Doctor says Trump tests negative for coronavirus; US extends travel ban

Trump praises bipartisan COVID-19 relief bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has tested negative for the new coronavirus, according to the president's personal physician.

The White House released the test results Saturday night after Trump told reporters hours earlier that he had taken the coronavirus test, following days of resisting being screened despite the fact that he had been in recent contact with three people who have tested positive for the virus.

Trump told reporters at a White House briefing on Saturday that he had his temperature taken and it was “totally normal,” shortly before stepping into the room to discuss the government’s efforts to halt the spread of the virus. The pandemic has now infected more than 2,100 people in the U.S. and caused at least 60 deaths.

The president had multiple direct and indirect contacts with people who have since tested positive for the virus, including three people he spent time with last weekend at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.

The Brazilian Embassy in Washington said late Friday that the country’s chargé d’affaires, Nestor Forster, tested positive after sitting at Trump’s dinner table. So, too, have a top aide to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who took a photo with Trump and attended a party with him, and another person who attended a campaign fundraiser with the president that Sunday, according to two Republican officials who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss private health matters.

Trump, after days of insisting that he was not exhibiting symptoms of the virus, relented after being pressed by reporters about his resistance to testing when multiple lawmakers and countless citizens across the country who have had the same degree of exposure have not only tried to get tested, but also chosen to try to avoid potentially infecting others.

Oregon reports first death from new coronavirus

A man in his 70s has become the first person in Oregon to die from the new coronavirus.

The Oregon Health Authority said the Multonomah County man was hospitalized at the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center and died Saturday.

The man, who had underlying heath conditions, tested positive for COVID-19 on March 10, the authority said. He had no known contact to a confirmed case and had not traveled to another country where the virus is circulating.

“This is a sobering reminder that this virus is in our community and can be serious for older people and those with underlying conditions,” said Dr. Jennifer Vines Multnomah County Health Officer.

Travel ban expands to United Kingdom, Ireland

The White House has announced that the United States will broaden its European travel ban, adding the United Kingdom and Ireland to its list.

President Trump also said he’s considering new restrictions on domestic travel. The current European travel ban will include the UK and Ireland effective midnight on Monday night.

Under the restrictions on European travel, American citizens, green card holders and others are still allowed to return home to the U.S., but will be funneled to 13 airports and be subjected to health screenings and quarantine orders. Trump is urging people not to travel unless they have to.

House passes aid bill after Trump declares virus emergency

The House has approved legislation to provide direct relief to Americans suffering physically, financially and emotionally from the coronavirus pandemic.

The action comes after President Donald Trump declared the outbreak a national emergency, freeing up money and resources to fight it, then threw his support behind the congressional package.

The aid package from Congress that would provide free tests, sick pay for workers and bolster food programs.

The Senate still has to vote on it. In addition, Trump’s declaration of a national emergency Friday frees up as much as $50 billion for state and local governments to respond to the crisis.

Trump takes virus test, awaiting results

Georgia to postpone primaries over virus; 2nd state to do so

Georgia election officials are postponing the state’s March 24 presidential primaries until May because of fears over the coronavirus.

Georgia’s secretary of state said that in-person early voting will be halted and the election will be moved to May 19, when Georgia’s other 2020 primary elections are being held.

The action followed Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s signature of an emergency declaration that unlocked sweeping powers to fight COVID-19.

On Friday, Louisiana became the first state to push back its presidential primaries.

Republican Brian Kemp said the number of cases in Georgia caused by the new coronavirus rose to 66 Saturday from 42 on Friday.

Italians test drug to help virus patients

Italian doctors in at least two hospitals treating COVID-19 cases have started using a drug normally prescribed for people with chronic inflammatory auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.

Dr. Paolo Ascierto, director of the immunology clinic at the Pascale Institute in Naples, told Italian state TV on Saturday that of the first six ICU patients treated with the drug, three showed significant improvement of their lung inflammation judging by CT scans. One of the six died shortly after the drug was administered.

Ascierto stressed that the drug fights the lung inflammation from pneumonia in coronavirus patients but doesn’t act on the virus itself. Italy’s government pharmaceutical regulator, AIFA, is allowing the drug to be used for compassionate purposes, since it is only officially approved in the country for use in auto-immune diseases.

