Xinhua world news summary at 1530 GMT, March 16

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LONDON -- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to lead a cross-government drive and hold daily televised press conferences to update the public on the battle against the coronavirus as his government is under fire for lacking transparency in the fight.

A prime minister office spokesperson said that since Monday, daily press conferences will be hosted by the prime minister and senior ministers on the coronavirus pandemic, supported by scientific and medical experts including the chief medical office and chief scientific adviser. (Britain-COVID-19)

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SOFIA -- The Bulgarian authorities have seized 250,000 smuggled protective medical masks at the country's Kapitan Andreevo checkpoint near the border with Turkey, the Interior Ministry said in a statement on Monday.

The masks that are currently banned for export were found on Saturday evening in a Turkish truck when it attempted to leave Bulgaria, the ministry said. (Bulgaria-Medical Masks)

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PARIS -- French President Emmanuel Macron will give a televised speech on Monday evening, the second in less than a week, on the health crisis related to coronavirus outbreak, which according to health authorities is "extremely worrying" and "deteriorating very fast," his office said.

Macron's address is scheduled for 20:00 local time (1900 GMT) following a meeting with prime minister, ministers and military advisers on the COVID-19 pandemic and ways to control its spread. (France-Coronavirus)

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JERUSALEM -- Israel's president tasked Monday former military chief Benny Gantz with forming a government, calling for an end to a yearlong political paralysis amidst efforts to tackle the novel coronavirus crisis.

President Reuven Rivlin signed a letter of appointment that gives Gantz, leader of the centrist Blue and White party, 28 days to form a new governing coalition. (Israel-Government-President) Enditem

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