The Latest: Peace Corps evacuating volunteers, suspends ops

March 16, 2020 GMT
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The highway leading to Barcelona is seen empty of cars on Sunday, March 15, 2020. Spain's government announced Saturday that it is placing tight restrictions on movements and closing restaurants and other establishments in the nation of 46 million people as part of a two-week state of emergency to fight the sharp rise in coronavirus infections. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some, it can cause more severe illness, especially in older adults and people with existing health problems. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
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The highway leading to Barcelona is seen empty of cars on Sunday, March 15, 2020. Spain's government announced Saturday that it is placing tight restrictions on movements and closing restaurants and other establishments in the nation of 46 million people as part of a two-week state of emergency to fight the sharp rise in coronavirus infections. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some, it can cause more severe illness, especially in older adults and people with existing health problems. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

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 common in the elderly or people with other health conditions. Nearly 77,000 people have recovered from it so far, mostly in China.


The Peace Corps is evacuating all of its volunteers and suspending operations in dozens of countries worldwide.

Director Jody Olsen says Sunday’s decision comes as “international travel becomes more and more challenging by the day.” She said the agency wanted to avoid leaving volunteers stranded in host countries.

Her statement stressed that posts would not close, but didn’t provide a timeline for resuming operations.

As of September 2019, the service program run by the U.S. government said it operates in more than 60 countries and has more than 7,300 volunteers and trainees. Volunteers in China and Mongolia have already been evacuated over virus concerns.

Olsen says host country staff will remain in their current roles.

The statement didn’t provide details about the evacuations and suspensions, which Olsen called “logistically challenging.”


Closures over the new coronavirus are starting to hit the Las Vegas Strip.

MGM Resorts, which lists 13 resorts in Las Vegas, joined the Wynn Las Vegas and Encore in announcing closures Sunday.

Wynn Resorts said the two-week closure starts March 17 at 6 p.m. MGM says its Las Vegas properties will suspend operations by March 17.

The closures hit the same day that Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak announced that all public, private and charter K-12 schools in the state will be closed Monday until at least April 6. He says properties are making individual decisions about whether to close.

As of Saturday, health officials have announced 21 cases of coronavirus in Nevada.


Peru’s president has declared an emergency and ordered people to stay home, while Honduras is closing its borders and ordering most businesses to close.

Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra stated in a televised address Sunday there is growing risk that all of Peru will be afflicted by the virus, acknowledging that some of those recently diagnosed with coronavirus had not traveled abroad.

The new measures include: closing its borders; suspending rights to free movement; instructing the military and police to ensure public services; and instructing people to work from and remain in their homes.

Peru confirmed its first coronavirus case on March 6 and its caseload has jumped to 71.

In Honduras, which has six cases, President Juan Orlando Hernández said air, land and sea border restrictions take effect one minute before midnight. They affect entry by people but not shipments of cargo and supplies. He did not specify any different treatment for Honduran nationals who might be looking to return from abroad.

Exceptions to business closures included essential services: food markets, pharmacies, hotels, gas stations and banks.

All large public gatherings are banned.


South Korea has reported 74 additional cases of the new coronavirus, continuing its downward trend.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday the additional cases brought the country’s total to 8,236. It has 75 deaths.

South Korea has the fourth-highest number of cases worldwide, but its new cases have been declining recently.

About 90% of cases in South Korea are in the southeastern city of Daegu and nearby areas.


An Australian television editor has tested positive for the new coronavirus after meeting actress-singer Rita Wilson in Sydney.

Wilson and her husband Tom Hanks have been isolated in an Australian hospital since they were both diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 12.

Nine Network entertainment editor Richard Wilkins says he was tested because he met Wilson at the Sydney Opera House on March 7 and again at Nine’s Sydney studio on March 9. The result came back positive on Sunday.

The 65-year-old journalist told Nine on Monday he assumes he was infected by Wilson but doesn’t know for sure. Wilkins says he doesn’t feel unwell.

Wilkins’ son Christian Wilkins has been tested because he had spent the night of March 10 in his father’s Sydney home. Christian Wilkins is competing in the Australian version of the reality TV show “Dancing With The Stars” which is being broadcast without a studio audience because of the COVID-19 risk.

Richard Wilkins has been self-isolating at home since Thursday last week.


New York City’s mayor ordered restaurants and bars to limit their business to take out and delivery services, and he told movie theaters, concert halls and other entertainment venues to close.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement Sunday night: “Our lives are all changing in ways that were unimaginable just a week ago.”

He said the actions were part of an effort to “save the lives of loved ones and our neighbors.”

The announcement came just hours after he shut the city’s schools.

The business order and the school closings take effect Tuesday.


United Airlines is laying out a dire situation for airlines.

It will cut 50% of its flying capacity in April and May – cuts that could extend into the peak summer travel season – and expects planes to be only 20% to 30% full at best.

United will seek unspecified help from the federal government to navigate a sharp downturn in bookings due to the new coronavirus. It has begun talking to its pilot and flight attendant unions about taking cuts in pay or hours.

The airline handled a million fewer passengers in the first two weeks of March than it did a year ago, and revenue fell $1.5 billion below the year-ago pace, CEO Oscar Munoz and President Scott Kirby said in a letter to employees Sunday night.

“The bad news is that it’s getting worse,” they wrote. “We expect both the number of customers and revenue to decline sharply in the days and weeks ahead.”


