WATCH: WHO urges caution in relaxation of lockdown; U.S. has over 337K cases and over 9,600 deaths

Coronavirus

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:

— World Health Organization urges caution in relaxation of lockdown strategies

— Ontario’s Ford: 500,000 masks headed across the border.

— Italy’s day-to-day increase in COVID-19 cases dips again.

— Music stars set to stage live concert on April 18 to raise funds for fight against COVID-19

— Germany’s Merkel says too early to consider ending restrictive measures.

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LONDON — The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief said countries looking to exit their lockdown strategies need to use a “calibrated, step-wise approach” that does not release all the restrictions at once.

Dr. Mike Ryan said Monday that the lockdowns seen in many countries involve shutdowns of schools, workplaces, and social gatherings in venues such as public places and parks.

“It probably would be a bad idea to lift all the lockdown restrictions (at once),” Ryan said, noting that countries shouldn’t be looking to transition out of a shutdown without having a plan in place to keep the spread of COVID-19 to manageable levels.

“The lockdown is pushing the disease down. Once you raise the lockdown, you have to have an alternative method to suppress the infection,” Ryan said, explaining countries should have systems in place to detect cases, track contacts, quarantine suspect cases and test widely for the disease.

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TORONTO — The premier of Canada’s most populous province says U.S. officials have stopped 3 million masks from getting to Ontario from manufacturing giant 3M but he says 500,000 of them are being released Monday.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says getting masks across the U.S. border is difficult after the Trump administration announced it would prevent the export of N95 protective masks.

Ford says he’s hopeful Canada will get an exemption and says he feels better about that after speaking with United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. Ford says he’s grateful for anything he can from the U.S. after delays in global shipments and recent restrictions at the U.S. border have left Ontario with about a one-week supply of critical protective equipment for health care workers.

Canadian health care workers — like those in the U.S. — are in dire need of the masks that provide more protection against the virus that causes COVID-19.

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GENEVA — The World Health Organization chief says it will give new guidance to countries as they decide whether to order or advise people to wear masks to help fight the coronavirus.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus pointed to “limited research” on the matter and said: “There is no black or white answer, and no silver bullet.”

“Masks alone cannot stop the pandemic,” he said.

Tedros repeated WHO’s insistence that medical masks “must be prioritized for health workers on the front lines of the response,” and noted the masks are in short supply globally.

Some central European countries have begun requiring citizens to wear masks in public. On Friday, the U.S. government advised Americans to voluntarily wear a basic cloth or fabric face mask to help stop the spread.

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LONDON — British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says he has not spoken to Boris Johnson since Saturday but insisted that the prime minister, who has been hospitalized with persistent coronavirus symptoms, remains in charge of the government.

Raab, who earlier chaired the government’s daily coronavirus briefing, said Johnson had a “comfortable” night after being admitted to St. Thomas’ Hospital in south London late Sunday, and that the prime minister was “in good spirits.”

Johnson tested positive for the virus 11 days ago and has said in a series of video messages during his self-isolation since that he was displaying “mild symptoms” of a cough and a high temperature.

The government’s chief medical adviser, Chris Whitty, said it was possible for people to carry on working from hospital but that any decision relating to Johnson’s ability to do so could only be made by his own personal medics.

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ROME — Italy’s day-to-day increase in new COVID-19 cases has dipped again.

The nearly 3,600 new cases that authorities announced on Monday were the lowest day-to-day increase in 20 days. Another number boosting hopes in Italy’s medical community was a small drop, for the third straight day, in the number of intensive care beds occupied by patients with coronavirus infections nationwide.

“Substantially, the data confirms the trend” of a slowing of new cases and “gives comfort that the measures of containment against the viral infection are effective,’’ said Dr. Luca Richeldi, a pneumologist with Rome’s Gemelli Hospital.

Italy now has at least 132,547 confirmed cases, putting it just behind Spain in total known cases. There were 636 deaths in Italy since Sunday, up from 525 a day earlier. But Richeldi said that overall, a downward trend in deaths was holding, showing a decrease of 20 percent compared to a week earlier.

On Monday, Italy marks a month under national lockdown aimed at slowing contagion with the virus.

