March 17 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes and Jack Guy, CNN

Updated 10:20 PM ET, Tue March 17, 2020
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9:38 a.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Iran sends home some prisoners to curb coronavirus spread

From CNN’s Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran and Nada AlTaher in Abu Dhabi

Iran has temporarily sent home 85,000 prisoners to curb the spread of the coronavirus, judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said according to semi-official Tasnim news agency on Tuesday.

Around 50% of those released are “security-related” prisoners, he said.

Iran has also incarcerated 50% fewer inmates this year in comparison to the same period in 2019, Esmaili said according to Mizan Online, a website associated with the judicial department said.

9:07 a.m. ET, March 17, 2020

New York City mayor says he's "absolutely considering" a shelter in place order

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he is "absolutely considering" ordering the city's residents to shelter in place during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Right now we have taken a series of steps to reduce the number of people who are circulating around," he said. "But we're going to look at all other options, and it could get to that for sure."

New York City has already closed schools, ordered restaurants to offer takeout and delivery only and encouraged workers to telecommute if they can.

Nearly seven million people living in a wide swath of Northern California, including Silicon Valley, have been ordered to shelter in place. The order went into effect at midnight Monday.

9:09 a.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Euro 2020 postponed until 2021 amid coronavirus pandemic, Norwegian FA says

From CNN's Ben Church

Security guards stands outside the UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, during an emergency meeting on March 17.
Security guards stands outside the UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, during an emergency meeting on March 17. Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

UEFA has decided to postpone this year's European Championship until 2021 because of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, according to the Norwegian FA.

The soccer tournament had been due to kick off in Rome, Italy, on June 12 and was to be played in 12 different host cities across the continent.

At an emergency meeting Tuesday, European football's governing body ruled the competition will now be played between June 11 to July 11 next year, says the Norwegian FA, which is one of UEFA's 55 members associations. UEFA has yet to confirm the decision.

Read the full story here.

8:55 a.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Why you can’t get hand sanitizer anywhere in the UK

From CNN's Mick Krever

A Sainsbury's supermarket in B is pictured with empty shelves where hand wash and sanitizers would normally be on display.
A Sainsbury's supermarket in B is pictured with empty shelves where hand wash and sanitizers would normally be on display. Credit: Liam McBurney/PA Images/Getty Images

The short answer: Because as soon as it’s out on shelves, it’s gone.

Boots, the largest pharmacy chain in the UK, finds itself on the front lines of supplying a panicked public trying to hoard supplies.

“There is stock available,” says Tracey Clements, chief operating officer for Boots in the UK and Ireland. In stores, it’s likely to arrive “little and often.”

Demand for hand sanitizer last week was up 650% over the same time last year. For hand soap, it was up 958%.

At the Nottingham warehouse that supplies all 2,500 Boots pharmacies in the UK and Ireland, CNN’s Nina Dos Santos saw staff unload pallet after pallet of soap and paracetamol.

The company says it’s hiring back seasonal workers it normally uses for the Christmas season. It is also sourcing new suppliers abroad and buying in new brands.

Still, when we visited a large Boots just miles from the warehouse, in downtown Nottingham, there was no hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, or thermometers.

“Customers may find that we have it for a part of the day but not the whole of the day,” Clements says. “But we continue to try to procure as much as possible.”

Like everyone, they’re learning as they go.

“We need to accept that in this type of situation, there is no – you can’t be perfect. You have to make decisions that you believe are right.”

8:52 a.m. ET, March 17, 2020

UK tells citizens to avoid non-essential travel for 30 days

A traveler is pictured at Edinburgh Airport in Scotland on March 16.
A traveler is pictured at Edinburgh Airport in Scotland on March 16. Credit: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

British nationals are being advised against any non-essential travel globally for 30 days because of the coronavirus pandemic, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the House of Commons Tuesday. 

He reiterated that the Foreign Office was continuing to work to repatriate citizens who were stranded on cruise ships, but added that government-supported repatriations were costly and only undertaken in exceptional circumstances. 

He added that freight would not be impacted as it’s considered essential travel.

8:51 a.m. ET, March 17, 2020

German foreign minister rules out exclusive access to coronavirus vaccine, without mentioning Trump

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas gives a press statement about the coronavirus on Tuesday, in Berlin.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas gives a press statement about the coronavirus on Tuesday, in Berlin. Credit: Thomas Imo/Photothek/Getty Images

Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas told reporters that “others” would not be allowed to buy German coronavirus research exclusively, without naming US President Donald Trump.

