The Latest: Iraq extends nationwide curfew as tests ramp up

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The Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort passes lower Manhattan on its way to docking in New York, Monday, March 30, 2020. The ship has 1,000 beds and 12 operating rooms that could be up and running within 24 hours of its arrival on Monday morning. It’s expected to bolster a besieged health care system by treating non-coronavirus patients while hospitals treat people with COVID-19. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

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:

— Ethiopian election postponed because of virus, a first for Africa.

— U.N. chief says pandemic is biggest global crisis since World War II.

— Fauci says White House could recommend broader use of masks.

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BAGHDAD — Iraq has extended a nationwide curfew until April 19 amid a rising rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases as the country improves testing capabilities.

Under the curfew, first imposed on March 17, all but essential businesses have been shuttered and inbound and outbound flights suspended in Baghdad and local airports across the country. Twice a day clarion calls by Iraqi authorities instruct citizens to stay at home.

Iraq is seeing a gradual increase in confirmed coronavirus cases as testing capabilities improve. By Tuesday, at least 50 people had died among 694 cases, according to a statement from the Health Ministry.

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KIGALI, Rwanda — The African nation that once declared it was coronavirus-free because it had “put God first” has confirmed its first two cases.

The announcement by Burundi’s health minister came the same day as a Human Rights Watch report citing witness accounts of squalid quarantine conditions in the East African nation.

The government, often accused by rights groups of political repression, has refused to comment on the allegations. They include lack of food and water, poor sanitation, staying several people to a room and being told by police that people leaving quarantine could be shot if they leave. Forty-nine of Africa’s 54 countries now have the virus.

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JERUSALEM — Israel’s Defense Ministry says it has converted a missile-production facility into an assembly line producing breathing machines to help the country confront the coronavirus pandemic.

The ministry announced Tuesday that the facility, operating at a factory belonging to state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, produced its first 30 ventilators.

Israel Aerospace said it built the production line in several days with Inovytec, an Israeli maker of medical equipment. Israel Aerospace says it expects the line to make hundreds of machines per week.

The facility is normally used to produce the U.S.-Israeli “Arrow” missile defense system, satellites and the “Beresheet” unmanned spacecraft that attempted a lunar landing last year.

“Turning a missile production line into a ventilator assembly plant is a very complex task,” said Dr. Dani Gold, the ministry official leading the effort.

Israel has reported 5,300 cases of coronavirus. Twenty people have died.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greek authorities say a ship with 383 people on board that is anchored off the country’s main port of Piraeus has been quarantined after about 20 of its occupants tested positive for the new coronavirus.

The coast guard said Tuesday that the measure was imposed on March 28 when the first case was confirmed.

Greek state TV said the Eleftherios Venizelos ferryboat had been chartered to take mostly Turkish workers to Spain, where they were to have been employed in a shipbuilding project.

The coast guard said that due to the virus outbreak it returned to Piraeus, the port of Athens, and has been quarantined just outside the harbor.

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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — For the first time, a major election in Africa has been postponed as authorities say the coronavirus makes it impossible to prepare.

Ethiopia’s national election board says it is ceasing all work related to the vote once set for August. It has been highly anticipated in a country that has seen sweeping political reforms but a surge of violence as people use new freedoms to settle old scores.

Both the government and opposition camps have expressed support for the election board’s decision. With the government’s mandate expiring in a few months, lawmakers are expected to vote to extend it.

Several African countries have upcoming presidential votes this year.

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PRAGUE — The Czech government has approved a package to help the economy hit by restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Labor Minister Jana Malacova said the government agreed to pay up to 80% of the salaries of the employees at the businesses that had to be closed after the outbreak. The companies have to keep them on the payroll.

The people who had to be quarantined will also be given 80% of their salaries by the state.

The maximum was set at 39,000 Czech crowns ($1,560) per person a month.

The government will also contribute 60% of the salaries to the employees at the companies whose revenues dropped due to the crisis with a maximum set at 29,000 Czech crowns ($1,160) per person a month.

Finance Minister Alena Schillerova said self-employed people will receive a one-time payment of $1,000.

The government previously agreed to use up to $40 billion to help the economy in direct aid and loan guarantees.

The Czech Republic had 3,138 people infected while 29 have died, according to figures released on Tuesday.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey reported 46 deaths from the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, raising the total number of fatalities in the country to 214.

According to the Health Ministry figures released Tuesday, the country also registered 2,704 more confirmed cases, bringing the total number to 13,531. At least 243 patients have recovered.

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LONDON — The medical director of the National Health Service’s operations in England says there is evidence that the social distancing measures imposed by the British government to get on top of the coronavirus pandemic are working.

At a press briefing Tuesday, Professor Stephen Powis said this was not a time for complacency.

Though there’s been “a bit of a plateau,” Powis insisted “we must not take our foot off the pedal.”

