March 24 coronavirus news

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8:49 a.m. ET, March 24, 2020

FEMA chief says they'll use the Defense Production Act today

Federal Emergency Management Agency’s administrator Peter Gaynor
Federal Emergency Management Agency’s administrator Peter Gaynor CNN

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s administrator Peter Gaynor says his team told him they are going to use the Defense Production Act for the first time today. 

Gaynor says FEMA will use it today for about 60,000 test kits.

“There’s some test kits we need to get our hands on," he said on CNN this morning. "We’re going to insert some language into these mass contracts that we have for the 500 million masks. [Defense Production Act] language will be in that today."

What this is about: President Trump said he would invoke the act, which grants him authority to direct private companies to ramp up production of needed medical supplies to fight the coronavirus pandemic in the US.

The law, passed in 1950 as a response to the Korean War, gives the government more control during emergencies to direct industrial production.

Shortly after Trump announced he would be invoking the Defense Production Act, the White House received pushback from business leaders, who expressed concern that the act could cause major unforeseen problems, including profit loss.

WATCH FEMA Administrator: 'Social distancing is working'

8:27 a.m. ET, March 24, 2020

Tokyo Summer Olympics postponed

A man wearing a mask passes the logo of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games displayed on the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building on March 19, in Tokyo, Japan.
A man wearing a mask passes the logo of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games displayed on the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building on March 19, in Tokyo, Japan. Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images

 

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says he has reached an agreement with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach to postpone the Olympics for about one year.

Summer 2021 is the latest that these Olympics could be held, Abe said.

WATCH

8:09 a.m. ET, March 24, 2020

Spain close to 40,000 total cases with more than 2,500 deaths

Undertakers move a coffin of a coronavirus victim at the La Almudena cemetery in Madrid, Spain, on March 23.
Undertakers move a coffin of a coronavirus victim at the La Almudena cemetery in Madrid, Spain, on March 23. Bernat Armangu/AP

Deaths from Covid-19 in Spain have risen to 2,696 with 39,673 total cases, according to Health Ministry data released on Tuesday.

The rise in deaths of 514 (23.6%) and rise in cases of 6,584 (19.9%) over the past 24 hours are the largest numerical increases the country has recorded, but not the largest percentage increases.

Up to Monday, there had been 33,089 total recorded cases in Spain with 2,182 deaths.

Spain has the third largest number of coronavirus deaths of any country in the world, behind Italy and China.

On Monday, the Madrid city government’s funeral service announced they would stop collecting the bodies of those who die from coronavirus as they are “without sufficient protective material,” according to a statement sent to CNN.

Bodies of Covid-19 victims are now being delivered to an ice rink that is being used as a temporary morgue in Madrid.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced that he would seek to extend Spain's state of emergency for another 15 days as the number of Covid-19 deaths soared.

7:58 a.m. ET, March 24, 2020

Just joining us? Here's what you need to know

Workers spray disinfectant at Wuhan Railway Station in China's Hubei province on March 24. China has announced that lockdown measures would be lifted for many in the province from Wednesday, and in the provincial capital of Wuhan f April 8.
Workers spray disinfectant at Wuhan Railway Station in China's Hubei province on March 24. China has announced that lockdown measures would be lifted for many in the province from Wednesday, and in the provincial capital of Wuhan f April 8. Stringer/AFP/Getty Images

The global toll: There are 383,944 cases of novel coronavirus and 16,595 deaths globally, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking figures from the World Health Organization and additional sources. 

Calls to postpone Olympics: Japan's Prime Minister is expected to propose a roughly one-year delay in a call with a top Olympics official today, NHK reports. New Zealand athletes became the latest to voice their support for postponing Tokyo 2020, joining the US Olympic committee and others.

Hubei ending restrictions: The central Chinese province at ground zero for the novel coronavirus pandemic plans to lift nearly all lockdown restrictions on Wednesday. Measures will remain in place in the provincial capital, Wuhan, until April 8.

More curfews and restrictions: India has expanded its mammoth lockdown to cover about two-thirds of the population. Pakistan is deploying its army to assist with the outbreak. Several Australian states are enacting border checkpoints. Albania has entered a strict 16-hour daily curfew. Countries in mainland Europe remain under lockdown, and the UK has banned people from leaving home except for "very limited" reasons. 

