March 19 coronavirus news

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2:17 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

New Zealand is banning entry to almost all non-citizens

From CNN's Julia Hollingsworth in New Zealand and Akanksha Sharma in Hong Kong

A traveler wearing a protective mask is seen waiting for a bus near Christchurch International Airport on March 18, in Christchurch, New Zealand.
A traveler wearing a protective mask is seen waiting for a bus near Christchurch International Airport on March 18, in Christchurch, New Zealand. Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

Starting tonight, New Zealand will ban any foreign citizens from entering the country, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced in a news conference today.

“Protecting New Zealanders from Covid-19 is our number one priority. In recent days it has become increasingly clear that the spread of the virus in other parts of the world means we need to take even stronger border measures,” Ardern said in a news release shortly after the conference.
“Today’s decision stops any tourist, or temporary visa holder such as students or temporary workers, from coming to and entering into New Zealand."

The travel ban will now apply to those coming from the Pacific Islands, who had previously been exempt from restrictions.

It will also close off travel between New Zealand and Australia for the majority of citizens in the two countries, who are typically able to travel back and forth without a visa.

“A small number of exemptions to the new measures can be sought for humanitarian reasons, essential health workers and citizens of Samoa and Tonga who need to travel to New Zealand for essential reasons," Ardern said.

New Zealanders’ partners, legal guardians or any dependent children traveling with them may also return.

The threat of imported cases: The new measures come after the country reported eight new cases today, bringing the national total to 28.

All the new infections are "related to overseas travel," not locally transmitted, said the ministry. There is not yet any evidence of community transmission in the country.

“All of the cases of Covid-19 identified in New Zealand relate to people travelling to New Zealand and bringing the virus with them – therefore we need to further restrict the risk of people bringing the virus into New Zealand," Ardern said in the release.

UPDATE: This post was updated to accurately reflect the restrictions.

2:01 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Australia bans entry to foreign citizens and non-residents as cases spike by more than 100

From CNN's Akanksha Sharma in Hong Kong

A staff member in protective medical clothing moves through the arrivals area at Brisbane International Airport on March 16 in Brisbane, Australia.
A staff member in protective medical clothing moves through the arrivals area at Brisbane International Airport on March 16 in Brisbane, Australia. Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

Starting tomorrow, Australia will no longer allow entry to non-Australian citizens or residents, unless they are direct family members of Australians, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced today.

"Tonight we will be resolving to move to a position where a travel ban will be placed on all non-residents, non-Australian citizens coming to Australia, and that will be in place from 9 p.m. tomorrow evening," said Morrison.

He added that he had consulted with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on this travel ban to "align" their measures. Ardern also announced a travel ban for foreign citizens entering New Zealand today.

"We believe it is essential now to take the further step to ensure that we now no longer will not be allowing anyone, unless they are a resident or citizen or direct family member in those cases, as is applied to all the travel bans previously," Morrison said.

He added that people with travel plans to Australia should use these next 24 hours to make alternative arrangements.

Australians overseas can still return to the country, but will be subject to a 14-day isolation upon arrival.

This comes as the country announced a rise in cases. Australia reported 111 new cases, bringing the national tally to 565, the country's Department of Health said today.

Of the 565 total, 259 cases are considered to be "overseas acquired" -- imported from virus-hit countries like the US, Iran, Italy, and the UK.

Some 46 patients have recovered, and six have died.

1:39 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

There are now more than 218,000 cases of coronavirus worldwide

Iranian firefighters disinfect streets and alleys in southern Tehran to halt the spread of coronavirus on March 11.
Iranian firefighters disinfect streets and alleys in southern Tehran to halt the spread of coronavirus on March 11. Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

The number of global novel coronavirus cases has surpassed 218,800, according to the Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking cases reported by the World Health Organization and additional sources.

The number of deaths worldwide stands at 8,810, according to the university's tally.

China: On Wednesday, China reported 34 new cases -- all imported from overseas. The milestone of no new locally transmitted infections represents a turnaround for the Chinese government. China has a total of 80,928 cases and 3,245 deaths, with 70,420 patients recovered.

Italy: The country with the worst outbreak outside China announced its biggest single-day jump in new coronavirus cases Wednesday, increasing by 4,207 in 24 hours. The total number of cases now stands at 35,713 and 2,978 deaths, according to the WHO.

Iran: Iran confirmed 147 new deaths from the coronavirus Wednesday, bringing the country’s total death toll to 1,135. An additional 1,192 cases were confirmed, bringing the total to 17,361. Iran has been the epicenter of the outbreak in the Middle East.

1:36 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

El Salvador reports its first case of coronavirus 

From CNN's Daniel Silva Fernandez 

El Salvador has reported its first case of the coronavirus, President Nayib Bukele said in a televised announcement on Wednesday. 

The infected patient had visited Italy and entered El Salvador through an "unofficial point," according to the announcement. 

1:28 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

The world is coming together to fight coronavirus. It can do the same for the climate crisis

Analysis from CNN's Helen Regan

While the coronavirus pandemic and climate change are inherently different issues, they share two important characteristics: both are global crises that threaten the lives of millions of people.

Yet only one crisis has inspired widespread, drastic action from countries across the globe.

As Covid-19 spreads, countries have been put into lockdown, schools closed, events canceled, factories shuttered, millions told to work from home and emergency funds released. No economic cost has been too big to stem the spread of the disease.

Coronavirus is proving that it is possible to make dramatic changes and economic sacrifices to save lives. So why haven't governments done more to protect their citizens from the impact of climate change?

The climate crisis is also a global health emergency. The virus' impact has been sudden and dramatic. The toll of the climate crisis is slow and steady -- but no less deadly.