At Spallanzani Hospital in Rome, which is treating COVID-19 infections in that city, and neighboring towns, Dr. Francesco Vaia said on Sunday said six patients who are seriously ill with the coronavirus are also being treated there with the drug.

Spain to follow Italy into lockdown as virus cases soar

Spain has decided to follow Italy in declaring a nationwide lockdown to slow the accelerating spread of the coronavirus epidemic.

Spain’s decision Saturday came as European countries took ever more severe, though widely varying, measures to reduce contact between their citizens and slow the pandemic.

China, where the virus first emerged late last year, continued to ease up lockdown measures in its hardest-hit region.

Spain’s government planned to announce Saturday that it is placing tight restrictions on movement for the nation of 46 million people while declaring a two-week state of emergency.

The Associated Press saw a copy of the royal decree, shortly before Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez was due to address the nation.

Health authorities in Spain said Saturday that confirmed coronavirus infections have reached 5,753 people. That represents a national increase of over 1,500 in 24 hours.

US Defense Department to halt domestic travel for military members

The U.S. Defense Department is planning to halt all domestic travel for military members after President Donald Trump declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency.

The Pentagon says Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist has approved new travel restrictions on service members and Defense Department civilians assigned to military installations and surrounding areas within the United States and its territories.

The new guidance takes effect Monday and last through May 11. The Pentagon says it will “halt all domestic travel, including Permanent Change of Station and Temporary Duty.”

Service members will be authorized local leave only, although the Pentagon says exemptions may be granted “for compelling cases.”

The Defense Department has also suspended “unofficial visits” to the Pentagon and other facilities in the Washington area.

Chinese Red Cross team arrives in Rome

A Chinese Red Cross team of nine doctors and researchers is in Rome, sharing experiences with staff at the Italian capital’s infectious diseases hospital.

Spallanzani Hospital health director Dr. Francesco Vaia on Saturday introduced the team to reporters as experts who were “on the front line” of the anti-COVID-19 efforts in China, which has suffered the world’s largest number of cases and deaths.

Speaking with a hospital mask, and through interpreters, one of the Chinese Red Cross members praised efforts in Italy, which for weeks has been grappling with Europe’s largest outbreak of the coronavirus. The member, whose name wasn’t immediately available said the Chinese, observing how the hospital is handling the cases, said the team believes the Italians have done a very good job. The team also visited the first patients to be treated in Italy for COVID-19: a Chinese couple, in their 60s who became ill in Rome several weeks ago while on vacation but who are now considered recovered.

Vaia gave some cautiously good news: Since Friday, the hospital, which also serves a wider area around Rome, has had no new cases.

Puerto Rico sees first cases of coronavirus

Officials say tests have confirmed three cases of the new coronavirus in Puerto Rico, the first for the U.S. territory.

Gov. Wanda Vazquez said Friday night that the public school system would close for 14 days and that no cruise ships or the ferry from the Dominican Republic would be allowed to dock.

Vazquez said one of the cases involved a local man who had relatives who traveled off the island and the other two are tourists from northern Italy who arrived on a cruise ship.

Even before the announcement, several events including concerts and a circus performance had been canceled on the island due to worries about the virus, which has spread around the world. The University of Puerto Rico and some private colleges canceled classes.

Aussie minister says he wasn’t contagious in US

Australian Homes Affairs Minister Peter Dutton says his government has contacted the White House to inform them that he was not contagious with the new coronavirus during a recent visit to Washington.

Dutton told Melbourne radio TripleM in a telephone interview from a hospital in his hometown of Brisbane on Saturday that he's been told he did not become contagious until three days after his return from the United States on Sunday.

Dutton says he started showing symptoms on Thursday and was tested positive the next day. Dutton says his symptoms have been “fairly mild.”

During his visit Dutton met with President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and U.S. Attorney General William Barr.

Colombia closes border

Colombia’s president has ordered his nation’s border with Venezuela closed as a coronavirus containment measure.

Iván Duque announced late Friday that all official border crossings with the neighboring Andean nation will be shuttered beginning at 5 a.m. Saturday.

The two nations share a porous 1,370-mile (2,200-kilometer) border that is crossed by thousands of Venezuelans each day searching for food and medicine. Many also cross to permanently leave their nation’s economic crisis.

Venezuelan officials announced earlier Friday that they have confirmed their first two coronavirus cases.

