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    South African police wearing riot gear forced their way into a church in central Cape Town on Thursday to remove hundreds of foreign migrants who had been sheltering there for months. The operation at the Central Methodist Church was aimed at ending a long standoff between the group of foreign nationals and city authorities. The migrants refused to leave the church and had previously demanded that South Africa relocate them to other countries, including the United States and Canada, because they had been victims of xenophobic threats in South Africa last year. Local media reported that police officers broke down the front and rear doors of the church in the historic Greenmarket Square to remove the migrants. The migrants were led onto buses and driven away, reportedly to a temporary camp outside the city. South Africa is in the midst of a 21-day lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic and people are only allowed to leave their homes to buy food, medical supplies and other essential items, or to perform essential work. The migrants will have to remain at the temporary camp for at least the remaining two weeks of the lockdown. South African authorities have said they will verify the identities of the migrants and properly process those seeking asylum. Police undertook a similar operation last month to remove migrants who had been camping in the square outside the church.
  • The worldwide race to protect people against being infected by unwitting coronavirus carriers intensified Thursday, pitting governments against each other as they buy protective gear and prompting new questions about who should wear masks, get temperature checks or even be permitted to go outside. In the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the pandemic began in December, a green symbol on residents' smartphones dictates their movements. Green is the 'health code' that says a user is symptom-free. It’s required to board a subway, check into a hotel or enter the central city of 11 million. Serious travel restrictions still exist for those who have yellow or red symbols. In northern Italy, the country with the most virus deaths in the world at over 13,000, guards with thermometer guns decide who can enter supermarkets. In Los Angeles, the mayor has recommended that the city's 4 million people wear masks. They're mandatory for all Israelis who leave home, as well as customers of grocery stores in Austria and pharmacies in Pakistan. A top official in France's hard-hit eastern region complained Thursday that American officials swooped in at a Chinese airport to spirit away a planeload of masks that France had ordered. 'On the tarmac, the Americans arrive, take out cash and pay three or four times more for our orders, so we really have to fight,' Dr. Jean Rottner, president of the Grand Est regional council and an emergency room physician in Mulhouse, told RTL radio. A study by researchers in Singapore on Wednesday estimated that around 10% of new infections may be sparked by people who carry the virus but have no symptoms yet or never do. In Greece, authorities placed an entire refugee camp of 2,400 people under quarantine Thursday after discovering that a third of the 63 contacts of just one infected woman tested positive — and none had showed symptoms. The top U.S. infectious disease official, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said medical experts are no closer to figuring out why some seemingly healthy people have only mild or no symptoms while others become catastrophically sick. “I've been doing infectious diseases now for almost 50 years, and I can tell you I don't fully understand exactly what the mechanism of that is,” he told NBC's “Today” show. In response to the study, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed how it defined the risks of infection, saying essentially that anyone may be a carrier, whether they have symptoms or not. But neither it nor the World Health Organization changed their recommendations that not everyone need to wear a mask. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said even a “tucked-in bandanna” could slow the spread of the virus and remind people to keep their distance from each other. “We’re going to have to get used to seeing each other like this,” he said, donning a mask. In Japan, where masks are a household staple, the government planned to mail two gauze masks each to the country’s 50 million households. Nine leading European university hospitals warned Thursday they will run out of essential medicines for COVID-19 patients in intensive care in less than two weeks. The European University Hospital Alliance said countries should cooperate, not compete and refuse to export drugs elsewhere, to ensure a steady supply of these drugs for critically ill virus patients. They wrote that existing stocks of muscle relaxants, sedatives and painkillers were likely to run out in two days in the hardest-hit hospitals, and in two weeks in others. The group represented hospitals in Austria, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden and Spain. In the United States, from New York to Los Angeles, officials also warned that the worst is still ahead. “How does it end?' New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. 'The answer is nobody knows for sure.” New York state's coronavirus death toll doubled in 72 hours to more than 1,900. Cuomo has already complained that U.S. states are competing against each other for protective gear and breathing machines, or being outbid by the federal government. President Donald Trump acknowledged that the federal stockpile is nearly depleted of the personal protective equipment needed to protect doctors and nurses on the front lines of the coronavirus fight. The Pentagon said Thursday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had asked it to help by sending 100,000 body bags. Altogether, more than 956,000 people around the world have contracted the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 48,000 have died from the virus and another 202,000 have recovered. The real figures are believed to be much higher because of testing shortages, differences in counting the dead and mild cases that have gone unreported. The virus, which is spread by tiny droplets from sneezes or coughs. causes mild or moderate symptoms in most people but can cause severe illness and death for the elderly or the ill. Many governments are modeling their response to the virus after China, which in January closed off an entire province of over 70 million. People in Wuhan, once the epicenter of the crisis, are starting to return to work, tracked by a smartphone app. Walking into a subway station, Wu Shenghong, used her phone to scan a barcode on a poster that triggered her app. A green code and part of her identity card number appeared on the screen and a guard wearing a mask and goggles waved her through. A red code could have told the guard that Wu was infected or had symptoms and was awaiting a diagnosis. A yellow code means she had contact with an infected person but hadn’t finished a two-week quarantine. People with red or yellow codes “are definitely not running around outside,” said Wu, 51. “I feel safe.” ___ Associated Press writers around the world contributed to this report. ___ Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.
