March 20 coronavirus news

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5:31 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Australian cricket legend's distillery stops producing gin, so it can make hand sanitizer

Australian cricketer Shane Warne announced on Instagram that his gin distillery, SevenZeroEight, will temporarily halt gin production and start making hand sanitizer for hospitals in Western Australia.

5:02 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Australia tells 2,600 former cruise passengers to self-isolate over coronavirus fears

The Ruby Princess cruise ship departs Sydney Harbour on March 19.
The Ruby Princess cruise ship departs Sydney Harbour on March 19. James D. Morgan/Getty Images

Australian authorities are in the process of tracking down 2,647 people who disembarked from a Princess Cruises ship on Thursday after three former passengers and a crew member tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The Ruby Princess, which traveled between Sydney and New Zealand, had been considered “low risk” according to Kerry Chant, a health officer for the state of New South Wales.

NSW Minister of Health Brad Hazzard said all passengers who left the cruise liner were asked to spend 14 days in quarantine at home. However, authorities are still concerned "that those people came off the ship with no knowledge of Covid-19 actually being on the ship," Hazzard said.

As of Friday afternoon local time, NSW Health officials have emailed and sent text messages to all cruise passengers advising them of the confirmed cases onboard the ship and to "reinforce the importance of self-isolation and regular self-monitoring of symptoms." 

A total of 1,050 crew members are onboard the ship, according to NSW Health. While the three infected passengers got off the ship, the crew member who contracted the virus is still onboard and in isolation.

The ship, which is now "somewhere between Sydney and Wollongong," according to Chant, has doctors and intensive care unit facilities on board. The current plan is to use the medical professionals and facilities onboard to treat the crew.

4:40 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

YouTube will reduce its streaming quality in EU and UK to avert internet gridlock

Shutterstock
Shutterstock

YouTube said on Friday it will reduce its streaming quality in the European Union and the United Kingdom to avert internet gridlock as thousands of people work from home.

The Google-owned video platform's measure will stay in effect in the EU and UK for 30 days. The decision is subject to review, a Google spokesperson said.

“We will continue working with member state governments and network operators to minimize stress on the system, while also delivering a good user experience,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement to CNN. 

Thierry Breton, the EU's internal market commissioner, urged streaming platforms to cut the quality of their videos to prevent internet overload with so many people staying at home. Netflix announced its plans to reduce streaming quality yesterday.

“Millions of Europeans are adapting to social distancing measures thanks to digital platforms, helping them to telework, e-learn and entertain themselves,” Breton said in a statement Friday. “I warmly welcome the initiative that Google has taken to preserve the smooth functioning of the Internet during the COVID19 crisis by having YouTube switch all EU traffic to Standard Definition by default." 
4:35 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Just joining us? Here's the latest

A Kashmiri Muslim devotee covers his face as municipal workers spray disinfectants as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus inside the shrine of Shah-e-Hamadan in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, on Friday, March 20.
A Kashmiri Muslim devotee covers his face as municipal workers spray disinfectants as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus inside the shrine of Shah-e-Hamadan in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, on Friday, March 20. Dar Yasin/AP

The numbers: Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking coronavirus cases reported by the World Health Organization and additional sources, puts the total number of infections worldwide at more than 244,500, with at least 10,000 deaths.

India asks citizens for their "full contribution": The south Asian country is trialing a curfew and urging people to stay at home in an attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

South Korea to test all arrivals from Europe: While numbers in the East Asian country have dropped, authorities fear a second wave of cases imported from overseas. Hong Kong and mainland China also announced new controls on international arrivals this week.

China no new domestic cases: Mainland China recorded 39 new cases of coronavirus -- all imported from overseas -- on Thursday. It's the second consecutive day of no new domestically transmitted infections. It's also the second day in a row of no new confirmed cases in Hubei province -- ground zero for the pandemic.

Olympic Torch: The Olympic flame arrived in Japan on Friday, marking the beginning of official Olympic celebrations. The International Olympic Committee said cancelation is "not on the agenda" but the next few weeks could prove decisive in whether it will go ahead this summer.

Hong Kong airlines slash flights: Both the city's flag carrier, Cathay Pacific, and budget service HK Express are suspending the majority of their routes in the light of tight new restrictions on international travelers and a global drop in demand.

Italy death toll: The total number of fatalities reported in the country at the new epicenter of the outbreak has now surpassed China's death toll. The number of deaths in Italy reached 3,405 on Thursday -- 157 more than China's toll, which stands at 3,248.

3:56 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

A Chinese Australian woman breached quarantine in Beijing to go for a jog -- and lost her job

A Chinese Australian woman has been fired from her job in Beijing and ordered by authorities to leave China after provoking outrage in the country for breaking coronavirus quarantine rules to go for a jog.

In a video widely circulated on social media, a woman in active wear gets into a heated argument with a community worker who tries to persuade her to stay at home. International arrivals are required to self-quarantine under Beijing's strict infection control rules.

