President Donald Trump said a quarantine may be imposed on metropolitan New York, the disease’s U.S. epicenter. The U.K. had its deadliest 24 hours. Spain had record fatalities for a second straight day.
Michigan may become the next U.S. hotspot as Trump approved a disaster declaration for the state.
Russia is closing its borders after a sharp rise in cases over a week, Sweden is conducting random testing in Stockholm and Japan is planning an “unprecedented” stimulus.
Cases top 621,000; 28,600 dead, 135,000 recovered: Johns HopkinsSpain reports 832 deaths, exceeding Friday’s recordU.K. fatalities jump 34% in one dayAbbott gets emergency approval for five-minute testTrump signs $2.2 trillion aid packageJapan plans supplementary budget, cash handouts
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U.S. Mulls Metro NYC Quarantine (12:23 p.m. NY)
President Trump said he’s considering an enforced quarantine in areas of New York and New Jersey to curb the outbreak.
Trump told reporters he had spoken with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo before departing the White House to send off a Navy hospital ship bound for New York City from Norfolk, Virginia.
The president said he’d rather not impose such a quarantine but that the country may need it. Asked about his ambition to urge many Americans to return to work by the Easter holiday on April 12, Trump said “we’ll see what happens.”
New York and New Jersey have more than half the U.S. Covid-19 cases.
Northern Italy Deaths Near 6,000 (12:10 p.m. NY)
Deaths in Italy’s northern Lombardy region rose by 542 to 5,944, according to a person familiar with the matter. New cases in the area around Milan rose by 2,117 to 39,415, the person said, asking not to be named because Lombardy’s data aren’t public.
Lombardy has been at the epicenter of Italy’s outbreak, which is the worst in Europe with more than 86,000 cases. The region accounts for almost half of all cases in Italy.
Michigan Cases Top U.S. Rate (12:05 p.m. NY)
Michigan is becoming the next U.S. coronavirus hotspot, registering new cases at more than triple the national rate. The state had 3,657 cases as of Friday — versus zero just over two weeks ago — and now ranks fifth in the nation. At least 92 people have died.
Impoverished Detroit and surrounding Wayne County made up half the state total. Suburban Oakland County, home for thousands of white-collar auto jobs, had 23% of cases.
Other Midwestern cities are posting sharp increases. Cook County, Illinois, which includes Chicago, saw cases rise from 413 at the end of last week to more than 1,900 Friday, according to data from the University of Chicago. The county accounts for three-quarters of the state’s total.Outbreaks in Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennesee also accelerated recently. Cases in Nashville’s Davidson County quadrupled in a week, as did those in Orleans Parish, Louisiana.
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Serbia Expands Mandatory Isolation (11:55 a.m. NY)
Serbia doubled the mandatory isolation period for people returning from abroad to 28 days and extended the weekend curfew by two hours as total infections jumped the most in a day on Saturday.
The biggest former Yugoslav republic reported 131 new cases, bringing the total to 659. Ten people have died and about as many are in critical condition, Health Minister Zlatibor Loncar said.
Russia to Shut Borders (11:40 a.m. NY)
Russia will temporarily shut its borders starting March 30 after a sharp increase in infections in the past week. on Saturday, health officials reported 228 new cases overnight, bringing the total to 1,264, with four deaths.
The order, posted on the government website, followed increasingly harsh limits on movement. Moscow’s mayor shut all non-essential business on Saturday and recommended everyone stay home. The government halted international flights on Friday and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin called on regions to close most businesses, but stopped short of issuing an order.
The government is considering a temporary halt of domestic flights and trains, Interfax reported, citing an unidentified official.
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U.K. Has Most Deaths in a Day (10:30 a.m. NY)
The U.K. reported a 34% increase in deaths in one day, its biggest surge since the outbreak began.
Fatalities jumped by 260, to 1,019, as of late Friday, the Department of Health and Social Care reported. There were 17,089 confirmed cases Saturday, up from 14,543 a day earlier. The government is expanding testing for hospital staff and building new facilities near London, Birmingham and Manchester.
Denmark’s Premier Pledges to Reopen ASAP (10:44 a.m. NY)
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on Facebook said she doesn’t think it will be several months before Denmark reopens, responding to speculation that limits could remain in place for several months. “We don’t want to keep Denmark under lock down for one day more than necessary,” Frederiksen said in the posting.
Portugal Deaths Rise (10:20 a.m. NY)
Portugal’s cases rose 20% in one day and deaths climbed to 100 from 76, a fraction of the fatalities in neighboring European nations.
