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real444/iStock(WUHAN, China) -- As "Wuhan is Back!" banners hang over reopened shopping districts and the head of China’s National Health Commission declaring Tuesday that Wuhan is no longer a COVID-19 battleground, China announced that it will once again start including asymptomatic coronavirus cases in daily tallies beginning on Wednesday.

There have been growing concerns about possible "silent carriers" across the country as lockdown measures ease in Wuhan and Beijing is trying to get the rest of the country to jump-start the stricken economy.

Since mid-February, China has not included patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 but show no symptoms in its official count. As the coronavirus, however, spread across the globe and other nations included asymptomatic cases in their growing tallies, there has been a chorus of worry whether China’s numbers reflected the magnitude of infections.

Wuhan's reporting of new cases in multiple consecutive days, has not included asymptomatic cases.

China's NHC said that as of Monday, there are now 1,541 asymptomatic cases under medical observation across the country including 205 imported cases. It remains unclear if the country will disclose the backlog of asymptomatic cases since mid-February.

While most new reported cases in China in recent weeks are of the imported variety from Europe or the U.S., a local transmission case popped up over the weekend in the western province of Gansu. It was brought in by a man from Hubei province who had been allowed to leave the former epicenter with an all-clear "green health code."

The criteria change signaled the central government in Beijing was taking the concerns seriously. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang instructed officials Monday to pay close attention to silent carriers after having warned officials last week to "not cover up reports for the sake of keeping new case numbers at zero."

The delayed response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan has been blamed domestically and internationally on local level officials reluctant to deliver bad news to Beijing.

Chinese newsmagazine Caixin reported that new asymptomatic cases are still found every day, while the South China Morning Post reported last week that, based on classified government data that they saw, at the end of February a third of the positive cases in China presented no immediate symptoms. When the case tally was 80,000 at the end of February, SCMP reported that 43,000 asymptomatic cases were left off the list.

As a result, there is a growing distrust in other provinces of Hubei residents, whose travel restrictions were largely lifted last week. Hubei authorities said that 4.6 million out of 58.5 million residents in the province returned to work by Saturday and 2.8 million itinerant workers headed to other parts of China.

On Friday, a clash apparently broke out on a border bridge over the Yangtze River when Jiangxi police refused to let Hubei residents into their province. Videos circulated briefly on social media before being censored, showed angry Hubei residents, chanting "Go Hubei!", rushing Jiangxi riot cops and even turning over a police vehicle.

International travelers entering China are not exempt from scrutiny. Domestically, China is repainting COVID-19 as a foreign threat. As of last weekend, China closed its borders to foreign nationals although 90% of the imported cases are returning Chinese passport holders.

As a result, foreigners are now facing discrimination within China. Not only are all foreigners, even those with residence permits, now banned from entering China, foreigners who remain in China are increasingly being viewed with suspicion and temporarily barred from some shops and restaurants as they cannot apply for a health code. Meanwhile, Wuhan has entered a period of soft openings before travel restrictions out of the city are expected to lift next week on April 8 and the state media has been eagerly pushing the recovery angle.

On Monday, 11 shopping malls including one of Wuhan's fanciest, Wuhan International Plaza, reopened with limited shopping hours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cinemas and restaurants remained closed but if shoppers were in need of something from Cartier or Louis Vuitton, they were open for business.

China Central Television ran a three-hour livestream on its social media platforms showing the extensive measures put in place. Before entering the mall or each individual shop there are temperature checks, health code checks and signs that masks are mandatory.

Chinese citizens, especially those in harder-hit areas, are required to register for a QR code on their WeChat or AliPay app which assigns them a traffic light-like designation based on their health status: red, yellow and green

At the Chu River Han Street shopping district, some stores were still adjusting to the new normal of the post-COVID-19 world, only allowing limited shoppers. On the CCTV livestream, the reporter visiting a Xiaomi electronics store in the Wuhan's Chu River Han Street shopping area was told only five customers are allowed inside at a time. At another electronic retailer, a CCTV reporter wanted to check out the new Huawei 5G phone but was told he would not be allowed to touch or handle the display phone.

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iStock(NEW YORK) -- A painting by Vincent Van Gogh has been stolen after burglars broke into a Dutch museum that is closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Van Gogh’s “The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring,” painted in 1884, was taken from the Singer Laren Museum, which lies just outside Amsterdam, in the early hours of Monday morning, the director of the museum said. The painting was stolen on what would have been the Dutch master's 167th birthday.

Staff at the museum said that they are “shocked and unbelievably annoyed” about the theft during a press conference that was live-streamed online.

The painting has now been added to the international Interpol list of stolen artworks, police said. The authorities have so far not issued a statement about how much the artwork might be worth.

