TOP OF THE HOUR — Venezuela extends nationwide quarantine for another 30 days. — Japan's PM sends stay-at-home message with his own home video. — New Zealand reports only 18 new cases of COVID-19 and no deaths.
— IRS says first economic support payments stemming from outbreak have been deposited.
Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro has extended a nationwide quarantine for another 30 days to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus throughout the crisis-stricken South American nation.
Maduro announced the measure Saturday, the same day a fourth shipment of medical supplies arrived from China to fight the virus. So far officials say 175 people in Venezuela have fallen ill and nine have died from the virus.
Medical workers say Venezuela is vulnerable given the rampant malnutrition and poor condition of hospitals that lack basic supplies such as soap and water. Once it was first detected, officials quickly ordered its 30 million residents to stay home, also suspending schools and international flights.
Maduro said that in Venezuela the biggest threat of more infections now comes from thousands of Venezuelan migrants returning across the land border from Colombia, a political foe. At least 4.5 million Venezuelans have fled their homeland, most into neighboring Latin American nations in recent years escaping the growing economic and political crisis and shortages.
SEOUL, South Korea __ North Korea says it’ll take more thorough measures to guard against the coronavirus, though it has been maintaining a “very stable anti
The Korean Central News Agency reports Sunday that leader Kim Jong Un and other leaders discussed the pandemic during a Politburo meeting in Pyongyang on Saturday.
It says the leaders agreed that it has become impossible to remove the danger of virus infections in a short time. It says such an environment can create “some obstacles to our struggle and progress.”
North Korea has been taking all-out efforts to prevent the virus from spreading in the country. It has said there hasn’t been a single virus case on its territory, a claim questioned by many outside experts.
During Saturday’s meeting, the North Korean leaders said their country has been maintaining a “very stable anti-epidemic situation” because it took swift, strict anti-epidemic steps and has been operating a through, consistent quarantine system.
Japan’s prime minister is sending the “stay home” message by example by posting on Twitter a video clip of him sitting at home.
In a one-minute video posted Sunday, an expressionless Shinzo Abe cuddles his dog, reads a book, sips from a cup and clicks on a remote.
Popular singer and actor Gen Hoshino is also featured in the video on a split screen, strumming on a guitar while at home. Hoshino performs his song advocating social distancing, which goes: “Let’s survive and dance, each one of us, wherever we are, all of us as one, let’s sing at home.”
Abe issued a state of emergency several days ago and later expanded that nationwide, asking people who can to work from home and businesses to close. The number of coronavirus cases in Japan has been growing recently, raising worries about inadequate social distancing and overloading hospitals.
The number of coronavirus cases on the nation’s largest Native American reservation umped by 17% Saturday as the Navajo Nation prepared to get new rapid-test kits.
The Navajo Nation said in a statement that the cases on the 27,000-square-mile (70,000-square-kilometer) reservation that sprawls across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah rose to 698 Saturday, up 101 from the day before. So far, 24 have died from complications of COVID-19.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer said they have been told that Abbott ID rapid test kits will become available at Navajo Area IHS facilities and tribal health care centers in the next few days. The tests come out with results within several minutes, they said.
“Quicker test results will likely result in even higher numbers of positive cases, but it will help to identify those who have the virus and begin to mitigate the cases much quicker," Nez said. "We must do better.”
Nez and Lizer announced Thursday during a town hall they are quarantining themselves as a precaution after being in close proximity with a first responder who later tested positive. They say they donned masks and gloves while visiting communities and are following protocols to isolate.
China on Sunday reported another 99 virus cases, all but two of them in the province of Heilongjiang bordering on Russia.
No deaths were reported, leaving China’s total at 3,339 among 82,052 cases.
Another 1,168 people were under isolation and monitoring for having tested positive for the virus, but were not showing symptoms or might have otherwise contracted it.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand
New Zealand has reported only 18 new cases of COVID-19 and no more deaths Sunday as strict rules on social isolation showed further signs of slowing the spread of the disease.
At a daily briefing, Director-General of Health Dr. Ashley Bloomfield says New Zealand now had 1,330 confirmed cases. Five people are in ICUs, one in critical condition.
Bloomfield says 471 people had recovered from the virus, including 49 in the last 24 hours as the number of people recovering continues to exceed new cases.
New Zealand’s death toll stands at four.
The IRS says the first economic support payments stemming from the coronavirus outbreak have been deposited in taxpayers’ bank accounts.
In its tweeted announcement Saturday night, the IRS didn’t say how many taxpayers have received the payments or how much money has been disbursed so far.
The tweet says: “We know many people are anxious to get their payments; we’ll continue issuing them as fast as we can.”
The payments are part of the $2.2 trillion rescue package passed by Congress and then signed into law last month by President Donald Trump.
Anyone earning up to $75,000 in adjusted gross income and who has a Social Security number will receive a $1,200 payment. Parents will also receive $500 for each qualifying child.
The payment steadily declines for those who make more.