Air pollution kills 7 million people every year, according to the World Health Organization. A recent study found toxic air shortens lives worldwide by nearly three years on average. And the life of every child born today will be profoundly affected by climate change, according to another report.

We have the tools to adapt to climate change -- we don't need radical shutdowns like the world has seen for this pandemic.

But climate scientists say that adapting to climate change does not require radical shutdowns -- the technology needed to reduce emissions already exists. Renewable energy sources are a cost-effective alternative to fossil fuels, and making the switch makes economic sense.

"It's absolutely possible to completely transform our country and world economies in a way that's sustainable, in a way that would mitigate the risk," said Donna Green, associate professor at University of New South Wales' Climate Change Research Centre.

Read the full analysis here:

1:11 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

80% of coronavirus deaths in the US are among adults 65 and older

From CNN's Gina Yu

Some 80% of coronavirus-related deaths in the US occurred in adults aged 65 and older, according to a report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published Wednesday.

The report examined patient deaths that occurred between February 12 and March 16. Because of missing data about underlying health issues and other key characteristics, deaths were estimated as a range.

For adults aged 85 years and older, the death rate was highest, ranging from 10% to 27%.

For adults aged 65 to 84, the range was 3% to 11%.

No US deaths have occurred among people aged 19 years or younger.  

The largest proportion of hospitalized patients were between 65 and 84 years old, contributing 36% of cases. They also made up the largest proportion of ICU patients, with 46% of cases.

“The risk for serious disease and death in Covid-19 cases among persons in the United States increases with age,” the report said. “Social distancing is recommended for all ages to slow the spread of the virus, protect the health care system, and help protect vulnerable older adults.”
12:54 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Hong Kong and Tokyo airports are handling coronavirus very differently. Which one has it right?

From CNN's Will Ripley

A worker at the Hong Kong International Airport monitors a thermal screening display as passengers arrive on March 10.
A worker at the Hong Kong International Airport monitors a thermal screening display as passengers arrive on March 10. Credit: Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

Passing through airports in Hong Kong and Tokyo this week highlighted the differences in the approaches of the two Asian hubs in dealing with the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Arriving in Hong Kong: After disembarking directly onto the tarmac, we were taken to a quarantine area on the lower level of the airport.

There we underwent multiple health and security checks. My temperature was taken, and I filled out a detailed questionnaire on my travel history. Quarantine officers gave me a checklist of instructions for after I left the airport, including that I take my temperature twice daily and immediately report any abnormal symptoms to the Department of Health.

If I was to land in Hong Kong today, it would be even stricter.

The local government announced this week that anyone arriving from a foreign country is required to self-quarantine for two weeks, and will likely be issued an electronic monitoring bracelet that will alert the authorities if they leave their home or hotel.

Arriving in Tokyo: When I arrived at Narita airport in Japan this week our plane pulled up to the gate as usual.

I walked freely through the airport, more than 500 meters to the quarantine office where about 10 quarantine officers hastily tried to process everybody who came from my flight.

Nobody took my temperature, although I did walk past a thermal camera scanning for elevated body temperatures. But it was a cold evening and many passengers were bundled up in coats that could have hindered the camera's ability to get an accurate reading.

My quarantine officer gave me forms to sign in English requesting that I remain in my home for 14 days, check my temperature daily, and avoid public transportation.

These were simply requests, and are not being enforced. I am following the suggested protocol, but there is nothing to stop me from going anywhere I please.

But without widespread testing, it's hard to know whether the calm in Tokyo is a true picture of the coronavirus situation in Japan -- or if it is actually the calm before the storm.

Read the full story here:

12:44 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

US congress members are self-quarantining after coming in contact with infected colleagues

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, (left) and Rep. Ben McAdams (right) confirmed earlier today that they had contracted the coronavirus.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, (left) and Rep. Ben McAdams (right) confirmed earlier today that they had contracted the coronavirus.  

Several members of the US Congress are now self-quarantining after coming in contact with two congressmen who tested positive for the coronavirus.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican from Florida, and Rep. Ben McAdams, a Democrat from Utah, confirmed earlier today that they had contracted the coronavirus.

Republican Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri and Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Florida both issued statements tonight saying they were self-quarantining after coming into contact with an unnamed colleague who tested positive. They both said they have no symptoms.

Republican Whip Steve Scalise is also self-quarantining because he held an “extended meeting” with Diaz-Balart. Scalise says he is not experiencing any symptoms.

Rep. Drew Ferguson, a Republican from Georgia, is self-quarantining after “contact with a member of Congress on March 13 that has since tested positive for Covid-19.” Ferguson does not say who the member is.

12:35 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

The UK has placed 10,000 extra military personnel on standby for coronavirus support force 

The UK's Ministry of Defence announced today it would place an additional 10,000 military personnel "at a higher readiness" to support public services, as part of a new coronavirus support force.

Higher readiness means the personnel are available within a certain time frame. The additional 10,000 personnel are on top of another 10,000 already in place.

“The men and women of our Armed Forces stand ready to protect Britain and her citizens from all threats, including Covid-19," said Defence Secretary Ben Wallace in a statement from the ministry. 

"Defence is fully engaged with other government departments, the devolved administrations and local authorities to establish how best it can support over the coming weeks and months.

Other measures include:

  • 150 military personnel will be trained to drive oxygen tankers in order to support the National Health Service if required.
  • Scientists from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory are working with Public Health England to understand the virus and tackle the spread.
  • The military is providing specialist planners to Local Resilience Forums -- multi-agency partnerships -- to provide support for public services and local communities.