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The Latest: Mnuchin expects agreement on stimulus package

The Associated Press
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Virus Outbreak Greece

Presidential Guards stand in front of the Greek parliament, in central Athens, Sunday, March 22, 2020. Schools, restaurants, and other public places are already closed in the Greek capital aimed at slowing the spread of the new coronavirus, but other places like supermarkets, pharmacies and gas stations remain open. 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. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 307,200 people and killed more than 13,000. 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 92,000 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

— Mnuchin Congress and White House to agree on an economic stimulus package.

— Michigan Governor says state needs more test kits and masks.

— Britain’s fleeing to remote regions putting local lives at risk.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says he expects Congress and the White House to reach full agreement later Sunday on an economic stimulus package that could approach $2 trillion to address the coronavirus crisis.

The package would include $3,000 checks to families and other aid to last the next 10 weeks.

Mnuchin tells “Fox News Sunday” that there is a “fundamental understanding” reached with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders to provide significant aid.

He says the deal includes federal loans to small businesses so they can retain their workers; cash payments averaging $3,000 for a family of four as well as “enhanced” unemployment insurance.

The package also will allow the Federal Reserve to leverage up to $4 trillion of liquidity to support the nation’s economy, while hospitals will get “approximately” $110 billion to address a crush of people infected with the virus.

Mnuchin says President Donald Trump has “every expectation” the aid package will help workers and the economy improve “four or eight weeks from now,” but if the virus is still raging after 10 weeks, “we’ll go back to Congress again.”

Mnuchin says he expects a Senate vote on the deal on Monday morning.

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WASHINGTON — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says her state needs the federal government to provide not only more test kits and masks but also clear guidance on how best to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

Speaking Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” Whitmer said her state and others are doing the best they can, “but it would be nice to have a national strategy.” As it is, she said the states are “all building the airplane as we fly it.”

She criticized the federal government for not focusing on the threat much earlier. She also said she didn’t want to belabor the point because she needs to be able to work with the federal government.

She said she doesn't want to fight with the White House, but says a point will come in which failures will need to be examined.

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LONDON — Authorities in Britain’s remotest regions say an influx of people trying to get away from crowded urban areas is putting local lives at risk.

Scottish authorities told people heading to the sparsely populated Highlands to stay at holiday homes or in camper vans to go home.

The Road to The Isles group, which represents tourism businesses in part of the scenic region, said its area had an aging population and just one ambulance, with the nearest hospital 100 miles (160 kms) away.

Chairwoman Sine MacKellaig-Davis urged people “to stay home, care for loved ones and, as soon as it's safe to do so, the Road to the Isles and its communities and businesses will welcome you.”

Judy Murray, mother of tennis star Andy Murrray, had a blunter message. She tweeted “Message for those relocating to the countryside” above a picture of a car and trailer with "Go home idiots" and "Covid-19" painted on the side.

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PRAGUE — The Czech Foreign Ministry is sending a military plane to the Baltics and secured deals with commercial airlines to take home stranded Czech nationals in Egypt, Philippines and Vietnam.

Various restrictive measures on movement adopted by the governments around the globe due to the outbreak of the coronavirus have made it difficult for many to return.

Altogether some 600 Czechs should return by those flights, plus 100 people from other EU countries who were offered seats.

The government have already been sending buses for the Czechs stranded at the airports in Munich, Frankfurt and Berlin in Germany as well Vienna in Austria.

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WASHINGTON — Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey says his state is desperate for more face masks and other personal protective equipment and is not getting nearly what it needs from the federal government.

Murphy said, “We've had a big ask into the strategic stockpile in the White House. They've given us a fraction of our ask.”

New Jersey is now fourth in the country in terms of the number of positive cases, which the governor says hit more than 1,300 on Saturday with 16 fatalities.

He also cited an urgent need for direct financial assistance from the federal government to help workers and small business. He said, “We think New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut alone, those four states, need $100 billion, direct cash assistance, to allow us to continue the fight.”

Murphy spoke Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Long-haul carrier Emirates says it will suspend all passenger flights beginning Wednesday over the coronavirus outbreak.