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KIYV, Ukraine — Ukraine received $1.2 million of aid from the United States amid the growing coronavirus pandemic, Ukraine’s president said Monday.

“Grateful to the U.S. for allocating $1.2 million to Ukraine to combat COVID-19,” Zelenskiy said in a tweet after a phone conversation with the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The aid comes as the outbreak is taking a toll on Ukraine’s economy, with the state budget deficit tripling and incomes plummeting. Ukraine, where 1,319 coronavirus cases have been registered so far, has been in lockdown since March, with the borders closed and the vast majority of businesses not operating.

The country’s government hopes to get a $8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to keep the economy afloat.

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ROME — The association of doctors in Italy’s virus-ravaged Lombardy region has identified seven “errors” committed by public health officials early on in the outbreak that the association says contributed to the virus’ spread and the death of more than 80 doctors.

Among the key claims was a lack of data about the true number of people infected, the lack of tests for medical personnel, and the inadequate distribution of protective equipment and masks for medical personnel.

The association blasted what it said was the “confused” management in the region’s nursing homes, where hundreds of elderly died, many of whom were never tested for COVID-19 and do not figure into official virus death counts.

The doctors also complained about “uncertainties” in decisions to close high-risk areas, a reference to the delayed decision to lock down hard-hit Bergamo until two weeks after the first infections were reported.

Responding, Italy’s civil protection chief Angelo Borrelli insisted that the virus was an “invisible enemy” that took everyone by surprise. He acknowledged that Italy hadn’t been able to take all necessary measures at the start but said “better than this we couldn’t have done.”

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LONDON — A host of international stars including Chris Martin, Alanis Morissette, John Legend, Billie Eilish, Lang Lang, Elton John and Andrea Bocelli will perform in a live concert on April 18 to raise funds for the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

During a press briefing on Monday, Lady Gaga announced she too would be performing in the concert, calling the coronavirus pandemic “a catastrophe” and said she was praying for all those who were sick.

She made her remarks while wearing thick black-rimmed glasses and a sober plaid tweed blazer over a low-cut top.

“My heart is very achy and warm for those who are ER doctors and nurses who are sleeping in cars to make sure they don’t infect their family,” she said. “We all salute you.”

“I would also like to send my prayers to people who are losing their jobs and are having a hard time feeding themselves and their children,” Lady Gaga said.

She added that in the past week, she and others have raised $35 million for buying much-needed protective gear for health workers, improving lab capacities and further research and development into possible drugs and vaccines to treat the new coronavirus.

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LONDON — J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books, says she has “fully recovered” from what she believes to have been coronavirus.

Rowling said in a tweet that she had not been tested but that she had displayed “all symptoms” of the virus over the past two weeks.

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ANKARA, Turkey — The number of confirmed COVID-19 infections in Turkey surpassed 30,000, after the country’s health minister reported 3,148 more cases in the past 24 hours.

Fahrettin Koca also reported 75 more deaths on his Twitter account on Monday, raising the death toll in the country to 649.

The total of number of infections in Turkey stands at 30,217.

A total of 1,415 people are in intensive care, including 966 intubated patients, while 1,326 COVID-19 patients have recovered, according to the figures the health minister posted on Twitter.

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MADRID — Spanish investigators on Monday released from custody a businessman suspected of involvement in the theft of 2 million facemasks amid the new coronavirus outbreak.

Private news agency Europa Press reports that the man from the northwest Galicia region remains a suspect in the case, which is ongoing.

With facemasks in short supply in many parts of the world, Galician authorities say protective equipment for health workers worth 5 million euros ($5.4 million) were stolen from a warehouse in Santiago de Compostela last February.

Local officials allege the man, who was detained on Saturday, knew that amid a health emergency the equipment would increase in value.

Police suspect the equipment was going to be sent for sale in neighboring Portugal.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greece has recorded six more deaths from COVID-19 in the past day, bringing the country’s total to 79, another 20 positive cases were detected, bringing the total to 1,755.

The country took lockdown measures relatively early on in its outbreak compared to some other European countries, and authorities say the restrictions appear to be working.

