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The Latest: South Korea expects positive economic growth

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

— South Korea’s top central banker expects slow, but positive economic growth.

— Australia has lowest increase of coronavirus cases in three weeks.

— Japan says country had more than 500 new cases for first time.

— New Zealand records lowest number of new coronavirus cases in nearly three weeks.

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SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea’s top central banker says he expects slow but positive economic growth for the trade-dependent country this year despite worldwide shocks wrought by the coronavirus.

Bank of Korea Governor Lee Ju-yeol’s assessment Thursday came after the bank held its policy rate at 0.75% despite calls for lower borrowing costs. The bank’s monetary policymakers cited a need to wait for the effect of financial tools that had already been employed to spur the economy.

Lee said his forecast for economic growth was based on expectations that the global pandemic will start to slow in the second quarter and stabilize in the latter half of the year.

“We forecast the South Korean economy to manage positive growth this year, but it would be difficult for the rate of growth to reach 1%,” Lee said. “Ultimately, (economic) flows and aspects will depend on how the COVID-19 situation develops.”

The Bank of Korea had lowered its annual growth forecast for the economy from 2.3% to 2.1% in February.

The bank last month executed an emergency rate cut of 0.5 to bring its policy rate to an all-time low of 0.75%. It also expanded short-term borrowings for banks and other financial institutions through repurchase agreements to calm markets rattled by the coronavirus crisis.

Some experts say it’s unclear whether traditional financial tools to boost money supplies would be effective now when the global pandemic has damaged both supply and demand, decimating industrial hubs in China and Italy and forcing millions to stay at home under tightened quarantines.

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SEATTLE — About 1,000 patients in Washington state hospitals have confirmed or suspected diagnoses of coronavirus, according to a new count that shows earlier surveys had undercounted such admissions.

The Seattle Times reports that Washington State Hospital Association statistics, current as of April 7, include 664 confirmed and another 331 suspected cases of the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Cassie Sauer, the association’s executive director, said the updated count is from a new statewide reporting system that went into place on April 2. Authorities say the new hospitalization numbers, although sharply higher than earlier counts, still roughly track with models showing Washington is flattening the curve of the coronavirus.

Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday decided to return to the federal government the field hospital set up about a week ago in Seattle’s CenturyLink Field Event Center to help the health care system cope with what was expected to be an influx of patients.

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SYDNEY — Australia has recorded its lowest increase in coronavirus cases in more than three weeks.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said Thursday there were 96 new cases, the first time there have been fewer than 100 new cases since March 17. The peak was on March 28, when 457 new cases were recorded. There have been a total of just over 6,000 cases and 51 deaths in Australia from the virus.

Seeking to limit the impact on the economy, lawmakers passed a wage subsidy scheme late Wednesday worth 130 billion Australian dollars ($81 billion).

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TOKYO — Japan’s health ministry said Thursday that the country had more than 500 new cases for the first time on Wednesday, bringing the national total to 4,768 — excluding hundreds from a cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo earlier this year.

The continuous climb comes two days after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and six other hard-hit prefectures, while asking people to reduce at least 70% of human interactions. The step allows Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and six other prefectural leaders to issue stricter measures of social distancing, but without penalties to violators. So far, Koike only issued a stay-at-home request to the residents. Requests for closures of noon-essential businesses and services are still under way.

Many people were seen commuting to their offices Thursday morning in downtown Tokyo, as many Japanese companies are slow to allow remote-working for their employees, raising doubts over how effective measures can be under the state-of-emergency measures.

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Halfway through a planned four-week lockdown, New Zealand has recorded its lowest number of new coronavirus cases in nearly three weeks.

Health officials said Thursday there were 29 new cases, the fourth successive daily drop since 89 new cases were recorded on Sunday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also announced stricter border measures that require all returning nationals to go into a managed quarantine facility for two weeks. Previously, returning nationals with no symptoms of COVID-19 had been allowed to isolate themselves at home.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea says it has reported 39 more cases of the coronavirus over the past 24 hours, in a continued slowdown of the virus outbreak in the Asian country.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement Thursday the additional cases increased the country’s total to 10,423. It says 6,973 of them have been recovered and released from quarantine. The center says fatalities from the coronavirus rose by four to 204.

But, the 39 new cases are the smallest daily jump since Feb. 20. South Korea recorded 47 and 53 new cases on Tuesday and Wednesday.

There are still worries about a steady rise in infections linked to international arrivals, which has helped inflate the caseload in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area.

A total of 22 of the 39 new cases have been reported in Seoul and its surrounding Gyeonggi province.

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CARSON CITY, Nev. — Nevada’s governor on Wednesday ordered a closure of golf courses, real estate open houses, religious gatherings of 10 people or more and additional restrictions to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Gov. Steve Sisolak said he was adding restrictions because some people have created an unnecessary risk by trying to circumvent the rules he has already put in place. Other restrictions were designed to cut down on the amount of time people spend next to others, he said.

The governor last month ordered a closure of non-essential businesses, including gambling and casinos, and issued a directive telling Nevadans to stay at home, though exceptions were granted for people going outside to exercise.