SANTA FE, N.M.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Saturday expanded her mass gatherings ban to combat spread of the coronavirus to include churches and other houses of worship on the eve of the Christian holy day of Easter.
Lujan Grisham’s announcement of her deletion of a previous exemption for houses of worship said many congregations have already canceled in-person services because of the pandemic but that it was still necessary to be “absolutely clear that mass gatherings of any type are not permitted in houses of worship.”
The governor noted that many New Mexico churches plan virtual Easter services through means such as webstreaming.
“While this will be emotionally difficult for so many New Mexicans, public health must be the top priority. The only way to slow the spread of COVID-19 is by staying home and minimizing all person-to-person contact,” Lujan Grisham said.
Archbishop John Wester Archdiocese of the Santa Fe Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church told The Associated Press in a pre-Easter interview that the new coronavirus was nothing to play around with: “You don’t get any do-overs, you know. It doesn’t take a day off for Good Friday or Easter Sunday.”
The archdiocese is livestreaming Easter services on Facebook.
Organizers of the Burning Man Project say they are committed to providing ticket refunds after the event was canceled because of COVID-19. But they are asking purchasers to consider foregoing refunds because the organization faces layoffs, pay cuts and other belt-tightening measures.
Burning Man is a lifestyle and entertainment gathering that typically attracts 80,000 people from around the world. It had been scheduled for Aug. 30 to Sept. 7 in the northern Nevada desert.
Organizers said Friday in a Facebook post that cancellation was “in the interest of the health and well-being of our community.”
The city of Louisville cannot halt a drive-in church service planned for Easter, a federal judge ruled.
On Fire Christian Church had sued Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and the city after Fischer announced drive-in style religious gatherings were not allowed on Easter.
U.S. District Judge Justin Walker sided with the church.
“On Holy Thursday, an American mayor criminalized the communal celebration of Easter,” Walker wrote in his sternly worded 20-page opinion. “That sentence is one that this Court never expected to see outside the pages of a dystopian novel, or perhaps the pages of The Onion.”
Walker added that “The Mayor’s decision is stunning. And it is, ‘beyond all reason,’ unconstitutional.”
Fischer had argued that drive-in church services weren’t “practical or safe” for the community. However, Walker noted that drive-thru restaurants and liquor stores were still allowed to operate.
Queen Elizabeth II has stressed the need for the British people to continue to abide with lockdown restrictions over the rest of the Easter weekend.
In a two-minute audio broadcast from Windsor Castle, the queen said that by “keeping apart, we keep others safe” and that the coronavirus “will not overcome us.”
Social distancing rules were observed during what is believed to be the queen’s first Easter message. The 93-year-old monarch delivered the address alone into a microphone from the castle’s White Drawing room while the sound engineer was in a nearby room.
Last Sunday, in a rare special televised address to the nation, the queen evoked wartime memories to reassure people that “We will meet again.”
Angry inmates have set fire to an overcrowded prison on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island during a riot that erupted over measures imposed to contain the coronavirus.
Hundreds of police and soldiers were deployed to take control of Tuminting prison in North Sulawesi province, which is designed to house 490 inmates but now has more than 550, said Lumaksono, the head of Justice and Human Rights provincial office.
Lumaksono, who goes by a single name, says a preliminary investigation revealed that many inmates, mostly drug offenders, were angered by restrictions on family visits and envious following the early release of 115 inmates to curb the spread of the coronavirus in prisons.
He said they went on the rampage and started fires, and other inmates joined the protest and it turned violent, but there were no reports of deaths.
Defense Department officials say the White House has approved the production of N95 masks amid the coronavirus pandemic.
According to a statement, $133 million will be used to increase the production capacity of masks to more than 39 million over the next 90 days. Officials say the names of the companies that have been chosen to make the masks will be made available in the coming days when the contract is awarded.
The masks will be made under the Defense Production Act. President Donald Trump invoked the act, which gives the federal government broad authority to direct private companies to meet the needs of the national defense, to help provide medical supplies.
For the third day in a row, less patients entered France’s intensive care units for treatment for COVID-19, according to the nation’s medical chief.
“A very high plateau seems to be forming,” said Jerome Salomon in his daily briefing on the status of the coronavirus.
Despite that glimmer of hope, the number of deaths continued to mount. Since March 1, France counted 13,832 deaths in hospitals and homes for the aged.
ROME — Italy’s president says he, like many other Italians, will be marking Easter in solitude because of the national lockdown to help contain the spread of COVID
President Sergio Mattarella says he has been receiving many letters “which recount the forced solitude that so many are living through, even in these days traditionally of shared festivity.”
Mattarella made his remarks in a recorded message broadcast on state television Saturday night.
Easter Sunday in predominantly Roman Catholic Italy is a day when families and friends gather at homes or restaurants for a big luncheon.
A widower, Mattarella says of the lockdown: “I understand the sense of deprivation that this produces.” But he gave fellow citizens encouragement, saying: “let’s avoid the contagion of the virus and accept, rather, the contagion of solidarity among us.”
Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak