Coronavirus are living updates: China reviews 13 new instances; Pope offers recommendation to virus-hit Italy


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A female Chinese volunteer from Blue Sky Rescue wears a protective suit as she fumigates and disinfects an area of a local bus station on March 7, 2020 in Beijing, China.

Kevin Frayer | Getty Images

  • Global cases: At least 184,976, according to the latest figures from the World Health Organization
  • Global deaths: At least 7,529, according to the latest figures from the WHO

This is a live blog. Please check back for updates.

All times below are in Beijing time.

6:02 pm: Celebrities are ‘touring’ social media to counter coronavirus gig cancellations

Coldplay’s Chris Martin, superstar John Legend and French lyricist Christine and the Queens are among a host of musicians taking to touring online in a bid to boost morale, and replace planned performances as the coronavirus outbreak wreaks havoc on the entertainment industry.

The string of virtual performances come as the entertainment industry suffers a huge hit from the escalating coronavirus outbreak. — Karen Gilchrist

5:30 pm: European Union will close external borders for 30 days to slow coronavirus pandemic

5:09 pm: Pope Francis tells Italians: ‘Don’t waste these difficult days’

Pope Francis has advised Italians to try to make the most of the coronavirus crisis by re-discovering the joy of family, as the country struggles to cope with the most acute outbreak of the virus outside China.

“During these difficult days we can find small, concrete gestures expressing closeness and concreteness towards the people closest to us, a caress for our grandparents, a kiss for our children, for the people we love,” Pope Francis told Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper in an interview published Wednesday.

His comments come as coronavirus has taken the lives of 2,503 people in Italy as of Tuesday, up 345 from the previous day. There have been 31,056 confirmed cases of the virus now in Italy. — Holly Ellyatt

4:53 pm: Philippines reports 15 news cases of coronavirus

The Philippines’ Department of Health reported 15 new cases of the virus on Wednesday, bringing the total number to 202. The department said 17 people had now died from the virus. — Holly Ellyatt

4:20 pm:  France hopes for slowdown in coronavirus infections in 8-12 days

France could start seeing a slowdown of coronavirus infections in about eight to 12 days following the government’s decision to lock down the country, Health Minister Olivier Veran said Wednesday.

“We will intervene where necessary to make sure people respect the confinement. When I look outside my window, I see that gradually people are getting the message,” Veran told LCI TV, Reuters reported. — Holly Ellyatt

4:00 pm: European markets open lower despite multi-billion dollar stimulus pledges

European markets opened lower Wednesday, despite Western governments promising to unleash billions of dollars to help businesses and citizens get through the coronavirus pandemic.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 fell 2.7% at the start of trading, travel and leisure stocks dropping 4% to lead losses as all sectors and major bourses slid into negative territory. — Holly Ellyatt

3:00 pm: Virus outbreak presents a ‘twin crisis’ for all countries, says Singapore minister

Countries globally are facing “a twin crisis of unprecedented proportion” of a public health threat in the form of a new coronavirus and heightened risk of an economic recession, said Lawrence Wong, Singapore’s minister for national development.

“The challenge is that the more we do to flatten the infection curve, we are actually also steepening the recession curve because as we do more of these measures, the right measures, to save lives … economic activity will be reduced and it will increase the risk of an economic downturn,” said Wong, who’s also second minister for finance and co-chair of a multi-ministry task force to fight COVID-19.

“So really, we are dealing with a twin crisis of unprecedented proportions: One, a public health emergency; and second, an economic crisis. An economic crisis which will be more severe than … anything we have ever seen in modern history,” he added. — Yen Nee Lee

2:10 pm: Olympics ‘would not make sense’ if countries can’t send athletes, Japan’s minister says

Japan’s Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso said that even if Japan can control the COVID-19 outbreak, the 2020 Summer Olympics “would not make sense” if athletes from other countries cannot come, according to a Reuters report.

The 2020 Summer Olympics is set to take place in Tokyo in July, and there has been much debate about whether it would go on as the pandemic continues in Japan and globally.

Aso, who is also Japan’s finance minister, said, according to Reuters: “As the prime minister said, it’s desirable to hold the Olympics in an environment where everyone feels safe and happy. But that’s not something Japan alone can decide.”

That follows, and contradicts, comments from Japan’s Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto, who said March 13 that “The IOC and the organizing committee are not considering cancellation or a postponement – absolutely not at all.” — Weizhen Tan

1:50 pm: Hong Kong is using electronic wristbands to enforce quarantine

Declan Chan received a wristband upon returning to Hong Kong to monitor his movement while under 14-day quarantine.