The authorities at the Groninger Museum are aware of the theft of the Van Gogh painting, and said they are “shocked” by the news that the painting was taken. The painting was on loan from the Groninger to the Singer Laren.

Potential buyers should now be aware that the painting has been stolen, police said. The authorities are appealing for information from the public to assist their investigation.

The burglars broke into the museum at about 3:15 AM local time, according to police. Images from the scene of the burglary show that the glass doors at the front of the museum were smashed during the break-in.

Arthur Brand, an independent Dutch art crimes investigator who was responsible for recovering a Picasso painting that had been missing for two decades, told ABC News that while the painting wasn't one of Van Gogh's best known works, it still had the potential to fetch millions on the black market.

“This was done by professional thieves," he said. “I hope we will find them before they manage to sell the painting to the top criminals.”

The Singer Laren will be closed until at least June 1 in order to minimize the risk of visitors spreading the novel coronavirus, although the museum’s director continues to post videos online that discuss the museum’s best known paintings in order to keep the public engaged.

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Dan Kitwood/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, shared one last update for their 11 million Instagram followers.

"As we can all feel, the world at this moment seems extraordinarily fragile," Harry and Meghan wrote in a post on their Sussex Royal account Monday. "Yet we are confident that every human being has the potential and opportunity to make a difference — as seen now across the globe, in our families, our communities and those on the front line— together we can lift each other up to realise the fullness of that promise."

"What’s most important right now is the health and wellbeing of everyone across the globe and finding solutions for the many issues that have presented themselves as a result of this pandemic," they wrote, referring to the coronavirus pandemic. "As we all find the part we are to play in this global shift and changing of habits, we are focusing this new chapter to understand how we can best contribute."

"While you may not see us here, the work continues," they wrote. "Thank you to this community -- for the support, the inspiration and the shared commitment to the good in the world. We look forward to reconnecting with you soon. You’ve been great! Until then, please take good care of yourselves, and of one another."

Harry and Meghan will no longer use the @SussexRoyal handle when they step down as senior members of the British royal family on Tuesday.

The Sussexes plan to keep their @SussexRoyal Instagram account and website online "for the foreseeable future," but both will remain inactive, according to a Buckingham Palace spokesperson.

The discontinuation of their online Sussex Royal brands is the final public-facing dissolution of their royal lives. It comes less than two years after they tied the knot in a star-studded wedding ceremony at St. George's Chapel that was watched by millions of people.

The Sussexes at the time were heralded as the future of the royal family. Now, less than two years later, they have reportedly settled in Los Angeles with their son Archie and are working to build their own non-profit organization as non-royals.

"This is very much a bittersweet moment for Harry and Meghan," said ABC News royal contributor Victoria Murphy. "Harry was born into this life and grew up expecting to carry out duties as a working royal. He has often had conflicted feelings about the role, but to actually make that leap and walk away feels like a truly seismic moment for him and the monarchy."

She went on, "There is a lot that Harry and Meghan still feel frustrated about when it comes to the terms of their departure; however, ultimately they have secured their freedom which is what they wanted so this is also happy day for them. They will now have control over their lives and the life they want to shape for their son and that is something that is very important to them."

Harry and Meghan have not yet announced whether Los Angeles -- where Meghan was born and where her mother still lives -- will be their permanent base.

As of Wednesday, the couple's Buckingham Palace office will close. They are now being represented by Sunshine Sachs, a public relations firm with ties to the entertainment industry.

A Sussex spokesperson from Harry and Meghan's Buckingham Palace office issued their last statement on behalf of the couple on Monday.

"The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will spend the next few months focusing on their family and continuing to do what they can, safely and privately, to support and work with their pre-existing charitable commitments while developing their future non-profit organization," the spokesperson said. "For now, there will be no additional information on their next steps."

While Harry and Meghan appear to plan to stay out of the public eye in the near future, we do know that we will soon hear from Meghan.

The former actress will narrate a new Disneynature film, "Elephants," which hits the streaming service Disney April 3.

A source close to Meghan told ABC News that the duchess recorded the voiceover in London last fall and had been made aware of the film through mutual friends of the filmmakers.

Harry and Meghan have had to adjust their upcoming plans due to the pandemic, according to Murphy. Harry's father, Prince Charles, tested positive earlier this month for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, and Harry and Meghan have been sharing information about the virus and ways to help on Instagram.

"They are starting a non-profit and building a team but that process will understandably slow given what is going on in the world," said Murphy. "It's clear that for the next few months they want the focus to remain on the global response to the pandemic and they will be focusing on their family and staying safe while doing what they can."

The pandemic also makes the timing of Harry and Meghan's departure from the royal family particularly evident. Harry's brother and sister-in-law, Prince William and Kate, have been the royals' public faces during the pandemic and now the youngest senior members of the royal family.

