TOP OF THE HOUR:
— District of Columbia announces 91 new positive coronavirus infections.
— Merkel will consider loosening restrictions in Germany after Easter.
— Albania extends lockdown indefinitely during COVID-19 pandemic.
— Wimbledon canceled for the first time since World War II.
WASHINGTON — The District of Columbia announced 91 new positive infections of the new coronavirus. That brings the total cases of COVID-19 to 586.
There have been two new deaths, bringing the total to nine.
Mayor Muriel Bowser has issued a stay-home order for Washington’s approximately 700,000 residents. Neighboring Maryland and Virginia have done the same.
BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel says it is far too early for Germany to consider loosening restrictions on public life. She says officials will review the situation just after Easter.
Merkel held a telephone conference Wednesday with German state governors and said they agreed the closure of non-essential shops and a ban on gatherings of more than two people in public will remain in place until at least April 19.
Merkel says authorities will review the situation the Tuesday after Easter.
Germany had more than 73,000 confirmed coronavirus infections as of Wednesday, including 802 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
BUDAPEST, Hungary — The Hungarian government says it no longer try to curb the autonomy of mayors nationwide during the coronavirus pandemic.
The about-face came just hours after the government presented legal amendments which would have tied mayors' decisions to approval from government-appointed administrators.
The plan had drawn swift condemnation from opposition parties, which said it would unnecessarily slow the decision-making process.
TIRANA, Albania - Albania has extended its lockdown indefinitely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A statement from the Health Ministry says all “restrictive measures aiming at limiting the COVID-19 spread” are extended to an undetermined time.
The restrictive measures cover the closing of schools, kindergartens and other public educative institutions, cafes, restaurants, shops and fast food service and other accommodating structures like hotels.
It also prohibits all gatherings.
Albania has also closed its land, sea and air borders.
Albania has 15 deaths and 259 positive cases. Authorities say that 80 people are hospitalized and 67 people have recovered from the virus.
BERLIN — German authorities won’t introduce rules requiring people to wear face masks in public. The government is hopeful that tracing apps can be a useful tool.
Neighboring Austria has ordered people to wear simple masks when in supermarkets. The eastern German city of Jena wants to make them obligatory in shops and public transport.
But Bavarian governor Markus Soeder said after a telephone conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel that state leaders “agreed not to declare an obligation to wear protective masks now.”
He said there are reservations about whether simple masks would achieve “resounding medical success.”
German authorities are exploring ways of developing tracing apps to alert people to potential infection with COVID-19 that comply with the country’s strict data privacy rules.
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syria's Health Ministry has called on security forces to isolate a village northwest of the capital Damascus because the family of a person who died of the coronavirus has refused to self-quarantine.
The ministry said isolating the village of Mneen was aimed at protecting other citizens. Mneen is just south of Saydnaya, where a notorious military prison holding thousands of detainees is located.
Syria has only 10 confirmed cases of the virus and two deaths, including a woman from Mneen village. But the lengthy civil war in Syria has led to rampant poverty and barely functioning medical facilities.
The Syrian government has imposed a nighttime curfew and barred traveling between provinces to prevent the spread of the virus.
WIMBLEDON, England — Wimbledon has been canceled for the first time since World War II because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The All England Club announced after an emergency meeting that the oldest Grand Slam tournament in tennis would not be held in 2020.
Wimbledon was scheduled to be played on the outskirts of London from June 29 to July 12.
It now joins the growing list of sports events scrapped in 2020 because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
That includes the Tokyo Olympics, the NCAA men's and women's college basketball tournaments and the European soccer championship.
The last time Wimbledon was called off was 1945.
WASHINGTON — The Bureau of Prisons says a second inmate has died at a federal prison complex in Louisiana from the new coronavirus.
A Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman confirmed the death at FCC Oakdale to The Associated Press. The agency said it could not provide additional information pending notification of next of kin.
Another inmate died at the same facility last week.
The death comes the same day the Bureau of Prisons is enacting a new policy to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The agency said all inmates at its 122 correctional facilities will be locked in their cells for 14 days in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
So far, 29 inmates and 30 staff members in the federal prison system have tested positive for COVID-19.
STOCKHOLM — The Swedish military says it is against canceling a major military exercise in May even after several allies have pulled out.
The Aurora 20 military drill is scheduled to be held from May 11 through June 4 on air, land and sea in the southern Skane region with some 3,000 international troops.
Swedish public broadcaster SVT reports Canada and Germany have cancelled participation and Austria is considering not coming. Britain will substantially scale down contribution. The United States and Nordic neighbor Finland have said they will attend Aurora 20.
Spokesman Marcus Nilsson from the Swedish Armed Forces told told SVT it was utterly important for Sweden to arrange the drill in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic to show that "when the society is in a crisis, the defense must be at its strongest."
Many national and international military excercises in Europe have been called off in the past weeks due to the coronavirus situation.
