Pence says 150,000 tests being conducted daily

Coronavirus

A medical staffer gestures after performing swabs for coronavirus in the Santa Cecilia nursing home in Civitavecchia, near Rome, Saturday, April 17, 2020. A scandal over coronavirus infections and deaths in Italy’s nursing homes took on broader dimensions Friday, with the National Institutes of Health conservatively estimating that at least 6,773 residents had died since Feb. 1, 40% of them either infected with the virus or with COVID-19 symptoms. (Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse via AP)

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence says 150,000 coronavirus tests are now being conducted daily in the U.S. but suggested that governors and not the federal government were to blame for numbers not being higher.

Pence tells NBC’s “Meet the Press” that, “if states around the country will activate all of the laboratories that are available in their states, we could more than double that overnight.”

He said the nation has “sufficient testing today” for states to begin reopening their economies as part of the initial phases of guidelines the White House released this week.

Governors from both parties have said that while they do have more labs that could increase testing in many areas, they often are unable to do so because of federal delays.

Pence was also asked about President Donald Trump tweeting that Democratic governors in Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia should “liberate” their states — even though officials there are following many of the Trump administration’s own guidelines about slowing the spread of coronavirus.

Pence sidestepped those, saying, “This president wants to reopen the American economy as soon as we can safely and responsibly do it.”

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SOAVE, Italy — Italy’s representative to the World Health Organization says it is too early for the country to transition to a “Phase Two” of greater freedom of movement while living alongside the virus.

Walter Ricciardi told SKYTG 24 on Sunday “it is absolutely too early” and some regions remain in Phase One. He cautioned it is important not to rush.

“We have to wait until we can count the number of new cases on one hand, not the four-digit growth that we are having,” Ricciardi said.

He endorsed a plan being drafted by Italy’s health minister that calls for continuing social distancing, reinforcing the health care system and offering more diagnostic testing.

But he acknowledged that a lack of testing remains an issue, particularly in Lombardy, which has borne the brunt of the pandemic in Italy. (edited)

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LONDON — Britain reported 596 more coronavirus-related hospital deaths on Sunday to raise the total to 16,060.

The health department’s latest daily number is down 292 from the previous day’s 888 deaths. Britain posted a record daily death toll of 980 just over a week ago.

Sunday’s count is the lowest since April 6 when 439 deaths were reported.

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BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia will test all employees in the country’s nursing homes for the new coronavirus because of the growing number of infected people in those facilities.

Prime Minister Igor Matovic says 40,000 people will be given rapid tests to determine which of the homes have been hit by the virus.

Full tests that give more precise results will follow.

Of the 12 people who have died of COVID-19 in Slovakia, seven were clients in a nursing home in the town of Pezinok located just northeast of the capital of Bratislava.

Government figures released Sunday show Slovakia has 1,161 people infected with the new coronavirus.

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LONDON — An industry group estimates thousands of deaths related to COVID-19 in British nursing homes have not been reflected in official figures.

The National Care Forum represents non-profit nursing home providers and says its research suggests 4,040 people have died after contracting the illness in British nursing homes.

The figures are based on data from nursing and residential care homes looking after 30,000 people, which is 7.4% of Britain’s nursing home population. They reported 299 confirmed or suspected deaths from the new coronavirus during the week ending April 13, which is triple the number in the preceding month.

Health department figures released daily track only deaths in hospitals, which rose to 15,464 on Saturday. Data from Office for National Statistics showed that 217 deaths from the virus in nursing homes in England and Wales through April 3.

The forum’s Executive Director Vic Rayner says as long as death figures from nursing and residential care homes are excluded from real-time data, the government will be unable to properly plan protection.

Care home operators and staff say official figures likely underestimate the true toll in facilities that house some of the Britain’s oldest and most vulnerable people, cared for by often overworked and poorly paid staff.

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ROME — The governor of the southern region of Campania has placed a tighter lockdown on the town of Saviano, near Naples.