“German researchers are taking a key role in developing medication and vaccines as part of global cooperation networks. We cannot allow a situation where others want to exclusively acquire the result of their research,” Maas said in an interview with Funke media group. The quote was confirmed to CNN by the German Foreign Office.

Over the weekend reports surfaced that Trump had been interested in buying research into a coronavirus vaccine by German biotech company CureVac. The German interior minister called the reports “accurate.”

CureVac denied a report that Trump was trying to lure its scientists to the US in a statement Sunday. It did not deny being in touch with the President or US government, but rejected rumors of an acquisition.

On Monday, Dietmar Hopp, a lead investor in the company, issued a statement saying that it should be available anywhere, also without mentioning Trump. CNN has reached out to Hopp for more information.

Maas said that everyone shares the goal of slowing the spread of the virus and saving lives.

"Every country is trying to protect its citizens as best it can, depending on the situation on the ground, and some countries are even imposing temporary travel restrictions," he said.

"In the crisis we feel more than ever how much we depend on each other. That is why we need more, not less, cooperation right now."

Maas added that he had discussed cooperation with colleagues from Canada, South Korea, Brazil and Australia, and will also do so with G7 ministers.

"We'll only defeat this virus together, not against each other," he said.

"We support the WHO so that help can be given where it is most needed, including in poorer countries.”

8:31 a.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Seattle will offer $800 grocery store vouchers to 6,000 families

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan speaks at a news conference about the coronavirus outbreak on Monday, in Seattle, Washington.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan speaks at a news conference about the coronavirus outbreak on Monday, in Seattle, Washington. Credit: Elaine Thompson/AP

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced that the city will provide more than 6,000 families $800 in vouchers for any Safeway store in the state, according to a statement from the mayor’s office.

The program will benefit “eligible families who are currently enrolled in city-supported child care programs and food assistance programs,” the statement said. 

“As schools and child care facilities close, we need to do everything we can to support families and ensure they can put food on the table,” Mayor Durkan said in the statement.

The Office of Sustainability and Environment (OSE) will distribute the grocery vouchers in two $400 installments, and vouchers will be distributed by mail as early as this week, the statement added. 

The vouchers will allow recipients to buy food and household goods but not tobacco, alcohol, lottery tickets or fuel, the Mayor’s office explained in the statement. Voucher use will also requires a free Safeway membership, which residents can immediately access at any Safeway location.

8:27 a.m. ET, March 17, 2020

AMC Theatres close during coronavirus pandemic

An AMC movie theatre is pictured in Santa Monica, California, in February 2018.
An AMC movie theatre is pictured in Santa Monica, California, in February 2018. Credit: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The coronavirus outbreak has forced AMC Theatres to temporarily close all of its theaters until further notice, the company announced on its website. 

AMC said they are working in accordance with local and federal guidelines and will reopen when those guidelines allow. 

Regal Cinemas also announced that they are closing all screens due to the outbreak.

8:26 a.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Jordan's security forces prepared to "use force" to enforce virus lockdown 

From CNN's Tamara Qiblawi and Ghazi Balkiz in Beirut

An ambulance carrying a patient leaves the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan, on March 16, in the final hours before the closure of Jordan's borders.
An ambulance carrying a patient leaves the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan, on March 16, in the final hours before the closure of Jordan's borders. Credit: Jordan Pix/Getty Images

Jordan’s Directorate of General Security have said they are “prepared to use force” to enforce the kingdom’s coronavirus lockdown, according to state-owned Jordan News Agency. 

Security forces said they will use all the means available to them, including “the use of appropriate force to implement the decisions that aim to protect citizens and preserve their safety.” 

On Tuesday, the kingdom announced a two-week lockdown to stop the spread of the pandemic.

People can only leave their homes in cases of “extreme necessity,” public transport has been suspended, and work in the private and public sector has also been temporarily stopped. Only “emergency” medical surgeries and consultations are permitted. 

The country’s military is also set to deploy at the entrances and exits of main cities. The government has banned people from moving between provinces.

Jordan has 35 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 virus. More than 4,700 people are in quarantine, according to Minister of Health Saad Jaber.