Declan Chan

The city’s leader Carrie Lam said that of 57 new cases Hong Kong recorded in the past two weeks, 50 were travelers from overseas. One recently returned resident Chan said he was instructed to walk around the corners of his house, upon arriving home, so the technology could precisely track the coordinates of his living space in which he would remain under quarantine. — Uptin Saiidi

12:45 pm: Australian stocks plummet 7%

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dropped around 7% as most sectors fell. That’s even as other major markets in Asia returned to positive territory, with China’s Shenzhen stocks jumping more than 2%, and Japan’s Nikkei shares up around 1%. — Weizhen Tan

11:50 am: Taiwan to bar entry to most foreigners, everyone entering to be put into quarantine

Taiwan will ban most foreigners from entering as it seeks to contain the coronavirus outbreak, its government said, according to a Reuters report.

Anyone who enters Taiwan will also have to serve out a home quarantine period of 14 days, the report said, citing its health minister Chen Shih-chung. He said the number of imported cases have “increased sharply.” The island has reported 77 cases to date.

The new measures will be effective from midnight, and the government did not say how long they will be in effect, according to the report. — Weizhen Tan

11:12 am: Investors in World Bank’s ‘pandemic bonds’ face big losses

Prices of two World Bank-issued “pandemic bonds” have plunged as fears rise amid the coronavirus outbreak. Investors are facing big losses of up to 80%, analysts say.

Those bonds, issued by the World Bank’s International Bank for Reconstruction and Development in 2017, were designed to pay out funds to countries that need help to contain a pandemic. They offer investors high-interest payments in return for taking on the risk of losing a certain amount or all of their money if pandemics occur. That includes the current coronavirus pandemic. — Weizhen Tan

10:40 am: Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan see rise in new cases

Those places have been credited with their effective management of the virus outbreak to contain its spread. Still, as the number of cases outside mainland China spiked, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan saw fresh confirmed cases of infection in recent days.

Singapore reported 23 new cases on Tuesday night, with most of them imported from overseas as people returned from trips to areas like Europe and the United States. The city-state currently has 152 active cases, while 114 people have recovered. Last week, Singapore banned new visitors with recent travel to Italy, France, Spain, and Germany.

Hong Kong reported new cases that brought its total from 157 on Monday to 167 on Tuesday. Chief executive Carrie Lam yesterday announced all inbound travelers would be subject to quarantine measures and the government also issued the second-highest alert for outbound travel. Residents were urged to avoid all non-essential travel.

Taiwan reported 10 new cases of infection on Tuesday that brought its total to 77. It advised residents to avoid non-essential travel as that heightens the risk of bringing the infection back to the island. — Saheli Roy Choudhury

9:54 am: UAW, Detroit automakers negotiate rotating partial shutdowns of US plants

General Motors, Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler have negotiated with the United Auto Workers union to “review and implement” rotating partial shutdown of facilities and other additional measures in an attempt to keep workers safe and healthy amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the union announced. 

The union said it expects “more detailed information to be released in the next 24 hours. The outbreak previously brought China’s manufacturing to a standstill; several automakers, including Ford and Fiat Chrysler, announced plant closures or plans to temporarily end all manufacturing in Europe due to the virus’ rapid spread. — Michael Wayland

9:46 am: South Korea says 3 more people have died from the virus

South Korea reported 93 new cases and 3 additional deaths, according to the country’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The total number of confirmed infection cases in South Korea stands at 8,413 and 84 people have died.

The majority of the cases are from the city of Daegu. Swift measures from the government, which included testing thousands of people daily and promptly isolating affected individuals, appear to have slowed the virus’ spread in recent weeks, following an initial implosion. — Saheli Roy Choudhury

9:18 am: China reports 13 new cases, 11 additional deaths

China’s National Health Commission said there were 13 new cases of infection in the country and that 11 more people have died from the virus; all of the deaths occurred in Hubei province, where the outbreak was first detected.

Altogether, China has 80,894 confirmed cases, of which, 69,601 have recovered and 3,237 died. As of now, China accounts for less than 50% of the total number of cases confirmed globally. Other countries, such as Italy, Iran, Spain, Germany, France, South Korea, and the United States have seen a sharp spike in infections in recent weeks. — Saheli Roy Choudhury

8:54 am: American Airlines extends time on voluntary unpaid leave options for flight attendants, others

American Airlines said it has extended the time on voluntary unpaid leave options for flight attendants, mechanics and gate agents to up to 12 months, Reuters reported. That indicated the company doesn’t expect travel demand to rebound any time soon. Unpaid leave of absence for staff is one of the ways some airlines are trying to save costs as more people cancel their trips in light of the global pandemic.  — Saheli Roy Choudhury

8:48 am: S&P says recession in Asia-Pacific region is now guaranteed

Asia-Pacific economic growth for the year will more than halve to less than 3% as the global economy enters a recession, according to S&P Global Ratings. 

“An enormous first-quarter shock in China, shutdowns across the U.S. and Europe, and local virus transmission guarantees a deep recession across Asia-Pacific,” said Shaun Roache, chief Asia-Pacific economist at the ratings agency. 

“Our estimate of permanent income losses is likely to at least double to more than US$400 billion,” he added. 