The decision is a major one for the Dubai-based, government-owned airline built on linking the East to the West.

A statement from the carrier quoted Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, its chairman and CEO, as saying: “The world has literally gone into quarantine due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This is an unprecedented crisis situation in terms of breadth and scale: geographically, as well as from a health, social, and economic standpoint.”

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka has indefinitely extend the closure of the arrival terminal at it’s main international airport to prevent imported cases of the coronavirus.

The Indian ocean island nation stepped up efforts to contain the spreading of virus as the number of positive cases has now risen to 82.

Early this week, the government suspended arrival flights until March 25. On Sunday, the government announced that the restrictions of arrival flights “will continue until the country returns to normalcy.”

However, the airport’s departure terminal will continue to be operational and flights are allowed into the country to take departing passengers.

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NEW YORK — New York City's mayor is telling New Yorkers at the epicenter of the U.S. pandemic that it's only going to get worse.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that his city is in desperate need of ventilators and other medical supplies and staff. He also lambasted the White House response as non-responsive.

He says he's asked "repeatedly" for the U.S. military to mobilize, and has heard nothing.

The Mayor said the actions taken by American citizens are “much farther ahead than anything we’ve seen out of the White House.”

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LONDON — British doctors and nurses are making urgent pleas for more protective equipment as the number of coronavirus patients in U.K. hospitals soars.

Almost 4,000 medical workers signed a letter to the Sunday Times saying front-line staff felt like “cannon fodder.” They warned that medics would die if they did not receive better equipment.

The letter said that intensive-care doctors and anaesthetists “have been carrying out the highest-risk procedure, putting a patient on a ventilator, with masks that expired in 2015."

Britain’s coronavirus outbreak is not expected to peak for weeks, and already staff at some hospitals have complained about shortages of ventilators and protective equipment like face masks, safety glasses, gloves and protective suits.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said that hospitals would receive new stocks of protective equipment by Sunday afternoon.

The government has also ordered thousands of ventilators and has struck a deal with private hospitals to use thousands of beds and 20,000 medical staff to treat coronavirus patients.

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan's top health official has revised the country's number of confirmed coronavirus cases to 646 cases. That's down from the more than 700 confirmed cases reported a day earlier.

Zafar Mirza, the special assistant to prime minister Imran Khan, said the figures he was presenting came from all provincial health authorities. He said the total suspected cases are 5650.

Out of the confirmed cases, 292 tested positive in southern Sindh province, 152 in Punjab, 104 in Baluchistan, 31 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 55 in Gilgit Baltistan, 11 in Islamabad and one in Pakistan controled Kashmir.

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PRAGUE — The Czech government is sending to Italy about 100,000 face masks and respirators that were among hundreds of thousands seized in the country earlier this week.

Czech authorities used emergency powers to raid a warehouse and seize 680,000 masks and 28,000 respirators on Tuesday.

The state was negotiating to acquire those badly needed masks and respirators with a private company but before reaching a deal the price significantly increased, prompting the seizure.

Interior Minister Jan Hamacek later acknowledged it turned out that 101,600 of the protective gear were sent by China’s Red Cross to fellow Chinese nationals living in Italy and apologized for the Czech move.

Czech police are investigating how those masks from China ended up in a warehouse located in northwestern town of Lovosice.

Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek said on Sunday he would explain the situation to his Italian counterpart and the masks will be transported to Italy early next week.

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CRAIOVA, Romania — Romania has reported its first death due to the coronavirus.

Authorities said Sunday the victim was a 67-year-old man with terminal cancer who returned March 6 from France, where he had been receiving treatment.

The man died while in the intensive care unit of a hospital for infectious diseases in the southwestern city of Craiova.

Romania has 367 confirmed cases of people infected with the coronavirus. The country will close its borders to foreigners Sunday night and curfews will be enforced.

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WARSAW, Poland — A hospital in Poland has been sealed off and a quarantine ordered for all patients and employees after a 38-year-old patient tested positive for the coronavirus.