  • As the new coronavirus spreads across Europe, ravaging economies and killing thousands, governments and the European Union are focusing much of their economic rescue efforts on containing a boom in joblessness, particularly by helping companies not fire workers. By one count, at least one million Europeans lost their jobs over the past two weeks as the continent entered a lockdown, with schools, businesses and social gatherings shut down, effectively freezing large parts of the economy. While the rise in unemployment is devastating and is likely to turn out higher than that, it is still far below that of the U.S., where nearly 10 million people applied for jobless benefits in two weeks. The contrast highlights Europe's greater social safety nets, in particular schemes where governments help companies put workers on shorter hours instead of firing them - in the hope of bringing them back quickly once the pandemic fades. “In this coronavirus crisis, only the strongest of responses will do,' European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Thursday as she unveiled a 100 billion-euro ($110 billion) EU plan to help companies to not fire employees. “With a new solidarity instrument, we will mobilise 100 billion euros to keep people in jobs and businesses running. With this, we are joining forces with member states to save lives and protect livelihoods.' Even before lockdown measures were extended across almost all of Europe, the economy was expected to fall into recession because of the virus. To weather the downturn, governments have unveiled trillions of euros in credit for companies and aid for small businesses and families, including cash handouts. The EU commission, its executive body, made available 37 billion euros from the EU budget and the European Central Bank said it will buy as much as 750 billion euros in financial assets to calm markets. With her new lending tool, Von der Leyen wants to ensure skilled workers are kept by their companies until “the moment the economy picks up again.' It would help fund schemes that have already been put in place in many countries to avoid layoffs. According to the European Trade Union Confederation, some 18 EU countries as well as Norway and the U.K. have already introduced jobs-protecting measures. France is spending 11 billion euros on a scheme to keep people in partial employment. Germany has a program that fills in lost wages when companies must put workers on shorter hours due to an interruption that is temporary and beyond their control, which can be up to 100% of their work time. The program pays 60% of employees' lost net pay, and 67% for those with children. Many companies have labor agreements under which they can bring workers even closer to full salary. The German scheme helped limit unemployment in the 2009 recession, when companies put some 1.5 million workers in the program. About 2.35 million workers are expected to make use of it during the current crisis. The idea is to preserve the employment relationship so that companies can immediately resume full operations when trouble passes without having to recruit and train new staff. It also helps keep other businesses afloat across the economy since the workers still have money to spend in shops. In Europe, Spain and Italy have been the hardest hit by the outbreak of the virus, which has killed more than 33,000 people in the region, though most people only suffer moderate symptoms. They are also suffering some of the biggest economic damage. Nearly 900,000 workers lost their jobs in Spain since authorities ordered people to stay home to slow down the spread of the virus, which has killed more than 33,000 people in Europe. The job loss was higher than in January 2009, when 350,000 workers were laid off as the global financial crisis hit the southern European country. In Italy, social security agency computers crashed on the first day individuals could apply for aid to cover lost income due to the coronavirus, with up to 300 requests coming in every second at the peak on Tuesday. Some 18 million Italians are eligible for short-term unemployment schemes, or a payment of 600 euros in March. The monthly handout is expected to be raised to 800 euros in April, as the government has extended the lockdown through at least April 13. The aid in Italy is even being offered to sectors not usually covered, including the self-employed and seasonal workers. In Britain, the number of people applying to claim welfare benefits increased nearly tenfold to almost one million in the past couple of weeks. Economists think that the unemployment rate of 3.9% could double. The International Labour Organization last month estimated that nearly 25 billion jobs could be lost globally as a result of the pandemic, though that figure is likely to be revised up. ___ Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak. ___ David McHugh in Frankfurt, Carlo Piovano, Pan Pylas and Danica Kirka in London, Sylvie Corbet in Paris, and Colleen Barry in Rome contributed to this report.
  • President Vladimir Putin on Thursday ordered most Russians to stay off work until the end of the month as part of a partial industrial shutdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Speaking in a televised address to the nation on Thursday, Putin said he was extending the non-working policy he ordered earlier for this week to remain in force throughout April. He emphasized that all employees should continue earning their regular salaries during the period. Putin said exceptions for essential industries will keep operating, and grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open. He said Russia's virus-prevention strategies have bought time and helped slow down the outbreak but also warned that the number of cases will continue climbing. “The threat remains, and experts believe that the epidemic is yet to reach its peak in the world, including our country,” Putin said. The Russian leader said that along with protecting the public's health, it's also important to protect people's incomes and prevent a spike in unemployment. “An efficient and stable economy is key to solving our tasks, including in the health care system,” he added. Putin said it would be up to regional authorities to decide which sectors should keep working in their areas, 'depending on the situation, what kind of regime is enforced, and what organizations could continue working.” In Moscow, which has about two-thirds of all known virus cases in Russia, the mayor introduced a strict lockdown that is to be enforced through electronic surveillance. Most other regions of Russia followed Moscow's example, but some areas so far unscathed by the epidemic have applied more lax rules. Russian officials registered 771 new cases on Thursday, a 43% increase from the previous day, bringing the country's reported total to 3,548 with 30 deaths.
