March 19 coronavirus news

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9:38 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

CDC loosens guidelines to allow medical experts exposed to COVID-19 to keep working

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has loosened its guidelines to allow health care workers who have been exposed to COVID-19 to continue working as long as they wear a mask, according to CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

"This is a huge concern, John, because this is how you potentially increase the spread, at least not slow down the spread," Gupta said to CNN's John Berman this morning.

Within the guidelines, the CDC says bandanas and scarves could be used in place of a mask, Gupta said. The reason for these guidelines is due to a lack of personal protective equipment and not enough health care workers, Gupta said.

Watch Gupta's remarks below:

9:34 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

1 Iranian dies from coronavirus every 10 minutes, health ministry says

People carry the coffin of a coronavirus victim at Beheshte Masoumeh Cemetery in Qom, Iran on March 17.
People carry the coffin of a coronavirus victim at Beheshte Masoumeh Cemetery in Qom, Iran on March 17. Credit: Fatemah Bahrami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Iranian Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said in a tweet today that every 10 minutes, one Iranian is killed by the coronavirus. Every hour, at least 50 Iranian are infected.

Iran’s Health Ministry confirmed 149 new deaths from coronavirus in the past 24 hours, raising the overall death toll to 1,284 on Thursday. This is the country's highest spike in death toll over a 24-hour period since the coronavirus outbreak began. 

There were additional 1,046 confirmed cases of coronavirus bringing the total to 18,407, Iran’s Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi said.

9:12 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Beijing urges local police to withdraw "reprimand" of whistleblower Wuhan doctor

A portrait of Dr. Li Wenliang is left at Li's hospital in Wuhan on February 7, following his death.
A portrait of Dr. Li Wenliang is left at Li's hospital in Wuhan on February 7, following his death. Getty Images

The Chinese government on Thursday announced the result of its investigation into issues related to Dr. Li Wenliang, the ophthalmologist who was reprimanded by police in Wuhan for trying to warn others about the coronavirus — and whose death from the virus on Feb. 7 sparked nationwide outrage.

The national authorities confirmed that the 34-year-old Li, who worked at a hospital in Wuhan, re-posted internal government documents on the emerging outbreak on Dec. 30 in a social media group chat and warned others not to go outside.

Local police in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, subsequently summoned Li on Jan. 3 and issued him a formal reprimand.

The government investigators also said that Li received proper treatment once he became ill, and all medical procedures were approved by him or his family.

The authorities concluded that local police's reprimand of Li was “inappropriate” based on improper application of law and that it should be rectified. The government investigators urged local police to withdraw its reprimand and hold relevant personnel accountable.

9:06 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

US-led coalition in Afghanistan halts troop movement due to coronavirus

US soldiers look out over hillsides during a visit of General Scott Miller at the Afghan National Army (ANA) checkpoint in the Nerkh district of Afghanistan's Wardak province, in June 2019.
US soldiers look out over hillsides during a visit of General Scott Miller at the Afghan National Army (ANA) checkpoint in the Nerkh district of Afghanistan's Wardak province, in June 2019. Thomas Watkins/AFP/Getty Images

The US-led international coalition in Afghanistan has implemented a series of restrictions in order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, including “temporarily” pausing the movement of personnel movement into Afghanistan and delaying the return of some service members.

“In some cases these measures will necessitate some service members remaining beyond their scheduled departure dates,” Gen. Scott Miller, the commander of US and international forces in Afghanistan said in a statement.

“As of March 19, 21 Resolute Support personnel exhibiting flu-like symptoms are in isolation and receiving medical care,” the statement said, referring to the official name of the international coalition operation.

The statement said that because there are no testing facilities in Afghanistan, tests are being performed at a military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, or at other civilian locations.

Additionally “1,500 multi-national service members, civilians and contractors who have arrived in theater within the past week are living in screening facilities prior to onward movement.”

Miller said that this was due to an “Abundance of caution, not because they are sick.”

He also said that access to bases had been restricted and that while efforts to train and advise local Afghan forces continue there has been a push to conduct meetings via “technical means” as opposed to in person.

 

8:55 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

British government has no plans to restrict travel in and out of London

A commuter boards an underground train during rush-hour in London, England, on March 18.
A commuter boards an underground train during rush-hour in London, England, on March 18. Leon Neal/Getty Images

The British government currently has no plans to restrict travel in and out of London or to close down the capital’s underground tube service, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman told reporters Thursday.