"There is no doubt that Harry and Meghan's departure leaves a big hole for the royal family," said Murphy. "They have an incredible ability to galvanize a young and global audience and there was such a lot of excitement across the world about their marriage. There were plans for them to have a big role within the Commonwealth and Harry no longer using his honorary military appointments is also a big loss because the armed forces is a community that he has such an affinity with."

"Practically, the monarchy is also unable to cover as much ground having lost two full-time senior working royals so the Sussexes' departure will definitely be felt," she said.

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Bev Vaughan(LONDON) -- After a long and successful 39-year career as a nurse working for Britain’s National Health Service, Bev Vaughan never thought that she would be dusting off her uniform after she retired in 2016.

The coronavirus pandemic changed all of that.

“My uniform is clean, my shoes are polished and I am ready to go back,” said Vaughan.

A 58-year-old retired matron from Portsmouth on the southern coast of the United Kingdom, Vaughan is one of an estimated 20,000 former or retired members of the NHS who have heard the call of duty and are returning to work to help alleviate the strains that coronavirus has put on hospitals and clinics around the country.

“They want me to work in what is called the COVID Silver Command. It is a hub that helps the nurses across the organization by fielding phone calls, emails, a bit of running around taking supplies here, there and everywhere,” she said.

Vaughan added that she is fortunate to be in a position that allows her to return to work and mobilize so quickly to help combat the spread of coronavirus while supporting the system that she dedicated her life to.

“Once you are a nurse, you are always a nurse,” said Vaughan. “You work in a very close-knit community. I just feel really privileged to be in a position where I am still registered as a nurse so I am in a position where I can fairly quickly go back.”

But in spite of all of her experience, Vaughan admits that she is anxious about going back.

“There will be some anxiety. I think every first day at work is a difficult time. In many ways, even though I am anxious, I am looking forward to making my contribution,” she said.

According to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, she isn’t the only one either.

Johnson posted a video while in self-isolation to social media on Sunday night thanking all of the returning NHS workers and volunteers around the country who are giving up their own time -- and potentially putting themselves in harm’s way -- to help support the NHS.

“Thank you, by the way, to everybody who is now coming back into the NHS in such huge numbers,” said Johnson. “Just this evening I can tell you we have 20,000 NHS staff coming back to the colors, doctors and nurses, it is the most amazing thing and that is, of course, in addition to the 750,000 members of the public who have volunteered to help us get through this crisis.”

For Vaughan and the other 20,000 medics returning to work, the timing couldn’t be more crucial.

Professor Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, told the Press Association on Monday that an estimated 25% of doctors are currently off work in the U.K. due to either having contracted coronavirus themselves or because a family member or a person they live with has had to isolate after exhibiting symptoms.

Said Goddard: “At the moment, we think it’s more doctors self-isolating with family members, though there are some off sick themselves. This is really impacting a lot in emergency departments and London is in a much worse position than elsewhere at the moment, but it will come to other places.”

But for Vaughan, and for the thousands of other people like her, it is about a sense of duty to the public during a national crisis.

“We haven’t quite hit the mushroom yet but, trust me, it’s coming,” warned Vaughan. “I think there are more nurses who will probably listen to me and say ‘yes, I can go back.’ Once you are a nurse, you are always a nurse.”

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Peter Summers/Getty Images(LONDON) -- The prime minister of the U.K., Boris Johnson, and the most senior lawmaker in charge of the country's health service have tested positive for coronavirus after developing mild symptoms.

In a video posted on his official Twitter page, the prime minister said he was tested for the illness after suffering a high temperature and a persistent cough, and will now be self-isolating. Johnson will continue to lead the government via video-conference calls.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock also announced that he too has tested positive for coronavirus and will continue working from home while he self-isolates.

"After experiencing mild symptoms yesterday, the Prime Minister was tested for coronavirus on the personal advice of England's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty," a Downing Street spokesperson said. "The test was carried out in No 10 by [National Health Service] staff and the result of the test was positive. In keeping with the guidance, the Prime Minister is self-isolating in Downing Street."

"He is continuing to lead the government's response to coronavirus," the spokesperson added.

The diagnoses come just days after Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, announced he had tested positive for coronavirus. Buckingham Palace released a statement saying that the Queen was in "good health" and is "is following all the appropriate advice with regards to her welfare." She last had contact with the prime minister on March 11.

The prime minister was adamant that he would continue to be able to lead the country while working from home.

"But be in no doubt I can continue, thanks to the wizardry of modern technology, to communicate with all my top team to lead the national fightback against coronavirus," he said in a video address.

Johnson also paid tribute to the staff of the U.K.'s National service and the more than 600,000 volunteers from the British public who have signed up to assist health workers to fight the spread of coronavirus.