  • Some African countries will have more than 10,000 coronavirus cases by the end of April, health officials projected Thursday, as the continent least equipped to treat serious infections has an “enormous gap” in the number of ventilators and other critical items. Coronavirus cases in some African countries will begin to pass the 10,000 mark by the end of April, health officials said Thursday, as the continent least equipped to treat serious cases has an “enormous gap” in the number of ventilators and other critical items. While cases across Africa are now above 6,000 at what has been called the dawn of the outbreak, the continent is 'very, very close' to where Europe was after a 40-day period, the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. John Nkengasong, told reporters. The virus “is an existential threat to our continent,” he said. Local transmission has begun in many countries. Just five of Africa’s 54 nations have not reported cases, but Nkengasong said it’s just a matter of time until they get the virus. He said authorities are 'aggressively' looking into procuring equipment such as ventilators that most African countries desperately need, and local manufacturing and re-purposing are being explored. 'We’ve seen a lot of goodwill expressed to supporting Africa from bilateral and multilateral partners,' but 'we still have to see that translate into concrete action,' he said. The World Health Organization doesn’t know how many ventilators are available across Africa to help those in respiratory distress, regional director Dr. Matshidiso Moeti told reporters. “We are trying to find out this information from country-based colleagues. ... What we can say without a doubt is there is an enormous gap.” Some countries have only a few ventilators. Central African Republic has just three. A small percentage of people who are infected will need ventilators and about 15% may need intensive care, said WHO official Dr. Zabulon Yoti. The health officials pleaded for global solidarity at a time when even some of the world’s richest countries are scrambling for basic medical needs, including face masks. “Countries like Cameroon just reached out yesterday, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, asking, ‘Look, we need tents because we’re running out of hospital beds already,’” Nkengasong said. Even if equipment is obtained, getting them to countries is a growing challenge with Africa’s widespread travel restrictions, though countries have made exceptions for cargo or emergency humanitarian flights. Simply gauging the number of coronavirus cases in Africa is a challenge, even in South Africa, the most developed country on the continent, where authorities have acknowledged a testing backlog. Other countries suffer from the widespread shortage of testing kits or swabs, though 43 countries in the WHO Africa sub-Saharan region now have testing capability, up from two in early February. As more African countries impose lockdowns, both the WHO and Africa CDC expressed concern for the millions of low-income people who need to go out daily to earn their living. That’s a “huge challenge,” Moeti said, noting that hundreds of thousands of children are now out of school as well. It is too soon to tell how the lockdown in places like South Africa has affected the number of cases, she added. The first sub-Saharan African nation to impose a lockdown, Rwanda, has now extended it by two weeks, a sign of what might be to come for other nations. “Don’t lock down the whole country,” Nkengasong said. “Lock down cities or communities where there’s extensive community transmission so .. social harm is minimized. But if infection is spreading across the entire country, you have no choice.” Health experts in Africa are rushing to understand whether factors such as Africa’s youthful population — some 70% of the continent’s people are under age 30 — will be a benefit in fighting off the virus and how the widespread problems of malnutrition, HIV, tuberculosis and malaria might affect people’s ability to fight off infection. “Our greatest fear” is that programs tackling those perennial issues will be sapped by the current crisis, Nkengasong said. “The time to advocate for those programs is not when COVID is over. The time is now.” Dr. Meredith McMorrow, Medical Officer in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s influenza division, acknowledged to reporters that the U.S. is “suffering right now” and that limits the U.S. ability to respond with overseas aid. But she said the U.S. is helping African nations procure overseas equipment “as rapidly as possible.” The latest African nation to report its first virus death was Zambia. ___ Noel Sichalwe in Lusaka, Zambia contributed.
  • Political opponents, scientists and even usually supportive newspapers lambasted British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday over his government’s broken promises on wider testing for the COVID-19 virus. Johnson’s Conservative government vowed weeks ago to rapidly increase the number of tests for the new coronavirus to 10,000 a day, then 25,000 a day by mid-April. But progress has been slow. The government says 10,412 tests were performed Tuesday, the first time the daily target was met. Like some other countries, the U.K. has limited virus testing to hospitalized patients, leaving people with milder symptoms unsure whether they were infected. Many scientists say wider testing — especially of health care workers — would allow medics who are off work with symptoms to return if their results are negative, and would give a better picture of how the virus spreads. Johnson tested positive for the virus a week ago and revealed last Friday that he had mild symptoms of COVID-19 disease. He has continued working while in self-isolation and promised in a video message that the government was “massively increasing testing.” Testing “is how we will unlock the coronavirus puzzle. This is how we will defeat it in the end,” Johnson said. Opinion polls suggest Britons have been largely supportive of the government’s efforts to contain the new coronavirus. Johnson ordered residents to stay home except for a handful of permitted circumstances and ordered the closure of schools, bars, restaurants and non-essential shops. But as the number of virus-related deaths in the U.K. accelerated in recent days, the unity behind the government’s response is shattering. Government figures showed Thursday that the