The Latest: Singapore penalizing social distancing violators

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A man walks past an electronic billboard showing a doctor wearing a medical mask with the words reading “Avoid crowded places, it will save a life”, displayed in a street in St. Petersburg, Russia, Wednesday, March 25, 2020. Russian President Vladimir Putin has postponed a nationwide vote on proposed constitutional amendments that include a change potentially allowing him to stay in office until 2036. Putin cited the coronavirus in announcing the postponement of the vote that was originally scheduled for April 22. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)

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

TOP OF THE HOUR:

— U.S. leads the world in confirmed coronavirus cases with more than 85,000.

— Trump to attend departure of hospital ship bound for New York.

— Second U.S. soldier stationed in South Korea tests positive.

— Patient who was first known case of community-acquired coronavirus in U.S. recovering.

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SINGAPORE — Singapore has begun penalizing people who refused to adhere to social distancing in the latest bid to curb the virus.

Beginning Friday, anyone found standing in a queue, or sitting, less than a meter (3.3 feet) from another person in a public place can be jailed up to six months or fined up to 10,000 Singapore dollars ($7,000), or both.

The penalties also apply to malls, places of worship, funeral homes and some 55 attractions including museums that can stay open but must not allow groups of more than 10 people.

Singapore, which has 683 cases, has taken proactive steps to slow the spread of the virus, short of a lockdown. It has banned all tourists and shut entertainment venues such as bars and cinemas. The safe distancing regulations, which do not apply to Parliament or court proceedings, will be in place until April 30.

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SEOUL, South Korea — A U.S. soldier stationed at a camp near Seoul has tested positive for the coronavirus, making her the second case among U.S. servicemembers in South Korea.

U.S. Forces Korea said Friday the unidentified soldier last reported for work and visited various locations at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek on Thursday.

USFK says she is currently in isolation in a Camp Humphreys barracks designated to house COVID-19 patients. It says officials are actively tracing her contacts.

She was the 11th USFK-related individual to be confirmed with the virus, a group that also includes dependents and contractors.

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JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia’s flag carrier Garuda’s Boeing 777 has returned from China early Friday carrying 40 tons of health supplies which will be distributed immediately across the country where new COVID-19 patients have surged in the past week.

Jodi Mahardi, the maritime and investment coordinating ministry’s spokesman, says the supplies included personal protective equipment and rapid test kits and masks.

They were donations from several Chinese investors in Indonesia to help the country in dealing with the coronavirus outbreak which could overwhelm the government’s health care system, as 78 people have died in the past three weeks and nearly 900 others tested positive.

The Indonesian government has planned to distribute about a half million test kits across the archipelago nation, home for nearly 270 million.

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SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea says about 2,280 citizens and two foreigners remain under coronavirus quarantine after authorities released thousands of people in past weeks who were confirmed to have no symptoms.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency on Friday said the country will maintain an alert status as the virus continues to spread across the world and prepare to extend its anti-virus efforts over longer periods.

North Korea has not publicly confirmed a single case of the COVID-19 illness, but state media has described anti-virus efforts as a matter of “national existence.”

It has banned foreign tourists, shut down nearly all cross-border traffic with China, intensified screening at entry points and mobilized health workers to monitor residents and isolate those with symptoms.

The North had initially placed 380 foreigners under quarantine. The North earlier this month arranged a special government flight to fly out dozens of diplomats to Vladivostok, Russia.

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Northern California doctors said Thursday that a critically ill patient who was the nation’s first known case of community-acquired coronavirus infection is now recovering at home.

The woman first sought treatment last month at NorthBay VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville, a city of more than 100,000 people about 59 miles (95 kilometers) from San Francisco. She was then transported on a ventilator to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.

She is believed to be the first person in the U.S. to contract the highly contagious coronavirus without traveling internationally or being in close contact with anyone who had it.

UC Davis Health said in a statement that “The patient has since been discharged and is recovering at home.”