S&P lowered its growth forecast for China, India, and Japan for 2020 to 2.9%, 5.2%, and negative 1.2%, respectively.  — Saheli Roy Choudhury

8:14 am: Australia raises travel restriction to the highest level, tells citizens not to travel overseas

Australia raised its advisory for all overseas travel to the highest level and told citizens not to travel at this time, regardless of their destination, age or health condition. The “Level 4: Do Not Travel” designation suggests that if people choose to travel, despite the advice, the Australian government may not be in a position to help them if they land in trouble abroad. 

The government also said Australians overseas who want to return to the country should do so immediately and that upon their arrival, they would be required to self-isolate for two weeks. Separately, Australia has banned non-essential indoor gathering of more than 100 people starting Wednesday. That could potentially affect cinemas, theaters, restaurants, clubs, and cafes. 

Australia has recorded at least 375 confirmed cases as of 6 a.m. local time on March 17; of them, 27 have recovered and five people died, according to the health ministry. — Saheli Roy Choudhury

8:05 am: NASA says all employees, contractors to move to mandatory telework until further notice

NASA said its leadership is monitoring developments regarding the coronavirus around the U.S. A limited number of employees have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new, rapidly spreading coronavirus. In a statement, the agency said: 

“This evening, NASA leadership has decided to elevate all centers and facilities to Stage 3 of NASA’s Response Framework. Effective immediately, all employees and contractors will move to mandatory telework until further notice. Mission-essential personnel will continue to be granted access onsite.” — Saheli Roy Choudhury

7:30 am: Malaysians working in Singapore scramble to beat travel ban deadline

Malaysia announced it was banning its citizens from traveling abroad starting Wednesday as part of its efforts to contain the spread of the virus. Foreign travelers will also not be allowed into the country.

The decision potentially affects some 400,000 people who make the daily trip into Singapore for work. Local reports said there was a frantic rush on the causeway linking the two countries on Tuesday as people tried to beat the approaching deadline; that led to gridlock at the Singapore checkpoint and bumper-to-bumper traffic on the causeway.

A general view of the bumper to bumper traffic as vehicles are seen crossing into Singapore a day ahead before Malaysia closes its borders at the causeway bordering Malaysia’s southern state of Johor Bahru and Singapore on March 17, 2020 in Singapore.

Suhaimi Abdullah | Getty Images

The Straits Times reported many Malaysian workers scrambled to return home to collect their clothes before rushing back into Singapore to continue with their employment. For its part, Singapore said it was making available short-term accommodation options for affected workers who are unable to arrange for places to stay. — Saheli Roy Choudhury

7:08 am: Italy’s death toll passes 2,500

Italy had at least 2,503 virus-related deaths as of 6 p.m. local time on March 17, according to the country’s health ministry. Fatality numbers jumped by 345 from a day earlier where the death toll was at 2,158 people. Total cases in the country are now at 31,506 and among them, 2,941 people have recovered. Italy remains in complete lockdown where the government has ordered bars, restaurants and most shops to close. — Saheli Roy Choudhury

7:03 am: Virus spreads to all 50 states as US death toll crosses 100

The coronavirus has now infected more than 5,809 people across the United States and killed at least 100. At the beginning of the month, there were just 62 confirmed cases in the country, according to the World Health Organization. Almost half of all confirmed U.S. cases are in Washington state, California and New York, where major epidemics have erupted, prompting the governors to declare states of emergency to free up funding for communities battling outbreaks. — Will Feuer

All times below are in Eastern time.

6:48 pm: Even with $1 trillion stimulus, hit to economy and employment from virus will be big

The double-barreled approach of a $1 trillion proposed fiscal stimulus program and Federal Reserve policy could help soften the blow of an economic recession and head off a potential financial crisis.

The White House is seeking a stimulus package worth between $850 billion and $1 trillion that could result in emergency funds for individuals and assistance for small businesses and credit for industries hard hit by the reaction to the virus. 

But even with the proposed stimulus, the view of economic forecasters has become more dire in recent days as companies seeking cash strain credit markets and the shutdown of business activity sends shock waves across the economy. — Patti Domm

5:45 pm: Pentagon to free up 5 million respirator masks and 2,000 ventilators for coronavirus efforts

The Pentagon says it will give 5 million respirator masks and 2,000 ventilators to the Department of Health and Human Services from the military’s strategic reserve in order to support the coronavirus response.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Tuesday from the Pentagon press briefing room that 1 million respirator masks would be made available immediately. —Amanda Macias

5:30 pm: Travel industry pushes for $150 billion in aid as coronavirus cripples business

The U.S. travel and tourism industry is seeking $150 billion in relief to help grapple with coronavirus pandemic that has ground travel to a halt.

Lobbying groups representing the country’s travel and tourism industry met the White House on Tuesday to meet with President Donald Trump and other officials to discuss the devastating economic impact of the pandemic. —Lauren Hirsch

Read CNBC’s coverage from the U.S. overnight: Four Nets players test positive for the coronavirus, US cases more than 5,800

— CNBC’s Will Feuer, Lauren Hirsch, Amanda Macias, and Patti Domm contributed to this report.


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