country had 33,718 confirmed cases and 2,921 deaths — an increase of 569 deaths from the day before. The right-leaning Daily Mail newspaper slammed the “testing fiasco” on its front page Thursday. “Questions without Answers,” said the Conservative-supporting Daily Telegraph, accusing the government of being unable to say why Britain lagged behind its European neighbors on testing. Critics compare Britain's approach to testing unfavorably to the one in Germany, which has the ability to test 500,000 people a week and has reported fewer deaths among people with the virus, The government says testing front-line health care workers is a priority, and it set up five drive-through test centers to do it. But they had tested only 2,800 people by Thursday, from a National Health Service workforce of more than 1 million. Paul Cosford, emeritus medical director of Public Health England, acknowledged that “everybody involved is frustrated that we haven’t got to the place where we’ve got to get to.” For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with health problems, it can cause severe conditions like pneumonia and is sometimes fatal. Part of the problem is Britain’s centralized state-funded health system, which is fairly efficient at organizing hospital treatment but poor at rapidly boosting testing capacity. All coronavirus tests were initially processed at a single Public Health England laboratory, though several other public labs are now also handling the tests. British officials also blame shortages of swabs to take samples and of chemicals known as reagents, which are needed to perform the tests, for the delay in ramping up testing. But private-sector firms and academic institutes say their offers of help have so far been ignored. Paul Nurse, chief executive of the Francis Crick Institute for biomedical research, said its laboratory had been re-purposed so it could carry out 500 tests a day by next week, rising to 2,000 a day in future. He compared the effort required to the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of British troops from the French port of Dunkirk as it was overrun by German forces in 1940 — a rescue that saw hundreds of small private boats join the navy in plucking soldiers from the beaches. 'We are a lot of little boats. and the little boats can be effective,” Nurse said. 'The government has put some big boats, destroyers in place. That's a bit more cumbersome to get working and we wish them all the luck to do that, but we little boats can contribute as well.' ___ Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
  • More than 95% of those who have died of coronavirus in Europe have been over 60 but young people should not be complacent, the head of the World Health Organization's office in Europe said Thursday. Dr. Hans Kluge said age is not the only risk factor for getting a severe case of the virus that has put billions under lockdown and upended the world economy. “The very notion that COVID-19 only affects older people is factually wrong,” he said at an online news conference in Copenhagen. 'Young people are not invincible.” Those comments echoed similar statements from WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The U.N. health agency says 10% to 15% of people under 50 with the disease have moderate or severe cases. “Severe cases of the disease have been seen in people in their teens or 20s, with many requiring intensive care and some unfortunately passing away,” Kluge said. He said recent statistics showed 30,098 people have been reported to have died in Europe, mostly in Italy, France and Spain. “We know that over 95% of these deaths occurred in those older than 60 years,” he said, with more than half of the dead over 80. Kluge said more than 80% of those who died had at least one other chronic underlying condition like cardiovascular disease, hypertension or diabetes. “On a positive note, there are reports of people over the age of 100 who were admitted to hospital for COVID-19 and have now — since — made a complete recovery,” he said. ___
  • Rafael Gomez Nieto, the last surviving member of a company of Spanish soldiers that fought with French forces in liberating Paris from Nazi occupation in 1944, has died of the new coronavirus, the French presidency said Thursday. He was 99. The presidency said Gomez Nieto died in Strasbourg, a city in eastern France that he fought to liberate in November 1944. France's eastern regions have been hit particularly hard by virus infections and deaths. French media said Gomez Nieto died Tuesday. While growing up in Spain, the soldier's son was still a teenager when he fought in the Spanish Civil War, joining the Republican forces that battled the Nationalists led by Gen. Francisco Franco. More than 500,000 people died in the 1936-1939 conflict. As Franco's forces advanced, declaring victory on April 1, 1939, Gomez Nieto and his family joined the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Spanish refugees who fled over the Pyrenees to France, hoping to find safety, the French presidency said. But like many others, Gomez Nieto was locked up in one of the harsh and rudimentary internment camps that were hastily thrown together for refugees in the south of France. Gomez Nieto later managed to join up with Free French troops in North Africa. He enlisted in 1943 and became part of “La Nueve,” a company that reunited veterans of the Spanish war. The company was part of French Gen. Leclerc's famed 2nd Armored Division that fought in the Allied liberation of France and took Paris on Aug. 25, 1944. “These stubborn freedom fighters were determined to root out oppression everywhere, from their cradle in Spain and under the sun of Africa and the skies of Paris. After taking up arms against Franco, they fought against Hitler,' the presidency said in a statement. “Everywhere, they sowed liberty.” La Nueve gave Spanish names to its armored vehicles and was at the forefront of the thrust into Paris. In an interview published by the French newspaper l'Humanite in 2014, Gomez Nieto said the half-track he drove was nicknamed “Guernica,” after the Spanish town bombed by Nazi planes in 1937. The soldiers took City Hall as ordered, and Gomez Nieto parked the vehicle in front of the building, he recalled. “When you enter an oppressed city, the girls jump on the liberator!” the newspaper quoted him as saying. The presidency said France will be “eternally gratefully” to Gomez Nieto and his comrades.