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BEIJING — China’s National Health Commission on Friday reported 55 new COVID-19 cases, including 54 it says are imported infections in recent arrivals from overseas.

Once again, there were no new cases reported in Wuhan, the central Chinese provincial capital where the coronavirus emerged in December.

As the number of China’s reported domestic COVID-19 cases has dwindled, it has had to contend with infected people coming into the country from abroad. These individuals have recently accounted for the majority of China’s new cases.

The country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced late Thursday that all foreign nationals — including residence permit-holders — will be barred from entering China starting this Saturday. All visa-free transit policies will also be temporarily suspended.

Diplomatic workers will be exempt, while foreign nationals coming to China for “necessary economic, trade, scientific or technological activities or out of emergency humanitarian needs” can still apply for visas, the ministry said in a statement.

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MEXICO CITY — The Mexican border state of Chihuahua said Thursday it will set up a shelter to house deported migrants for a two-week quarantine.

The state said the shelter would be set up in “the next few days” to house migrants returned to the border city of Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas.

The state government says an average of 65 migrants are deported through Ciudad Juarez every day, for a total of about 5,200 so far this year.

The quarantine move is part of a series of measures announced Thursday to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The United States has over 82,000 cases, while Mexico has 475, though testing is far less frequent in Mexico.

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WASHINGTON — Washington DC has announced 36 new positive infections from the coronavirus, bringing the total to 267, including three deaths.

Officials here have long predicted that the infection numbers would spike as testing became more available. Mayor Muriel Bowser has declared a state of emergency, shuttered all schools and ordered all non-essential businesses to close. White House and Capitol tours have been cancelled and the National Zoo, Smithsonian museum network and Kennedy Center have closed.

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WASHINGTON — The White House coronavirus response coordinator says the task force is concerned about certain counties in the Midwest that appear to be seeing a rapid increase in cases.

Dr. Deborah Birx listed two counties: Wayne County in Michigan and Cook County in Illinois.

She said at Thursday’s White House briefing that the task force is not only looking at where the cases are today, but where they will be in the future so the Federal Emergency Management Agency can be alerted to where the next hotspots will be.

Birx says the two counties both are in urban areas or in communities that serve an urban area. Chicago is the seat of Cook County, which is one of the most populous counties in the United States. Wayne County is outside Detroit.

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CAIRO — The former prime minister of Libya has contracted the coronavirus, according to the Facebook page of his political party.

Mahmoud Jibril served as interim prime minister of the North African country for almost a year during the civil war that toppled and later killed longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

The veteran politician, now based in Egypt, was in stable condition in isolation at a Cairo hospital. Egypt recorded 39 new infections on Thursday, bringing the total to 495.

The 67-year-old Jibril, a U.S.-educated economist, led the liberal pro-business National Forces Alliance that secured a landslide victory against the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya’s 2012 parliamentary elections.

Since, Libya has been plunged into chaos as rival militias and their foreign backers vie for power in the oil-rich country.

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico has extended its coronavirus curfew to April 12 and warned of new restrictions.

Gov. Wanda Vázquez said Thursday that nonessential workers will have to be home by 7 p.m. starting March 31, two hours earlier than the current curfew.

Vázquez said the new restriction is in response to the nearly 400 people who have been detained for violating the ongoing curfew.

All nonessential businesses will remain shuttered until mid-April, and people will only be allowed to leave their homes or hotels to go to the bank or buy food or medicine.

Puerto Rico has reported two COVID-19 deaths and more than 60 confirmed cases.

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BATON ROUGE, La. — Amid the outbreak’s climbing trajectory in Louisiana, the state received news Thursday that President Donald Trump agreed to create two, 250-bed federal field hospitals in the state.

The federal government will provide a 60-person “strike team” of health care workers to staff the sites, Gov. John Bel Edwards said.

The White House also was sending a CDC epidemiology team to help with the state’s response to “clusters” of coronavirus cases identified at six nursing homes.