It comes after video circulated showing several hundred people outside for the funeral of the town’s mayor, a doctor who died with coronavirus.

Regional governor Vincenzo De Luca said that the decision to stop people from leaving or entering the town was ‘inevitable to prevent an outbreak.

Video shows hundreds of people lining a road as the hearse drove by, and helium balloons in the colors of the Italian flag released into the sky.

De Luca has taken a tough stance against calls by his colleagues in the north to loosen restrictions, saying if they go too far he would close the borders to Campania, which includes Italian treasures including Naples Bay, the Amalfi Coast and the Pompeii archaeological site.

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ROME — The Italian coast guard is transferring 34 migrants from the Spanish rescue ship Aita Mari off the coast of the Sicilian capital Palermo onto a naval ship for quarantine.

The new arrivals will join 146 migrants from the German-run rescue ship Alan Kurdi, who were transferred on Friday to the Rubattino.

The Italian naval ship will remain a mile off the coast for the duration of the quarantine, which is being overseen by the Italian Red Cross.

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BEIRUT — Lebanon’s Interior Ministry has announced that the nighttime curfew will be shortened by one hour to start at 8 p.m.

Sunday’s announcement comes days before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan when observant Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset.

Nearly two thirds of the Mediterranean country’s 5 million people are Muslims, while a third are Christians.

Lebanon imposed a nighttime curfew last month in an attempt to limit the spread of the new coronavirus. Most businesses, schools and universities have been closed for weeks.

The ministry’s decision that will go into effect Monday and restaurants will be allowed to deliver food until the start of the curfew.

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OSLO, Norway — Norway has released nearly 100 inmates from the country’s prisons to serve their sentences at home in efforts to reduce crowding in penitentiaries and contain the spread of COVID-19.

Director Lise Sannerud from the Norwegian Correctional Service says prisoners are being fitted with ankle monitors and some 94 inmates have now been released to serve their sentences at home.

There now 405 inmates in Norway who have been released from prison to serve their sentences at home.

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MADRID — Spain has reported its lowest daily death total for confirmed coronavirus victims in nearly a month as the country contains a savage outbreak that has killed more than 20,000 people there.

Spanish health officials said Sunday another 410 people have died in the last 24 hours. That is the lowest daily death toll since March 22. It takes the total to 20,453 virus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Spain also reported 4,218 confirmed new cases, pushing the total to 195,944 — second only to the United States.

Top health official Fernando Simón said the latest data gives Spain hope, adding that it shows “the rate of contagion has fallen and that we are on the correct path.”

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced Saturday he will seek a two-week extension of the state of emergency that is set to run out next week. But he also said that the government will begin to allow children to leave their homes from April 27.

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ROME — Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte is promising a clear indication ‘’in the coming days’’ of loosened restrictions in the so-called Phase II of the country’s response to the virus outbreak.

It is expected to allow more freedom of movement and an easing of the industrial shutdown.

Conte met with regional governors this weekend and told the right-wing conservative daily il Giornale in an interview published Sunday that ‘’we are working on some proposals to loosen the measures in a way that we can ‘live with’ the virus in the coming months in conditions of maximum security.’’

Italy’s lockdown runs through May 3. Regional governors in the hardest-hit north, which is also the nation’s economic engine, have been pushing to reopen more non-essential industry, which has been on shutdown since March 26.

Schools are expected to remain closed until September, while there is no indication yet of how Italy might be able to relaunch tourism, even domestically.

Conte said it is important to keep the curve of infection down and continue to ease pressure on hospitals and intensive care units.

Italy was the first western country to be struck by the virus and has registered the most deaths in Europe, at 23,227.

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SOFIA, Bulgaria — The Bulgarian Orthodox Church has resisted calls to close churches for Easter.

It has urged worshippers to pray at home rather than going to church, however, following demands by health authorities.

The main Easter services will be broadcast live on television.