  • Health officials attempting to eradicate polio say they are being forced to suspend their mass immunization efforts amid the surging coronavirus pandemic. The World Health Organization and partners decided that for the next six months, all polio activities including national vaccination campaigns and house-to-house surveillance “should be suspended to avoid placing communities and frontline workers at unnecessary risk.” The announcement came after a meeting last week of the Polio Oversight Board, an expert body coordinated by WHO and partners. The experts noted that while halting efforts to stop polio is necessary given the speed at which COVID-19 is infecting people globally, it will undoubtedly result in the increased spread of the paralytic disease and the numbers of children paralyzed by the virus. The mass vaccination campaigns — which occur as frequently as every month — are critical to stopping polio, as eradication requires that more than 95% of children under 5 be immunized. The global effort to wipe out polio began in 1988 and was intended to eliminate the disease by 2000. But the initiative has been hobbled by numerous problems including resistance to the vaccines, outbreaks in some instances caused by the vaccines themselves and little access to conflict areas in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. It will be up to individual countries to decide whether to suspend their vaccination campaigns, according to a note released after the polio meeting. Officials warned that stopping polio efforts will require scaled-up work once immunization activities can resume. Polio is endemic in Afghanistan and Pakistan and continues to be a problem in about 10 other countries worldwide. ___ Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
  • Both the Islamic State group and al-Qaida see the coronavirus as a threat, but some of their fighters also see the upheaval from the pandemic as an opportunity to win over more supporters and strike harder than before. Messages from the Islamic extremist groups show concern about the virus mixed with bravado, asserting that it is punishment for non-Muslims while also urging followers to repent and take care of themselves. Al-Qaida suggested in a statement Tuesday that non-Muslims use their time in quarantine to learn about Islam. But in a sharp commentary in its al-Naba newsletter in mid-March, IS urged followers to show no mercy and launch attacks in this time of crisis. In a commentary Tuesday, the International Crisis Group warned that the pandemic threatens the global solidarity that is key to fighting extremists. “It is almost certainly correct that COVID-19 will handicap domestic security efforts and international counter-ISIS cooperation, allowing the jihadists to better prepare spectacular terror attacks,” it said. Though analysts said it was too soon to say which attacks can be blamed on militants exploiting the coronavirus, Islamic extremists in late March carried out their deadliest assault yet against the military of Chad, a significant contributor to Africa’s growing counterterrorism efforts, killing at least 92 soldiers near the border with Nigeria and Niger. In Egypt, two military officials reported a spike in IS attacks in March in the restive northern part of the Sinai Peninsula but security forces foiled at least three other major assaults. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media. While Syria and Iraq have seen no uptick in attacks by IS since the virus spread there, the pandemic has prompted the U.S.-led coalition to halt training activities in Iraq amid a planned pullout from several bases. There are signs elsewhere that the U.S., British and other militaries are pulling back because of the virus, leaving a possible opening for the extremists. That’s a danger in Africa’s hot spots of the Sahel, the Lake Chad region and Somalia, where the U.S. military already worried allies in recent months by contemplating cuts to focus on threats from China and Russia. “Any state that was interested in pulling back in Africa will take the opportunity to do so,” said Clionadh Raleigh, executive director of the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, which tracks extremists’ activities worldwide. “That will be unbelievably bad.” A U.S. Africa Command spokeswoman, Lt. Christina Gibson, told The Associated Press that “while the size and scope of some AFRICOM activities have been adjusted to ensure the safety and protection of forces — both U.S. and partner nation — our commitment to Africa endures.” She did not give details of affected operations but said AFRICOM still has about 5,200 forces on the continent at any given time. The British army mission in Kenya, which provides counterterrorism training and other skills, this week announced that all army families are returning to the U.K. because of the virus. But France’s largest overseas military mission, Barkhane in West Africa’s sprawling Sahel region south of the Sahara Desert, is keeping its 5,100 troops there, the French Defense Ministry said. A pro-al-Qaida French organization issued a statement Tuesday urging French forces to stay home and save lives instead. African military units, already stretched thin and under attack, are likely to take protective measures as the virus threatens their ranks. In Nigeria, which has struggled against the Boko Haram extremist group and an assertive IS-linked offshoot, the military has called for suspending much of its activities including large gatherings and training. A leaked memo signed by Nigerian army's policy chief says its vehicles might have to be used for mass burials or transferring the sick to hospitals as the virus spreads. While security forces are targets, under-guarded prisons could be too, said Laith Alkhouri, a counterterrorism adviser who researches extremists in West Africa. Both IS and al-Qaida-linked fighters have turned the Sahel into Africa's most urgent extremism crisis, and even have engaged in some unprecedented cooperation. Their fighters are likely to exploit the pandemic by accusing governments of mismanaging the crisis to try to win popular support, he said. Alkhouri said that under another scenario, individuals may believe that only religion can keep them safe from the virus “and ignore scientific advice, which could lead to an increase in infections.” Some extremist groups are showing signs that, like the rest of the world, they are trying to understand the coronavirus and respond. In Somalia, the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab held a rare five-day meeting of its leaders in March that discussed the virus. In a communique, the group recognized its “emergency threat” to the world, including Muslims. An al-Shabab spokesman later told the AP it was too soon to comment on whether the group would heed a U.N. plea to halt attacks, which have continued, or whether it would allow health workers access to areas it controls. In Afghanistan, the Taliban have gone even further, putting out videos on disinfection and photos of its fighters handing out face masks and soap. It also has offered security guarantees to any aid group assisting victims of the virus or helping to stop its spread. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed told the AP that “if, God forbid, the outbreak happens in an area where we control the situation, then we can stop fighting in that area.' ___ Kathy Gannon in Islamabad, Pakistan; Haruna Umar in Maiduguri, Nigeria; Sam Mednick in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; Abdi Guled and Tom Odula in Nairobi, Kenya; Samy Magdy and Maamoun Youssef in Cairo; Samya Kullab in Baghdad and Sylvie Corbet and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed. ___ Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • The music world is mourning the loss of jazz master pianist Ellis Marsalis Jr. His son Branford Marsalis said his father died from complications of COVID-19, The New York Times reported. Ellis Marsalis had six sons, four of whom followed his career in music. Wynton Marsalis, who plays jazz trumpet, is the managing and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. Branford Marsalis plays jazz saxophone, has recorded with Sting and was the band leader of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno' starting in 1992. Wynton Marsalis said his father was “the guiding force behind a late-20th-century resurgence in jazz.” The New York Times said Ellis Marsalis left a legacy in the jazz world by teaching future stars the trade, including Terence Blanchard, Donald Harrison Jr., Nicholas Payton and Harry Connick Jr. who remembered the legend on social media. Ellis Marsalis had been a staple for 30 years at Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro in New Orleans. He ended his shows in January, telling the club’s owner that it was too exhausting to play the two 75-minute sets every Friday night, USA Today reported. The club’s owner called him “a foundation pillar of the Snug Harbor musical legacy.” Ellis Marsalis was 85.