Nearly all retail businesses have been shut down, and people are allowed out of their homes only for specific reasons. Thousands of fines have been imposed for those violating the lockdown regulations.

Civil Protection Deputy Minister Nikos Hardalias urged Greeks to stick to the restrictions. “April will be the most difficult, but the most crucial, month,” he said.

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Authorities in Jamaica have arrested a female pastor accused of holding a church service in her home in violation of a coronavirus curfew.

Police said in a statement Monday that the 54-year-old woman hosted more than 50 people at her house in St. Catherine parish near the capital of Kingston. Jamaica has reported more than 50 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and at least three deaths.

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BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she’s as anxious as anyone for life to return to normal in the country.

Merkel says “we’re still living in the pandemic” and now isn’t the time to talk about an end date to restrictive measures.

Merkel says “we would be a bad government if we did not intensively, day and night, consider how we can take steps to return to ordinary life while still protecting health.”

But, she adds she would be considered ‘a bad chancellor, and we’d be a bad government,’ if she set an immediate date to end restrictions.

European officials are scheduled to hold a video conference Tuesday to discuss the crisis and Merkel said the European Union was “facing its greatest test since its founding” that has hit every nation.

“Everyone has been affected and therefore it is in everyone’s interest, and in Germany’s interest, that Europe emerges stronger from this test.”

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PRAGUE — The Czech government has agreed to relax some restrictions imposed to contain the epidemic of the coronavirus.

Industry and trade minister Karel Havlicek says that starting Tuesday, people would not have to wear a mandatory facemask for outdoor individual sports activities, such as jogging or riding a bicycle.

Havlicek says people still have to keep a compulsory distance of two meters (yards) from one another.

As of Thursday, more stores are allowed to reopen, including hobby markets and businesses selling construction materials and bicycles.

At the same time, the stores will have to provide a disinfection liquid and protective gloves for one-time use at the entrance and people inside have to keep a two-meter (two-yard) distance from each other.

More stores will reopen after Easter, Havlicek said on Monday.

The government has also approved a proposal to cancel the ban for the Czechs to travel abroad, starting on April 14. Havlicek said people will have a chance to travel to foreign countries for business trips, visiting relatives, or for medical reasons. On return, they will have to be quarantined for two weeks.

Currently, the Czechs are barred from leave the country and foreigners are barred from entering it.

The Czech Republic has 4,735 infected with the coronavirus, 78 people have died.

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ATLANTA — Inmates in the state of Georgia will begin making masks for themselves and prison staff.

The Georgia Department of Corrections said that inmates at three prisons where sewing plants are located are making non-medical-grade masks for inmates and staff.

The production of the masks, which can be hand-washed and reused, began March 31 at Central, Hancock and Pulaski state prisons. Ultimately, the plan is to make 85,000 masks so that each staff member and each inmate at all Georgia prisons has two masks.

As of Sunday evening, 17 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19, including two Lee State Prison inmates who have died, and 25 Department of Corrections staff members had confirmed cases, according to the agency’s website.

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BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbian health authorities say 67 medical staff and nine patients of Belgrade’s main coronary care hospital have tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Of the total positive cases 11 are doctors. All have been moved to other hospitals in the Serbian capital with mild symptoms.

This is the second COVID-19 outbreak in a major hospital in Belgrade. Nearly 50 medical staff and two pregnant women have tested positive in Belgrade’s main maternity ward.

Officials say over 160 medical workers have been infected in Serbia with the new coronavirus.

Serbia has recorded 2,200 infected people and 58 deaths.

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ROME — The Italian region of Tuscany is starting to distribute masks for its 3.7 million residents.

Masks will be required when in public once they reach each household.

Civil Protection volunteers on Monday unloaded cartons of the first batch of some 620,000 masks from a warehouse to be distributed to towns and cities throughout the central region.

Volunteers are working around-the-clock to distribute three masks each to every resident. Once local authorities confirm everyone has received their share, the Tuscany governor’s order to wear them in public will go into effect as part of restrictions aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19 infections.

Lombardy is Italy’s most afflicted region and made a similar mandatory mask-wearing order last week. Tuscany has nearly 6,000 confirmed coronavirus cases.

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WASHINGTON — The District of Columbia has passed 1,000 total positive infections of the new coronavirus.