43% of US population told to stay at home: At least 16 states have issued stay-at-home orders, which, once in effect, will impact 142 million people, or 43% of the US population, according to data compiled by CNN using US Census population estimates. There are over 42,600 cases, including at least 540 deaths, with Hawaii reporting its first death. Patients at a nursing home in Washington at the centre of the state's outbreak were in "imminent danger" from early on because of several failures by the facility, according to regulators. 

Markets surge on hopes of US rescue plan: The promise of unlimited support for markets from the Federal Reserve and hope that Congress is moving towards a huge fiscal stimulus package boosted US futures overnight, as well as markets in Europe and Asia. 

Ice rink in Spain turned into morgue: The bodies of Covid-19 victims are being delivered to the Palacio de Hielo, which is being used as a temporary morgue in Madrid. The regional government said it was a “temporary" measure to ease pressure on hospitals in Spain, which has more deaths than any other country other than China and Italy.

Middle Eastern countries need support: A dozen countries in the Middle East and Central Asia have reached out to the International Monetary Fund requesting financial support due to the coronavirus outbreak. Iran has extended the temporary release of 85,000 prisoners.

The situation in Asia: Thailand reported three more deaths and 106 new cases today, taking the national tally to 827 confirmed cases. Thai officials are discussing imposing emergency measures. Singapore reported its biggest one-day surge in cases since the outbreak began. Tokyo's governor warned that Japan's capital could be placed under lockdown if the number of cases spike. Myanmar and Laos reported their first two cases. Beijing will quarantine and test all international arrivals and Macao will ban most non-residents from entering.

7:49 a.m. ET, March 24, 2020

Japan's PM is expected to propose a roughly one-year delay for Olympics, NHK reports

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, walks past Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto, right, to attend a cabinet meeting at his official residence in Tokyo on Tuesday, March 24.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, walks past Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto, right, to attend a cabinet meeting at his official residence in Tokyo on Tuesday, March 24. Yoshitaka Sugawara/Kyodo News/AP

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to propose a delay of about one year for the Tokyo Olympics during today's call with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, Japanese public broadcaster NHK is reporting.

After insisting for weeks that the 2020 Olympic Games would go ahead as planned, Tokyo's Organizing Committee yesterday said that postponement was now a "realistic option."

The Games were scheduled to take place in Japan from July 24 to August 9, but there had been calls to cancel or put off the event until later in the year or 2021 as the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed thousands globally.

Tokyo 2020 would be the biggest event yet halted or rescheduled by the global pandemic.

7:45 a.m. ET, March 24, 2020

Italy may have 10 times more cases of coronavirus than recorded, says official

Doctors work at the pre-triage tent at the Cotugno hospital for infectious diseases in Naples, Italy, on March 23.
Doctors work at the pre-triage tent at the Cotugno hospital for infectious diseases in Naples, Italy, on March 23. Salvatore Laporta/KONTROLAB/LightRocket/Getty Images

Italy may have 10 times more cases of coronavirus than have been officially certified, the head of the country’s civil protection agency said Tuesday.

For every officially certificated positive, there are ten non-certified,” Angelo Borrelli of the agency said in an interview with the daily La Repubblica.

His office told CNN the quote was accurate. 

That would mean Italy would have had more than 600,000 positive cases of coronavirus, according to Borrelli’s estimate, having recorded a total of 63,967 cases as of Monday.

It could also potentially help explain what seems to be a much higher death rate in Italy than in other countries. According to World Health Organization statistics, as of March 22, Italy had a death rate of more than 9% of all confirmed cases.

If the country actually has had ten times as many cases as recorded, the death rate would be 0.9%. This would be more in line with the 0.6% death rate in South Korea, for example.

Civil protection agency data Tuesday showed a slight decrease in the number of cases for a second consecutive day, but only in the “next few hours we will see if the growth curve is really starting to flatten,” Borrelli said.

“We should buy more ventilators and masks should be sold at every street corner,” said Borrelli, admitting difficulties in finding these medical supplies.

