A Sri Lankan man washes his face at a closed side walk during a lockdown in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Monday, April 20, 2020. Sri Lanka’s election commission is meeting with government officials on Monday to discuss ways to avoid a possible constitutional crisis if the country fails to hold parliamentary elections before a mandated deadline of June 2 because of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

The Latest: Sri Lanka orders liquor stores closed again

April 21, 2020 - 10:02 am

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:

— Countries and U.S. states are moving to reopen gradually amid warnings that acting too quickly could enable the virus to come back with a vengeance.

— Sri Lanka has ordered all liquor stores to close indefinitely again after the government partially lifted a monthlong curfew.

— The palace in Monaco says it will cut spending by about 40% amid the coronavirus crisis.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka has ordered all liquor stores to close indefinitely, as a part of its stringent measures aimed at containing the spread of the new coronavirus.

The government’s decision came amid warnings by the doctors’ union and association, which cautioned that consumption of alcohol can exacerbate health vulnerability, risk-taking behavior, mental health issues and violence. They also warned that it could disrupt social distancing guidelines.

Doctors’ warnings came as the number of confirmed cases rose to 310. Seven people have died while 102 have recovered.

Liquor stores and bars were opened on Monday in some parts of the country, after the government partially lifted a monthlong curfew during which all liquor shops remained close.

Sri Lanka had been under a 24-hour curfew since March 20. It was lifted during daytime hours in more than two-thirds of the country on Monday and will continue in the remaining districts including the capital, Colombo, until next week.

The curfew will remain in effect from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. until further notice.

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PARIS — The palace of Monaco says its ruler, Prince Albert, has decided to cut the palace spending by about 40% amid the coronavirus crisis.

Albert, who announced last month he had contracted the virus, has decided to extend confinement measures in the Mediterranean principality until May 3.

In a statement Tuesday, the palace said Monaco’s budget will be “very deeply impacted” by the consequences of the pandemic, leading to an estimated deficit of 500 million euros ($543 million) this year due to emergency measures to support the economy and a planned decrease of the state revenues.

The operational budget for the palace will drop from 13.2 million euros to 8 million euros ($14.3 million to $8.7 million).

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ROME — Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte says the easing of lockdown restrictions will be gradual and evenly distributed throughout the country.

Italians have been eagerly awaiting to learn what limits they still will have on their personal, social and work life after the government decree on restrictive measures expires on May 3.

In a speech to the Senate on Tuesday, Conte gave no specifics on what his center-left government would mandate after evaluating recommendations on how to continue to contain Italy’s devastating COVID-19 outbreak from the fields of science, business, labor and psychology. But he said the country would see a “progressive, homogenous opening up” of the country across all of Italy.

The north, which is Italy’s most productive industrial region and also the most stricken with infections, has been pushing for a resumption of factories and other businesses that so far have been considered nonessential. Conte cautioned against haste.

“Any imprudence or rashness in this phase, dictated by the legitimate desire to get going again, can compromise all the sacrifices that citizens have made with responsibility and discipline up to now," Conte said.

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ANKARA, Turkey — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan believes Turkey has reached a plateau in cases of the new coranavirus.

In an address to officials from his ruling party on Tuesday, Erdogan said Turkey could “transition to a normal life” in June, following a holiday that marks the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan — as long as measures aimed at curbing the virus’ spread are adhered to.

Erdogan described the pandemic as the “biggest crisis since the Second World War in terms of the economic impact.”

Turkey has reported 90,980 coronavirus cases and 2,140 deaths. The country is imposing weekend curfews and among other measures has banned people above the age of 65 and below the age of 20 from leaving homes.

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ISTANBUL — A Turkish media report says a British air force plane has arrived in Istanbul to transport medical equipment back to Britain.

The DHA news agency said the military cargo plane landed at Istanbul Airport on Tuesday and is scheduled to take off after a consignment of medical equipment is loaded onto it.

British officials have been scrambling to source much-needed personal protective equipment for medical staff and said a consignment of 84 tons, including 400,000 gowns, would arrive from Turkey.

