The Latest: White House approves production of N95 masks

Coronavirus

FILE – In this April 10, 2020, file photo President Donald Trump speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in Washington. The coronavirus pandemic gave rise to bold promises by Trump as he led the response in the U.S. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — 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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MILAN, Italy — Italy has topped 19,000 deaths and 150,000 cases of the coronavirus. The milestones were hit Saturday, even as the country continued to see a slight decrease in numbers of people hospitalized and in intensive care.

Deaths rose by 3.2%, or 619, to 19,468, while the number of people who tested positive for the virus reached 152,271, an increase of 4,694, or 3.1%.

Officials have been warning Italians not to keep their guard down even if the number of new cases and deaths is narrowing, especially on the Easter holiday weekend when many are tempted to go to the countryside or seashore.

Police checkpoints were set up around major arteries in Milan, the capital of the hardest-hit region of Lombardy — with 38% of all cases and more than half of all deaths.

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SKOPJE, North Macedonia — North Macedonia has decided to significantly slash the wages of elected officials, from the president downwards, senior civil servants and state company managers for April and May. They will be paid the minimum wage, around 250 euros, each month.

The government expects to save about 4 million euros from the measure, which will be pumped back to an economy expected to shrink 3.8% this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Macedonia has not been severely affected by COVID-19 so far; there are 760 confirmed cases and 34 fatalities among the 2.1 million population.

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MADRID — Spanish authorities say they will distribute 10 million face masks at major train and subway stations to help reduce a coronavirus spike.

Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska made the announcement on Saturday, two days before factory and construction workers will be allowed to go back to work. That comes after a two-week ban on commuting for all workers not involved in health care or food production and distribution.

Grande-Marlaska says police and civil protection officers will distribute the masks at “major public transport nodes” from Monday to Wednesday for those workers.

Transport official María José Rallo says loudspeakers at stations will remind people to remain at least 1 meter apart, and personnel will monitor the flow of passengers to disperse groups.

Spain has confirmed 161,852 infections and 16,353 deaths. It reported its lowest daily death count in nearly three weeks with 510. A national high of 950 deaths was reported April 2.

There’s been a slight uptick with 4,830 new cases reported Saturday, compared to 4,576 the day before.

The decision to roll back some restrictions has raised doubts among some health experts. But Health Minister Salvador Illa says the changes are minimum and the lockdown measures will probably extend beyond April 26.

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BERLIN — Germany’s president is urging citizens to show patience and discipline over Easter during the coronavirus crisis.

Germany has largely shut down public life to slow the spread of the virus and banned gatherings of more than two people in public. The restrictions currently expire April 19. Federal and state government leaders will consider the next steps on Wednesday.

In a rare television address, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier says, “what happens next, when and how the restrictions can be loosened, is not something politicians and experts alone will decide on.”

Steinmeier says Germany must help its European neighbors emerge from the crisis. He say, “30 years after German unification, 75 years after the end of the war, we Germans are not just called on to show solidarity in Europe — we are obliged to.”

The German presidency is largely ceremonial but carries moral authority.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka has extended the curfew in key parts of the country.

A government statement says the curfew will continue in six districts, including Colombo, until further notice. These six districts have been identified as “high risk zones.”

Sri Lanka has been divided into 25 districts for administrative purposes and the curfew in 19 districts will be briefly lifted next Thursday.

Sri Lanka has been under curfew since March 20, and the government has banned nonessential travels during the curfew hours. Police strictly enforce curfew and have arrested nearly 20,000 people for violations.

Seven infected people have died in Sri Lanka. The number of positive cases is 198.

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PARIS — French security forces were fanning out around the country to ensure people respect the “stay home” mantra over the Easter weekend.

Some 160,000 police were posted at highway entrances and other critical transiting spots for people trying to escape city life.

Police on horseback combed beaches and parks along the northern French coast. Drones were used in other areas to spot people defying strict confinement rules. Those rules end Wednesday after one month, but are expected to be extended.

Some city mayors are adding new guidelines, including a curfew in certain neighborhoods of Nice and the removal of street benches in the southern town of Beziers. Fines for disobeying France’s confinement rules begin at 135 euros ($148).

The current death toll in France is nearly 13,200.

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LONDON — The British government is reporting 917 more deaths from the coronavirus, totaling 9,875 people in the U.K. who have died in the hospital after testing positive for COVID-19.

The increase was slightly lower than the daily high of 980 recorded in the previous 24-hour period. That increase was higher than the daily peaks recorded in Italy and Spain, the two European countries with the highest total number of coronavirus-related deaths.

Comparisons may not be precise. The U.K. deaths reported each day occurred over several days or even weeks, and the total only includes deaths in hospitals.

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LONDON — The office of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he “continues to make very good progress” in a London hospital after contracting COVID-19.

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 office has said he’s taken “short walks” between periods of rest and had spoken to his doctors to thank them “for the incredible care he has received.”

His coronavirus symptoms at first were mild, including a cough and a fever. He was admitted to St. Thomas’ Hospital on Sunday after his condition worsened. He 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 night.

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