Deaths so far indicate a fatality rate of 1.9%, but 7.9% for those more than 70 years old, Health Minister Marta Temido said in Lisbon. The peak of infections may occur at the end of May, based on current data, she said. “This indicates that the containment measures that we’ve adopted, namely that people stay at home except to go to work, are being effective,” Temido said.
Trump Clears State Funding (9:15 a.m. NY)
President Trump approved disaster declarations for Michigan and Massachusetts on Friday. He has approved declarations for more than a dozen states, making them eligible for certain federal funding.
Earlier, Trump complained that Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan’s Democratic governor, as well as her counterpart in Washington, don’t appreciate his administration’s efforts to combat the coronavirus epidemic, and said Vice President Mike Pence shouldn’t take their calls.
Namibia Shuts Mines, Quarries (8:45 a.m. NY)
Namibia, the world’s top producer of marine diamonds and the fifth-biggest of uranium. halted mining and quarrying operations to curb the outbreak, Minister of Mines and Energy Tom Alweendo said. The semi-arid southwest African nation will allow minimal operations and critical maintenance work. Namibia, with eight virus cases, imposed a partial lockdown of the capital, Windhoek.
Study Cuts U.K. Death Estimate (7:47 a.m. NY)
The number of coronavirus fatalities in Britain could be much lower than previously estimated thanks to social distancing, according to a new paper from statisticians at Imperial College London, the Times reported. That’s a sharp drop from previous analysis that suggested fatalities from the virus could be 260,000 if Britain maintained its previous policy of less restrictive interventions.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson became the first world leader to reveal he has Covid-19 yesterday.
Sweden Begins Random Testing (7:27 a.m.)
Swedish health authorities have begun random testing in Stockholm to help contain the spread of the coronavirus, Sveriges Radio reported.
About 1,000 people will undergo testing, the broadcaster reported, citing state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell.
Switzerland is also going to start testing for antibodies next week to see if people have already had the virus, and once the test is more readily available, those tests will be done on a grander scale, the health ministry said on a webcast.
Spain’s Deadliest Day (6:42 a.m. NY)
Spain said 832 people died from coronavirus in the last 24 hours, its deadliest day since the outbreak began. That brings total fatalities to 5,690 after the country recorded 769 deaths on Friday.
Health Minister Salvador Illa warned on Friday that the pandemic has yet to reach its peak in Spain.
Germany to Stay Locked Down (6:37 a.m. NY)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the country’s lockdown rules are unlikely to be relaxed because they are needed to protect the health-care system.
Her chief of staff, Helge Braun, separately told newspaper Der Tagesspiegel it has been decided to keep the current measures largely in place until April 20.
Loss of Smell Key Symptom (6:30 a.m. NY)
The coronavirus is capable of attacking key cells in the nose, which may explain the unusual finding that some Covid-19 sufferers lose their ability to smell and taste, Harvard Medical School researchers found.
Their study of human and mice genomic data found certain cells at the back of the nose harbor the distinctly shaped proteins that the coronavirus targets to invade the body. Infection of these cells could directly or indirectly lead to an altered sense of smell, they said in a paper published Saturday.
Japan Stimulus to Exceed Financial Crisis (5:30 p.m. HK)
Japan will extend economic stimulus on an “unprecedented scale” in response to the outbreak, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.
There will be cash handouts for citizens and the government will act to protect regional employment, he said in a televised press briefing on Saturday. The government actions will be on a larger scale than that of the financial crisis more than a decade ago, he said.
Abe said a supplementary budget will be passed as soon as possible, as he cautioned that the battle against the virus will be a long one. Japan is preparing its virus-related policities with the worst-case scenario in mind, the prime minister said.
Dutch Hospitals to Reach ICU Bed Capacity (5 p.m. HK)
Dutch hospitals will probably reach full capacity of intensive care unit beds on Sunday due to the pandemic, local newspaper Trouw writes, citing numbers from a medical association. The government is currently in talks with Germany to see if it can transfer intenive-care patients. Doctors have also started calling elderly people at home to ask if they want to be treated in the hospital or at home if they get Covid-19, causing panic among older citizens, newspaper Telegraaf reported.
Later, Philips delivered the first 100 of 1,000 ventilators to the Netherlands from the U.S. The devices will help to increase the number of ICU beds.
