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The Latest: Germany urges postponements of large gatherings

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Faithful watch Pope Francis deliver the Angelus prayer on a giant screen, in St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, March 8, 2020. Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced a sweeping coronavirus quarantine early Sunday, restricting the movements of about a quarter of the country’s population in a bid to limit contagions at the epicenter of Europe’s outbreak. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Germany’s health minister is urging event organizers to consider postponing any gatherings with more than 1,000 people as a measure to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Jens Spahn told the dpa news agency on Sunday that in his view, organizers are still going ahead with too many events like sports games, concerts and trade fairs.

He says “I am aware of the consequences this will have for citizens and organizers — we will talk about how we will deal with the economic consequences in the next few days.”

Germany’s governing parties are meeting Sunday night to talk about several measures, including bridge loans and possible tax deferrals for particularly hard-hit sectors such as the travel and hospitality industries.

They’re also talking about relaxing labor laws to allow more short-term employees to help companies with many workers out sick, and moving ahead a tax cut with the hope of stimulating the economy.

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2:55 p.m.

Already staggering under weeks of fears about the spread of the coronavirus, Italy’s tourism industry has now taken an even more punishing blow.

The Vatican announced Sunday that in coordination with drastic Italian government measures aimed at containing Italy’s virus outbreak, Europe’s worst, it is shutting down its museums, which include access to the Sistine Chapel, until April 3.

The chapel’s ceiling and altar wall, frescoed by Michelangelo, are one of the world’s biggest tourist attractions, and a high point of Vatican Museums visits.

The Vatican said its one case of coronavirus is that of a person who had come to the Holy See’s health facilities as part of a doctor’s visit ahead of being hired. Five people who had close contact with that person have been put in quarantine as a precaution

The Italian government’s decree also shut down outdoor sites like Pompeii’s extraordinary archaeological ruins and a blockbuster exhibit in Rome of more than 100 paintings and drawings by Raphael, which was mounted to mark the Renaissance artist’s 500th anniversary of his death from a fever in the city.

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2:55 p.m.

Dozens of Americans who are on a cruise ship off the California coast will be securely transferred to a military base outside Atlanta to undergo coronavirus testing.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said 34 Georgians are among the U.S. citizens expected to arrive at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta on either Monday night or Tuesday morning.

Kemp said people from other eastern U.S. states would also be quarantined at the military base, but he did not specify how many.

The Grand Princess is carrying more than 3,500 people from 54 countries. It is expected to dock in Oakland, California, on Monday. Vice President Mike Pence announced Friday that at least 21 people aboard the ship, including 19 crew members, have tested positive for the virus.

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2:45 p.m.

Greece’s Health Ministry has announced that all sports events in the country will take place without spectators for the next two weeks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The ministry also says that recreation and support centers for the elderly will shut down for two weeks and no school trips will take place during that period.

As of Saturday night, 66 cases of the virus had been identified in Greece, 47 of them among a group of 54 travelers to Israel and Egypt. Four other cases involve people coming in contact with those travelers. There have been no fatalities. A 66-year-old man, among the traveling group, is in intensive care.

The government is expected to announce economic measures related to the disease outbreak Monday.

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2:15 p.m.

Authorities in southern Italy have expressed concern that a mass movement of people moving from north to south would only spread the coronavirus to regions that have had relatively few cases.

The worries come after Italy announced a sweeping quarantine early Sunday for its northern regions, igniting travel chaos as it restricted the movements of a quarter of its people in a bid to halt the coronavirus’ relentless march across Europe.

Gov. Michele Emiliano, who leads the region of Puglia in the ‘’heel’’ of the boot-shaped Italian peninsula, said in his dramatic appeal, “Don’t bring the Lombard, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna epidemic into our Puglia, by running away to prevent the government decree” from effectively taking effect.

He said he signed an ordinance requiring a quarantine for all those who arrive in Puglia from Lombardy and the 11 other northern provinces covered by the lockdown. Italian state TV reported that other governors in the south, which includes the Campania region around Naples and Sicily, were intent on doing the same.

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1:50 p.m.

Britain’s health secretary has outlined emergency plans to deal with the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, pledging to do “all we can” to contain the virus.

The plans, which will likely go through Parliament by the end of the month, are expected to include measures to allow some court proceedings to be conducted via telephone or video. Volunteers who leave their main jobs to help health care systems will also be given employment safeguards.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he wants “to ensure government is doing everything in its power to be ready to delay and mitigate this threat.”

Some 206 people in the U.K. have tested positive for the virus, according to data last updated on Saturday. Two people have died.

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1:50 p.m.

The authorities in Thailand are looking for 70-80 workers who returned from South Korea but did not immediately go into a required 14-day quarantine to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

Deputy Minister of Public Health Satit Pitutecha said Sunday the workers must report to the authorities within three days or face legal penalties.