More than 4.5 million Venezuelans have fled in recent years, many arriving in Colombia. Experts in Colombia are concerned that the migration crisis could exacerbate the spread of coronavirus throughout the region.

New Zealand orders self-quarantine on arrivals

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced what she says will be some of the toughest border restrictions in the world in an attempt to keep out the new coronavirus.

From Monday, all incoming passengers, including New Zealand citizens, will be required to isolate themselves for 14 days. The only countries exempt from the restrictions are a handful of Pacific islands that haven’t yet had any cases of COVID-19.

New Zealand has had only six confirmed cases of the illness. All of those have been connected with international travelers and there have been no signs yet of any local outbreaks.

The measures announced Saturday will have a big impact on New Zealand’s tourism industry, which provides the country’s largest single source of foreign income.

Japan official tests positive for coronavirus

Japan's Defense Ministry says one of its officials tested positive for the virus Friday after returning from Paris where he attended an international defense seminar.

The March 4-11 seminar was suspended on March 8 after a participant was found to have been infected.

The ministry said Saturday that the official was in his 40s and returned on a flight assigned by the French government, arriving at Tokyo's Haneda international airport.

Although he had no symptoms, the official was picked up by a Self-Defense Force vehicle driven by personnel in protective gear and transported to a hospital for a test as a precaution. The result was positive.

The ministry said the Japanese official had stayed at his hotel until his departure from Paris on Friday.

Philippines declares night curfew in Manila to fight virus

Philippine officials have announced a night curfew in the capital and said millions of people in the densely populated region should leave their homes during the daytime only for work or urgent errands under restrictions imposed to fight the coronavirus.

Drastic steps announced by President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday sparked widespread confusion, prompting officials on Saturday to detail the measures and issue guidelines for the monthlong restrictions in Manila that will take effect on Sunday.

The measures involve suspending domestic travel to and from the capital region.

Large gatherings like concerts and movies will be prohibited and most government work in executive department offices will be suspended in the metropolis.

South Korea urges vigilance amid virus decline

South Korea’s prime minister says the country’s war against the coronavirus is broadening despite a notable decline in new cases.

He is urging vigilance after the emergence of infection clusters in areas including Seoul and warning of the possibility that the virus re-enters the country from abroad amid widening outbreaks in the West.

Chung Se-kyun’s comments during a government meeting on Saturday came as infections continued to slow in the worst-hit city of Daegu, which has reported daily increases of 60 to 70 cases over the past three days after averaging around 500 new cases per day a week ago.

South Korea reported 117 new cases and five more fatalities, bringing its total numbers to 8,086 cases and 72 deaths. Officials said 204 people were released from hospitals, making Saturday the second consecutive day that recoveries outnumbered new infections.

But there’s concern over a steady rise in infections in the Seoul metropolitan area, where at least 115 infections have been connected to a call center.

Playgrounds and parks shuttered in Italy

Already cooped up most of the day in their homes under Italy’s nationwide lockdown to fight the coronavirus, millions of Italians woke up on Saturday to find themselves deprived of one of the few simple pleasures left: a walk in the park.

Mayors of many cities, including Rome and Milan, had decided by late Friday to close public playgrounds and parks. Health authorities have lamented that too many people were gathering together, whether it was to kick around a soccer ball, or jog in groups.

Under a government decree issued earlier in the week, people had been allowed to walk, jog or bike in parks as long as they kept at least a distance of 1 meter between each other. But not everyone followed the rules.

Among the parks whose gates were locked Saturday was Rome’s sprawling Villa Pamphilj, a hilly expanse of umbrella pines and palm trees on the former grounds of a noble family. Italy has the world’s largest outbreak.

Iran death toll from virus passes 600, Syria shuts schools

Iran says the coronavirus outbreak has killed another 97 people, pushing the death toll in the country to 611.

War-ravaged Syria meanwhile announced a number of strict measures despite the government saying it has no confirmed cases.

Iran is suffering from the worst outbreak in the Middle East, with 12,729 cases and even senior officials testing positive.

It is a close ally of the Syrian government in the civil war, with military advisors as well as Shiite pilgrims frequently traveling between the two countries.

Israel, where the number of cases has doubled to nearly 200 in the last two days despite strict measures taken early on, ordered all restaurants and places of entertainment to close.

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