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The Latest: WHO director says virus testing is top priority

By The Associated Press undefined

The Latest on the coronavirus  pandemic, which has infected more than 169,000 people and killed more than 6,500. The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms but most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or people with existing health problems. More than 77,000 people have recovered from it so far, mostly in China.


The head of the World Health Organization says social distancing and other measures to limit contact between people can help fight the spread of the coronavirus, but testing people who might have the disease is its No. 1 priority.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says the COVID-19 outbreak is the "defining global health crisis of our time" and will "be a test of our resolve."

"We have not seen an urgent enough escalation in testing, isolation and contact tracing, which is the backbone of the response" to determine who is sick, he said.

"You cannot fight a fire blindfolded and we cannot stop this pandemic if we don't know who is infected," he said. "We have a simple message for all countries: test, test, test."


The multimillion-dollar effort to reconstruct Paris' Notre Dame cathedral is being suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The former French army chief who French President Emmanuel Macron chose to lead the yearslong restoration project announced the decision Monday.

The public restoration body Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin oversees says the general believed safety measures against the coronavirus put in place, such as "minimum security distances," mean that it is impossible to continue restoration work at this stage.

On Monday, Paris parks such as the historic Buttes Chaumont created by Emperor Napoleon III in 1867 will also close to the public as the city restricts its population's movement to contain the COVID-19 crisis.


Romania has declared a state of emergency because of the coronavirus epidemic. 

President Klaus Iohannis said Monday that the declaration would apply across the whole country for 30 days.

Iohannis said schools would be closed, with classes to be held online or on TV.

He also said the price of essential supplies, including food, medicine, and public utilities such as electricity, heat and water may not be allowed to exceed their average price of the past three months.

Courts will hear only urgent cases, procurement rules will be simplified in health care to speed up the purchase of medicines and equipment, and employees and their families in economic sectors affected by the epidemic will receive special benefits.

Iohannis said that the measures were "temporary, but they are needed now, to prevent a much greater evil in the future."


Aid group Doctors Without Borders is calling on European Union member countries to show solidarity by ensuring essential medical supplies such as face masks are channeled to where they are most critically needed.

The group, known by its French acronym MSF, said shortages of personal protective equipment are increasingly commonplace in Italy, the country with the second-biggest number of cases in the world. 

MSF says the shortage is leaving healthcare workers on the frontline exposed. It said nearly 1,700 healthcare workers have been infected in Italy.

Dr. Claudia Lodesani, the MSF president in Italy, said: "Even in high-level European hospitals, we see health workers are overwhelmed, coping with up to 80 ambulances per day."

Some doctors are forced to wear the same face mask for 12 hours, she said.

The head of the MSF COVID-19 task force in Brussels, Brice de le Vingne, was quoted as saying: "Today it is Italy that urgently needs supplies of medical equipment to protect healthcare workers, but in a few weeks, it may also be the case elsewhere." 


Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has tightened public health measures in the Russian capital, banning gatherings of more than 50 people until April 10.

Sobyanin also expanded the list of countries that travelers from are subject to mandatory quarantines upon arrival. It now includes all European countries along with the United States, Britain and Russia's ex-Soviet neighbors Ukraine and Belarus.

He also ordered Moscow schools closed starting from Saturday.

The mayor also asked elderly people to stay home.

The Russian government reported Monday that the country has 93 infections, up 30 from a day earlier. Of all contagions, 86 people were infected abroad and seven got the new coronavirus locally.


Authorities in India say travelers from the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey and and the United Kingdom will not be allowed to enter. 

They said Monday that passengers coming from the UAE, Oman and Kuwait will be subject to mandatory two-week quarantines upon arriving in India.

The restrictions will be in place from March 18 and will be in place till March 31, when they'll be reviewed.

The Indian government has also advised its states to put in place measures to promote social distancing, such as closing schools, museums and swimming pools. It urged the private sector organizations to allow people to work from home, wherever possible while asking them to avoid non-essential travel.

So far, India has confirmed 114 cases, with 2 deaths.


The White House is canceling its annual Easter Egg Roll over coronavirus concerns.

The event, in which thousands of children and adults roll hard-boiled eggs across the lawn and play other games, had been scheduled for April 13.

Melania Trump announced the cancellation Monday, saying it was being done "out of an abundance of caution" and in keeping with the national emergency President Donald Trump declared last week.

The first lady says she regretted having to make the call, but added that difficult decisions are needed "in the short term to ensure a healthy country for the long term."

She encouraged the public to heed the advice of state and local officials and to follow guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for staying healthy.


Somalia has confirmed its first coronavirus case, an alarming development in the Horn of Africa nation with one of the continent's weakest health systems after nearly three decades of conflict. 

Health Minister Fawziya Abikar said the virus was confirmed in a Somali national who recently arrived from abroad. 