Health officials said Monday 99 new cases had been identified. That brings the total up to 1,097 with 24 deaths.

Mayor Muriel Bowser has issued a stay-home order for Washington’s approximately 700,000 residents.

Neighboring Maryland and Virginia have done the same.

Bowser has declared a state of emergency, shuttered all schools and ordered all non-essential businesses to close.

White House and Capitol tours have been cancelled and the National Zoo, Smithsonian museum network and Kennedy Center have closed. On Sunday, officials shutdown a popular fish market at the city’s Wharf boardwalk after crowds ignored social distancing guidelines and packed the area on Saturday.

The Latest on the effects of the coronavirus outbreak on sports around the world:

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Chicago’s eight pro teams and mayor Lori Lightfoot are teaming up to encourage residents to stay home to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs and White Sox as well as the WNBA’s Sky, MLS’ Fire and National Women’s Soccer League’s Red Stars are joining with the mayor in the “We Are Not Playing” campaign to promote compliance with Illinois’ stay at home order.

The initiative will kick off with billboards around Chicago and digital and social media advertisements. Player videos will come online in the next phase.

“I am grateful to each of our hometown teams for stepping up and doing their part by joining in this call for every neighborhood and community,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “They’re not playing, and neither are we. The more we stay home and act responsibly, the more lives we’ll save, and the sooner we’ll be able to get our city back on track and enjoying the games we love.”

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Washington Capitals coach Todd Reirden says he and his family are taking special precautions amid the new coronavirus pandemic because 17-year-old son Travis has a common variable immune deficiency.

“We’ve really had to be careful about what we’re bringing into the house and not leaving and making sure that if we do go out and do something, that we basically leave all of our clothes at the door and make sure that they get washed and wash our hands and make sure we’re really making the right choices because it can get scary for someone like him,” Reirden said Monday.

Reirden says his family opted to stop having a nurse come to the house and give Travis plasma treatments for multiple reasons. He says his son didn’t want a nurse taking up four to six hours a trip when that time could be better used to treat patients with more urgent needs, and the family thought it better not to have another person in the house.

Travis was out of school earlier this year because of the flu, and his parents continued to hold him out when COVID-19 became a serious concern. A doctor visit in mid-March before the NHL season was suspended turned up positive bloodwork and gave the Reirdens enough confidence that Travis was in a good spot healthwise.

They continue to monitor the situation.

“We are really on top of him and how he is feeling and right now,” Todd said.

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The 2020 Madrid Open, one of more than 30 professional tournaments canceled or postponed because of the novel coronavirus, is going to be contested April 27-30 by tennis players holding controllers instead of rackets.

The clay-court tournament on Monday announced its plan to go virtual, saying it will involve “the world’s biggest tennis stars squaring off from their own homes.”

There will be 150,000 euros (about $160,000) in prize money each for the men’s and women’s events, with the winners deciding how much they want to donate to tennis players who are having a hard time financially without any tournaments to enter. An additional 50,000 euros (about $55,000) will be given to reduce the social impact of the pandemic.

The list of players who will “compete” will be released later.

The Madrid Open was supposed to be played May 1-10, but the entire European clay circuit was abandoned by the ATP and WTA. Both tours are suspended until at least July 13.

Wimbledon was canceled entirely for 2020, while the French Open has been postponed from May until September.

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Houston Astros pitcher Joe Smith and his wife, TNT sideline reporter Allie LaForce, have started a program to donate meals to medical workers in Ohio and Texas hospitals during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Through Project FRONTLINE the couple is funding the first 250 meals, which will be delivered to Mercy Hospital in Lorain, Ohio, on Wednesday. Another 300-500 meals are going to Harris Health in Houston on Tuesday.

LaForce said over the phone from Florida that former Browns Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas has donated and the couple has been in contact with Cavaliers forwards Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr. about expanding the program.

Smith and LaForce are both Ohio natives.

“We’re hoping people can kick in anything, $10 or $20, for a cause to help people who are putting their lives on the line every single day,” LaForce said.

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Formula One race team ROKiT Williams Racing is putting an unspecified number of employees on furlough through the end of May.