"I want to thank everybody who's working to keep our country going through this epidemic," he said. "And we will get through it… So thank you to everybody who's doing what I'm doing, working from home, to stop the spread of the virus from household to household."

The news that Johnson has tested positive comes towards the end of one of the most dramatic weeks in British history. On Monday, the prime minister declared a "moment of national emergency" – as he announced that across the U.K. the public could only leave the house for one form of daily exercise and essential shopping, while gatherings of more than two people have been banned.

Cases of the novel coronavirus have been steadily rising in the country, with 11,816 cases confirmed so far and 578 deaths attributed to the virus, according to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

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Aaron Chown - WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Princess Charlotte and Princes George and Louis are paying tribute to people on the front lines of the fight against the novel coronavirus.

Kensington Palace shared a video of Prince William and Duchess Kate's three children clapping for first responders and others in the medical field.

The video is part of the viral Clap for Our Carers campaign, which, according to the BBC, is meant to be a morale booster for those on the giving and receiving ends of the applause.

"To all the doctors, nurses, carers, GPs, pharmacists, volunteers and other NHS staff working tirelessly to help those affected by #COVID19: thank you. #ClapForOurCarers #ClapForNHS," read Kensington Palace's caption.

To all the doctors, nurses, carers, GPs, pharmacists, volunteers and other NHS staff working tirelessly to help those affected by #COVID19: thank you.#ClapForOurCarers #ClapForNHS

— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) March 26, 2020

The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University reports that as of Friday, there have been more than 533,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, and over 24,000 deaths.

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Samir Hussein/WireImage(NEW YORK) -- Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan are reportedly making California their new home.

People magazine and The Sun reported Thursday that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex left Vancouver Island, Canada, where they’d been staying since the royal couple announced their decision to step back as members of the royal family, for a permanent spot in Meghan’s hometown of Los Angeles.

Their move occurred before the border between Canada and the U.S. closed last Saturday amid the coronavirus pandemic, sources told the publications.

According to People magazine, the royal couple has "been living in a secluded compound and haven’t ventured out amid the coronavirus pandemic."

"Because of the current circumstances, it made sense for the couple to relocate at an earlier date before travel restrictions, which could remain in operation for a significant amount of time, were put in place by the government," said ABC News Royal Contributor Omid Scobie.

Harry, Meghan and their son, Archie, have been living in Canada since the royal couple announced their decision in January to step back as senior members of the royal family. They will officially step down as senior working royals on March 31.

The news comes after Disney announced Thursday that Meghan would be narrating the new Disneynature film, Elephants, which hits Disney on April 3. The film will be Meghan’s first professional endeavor since stepping back from the royal family.

In their new roles, they’ve expressed their desire to establish a new nonprofit organization, a spokesperson for the Sussexes said in February.

"Given how the U.S. will play a significant role in their future philanthropic endeavors, it was always in the cards for the Sussexes to move to L.A. later this year," said Scobie.

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JSABBOTT/iStock(NEW YORK) -- At least 23 sailors aboard the Navy aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt have become infected by the novel coronavirus, according to two U.S. officials.

The spike in the number of cases from three earlier this week is leading the Navy to order the ship to stop in Guam, so all 5,000 sailors aboard can be tested for exposure to the virus. It is a major cause of concern for defense officials, as the tight quarters in aircraft carriers hold the potential for even more infections among the ship's crew.

On Tuesday, officials disclosed that there were three cases of COVID-19 aboard the ship marked the first time that infections had been detected aboard a U.S. Navy ship at sea.

By Thursday, the number of infected sailors shot up to 23, according to two U.S. officials.

"As testing continues, additional positive cases of COVID-19 have been discovered aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt," Admiral Mike Gilday, the chief of naval operations, said in a statement. "We are taking this threat very seriously and are working quickly to identify and isolate positive cases while preventing further spread of the virus aboard the ship."

He added, "No Sailors have been hospitalized or are seriously ill."

At an earlier Pentagon briefing on Thursday, Thomas Modly, the acting secretary of the Navy, told reporters that the increase in infected sailors would lead to testing of the ship's entire crew.

Modly said the aircraft carrier would remain pierside in the U.S. territory with the crew limited only to the ship's pier. A U.S. official told ABC News that the carrier is expected to arrive in Guam late Thursday.

"Our medical team aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt is performing testing for the crew consistent with [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines, and we are working to increase the rate of testing as much as possible,' Gilday said in his statement.

"Immediate priority will be symptomatic Sailors, those in close contact with Sailors who have tested positive already, and essential watch standers," he continued. "We are isolating those who test positive. Testing will continue as necessary to ensure the health of the entire ship's crew."

Modly had earlier described the symptoms of infected sailors aboard the carrier as being "very mild" -- namely body aches and sore throats.

