as of Monday evening, including 38,400 who have recently arrived from abroad. He said the number could eventually reach 80,000 or 90,000.

While quarantined individuals are required to download an app that alerts authorities if they leave their homes or facilities, Yoon said apps aren’t enough when people are slipping out by leaving their smartphones behind or switching off location functions.

Lee said South Korean police are currently investigating more than 70 people over allegations of breaking quarantine.

___

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine president has extended by half a month to April 30 a lockdown that requires millions of people in the country’s main northern region to stay home amid the coronavirus outbreak.

President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday in a late-night TV speech that the government was desperately looking for more funds for a massive cash and food aid intended to prevent the poor from starving to death. There have been appeals for middle-class families to be given emergency aid too, he said.

“If there’s nothing to eat, a human being can be violent especially if he sees his children without food and he’s driven to tears,” Duterte said, adding he has ordered the finance secretary to “steal, borrow, I don’t care,” just to produce more emergency funds.

The government has targeted 18 million low-income families for economic rescue under the lockdown with a 275-billion-peso ($5 billion) budget in the next two months. Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya told foreign correspondents Monday 16.3 billion pesos ($320 million) have been distributed so far.

Duterte demanded that the aid be given more rapidly amid complaints of delays and confusion over who should get it.

The Philippines has reported 3,660 cases of COVID-19 disease, including 163 deaths.

___

SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea has reported 47 new cases of the coronavirus and six more deaths, bringing its totals to 10,331 infections and 192 fatalities.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday said at least 802 of the infections were linked to passengers arriving from abroad amid broadening outbreaks in Europe and the United States. Most of these cases have been detected in the past three weeks, inflating the caseload in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where about half of South Korea’s 51 million people live.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun during a meeting on anti-virus strategies on Tuesday repeated his public pleas for social distancing and lamented that young people were lining up at clubs and other leisure facilities at risk of becoming “quiet spreaders” of the virus.

While South Korea’s government has shut schools and issued social-distancing guidelines for the public, it has not enforced lockdowns or ordered unessential businesses to close.

___

BEIJING. — China on Tuesday reported no new deaths from the coronarivus over the past 24 hours and just 32 new cases, all from people who returned from overseas.

Another 12 suspected cases — also all imported — were being kept under observation, along with an additional 30 asymptomatic cases. China now has 1,242 confirmed cases in treatment and 1,033 asymptomatic cases under isolation and monitoring.

The country that gave rise to the global pandemic has recorded 3,331 deaths and 81,740 total cases. Numbers of daily new deaths have been hovering in the single digits for weeks, hitting just one on several occasions.

___

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will brief the U.N. Security Council for the first time on the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday, behind closed doors.

The U.N.’s most powerful body has come under criticism for not addressing the global crisis caused by the COVID-19 disease. The council has in the past spoken out on two public health emergencies — HIV/AIDS and Ebola.

The U.N. General Assembly unanimously approved a resolution on April 2 recognizing “the unprecedented effects” of the coronavirus pandemic and calling for “intensified international co-operation to contain, mitigate and defeat” the COVID-19 disease. Resolutions of the 193-member world body reflect global opinion but are not legally binding.

Diplomats say the Security Council, whose resolutions are legally binding, is divided between its 10 members who are elected for two-year terms and some of its five permanent members — the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China.

The elected members have been pressing for a council briefing by Guterres and have circulated a draft resolution on the pandemic. France is drafting a rival text.

Diplomats said the permanent members wanted a summit of their leaders before a council meeting, and were trying to arrange one as late as Monday morning, but that meeting failed to materialize.

The Dominican Republic holds the Security Council presidency this month and its spokesperson informed the media late Monday of Thursday’s closed meeting to hear from the secretary-general.

___

TORONTO — Manufacturing giant 3M says it has an agreement with the Trump administration that will allow the company to continue to send N95 protective masks to Canada and Latin America.

3M says the company has a plan to produce 166.5 million masks over the next three months to support healthcare workers in the U.S.

President Trump had used his authority under the 1950 Defence Production Act to stop exporting such masks, also known as respirators. The move to block such masks, which are crucial in protecting healthcare workers on both sides of the border from the virus that causes COVID-19, outraged many officials in Canada.

3M issued a statement last week saying that could have “significant humanitarian implications” for healthcare workers in Canada and Latin America. The company had said possible retaliation by other nations could actually lead to fewer of the masks being available in the U.S.

___

In New York City, nearly 1 in 5 police officers were out sick Monday, many with flu-like symptoms.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the NYPD has a “very deep bench” with about 36,000 officers and won’t need to bring in reinforcements from other agencies, and police officials say there is no imminent need to move to 12-hour shifts.

In all, more than 2,220 people working for the NYPD have tested positive for coronavirus. One detective and a dozen civilian employees have died from the disease.