The team also announced senior management officials and the team’s two drivers, Carlos Sainz of Spain and Lando Norris of Britain, have taken a 20% pay cut that began April 1.

“These decisions have not been taken lightly,” the team’s statement read. “However, our aim is to protect the jobs of our staff at Grove (the team headquarters) and ensuring they can return to full-time work when the situation allows.”

The move follows a similar announcement last week by McLaren’s F1 team.

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The NFL is planning a telethon to aid coronavirus relief efforts during the draft from April 23-25, according to two people familiar with the league’s plans.

The people tell The Associated Press that the league hopes its massive reach will raise awareness and funds in battling the pandemic. They spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the telethon has not been announced publicly.

Details on conducting the telethon and charities that will benefit will be released soon.

Since the NFL’s business year began on March 18, the league has conducted free agency even as team facilities have been shut down and travel has been barred. Its biggest offseason event is the draft, which was scheduled for Las Vegas but now will be done remotely, with ESPN and NFL Network televising the proceedings.

— Reporting by AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner

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The mother of Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has died after contracting the coronavirus.

The Premier League club says Dolors Sala Carrió died near Barcelona in the city of Manresa. She was 82.

City says “everyone associated with the club sends their most heartfelt sympathy at this most distressing time to Pep, his family and all their friends.”

Guardiola has coached City since 2016. He previously coached Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

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Serie A says it has unanimously decided to reduce player salaries by a third if the season does not resume.

The Italian soccer players’ association has not yet signed off on the deal.

The league says in a statement that the guideline measure was agreed on by 19 of the 20 clubs. Juventus already reached a similar deal with its players.

The league says the agreement is “a common line of action to contain” salaries for “players, coaches and members of first squads.”

The reduction is equal to four months of salary but would be reduced to only two months if the current season is completed.

The league adds “it remains understood that the clubs will define the agreements directly with their members.”

Serie A has been suspended since the government ordered a nationwide lockdown nearly a month ago. Twelve rounds remain along with four games that were postponed from the weekend of Feb. 22. The Italian Cup semifinals also were interrupted after the first leg.

At least 15 players have tested positive for COVID-19.

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FIFA is providing global coordination with competition organizers to provide flexibility to ensure coronavirus-derailed seasons can be completed with as little financial turmoil as possible.

FIFA does not set the dates of domestic or continental club competitions but does oversee the implementation of two transfer windows during the year.

A FIFA task force has been exploring the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and has backed flexibility in shifting the transfer windows and extending player contracts to allow seasons to be completed.

A final decision will be made by the FIFA Bureau. That body includes the presidents of the six regional confederations.

UEFA has already determined that competitions in Europe can run beyond the June 30 cut-off for player contracts.

Cost-cutting is underway at many clubs and federations to deal with the financial impact of games not being played.

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England coach Gareth Southgate has agreed to a 30% pay cut during the coronavirus outbreak.

Southgate has a reported salary of 3 million pounds ($3.6 million) per year.

English Football Association chief executive Mark Bullingham says the organization’s highest earners will take a temporary pay reduction of 30% and others in the senior management team have agreed to a 15% cut.

Bullingham says the total financial impact on the FA is currently forecast to be around 100 million pounds ($120 million) because of the postponement of England internationals, FA Cup matches and other events at Wembley Stadium. He says the cost could rise to more than 150 million pounds ($180 million) depending on the length of the crisis.

All FA employees earning 50,000 pounds ($60,000) or more per year will take a temporary pay reduction of 7.5% and the British government’s furlough scheme is being looked at as a contingency plan.

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World Cup champion France has sent support to hospital workers engaged in the fight against the coronavirus.

Kylian Mbappe and Paul Pogba were among the stars in a video released by the French soccer federation expressing their gratitude to the country’s under-pressure health workers.

France has been severely hit by the virus with more than 8,000 dead and about 100,000 known infections.

Mbappe says “we sing and clap for you.”

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Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane has launched a fundraising campaign to support local charitable groups addressing critical needs stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

Beane is donating $20,000 to the community’s United Way chapter and providing incentives for Bills fans to get involved.