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MADRID — Spain will begin allowing children age 14 and younger out of their homes starting next week, though they must be accompanied by an adult they live with and their movements will be limited.

Government spokeswoman María Jesús Montero says that beginning Monday, younger children can go along on family errands to the supermarket, pharmacy or bank. Those between the ages of 15 and 17 already were allowed. There will be no time limit, and the children won't be required to wear masks.

Montero said Tuesday after the government’s weekly Cabinet meeting that the children have been inside for the past five weeks and are unlikely to be infected with the new coronavirus. Restrictions on movement are part of the country’s state of emergency rules.

Spain’s official coronavirus death toll stands at more than 21,200, behind only the United States and Italy, and the country has imposed one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns.

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WASHINGTON — This year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee has been canceled after U.S. organizers concluded there is “no clear path to safely set a new date in 2020” because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision announced Tuesday by Scripps means kids who are in eighth grade this year will miss their final opportunity to compete in the national finals. Scripps won't change eligibility requirements for next year’s bee, which is scheduled for June 1-3, 2021, at a convention center outside Washington.

Televised by ESPN since 1994, the bee had only previously been canceled in 1943-45 because of World War II. The first Scripps bee was held in 1925.

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MINSK, Belarus — The World Health Organization is urging the government of Belarus to cancel public events and implement measures to ensure physical and social distancing amid the growing coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement released Tuesday, a team of WHO experts who had assessed the country’s response to the pandemic said the country “needs to introduce community-wide steps to increase physical distancing,” postpone “large gatherings, including sports, religious and cultural events,” introduce options “for teleworking, and distance learning for schools, universities and other educational institutions” and suspend nonessential business.”

Belarus has registered 6,264 coronavirus cases and 51 deaths and remains one of the few countries affected by the pandemic that hasn’t gone into lockdown or imposed restrictions on public life in order to halt the spread of the virus. Factories, stores and restaurants conduct business as usual in Belarus, stands at sports events are filled with spectators and masks are a rare sight in the capital of Minsk.

President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet nation with an iron fist for more than two decades, has repeatedly dismissed concerns about the pandemic as “coronapsychosis.” On Monday, he allowed the country’s schools to reopen after an extended spring break. On Sunday, he attended an Easter church service with his 15-year-old son.

The government has also refused to evacuate its stranded citizens from abroad unless they pay the air fare and cover state costs of organizing flights. Several thousands of Belarusians are currently stuck abroad, unable to return home amid worldwide closure of border and flight halts.

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NEW DELHI, India — Indian authorities say they have arrested 29 people, including 16 foreign nationals who participated in an Islamic missionary meeting last month in New Delhi that resulted in a large cluster of coronavirus cases in the country.

The foreigners include nationals from Indonesia and Thailand.

A local university professor who had arranged the shelter for Indonesians in a mosque in the Indian city of Allahabad was also arrested, police officer Brijesh Kumar Shrivastava said Tuesday.

He said the arrested have been booked on charges of violating the Foreigners Act and colluding with one another on providing shelter to foreign nationals and shielding information about them from the police.

One of the Indonesians had earlier tested positive for COVID-19 and the arrested have been kept in isolation, police said.

In India, the global Muslim missionary movement Tablighi Jamaat came under fire when the government blamed it for a surge in the number of coronavirus cases.

India has 18,601 confirmed cases of the virus, and authorities have linked more than 4,200 cases to the missionary meeting.

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SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Police in Bosnia have begun moving hundreds of migrants and refugees off the streets of the northwestern city of Bihac and transferring them into a nearby emergency tent camp speedily set up amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The tent camp Lipa, where migrants and refugees were being bused Tuesday, can accommodate up to 1,000 people, according to the International Organization for Migration, which manages all such facilities in Bosnia.

The tent camp was “equipped with all necessary infrastructure to provide the beneficiaries with … accommodation, food, hygiene, sanitation and medical care,” IOM said in a statement.

The organization previously reported serious overcrowding in six migrant centers it has been running in the country since 2018, when previous migration routes to Western Europe from the Balkans closed off and the migration shifted toward Bosnia.