Nearly 70 people are now quarantined in Provincial Hospital of Lung Diseases and Tuberculosis in Wolica, near the central Polish city of Kalisz.

No one can leave the hospital until further notice and no one can enter.

The patient with COVID-19 has been transported to another hospital in severe condition.

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is seeking to unite Christianity across denomination in prayer against the new virus ‘’shaking humanity.’’

The pope held his weekly Sunday blessing in his private library in the Apostolic Palace over virus concerns. He urged all Christians to join in reciting the ‘’Our Father’’ prayer next Wednesday at noon.

The pope said he would lead a global blessing to an empty St. Peter’s Square on Friday. The ‘’Urbi et Orbi,’’ blessing is normally reserved for Christmas Day and Easter and will be broadcast to the faithful.

The double prayer initiative of such a global and ecumenical nature is highly unusual and suggests the urgency with which the Vatican views the pandemic.

The pope began streaming his audiences earlier this month after the Vatican joined Italy in implementing drastic lockdown measures.

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PERTH, Australia – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has closed the country’s bars, clubs, cinemas and casinos to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Morrison said the drastic measures nationwide would start Monday and also include sporting and religious venues. Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeout service only, but schools remain open.

Morrison said the rules were implemented because people disregarded social distancing requirements.

He said the restrictions would be in place for at least six months, but added that the time frame could be reconsidered if the health situation changes.

Earlier Sunday, Morrison unveiled a 66.4 billion Australian dollar ($38.50 billion) stimulus package that includes cash payments for eligible small businesses and welfare recipients.

Australia has confirmed more than 1,000 coronavirus cases, including seven deaths.

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MADRID — Health authorities in Spain say confirmed coronavirus infections have risen by over 3,600 in one day.

The jump in cases from Saturday to Sunday is down from nearly 5,000 the day before.

Spain is Europe’s hardest hit country behind Italy and has 28,572 infections and 1,720 deaths.

Spain is completing its first week of lockdown measures to keep people at home. Non-essential stores have been closed.

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Pakistan: Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan won't implement a total lockdown because it will affect 25 percent of population living below the poverty line.

He asked citizens to self-quarantine if they suffer from any coronavirus symptoms. He said Pakistan will overcome the virus if people cooperate and avoid socializing.

Khan said Pakistan's economy is not strong enough to subsidize meals for the poor on lockdown.

Minutes after Kahn's address to the nation, the Chief Minister of Pakistan southern Sindh province announced a complete lock down of his province for next two weeks. Sindh is the most affected province where nearly 300 people have tested positive for COVID-19.

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DUBAI — The long-haul carrier Emirates has halted flights to over 100 destinations, cutting some 70% of its routes over the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The Dubai-based, government-owned airline is a crucial link in East-West travel and had still been flying into Beijing despite the virus outbreak.

Beijing flights, however, will end Monday.

Some routes will be halted through the end of June. Before the crisis, Emirates flew to 145 destinations.

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TUNIS — Tunisia said all citizens must stay at home in isolation for two weeks to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

COVID-19 is still relatively localized in the North African country and has killed one person.

Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh said Sunday all non-essential members of the workforce should stay at home through April 4 and it will require “a lot of wisdom, responsibility and discipline.”

Fakhfakh said the state will provide funding for vulnerable businesses, subsidies for laid off workers, and moratoriums on to bank loans. He also announced a two-month suspension of payment for electricity, water and telephone bills.

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PRISTINA, Kosovo - Kosovo authorities have reported the first COVID-19 death in the country.

The Infectious Clinic said the fatality was an 82-year old man from the village of Dumnica, Podujeva, 30 kilometers (20 miles) north of the capital, Pristina.

The patient went to the hospital a week ago with “mass pulmonary and pneumonia indications,” and also suffering from other cardiac and lung chronic diseases.

He had contacted the virus from his son and daughter.

Kosovo has 28 cases as of Sunday. It is in a total lockdown with all its air and land border crossing points shut. Authorities have closed schools, cafes and restaurants and all shops except those offering food and medical supplies.

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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.