Coronavirus Live Updates: France Closes Most Businesses and Spain Moves Toward Locking Down

Here’s what you need to know:

Image
Credit…Samuel Aranda for The New York Times

Spain and France announced drastic, countrywide restrictions on Saturday to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Spain ordered all citizens to confine themselves to their homes — and to leave only to buy food, go to work, seek medical care or assist the elderly and others in need.

Officials in Spain reported 1,500 new cases, the largest daily increase in the country so far, pushing its total to 5,703. The government ordered all schools, restaurants and bars to close, extending measures that various regional authorities, including in Madrid and in Catalonia, had taken on Friday.

France announced the closing of all “non-indispensable” businesses as of midnight, including restaurants, bars, and movie theaters, after a sharp uptick in the assault from the coronavirus. French cases doubled over the last 72 hours to about 4,500. There have been 91 deaths, and 300 coronavirus patients are in critical condition — half of them under 50 years of age.

The measures in both countries follow similar moves in Italy, the hardest hit country in Europe. Italy has been locked down since early in the week, with only groceries, pharmacies and banks allowed to operate. On Saturday, the country reported 175 new deaths, with a total of 1,441, and 2,795 new cases, with the total crossing 21,000.

An Italian couple tested positive for the coronavirus late on Friday, five days after they disembarked in San Juan, Puerto Rico, from the Costa Luminosa cruise ship.

Costa Cruises, an Italian subsidiary of Miami-based Carnival Corp., says the ship is now heading to Marseilles, France.

The Costa Luminosa set sail on March 5 from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for a trans-Atlantic voyage. The ship called for an ambulance when it docked in San Juan on Sunday, March 8.

Puerto Rican doctors suspected that the woman, 68, had the coronavirus and hospitalized her. Her husband, 70, was asymptomatic. By the time Puerto Rico announced the hospitalization, hundreds of passengers had spent the day mingling in colonial Old San Juan, and the ship had left port.

It took five more days to confirm the cases. The island had no tests, so samples were taken from the couple and sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Gov. Wanda Vázquez of Puerto Rico called the delay “unacceptable.”

All the while, the Costa Luminosa has been at sea, passengers circulating freely. Shows have been canceled, but the gym, pool and Jacuzzi remain open. Only on Saturday did the crew rework the lunch buffet to serve passengers directly, said Kathryn Bitner, a 66-year-old passenger from San Diego, Calif.

“No one I know of has been tested in our ship,” Ms. Bitner said in a WhatsApp message.

Costa Cruises said on Saturday that the ship was not in quarantine, but that the “sanitary protocol” on board had been increased and close contacts of the passengers who tested positive had been isolated in their cabins. Costa Cruises also said that it was instituting a daily temperature check for crew and passengers.

The ship’s final destination is unclear. Passengers were first told that they would get off in the Canary Islands, off West Africa. Then Málaga, Spain. But it now appears that Spain is suspending new cruise ship arrivals, and passengers got a letter from the cruise ship company Friday night telling them that the latest plan is to disembark in Marseille, France, on March 19.

Costa Cruises said that it would be contacting the French authorities to report the health situation onboard and that any special rules for disembarkation would be “strictly” followed.

At a news conference on Saturday, President Trump announced that he had been tested for the coronavirus on Friday night and was awaiting the results, and Vice President Mike Pence announced that the extension of the administration’s European travel ban to the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Whether the president would be tested had been a matter of speculation since it first emerged that a member of a Brazilian delegation that visited Mar-a-Lago had tested positive. Two other people who were with the president at Mar-a-Lago have tested positive, and various members of Congress have been self-isolating after interacting with some of the same people.

Mr. Trump, wearing a “USA” baseball cap, said he decided to be tested for the coronavirus after his news conference on Friday to declare a national emergency.

“People were asking, did I take the test,” he said.

Asked when he expected to have the result, Mr. Trump said, “A day, two days.”

“They send it to a lab,” he said.

It was unclear if Mr. Pence, who interacted with some of the infected Mar-a-Lago visitors, had known that the president was tested. Answering a reporter’s question about his own status, Mr. Pence said, “I’m going to speak immediately after this news conference with the White House physician’s office,” which he said had previously advised him that neither he nor his wife needed to be tested.

