Coronavirus Live Updates (Wednesday): Record Daily Deaths in Italy; U.K. Closes All Schools; Top Chinese Expert Says ‘Herd Immunity’ Won’t Work
Thursday, March 19, 3 a.m.
Italy reports highest daily death toll
Italy recorded an increase of 475 fatalities from the Covid-19 coronavirus in the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s total death toll to 2,978. It was the highest number for any country in a single day since the outbreak began.
Lombardy, the worst-hit region in northern Italy, recorded 319 deaths in one day.
Italy confirmed 35,713 infections as of Wednesday. Some 2,257 people were in intensive care while 4,025 had fully recovered, official data showed. The country, the worst-hit after China, has remained in a nationwide lockdown for almost two weeks.
U.S., Canada to close shared border
The U.S. and Canada agreed to close the border between the two countries to nonessential traffic to help curb the outbreak. The temporary closure will not affect trade between the two countries, leaders said.
“We will be, by mutual consent, temporarily closing our Northern Border with Canada to non-essential traffic,” President Donald Trump said Wednesday morning in a tweet. “Trade will not be affected.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later said at a press conference that travelers will no longer be able to cross the border for recreational and tourism purposes.
“These measures will last in place as long as we feel they need to last,” Trudeau said.
As of Wednesday, the U.S. reported 7,323 cases and Canada, 654, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Trudeau reported plans to roll out a stimulus package amounting to 3% of Canada’s economy to counter the impact of the outbreak. The package will be worth a combined C$82 billion ($56.7 billion), including C$27 billion in direct support for individuals and companies and C$55 billion in tax deferrals for households and businesses.
In the U.S., it’s another day of financial market turmoil. The S&P 500 Index fell more than 7% in the afternoon, triggering another circuit breaker for a 15-minute pause. The Dow Jones Industrial Average wiped out all its gains since Trump’s inauguration, dropping as much as 10%.
U.K. closes all schools as government weighs London lockdown
The U.K. is toughening measures to combat the Covid-19 outbreak, ordering all schools to close starting Friday.
“Looking at where we are now, we think now that we must apply further downward pressure on that upward curve by closing the schools,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Wednesday at a press conference.
The policy covers all schools in England, as Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland previously made similar pronouncements. Johnson didn’t rule out imposing tighter controls on London to contain the disease.
As of Wednesday, the U.K. had more than 2,600 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 71 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
In other coronavirus-related news:
• Zhong Nanshan, China’s top epidemiologist, said countries can’t rely on herd immunity to curb the Covid-19 pandemic as the disease is too infectious and lethal.
“There is no evidence of immunity for life after one infection of the virus,” Zhong said Wednesday at a press conference.
Zhong’s comment came after controversies arose surrounding a strategy proposed by U.K. Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance to allow 60% of the British population to become infected with the virus to create herd immunity and reduce the virus’s transmission capacity.
• Major automakers including General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV said they will temporarily shut down plants in the U.S.
• Two more senior officials in the Brazilian government tested positive for the new coronavirus. Brazil’s top security official General Augusto Heleno, 72, said Wednesday morning that he’s undergoing additional testing to confirm the result. Mining and Energy Minister Bento Albuquerque, 61, also tested positive.
Compiled by Han Wei
Wednesday, March 18, 6 p.m.
• The total number of global infections has surpassed 200,000. The global death toll also reached over 8,000.
• The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday called on its member states in Southeast Asia to “urgently scale-up aggressive measures” to combat Covid-19.
“The situation is evolving rapidly. We need to immediately scale up all efforts to prevent the virus from infecting more people,” said Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO regional director for Southeast Asia.
• Australia has warned citizens “not to travel abroad,” the strictest travel advice the country has ever given in its history, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told media Wednesday. “Do not go overseas … that is very clear that instruction,” he said.
• Malaysia shut its border with Singapore starting from Wednesday, but the neighboring Malaysian state of Johor said it hopes to reopen the border in the next few days with more stringent health checks in place, according to The Straits Times.