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PARIS — Figures from France’s military leadership show more than half the sailors aboard the country’s flagship aircraft carrier contracted the new virus as the ship traveled through the Mediterranean Sea, the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

A navy official says 1,046 of the 1,760 people aboard the Charles de Gaulle tested positive for the virus.

Navy Chief of Staff Adm. Christophe Prazuck attributed the quick spread to the “great population density aboard the ship.”

Speaking Saturday evening to Europe-1 radio, Prazuck said virus protection measures weren’t followed properly, which “did not allow us to detect the beginning of the epidemic, and therefore to contain it.”

The ship is undergoing a lengthy disinfection process since returning to its home base in Toulon last week.

One person who served aboard is in intensive care and more than 20 others are hospitalized. Among those infected are two U.S. sailors serving as part of an exchange program.

Investigations are underway into what happened, and French military leaders have been questioned in parliament.

A similar outbreak on the USS Theodore Roosevelt led to the firing of its captain and the resignation of the acting U.S. Navy secretary.

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BERLIN — Germany is holding virtual commemorations for the liberation of two Nazi concentration camps 75 years ago, as long-planned anniversary events have had to be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Before the outbreak occurred, dozens of survivors had planned to attend the ceremonies.

In a video message, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas recalled the over 20,000 people who died at Sachsenhausen concentration camp north of Berlin, noting that a minute’s silence for each of the victims would take two weeks.

Many of those killed at Sachsenhausen were Soviet soldiers. The camp was also used to intern Jews, political prisoners, gay people and Jehovah’s Witnesses from more than 40 countries.

The virtual ceremony also commemorated the liberation of nearby Ravensbrueck concentration camp.

Germany’s culture minister, Monika Gruetters, said the current closure of memorial sites due to the pandemic made it particularly important to hold virtual ceremonies and recall the atrocities committed by the Nazis.

Numerous further ceremonies are being affected by the lockdowns imposed to curb the virus spreading, including the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II on May 8.

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CAIRO — Pope Tawadros II, the spiritual leader of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Christians, has held Easter services in an empty monastery in the desert amid coronavirus restrictions which kept the faithful from gathering at churches and monasteries across the country.

The services were held at the Monastery of Saint Pishoy, in a desert valley west of Cairo known as Wadi Natrun. Few clergies attended the services, which aired on Coptic Orthodox television station. The clerics were seen practicing social distancing during the prayers.

The Coptic Orthodox Church, one of the world’s oldest Christian communities, decided this month to suspend Easter prayers and celebrations at churches and monasteries because of the spread of the virus.

Christians constitute around 10% of Egypt’s more than 100 million predominantly Muslim population. Egypt has 3,032 cases including 224 deaths.

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TAIPEI, Taiwan — Two dozen crew members of a Taiwanese naval ship have tested positive for the new coronavirus after returning from a nearly two-month training mission that took them to the Pacific island nation of Palau.

Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control said Sunday that 21 more cases had been identified from a refueling ship, on top of three reported Saturday. More than 700 officers and sailors from the refueling ship and the two warships that took part in the mission are in quarantine for 14 days.

The CDC said that a Taiwanese student returning from the United States had also tested positive. That brought the total for Sunday to 22, an upward spike for the self-governing island. New cases had fallen to single digits in the past week, including three days in which none were reported.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s prime minister says the country will maintain much of its social distancing guidelines until May 5 but will relax some limits.

The comments by Chung Sye-kyun came hours after South Korea’s health authorities reported eight more coronavirus cases, the first time a daily increase has dropped to a single digit in about two months.

Chung says the government will stop “strongly advising” religious organizations, gyms and bars to suspend their operations and allow less risky outdoor public facilities, like recreational parks, to be reopened.

He says outdoor sports games also can be held if there are no spectators. He says the government will allow a limited number of essential employment- and license-related examinations to take place if stringent quarantine steps are in place.

Despite a recent continued downward trend, Chung says that “it’s definitely not time to feel relieved.”

While saying South Korea must find ways to revitalize the economy, Chung says the government will toughen its social distancing rules if the danger of a spread of the virus increases again.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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