The White House has begun checking the temperatures of anyone in close contact with Mr. Trump or Mr. Pence. White House staff checked the temperatures of everyone arriving at the news conference.

Reporters pressed Mr. Trump about “mixed messages,” asking about why he shook hands with a row of chief executives who attended his news conference on Friday where he announced a national emergency.

“It almost becomes a habit and you get out of that habit,” he said, noting that “getting away from shaking hands is a good thing.”

Mr. Pence said that, effective at midnight Monday night, the federal government’s European travel ban would apply to the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top U.S. health official, said that Mr. Trump’s declaration of a national emergency on Friday had cleared the way for a concerted, effective response to the virus. “Now it’s all systems go,” he said, adding that “as we get knowledge about new testing, we’ll alleviate the anxiety that we have in the world about, we don’t know what’s going on, but also it will give the individual physician and individual citizen the opportunity to know where they stand.”

Later in the news conference, the surgeon general, Jerome M. Adams, called for unity in responding to the virus’s spread in the United States, urging “no more finger-pointing or criticism” and suggesting “less stories looking at what happened in the past.”

As the coronavirus continues to spread in the United States, people are increasingly worried that a pandemic that has upended lives and wreaked havoc on financial markets could have a disproportionate effect on the nation’s poor and disadvantaged. The virus has been reported in more than 2,100 people in 49 states, as well as Washington and Puerto Rico, and has killed at least 48.

New York reported its first coronavirus death on Saturday, when a 82-year-old woman died in Brooklyn, according to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. The woman, who was not identified, had emphysema, an underlying medical condition that the governor said had contributed to her death.

The House passed a sweeping relief package to assist people affected by the outbreak, after a roller-coaster day of negotiations on Friday, and it now goes to the Senate.

Talks threatened to veer off track as President Trump criticized the plan during a White House Rose Garden news conference in which he declared a national emergency. Instead, by dusk, Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote to House Democrats saying they had reached an agreement with the administration, and Mr. Trump later tweeted that he would sign the bill “ASAP!”

When officials in Washington State chose two locations to house people exposed to the virus, they picked areas in mostly low-income neighborhoods, drawing ire from local officials who noted that the communities had not yet experienced any cases. Dana Ralph, the mayor of Kent, south of Seattle, said residents wondered if their neighborhoods were being sacrificed to protect wealthier ones.

Their fears came true when a person who was housed in a converted motel wandered away and hopped on a bus. The bus was taken out of service, but the community was angered.

And the closing of schools in more than a dozen states continues to create concerns that children may miss meals and parents may not be able to stay home from work. Mayor Bill de Blasio, under increasing pressure to close New York City schools, has maintained that the schools are a lifeline for the city’s most vulnerable and refused to cancel classes.

After Los Angeles Unified School District announced it was closing, school officials said that they would open 40 family resource centers to provide child care and meals to students whose parents cannot get out of work.

Warnings that prisons could be overtaken with the virus — as they have in some other countries — began to seem increasingly plausible. On Friday, Washington State announced that a prison employee tested positive for the virus. A jail employee in Hancock County, Ind., also tested positive.

The Bureau of Prisons, which runs federal prisons that hold more than 175,000 people, suspended all visits to prisoners for 30 days, including most by lawyers.

The virus continued to prompt closures and cancellations around the world. Universal Studios Hollywood said that it would be closed from Saturday through at least the end of March.

Despite being pressed repeatedly at the White House news conference on Saturday, Mr. Pence did not share substantive new details about Mr. Trump’s earlier claim that Google was developing a website to help people decide whether a test for the coronavirus was warranted and where they could get one.

The confusion started when Mr. Trump thanked Google on Friday for developing the website, which he said would be “very quickly done.”

But later Friday, Carolyn Wang, a spokeswoman for Verily, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company, said that the website was meant to help health care workers triage people for virus screening, that it would be available by Monday and that it would be limited to testing sites in the Bay Area. If the pilot goes well, Verily said, it plans to deploy the project nationwide but there is no timetable for a national rollout.

Ms. Wang said that Mr. Trump’s statement prompted the company to plan to make the site available to the public.

On Saturday, Mr. Pence said the government was working “24/7” on the website and more details would be released at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

“What Google said was that they’re planning to launch a website this coming Monday, March 16, that will enable individuals to do a risk assessment and be scheduled for testing at pilot test, sites in the Bay Area with the goal of expanding to other locations” Mr. Pence said.