Hubei Border Clash After Quarantine Lifted (3:45 p.m. HK)
Dozens of people clashed on the Hubei border after the Chinese government lifted a two-month quarantine on the epicenter of the country’s coronavirus outbreak. The conflict began Friday morning on a bridge connecting Hubei and neighboring Jiangxi province as policemen from both sides argued over how to verify if people were allowed to enter Jiangxi, according to local media reports.
The two counties issued a joint statement on Saturday, saying checkpoints between them would be removed and no special documentation would be needed to cross.
Tokyo Sees Biggest Daily Increase in Cases (3:30 p.m. HK)
New coronavirus infections in Tokyo rose by more than 60 on Saturday, the biggest daily increase yet, according to Kyodo News. The rise comes amid a critical weekend for the capital, where people have been asked — though not forced — to stay at home.
Iran to Punish Those Who Ignore Social Distancing Rules (3 p.m. HK)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said people who ignore social distancing rules aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus would be punished.
“Anyone who doesn’t want to listen or chooses to resist will face harsher measures this time around,” Rouhani said in a television broadcast. “Punishments are in place to that end, but hopefully we will never get there.”
This week authorities introduced stricter measures to combat the outbreak, including a ban on intercity travel and the closing of parks and other public spaces.The country’s oil, power facilities and fuel supply have been unaffected by the outbreak, the president added.
Singapore Advises Public to Stay Indoors, Shop Online (1:05 p.m. HK)
Singapore advised its public to stay at home in its latest effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, a day after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the city state is facing a grave economic challenge posed by the pandemic.
The public should only head to malls for essential items such as food, the government said in an advisory on its official WhatsApp channel, suggesting that people “buy food and groceries online.”
Mexico’s AMLO Encourages Shopping in Public Markets (11:19 a.m. HK)
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said people should shop in public markets to support small businesses during the coronavirus outbreak.
“Those at the top know how to defend themselves; they can resist,” he said in a video posted on Facebook. “Those at the bottom have a hard time in times of crisis”
The president has been criticized for his response to the virus, though he appeared to be changing tone recently. The Health Ministry has advised people to maintain social distance from one another to inhibit the virus’s spread.
China Signals Ramped-Up Stimulus (10:26 a.m. HK)
China’s top leaders pledged to widen the fiscal deficit and sell sovereign debt, signaling that Beijing is preparing larger-scale stimulus to counter the economic fallout from the virus.
China will increase its fiscal deficit as a share of gross domestic product, issue special sovereign debt and allow local governments to sell more infrastructure bonds as part of a package to stabilize the economy, according to a Politburo meeting on Wednesday, Xinhua reported late Friday.
Singapore Defense Forum Called Off (10 a.m. HK)
The Shangri-La Dialogue, a high-profile regional security forum held annually in Singapore, has been canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The forum, usually attended by ministerial-level delegates and top defense officials globally, was scheduled to be held from June 5-7. This is the first time the event is being canceled since its inception in 2002.
Australian State Introduces Social Distance Fines (9:45 a.m. HK)
In the Australian state of Victoria, police have been given power to issue on-the-spot fines of up to A$1,652 ($1,020) for individuals and A$9,913 for businesses who don’t follow rules on social distancing or limits on gatherings. Premier Dan Andrews said he wouldn’t hesitate to close beaches after police were forced to disperse hundreds of people sunbathing on Melbourne’s St. Kilda beach on Friday.
Australia’s death toll from the coronavirus outbreak has risen to 14, according to government figures released Saturday. The number of confirmed infections stood at 3,635 as of Saturday afternoon, an increase of 469 from Friday afternoon.
China Says All New Virus Cases on March 27 Imported (9:30 a.m. HK)
China’s National Health Commission said all 54 new coronavirus cases reported on March 27 were imported, as an order to seal the borders to most foreigners takes effect Saturday.
China had 81,394 confirmed cases as of March 27, with 649 of those imported, according to a statement on NHC’s website. The death toll rose by three to 3,295, with all new deaths reported in Hubei province. Discharged patients rose by 383 to 74,971.
Abbott Launches Five-Minute Virus Test (7:31 a.m. HK)
Abbott Laboratories is unveiling a coronavirus test that can tell if someone is infected in as little as five minutes, and is so small and portable it can be used in almost any health-care setting.
The medical-device maker plans to supply 50,000 tests a day starting April 1, said John Frels, vice president of research and development at Abbott Diagnostics. The molecular test looks for fragments of the coronavirus genome, which can be detected in as little as five minutes when it’s present at high levels. A thorough search to definitively rule out an infection can take up to 13 minutes, he said.
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