March 16 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 10:14 p.m. ET, March 16, 2020
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11:20 a.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Egypt suspends all flight for 2 weeks

From CNN’s Mostafa Salem in Abu Dhabi and journalist Magdy Sama’an in Cairo

A passenger wearing a protective mask rides a bus at Upper Egypt's Luxor airport to the arrivals hall on Tuesday, March 10.
A passenger wearing a protective mask rides a bus at Upper Egypt's Luxor airport to the arrivals hall on Tuesday, March 10. Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Image

Egypt will suspend all flights in Egyptian airports starting Thursday to stop the spread of coronavirus, state media reported.   

Most of the countries in the Middle East have partially or fully suspended flights over the past week. 

Egypt heavily relies on tourism for its economy. In February alone, 900,000 tourists visited Egypt, according to Egyptian tourism minister Khaled Al Anany. 

The Egyptian government has already suspended schools and universities for two weeks, according to state media. 

9:46 a.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Women's tennis tour suspended until May

A sign flashes outside the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 9, in Indian Wells, California. The BNP Paribas Open was cancelled by the Riverside County Public Health Department, as county officials declared a public health emergency when a case of coronavirus was confirmed in the area.
A sign flashes outside the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 9, in Indian Wells, California. The BNP Paribas Open was cancelled by the Riverside County Public Health Department, as county officials declared a public health emergency when a case of coronavirus was confirmed in the area. Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images

The women’s professional tennis tour, the WTA Tour, has announced that it is now suspending play until May 2 because of the coronavirus outbreak.

"Due to the ongoing global coronavirus outbreak, the WTA tournaments in Stuttgart, Istanbul and Prague will not be held as scheduled. We regret this is the case for all of our loyal fans, players, sponsors and all those who support women’s professional tennis," the tour said in a statement.

Last week, WTA Tour CEO Steve Simon said that the next two scheduled tennis tournaments had been cancelled. 

The men’s professional tennis tour, the ATP Tour, also suspended play for six-weeks last week.

The Madrid Open is scheduled to start on May 2nd. 

9:46 a.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Trading stopped for 15 minutes at the open as stocks fall

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

Traders work during the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Monday, March 16.
Traders work during the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Monday, March 16. Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

US stocks opened sharply lower on Monday as investors grew concerned that the emergency policy measures by global central banks over the weekend meant the economy is in much worse shape than previously believed.

Instead of soothing the markets, another emergency interest rate cut from the Federal Reserve had the opposite effect.

Here's where things stand:

  • The S&P 500 opened down 8.1%. The index hit a circuit breaker after falling more than 7%. Trading is now halted for 15 minutes.
  • The Dow opened 9.7%, or 2,250 points, lower.
  • The Nasdaq Composite fell 6.1%.

9:38 a.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Trump's re-election campaign touts virtual tools

From CNN's Betsy Klein and Kaitlan Collins

President Trump speaks to supporters during a rally on March 2, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
President Trump speaks to supporters during a rally on March 2, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Credit: Brian Blanco/Getty Images

The cancellation of large-scale events in the US is presenting challenges for Democratic campaigns as well as President Donald Trump's re-election campaign.

The Trump campaign depends on the trove of data produced by his "Keep America Great" arena rallies to target and engage potential voters, and without regular rallies in key states, they are being forced to improvise. Trump's team is now touting its unique preparedness through "unprecedented virtual and digital campaign tools." 

We’re better positioned to virtually engage voters than any other campaign,” campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement. 

According to a campaign press release, those tools are expected to include: "holding virtual events with top surrogates, utilizing online platforms to train thousands of members of the Trump Neighborhood Team, activating the massive volunteer network to make calls to rally support for the President in states voting soon, and increasing online voter registration efforts of Trump rally attendees identified as not currently registered to vote."

The events currently scheduled on the campaign’s website are “in the process of being turned into virtual seminars and a Trump Victory Organizer will contact attendees with more details,” the website says.

Trump has a key advantage over his Democratic opponent during the public health crisis: incumbent status. 

"Americans want to see their President, their elected officials, their government acting in ways that protect the safety of the citizens and the national security of this country," campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh told CNN. 

The Trump campaign is currently requiring all staffers at its Northern Virginia headquarters to work from home through Monday while the office undergoes a deep clean. It's unclear if the office will reopen on Tuesday. 

Trump initially pushed his campaign not to cancel any events in light of the coronavirus outbreak, and aides fear a restless President if he's unable to hold rallies, something he's done continuously throughout his time in office. 

The risk of holding campaign events came to light this week after a donor who attended a Trump Victory event, which raises money for the campaign and Republican National Commitee, tested positive for coronavirus.

9:35 a.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Drive-through testing sites spring up across America

From CNN's Tina Burnside

Medical workers at a Kaiser Permanente French Campus test a patient for the novel coronavirus at a drive-thru testing facility in San Francisco, California on March 12.
Medical workers at a Kaiser Permanente French Campus test a patient for the novel coronavirus at a drive-thru testing facility in San Francisco, California on March 12. Credit: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

A federal pilot program to implement drive-up testing sites will be operational by midweek, according to a news release.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in a statement that the city would participate in the program.