Fans who make a donation to the Western New York COVID-19 Community Response Fund between Monday and April 17 will be eligible to win seven Bills-themed experiences or prizes.

The prizes include joining Beane on the phone when the GM submits Buffalo’s first draft pick. Other prizes include a one-on-one Zoom interview with Beane, lunch with the GM, four tickets to Buffalo’s home opener, and a jersey autographed by quarterback Josh Allen.

Proceeds will go to the community response fund. The fund aids area food banks and provides resources to health care providers and front-line responders.

Beane praised the work being done by doctors, nurses, pharmacists, grocery-store workers and others for putting their health at risk to serve the community.

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Dutch national team players, the country’s national soccer association and the sport’s main sponsor will contribute to an 11 million euro ($12 million) fund to support clubs in the Netherlands during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Dutch soccer association says players on the men’s and women’s national teams are contributing to the fund to help amateur clubs that have been closed across the country.

The country’s 3,000 soccer clubs have 1.2 million players but have seen income such as bar proceeds dry up amid the health crisis.

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Celta Vigo forward Fedor Smolov has left his confinement in Spain to be closer to his family back home in Russia.

Smolov says he informed the Spanish club of his plan and had its support. The club could not be immediately reached to confirm whether it had authorized the player’s departure.

Spain is expected to remain in a nationwide lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic until April 26. The country has more than 135,000 confirmed cases of the new virus with more than 13,000 deaths.

Smolov wrote on Instagram that because of the closure of borders “I have found myself obligated to return to Russia to be closer to my family.”

Smolov says he is “very grateful to Celta for its support and I want to emphasize that I informed the club about every step.”

Spanish media reported that the 30-year-old Smolov flew home on a private jet for the 18th birthday of Maria Yumasheva. She is the granddaughter of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Smolov published photos on Instagram in January showing him and Yumasheva together on vacation.

Smolov says he is abiding by an “obligatory” quarantine and remains in constant contact with Celta’s coaching staff to follow team protocol. He says he will return “as soon as the club requires.”

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A doctor at French soccer club Reims has killed himself after getting infected with the coronavirus.

Reims Mayor Arnaud Robinet told Le Parisien newspaper Bernard Gonzalez “is a collateral victim of COVID-19 because he had tested positive and was in isolation for 14 days. I know he had left a note to explain his decision.”

Officials at the club say Gonzalez died Sunday. He was 60.

Gonzalez had worked at the club for 23 years.

Reims remembered Gonzalez as a man with the “soul of an artist” who was in love with the six-time champions.

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Two more golf events on the European Tour have been called off because of the coronavirus pandemic.

That ensures there will be no play until the end of June at the earliest.

The Trophée Hassan II in Morocco from June 4-7 was postponed and the following week’s Scandinavian Mixed tournament in Stockholm was canceled and will now be played in 2021.

Eleven tour events have been either postponed or canceled because of the virus outbreak.

The next potential tournament is the BMW International Open in Germany from June 25-28.

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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:

— Pentagon says number of COVID-19 cases in active duty force topped 1,000 over weekend.

— German government launches another rescue package to aid companies in coronavirus crisis.

— Senior Trump administration adviser promotes use of of drug hydroxychloroquine.

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WASHINGTON — The Pentagon says the number of COVID-19 cases in the active duty force topped 1,000 over the weekend.

There are a total of 1,132 confirmed cases as of Monday morning. The total was 978 on Friday.

There also have been 303 cases among members of the National Guard.

Among the military services, the Navy has the most cases, with 431. That includes more than 150 among the crew of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

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BERLIN — The German government has launched another rescue package to try to ease the flow of financial aid to small and medium-size companies squeezed by the coronavirus crisis.

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz says companies that were in good health last year can apply for loans totaling as much as three months of revenue. The maximum is 500,000 euros ($540,000) in total for companies with 10 to 50 employees. It goes up to 800,000 euros for those with more employees.

Liability for the loans will ultimately lie with the government.

The government already has rolled out packages potentially offering a total of more than 1 trillion euros in aid to support businesses and shore up the German economy, Europe’s biggest.

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WASHINGTON — The debate over using an anti-malaria drug that has not yet officially been approved for fighting COVID-19 has erupted.