Gilday said he expected additional positive tests to emerge after the large scale testing of the ship's crew begins and that any sailors who test positive will be transported to U.S. Naval Hospital Guam for further examination. . "We're taking this day by day," he said. "Our top two priorities are taking care of our people and maintaining mission readiness. Both of those go hand in glove."

Gilday added, "We are confident that our aggressive response will keep USS Theodore Roosevelt able to respond to any crisis in the region."

On Tuesday, Gilday told reporters it was unclear if the sailors became infected with the coronavirus following the ship's most recent port of call in early March to Da Nang, Vietnam.

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omersukrugoksu/iStock(NEW YORK) -- An American detained by Iran for over 600 days on spurious charges has been hospitalized with symptoms consistent with the novel coronavirus, according to his family's spokesperson.

Michael White, 48, has not yet been confirmed to have the virus, known as COVID-19, but there are deep concerns about his safety as Iran struggles to contain its outbreak, with over 29,000 Iranians infected and over 2,200 killed.

His family has spent weeks expressing concern about his health, saying his immune system is compromised by cancer and urging Iranian authorities to return him to the U.S. One week ago, he was granted a medical furlough and released to the custody of the Swiss government, which has looked after U.S. interests and citizens in Iran since the U.S. embassy was shuttered in 1979.

"His situation is urgent," family spokesperson Jonathan Franks said in a statement Wednesday night. "It is in everyone's interest during this health crisis to facilitate Michael's immediate medical evacuation."

Former New Mexico governor and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson, often a mediator with rogue regimes that have detained Americans, has made a formal request to senior Iranian authorities for White's immediate return to the U.S., Franks added.

As a condition of White's medical furlough, he is not allowed to leave the country, but his family is concerned that the Iranian health care system, already weak and even further strained by the virus, is dangerously insufficient.

White has been experiencing fever, fatigue, cough, and shortness of breath and was hospitalized Wednesday in a crowded ward specifically for COVID-19 patients, according to Franks.

"The United States will continue to work for Michael's full release as well as the release of all wrongfully detained Americans in Iran," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement last week after White was granted medical furlough.

There are at least three other Americans also being held by the Iranian government. The family of former FBI agent Bob Levinson announced Wednesday that U.S. officials believe Levinson, the longest-held American hostage who has been missing inside Iran since March 2007, died at some point in Iranian custody, but before the COVID-19 outbreak.

Iran has been overwhelmed by its coronavirus outbreak, which has mushroomed through its prison system as well. Iranian authorities have released more than 85,000 prisoners on temporary leave to stem that spread, with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei saying last week the state will pardon 10,000 more.

But none of the Americans detained have been on that list. Instead, even with two inmates confirmed to have COVID-19 down the hallway, Siamak Namazi's request for temporary release was denied last Tuesday, according to his lawyer Jared Genser.

"It is outrageous that even now, under such dangerous conditions, Iran refuses to show the basic humanity and decency it has so vociferously demanded from others and instead continues to inflict senseless suffering upon my family," Babak Namazi, his brother, said in a statement at the time.

Siamak and Babak's father Baquer, 83, also a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, is also imprisoned. A former official of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Iranian provincial governor, Baquer was detained in February 2016 after he traveled to Tehran to advocate for his son's release.

While in custody, he's had emergency surgery because of a severe heart condition, with his family concerned about his deteriorating health in poor prison conditions.

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oonal/iStock(CASALPUSTERLENGO, Italy) -- An 86-year-old woman in the crisis-hit region of Lombardy, Italy, has made a full recovery after being hospitalized with the novel coronavirus, offering a rare glimmer of hope as the country continues to struggle with the pandemic.

The elderly woman, identified as "Gianna" by Elia Delmiglio, the mayor of Casalpusterlengo, had been hospitalized for seven weeks after contracting COVID-19 during an unrelated hospital stay.

Delmiglio captured the moment on video when Gianna was finally released from the town's local hospital on Tuesday, saying that “among the many stories of pain and suffering, Gianna's recovery gives us a great deal of hope.”

“In these weeks she fought with all her forces and thanks to an unbelievable work by doctors and nurses, she managed to recover from coronavirus,” Delmiglio wrote in a Facebook post. “A big thank you to all medical operators that work in our structures and help people in need with a great deal of dedication, love and competence… Forza Gianna, and all the people that are still fighting.”

In the video, Gianna is seen being wheeled through the hospital to rounds of applause from the staff.

In Italian, a tearful Delmiglio can be heard saying: "Hello Gianna, great! 86 years and you don't feel like it. Is everything OK? We can't hug you but ... don't make me cry now. You must be happy because you were very lucky. Seven weeks out of the world. Send me a kiss with your hand, can you do that?"