Malaysia has reported 790 confirmed cases, including two deaths, according to data compiled by a research collective at Johns Hopkins University.
• The Philippines has been placed under a “state of calamity” for six months, with President Rodrigo Duterte signing a proclamation to that effect, according to the state-run Philippine News Agency.
The move will enable the central and local governments to use emergency funds to tackle the outbreak. It will also direct law enforcement agencies to undertake measures to ensure peace and order “as may be necessary,” according to the report.
The Philippines has reported over 200 infections, including 19 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University data.
• The U.S. continues to see its epidemic worsen, as all its states have reported cases. The country’s total number of infections has reached nearly 6,500, with the death toll climbing to 114, the Johns Hopkins University data showed.
In other coronavirus-related news
• Chinese airlines that operate international flights originally set to land in Beijing will start to divert some of those flights to other airports starting from Wednesday, Caixin has learned from multiple sources, as Beijing municipality has imposed stricter “isolation-upon-arrival” travel restrictions for inbound visitors, regardless of nationality.
Caixin has learned that airports including those in Shijiazhuang, Tianjin, Taiyuan and Hohhot will take in flights originally bound for Beijing to have travelers conduct health checks first.
• Economists are lowering their forecasts for China’s GDP in the first quarter of 2020. The economy could see its first quarterly decline on record since 1992 due to the ongoing virus pandemic.
Goldman Sachs (Asia) LLC revised down its projection for the country’s first quarter GDP to a year-on-year contraction of 9% from a previous estimation of 2.5% growth. Standard Chartered Bank lowered its estimate to a 4.2% year-on-year decline from a 2.8% growth.
• Bayer’s China office on Tuesday said (link in Chinese) in a Weibo post that it has fired an employee who violated quarantine rules, after a video emerged of the employee jogging outdoors when she was supposed to be self-quarantining at home.
Compiled by Timmy Shen
Wednesday, March 18, 10 a.m.
Situation continues to worsen in the U.S. and Europe
• As of Wednesday morning, at least 16 countries outside China had reported caseloads of more than 1,000 infections. The total number of infections outside China amounted to nearly 117,000, according to data compiled by a research collective at Johns Hopkins University.
• Italy remains the worst-hit country outside China. As of Tuesday evening local time, it had reported over 31,500 confirmed cases, including more than 2,500 deaths, the country’s health ministry said (link in Italian).
• Spain was the second hardest hit country in Europe. It has recorded over 11,800 infections with 533 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University data.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez unveiled an aid package of €200 billion ($220 billion) to help fight the economic impact brought by the virus crisis, local media El País reported. The package includes delaying mortgage payments, relaxing social security contributions as well as cutting down workdays for employees who need to take care of dependents, according to the report.
• The situation continues to worsen in the U.S. The country has reported more than 6,300 confirmed cases, including 108 deaths. All 50 U.S. states have now reported infections, as the state of West Virginia became the last to report a case.
Schools in California will likely stay closed for the rest of the school year, Gavin Newsom, the state’s governor, said Tuesday at a press conference, according to multiple media reports.
• In Australia, airline Virgin Australia said on Wednesday that it will suspend all international flights until June 14 and will reduce domestic services.
Australia has reported 452 infections, including five deaths, according to the data from the Johns Hopkins site.
In other coronavirus-related news
• On Tuesday, the Chinese mainland reported 13 new infections — though all but one were imported from overseas, according to the latest data (link in Chinese) from China’s top health body.
Central China’s Hubei province, the epicenter of outbreak, reported the country’s only new domestic infection on Tuesday. That means no new local cases were reported in regions on the mainland outside Hubei on Tuesday, marking the sixth day in a row that happened.
• On Tuesday, China reported 11 new deaths, all in Hubei, bringing the total death toll to 3,242. The total number of infections in China amounted to over 81,100.
Hong Kong reported 10 new infections on Tuesday, Macao recorded two and Taiwan 10.
• Scientists have found that children tend to have longer incubation and virus-shedding periods than adults, and most infected children experience relatively mild symptoms that differ from those observed in adults.
Compiled by Timmy Shen
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