Thailand last week announced a policy under which all workers returning from South Korea must be quarantined for 14 days.

The arriving workers who left Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport without going into quarantine all arrived before midnight Saturday, according to Thanarak Plipat, deputy chief of the health ministry’s Department of Disease Control.

Thanarak said 60 more Thais who returned from South Korea on flights arriving after 1 a.m. Sunday were sent as planned to a naval base at Sattahip in eastern Thailand, which is the country’s main official quarantine facility. He said the operation to provide escorts for the returning workers began only after midnight Saturday.

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1:20 p.m.

The Israel Airports Authority has announced massive cutbacks in response to the coronavirus’s devastating effects on air travel.

The authority said Sunday it is putting 70% of its temporary workforce on unpaid leave and overtime has been canceled for all employees. To protect those with families, it was decided that single employees would be put on leave first. Senior management has announced it is forfeiting 50% of its bonuses as well.

Israel has confirmed 25 cases of the virus, including a 38-year-old man who was in serious condition on Sunday. Some 20,000 people have been ordered into 14-day home quarantine protectively. The local travel sector has taken a beating, as scores of flights in and out of the country have been canceled.

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12:40 p.m.

In an extraordinary measure aimed at discouraging crowds, Pope Francis didn’t appear at a Vatican palazzo window to deliver his Sunday noon Angelus blessing and remarks.

Instead, a video of his reading his comments and reciting prayers standing at a lectern near a microphone in the Vatican’s apostolic library was beamed on maxi-screens set up in St. Peter’s Square to the faithful.

The bells of St. Peter’s Basilica tolled as the window opened and Francis appeared for a few seconds to wave to the people below in the square. But he made no comments from the window, having already delivered the broadcast remarks.

The measure — which was announced on Saturday — was aimed at discouraging crowds from gathering in the square, where on days with good weather like this Sunday as many as 40,000 people can turn out to watch the pope in the window. Several thousands of tourists and faithful turned out anyway, scattered across the vast, cobblestone square.

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11:05 a.m.

Italy’s Rai state TV says the governor of Piedmont in northern Italy has the coronavirus, the latest Italian governor to test positive.

On Saturday, the governor of Lazio, the region including Rome, announced that he was staying in quarantine because he had been told he’s positive for the virus.

Earlier in the outbreak, the governor of Lombardy, the populous northern region at the heart of the outbreak, announced he was putting himself in quarantine because a close aide had tested positive.

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10:40 a.m.

On the first day of a sweeping quarantine in northern Italy, even outdoor sites like the sprawling ruins of Pompeii, the ancient Roman city destroyed by volcanic eruption in 79 A.D., were shut to tourists.

In Rome, the blockbuster exhibition of “Raffaello,” a tribute to one of the Renaissance’s greatest artists for the 500th anniversary of his death, was shuttered Sunday, only three days after it opened to the public. A notice on its website said advance ticket holders would be contacted about the closure, which lasts until April 3.

The show, which assembled 120 works of Raphael in what was described as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to see so many of his paintings and drawings loaned from museums and private collections worldwide, is due to close on June 2. Curators have said it would be nearly impossible to prolong it, with some many works on loan from museums eager to have them back.

Italy announced the quarantine early Sunday for its northern regions, igniting travel chaos as it restricted the movements of a quarter of its people in a bid to halt the coronavirus’s relentless march across Europe.

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10:40 a.m.

Bulgaria has announced its first four coronavirus cases.

The national coronavirus task force confirmed Sunday that a 27-year-old man from the northern town of Pleven and a 75-year-old woman from the central town of Gabrovo had tested positive for the virus.

Chief state health inspector Angel Kunchev said the two had not traveled or contacted anyone who had returned from a country with a coronavirus outbreak.

Both had been hospitalized a few days ago with severe respiratory problems.

After health officials tested a total of 70 people who had been in contact with the two infected, they announced that the samples of a 61-year-old man from Pleven and a female health worker from Gabrovo had tested positive.

The Balkan country of 7 million, which is one of the last in the region to report coronavirus cases, is already facing a nationwide influenza epidemic, with schools closed and hospitals packed with patients.

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10:40 a.m.

Japan’s ancient sport of sumo is grappling with the harsh reality of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Spring Grand Sumo Tournament kicked off on Sunday in Osaka at Edion Arena with no spectators as part of Japan’s extraordinary efforts to halt the spread of the virus.

Wrestlers arrived wearing face masks and were required to use hand-sanitizing spray before entering the arena. They were also required to take their temperatures before entering the raised ring. If a wrestler has a temperature above 37.5 degrees celsius (99.5 degrees Fahrenheit) for two or more days, he will be forced to sit out the tournament.

Sumo officials have said if a wrestler is diagnosed with the coronavirus, the 15-day tournament will be immediately halted.

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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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