"I need to go running. I need to work out. If I fall sick, who will take care of me? Will you come?" shouts the woman, as she tries to open the keypad lock on her apartment door. She appears to have just returned from a jog and is not wearing a face mask.

Read more:

3:33 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

London amid coronavirus: Empty shelves but busy bars

It's felt like a giant petri dish, a huge experiment in the British capital, these last few days amid coronavirus concerns.

London: A city that should be emptying, but where instead sidewalks and stores are crammed, and metro stations are closed. Rumors swirling of a 15-day lockdown mean nearly everyone you talk to is out panic-buying something, even if the government tries to insist "lockdown" is the wrong word.

Empty shelves where the bread should be in a supermarket in London.
Empty shelves where the bread should be in a supermarket in London.

The changing advice and the lack of widespread testing leave the collective impression here that it is either too late to stop what is happening, or something, inescapable and mammoth, is looming. This densely packed city of over 9 million simply can't make up its mind. Some shelves are empty, but some bars full.

Crowds still gather in London, here at a pub in Covent Garden, a popular tourist area.
Crowds still gather in London, here at a pub in Covent Garden, a popular tourist area.

"It looks as though London is now a few weeks ahead" of the rest of the country in the virus spread, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said out of nowhere on Monday. And given that the UK is meant to be a few weeks behind Italy, that gave the impression that collapse was imminent. But the lack of widespread testing here, means we -- and Johnson -- simply don't have the solid data, just the modeling.

Read more:

3:14 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Cathay Pacific slashes almost all passenger flights over the coronavirus pandemic

Cathay Pacific is canceling almost all passenger flights for two months as the novel coronavirus outbreak continues to decimate global demand for travel.

Hong Kong's flagship carrier announced Friday that it would reduce passenger flight capacity by 96% in April and May, saying it would start operating on a "bare skeleton" basis. Cathay Dragon, the company's regional airline, will also cut back by the same proportion.

The decision was made "in light of the severe drop in demand due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and multiple government travel restrictions," the company said in a statement Friday.

The reductions were largely expected. Cathay has already significantly shrunk capacity in recent months, cutting flights by 30% in February and 65% in March and April. The latest move extends previously announced cuts, the company said.

Last week, the company also reported brutal financial results for 2019, and warned that a "substantial loss" was projected for the first half of this year and that more flight reductions were likely.

Read more:

3:15 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

IOC president says canceling the Olympics is "not on the agenda"

Three-time Olympic gold medalists Tadahiro Nomura, right, and Saori Yoshida light the torch as Tokyo 2020 Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori, far left, watches at the Japan Air Self-Defense Force's Matsushima Base in Higashimatsushima, Japan, on Friday, March 20.
Three-time Olympic gold medalists Tadahiro Nomura, right, and Saori Yoshida light the torch as Tokyo 2020 Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori, far left, watches at the Japan Air Self-Defense Force's Matsushima Base in Higashimatsushima, Japan, on Friday, March 20. Eugene Hoshiko/AP

Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, said the organization is not considering canceling the quadrennial summer games in Tokyo due to the coronavirus. 

"I will not speculate, but we owe it to all the athletes, and we owe it to all the half of the world that watches the Olympics to say we are not putting the cancellation of the Games on the agenda," Bach told The New York Times. 

He explained that the IOC is not making a decision yet because of the many question marks that remain surrounding the virus and its spread: 

"What makes this crisis so unique and so difficult to overcome is the uncertainty. Nobody today can tell you what the developments are tomorrow, what they are in one month, not to mention in more than four months. Therefore it would not be responsible in any way to set a date or take a decision right now, which would be based on the speculation about the future developments."

Many of the world's biggest and most profitable sports leagues have postponed, delayed or canceled major events to help combat the spread of the virus, leading some to question if the Olympics should be held. The Games are set to begin in late July.

Read more about what could happen to the Olympics here

2:40 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

People stuck at home can take a virtual look at Japan's blooming sakura

With cherry blossom season just kicking off in Japan, this would normally be a time where people flock to flower-viewing parties known as “hanami.”

But as authorities discourage large public viewings amid fears over the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, one website has come up with a creative solution. 

They want everyone to experience Japan’s most beloved sakura spots virtually. 

Weather News, which follows the cherry blossom trail as the flowers start blooming from Japan’s southwest until gradually making their way north, has uploaded dozens of free “hanami VR” videos. 

These give those stuck inside a chance to experience everywhere from Kyoto’s Arashiyama neighborhood and Onshi park in Tokyo’s Ueno neighborhood to Osaka castle park and the moat of the Imperial palace in Tokyo from the safety of their own homes. 

Cherry blossoms or “sakura” are celebrated in Japanese literature and art. As they bloom briefly, in Japan, they’re viewed as a metaphor for the ephemeral but beautiful things in life.