The Latest: Pope Francis addresses Italy in recorded message

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An Impoverished Indians gives his finger print on a biometric machine after purchasing food ration in Prayagraj, India, Thursday, April 2, 2020. India is adding more resources to tackle its increase in coronavirus cases by announcing that private hospitals may be requisitioned to help treat virus patients, and turning railway cars and a motor racing circuit into makeshift quarantine facilities. The steps were taken after a nationwide lockdown announced last week by Prime Minister Narendra Modi led to a mass exodus of migrant workers from cities to their villages, often on foot and without food and water, raising fears that the virus may have reached to the countryside, where health care facilities are limited. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

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

TOP OF THE HOUR:

—Trudeau warns U.S. not to block 3M from sending respirators to Canada.

—Family unable to attend 13-year-old British boy’s funeral.

—Chancellor Angela Merkel urging Germans to stay home over Easter.

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VATICAN CITY — Italians sitting down for dinner and turning on the evening news were greeted by Pope Francis.

RAI state TV broadcast a recorded message from the pope, who said: “Let pray to the Lord for all those who are tried in Italy and in the world” by the COVID-19 pandemic. Said Francis: “This evening I have the possibility to enter your homes” and asked viewers’ permission to chat with them a little.

Francis said he was thinking of the lively children forced with the rest of their families to stay home during government-ordered lockdowns aimed at containing the spread of coronavirus infections. He said “in his heart” he is holding those with family members sick with COVID-19 or who had died.

Francis will celebrate solemn Holy Week ceremonies without the public, starting with Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper says the state has received about one-third of what it requested from the National Strategic Stockpile and has been told not to expect any more any time soon.

Cooper underscored the difficult situation that state and local governments face in trying to resupply themselves by placing equipment orders.

“Right now, governments at all levels, hospitals, law enforcement and others are competing against each other for a scarce amount of personal protective equipment,” he said. “That means our buyers are placing orders nonstop. But most of them aren’t getting filled. There simply isn’t enough on the market to go around.”

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WASHINGTON — The White House is stepping up precautions to protect the president and vice president from contracting the new coronavirus.

Starting Friday, anyone who is expected to be in “close proximity” to either President Donald Trump or Vice President Mike Pence will be given a quick COVID-19 test “to evaluate for pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic carriers status to limit inadvertent transmission.”

That’s according to White House spokesman Judd Deere.

All visitors to the White House complex already have their temperatures taken when entering the building and if they will be in close proximity to either Trump or Pence.

Trump took the new COVID-19 test on Thursday and the White House doctor said results were back in 15 minutes. He tested negative.

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A first look at recent U.S. death certificate data confirms that most of the initial American coronavirus deaths were people age 65 and older. But it also notes that about 1 in 5 were middle-aged.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted the data online Friday. It reflects 1,150 U.S. coronavirus deaths that occurred through the last week of March. That tally is several hundreds deaths lower than other totals reported for the same period, because it relies on death certificate information which can come in weeks after other kinds of reports.

The new data says 56% of deaths were people 75 and older, and another 23% were people in their late 60s and early 70s. But another 17% were ages 45 to 64, and 3% were 35 to 44. The statistics were smaller for younger adults. One child died.

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ROME — Lombardy’s hospitals are beginning to lighten up a little, says the health commissioner of the northern Italian region which has been the epicenter of Italy’s devastating COVID-19 outbreak.

Commissioner Giulio Gallera notes on Friday that the number of arrivals at Lombardy’s emergency rooms and hospital admissions were decreasing. He attributes the encouraging numbers to citizens heeding the strict rules of a national stay-at-home decree and even tighter regional rules. He is urging no let-up in the following of the rules.

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HAVANA — Cuban officials say a shipment of coronavirus aid from Asia’s richest man, Jack Ma, has been blocked by the six-decade U.S. embargo on the island.

Carlos M. Pereira, Cuba’s ambassador to China, says on his blog that Ma’s foundation tried to send Cuba 100,000 facemasks and 10 COVID-19 diagnostic kits last month, along with other aid including ventilators and gloves.

Cuba was one of 24 countries in the region meant to receive the donations announced on March 21 by the Jack Ma Foundation, which is sending similar aid to countries around the world, including the United States.

Cuban officials say the cargo carrier of Colombia-based Avianca Airlines declined to carry the aid to Cuba because its major shareholder is a U.S.-based company subject to the trade embargo on Cuba. The embargo has exceptions for food and medical aid, but companies are often afraid to carry out related financing or transportation due to the risk of fines or prosecution under the embargo.

Human-rights groups have been calling for the U.S. to lift sanctions on Venezuela, Cuba and Iran during the coronavirus epidemic in order to permit the flow of more aid. The Trump administration has argued that only the countries’ government would benefit from the sanctions relief.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey is expanding a ban on people above the age of 65 from leaving homes to include youngsters aged 20 and below.

In other measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the wearing of masks in markets, supermarkets and other crowded places will become obligatory. The country is also barring entry and exits from 31 Turkish cities, except for the transportation of essential goods.