“And we’re very grateful for that. The objective here is to have a website up very quickly that first people in the areas that have been deeply impacted.”

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said on Saturday that digital and technological means would be employed to track citizens known to have contracted the virus, an extraordinary measure he said was drawn from Israel’s war on terrorism.

In a televised address on Saturday night, he said that Israel was “at war” against an “invisible enemy.”

Acknowledging that the surveillance would impinge on personal privacy, Mr. Netanyahu said he had sought and received permission from the Justice Ministry.

As the country’s caseload rose to 200, the government mandated the closure of all leisure venues starting on Sunday, including cafes, restaurants, gyms and cultural institutions. Public gatherings are to be limited to 10 people, public transportation will be scaled down and workers have been told to work from home if possible.

Many other countries increased restrictions:

  • The British government appears nearer to banning mass gatherings, something it had so far resisted. But it has not revealed what size of gatherings would be restricted, or how it would enforce a ban, even as scores of events have already been canceled by organizers, including high-profile soccer matches in the country’s Premier League. The number of deaths from the coronavirus nearly doubled on Saturday to 21 and the number of cases surged by more than 300 to 1,140.

  • The Afghan government closed all schools and universities for a month and asked people to avoid weddings and engagements — events that usually draw thousands — until the risk of the coronavirus decreases. The war-torn country, which shares a porous border with Iran, reported its 11th case on Saturday. But testing is severely limited, so it’s hard to gauge how widespread the outbreak is.

  • In Indonesia, which reported a sharp increase in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases on Saturday, to 96, the governor of Jakarta announced that schools in the capital would close for two weeks. Five people have died from the virus, a government official said. The transportation minister, Budi Karya Sumadi, has tested positive.

  • Singapore has closed all its 70 mosques for five days to disinfect them, after the spread of the virus in at least three countries — Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore — was connected to a gathering of 16,000 people at a mosque near the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur. Four cases in Singapore have been linked to that gathering, which was attended by more than 90 Singaporeans. Religious instruction at Singapore’s mosques will be suspended until the end of March.

  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand announced that everyone arriving in the country after Sunday night will have to isolate themselves for 14 days. The measure applies to citizens of New Zealand as well as foreigners.

  • Rwanda reported its first case on Saturday, an Indian national who arrived on March 8 from Mumbai, the Health Ministry said in a statement on Saturday. The man sought medical help on March 13, the ministry said.

  • Namibia, in southern Africa, reported its first two cases of coronavirus on Saturday: a Spanish couple who arrived there on Wednesday. They are both under quarantine, Health Minister Kalumbi Shangula said on Saturday.

  • The president of Colombia ordered the border with Venezuela closed.

  • Guatemala will bar citizens from the United States and Canada, and recent visitors to those two countries may be asked to self-quarantine for seven days, officials said. Guatemala confirmed its first coronavirus case on Friday: a 27-year-old man who had traveled from Spain to Guatemala via Colombia and El Salvador.

  • Poland, with 68 cases, will close its borders to all but citizens on Sunday, and is suspending all international air and rail travel for at least 10 days. Schools were closed on Wednesday, and the authorities said they would also cancel public gatherings for more than 50 people and close businesses. The Czech Republic and Slovakia have announced similar measures.

  • In Denmark, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said that all foreigners who did not have an essential purpose for visiting the country would be turned away. Passenger ferries and trains will stop running but cargo transports will continue. The measures will be in effect until at least April 13.

  • Iran’s state TV said the death toll from the coronavirus had risen to 611, with 12,729 confirmed cases in the country.

  • The government of Jordan announced on Saturday that it was suspending all incoming and outgoing passenger flights. Jordanian officials said all schools and universities in the country will be suspended for two weeks and mosques, churches, gyms, cinemas, youth centers and swimming pools will also close.

Italy is locked down, in the face of what is so far Europe’s most severe coronavirus outbreak. Italians, however, are still getting their voices heard.

At precisely noon on Saturday, millions of Italians, from Piedmont to Sicily, leaned out of windows or stood on their balconies to applaud the health care workers in hospitals and other front-line medical staff who have been working round the clock to care for coronavirus patients.