8:04 a.m. ET, March 24, 2020

France's economy is running at 25% at the moment, finance minister says

French finance minister Bruno Le Maire during a debate at the National Assembly in Paris on March 19.
French finance minister Bruno Le Maire during a debate at the National Assembly in Paris on March 19. Ludovic Marin/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

The French finance minister has warned the nation's economy will shrink by 1% because of the coronavirus crisis, and could contract further.

“Every week of additional confinement, every month of additional crisis, in Europe of the United States, has an impact on our growth," Bruno Le Maire said at a news conference Tuesday.

Le Maire said the French economy was running at 25% at the moment. Earlier, he told France Info radio that nationalization of French companies could be possible as a last resort, comparing the situation to the depression of 1929. There have now been 20,149 cases and 862 deaths in France, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

Meanwhile, the French Health Ministry announced it was mobilizing social work students to help social and medical care facilities during the epidemic.

"The Covid-19 epidemic that France is experiencing must not endanger the support of our most fragile citizens,” said Christelle Dubos, French State Secretary to the Minister of Solidarity and Health. "We must do everything to prevent the social tragedy from adding to the epidemic crisis."

Up to 40,000 students will be able to work in elderly care institutions, special needs institutions, child protection institutions, emergency accommodation centers, child care and other centers, according to Dubos. 

7:24 a.m. ET, March 24, 2020

Italian police can now use drones to monitor people's movements, aviation authority says

A drone view of a street in Turin, Italy on March 15.
A drone view of a street in Turin, Italy on March 15. Nicolò Campo/LightRocket/Getty Images

Italy has said police may use drones to monitor movement in order to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

The National Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) authorized the use of drones to monitor the movements of citizens in municipal areas to ensure the containment of the epidemiological emergency, ENAC said Monday in a letter published on its official website.

The letter was sent by ENAC to the Italian ministries of the Interior, Transport and Justice, the Air Force General Staff, the company that manages civil air traffic in Italy (ENAV), the National Association of Italian Municipalities and the Local Police posts.

ENAC's letter said that "given the needs expressed by numerous local police headquarters," it authorized until April 3 "operations conducted with remotely piloted aircraft systems with aerial means of take-off, with operating mass of less than 25kg" for monitoring activities "in derogation of the registration and identification requirements."

When the outbreak in Italy began, authorities only locked down affected areas in the north. The entire country was put on lockdown on March 9 and those who break the rules now face $232 fines and six months' prison time. Hundreds of thousands of Italians have been given police citations for flouting the ban and a Chinese Red Cross official last week said the measures -- among the strictest in Europe -- weren't strict enough. On Friday, the military was called in to help enforce the rules as deaths spiked and hospitals buckled under the strain. By the weekend, authorities were forced to issue even more stringent restrictions.

Yesterday saw a small decrease in cases and deaths for a second day. Italy confirmed 601 new coronavirus-related deaths over 24 hours, bringing the total to 6,077. Another 4,789 new cases were diagnosed, bringing the total number of cases to 63,927.

6:32 a.m. ET, March 24, 2020

Iran's president is extending the temporary release of 85,000 prisoners

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attends a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran, in this handout photo from March 18.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attends a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran, in this handout photo from March 18. Office of the Iranian Presidency/AP

The temporary release of prisoners in Iran will extend to 25 days until April 18, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced on state TV Tuesday as the country's death toll continues to rise.

Last week, judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili announced Iran had temporarily sent home 85,000 prisoners to curb the spread of the coronavirus, according to semi-official Tasnim news agency.

Meanwhile, 1.2 million of Iran’s approximately 2.5 million civil servants have not been going to work for the past month amid the coronavirus outbreak, Rouhani said.

He said essential public services would continue and people who work in sectors such as the health sector must continue to go to work.

Iran has confirmed 1,762 new cases of coronavirus infections, bringing the total number of cases there to 24,811, said Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpoor.

He said there had been 122 new coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 1,934.

Jahanpoor said that almost half the country's population has been screened for coronavirus. Around 41 million people have either been tested for the virus or reported symptoms to health professionals.