His comments came after figures showed that 381 people who had tested positive for COVID-19 had died in the previous 24-hour period, taking the total to 1,789. The increase was by far the biggest daily rise.

Powis said the number of deaths will continue to increase over the coming weeks as it is the last indicator that will turn after the number of infections and the number of hospitalizations.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch government has extended what Prime Minister Mark Rutte calls an “intelligent lockdown” to slow the spread of the coronavirus until April 28.

The decision announced by Rutte in a nationally televised press conference Tuesday evening means that bars, restaurants, museums, schools and universities will have to remain closed for an extra three weeks. The government already had ordered them closed them until April 6.

All large-scale events and gatherings have been banned until June 1.

The announcement came on the day that the country’s public health institute announced that the national death toll had risen by 175 to 1,039.

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PHILADELPHIA — A federal judge in Pennsylvania has ordered the immediate release of 10 people held in the state by U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement because their health makes them particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus while in custody.

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III said in his ruling Tuesday that social distancing and adequate hygiene are not possible in the three detention facilities where the people are being held while they pursue immigration cases in the U.S.

The case is among a series brought on behalf of people held in immigration detention in recent days across the U.S. Judges in about a half a dozen cases have ordered the immediate release of detainees.

ICE had no immediate comment about whether it would appeal the ruling.

There are around 37,000 people held in immigration detention in the U.S. ICE has reported that at least four have tested positive for COVID-19.

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TORONTO — Canada’s most populous province says school closures will last at least until May 4 and another province says schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford confirmed that Ontario’s decision and Manitoba’s education minister says says schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year unless health officials say they can be reopened.

School boards have been working on plans to help children learn from home.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault, meanwhile, is warning the province could run out of some kinds of medical supplies in three to seven days. He made the announcement as the total number of cases in Quebec rose to 4,162, which is an increase of 732 from yesterday. Canada has more than 7,708 cases, including 89 deaths.

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UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is warning that the world faces the most challenging crisis since World War II, confronting a pandemic threatening people in every country that will bring a recession “that probably has no parallel in the recent past.”

The U.N. chief said at the launch of a report Tuesday on the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 there is also a risk that the combination of the disease and its economic impact will contribute to “enhanced instability, enhanced unrest, and enhanced conflict.”

Guterres called for a stronger and more effective global response to the coronavirus pandemic and to the social and economic devastation that COVID-19 is causing.

He stressed that this will only be possible “if everybody comes together and if we forget political games and understand that it is humankind that is at stake.”

“The magnitude of the response must match the scale of the crisis — large-scale, coordinated and comprehensive, with country and international responses being guided by the World Health Organization,” the secretary-general said, noting that not all countries are following WHO guidelines.

Guterres announced the establishment of a COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to support efforts in low- and middle-income countries, with the aim of swiftly enabling governments to tackle the crisis and promote recovery.

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LAS VEGAS — Homeless people in Las Vegas have been directed to sleep in rectangles painted on the pavement in a makeshift parking lot camp as a way to limit the spread of the coronavirus, a move that is stirring outrage by some on social media.

City officials said they decided to temporarily place the homeless in a parking lot of a multi-use facility rather than inside buildings that include a stadium, a theater, exhibit space and meeting rooms, because officials planned to reserve them for potential hospital overflow space if needed.

Former Obama administration housing chief Julian Castro suggested in a post on Twitter that the city’s homeless should be temporarily placed in empty hotel rooms.

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WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci said the White House coronavirus task force is looking into the idea of recommending broader, community-wide use of masks to deter the spread of the new coronavirus.

Fauci said the task force first wants to make sure that such a move wouldn’t take away from the supply of masks available to health care workers.

“But once we get in a situation where we have enough masks, I believe there will be some very serious consideration about more broadening this recommendation of using masks,” Fauci said in a CNN interview Tuesday. “We’re not there yet, but I think we’re close to coming to some determination.”

He said wearing a mask may prevent an infected person from spreading the virus.

Fauci is the director National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a leader of the U.S. response to the pandemic.

President Donald Trump said Monday he could see broader use of masks on a temporary basis.

“I mean, you know, we want our country back. We’re not going to be wearing masks forever, but it could be for a short period of time,” Trump said.

The World Health Organization on Monday reiterated its advice that the general population doesn’t need to wear masks unless they’re sick. Since the epidemic began in China, the WHO has said masks are for the sick and people caring for them.

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NEW YORK — The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus climbed past 3,500 Tuesday, eclipsing China’s official count.

New York’s mammoth convention center started taking patients to ease the burden on the city’s overwhelmed health system and the tennis center where the U.S. Open is held was being turned into a hospital.

Worldwide, more than 800,000 people have been infected and over 39,000 people have died, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. Italy and Spain accounted for half the deaths, while the U.S. had around 3,550 by midday, eclipsing China’s official toll of about 3,300.

New York was the nation’s deadliest hot spot, with about 1,550 deaths statewide, the majority of them in New York City.

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