  • Nearly 952,000 people worldwide -- including more than 216,000 people in the United States – have been infected with the new coronavirus, and the number of deaths from the outbreak continues to rise. Officials are attempting to contain the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. as hospitals brace for unprecedented patient surges. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking cases in the U.S. here.  Live updates for Thursday, April 2, continue below:  Defense Department providing 100,000 body bags to FEMA Update 10:15 a.m. EDT April 2: The Department of Defense is working to fulfill a request from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for 100,000 body bags as the coronavirus death toll rises in the U.S., according to multiple reports. In a statement obtained by CNN, Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Andrews said the request was being filled in line with a longstanding agreement with FEMA “to procure key commodities from (the Defense Logistics Agency’s) industrial partners during crisis response operations.” “DLA is currently responding to FEMA’s prudent planning efforts for 100,000 pouches to address mortuary contingencies on behalf of state health agencies,” the statement said. Stocks open higher after early stumble Update 9:55 a.m. EDT April 2: Stocks opened modestly higher on Wall Street Thursday, a day after dropping 4.4%. Stocks had been headed for an even higher open until the Labor Department reported that more than 6.6 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week, double the record high set just one week earlier. It was the latest sign that large numbers of Americans are losing their jobs as the economic damage from the coronavirus accelerates. The U.S. and other large economies are widely believed to have sunk into severe recessions as businesses shut down the world. The price of crude oil jumped 8% to about $22 a barrel. Still unclear why some COVID-19 patients get sicker than others, Fauci says Update 9:50 a.m. EDT April 2: The nation’s top infectious disease official, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said Thursday that officials are no closer to figuring out why some seemingly healthy people infected by the new coronavirus develop only mild or no symptoms but others become very sick. During an interview Thursday on NBC’s “Today” show, Fauci said he’s been “puzzled from the beginning” about the coronavirus pandemic. “It is very strange how one individual can get infected and have either mild or no symptoms and another individual could rapidly deteriorate with viral pneumonia and respiratory failure,” Fauci said. “There’s something in mechanism, whether it’s genetic, whether it’s immune response.” Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He said on “Today” that it’s “very strange” how the virus can be “completely devastating” and lead to “viral pneumonia and respiratory failure” in one person and be “absolutely nothing” in another person. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he’s been working in infectious diseases for almost 50 years but doesn’t “fully understand exactly what the mechanism of that is.' He said finding the answer is going to require natural history studies, which follow people over time while collecting their health information. Officials report 569 new fatal coronavirus cases in the UK Update 9:30 a.m. EDT April 2: Officials in the United Kingdom recorded 569 new fatal COVID-19 cases on Thursday, raising the country’s coronavirus death toll to 2,921. Authorities with the British Department of Health and Social Care also announced 4,244 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases. In all, officials said 33,718 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus infections in the U.K. New England Patriots jet flying medical supplies from China to Boston Update 9:20 a.m. EDT April 2: A private plane owned by the New England Patriots will land Thursday in Boston with needed medical supplies to help in the response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to multiple reports. Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts said Thursday that the plane, was carrying more than one million N95 masks from China, according to ABC News. A source told CNN that Baker coordinated with the Patriots and the team’s owner, Robert Kraft, to get the supplies to the state. “Huge thanks to the Krafts and several dedicated partners for making this happen,” Baker wrote Thursday. Fauci: There’s still time to avoid 100,000 deaths from coronavirus in US Update 9:05 a.m. EDT April 2: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, emphasized Thursday that Americans still have time to avoid the 100,000 to 200,000 deaths predicted in the U.S. from the coronavirus outbreak. “It’s within our power to modify those numbers,” Fauci said in an appearance Thursday on “CBS This Morning.” On Sunday, President Donald Trump said that if his administration can keep deaths from the virus to 100,000, that would be a “good job.” The number was based on a model which showed that “even with considerable mitigation, you still could anticipate between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths,” Fauci said Thursday. “We shouldn’t give up and accept it and say, 'OK that’s going to happen,” Fauci told 'CBS News This Morning.” “We need to push and push with the mitigation to try to get that number lower than the projected number by the model.” Record 6.6 million seek US jobless aid Update 8:40 a.m. EDT April 2: More than 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, far exceeding a record high set just last week, a sign that layoffs are accelerating in the midst of the coronavirus. The job cuts are mounting against the backdrop of economies in the United States and abroad that have almost certainly sunk into a severe recession as businesses close across the world. The figure for last week is much higher than the previous record of 3.3 million reported for the previous week. The surging layoffs have led many economists to envision as many as 20 million lost jobs by the end of April. The unemployment rate could spike to as high as 15% this month, above the previous record of 10.8% set during a deep recession in 1982. Boeing offering employees voluntary layoffs Update 8:25 a.m. EDT April 2: Boeing will offer employees voluntary layoffs in a bid to offset the financial fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, according to KIRO-TV and CNBC. “We’re in uncharted waters,” the company’s new CEO, David Calhoun, wrote in a memo sent to employees, according to KIRO-TV. “We’re taking actions — including offering this (voluntary layoff) plan — based on what we know today.” Boeing has more than 150,000 employees worldwide. >> Read more on KIRO7.com: Boeing announces it will be cutting workers Global coronavirus deaths near 50K, worldwide cases approach 952K