The Latest: New Zealand preparing for four-week lockdown

Health

WELLINGTON, New Zealand. — The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 339,000 people and killed more than 14,700. The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms in most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or those with existing health problems. More than 98,800 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

— New Zealand prepares for beginning of four-week lockdown.

— Indonesia turns former athlete housing into emergency hospitals.

— Japan to require two-week quarantine for all arriving from the U.S.

— Philippine Congress deliberating government to declare national emergency.

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Office workers are hauling computers and plants to their cars and shoppers are stripping shelves bare of coffee, flour and toilet paper before New Zealand starts a four-week lockdown.

“I know it will feel daunting,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, but she said the move was meant to save lives.

People must stay home and all non-essential businesses and activities cease when the lockdown begins late Wednesday night.

The decision came as health officials announced another 36 confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 102. Most were tied to travel overseas, but crucially, two of the cases could not be traced and officials believe they are evidence of a local outbreak.

New Zealand, which has a population of 5 million, already has closed its borders to all but citizens and residents.

New Zealand also considers itself a gateway to South Pacific island nations that would be devastated if the virus took hold there, given their isolation and poor health systems. Only a handful of virus cases have been identified so far in the South Pacific, including two in Fiji and one in Papua New Guinea.

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CANBERRA, Australia — A fourth Australian federal lawmaker has tested positive for the coronavirus.

South Australia state Senator Rex Patrick, from the minor Center Alliance party, said on Monday he tested for COVID-19 after being in contact with infected government Senator Andrew Bragg two weeks ago. Bragg, from New South Wales state, is among 35 guests who became infected at a March 6 wedding south of Sydney.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton was the first Australian lawmaker to discover he was infected days after returning from Washington, where he met President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and U.S. Attorney General William Barr. Queensland state government Senator Susan McDonald announced days later that she was also infected.

None of the four is in the national capital Canberra, where a scaled-down Parliament is meeting to pass economic stimulus spending measures to soften the virus’s economic blow.

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JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia has changed towers built to house athletes in the 2018 Asian Games to emergency hospitals.

Four of the 10 buildings used to house 24,000 Asian athletes have been redesigned to a coronavirus hospital with a 3,000-bed capacity in the country’s hard-hit capital, where new patients have surged in the past week.

President Joko Widodo on Monday officially launched the hospital as an army plane carrying 9 tons of health supplies, including 105,000 protective tools, masks and sanitizers for medical personnel arrived from China.

Widodo’s administration has been criticized as slow to deal with the virus’ spread, which could overwhelm the health care system in the country of more than 260 million people.

Indonesia, which has the third-largest population in Asia after China and India, reported 514 COVID-19 cases with 48 deaths, including six doctors and a nurse who died while helping patients with a lack of protective tools.

Widodo has ruled out the possibility of imposing a lockdown on Jakarta and has instead ordered mass testing to contain the coronavirus disease spread and has prepared about 200 hospitals run by government, military and police as well as private as the country braces for an anticipated surge in COVID-19 patients.

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TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Monday that Japan will require a 14-day quarantine to all visitors from the United States, including the Japanese and Americans, effective Thursday and until the end of April.

Abe made the announcement at a government task force on the coronavirus, citing the escalating COVID-19 infections around the world, especially in the U.S. and Europe in recent weeks.

Japan on Sunday raised a travel advisory for the U.S., urging the Japanese citizens not to make nonessential trips to the U.S.

He said the U.S. recently took similar measures and urged Americans not to make nonessential trips to Japan, requiring a 14-day quarantine for entrants.

Abe said Monday’s quarantine requirement is in line with measures taken by other countries, including the U.S. and shows Japan’s commitment to join international effort to stop the further spread of the coronavirus.

He said Japan will continue to launch “flexible border control measures without hesitation” and urged his ministers to keep their caution levels up high.

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MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Congress is holding an emergency session to deliberate on a government request to declare a national emergency and allow the president to swiftly punish local officials who defy orders and grant him a standby power to take over private companies amid the coronavirus crisis.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea told the House of Representatives on Monday that the government also needed the authority to realign huge funds to fight the outbreak. Senators said the government may need at least 200 billion pesos ($4 billion) in the next two months to deal with the contagion.

“The power to take over is intended merely as a standby power in the event the crisis reaches its worst when our most critical institutions are nearing a total shutdown,” Medialdea told legislators, the majority of whom participated online as a health precaution.

Left-wing groups opposed extra powers for President Rodrigo Duterte, fearing abuse. The opposition said the government should focus on providing “safety nets” for the poor and workers who were ordered to stay home under a lockdown of the northern Philippines, which is home to more than 50 million people.

Philippine officials have reported 396 infections, including 33 deaths, but fear COVID-19 cases may spike soon after China donated 100,000 testing kits and other countries promised to help the Philippines strengthen its capability to test more people for the virus.

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Authorities in southern Pakistan on Monday began a two-week complete lockdown, as the number of positive coronavirus tests jumped to 799 across Pakistan. Health officials reported sixth deaths from infection.

Murad Ali Shah, the chief minister in the southern Sindh province, has imposed a ban on movement of people, saying the measure was aimed at saving lives.

However, Prime Minister Imran Khan has avoided a nationwide lockdown, but he urged people to stay at homes voluntarily.

So far six people have died because of the virus and among those was a young doctor who went home and suddenly died in the north.

Authorities say they are trying to import equipment for the safety of doctors who have expressed concern over lack of facilities in tackling infected patients.

In many areas of Pakistan, people stayed home on the national day Monday. Pakistan has already postponed a military parade and the country’s president Arif Alvi and Khan have asked people to show unity to fight coronavirus.

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The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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