Gianna’s inspiring recovery offers a great deal of hope to a region of Italy that has been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The country now has 74, 386 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus and 7,503 deaths, according to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

At least 9,362 Italians have also recovered from the illness, which can have serious consequences for the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
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DNY59/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Federal prosecutors in New York will announce drug charges Thursday against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and other government officials, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.

The charges include narco-terrorism conspiracy, cocaine importation conspiracy and weapons possession conspiracy. Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, will formally discuss the charges at a news conference.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The family of retired FBI Special Agent Bob Levinson, who vanished in Iran 13 years ago, said Wednesday they are now convinced he died in captivity, though when is not clear.

Levinson's wife Christine and their children said the U.S. government had informed them he was likely dead and they had accepted it -- even as President Donald Trump, who has made Levinson's case a cudgel to hammer the Iranian regime with, said at a White House briefing Wednesday evening, "No, I don't accept that he's dead. I don’t accept it."

In a statement, the Levinson family -- all tireless advocates including his daughter Sarah Moriarty, who testified in Congress again last month to press lawmakers to help bring him home -- said they had grudgingly heard the news they've dreaded for 13 years.

"We recently received information from U.S. officials that has led both them and us to conclude that our wonderful husband and father died while in Iranian custody. We don’t know when or how he died, only that it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic," the Levinsons said. "It is impossible to describe our pain. Our family will spend the rest of our lives without the most amazing man we have ever known, a new reality that is inconceivable to us. His grandchildren will never meet him. They will only know him through the stories we tell them."

It wasn't immediately clear why the Trump administration told the family that Levinson almost certainly had died as an Iranian hostage if the president himself wasn't convinced of it.

Sources have long told ABC News that bitter disagreements have existed for years inside the U.S. intelligence community, with the FBI less willing to assess their former comrade as having died a hostage than their counterparts at CIA, who reached that conclusion many years ago. Whether any new intelligence informed the recent assessment he had died was not immediately known, though the Trump administration has this year repeated demands that Levinson be returned home.

"I mean, I have to say this, and they have been making this statement to the family I believe, but it's not looking good. He wasn't well for years anyway in Iran. It's not looking promising," Trump said at the White House Wednesday when he was asked about Levinson. "I’m telling you it's not looking great but I won't accept that he's dead. They haven't told us that he's dead but a lot of people are thinking that that is the case. Feel badly about it."

Some officials said they were blindsided by Trump's remarks.

While working as a CIA contractor, the retired FBI agent, who would be 72 now, vanished on Iran's Kish Island on March 9, 2007. Documents his family obtained by an Iranian source and provided to ABC News last fall appeared to show that Iranian military prosecutors ordered him detained on the island on suspicion of spying and held him for months at a military airfield even after he slipped into a coma that they said was caused by his diabetes.

Former Bush administration senior official Ladan Archin, who was born and raised in Tehran and is familiar with how Iranian military officials communicate, deemed the two 2007 documents to likely be authentic. Archin, who served as the Defense Department's Iran country director, examined the files last fall following the odd admission by Tehran's judicial system to a United Nations body that an open case against Levinson existed despite 12 years of denials by the regime that he ever was detained there.

Archin provided a more precise translation of the documents than a U.S. government translation given to the Levinsons years ago. It revealed that the word "judicial" in the apparent 2007 arrest order had been inadvertently omitted in the version originally given to the family. This was significant given Tehran's statement to the United Nations about a judicial case against him, which they later claimed was not an admission they held him.

"He is here using the cover of a tourist while conducting various meetings, taking pictures and gathering information," an Iranian counterintelligence official appears to have informed military prosecutor Hojatol-Islam Bahrami in March 2007, who then ordered Levinson's immediate arrest by "MOIS (Ministry of Intelligence) brothers" in a handwritten reply on the typed memo.

A spokesman for Iran’s U.N. Mission, Alireza Miryousefi, wrote on Twitter Wednesday in response to the news that "Iran has always maintained that its officials have no knowledge of Mr. Levinson's whereabouts, and that he is not in Iranian custody."

ABC News also reported last year that Levinson's case had been set aside by the Obama administration during negotiations for the Iran nuclear deal, senior officials of both the Obama and Trump administrations confirmed, while a handful of other Americans were set free in 2016. One of those freed was Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who wrote in a memoir last year that an Iranian source indicated Levinson, or answers to his fate, were withheld by the regime as a future bargaining chip for their interests.

"Initially Levinson -- or a complete accounting of what had happened to him -- was to be a part of the deal, but the Rouhani administration decided there was no political value of the time in acknowledging after eight years that yes, Iran had been responsible for his disappearance," Rezaian wrote in his book, Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison -- Solitary Confinement, a Sham Trial, High-Stakes Diplomacy, and the Extraordinary Efforts It Took to Get Me Out.

Levinson’s case has long been vigorously championed by acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grennell, who until recently was U.S. Ambassador to Germany.

