Xinhua world news summary at 0030 GMT, March 31

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UNITED NATIONS -- A Chinese envoy on Monday called for complete and immediate lifting of unilateral coercive measures against Syria, noting that the sanctions will harm the vulnerable country's efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We call for complete and immediate lifting of unilateral coercive measures," Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the United Nations, also president of the Security Council for the month of March, told the council's video-teleconferencing meeting on the situation in Syria. (UN-China-Syria)

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WASHINGTON -- The United States has reported more than 160,000 COVID-19 cases, according to the latest tally from Johns Hopkins University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE).

As of 6:15 p.m. Eastern Time on Monday (2215 GMT), there have been 160,020 confirmed cases in the United States, with 2,953 deaths, an interactive map maintained by the CSSE showed. (US-CSSE-COVID-19)

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GABORONE -- Botswana's Minister of Health and Wellness Lemogang Kwape on Monday evening announced the southern African country's first three cases of the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

Kwape made the announcement when addressing the nation through Botswana Television, the state television. (Botswana-Confirmed Cases-COVID-19)

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WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday discussed efforts to combat COVID-19 and other global issues during a phone conversation, the White House said.

"President Trump and President Putin discussed the latest developments and efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic. The two leaders agreed to work closely together through the G20 to drive the international campaign to defeat the virus and reinvigorate the global economy," the White House said in a statement. (US-Russia-COVID-19) Enditem

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