Everyone arriving in Beijing from overseas is being quarantined for 14 days in designated facilities at their expense.

The new policy took effect Monday. Previously, people without symptoms could self-quarantine at home.

Chinese cities have become increasingly concerned about importing cases of the new coronavirus from abroad after largely containing its spread at home.

In the latest tally, the National Health Commission reported 16 new cases of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. Twelve of them were imported from overseas, including four in Beijing.

The state-owned Global Times newspaper applauded Beijing’s move as an example for other regional governments and called for the building of a wall of prevention against the epidemic.

China now has 80,860 confirmed cases. The health commission said 67,749 patients have recovered and been discharged from hospitals. Fourteen more deaths were reported in the last 24 hours, raising the toll to 3,213.


Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said he would order all bars, restaurants, entertainment and recreation facilities to temporarily close to fight the spread of coronavirus in the state with by far the most deaths in the U.S. from the disease.

In a statement Inslee said the ban, to be issued via emergency proclamation Monday, wouldn’t apply to grocery stores and pharmacies and that restaurants could continue take-out and delivery services.

No time frame was given on how long the restrictions will last. Inslee also revised his ban on events to prohibit gatherings of 50 or more people. Previously the limit was 250.

“These are very difficult decisions, but hours count here and very strong measures are necessary to slow the spread of the disease. I know there will be significant economic impacts to all our communities and we are looking at steps to help address those challenges,” Inslee said.

Public health officials in the Seattle area reported two more COVID-19 deaths, bring the total statewide to at least 42.

Other governors have instituted such measures. California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday called for all bars, wineries, nightclubs and brewpubs to close in the nation’s most populous state. The governors of Ohio, Massachusetts and Illinois also ordered bars and restaurants to shutter.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that gatherings of 50 people or more in US be canceled or postponed over the next eight weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The dramatic recommendation Sunday night came Americans struggled to come to terms with how to change their daily habits.

The CDC added that proper precautions should be taken at any event, including making sure people are washing their hands and not getting too close.

But in a sign of the difficulty of striking the right balance, the statement from the CDC also said the recommendation does not apply to “the day to day operation of organizations such as schools, institutes of higher learning, or businesses.”

The death toll from COVID-19 in the United States climbed to 64, while about 3,500 have been infected with the virus that causes it.


An emergency room doctor at a suburban Seattle hospital that has treated many people with coronavirus has contracted the disease.

EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland, Washington, said in a statement Sunday that the doctor was in “critical condition but stable.”

At least 42 people have died from COVID-19 in Washington and there are more than 750 confirmed cases statewide.

Dr. Liam Yore, the immediate past president of the Washington Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, told The Seattle Times the doctor was in his 40s.

Yore told the newspaper the doctor had used personal protective equipment and that it was not known whether the physician contracted COVID-19 in the community or at work.

Twenty-nine of the deaths in Washington state are linked to the Life Care Center of Kirkland, the nursing home at the center of the outbreak in the hard-hit region.


Guatemala has confirmed the Central American nation’s first death from the new coronavirus.

The Health Ministry announced in a Sunday news conference that the patient was an 85-year-old man who had traveled to Spain recently. He died in the department, or province, of Guatemala that comprises the capital Guatemala City.

The ministry said there would be no wake and the man’s body would be buried immediately.

Health Minister Hugo Monroy said the condition of another patient, age 27, who also tested positive for the virus was “evolving positively.”

The first of Guatemala’s two cases was announced Friday.


Schools in Massachusetts will close for at least three weeks and all gatherings of more than 25 people will be banned in the latest attempt to arrest the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Sunday.

The governor also ordered all bars and dine-in restaurants to close for a month. Take-away and delivery services won’t be affected by the rules, nor will grocery stores or pharmacies.

“I realize these measures are unprecedented,” Baker, a Republican, said at a news conference announcing the directives. “But we’re asking our residents to take a deep breath and understand the rationale behind this guidance.”


The Czech government has imposed further restrictions on public movements in an effort to contain the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Andre Babis said the government is declaring a quarantine for the entire country taking effect Monday.

Babis said the government bans traveling in the country except to commute or to carry out work duties.

People will be allowed to shop and visit doctors and hospitals. Also, the visits of family members and close relatives won’t be banned.

Babis said the government orders the citizens “to limit the movement at public spaces to a necessary minimum” and “to limit the contacts with other people to a bare minimum.

The Czech Republic has 253 cases of COVID-19.

Also on Monday, the Czechs imposed further travel restrictions, barring all foreigners from entry except those who have residency in the country. At the same time, Czech citizens are not allowed to travel abroad.

Checks on the border with Austria and Germany have been renewed and the government is deploying the military to guard the border on Monday.


Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has ordered residents in the capital of Caracas and six states to stay home under a quarantine bid to control the spread of the coronavirus.

Under Maduro´s order, all but essential emergency service, health care and food distribution workers must remain home beginning early Monday. Venezuela has 23 states and the six ones chosen are where cases have appeared.

Venezuela’s socialist president said the South American country has 17 confirmed cases. The outbreak has caused anxiety in the crisis-stricken nation where many hospitals lack basics, such as water and soap, and struggle to treat even common ailments.

Authorities have already suspended flights from Europe, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Panama for 30 days.

Colombian President Iván Duque closed its long border with Venezuela as a containment measure.


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