With the novel coronavirus pandemic forcing Americans to avoid gatherings, even funerals, the large Levinson family is left to mourn in solitude and continue to wonder what happened to the husband, father and grandfather.

"If not for the cruel, heartless actions of the Iranian regime, Robert Levinson would be alive and home with us today. It has been 13 years waiting for answers. Thirteen years since we last saw him or had any contact with him. How those responsible in Iran could do this to a human being, while repeatedly lying to the world all this time, is incomprehensible to us. They kidnapped a foreign citizen and denied him any basic human rights, and his blood is on their hands. Bob Levinson should have spent his last moments surrounded by his family and all the love we feel for him. Instead, he died alone, in captivity thousands of miles away, in unbelievable suffering. His body has not yet been returned to us for a proper burial. We don’t even know when, or even if, his body would be returned to us. This is the very definition of cruelty," the family said in its statement.

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Oleksii LIskonih/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump said he no longer needs to refer to the novel coronavirus as the "Chinese virus," but his top diplomat is continuing to tie the outbreak to the Chinese city where it first exploded, as a way to push back on what he called the Chinese Communist Party's "disinformation campaign."

In brief remarks after hosting the G7 foreign ministers' meeting on Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo continued his department's war of words with Chinese officials as the pandemic continues to claim lives and costs economies around the world.

His push seems to have caused a small rift in the G7 alliance, which failed to agree on a joint statement after Pompeo insisted that it include the term "Wuhan virus," according to two sources familiar with the matter.

"The Chinese Communist Party poses a substantial threat to our health and way of life, as the Wuhan virus clearly has demonstrated," Pompeo said at the department, blasting Beijing for providing assistance to other countries and then "claiming that they are now the white hat."

Foreign ministers from the seven countries -- U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom -- met via video teleconference on Wednesday, after the U.S. canceled the annual meeting, scheduled for Pittsburgh, because of the COVID-19 outbreak. While they discussed a range of foreign crises where the allies are working together, their first focus was on the pandemic, that has shut down the global economy and killed over 18,500 people.

Amid that global fight, Pompeo and the State Department have waged a second battle to blame the Chinese government for the outbreak, especially after Chinese officials elevated conspiracy theories churning on the web that falsely accused the U.S. military of starting the outbreak.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian pushed those theories on Twitter, prompting the State Department to summon the Chinese ambassador in Washington and dress him down and Pompeo to call his counterpart Yang Jiechi, director of the CCP's Office of Foreign Affairs.

"This is crazy talk," Pompeo said Wednesday of those theories, calling them part of a "disinformation campaign that the Chinese Communist Party is engaged in to try to deflect on what has really taken place here."

That's a reference to the Chinese government's initial rejection of U.S. offers to help study the virus by sending scientists and experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to Wuhan. That lack of transparency let the virus spread, Pompeo added, calling for more "transparency" from Beijing.

But it seems U.S. allies wanted to avoid using the term "Wuhan virus" at a time when the World Health Organization has been urging all countries to work together. Two sources familiar with the matter told ABC News that Pompeo and the U.S. delegation wanted a joint statement from the G7 countries to include the term, but it was opposed by others, with no joint statement specific to the pandemic issued in the end.

Asked about that, Pompeo declined to comment specifically on the joint declaration, but told reporters there are "a handful of places like the [Iran nuclear deal] where we have tactical differences about [how] to achieve our strategic outcomes" with allies.

But in response to calls for the U.S. to work with China, Pompeo said American officials "desperately want to work with every country around the world," including China, but have been rebuffed by Beijing.

Beyond the G7, Pompeo's attacks also contrast with Trump's more conciliatory tone on Tuesday. In an interview with Fox News, he said he wasn't going to use the phrase "Chinese virus" anymore, not because it's been criticized for stigmatizing Asians and sparking threats against Asian Americans, but because he no longer needed to.

"Everyone knows it came out of China, but I decided we shouldn't make any more of a big deal out of it," Trump said.

In contrast, the State Department and China's Foreign Ministry continue to engage in a fierce back-and-forth on Twitter, which notably, the Chinese government has barred its public from accessing.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying accused State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus of "lying and slander" after Ortagus highlighted that authorities in Hubei province ordered labs to stop testing and destroy samples, while officials arrested or reprimanded doctors for speaking out on social media about the outbreak.

"Please take some time to understand the situation before you speak," Hua tweeted.

Ortagus fired back with the hashtags "CovidCoverup" and "ChinaTransparencyNow," again accusing Chinese authorities of refusing "to admit human-human transmission until Jan. 20, with catastrophic consequences."

On Jan. 20, Dr. Zhong Nanshan, a Chinese official helping lead the coronavirus response, announced the virus can be transmitted person to person, six days after WHO said Chinese doctors had "no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission."

