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.

WASHINGTON — The IRS says the first economic support payments stemming from the coronavirus outbreak have been deposited in taxpayers’ bank accounts.

In its tweeted announcement Saturday night, the IRS didn’t say how many taxpayers have received the payments or how much money has been disbursed so far.

The tweet says: “We know many people are anxious to get their payments; we’ll continue issuing them as fast as we can.”

The payments are part of the $2.2 trillion rescue package passed by Congress and then signed into law last month by President Donald Trump.

Anyone earning up to $75,000 in adjusted gross income and who has a Social Security number will receive a $1,200 payment. Parents will also receive $500 for each qualifying child.

The payment steadily declines for those who make more.

White House approves production of N95 masks

WASHINGTON — Defense Department officials say the White House has approved the production of N95 masks amid the coronavirus pandemic.

According to a statement, $133 million will be used to increase the production capacity of masks to more than 39 million over the next 90 days. Officials say the names of the companies that have been chosen to make the masks will be made available in the coming days when the contract is awarded.

The masks will be made under the Defense Production Act. President Donald Trump invoked the act, which gives the federal government broad authority to direct private companies to meet the needs of the national defense, to help provide medical supplies.

Burning Man to offer ticket refunds

LAS VEGAS — Organizers of the Burning Man Project say they are committed to providing ticket refunds after the event was canceled because of COVID-19. But they are asking purchasers to consider foregoing refunds because the organization faces layoffs, pay cuts and other belt-tightening measures.

Burning Man is a lifestyle and entertainment gathering that typically attracts 80,000 people from around the world. It had been scheduled for Aug. 30 to Sept. 7 in the northern Nevada desert.

Organizers said Friday in a Facebook post that cancellation was “in the interest of the health and well-being of our community.”

Judge: City can’t stop drive-in Easter service

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The city of Louisville cannot halt a drive-in church service planned for Easter, a federal judge ruled.

On Fire Christian Church had sued Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and the city after Fischer announced drive-in style religious gatherings were not allowed on Easter.

U.S. District Judge Justin Walker sided with the church.

“On Holy Thursday, an American mayor criminalized the communal celebration of Easter,” Walker wrote in his sternly worded 20-page opinion. “That sentence is one that this Court never expected to see outside the pages of a dystopian novel, or perhaps the pages of The Onion.”

Walker added that “The Mayor’s decision is stunning. And it is, ‘beyond all reason,’ unconstitutional.”

Fischer had argued that drive-in church services weren’t “practical or safe” for the community. However, Walker noted that drive-thru restaurants and liquor stores were still allowed to operate.

Queen stresses importance of restrictions

LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II has stressed the need for the British people to continue to abide with lockdown restrictions over the rest of the Easter weekend.

In a two-minute audio broadcast from Windsor Castle, the queen said that by “keeping apart, we keep others safe” and that the coronavirus “will not overcome us.”

Social distancing rules were observed during what is believed to be the queen’s first Easter message. The 93-year-old monarch delivered the address alone into a microphone from the castle’s White Drawing room while the sound engineer was in a nearby room.

Last Sunday, in a rare special televised address to the nation, the queen evoked wartime memories to reassure people that “We will meet again.”

U.S. death toll closes in on Italy’s as Midwest braces

CHICAGO — The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus briefly overtook Italy’s for the highest in the world Saturday, according to the running tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

The United States eclipsed Italy in reporting more than 18,850 dead around midday. A short time afterward, Italy reported a total of nearly 19,500.

Deaths have been declining in recent days in Italy while rising rapidly in the U.S.

The Johns Hopkins figures are based on data supplied by government health authorities around the world. The true numbers of dead and infected are believed to be much higher because of testing shortages, different counting practices and concealment by some governments.

Read the full story here.

France reaching ‘a very high plateau’

PARIS — For the third day in a row, less patients entered France’s intensive care units for treatment for COVID-19, according to the nation’s medical chief.

“A very high plateau seems to be forming,” said Jerome Salomon in his daily briefing on the status of the coronavirus.

Despite that glimmer of hope, the number of deaths continued to mount. Since March 1, France counted 13,832 deaths in hospitals and homes for the aged.

Indonesian inmates set fire to overcrowded prison

MANADO, Indonesia — Angry inmates have set fire to an overcrowded prison on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island during a riot that erupted over measures imposed to contain the coronavirus.

Hundreds of police and soldiers were deployed to take control of Tuminting prison in North Sulawesi province, which is designed to house 490 inmates but now has more than 550, said Lumaksono, the head of Justice and Human Rights provincial office.

Lumaksono, who goes by a single name, says a preliminary investigation revealed that many inmates, mostly drug offenders, were angered by restrictions on family visits and envious following the early release of 115 inmates to curb the spread of the coronavirus in prisons.

He said they went on the rampage and started fires, and other inmates joined the protest and it turned violent, but there were no reports of deaths.

British PM Johnson makes progress in hospital

LONDON — The office of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he “continues to make very good progress” in a London hospital after contracting COVID-19.