Update 7:24 a.m. EDT April 2: The global death toll attributed to the novel coronavirus hit 48,284 early Thursday, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally. In the four months since the virus was first identified in Wuhan, China, it has infected at least 951,901 people worldwide. • The United States has reported 216,722 cases, resulting in 5,137 deaths. • Italy has confirmed 110,574 cases, resulting in 13,155 deaths. • Spain has reported 110,238 infections, resulting in 10,003 deaths. • China has recorded 82,431 cases, resulting in 3,322 deaths. • Germany has reported 77,981 cases, resulting in 931 deaths. • France has confirmed 57,780 infections, resulting in 4,043 deaths. • Iran has recorded 50,468 cases, resulting in 3,160 deaths. • The United Kingdom has reported 29,872 cases, resulting in 2,357 deaths. • Switzerland has confirmed 18,117 cases, resulting in 505 deaths. • Turkey has recorded 15,679 cases, resulting in 277 deaths. Spain’s coronavirus death toll tops 10K after highest single-day increase Update 6:56 a.m. EDT April 2: At least 10,003 people have died after testing positive for the novel coronavirus in Spain, the country’s health ministry announced Thursday. The latest figures include 950 fatalities recorded in the past 24 hours alone, representing the European nation’s largest single-day increase since the pandemic began. According to a Johns Hopkins University tally, Spain has reported a total of 110,238 infections and trails only Italy in terms of virus-related fatalities where 13,155 people have died. New unemployment claims could hit 3.1 million Update 6:44 a.m. EDT April 2: Economists anticipate an additional 3.1 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week as the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to force business closures, layoffs and financial uncertainty. According to The Wall Street Journal, a record 3.3 million people sought jobless benefits two weeks ago, and the 3.1 million surveyed economists believe filed last week comprise more claims than those which have been processed in the past six months.  British docs receive guidance on parsing out ‘scarce lifesaving resources’ amid coronavirus Update 5:49 a.m. EDT April 2: The British Medical Association has issued new ethics guidelines dictating which patients should be saved if the United Kingdom’s health system becomes overwhelmed by the novel coronavirus pandemic. ]Per the new guidelines, ventilators could be removed from treatment protocols for older patients with a low survival probability if the machines mean healthier patients might survive. 'As such, some of the most unwell patients may be denied access to treatment such as intensive care or artificial ventilation,' the BMA’s ethics guidance note states, adding, “This will inevitably be indirectly discriminatory against both the elderly and those with long-term health conditions, with the latter being denied access to life-saving treatment as a result of their pre-existing health problems.' The guidance note was updated April 1. ‘Unruly’ coronavirus quarantine violators could be shot, Philippine president says Update 3:16 a.m. EDT April 2: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warned during a Wednesday address that citizens who disregard the nationwide novel coronavirus quarantine and become unruly could be shot by authorities. Duterte’s remarks came during a televised address, covered by CNN Philippines. “My orders to the police, the military and the barangays: If they become unruly and they fight you and your lives are endangered, shoot them dead!” Duterte said. Israel’s health minister tests positive for coronavirus Update 2:52 a.m. EDT April 2: Israeli Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, 71, has been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus. The health ministry confirmed Litzman’s illness in a statement issued Thursday. Litzman has held the position for nearly a decade. To date, Israel has confirmed 6,092 coronavirus cases, resulting in 26 deaths. Coronavirus pandemic fueling gun sale background check surge, FBI says Update 2:39 a.m. EDT April 2: The FBI reported a record-setting number of gun purchase background checks during the month of March as the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep across the globe. According to data released by the bureau, the 3.7 million checks conducted in March represent a 41 percent month-over-month surge and the most processed during a one-month period since the FBI began tracking the information in 1998. Illinois led the nation in March with more than half a million federal firearm background checks conducted, followed by Texas, Kentucky, Florida and California, CNN reported. Click here to see the FBI data. Boeing preps to offer buyouts, early retirement amid coronavirus cash crunch Update 2:10 a.m. EDT April 2: Aerospace giant Boeing could soon begin offering early retirement and buyout packages to employees as the novel coronavirus pandemic continues pummeling the aviation industry, The Wall Street Journal reported. Read more here. Biden says Democratic National Convention likely to be postponed amid coronavirus crisis Update 1:28 a.m. EDT April 2: The Democratic National Convention will likely be shelved for several months due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, presidential candidate and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said during a Wednesday night webcam interview on “The Tonight Show.”The “I doubt whether the Democratic convention is going to be able to be held in mid-July, early July,” Biden said, adding, “I think it’s going to have to move into August.” The convention is currently slated for July 13-16 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Jazz icon Ellis Marsalis Jr., 85, dies from coronavirus complications Update 1:12 a.m. EDT April 2: Jazz legend and patriarch of a musical dynasty Ellis Marsalis Jr. died on Wednesday from complications associated with the novel coronavirus. He was 85. 'Ellis Marsalis was a legend. He was the prototype of what we mean when we talk about New Orleans jazz,” New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in a statement, adding, “He was a teacher, a father, and an icon — and words aren’t sufficient to describe the art, the joy and the wonder he showed the world.”  US coronavirus deaths hit 5,119, total cases top 216K Update 12:20 a.m. EDT April 2: The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States surpassed 216,000 early Thursday morning across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, there are at least 216,515 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 5,119 deaths. U.S. cases now outnumber those in any other nation by wide margins, including more than twice the 110,574 reported in Italy and the 104,118 confirmed in Spain. Of the confirmed U.S. deaths, 1,941 – or roughly 40 percent of the nationwide total – have occurred in New York, 355 in New Jersey and 337 in Michigan.  