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The Latest: New deaths in Italy reach lowest mark in 3 weeks

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

— Italy has its lowest number of new deaths in three weeks, saying 431 people died in the past day to bring its total to 19,899.

— French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle returns to base for crew to be tested.

— Boris Johnson hails National Health Service staff for saving his life.

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ROME — Italy recorded the lowest number of new coronavirus deaths in three weeks, saying 431 people died in the past day to bring its total to 19,899.

It was the lowest day-to-day toll since March 19.

For the ninth day running, intensive care admissions were down and hospitalizations overall were down, relieving pressure on Italy’s over-stressed health care system.

More than 4,000 people tested positive as Italy began its fifth week under nationwide lockdown, continuing a general flattening in its infection curve.

But officials have noted that Italy has also increased its testing capacity in recent days, yielding more positive cases but allowing for more effective quarantine measures for people once they know they are infected.

Italy crossed the 1 million virus test mark on Sunday, doubling the number of tests since the end of March. Overall, 156,363 people have been confirmed as positive, though officials note that the true number of infected could be as much as 10 times that, particularly in hard-hit Lombardy.

Officials have also warned that the true number of dead from the virus pandemic is higher, given the hundreds of elderly who have died in nursing homes but were never tested.

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YEREVAN, Armenia — The Armenian Apostolic Church held Easter services without parishioners because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The service at church’s seat of Echmiadzin Cathedral included displaying the Spear of Geghard, an important relic that is brought out in special cases such as the country being in danger.

The relic is said to be the tip of a lance used by a Roman soldier to prod Jesus Christ after his crucifixion to determine if he was dead. The service was broadcast on national television.

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ATHENS, Greece — There were five more fatalities from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours in Greece, all men, raising the total to 98, authorities say.

There are now a total of 2,114 confirmed cases of the disease, 33 added since Saturday afternoon.

There are 76 people hooked to ventilator machines, while 15 patients that had been in intensive care have recovered, authorities in a statement.

The main concern of authorities remains individuals’ attempts to flout strict quarantine measures, during the Orthodox Easter, which is celebrated next Sunday.

It is usually a time of mass exodus to the countryside and, just over 9 hours on Sunday, 38 people were stopped trying to leave cities and fined 300 euros each.

A related concern is church gatherings, now banned; on Sunday, Palm Sunday, the government asked for a prosecutor to indict two priests who provided communion to the faithful despite the ban.

One of them, in an Athens neighborhood, was photographed from a nearby building secretly giving communion to faithful through the back door.

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ROME — The Italian government says increased police patrols over Easter weekend led to more than 12,500 people being sanctioned and 150 facing criminal charges for allegedly violating lockdown measures.

The Interior Ministry released data from Saturday’s traffic checkpoints and patrols and said more than 280,000 people were pulled over and asked to explain why they were outside their homes.

The numbers were slightly higher than previous days.

The government’s lockdown measures allow people to move around for work, health reasons or necessities such as grocery shopping or walking the dog.

Anyone outside is required to carry a certificate explaining why they are outside.

Fines can range up to 3,000 euros or lead to criminal charges for anyone making a false declaration.

Authorities had announced beefed-up patrols over the long Easter weekend, when Italians generally head to summer homes or to lunches with friends and family.

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ROME — Italy’s civil protection agency has arranged for rescued migrants to be placed in quarantine to check for coronavirus infections on ships or on land.

Civil protection chief Angelo Borrelli said he signed the order after Italy banned foreign-flagged migrant rescue ships from its ports last week.

The transport ministry said it could no longer guarantee that its ports were safe, given the pandemic. Italy has been the epicenter of the pandemic in Europe, reporting nearly 20,000 dead.

Borrelli said the new provision would be in effect to provide medical checks and quarantine for the 156 migrants currently aboard the German-flagged charity rescue ship Alan Kurdi. Migrants who reach the Italian territory on their own would be quarantined on land.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey saw a daily rise of 4,789 coronavirus cases and 97 deaths on Sunday as a 48-hour lockdown in 31 cities approached its end.

“This struggle is won by staying at home, not in hospitals,” Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said in a statement. Turkey has now recorded 56,956 confirmed cases and 1,198 fatalities since the outbreak emerged on March 11.

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MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s stock market said Sunday that its president, Jaime Ruíz Sacristán, has died. While it did not give a cause of death, he was diagnosed with COVID-19 about a month ago.

Local news media reported that Ruiz Sacristán, 70, became ill after returning from Vail, Colorado, a vacation spot shared by more than a dozen of the earliest new coronavirus cases diagnosed in Mexico.

