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The Latest: US officials working on $2 trillion rescue deal

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Posted: Monday, March 23, 2020 11:43 pm | Updated: 12:01 am, Tue Mar 24, 2020.

The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 381,000 people and killed over 16,500. 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 101,000 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

—US working on $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package.

—Trump: US economy could reopen in weeks, not months.

—China testing overseas arrivals for COVID-19.

———

WASHINGTON — Top congressional and White House officials negotiating the $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package say they expect to reach a deal sometime Tuesday.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer say they spoke by phone with President Donald Trump as they met late into the night at the Capitol. While the sides have resolved many issues in the sweeping package, some disagreements remain.

Washington has been straining to respond to the worsening coronavirus outbreak, and tempers in Congress have flared at times. Meantime, Trump is musing openly about letting a 15-day shutdown expire next Monday.

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TOKYO — Japan’s Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto says the global pandemic of coronavirus infections should end before Japan can proceed with hosting the Games.

"I think the most important thing now is to stand in solidarity and take measures to end the coronavirus around the world," Hashimoto, a seven-time Olympian in speed skating and bicycling, told reporters. "Unless each country and region has curbed the (spread of) coronavirus, it would not be possible to proceed with hosting the Games in the true ‘complete" manner.’”

Tokyo's organizers and International Olympic Committee are discussing a possible postponement and other scenarios.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and IOC President Thomas Bach are expected to hold telephone talks later Tuesday.

———

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea says 19 of 1,444 passengers who arrived from Europe on Sunday were found to have the coronavirus, the first cases detected after authorities began testing all people coming from the continent.

South Korean Health Ministry official Yoon Tae-ho also said Tuesday that 101 of some 1,200 passengers who arrived from Europe on Monday have exhibited fever or respiratory symptoms.

While the country’s infections have been slowing, there’s concern about the reintroduction of COVID-19 amid broadening outbreaks in the West.

South Korea says it will fully fund the treatment for virus carriers regardless of their nationality. Even if they test negative, South Korean nationals arriving from Europe or foreigners who enter the country from Europe on long-term stay visas are required to quarantine themselves at home for two weeks.

———

CANBERRA, Australia — A woman who was infected with the new coronavirus on a cruise ship has become Australia’s eighth COVID-19 death.

Health authorities say the woman, in her 70s, died in a Sydney hospital on Tuesday.

She was one of the initial three cases confirmed aboard the Ruby Princess and was taken to a hospital on Thursday.

So far, 133 passengers from the Ruby Princess have tested positive since the ship docked in Sydney following a 11-day New Zealand cruise. The 2,700 passengers had been cleared to go home without self-isolating because the cruise was regarded as low risk.

———

BEIJING — All individuals arriving in China’s capital from overseas must take a COVID-19 test in addition to being quarantined starting Wednesday, the Beijing municipal government announced.

In a notice published online Tuesday, Beijing authorities said those who have entered the city within the last 14 days also will undergo mandatory testing.

The heightened measures — which apply regardless of one’s final destination — follow a previous order that all overseas arrivals quarantine themselves at designated hotels at their own expense unless they live alone. The notice did not say whether this exemption still stands.

“Currently, the imported risk from the epidemic’s rapid spread overseas continues to rise,” said the Beijing notice.

China’s National Health Commission on Tuesday reported 78 new COVID-19 cases, among which 74 were imported.

———

KATHMANDU, Nepal — Nepal's government has ordered a weeklong lockdown from Tuesday halting all private and public vehicles, sealing borders, telling people to stay home and shutting down markets. All domestic and international flights also have been grounded.

A second case of infection with the new coronavirus was confirmed Monday in a 19-year-old woman who had traveled from Paris. She is being treated in a hospital in Kathmandu while her family has been quarantined.

Nepal already had canceled visas on arrival for tourists and subjected other arrivals to quarantine. It also had suspended climbing permits for Mount Everest and its other peaks, effectively shutting down its popular spring climbing season.

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YANGON, Myanmar — Residents of Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, packed late-night supermarkets to get food and other supplies early Tuesday, after the country confirmed its first cases of COVID-19.

The Health Ministry announced on its Facebook page late Monday that the patients were a 26-year-old man in Yangon who had recently traveled from the United Kingdom and a 36-year-old man from Chin state who recently traveled from the United States.

There had been widespread skepticism that Myanmar had no cases until now, because it has a long, porous border with China and a decrepit health infrastructure that would have trouble detecting the disease.

The government had already restricted the entry of visitors from countries considered to have serious outbreaks and canceled April's celebrations of the Thingyan annual traditional water festival.

It also has engaged in a public awareness campaign about the disease and Yangon city workers have been spraying disinfectant at markets to prevent the spread of the virus.

———

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 76 new cases of the coronavirus and nine more deaths, bringing its totals to 9,037 infections and 120 deaths.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that so far 171 infections have been linked to people entering the country from abroad. Authorities have stepped up border controls to prevent the virus from re-entering amid broadening outbreaks in Europe, North America and beyond.

Around 7,700 of the country’s cases are from the southeast city of Daegu and the neighboring areas, where thousands of infections were linked to a secretive church sect. More than 740 people tested positive in the populous Seoul metropolitan area, home to about half of South Korea’s 51 million population.

———

HAVANA — Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero announced every tourist remaining in the country on Tuesday would be quarantined in a hotel and Cuban citizens would not be allowed to leave the country, measures designed to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus.