Trump administration adviser Peter Navarro on Monday emphatically promoted using the drug even though scientists say more testing is needed before it’s clear it’s safe and effective against the virus.

Navarro is a trade adviser who is on the White House coronavirus task force. He acknowledged on CNN that he had a heated debate over the drug with top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci during a weekend meeting in the Situation Room.

Fauci says the current studies provide only anecdotal findings that the drug works. Navarro says he responded: “I would have two words for you ‘second opinion.’”

The drug hydroxychloroquine is officially approved for treating malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, but not COVID-19.

Small, preliminary studies have suggested it might help prevent coronavirus from entering cells and possibly help patients clear the virus sooner. Doctors can already prescribe the malaria drug to patients with COVID-19, a practice known as off-label prescribing.

But Fauci says more testing is needed before it’s clear that the drug works against the coronavirus.

Navarro told “Fox & Friends” that doctors in New York hospitals are already giving out the drug to COVID-19 patients and that health care workers are taking it in hopes it will protect them from being infected.

He says the confrontation in the Situation Room was over whether the administration should take 29 million doses of the drug in FEMA warehouses and surge them into hard-hit cities. It was unanimous that it should be done.

Asked on CNN why he thinks he’s qualified to dispute Fauci, Navarro cited his doctorate degree in social science.

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TIRANA, Albania — Albania’s prime minister has called on Albanian immigrants to only come home to check on families.

Prime Minister Edi Rama says 19 vehicles have been blocked at a border crossing point with neighboring Greece. He says the arrival of Albanians who live in other countries is unacceptable. He added the borders are closed to protect the life of the people inside and outside of Albania.

Only those coming for an emergency will be allowed to enter the country. But they must immediately shelter at a quarantine hotel after crossing the borde. Their expenses for 14 days of quarantine will be billed to their families.

Albania has 377 COVID-19 cases and 21 deaths as of Monday. Those low figures are attributed to the rigid restrictions in the country.

Albania is in a total lockdown with all its land, sea and air routes shut. Schools, shops, cafes, restaurants and gyms also closed and public gatherings prohibited.

One person per family may go shopping a day during specific hours.

Drivers or any small business violating the restriction rules are heavily fined and the vehicle is sequestered or the offender even imprisoned.

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MADRID — Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa says authorities aim this week to consolidate the slowdown in the country’s number of new coronavirus cases. But he warned against complacency.

Spain’s latest figures showed the increase in new cases has slowed to 3% from 22% on March 16.

Illa says authorities have been working for several days on how to eventually scale back the measures, which include self-isolation. He indicated there would be a transition period, as measures are gradually eased.

Transport, Mobility and Urban Affairs Minister José Luis Ábalos says the data shows Spain is entering “a new phase of the battle.”

Spain last weekend extended its national state of emergency through April 26.

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LISBON, Portugal — Portugal has recorded its lowest daily rise in the coronavirus infection rate since the outbreak started.

The total of 11,730 official cases reported Monday was up just 4% from the previous day.

The General Directorate for Health says the total coronavirus related deaths rose just over 5% from Sunday to 311.

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has earmarked an initial $750,000 for a new fund for hospitals, schools, nursing homes and other structures run by the Catholic Church in poor countries to use to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

Francis on Monday urged church entities around the world to contribute to the fund being run by the Pontifical Mission Societies, which is the pope’s official outreach arm to 1,110 mostly poor dioceses in Asia, Africa, Oceania and the Amazon region.

The fund is the latest example of papal charity amid the pandemic. The Vatican in late March purchased 30 ventilators to be distributed to hard-hit Italian hospitals.

And Francis’ chief alms-giver hand-delivered milk, yogurt and other products from the papal gardens outside Rome to two communities of nuns in Rome who were put in quarantine after several of them tested positive.

Francis also sent special rosaries to medical personnel at Rome’s Gemelli hospital who have been caring for COVID-19 patients.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch public health institute says the country’s coronavirus death toll saw the lowest daily increase in a week. The number of deaths rose by 101 to 1,867.

The institute says the number of people who have tested positive for the virus rose by 952 to 18,803. That is also a smaller rise than the increase of 1,224 reported on Sunday.