As of Sunday, Mexican authorities had confirmed 4,219 cases of COVID-19 and 273 deaths, though they have acknowledged that the unrecorded infection numbers are far higher.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Imposing a new regulation, the Sri Lanka government on Sunday ordered that the corpse of a person who has died or is suspected to have died of coronavirus should be cremated.

The order comes amid concerns raised by the ethnic minority Muslim leaders in Sri Lanka, saying the cremation of the dead body of a Muslim COVID-19 victim is against the Islamic practice of a burial.

A government decree issued on Sunday said that the corpse of a corona victim should be cremated “at the temperature of 800 to 1,200 degrees Celsius for a minimum period of 45 minutes to one hour for complete burning, for the purpose of prevention of any potential biological threat.”

According to the new regulation, the body of the deceased will be handed over only to those involved in the cremation process, and the ashes of the deceased may be handed over to the next of kin at their request.

So far, seven people have died of the virus while 140 are being treated at hospitals while 56 have recovered.

Two weeks ago, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress leader Rauff Hakeem said that the second person to die in Sri Lanka infected by coronavirus was not allowed to be buried despite requests by family and political leaders. Hakeem however requested Muslims to be patient considering the extraordinary situation.

Sri Lanka is a predominantly Buddhist nation with Muslims comprising about 7 percent of the population.

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TOULON, France — The French aircraft carrier the Charles de Gaulle returned to its base in the southern port of Toulon on Sunday after some 50 members of its crew and some aboard an escort frigate contracted the new coronavirus.

The French Defense Ministry says the entire crew of some 1,700 sailors will be tested and confined for 14 days in various military quarters in the region. Same for air crews aboard the vessel and those on the frigate.

The ministry says the carrier cut short by about 10 days a nearly three-month mission in the central Mediterranean then in the Atlantic and North Sea.

The source of the infection was not immediately known.

A similar virus outbreak on the USS Theodore Roosevelt led to the firing of its captain, then the resignation earlier this month of the acting U.S. Navy secretary.

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LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has posted a video on Twitter in which he hails the staff in the National Health Service for saving his life when it could have “gone either way.”

Johnson was dressed in a suit and looked and sounded assured in the video made after his discharge from St. Thomas’ Hospital in London. He said he did not have the words to properly thank the staff at NHS for“saving my life.”

He listed a number of the frontline staff who cared for him over a week at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London but singled out two nurses who stood by his bedside for 48 hours “when things could have gone either way.”

He said Jenny from New Zealand and Luis from Portugal were the reason “in the end my body did start to get enough oxygen.”

Johnson said there are “hundreds of thousands of NHS staff who are acting with the same care and thought and precision as Jenny and Luis.”

Johnson spent a week at St. Thomas’, three days of which were in intensive care. He was given oxygen but was not put on a ventilator.

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ROME — Premier Giuseppe Conte on Sunday thanked Italians for their sacrifices fighting the new coronavirus. He acknowledges that many families are suffering the loss of loved ones as they celebrate Easter with empty places at the table.

Conte wrote in a Facebook post "the sacrifices that each of us makes on this important Sunday are a gesture of authentic attachment to what really matters and that we can recover soon.”

He added: “Together we will make it.”

His message was echoed by members of the La Scala philharmonic, who collaborated on a video performance of Pachelbel’s Canon to honor medical workers fighting the virus.

Around Italy, musicians were urged to join in the concert from their windows or balconies.

Italy has been among the hardest-hit countries, suffering nearly 20,000 dead and a level of contagion that prompted the government to impose a draconian industrial shutdown and national lockdown.

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WASHINGTON — The United States’ top infectious disease expert says the economy in parts of the country could be allowed to reopen as early as next month.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says there’s no light switch that will be clicked to turn everything back on. He says a “rolling re-entry” will be required based on the status of the new coronavirus pandemic in various parts of the country.

Fauci says those factors include the region of the country, the nature of the outbreak it already has experienced and the possible threat of an outbreak to come.

Social distancing guidelines imposed by President Donald Trump are set to expire April 30.

Trump is eager to restart the economy, which has stalled because most Americans are under orders to “stay at home” to help slow the virus’ spread.

Fauci spoke Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

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LONDON — Health officials say 657 more people in England have died from the new coronavirus, raising the total U.K. deaths over 10,000.

The National Health Service figure does not include deaths in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. A figure for the whole U.K. will be released later.

