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The Latest: New Zealand reports only 18 new cases of virus

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

— New Zealand reports only 18 new cases of COVID-19.

—IRS says first economic support payments stemming from outbreak have been deposited.

—White House approves production of N95 masks.

Italy tops 19,000 deaths, 150,000 coronavirus cases.

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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.

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WASHINGTON -- 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.

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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.

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LAS VEGAS — 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.”

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — 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.

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LONDON — 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.”

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MANADO, Indonesia — 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.

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WASHINGTON — 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.

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PARIS — 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.

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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-19.

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.”

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UNITED NATIONS — United Nations envoys in Middle East hot spots are urging all warring parties to translate Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ appeal for immediate cease-fires to tackle the coronavirus pandemic into concrete actions aimed at ending hostilities.

The envoys for Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict stressed that solidarity is required to face the challenge of COVID-19 and this cannot happen “if the guns of war and conflict are not silenced.”

They said “many parties have responded positively” to the secretary-general’s appeal but more must be done, especially since COVID-19 has compounded the suffering of people caught up in Mideast conflicts.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey has reported more than 5,000 new coronavirus cases, pushing the total to above 50,000 since recording its first confirmed infection exactly a month earlier.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca says there was 5,138 cases over the previous 24 hours, taking the country’s total to 52,167. The death toll rose to 1,101 with the addition of 95 fatalities.

The minister says the rise in cases reflected a greater number of tests being conducted — 33,170 over 24 hours to take the total number of tests to 340,380.

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MOSCOW — Moscow’s mayor has detailed the system under which most of the Russian capital’s 12 million people will be required to have passes to move around the city by vehicle.

The move comes as coronavirus infections grow markedly despite orders for most people to stay home; Moscow has recorded 8,852 cases of infection, more than 65 percent of Russia’s total.

Mayor Sergei Sobyanin says that as of Wednesday anyone using personal or public transport in the city must have electronic passes stating his destination. Passes allowing trips to a grocery store will be issued twice a week per person. Residents under 14 years old, military service members, law-enforcement officers and state employees are excepted.

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LONDON — The British government has launched a campaign to help victims of domestic abuse during the lockdown following an increase in the number seeking help.

As well as launching a national communications campaign that aims to “signpost victims” to where they can access help, Home Secretary Priti Patel said the government is to bolster online support services and helplines for domestic abuse.

Though there has not yet been a sustained rise in reports of domestic abuse during the lockdown to police, Patel told the government’s daily press briefing that there has been an “extremely concerning” increase in those seeking help during the lockdown, which came into force on March 23 in order to get on top of the coronavirus outbreak.

She noted that last week Britain’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline reported a 120% increase in the number of calls it received in just one 24-hour period.

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NEW YORK — The state governor and the New York City mayor are at odds over whether public school sites in the 1.1 million-student district will be shuttered for the rest of the academic year to curb the coronavirus.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Saturday they would close, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo swiftly responded that the decision was his to make.

The governor says school closings would have to be coordinated with districts surrounding the city. The dispute was the latest in a long-running grudge match between the two Democrats. School buildings in the nation’s largest school district have been closed since March 16.

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — An investigator says the death toll tied to a coronavirus outbreak at a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, nursing home has risen to 14.

Alisha Weber, the lead investigator for the Linn County Medical Examiner’s Office, told The Associated Press that as far as she knows, all 14 people who died after contracting COVID-19 at Heritage Specialty Care were residents of the home.

State health officials have said that at least 76 people who live or work at the long-term care facility have contracted the disease. But until now, state and local public health officials and the company that manages the facility had refused to say how many had died.

Iowa’s total number of COVID-19 cases rose to 1,510 on Saturday, an increase of 122 that was in line with the two previous days. The state’s death toll rose by three, to 34.

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Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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