Sisolak said at a news conference Wednesday night he was ordering the closure of sports and recreational facilities where people congregate, such as golf courses, tennis courts, basketball courts and pools. He said that despite his decision last month to leave golf courses open, he had seen pictures that had been sent to him of people riding together in golf carts and standing together on the greens.

The governor said a new directive he signed bars grocery stores from having any self-service food such as salad bars or unpackaged bulk food, where customers would touch the same scoops and servers. It also restricts barbers and hair stylists from offering in-home services to anyone outside their immediate household.

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BEIJING — China’s National Health Commission on Thursday reported 63 new COVID-19 cases, including 61 which it says are imported infections in recent arrivals from abroad and two “native” cases in the southern province of Guangdong.

There were no new cases reported in Hubei, the central province hardest-hit by the coronavirus outbreak. Two new deaths however were reported, both in Hubei.

The provincial capital of Wuhan, where the virus first emerged, ended its 76-day lockdown Wednesday. Long lines formed at the airport and train and bus stations as thousands streamed out of the city to return to their homes and jobs elsewhere.

The National Health Commission also reported 56 new cases of people who tested positive for COVID-19, but did not show any symptoms. In total, 77,370 people in China have recovered from the disease and 3,335 people have died, according to the commission.

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WASHINGTON — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has new guidance for essential workers as it takes a small step toward reopening the country.

The guidance applies to essential workers, such as those in the health care and food supply industry, who have been within 6 feet of a person who has a confirmed or suspected case of the new coronavirus.

CDC Director Robert Redfield says the employee can return to work as long as they take their temperature before they go to work, wear a face mask at all times and practice social distancing while they are at work.

Redfield said the employees should continue to stay home if they are sick.

He also said employers in those critical industries should take the temperatures of a worker before allowing them to come back to work.

Redfield announced the new guidance during the daily White House briefing on the U.S. efforts to stop the spread of the virus.

The new guidelines will be posted on cdc.gov.

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WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence says Philadelphia is emerging as a potential hot spot for the coronavirus and urged its residents to heed social distancing guidelines.

Pence says he spoke to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, and he says Pittsburgh is also being monitored for a possible rise in cases.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement is reporting an increase in the number of detainees in its custody who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

ICE says there are 32 confirmed cases. It reported 13 cases on Tuesday. The biggest concentration is at a detention center in San Diego, where five detainees have tested positive. The agency says not all of those who have tested positive remain in custody.

The U.S. holds around 35,000 people in immigration custody. Immigration advocates have been calling for the release of immigration detainees because of the risk to the people in custody as well as detention staff and the health care system in nearby communities.

ICE says 11 of its employees working in detention operations have tested positive.

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WASHINGTON — The general who heads the Army Corps of Engineers says communities are running out of time to build new medical facilities for any overflow of coronavirus patients that local hospitals can’t handle.

Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite tells reporters he believes the Corps will be done starting new projects in about a week. He says government leaders “have to think through the worst case and get ahead of it while they have time.”

If a city thinks they’ll see a peak of virus patients around April 24, and they haven’t made a decision yet to build more rooms, it may be too late, he says.

So far, 17 facilities, with about 15,000 beds, have been built, and another 17 have been planned by the Corps and developed by local communities and contractors. Another 23 facilities are pending, but it’s not clear how many of those may actually be built.

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Gov. Kate Brown says Oregon’s K-12 schools will remain closed though the end of the academic year due to the coronavirus outbreak, placing the state’s more than 550,000 students and their teachers in uncharted territory as districts with vastly different resources plan for weeks of remote learning.

Seniors who had passing grades and were on track to graduate when the state’s stay-at-home order began in mid-March will be able to graduate, said Brown.

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PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron had a video conference call with the leader of the World Health Organization on Wednesday.

In a conversation with Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Macron reaffirmed “his belief that the WHO is key to respond" to the coronavirus crisis, following criticism by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Macron tweeted that they also discussed the evolution of the pandemic, strategy to face it in France and in the world, research on vaccination and the preparation of an initiative for the African continent.

At the White House on Tuesday, Trump first said the United States would “put a hold” on WHO funding, and then revised that to say, “We will look at ending funding.”

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SEATTLE — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says a Department of Defense field hospital that had been set up by the football field where the Seattle Seahawks play will be returned to the Federal Emergency Management Agency so it can be deployed to another state facing more of a coronavirus crisis.

Late last month Inslee announced 300 soldiers from the 627th Army Hospital at Fort Carson, Colorado, had deployed to Seattle to staff the hospital, which was expected to create at up to 250 hospital beds for non-COVID-19 cases.

Inslee says the decision to send the field hospital elsewhere was made after consulting with local, state and federal leaders.

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BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia’s president says his older son has been hospitalized following an infection with the new coronavirus.

President Aleksandar Vucic says on Instagram that his 22-year-old son Danilo has been admitted at the Clinic for Infectious Diseases in Belgrade.

Vucic says “my first son has been infected with the coronavirus and his clinical condition is such that he has been hospitalized” at the clinic. Vucic adds “son, you will win this.” No other details were immediately available.

Danilo Vucic is the Serbian president’s son from his first marriage. Vucic also has a daughter and another son.

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