As church bells normally drowned out by traffic pealed in the surreal silence that defines Italy since Wednesday’s lockdown, applause filled streets, piazzas and even country roads, after messages went viral on social media calling Italians to put their hands together.

There was a similar response to another online appeal Friday evening, asking Italians to sing the national anthem — or play it on a musical instrument — at exactly 6 p.m. The socially distant flash mob swept social media.

Naturally, not everyone is blessed with a voice like Pavarotti. Some Italians preferred banging on pots and calling out, “We will make it.”

It’s unclear who began the musical interlude, but in the land that gave the world opera, it’s clearly not meant to be a cacophonous mess, and a program for more songs is spreading online. At 6 p.m. on Saturday, Italians will sing “Azzurro,” a 1968 hit by the singer Adriano Celentano, and on Sunday, “Ma il cielo è sempre più blu,” by Nino Gaetano, which topped the charts in 1975.

As thousands of Americans flee from Europe and other centers of the coronavirus outbreak, many travelers are reporting no health screenings upon departure and few impediments at U.S. airports.

Since January, officers from Customs and Border Protection have been on heightened alert for travelers who might spread the virus. The Department of Homeland Security has told employees to look for physical symptoms, search through travel documents and review a federal tracking database.

But travelers, including some who say they showed visible signs of illness, say screening has been lax. Members of Congress this week grilled senior Homeland Security officials over what some described as a porous screening process.

Even top officials at the department acknowledge that fully sealing the United States from the virus is impossible.

“We are trying to reduce and delay the biggest peak in the virus wave hitting on the United States of America,” said Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security. “And all of these steps reduce and delay. They do not stop the virus.”

Apple said on Friday that it would temporarily close most of its stores worldwide, becoming one of the first major retailers to take such drastic measures.

The company’s chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, said that Apple would shutter all stores until March 27, excluding those in mainland China — where infections have significantly declined recently — and in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

“The most effective way to minimize risk of the virus’s transmission is to reduce density and maximize social distance,” Mr. Cook said in a statement posted to the company’s website.

Many firms around the world are contemplating similar measures. Patagonia, the outdoor-clothing retailer, said on Friday that it would shut its stores until late March. Starbucks has said it would consider closing stores temporarily as a “last resort.”

The virus has already taken a toll on many businesses, disrupting supply chains and hurting demand in critical markets.

Apple recently reopened all of its 42 stores in China, after closing them for more than a month. But the company has struggled to ramp up production of smartphones amid delays at its factories in China.

More schools are closing, more companies are asking employees to work remotely. Here are some tips to help you work from home more efficiently, and balance home schooling for your children.

And here is more coverage on how the coronavirus affects your day-to-day life here.

For a second day in a row, the number of coronavirus patients released from South Korean hospitals has exceeded the number of newly confirmed infections, a potential sign that the country’s aggressive test-and-treatment approach is paying off.

Unlike China and Italy, which have locked down entire cities, South Korea has not blocked the movement of people in and out of regions heavily affected by the outbreak. Instead, it has launched an aggressive campaign of tracking, testing and treating patients, conducting more than 10,000 diagnostic tests a day.

Heath officials said it was still too early to say that the country’s outbreak was under control, but they were encouraged by the recent figures. The number of recovered patients surpassed that of new infections by 177 to 110 on Friday, and by 204 to 107 on Saturday.

The improvement was due largely to a sharp decline in the number of new patients in the city of Daegu, the epicenter of the country’s outbreak and the focus of the testing campaign. So far, the country has tested more than 260,000 people. Of these, 8,086 have tested positive for the virus.

Reporting was contributed by Isabel Kershner, Adam Nossiter, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Mujib Mashal, Najim Rahim, Andrew Kramer, Maria Varenikova, Helene Cooper, Hannah Beech, Elisabetta Povoledo, Marc Santora, Johanna Berendt, Choe Sang-Hun, Stephen Castle, Richard C. Paddock, Muktita Suhartono, Elian Peltier, Peter Robins, Keith Bradsher, Damien Cave, Emily Cochrane, Javier Hernandez, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, John Schwartz, Liz Alderman, Mihir Zaveri, Patricia Mazzei, Frances Robles and Annie Karni.

View original article here Source

Related Posts