The six camps were housing 6,200 people, or nearly 20% more than they were before the coronavirus outbreak in Bosnia in mid-March.

Despite strict social distancing measures imposed by the authorities, some 1,500 migrants and refugees were estimated last week to be sleeping in squalid and insanitary conditions in Bihac and several other cities in the northwestern Krajina region bordering the European Union member Croatia.

As of Tuesday, Bosnia’s coronavirus caseload reached 1,342, with 51 deaths.

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WASHINGTON — Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer says agreement has been reached on “every major issue” of a nearly $500 billion coronavirus aid package for small businesses, as well as additional help for hospitals and COVID-19 virus testing.

Schumer says overnight talks among Democratic and Republican leaders, along with top Trump administration officials, produced a breakthrough agreement on the package.

“We have a deal and I think we’ll pass it today,” Schumer said Tuesday morning on CNN. He cautioned that staff are still “dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s.”

A Tuesday afternoon Senate session could provide an opportunity to quickly pass the legislation if it comes together quickly, though the Democratic-controlled House is planning on calling lawmakers to Washington for a vote later in the week.

Most of the funding, more than $300 billion, would go to boost a small-business payroll loan program that ran out of money last week. Additional help would be given to hospitals, and billions more would be spent to boost testing for the virus, a key step in building the confidence required to reopen state economies.

The emerging draft measure has grown into the second largest of the four coronavirus response bills so far.

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LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is gradually re-engaging with work as he recovers from the new coronavirus.

Johnson’s spokesman says the prime minister remains at his country residence and “isn’t formally doing government work.” But he is getting updates from his staff and is scheduled to speak to U.S. President Donald Trump later Tuesday.

Johnson also plans to hold his weekly audience with Queen Elizabeth II by telephone later this week — the first such conversation in three weeks.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab continues to stand in for Johnson as head of government.

Johnson spent a week in a London hospital earlier this month, including three nights in intensive care, after being diagnosed with COVID-19. He was released last week and thanked staff at St. Thomas’ Hospital for saving his life.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens, the amusement park that inspired Walt Disney to create his theme parks, says it is reopening for its summer season on May 11 after its April 16 opening was postponed.

Created in 1843 by Georg Carstensen, the park was built on the city ramparts and last year saw 4.58 million visitors, a 6% drop compared with the previous year.

The park said its popular Friday Rock concerts with open-air gigs showcasing local and international performers, drawing thousands every week, cannot be held “in the usual form until September.”

The park that shut down on Feb. 24 after its winter season was often visited by Danish fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen. It is known for its scenery with exotic architecture, historic buildings and rides with thousands of colored lights at night that create a magical atmosphere.

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JOHANNESBURG — The U.N. World Food Program says the number of people with acute hunger could almost double this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A new report says 265 million people could face food insecurity by the end of this year, a jump of 130 million. WFP senior economist Arif Husain says in a statement that virus-related lockowns and the global economic recession have already “decimated” the savings of millions in low- and middle-income nations.

The WFP says the 10 countries with the worst food crises last year were Yemen, Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria, Sudan, Nigeria and Haiti.

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VIENNA — Chancellor Sebastian Kurz says Austria intends to go ahead with plans to open all shops at the beginning of May and restaurants in mid-May.

Austria allowed small shops to open a week ago. Kurz said Tuesday that coronavirus infections have continued to drop, so the government can move ahead with the reopening plan it already sketched out. He said the government will review the situation at two-week intervals, “so as always to have the opportunity to pull the emergency brake if that is necessary.”

The plan calls for the remaining shops, along with services such as hairdressers and manicurists, to open at the beginning of May. Schools are scheduled to start opening in May and religious services resuming May 15.

The government also plans to allow the catering industry to restart on May 15, with all staff required to wear masks. There will be restrictions on how many customers can be present.

Kurz advised Austrians against “prematurely” expecting unlimited freedom to travel around Europe. He said that he will take his summer vacation in Austria, and “can only recommend to Austrians that they do the same.”

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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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