Tourists have already been barred from entering the country starting Tuesday, a decision announced last week. Marrero said thousands are leaving daily but there were 32,574 tourists in the country as of Monday evening. They will be confined to their hotels starting Tuesday as well, presumably until they can arrange their departure from Cuba, although Marrero did not offer details.

Health Minister Ángel Portal Miranda said quarantined visitors will receive twice-daily medical checkups.

Residents of Cuba are still permitted to enter the country but they will enter 14 days quarantine upon arrival, Marrero said.

Cuba has detected 40 cases of COVID-19. One patient has died and two are in critical condition. More than 1,000 people are under observation after possibly coming into contact with infected people.

———

TAMPA, Fla. — The U.S. military’s Central Command has had a second service member test positive for the coronavirus.

The rest of the staff at that person’s work center was quarantined in their homes. The service member had been overseas and had also traveled to Washington, D.C., earlier this month. The person is being treated at a Tampa hospital.

The command oversees all of the U.S. military effort in the Middle East, including the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

———

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has ordered non-essential businesses to close and the state’s more than 7 million residents to stay home unless necessary in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The stay-at-home order will remain in place through April 6. It expands previous actions taken by Inslee last week that ordered the statewide closure of bars, dine-in restaurants, and entertainment and recreation facilities and banned large gatherings. Several other states had already issued similar orders, including California and New York.

“This is a human tragedy on a scale we cannot yet project. It’s time to hunker down in order to win this fight,” Inslee said during a televised address.

All businesses other than those deemed essential — a long list that includes grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, and gas stations — will need to close by Wednesday night. All public and private social, spiritual and recreational gatherings are also now banned, including weddings and funerals. As of Monday, more than 2,200 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the state, and at least 110 people have died.

———

BEIJING — China’s National Health Commission on Tuesday reported 78 new cases of COVID-19, including 74 which it says are “imported” infections in recent arrivals from overseas.

There was one new case in the central city of Wuhan, where the virus outbreak first emerged, and it did not come from abroad.

For more than a week, the vast majority of mainland China’s reported cases have been found in people coming from other countries, while community transmission inside the country has dwindled, according to the National Health Commission.

More than 400 cases have come from abroad, the commission said. Around 90% of its total reported 81,171 infected patients have recovered.

Seeking to prevent a resurgence of the virus, the government is imposing a strict quarantine on individuals entering the country.

———

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. capital has announced 21 new positive infections from the COVID-19 coronavirus, including an infant girl, bringing the total up to 137, with two deaths so far.

As with the previous three days, Monday’s count brings a high percentage of young people. 13 of the 21 new cases are below age 40, including a 1-year-old girl.

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. Police have blocked off dozens of streets, bridges and traffic circles to limit the crowds coming to see the Washington’s signature blooming cherry blossom trees.

———

LONDON — British Prime Minster Boris Johnson has ordered the closure of most retail stores and banned public gatherings of more than two people in a stepped-up response to slow the new coronavirus.

The British government had been taking a more relaxed approach to the pandemic until Johnson announced tougher measures during an address to the nation.

He told the public to "stay at home" for all but a few exceptions. Johnson ordered shops that don't sell essential items to close immediately. He says weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies will be stopped. Funerals are an exception.

Johnson says the coronavirus is the “biggest threat this country has faced for decades.”

———

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says he thinks the U.S. economy, which has been virtually shut down because of the coronavirus, could be reopened in weeks, not months.

When asked if doctors on his team agreed with his belief that re-opening the economy could be done while the nation continues to battle the virus, Trump says if it were up to doctors, they would shut down the entire world.

Trump says, "I'm not looking at months, I can tell you right now. We're going to be opening up the country."

The president wouldn't say when businesses would reopen. He says the lessons learned about fighting the virus in past weeks will allow the country to continue prevention and open up the country at the same time.

Trump had said earlier that the U.S. might not get back to normal until July or August.

———

CANBERRA, Australia — The Australian government is asking the newly jobless to wait a few days before registering for unemployment benefits after long lines formed outside welfare offices.

The lines across the country were reminiscent of the Great Depression after a government website crashed after tens of thousands of online applications.

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston appealed for “patience and calm.”

Australia put thousands out of work by shutting down bars, gyms, cinemas, nightclubs, restaurants and a host of other places where large groups of people gather in a bid to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

———

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has signed an executive order making it a crime to excessively stockpile personal protective equipment that is needed by medical personnel fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Attorney General William Barr says the Justice Department has already launched investigations into people who are hoarding supplies and price gouging. He says investigators will go after people who are “hoarding these goods on an industrial scale for the purpose of manipulating the market.”

The executive order allows the president to designate some items as “scarce.”

Barr says, "If you are sitting on a warehouse with surgical masks, you will be hearing a knock on your door.”

No specific items have been identified yet and the Justice Department will work with Health and Human Services to enforce the president’s order.

———

WASHINGTON — COVID-19 is attacking nearly 1 of every 1,000 persons in the New York metro area of New Jersey, New York City and parts of Long Island.

Deborah Birx, coordinator of the U.S. coronavirus response, says that's five times what other areas are seeing.

She says that 28% of the specimens from the New York metro area are testing positive, compared with less than 8% in the rest of the country. New York officials are asking that only people with severe symptoms get tested.

Birx says clearly the coronavirus has been circulating in the New York metro area for a number of weeks for it to have that level of penetration into the general community.

© 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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