Somalia's government quickly announced that international flights to the country are no longer allowed. 

Large parts of Somalia remain under the control of the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group, which has been hostile to aid groups and often carries out deadly attacks in the capital, Mogadishu. 

The insecurity will hurt efforts to contain the virus.


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday placed the northern third of the country under an "enhanced community quarantine" that requires millions of people to stay mostly at home. 

Officials said that under the month-long containment, most office work and public transportation on Luzon Island, which includes Manila, will be suspended, officials said. 

Public movement will be restricted, with residents allowed to buy food at stores but not to crowd together. Banks, hospitals and supermarkets will remain open.

Duterte also placed the rest of the Philippines under "a state of public health emergency." He ordered mayors and village officials to take steps in an attempt to fight the spread of COVID-19 disease. 

"This is not martial law," Duterte said in televised remarks. 


The U.S. state of Kentucky has reported its first death from the new coronavirus.

Gov. Andy Beshear said Monday that the 66-year-old Bourbon County man who died had other health conditions and "there were numerous factors that led to this point."

The governor said: "The coronavirus was only a factor. But what it means is that it's very important that we all do our patriotic duty as we move forward to model the type of behavior that we need."

Beshear had said over the weekend that the patient was in "bad shape" and not expected to recover.


The president of the European Union's executive commission is proposing a 30-day travel ban on people entering the EU for non-essential reasons in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen raised the idea on the eve of an EU summit that will be held via video-conference.

Von der Leyen said: "I propose to the heads of states and government to introduce temporary restrictions on non- essential travel to the European Union."

"The less travel, the more we can contain the virus," she said in a video message.

Von der Leyen says people with long-term residency in the EU or who are family members of European citizens could be exempted from the proposed ban. The restriction also may not apply to diplomats, medical personnel and transportation workers.


Germany is set to follow other European countries in shutting non-essential shops, bars, museums and many other facilities in response to the new coronavirus. 

Chancellor Angela Merkel's office on Monday listed a series of measures agreed between the federal government and the country's 16 state governments, which are responsible for putting them into effect.

Some regions already have announced that they are taking some or most of the steps. Among the other activities to be banned are gatherings at churches, mosques, synagogues or other places of worship.

Overnight hotel stays will be allowed only for "necessary and expressly not for tourist purposes."

Germany had over 4,800 confirmed cases, including 12 deaths, as of Monday morning.


The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday that it is postponing arguments for late March and early April because of the coronavirus, including fights over subpoenas for President Donald Trump's financial records.

Other court business will go on as planned, including the justices' private conference on Friday. Some justices may participate by telephone,.

Six of the Supreme Court's nine justices are age 65 and older and therefore at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 87, and Stephen Breyer, 81, are the oldest members of the court.


Bars, restaurants and movie theaters are being shuttered early in three U.S. states on the East Coast. 

The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut said the statewide measures would take effect at 8 p.m. Eastern time on Monday.

The Democratic governors said essential businesses like supermarkets and gas stations will be able to stay open after 8 p.m., though all non-essential businesses must close. Restaurants will be able to offer take-out and delivery.

"We've got to work through this together. The feds have been asleep at the switch," Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont told reporters on a conference call.


The government in Greenland has reported the first confirmed coronavirus case on the world's largest island.

The government said Monday that the infected individual was in isolation at home in Nuuk, Greenland's capital. 

Premier Kim Kielsen said during a news conference: "Now, we need to assess how to react." He urged residents of the Arctic island to limit their travel. 

Kielsen says there are no immediate plans to shut down schools. Greenland is an autonomous territory of the Danish Realm with a population of 56.000. 


The British government is asking manufacturers including Ford and Rolls-Royce to make ventilators for COVID-19 patients.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's office says he has a conference call scheduled with industrial executives on Monday about turning over some of their production to essential medical equipment.

Johnson spokesman James Slack said: "We are facing what is an unprecedented situation and that is going to require an unprecedented response." 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News that the U.K. had about 5,000 ventilators but would need "many times more than that."

Hancok said: "We're saying that if you produce a ventilator, then we will buy it." 


A spokesman for the public health ministry in Afghanistan says 37 patients who are suspected to be infected with the new coronavirus ran away from a hospital. 

Ministry spokesman Waheed Mayar confimed Monday that the patients escaped from the hospital in western Herat province with the help of relatives who assaulted doctors and nurses and shattered windows at the hospital. 


An American broadcast journalist based in Rome who says he tested positive for the new coronavirus has used his professional platform to warn people to take COVID-19 seriously. 

CBS News correspondent Seth Doane said Monday that he had tested positive for the virus over the weekend. Doane says he is self-quarantining at home with fairly light symptoms of a fever, chest pressure and cough.

Doane said the virus "is not what I want to be known for" but that he felt responsibility to go on the air to get the word out in the U.S. about the seriousness of the virus and the risk of infection."


The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.