The 55-year-old Johnson was diagnosed with COVID-19 more than two weeks ago, becoming the first world leader confirmed to have the illness. His office has said he’s taken “short walks” between periods of rest and had spoken to his doctors to thank them “for the incredible care he has received.”

His coronavirus symptoms at first were mild, including a cough and a fever. He was admitted to St. Thomas’ Hospital on Sunday after his condition worsened. He was transferred to the intensive care unit the following day where he received oxygen but was not put onto a ventilator.

He spent three nights there before moving back to a regular ward on Thursday night.

Bangladesh records 3 more deaths

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Bangladesh recorded three more deaths and 58 more cases of infection from coronavirus.

Health Minister Zahid Maleque says over the last 24 hours, 954 samples have been tested and 54 cases confirmed positive.

The total number of deaths stood at 30, with 482 infections since the first case was reported on March 8.

Bangladesh has extended its nationwide lockdown until April 25 to keep its 160 million people at home and help contain the virus.

Security officials, including army soldiers, are enforcing social distancing rules.

Italy urges citizens to stay home for Easter

ROME — Italy’s special commissioner for the virus emergency urged people to stay at home for Easter and Easter Monday, days when Italians customarily visit friends and relatives or take outings into the countryside.

Domenico Arcuri says, ’’The virus has not been defeated, but we are on the right path. We see the indicators, but not the end of the tunnel. In fact, the end of the tunnel is still far away.”

He says the next phase, a gradual reopening, would be complex and require discipline to prevent another wave of contagion. He says, ‘’This dramatic emergency will only be behind us when an efficient and effective vaccine is discovered.’’

This week also marks the 11th anniversary of the earthquake in L’Aquila that killed nearly 300 people. Arcuri noted in just four days, the virus claimed 3,226 lives.

Rival sides pledge to cooperate in Cyprus

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Leaders of rival sides in Cyprus renewed a pledge to strengthen cooperation because of the coronavirus.

Cyprus’ government spokesman Kyriakos says next week it will deliver medication and protective equipment to Turkish Cypriots in the island nation’s breakaway north.

The medication will include quantities of chloroquine, an anti-malaria drug that Cypriot authorities are prescribing to virus patients with mild symptoms who are convalescing at home.

Koushios says the delivery will be made on the request of Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci during a phone call with President Nicos Anastasiades. Both agreed Akinci to stay in contact and to bolster the work of a health committee made up of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.

All nine crossing points along a 120-mile U.N. controlled buffer zone separating the north from the internationally recognized south were shut last month. U.N. spokesman Aleem Siddique says the peacekeeping force is ready to assist both sides in the delivery.

India extends lockdown 2 more weeks

NEW DELHI — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended the nationwide lockdown by two more weeks to help contain the coronavirus.

New Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal agreed in a tweet with the decision. Modi held a meeting Saturday with at least 13 chief ministers of Indian states through video conferencing. The unprecedented order for lockdown is meant to keep India’s 1.3 billion people at home and prevent the virus form surging and overwhelming the nation’s already strained health care system.

The country’s current three-week lockdown was to expire Tuesday. Authorities have reported 6,565 confirmed cases and 239 deaths.

China says it will inspect coronavirus supplies

BEIJING — Chinese regulators say ventilators, masks and other supplies being exported to fight the coronavirus will be subject to quality inspections following complaints that substandard goods were being sold abroad.

The customs agency says masks, ventilators, surgical gowns, goggles and other supplies will be treated as medical goods. That requires exporters to show they meet the quality standards of their destination market.

The agency gave no details but the newspaper Beijing Daily said shipments would be inspected by a government agency before being approved for export.

China is the biggest producer of surgical masks and other medical products and has increased output following the coronavirus outbreak.

Regulators in Australia, the Netherlands and other countries have complained masks, virus test kits and other products were faulty or failed to meet quality standards.

Nigeria calls out China

JOHANNESBURG — Nigeria is the latest African nation to publicly confront China over the mistreatment of Africans in the Chinese city of Guangzhou.

Some African traders have reported being evicted or discriminated against amid coronavirus fears.

In an unusually open critique, the speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives tweeted a video of him pressing the Chinese ambassador on the issue.

“It’s almost undiplomatic the way I’m talking, but it’s because I’m upset about what’s going on,” Femi Gbajabiamila says. “We take it very seriously,” Ambassador Zhou Pingjian replies.

Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama also summoned the ambassador to express “extreme concern” and call for an immediate government response. Kenya also has spoken out about the mistreatment.

Sierra Leone in a separate statement says African diplomats in Beijing have met with Chinese officials and “stated in very strong terms their concern and condemnation of the disturbing and humiliating experiences our citizens have been subjected to.”

Spain reports 510 deaths in last 24 hours

MADRID — Spain has reported its lowest daily death count in nearly three weeks after 510 people died with the new coronavirus between Friday and Saturday. That is down from a national high of 950 fatalities reported on April 2.

The country saw a slight uptick in confirmed infections with 4,830 new cases reported, compared to 4,576 the day before.