___

President Donald Trump said he was saddened to hear British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was taken into intensive care as he battles the new coronavirus.

“Americans are all praying for his recovery,” Trump said during a White House press briefing. “He’s been a really good friend. He’s been really something very special, strong, resolute, doesn’t quit, doesn’t give up.”

Trump said he asked two “leading companies” to contact officials in London about therapeutics that could be of help.

He did not specifically identify the companies, but said “we have contacted all of Boris’s doctors and we’ll see what’s going to take place but they are ready to go.”

“When you get brought into intensive care, that gets very, very serious with this particular disease.” Trump said.

___

The USNS Comfort is now being used for COVID-19 patients.

President Trump confirmed that he’d called New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier Monday to let him know that the USNS Comfort can now be used for COVID-19 patients.

“We’re going to let him do it,” said Trump, adding that the ship will will be used for patients from both New York and New Jersey.

“Hopefully that will be very helpful for both states,” he said.

Cuomo had tweeted shortly before Trump’s news conference began that the ship would add 1,000 beds staffed by federal personnel.

“This will provide much-needed relief to our over stressed hospital systems,” he wrote.

___

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is touting the end of a dispute with 3M to supply millions of masks to medical professionals on the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus.

Trump said that the “3M saga ends very happily. We’re very proud to be dealing now with 3M."

The president said that the company agreed to deliver an additional “55.5 million high-quality facemasks each month.”

Trump had invoked the Korean War-era Defence Production Act to prevent 3M from exporting masks abroad.

It had sparked some fears that other nations would down on the shipment of medical supplies to the US.

___

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been moved to the intensive care unit of a London hospital after his coronavirus symptoms worsened.

Johnson’s office says Johnson is conscious and does not require ventilation at the moment.

Johnson was admitted to St. Thomas’ Hospital late Sunday, 10 days after he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Johnson has asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to deputize for him.

___

PARIS — France’s health minister has reported the country’s highest 24-hour death toll recorded in the country since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Olivier Veran said Monday evening that 833 people died of coronavirus in hospitals and nursing homes since Sunday.

Though some predicted that the infection rate might start to slow, Veran said that “we have not reached the end of the ascent of this epidemic.”

France has only recently started counting nursing home deaths in their COVID-19-related death counts, and previously only reported deaths in hospitals.

The total number that have died from the coronavirus stands at 8,911.

___

NEW YORK — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended stay-at-home restrictions through the end of the month, citing fresh evidence Monday that the outbreak-fighting rules could be helping the state avoid a worst-case catastrophe.

New York state has tallied 4,758 deaths from COVID-19, with 599 reported in the past 24 hours. It remains the most impacted state with more than 130,000 laboratory-confirmed cases and close to 17,000 people hospitalized.

But the number of new people entering hospitals daily has dropped, as have the number of critically ill patients requiring ventilators. Recent data suggests the state could be at or near the peak of the outbreak, state officials said.

Warning it was no time the relent, Cuomo said schools and nonessential businesses will remain closed until April 29.

Cuomo stressed that even if New York has reached the peak, numbers could persist at these levels, which would continue to stress struggling hospitals.

___

NEW JERSEY — New Jersey’s death toll from the coronavirus surpassed 1,000 people, according to data released Monday from the state’s health department.

In the past 24 hours, New Jersey fatalities from COVID-19 climbed from 917 to 1,003.

New Jersey and New York are among the hardest-hit states in the country. New Jersey is likely weeks away from hitting the peak of the outbreak, according to health officials.

Bergen, Essex and Hudson counties in suburban New York have seen the most cases.

___

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana -- Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards says his state is starting to see hospital admission and death rates that could suggest new infections are slowing.

“We are starting to real signs that these mitigation measures that we put into place weeks ago are starting to bear real results, and we’re hopeful that we’re seeing the beginning of the flattening of the curve,” the Democratic governor said at his daily press briefing, offering a hint of optimism in a state with one of the nation’s highest per capita virus infection rates.

The New Orleans region isn’t expected to run out of ventilators or hospital beds within days, as previously projected.

Edwards cautioned that even if data continues to show that Louisiana has truly turned a corner in battling the outbreak, no one should celebrate by having an Easter crawfish boil or more trips outside of the house.

“The fear is that I’m telling people that and they’re going to say, ‘Oh, the task at hand is accomplished. We can go back to doing whatever it is we normally do,’” Edwards said. “That is exactly the wrong answer.”

Louisiana has nearly 15,000 people with confirmed infections. The state’s death toll is at least 512.

___

South Carolina’s governor has added criminal penalties to his orders demanding people stay home unless going to work or the grocery store to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

Gov. Henry McMaster said people can call it a “stay-at-home” order if they like. South Carolina had been the final state east of the Mississippi to not have that specific order.