Transport for London (TFL) said Wednesday that it had plans to close “until further notice” up to 40 tube stations that do not interchange with other lines.

Johnson is meeting Thursday with London mayor Sadiq Khan to discuss plans for the capital, according to City Hall.

The meeting comes amid widespread speculation and concern that London could be placed under lockdown.

All the nations of the UK announced school closures starting this weekend “until further notice." Politicians are suggesting that schools might not resume during this academic year.

8:53 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

80% of people in Madrid will get COVID-19, official says

A worker cleans the pavement of Plaza Mayor square in Madrid, Spain, on March 18.
A worker cleans the pavement of Plaza Mayor square in Madrid, Spain, on March 18. Manu Fernandez/AP

Eight out of ten people in the Spanish capital will get COVID-19, according to the president of the Region of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso.

“They will have mild symptoms,” she said, but added that "it will be a problem" for the vulnerable population, which is around 15% of people.

"This virus has been in Spain for a longer time and is going to spread to practically everyone, and in most, it will not leave lasting marks. But the problem is the vulnerable population," said Díaz Asuyo in an interview on Spanish radio.

She called the disease "lethal" for elderly people with pre-existing conditions, and said that in 24 or 48 hours "it can end the life of a person who is in the vulnerable population group."

As a result of this, the region of Madrid has sought to "save time," unify healthcare in the public and private sectors, and convert "normal beds into ICU beds."

Some 580 beds in these critical units are occupied, Díaz Asuyo said, and the Ministry of Health plans to facilitate "new rapid tests" to detect coronavirus this weekend.

8:44 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

"Zero prospect" of banning travel in and out of London, UK government says

People wait for passengers at the International Arrivals hall in Heathrow Airport, in London, England, on March 17.
People wait for passengers at the International Arrivals hall in Heathrow Airport, in London, England, on March 17. Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

The UK government has attempted to play down the prospect of an imminent lockdown in London, a day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson declined to rule out stricter measures for the city.

On Wednesday, multiple government sources told CNN that conservations had taken place in Downing Street discussing measures ranging from shutting down parts of the capital’s transport network to restricting travel in and out of the city. Similar reports appeared across the UK media. 

On Thursday, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said there was “zero prospect” of any restrictions on travel in and out of London, and that there were “no plans” to shut down its transport network. However, the city’s transport authority had already closed parts of London’s Tube network, and the government did not rule out introducing further social distancing measures in the coming days.

Johnson was due to meet the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, on Thursday to discuss plans to fight coronavirus in London, a spokesman for City Hall told CNN.

Giving evidence to the London assembly on Thursday, Khan said too many Londoners were failing to follow official advice. “We are clearly still in the early phase of this crisis but the spread of the virus is at a more advanced stage in London than in other parts of the country. This means that further measures will need to be introduced at the point at which they will have the biggest effect,” he said.

8:42 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

China to divert some Beijing-bound international flights amid growing imported cases

Airport employees assist inbound passengers transferring at Capital International Airport in Beijing, China, on March 18.
Airport employees assist inbound passengers transferring at Capital International Airport in Beijing, China, on March 18. Qilai Shen/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Chinese authorities have announced that some Beijing-bound international flights will be diverted to nearby cities for health screenings in the coming days.

Passengers will clear immigration and customs at their first point of entry and only those deemed healthy will be allowed to board the same aircraft again to fly to Beijing.

Some context: The Chinese capital has recorded a growing number of imported coronavirus cases in recent days.

Beijing authorities have already tightened screening and quarantine procedures targeting international arrivals. With a few exceptions, all travelers arriving from abroad are now required to undergo a 14-day quarantine at designated government facilities at their own expense.

8:36 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

COVID-19 deaths spike above 700 in Spain

Medical staff wave from a window at La Paz Hospital in Madrid, Spain, on March 18, as the country works to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Medical staff wave from a window at La Paz Hospital in Madrid, Spain, on March 18, as the country works to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Deaths from COVID-19 in Spain have jumped over 20% in the last day, reaching 767, according to a Spanish Health Ministry official speaking at a daily briefing in Madrid Thursday.

There are now a total of 17,147 cases recorded in the country, the ministry added.

Meanwhile, 939 people are in intensive care, said Fernando Simón, director of the Spanish Coordinating Centre for Health Alerts and Emergencies at Spain’s Ministry of Health.