Spain has confirmed 161,852 infections and 16,353 deaths since the beginning of the outbreak, making it and Italy the hardest hit countries in Europe. Over 59,000 Spaniards have recovered from COVID-19.

A month-long national lockdown has helped Spain slow the daily increase in the numbers of infected people from over 20% two weeks ago to 3%.

Given the harsh economic impact of the measures which threaten to hurl the country into recession, the government will start to roll back some controls on Monday when factory and construction workers will be allowed to return to work for the first time in two weeks. All other activities, except for leaving home for essential food and medicine, will still remain prohibited.

Roadblocks have been set up to prevent unauthorized travel during the Easter holidays.

Britain says too soon to determine infection peak

LONDON —British Heath Secretary Matt Hancock says it is too soon to determine whether the peak of coronavirus infections in the country has passed.

That’s despite data suggesting that the rate of increase in the number of people being hospitalized with the COVID-19 disease is leveling out.

Hancock tells BBC radio that the “good news” is that the number of hospital admissions shows signs of flattening out. However, he says the government requires more evidence before it can start making changes to its lockdown measures.

Britain has been in lockdown for nearly three weeks and the government is expected to extend the restrictions in coming days.

On Friday, the government said a total of 8,958 people had died in hospital after testing positive for the new coronavirus, up 980 from the previous day. That daily increase was bigger than anything witnessed in Italy and Spain, the two European countries with the greatest number of coronavirus-linked fatalities.

Hancock also says that 19 front-line workers in the National Health Service have died after contracting the virus.

Japan expands stay-at-home request

TOKYO — Japan has broadened a request for people to stay away from bars, clubs and restaurants across the whole country.

The measure previously covered seven urban areas, including Tokyo.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says at a meeting of the national coronavirus task force that “many cases of infections have been confirmed at places where people are going out at night, and that spread is nationwide.”

Japan’s state of emergency, issued April 7, carries no penalties but asks people to stay home as much as possible.

Abe reiterated his plea for companies to allow people to work from home, stressing that commuter train crowds had thinned, but more was needed. Although department stores and movie theaters have closed, some retail chains are still open.

Japan has about 6,000 coronavirus cases, and about 100 deaths. Worries are growing cases will surge dramatically, and hospitals will be overloaded. The Tokyo city government has asked pachinko parlors and karaoke bars to close but allows small “izakaya” bars and barbershops to stay open.

Police combat moonshiners in Sri Lanka

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Police in Sri Lanka say they are trying to stop people swapping instructions for how to produce illicit liquor during a curfew imposed due to the new coronavirus.

Liquor stores and bars are closed under Sri Lanka’s curfew measures. That has caused black market liquor prices to triple.

Posts on social media like Facebook and WhatsApp have been widely shared with tips for producing moonshine using locally available items such as sugar, coconut water and yeast.

Police spokesman Ajith Rohana says that people who promote consumption of liquor or methods to produce it could face a prison sentence of up to two years. He says special teams are examining posts on social media.

Sri Lanka has recorded 197 cases of the new coronavirus and seven infected people have died. Nearly 20,000 people have been arrested for curfew violations.

Around 1,300 Aussie travelers end quarantine

SYDNEY — About 1,300 Australian travelers being kept in mandatory quarantine in Sydney ended their two-week confinement in time for the Easter Sunday holiday. They had arrived at Sydney International Airport after a government-ordered clampdown on March 29 and were finishing their 14-day quarantine, New South Wales police said.

They will undergo a final health check before they are allowed to leave for their homes around the country. Police are overseeing the departures, assisted by health authorities, the Australian defense force and hotel staff.

Buses will run to Sydney’s airport throughout the day, but some won’t be able to return to their home states on Saturday due to flight schedules.

The New South Wales health minister issued an order directing all overseas arrivals to go directly to a quarantine facility from March 29 to combat the new coronavirus pandemic.

South Korea will use electronic monitors on those who defy quarantine

SEOUL, South Korea — In a controversial step, South Korea’s government says it will strap electronic wristbands on people who defy self-quarantine orders as it tightens monitoring to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

Senior Health Ministry official Yoon Tae-ho on Saturday acknowledged the privacy and civil liberty concerns surrounding the bands, which will be enforced through police and local administrative officials after two weeks of preparation and manufacturing.

But he said authorities need more effective monitoring tools because the number of people placed under self-quarantine has ballooned after the country began enforcing 14-day quarantines on all passengers arriving from abroad on April 1 amid worsening outbreaks in Europe and the United States.

Lee Beom-seok, an official from the Ministry of the Interior and Safety, admitted that the legal grounds for forcing people to wear the wristbands were “insufficient” and that police and local officials will offer consent forms for the devices while investigating those who were caught breaking quarantine.

Under the country’s recently strengthened laws on infectious diseases, people can face up to a year in prison or fined as much as $8,200 for breaking quarantine orders. Lee said those who agree to wear the wristbands could be possibly considered for lighter punishment.

 


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