In terms of diagnosed cases, New York remains the hardest hit with at least 83,712 confirmed cases – or more than three times the next-closest state – followed by New Jersey with 22,255 and Michigan with 9,334. Five other states have now confirmed at least 6,000 novel coronavirus cases each, including: • California: 8,155, including 171 deaths • Massachusetts: 7,738, including 122 deaths • Florida: 7,495, including 100 deaths • Illinois: 6,980, including 141 deaths • Louisiana: 6,424, including 273 deaths Meanwhile, Washington and Pennsylvania each has confirmed at least 5,000 novel coronavirus infections, trailed only slightly by Georgia with 4,748 cases; Texas, Connecticut and Colorado each has confirmed at least 3,000 cases; and Tennessee, Indiana and Ohio each has confirmed at least 2,000 cases. Click here to see CNN’s state-by-state breakdown. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • The cost of health care will be going up in Maryland after hospitals have been given permission to temporarily raise rates all patents are charged to help pay for emergency care related to COVID-19. Hospitals have not been getting the revenue that’s normally generated from patients who have other hospital care because of the coronavirus pandemic, The Baltimore Sun reported. Normally the amounts hospitals charge for surgeries and childbirth are regulated by Maryland. But because of the coronavirus, the medical facilities are adding beds and getting equipment like ventilators and masks without the other health services bringing in money to offset the cost of the needed supplies. The state’s Health Services Cost Review Commission gave hospitals permission to raise rates to provide emergency funding. Hospitals, if the facilities use the additional source of income, will have to tell the regulators that the amount increase is reasonable, the Sun reported. “If the number of coronavirus cases continues to increase, hospitals will need additional financial resources to further expand capacity. Our agency is taking action now to ensure hospitals are appropriately funded and ready for the potential surge of patients,” Adam Kane, HSCRC’s chairman, said via press release. But the cost of battling COVID-19 isn’t just coming from the pockets of patients; the federal government is also expected to pay some of the costs. “We are preparing for an increase in cases of novel coronavirus, and we want hospitals and health care systems to be ready,” Maryland Health Secretary Robert Neall said. “Maryland will pursue federal funding to help supplement the costs associated with the expanded care and resources that may be needed to care for Marylanders affected by this pandemic.”
  • DJ Jazzy Jeff may have contracted the novel coronavirus and is recovering from pneumonia, the hip-hop star said in social media posts. According to Billboard, the 55-year-old DJ and record producer, whose real name is Jeffrey Allen Townes, revealed his illness in an Instagram Stories post this week. “I’m recovering from pneumonia in both my lungs ... I lost my sense of smell and taste which is a main sign of the virus,” he wrote, referring to possible COVID-19 symptoms. Jazzy Jeff, best known for his work with rapper and actor Will Smith, also encouraged his followers to take the pandemic seriously. “It does not care who you are ... what you do or what your plans are,” he continued. “Stay safe.” >> See the posts here On Wednesday, Jazzy Jeff echoed the sentiment in a tweet. “I’m good ... lil scruffy but GOOD,” he added. >> See the tweet here It was not immediately known whether he had been tested for the virus. According to the Philly Voice, the updates came more than three weeks after he tweeted: “I’ll be happy when I’m home and I can cough freely ... LOL.” >> Read the tweet here Read more here or here.
  • Police in Pennsylvania are searching for a man accused of spitting on a Giant Eagle employee’s face. Aisha Mariner, a manager at the store in Swissvale, told WPXI-TV that she was trying to help a customer who was arguing with a clerk over a transaction. Mariner said she tried to calm the customer down numerous times, but he was irate and wouldn’t stop yelling and cursing. According to investigators, the man – who has not yet been identified – then crawled under the Plexiglas barrier and spat on the woman’s face. Mariner is worried, especially for her family, because her husband and mother are diabetic. “I have to wait and wonder if I’m hurting my family,” the employee said. Police are investigating the incident, and Giant Eagle issued a statement: 'We thank our Edgewood Giant Eagle Team Member, and all Giant Eagle, Market District and GetGo Team Members, for continuing to put their communities first during this unprecedented and uncertain time. How this Edgewood guest acted is wholly unacceptable, and his actions do not reflect the calm, positive and appreciative attitude of so many of those shopping in our stores. “We support the efforts of local law enforcement to take every action to ensure that this individual answers for his careless and disrespectful behavior, and are working closely with our affected Team Member to provide the care she needs and deserves.”

Washington Insider

  • Looking for ways to stop the further spread in the United States of the Coronavirus, President Donald Trump on Wednesday said that he was considering a plan to limit flights between certain cities which have been virus hotspots, but shrugging off the broader idea of halting all travel in the U.S. by air or rail. 'I am looking at hotspots,' the President said at his daily Coronavirus briefing at the White House. 'I am looking where flights are going into hotspots.' But pressed by reporters about a broader ban on travel - whether airlines or trains - the President indicated that did not seem to be one of his likely choices.  'Closing up every single flight on every single airline, that's a very, very rough decision,' Mr. Trump added. 'We have trains going back and forth, and people don't think of trains,' the President noted. 'It's a very big decision to do that (close them down).' The issue of restrictions on airline travel comes at a time when the U.S. airline industry is seeing record low traffic, as airlines have grounded passenger jets and reduced flights. Data released by the Transportation Security Administration shows a gigantic drop in the number of air travelers going through security at America's airports since the virus outbreak began, as many flights are operating with just a few passengers on board. 'When you start closing up entire transportation systems, and then opening them up, that's a very tough thing to do,' the President said. As for when he would make a decision, the President indicated he would not wait too long. 'We will let you know fairly soon,' Mr. Trump said Wednesday evening.