The number of people suffering the effects of the virus who were admitted to a hospital rose by 260, slightly higher than Sunday’s 253 increase.

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PARIS — Europe’s leading human rights body is calling on governments to safeguard the rights and health of people in prison during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights urged the organization’s member states to make use of all available alternatives to detention whenever possible.

Dunja Mijatović says any restrictions imposed on detainees should be “non-discriminatory, necessary, proportionate, time-limited and transparent.”

Restrictions to family visits should “imperatively” be mitigated by alternative arrangements such as extended access to phone or video communications.

Many European countries have initiated the release of certain categories of prisoners or adapted their criminal justice policies to reduce their prison population.

The Council of Europe is based in Strasbourg, France and gathers 47 European countries, regardless of whether they are in the EU or not.

At least 12 prison inmates died of drug overdoses earlier this month in Italy and 16 others escaped during riots at more than two-dozen prisons sparked by coronavirus containment measures.

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LONDON — Britain Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reportedly in good spirits following his first night in the hospital for what his office described as a “precautionary step” after contracting the new coronavirus.

Johnson remains in charge of government despite being sent to St Thomas’ Hospital after COVID-19 symptoms of a cough and fever persisted. His spokesman James Slack says he remains in hospital under observation.

The 55-year-old leader had been quarantined in his Downing Street residence since being diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26. He is the first known head of government to fall ill with the virus.

He has released several video messages during his 10 days in isolation.

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MADRID — Health officials in Madrid say the strain of incoming patients is easing in hospitals and allowing authorities to think about how to start reverting those facilities to normal operations.

Patients awaiting treatment in emergency wards across the region of 6.6-million that has been hard hit by the new coronavirus went down Monday to 390 cases. That’s one tenth of the arrivals that were seen one week ago.

The number of people being treated for the coronavirus in intensive care units had fluctuated but stabilized at around 1,500 for five straight days.

Regional health minister Enrique Ruíz Escudero says officials are considering returning beds that have been used for positive COVID-19 patients to beds used for normal activity in hospitals.

The development follows a week of social media postings showing patients resting on the floor and in chairs at the suburban hospital.

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LONDON — Ireland’s premier will directly assist with the new coronavirus pandemic by returning to the health service for one shift a week.

Leo Varadkar is a qualified medical doctor and has rejoined the medical register.

He is one of thousands across Ireland who have answered the call to return to the health sector during the pandemic.

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BERLIN — The organization that handles claims on behalf of Jewish victims of the Nazis says it is making millions of extra dollars available for elderly Holocaust survivors who are particularly vulnerable to the new coronavirus.

The New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany says the $4.3 million in initial funding would be made available to agencies around the world providing care for some 120,000 survivors.

All survivors are elderly and many suffered from illness, malnutrition and other deprivations either at the hands of the Nazis or as they hid from them. Those early ailments continues to affect their health today.

There are no statistics yet as to how many Holocaust survivors have been infected by the new coronavirus. Israel’s first reported COVID-19 fatality was an 88-year-old survivor. About a third of the elderly population in Israel are survivors.

The additional funds will be used to “address critical gaps” in providing survivors help with homecare, food, medicine and other assistance as it is needed.

It is in addition to approximately $350 million in direct compensation, the Claims Conference is providing to more than 60,000 survivors in 83 countries this year and some $610 million in grants to more than 300 social service agencies.

Since 1952 through the Claims Conference the German government has paid more than $80 billion in Holocaust reparations.

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KARACHI, Pakistan — Pakistan opened its first drive-thru COVID-19 test facility in the southern Sindh provincial capital of Karachi.

A team of doctors and medical staff are operating the first drive-thru facility in Pakistan’s latest attempt to stem the spread of the virus.

Pakistan has carried out 35,875 tests countrywide and has 3,277 positive cases, 881 of them in southern Sindh province.

The majority of the cases are in eastern Punjab province, where 60 percent of Pakistan’s 220 million people live.

According to news reports, a team of visiting Chinese doctors has recommended the Punjab province remain under lock down for another 29 days. Pakistan is in a countrywide lock down until April 16, when it will be reviewed.

There have been 50 reported deaths from the coronavirus.

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