The new measures come into force at midnight, Erdogan said.

The president announced the measures hours after the health minister said the country was struggling to restrain the “movement of young people.”

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MEXICO CITY — The coronavirus pandemic is even closing the taps on Corona beer — along with most other brews across Mexico.

Major breweries announced they are suspending operations in line with government orders for non-essential businesses to keep their workers at home.

Grupo Modelo, the maker of Corona and other popular brands, said it will suspend its operations at plants around the country by Sunday. The company pointed out in a statement that thousands of farmers depend on it buying their grain. It said had a plan that would allow it to continue production with 75% of its workforce at home if the government decides to allow it to continue operating.

Dutch brewer Heineken also announced Friday that it was suspending production at its plants and would stop distribution by Sunday in Mexico.

Some Mexican states have also imposed dry laws that restrict the sale of alcohol during the health crisis.

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WASHINGTON — The State Department says it has repatriated more than 37,000 Americans stranded or wishing to return from 60 countries due to the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s up by roughly 7,000 since officials gave their last update on Wednesday. Officials say the increase reflects a continued ramping up of both U.S.-government chartered and government-arranged commercial flights from nations that have closed their borders or airspace because of the virus. About 166 of the more than 400 repatriation flights have been on commercial flights that have brought back some 17,000 passengers. The rest have been government charters.

Officials also say the number of State Department employees who have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus had increased by 20 to 154 since Wednesday.

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UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations has announced the postponement until next year of two major events to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the landmark U.N. women’s conference in Beijing because of the coronavirus pandemic.

UN Women says the forums in Mexico City in May and Paris in July, where thousands of civil society representatives and activists from countries around the world had been expected, have been delayed until the first half of 2021, with new dates to be announced in the coming months.

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TORONTO — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the Canadian military is being sent to northern Quebec to help communities prepare to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Trudeau says the federal government received the request from the Quebec government. Quebec has more than 6,100 confirmed cases, including 61 deaths. Canada has more than 11,756 cases including 152 deaths.

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GENEVA — The head of the International Monetary Fund says the recession sparked by the coronavirus pandemic is “way worse” than the 2008 global recession.

IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva is describing the situation as “a crisis like no other.”

“Never in the history of the IMF have we witnessed the world economy coming to a standstill,” she said. “We are now in recession, it is way worse than the global financial crisis and it is a crisis that requires all of us to come together.”

Georgieva says 90 countries have already approached the institution for emergency financing. She is calling on countries to prioritize health expenditures and to make sure doctors, nurses and other health workers are paid. She adds that the world’s most fragile countries must be protected, noting that “$90 billion have flown out” and damaged emerging economies.

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GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization is decrying reports of an increase in domestic violence in some countries as many couples and families hole up at home to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is warning the risk of “intimate partner violence” is likely to increase, and added: “There is no excuse for violence.”

Tedros says women in abusive relationships, and their children, are now more likely to be exposed to violence, pointing to extra stresses families face linked to job losses and other economic strains.

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BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel is urging Germans to stay home over Easter and says it would be “absolutely irresponsible” for her to set a date now for the loosening of restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Germany has largely shut down public life and banned gatherings of more than two people in public. Those restrictions will apply until at least April 19 and are to be reviewed after Easter.

Merkel, speaking in her first video message after emerging from two weeks of quarantine at home, says this will be a “very different” Easter and impressed on her compatriots that “even short trips inside Germany, to the seaside or the mountains or relatives, can’t happen over Easter this year.”

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TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it would be a mistake for the United States to block 3M from sending respirators to Canada.

3M said Friday the Trump administration has requested 3M cease exporting respirators that they currently manufacture in the U.S. to Canada and Latin America. The company says there are significant humanitarian implications of ceasing respirator supplies to health care workers in Canada and Latin America, where 3M is a critical supplier of respirators.

Trudeau noted the U.S. also receives essential medical supplies and personnel from Canada and says they are making that point to the Trump administration. He says that message is getting through.

The prime minister says he is confident that the close and deep relationship between Canada and the U.S. will hold strong and that will not have to see interruptions in supply chains in either direction.

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LONDON — A 13-year-old British boy who died from the new coronavirus has been buried at a ceremony his family was not able to attend.

Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab died Monday at London’s King’s College Hospital. He is the youngest known victim of the pandemic in Britain.

He was interred Friday in a Muslim burial ground in Chislehurst, south London. Mourners wearing face masks stood apart from one another to observe social distancing rules as the boy’s coffin was lowered into the ground by four people wearing in protective body suits and face masks.

None of Ismail’s immediate family could attend because they are in isolation after two of his six siblings developed symptoms of the virus.

Family friend Mark Stephenson said Ismail’s younger brother and older sister have developed mild symptoms including a fever and loss of taste.

He said Ismail’s family was “devastated” at not being able to attend the funeral but had been “very moved by the warmth and very positive messages of support from people” after his death.

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