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NEW YORK — The United States now leads the world in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases.

According to a running count by Johns Hopkins University, the number of people infected in the U.S. topped 82,000 on Thursday. That’s just ahead of the 81,000 cases in China and 80,000 in Italy.

Italy has the most confirmed deaths of any country with more than 8,000. More than 1,000 people have died in the U.S.

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says he will travel to Norfolk, Virginia, on Saturday to see off a 1,000-bed Navy hospital ship that will relieve the pressure on New York hospitals dealing with coronavirus patients.

Trump says he told New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo the ship will arrive in New York Harbor on Monday.

Trump said in a White House press conference that he’ll “kiss it goodbye” and that the ship is “loaded up to the top” with medical supplies.

The announcement of the USNS Comfort’s planned deployment comes as New York City-area hospitals are clearing out beds, setting up new spaces to triage patients and urging people with mild symptoms to consult health professionals by phone or video chat instead of overrunning emergency rooms.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in New York had climbed to 3,800 this week, including close to 900 in intensive care, with the peak of the outbreak weeks away.

The critical question remains whether the severe “social distancing” restrictions recently enacted by New York will help the state avoid a worst-case scenario of overwhelmed hospitals.

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AUSTIN, Texas — Texas is imposing quarantine orders on New Orleans travelers as the city rapidly becomes a major concern of the coronavirus crisis in the U.S.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott issued the restriction Thursday while also requiring that airline passengers coming from the New York area similarly self-isolate for two weeks. Governors in Florida and Maryland earlier this week also required people coming from New York to quarantine, but not New Orleans.

Louisiana state health officials say the number of coronavirus cases Thursday surpassed 2,300, along with 86 related deaths. New Orleans was gearing up for a possible overflow at area hospitals, with plans to treat as many as 3,000 patients at the city’s convention center.

Abbott said travelers arriving from New Orleans or the New York area would be required to submit a form listing where they will quarantine. He said Texas state troopers will conduct checks and that anyone caught in violation risks jail time.

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UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council is expressing concern at the possible impact of the coronavirus pandemic in war-torn Libya and is calling on the warring parties to stop fighting “urgently” and allow unhindered access for humanitarian aid throughout the country.

The council said in a statement after closed video discussions and a briefing Thursday by the acting U.N. special representative that it was concerned at “the significant escalation of hostilities on the ground in Libya.”

It called on all U.N. member states to comply with an arms embargo and reaffirmed “the importance of the United Nations’ central role in facilitating a Libyan-led and Libyan-owned inclusive political process.”

A weak U.N.-recognized administration that holds the capital of Tripoli and parts of the country’s west is backed by Turkey and to a lesser degree Qatar and Italy as well as local militias. A rival government in the east that supports self-styled Gen. Khalifa Hifter, whose forces launched an offensive to capture the capital last April, is backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt as well as France and Russia.

Fear of the new coronavirus is widespread in Libya. Authorities tracked down and quarantined dozens of people who had come into contact with the country’s first confirmed case, a 73-year-old man who entered from neighboring Tunisia on March 5 after traveling to Saudi Arabia. Health officials said Wednesday he was in stable condition.

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ISELIN, N.J. — More than 40 million medical-grade gloves that have been held at U.S. customs warehouses since last fall are going to be delivered to health care facilities.

Ansell, a company with a corporate hub in Iselin, New Jersey, said it had resolved a dispute over whether the gloves had been manufactured using forced labor in Malaysia.

“The release of this supply to health care facilities across the United States will be an immediate benefit to workers in dire need of proper PPE supplies,” spokesman Tom Paolella said Thursday in an email.

The company credited U.S. Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey with helping resolve the dispute. Smith, a Republican who has been active in combating human trafficking and exploitation, became involved recently.

“Ansell makes a very credible case that they moved quickly to ensure that their supply chain was not complicit with forced labor and that problems raised by the U.S. government have been remedied,” Smith spokesman Jeff Sagnip said.

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Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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