South Carolina has closed almost all stores that don’t sell medicine, food, home improvement supplies, liquor or guns and banned gathering of three or more people. Anyone violating the governor’s social distancing orders can be ticketed for a misdemeanour and face a $100 fine or 30 days in jail.

McMaster also says he has not been tested for COVID-19. The governor says he has followed protocol that says only test people with symptoms.

At 72, McMaster is the oldest governor in South Carolina’s 350-year history as an English colony and state.

___

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced Monday that because of the coronavirus outbreak schools will remain physically closed for the remainder of the school year and that the state’s more than 1.2 million public and private K-12 students will continue distance learning until the end of June.

Washington state had the first major COVID-19 outbreak in the United States.

Schools have been shut statewide since March 17 and were originally scheduled to reopen April 27.

Now, that closure is extended until midnight June 19 — when the spring term ends — and schools are encouraged to continue to provide distance learning. The order also asks schools to start planning for a potential expansion of the order into the summer and fall.

Under the order, some in-person and on-site services such as meetings with seniors to help finish up final projects and tutoring support is allowed only if social distancing and proper hygiene practices are followed.

Last week, Inslee extended orders to keep non-essential businesses closed and most of the state’s residents home through May 4, saying that social distancing measures must remain in place an additional month in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

___

RICHMOND, Va. — Eight more residents of a Virginia long-term care facility who tested positive for coronavirus have died, bringing the death toll amid the outbreak to 28, the facility’s administrator said Monday.

Deaths at the Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center in Henrico County have continued to mount since health officials tested every resident last week because of the scope of the outbreak. That testing showed roughly two-thirds of the residents had the virus.

Thirty-four residents were experiencing symptoms ranging from moderate to mild, and 54 of the residents who tested positive were showing no sign of being ill, the statement said.

Across Virginia, the Virginia Department of Health reported nearly 2,900 confirmed cases and 54 deaths Monday, figures that state health commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver said at a news conference were “almost definitely an underestimate” because of a lack of widespread testing.

___

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker began his daily briefing with a response to President Donald Trump’s poor assessment of his performance.

The Democratic governor again went over what the state had received from the national stockpile and what the state had procured on its own.

As an example, he noted that the federal government had supplied 368,000 N95 masks and 693,000 gloves, while the state had procured 10 million N95 masks and 19 million gloves.

At the same time, Pritzker said the state’s “10-day burn rate for PPE” is 1.5 million N95 masks and 25 million gloves.

“To anyone who wants a response to some of the blame-shifting coming out of the White House, all I have to say is, look at the numbers,” Pritzker said.

___

ATLANTA — Motorists lined up in rows of cars at a mass drive-thru testing site for the coronavirus in Atlanta.

The state of Georgia is partnering with CVS Health in launching rapid testing Monday at a parking deck on Georgia Tech’s midtown Atlanta campus. Gov. Brian Kemp announced the plan recently. Georgia has recorded more than 200 virus-linked deaths and more than 1,300 hospitalizations.

Total infections statewide exceed 7,000 and Fulton County, which is home to Atlanta, leads the state with nearly 1,000 cases.

Experts say they hope more testing will give a better sense of how widespread the coronavirus is in Georgia.

“Roll your window up, roll your window up!” a police officer yelled at drivers as they approached the first of at least two checkpoints. Dozens of drivers pressed their photo IDs and cellphones against their car windows to show their appointment confirmations. Cars were then directed to another area where testing was being done.

___

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A West Virginia judge in the county with the state’s highest coronavirus caseload has approved strapping ankle monitors to people who test positive but refuse to quarantine. The Monday order allows Kanawha County sheriffs to use the GPS bracelets if someone with the virus ignores an isolation order.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many people violated the mandates, though one local official put the number at “a few.” Officials say at least 345 people statewide have the virus with four reported deaths.

Kanawha County, where the state capital of Charleston is located, has the most positive cases in the state with 56.

___

ROME — Italy’s day-to-day increase in new COVID-19 cases has dipped again.

The nearly 3,600 new cases that authorities announced on Monday were the lowest day-to-day increase in 20 days. Another number boosting hopes in Italy’s medical community was a small drop, for the third straight day, in the number of intensive care beds occupied by patients with coronavirus infections nationwide.

“Substantially, the data confirms the trend” of a slowing of new cases and “gives comfort that the measures of containment against the viral infection are effective,’’ said Dr. Luca Richeldi, a pneumologist with Rome’s Gemelli Hospital.

Italy now has at least 132,547 confirmed cases, putting it just behind Spain in total known cases. There were 636 deaths in Italy since Sunday, up from 525 a day earlier. But Richeldi said that overall, a downward trend in deaths was holding, showing a decrease of 20 per cent compared to a week earlier.

On Monday, Italy marks a month under national lockdown aimed at slowing contagion with the virus.

___

Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

The Associated Press