BERLIN — The U.N. weather agency says the coronavirus pandemic is affecting global efforts to monitor climate change and collect meteorological data for forecasting.
The World Meteorological Organization says most monitoring is automated, but some data in developing countries is still collected by hand. That process is now slowed by lockdowns.
It said observations in Bolivia, Uganda and Papua New Guinea have dropped by more than half over the last week compared to the average in January.
The reduction in air travel is also having an impact. Sensors on planes collect information on temperatures and wind speeds, which they transmit to meteorological stations on the ground.
With far fewer planes in the air, weather services have seen a sharp drop in available data.
SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgaria has confirmed at least 412 cases of the new coronavirus and nine deaths.
Officials say 20 people have recovered from COVID-19.
The government has extended the nationwide state of emergency by a month until May 13 to contain the spread of the outbreak.
The Balkan country of 7 million has already closed schools, restaurants, parks and sports facilities, and banned intercity travel and holiday trips.
The extension must be approved by the 240-member parliament, which must also vote on a government-proposed budget update on Apr. 2.
It is not immediately clear if the meeting will be held because all lawmakers have to undergo a test for the coronavirus after one tested positive for the disease.
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia is launching a project to test for the new coronavirus in its embattled Roma population that lives separated from the majority in poor settlements across the country.
Prime Minister Igor Matovic says the one-week testing with the help of the military and Roma activists will start on Friday in 33 such settlements.
The poorest of the poor Roma live in settlements that often lack access to running water and sewage systems.
Authorities will at first focus on 1,000 residents who recently returned from abroad or have shown symptoms of the virus.
Matovic said the virus would spread more quickly there than at any other places.
HAVANA — Cuban authorities say they are canceling the island’s trademark May Day parade because of the new coronavirus. Cuba is also tightening air and sea travel restrictions that already bar the arrival of tourists.
Exceptions in travel restrictions that allow residents of Cuba to return to the island could be eliminated, although officials did not provide details.
The May Day parade often draws hundreds of thousands of mostly state workers to the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana.
Cuba has also barred travel in and out of a Camilo Cienfuegos in Pinar del Rio province in western Cuba. Seven people have tested positive for COVID-19 there and officials believe the outbreak began by the return of a local couple from Mexico.
Cuba has 186 confirmed COVID-19 cases and six deaths.
BERLIN — Adidas has backed off a move to defer rent payments for closed shops after facing persistent criticism from the German government and others.
The Germany-based spots apparel maker apologized in an open letter Wednesday and said it had paid its landlords the rent for April.
It acknowledged that many people felt that its decision to seek the deferral of April rents had lacked solidarity, adding: “your opinion is clear: you are disappointed by Adidas.”
Non-essential shops have been closed in much of Europe and beyond in an effort to slow the coronavirus pandemic.
German Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht said over the weekend that it was “indecent and unacceptable” for financially strong companies not to pay their rent.
BERLIN — The United Nations’ atomic watchdog agency says it’s sending equipment to more than 40 countries to give them the capability to use a highly accurate, nuclear-derived, coronavirus detection technique.
The International Atomic Energy Agency says 4 million euros ($4.4 million) worth of supplies will help countries use the technique to detect in real time the coronavirus in samples sent to their labs.
The test is known as RT-PRC, or “real time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction.”
The Vienna-based agency says dozens of labs in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean will receive diagnostic machines and kits as well as other supplies to speed up national testing.
IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi says the assistance is part of the agency’s response to requests for support from around 90 member states. The IAEA is also drawing from extra money provided by member states, including $6 million from the U.S., $3.5 million from Canada and $550,000 from the Netherlands.
ANKARA, Turkey — A Turkish government decision to block fundraising campaigns by opposition-run municipalities aiming to help households impacted by the coronavirus outbreak has caused outrage on social media.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government declared fundraising campaigns by the municipalities of Istanbul and Ankara as illegal. The government has blocked bank accounts and urged citizens to channel donations to a campaign he launched this week.
Many took to Twitter to denounce the move largely seen as the latest among a series of political maneuvers by Erdogan's government to obstruct opposition municipalities.
Erdogan accused the municipalities of trying to act like a "state within a state." The mayors have said they will challenge the decision at Turkey's administrative court.
Erdogan's party lost control of the municipalities of Ankara and Istanbul in local elections last year.
LONDON -- Prince Charles has applauded the work of charities helping the elderly during the new coronavirus outbreak.
His video remarks on royal social media accounts are the prince's first appearance since he self-isolated after contracting the virus.
The video was made at Birkhall, the prince's home in Scotland. Charles said he finds himself “on the other side of the illness but still in no less a state of social distance and general isolation.”
The 71-year-old went into self-isolation last week with mild symptoms of COVID-19. His wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, tested negative.
Charles is patron of Age U.K., while his wife is the patron of Silver Line, a helpline offering support to the elderly.
He said their “hearts go out to all those older people throughout this country who are experiencing great difficulty.”
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