The 657 deaths come on top of the 9,875 deaths of people with COVID-19 in British hospitals announced Saturday.

While the number of new cases and hospitalizations appears to have plateaued, deaths are still rising. Virus death tolls in Italy and Spain have been on a downward slope, and there are growing fears that the U.K. will end up being the country with the most virus deaths in Europe.

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MOSCOW — The Russian Orthodox Church says it will hold Easter services in Moscow without parishioners in conformance with an order from the city’s chief epidemiologist.

The church this year observes Easter on April 19.

A statement from the church says it would abide by the order from the doctor prohibiting mass gatherings and that people attending Palm Sunday services would be informed that services would be held only by clerics beginning Monday.

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is calling for solidarity the world over to confront the “epochal challenge” posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

He has urged political leaders in particular to give hope and opportunity to laid-off workers.

Francis made his traditional Easter address on Sunday and called for sanctions relief, debt forgiveness and cease-fires to calm conflicts and financial crises around the globe.

He has offered special prayers for the sick, the dead, the elderly, refugees and the poor. He also has offered thanks and encouragement to doctors and nurses who have worked “to the point of exhaustion and not infrequently at the expense of their own health.”

Francis has urged the European Union to step up to the “epochal challenge” posed by COVID-19 and resist the tendency of selfishness and division. He recalled that Europe rose again after World War II “thanks to a concrete spirit of solidarity that enabled it to overcome the rivalries of the past.”

He says “this is not a time for self-centeredness, because the challenge we are facing is shared by all, without distinguishing between persons.”

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MADRID — Spain has reported its lowest daily growth in confirmed coronavirus infections in three weeks as it prepares to loosen its strict lockdown measures and let some workers return to the job.

Spanish health authorities have reported 4,167 confirmed new cases over the past 24 hours. The country’s total is at 166,019, second only to the United States.

Deaths in Spain have reached a total of 16,972, with 619 new fatalities confirmed since Saturday. More than 60,000 patients have recovered from COVID-19 in Spain.

The country on Monday will allow workers in industry and construction to return to work after a two-week shutdown of economic activities other than health care and the food industry.

Those who can work from home are strongly encouraged by authorities to continue doing so. Retail shops will remain closed other than supermarkets, fruit stands, bakeries, butchers, newsstands and pharmacies.

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DHAKA, Bangladesh -- Bangladesh has recorded four deaths and 139 cases of the new coronavirus in the past 24 hours.

Officials say the death toll is at 34, with 621 confirmed cases.

Almost half of the cases have been reported in the capital of Dhaka.

The country of 160 million people is expected to remain in a nationwide lockdown until April 25.

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LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he owes his life to staff at the National Health Service who treated him for COVID-19.

Johnson has made his first public statement since he was moved out of intensive care at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London, saying he “can’t thank them enough. I owe them my life.”

The 55-year-old Johnson was diagnosed with COVID-19 more than two weeks ago, becoming the first world leader confirmed to have the illness.

His coronavirus symptoms at first were said to have been mild, including a cough and a fever.

He was admitted to St. Thomas’ Hospital last Sunday after his condition worsened and was transferred to the intensive care unit the following day, where he received oxygen but was not put onto a ventilator.

He spent three nights there before moving back to a regular ward on Thursday.

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SEOUL, South Korea — Some South Korean churches have held their Easter services online amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Seoul’s Yoido Full Gospel Church, one of the biggest churches in South Korea, delivered an online live streaming of its Easter service on Sunday.

A small number of masked followers attended the service broadcast via the church’s website. They were seated notably apart from each other to abide by social distancing rules. Choir members also wore masks when they sang hymns.

Many South Korean churches have switched to online services to support government-led efforts to stem the spread of the new coronavirus. Local media reported some churches resumed offline services to mark Easter Sunday, raising worries about new infections.

South Korea has reported 32 additional cases of the coronavirus over the past 24 hours, a continued downward trend in new infections in the country.

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SYDNEY — Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy says the country is “in a good place” in its fight against the coronavirus as the death toll rose by three to 59.

Murphy says “there is no place in the world I would rather be than Australia at the moment.”

Australia now has 6,289 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus.

Murphy says people in the community are still transmitting the virus so it is necessary to “keep our pressure on and make sure that we don’t end up like countries in the world that you have all seen on the news.”

He says the country is “in a good place ... but we have to maintain that good place.”

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says it would be “very dangerous and unrealistic” to remove social distancing restrictions too soon.

He says those restrictions will stay in place across Australia “for as long as it takes” based on medical advice.

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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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