A little over two months later, with over 400,000 cases worldwide, it's now clear that is not the case.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Ivan Cholakov/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon is halting all overseas travel for U.S. troops for up to 60 days in an effort to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, according to a top U.S. official.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the order applies to all servicemembers, Defense Department civilian personnel and their families. However, there will be some exceptions, including the partial drawdown of American forces already underway in Afghanistan, as outlined in a deal signed by the U.S. and the Taliban last month.

"The purpose is to make sure that we're not bringing the virus back home, infecting others, that we're not spreading it around the military," Esper said of the move, first reported by Reuters on Wednesday.

DOD also raised its Health Protection Condition (HPCON) level globally to "Charlie" -- the second highest level which indicates sustained community transmission.

Only essential personnel will be allowed onto military bases worldwide, and the installations will limit entry points. Personnel on the bases will also be required to practice social distancing, officials said.

These moves are just some of the ways the Pentagon has steadily increased restrictions on its personnel and implemented measures aimed at mitigating the spread of the deadly virus over the last several weeks.

As of Wednesday morning, the Pentagon confirmed that 227 service members had tested positive for COVID-19 -- up from 174 confirmed cases the previous day.

Those individuals now include three Navy sailors aboard a U.S. aircraft carrier, an Army recruit training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina and more than two dozen members of the National Guard.

And while the department has suspended several overseas military exercises with partner nations and training efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, it has allowed training stateside to continue largely unchanged.

Asked in a town hall event on Tuesday why units were still congregating in formations, Esper said the department has to maintain readiness, including physical fitness.

"You can't get social distancing in a submarine or even in a tank, right? I've been in both," he said. "But you take prudent measures as best you can, given the situation you're in, given your mission and whatnot."

He continued, "That's what we call upon commanders and senior [non-commissioned officers] at all levels to do: assess their situation, and if you can avoid putting people in -- a large number of people in small rooms, you should do it. Hold your meeting outside, or maybe meet in smaller groups. Get that social distancing as best you can."

Still, during the same town hall, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley conceded the changes made to prevent the spread of the virus will have an impact on military readiness.

"There will be an impact to readiness, but I think it will be on the lower end as opposed to significant," he said.

At the same time the department is working to protect the force, it's also providing personnel and resources to state governments whose health care systems are expected to be overrun with patients suffering from the virus.

On Friday, the U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy is set to arrive in Los Angeles. And three Army field hospitals are being deployed this week to New York and Washington.

There are also more than 10,700 National Guard personnel currently responding across 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia.

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Tim P. Whitby - WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, becoming the first member of Britain's royal family to announce a positive test for the COVID-19 virus.

"He has been displaying mild symptoms but otherwise remains in good health and has been working from home throughout the last few days as usual," a Clarence House spokesperson said in a statement. "The Duchess of Cornwall has also been tested but does not have the virus."

"In accordance with Government and medical advice, the Prince and the Duchess are now self-isolating at home in Scotland," the spokesperson said. "The tests were carried out by the NHS in Aberdeenshire where they met the criteria required for testing."

It is not known from whom Prince Charles, 71, caught the virus due to the "high number of engagements he carried out in his public role during recent weeks."

Charles joined members of his family -- including Queen Elizabeth and sons Princes William and Harry and their wives Kate and Meghan, respectively -- at a Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey on March 9.

Charles later saw his 93-year-old mother Queen Elizabeth on March 12, but the queen "remains in good health," according to a statement from Buckingham Palace.

“Her Majesty The Queen remains in good health," the palace said Wednesday. "The Queen last saw The Prince of Wales briefly after the investiture on the morning of 12th March and is following all the appropriate advice with regard to her welfare."

Queen Elizabeth left her home at Buckingham Palace for Windsor Castle on March 19, one week earlier than she had planned to leave for her Easter holiday, according to Buckingham Palace. The queen and her husband, Prince Philip, are likely to stay at Windsor Castle beyond Easter Sunday.

The U.K. is asking people to stay at home as it tries to slow the spread of the coronavirus, of which there are now more than 425,000 diagnosed cases around the world, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

The U.K. government's advice to avoid mass gatherings has led to the postponement of the famous ceremonial Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, St. James’s Palace and Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace announced last week.

Buckingham Palace also announced last week it has canceled several upcoming events -- including annual garden parties -- that were to be attended by large crowds and members of the royal family.

Bars, restaurants and clubs in the U.K. have been ordered to close and schools have switched to virtual learning.

Prince Charles's two oldest grandchildren, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, are now being home-schooled by Prince William and Kate after their private school in London closed last week.

William and Kate, as the youngest, most senior members of the royal family, have taken on an increased public role amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited the London Ambulance Service 111 control room in Croydon, England, last week to thank dispatchers who have been taking emergency calls from the public.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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