This is a crisis," she said. "This is real. You have to pay attention. The news this morning of a second death in Orleans Parish is heartbreaking, personally -- and is additional tragic news for the people of our City. We are losing loved ones. We all have a role to play -- every resident in this City. 'Social distancing' isn’t a buzzword — it’s a way to save lives and slow the spread of this infection in our community."

Drive-through testing sites are also in the works in Broward County, Florida to help respond to the high number of Covid-19 cases there, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said at a news conference on Sunday. 

DeSantis said that the state of Florida had deployed hundreds of national guardsmen to the county to help supplement its medical team. As of Sunday, 170 national guardsmen were in Broward, with hundreds more expected to arrive in the county on Monday. 

9:40 a.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Virgin Atlantic will ground 75% of its fleet and ask staffers to take 8 weeks unpaid leave

A Virgin Atlantic plane comes in to land at Heathrow Airport in London, England, on March 10.
A Virgin Atlantic plane comes in to land at Heathrow Airport in London, England, on March 10. Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Images/Getty Image

Virgin Atlantic said it will reduce 80% of its flights per day by March 26, grounding approximately 75% of its fleet. At points in April, that will go up to 85%.

The airline said it will terminate its London Heathrow-Newark route permanently with immediate effect.

Among other measures announced, it will also ask its staff to take eight weeks unpaid leave over the next three months, with the cost spread over six months' salary, to drastically reduce costs without job losses, Virgin Atlantic said in a statement.

Here's more from the statement:

“The aviation industry is facing unprecedented pressure. We are appealing to the Government for clear, decisive and unwavering support. Our industry needs emergency credit facilities to a value of £57.5bn, to bolster confidence and to prevent credit card processors from withholding customer payments. We also need slot alleviation for the full summer 2020 season, so we can match supply to demand – reducing costs and preventing unviable flying and corresponding CO2 emissions. With this support, airlines including Virgin Atlantic, can weather this storm and emerge in a position to assist the nation’s economic recovery and provide the passenger and cargo connectivity that business and people across the country rely on," Virgin Atlantic said.

 

9:47 a.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Passengers removed from flight in India because UK national with coronavirus was on board

From CNN's Swati Gupta and Esha Mitra

All passengers were taken off a flight scheduled to depart from the Indian state of Kerala for Dubai on Sunday morning after officials learnt that a UK national who had tested positive for the coronavirus was on board, an Emirates spokesperson said.

The UK citizen had been touring Munnar, a hill station in the southern Indian state, and was under surveillance after testing positive for the coronavirus, the spokesperson said.

He and his wife were a part of a group of 19 British tourists who were also among the 290 passengers removed from the flight at Cochin International Airport in Kochi.

"Fifteen minutes prior to departure we learnt that a UK national who had tested positive for coronavirus was onboard the flight," said the Emirates spokesperson. The 19 tourists and one Indian national were isolated at the airport, and the remaining 270 passengers took the flight to Dubai after a three-hour delay.

"The husband and wife have been sent to a local hospital for quarantine and further tests while the remaining group of tourists has been quarantined at a makeshift facility at a hotel near the airport," said P.S. Jayan, a spokesperson for Cochin International Airport. The Indian national was let go as he was not under suspicion of contracting the virus, Jayan added. 

An American couple who had flown from London to Kochi earlier this month were apprehended at the same airport on Friday while trying to fly to Doha, after an alert was issued by a hospital.

They had visited the hospital earlier that day because the woman was suffering from diarrhoea. After examination, staff asked that they be tested for coronavirus and quarantined until the results came back. The couple left the hospital without taking the test.

They are currently under quarantine in hospital.

9:38 a.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Borders between Spain and Portugal will close because of coronavirus restrictions

From CNN’s Mia Alberti

Spanish Civil Guard officers work at a checkpoint on the Spanish-Portuguese border between Tui and Valenca, on Monday.
Spanish Civil Guard officers work at a checkpoint on the Spanish-Portuguese border between Tui and Valenca, on Monday. Credit: Migeul Riopa/AFP/Getty Images

Borders between Spain and Portugal will be closed by the end of Monday, leaving only nine active crossings open to allow for the transit of products and workers who are required to cross the border, Portugal’s Minister of Internal Affairs Eduardo Cabrita said today at a news conference. 

According to Cabrita, the decision – which was made jointly by authorities in Spain and Portugal – will see continued coordination between the two countries to ensure that the flow of essential goods will not be affected.

"The economy has to keep going, and so it is essential to guarantee the transport of food and essential products within the EU,” Cabrita said, confirming that all those required to cross the border will be receive health checks, including truck drivers. 

Portugal’s Minister of Internal Affairs added that officials will also be enforcing new controls at airports, with temperature checks on all passengers.

The new measures come as part of a wider look at air operations between Spain and Portugal, with upcoming talks between Cabrita and his Spanish counterpart expected to focus on a potential ban on incoming flights from Spain.

9:27 a.m. ET, March 16, 2020

There's just one coronavirus briefing today

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Vice President Mike Pence’s Monday schedule includes a task force meeting in the Roosevelt Room at 9 a.m. ET, as well as a briefing on coronavirus at 3:30 p.m. ET.

There will be just one briefing today, according to the Vice President’s spokeswoman Katie Miller.

“Just one. We want to be accurate and present the guidance,” she tells CNN.

During Sunday’s press briefing, Pence suggested there would be two: “We will be back in the morning tomorrow for a briefing. And also, we'll have a health briefing in the afternoon.”