March 24 coronavirus news

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

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

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

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

From CNN's Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran and Hira Humayun in Atlanta

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.

6:17 a.m. ET, March 24, 2020

An ice rink is being turned into a temporary morgue for Covid-19 victims in Spain

From CNN's Al Goodman, Laura Perez-Maestro and Ingrid Formanek in Madrid, and Max Ramsay in London

Members of Spain's Military Emergency Unit (UME) work on March 23 at the Palacio de Hielo mall in Madrid, where an ice rink will be used as a morgue for coronavirus victims, d
Members of Spain's Military Emergency Unit (UME) work on March 23 at the Palacio de Hielo mall in Madrid, where an ice rink will be used as a morgue for coronavirus victims, d Patricia J. Garcinuno/Getty Images

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

The regional government announced on Monday that the Ice Palace (Palacio de Hielo) in Madrid’s Hortaleza neighborhood was being prepared to act as a morgue. Spain’s Emergency Military Unit (UME) has started delivering some bodies already, authorities said.

This is a “temporary and extraordinary measure,” the regional government said, in order to “lessen the pain of the families of the victims and the situation that’s being recorded in Madrid’s hospitals.”

Members of the Spanish Army's Military Emergency Unit are seen at the Palacio de Hielo mall in Madrid on Wednesday.
Members of the Spanish Army's Military Emergency Unit are seen at the Palacio de Hielo mall in Madrid on Wednesday. Mariscal/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

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.

They said other services would continue as normal, and the funeral service would still hold cremations and burials for coronavirus victims who are “sent by other funeral services businesses in a closed coffin.”

Spain -- one of the worst-hit countries in Europe -- has now recorded 35,212 cases and 2,316 deaths, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

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

5:50 a.m. ET, March 24, 2020

India faces up to potential coronavirus crisis, but is the country really prepared?

From CNN's Julia Hollingsworth, Manveena Suri and Swati Gupta

A pedestrian using a handkerchief as a face mask walks down the street, in Mumbai on March 23.
A pedestrian using a handkerchief as a face mask walks down the street, in Mumbai on March 23. Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images

India is the world's second most populous country and its fifth biggest economy, with trade connections all over the globe.

Despite that, the country of 1.34 billion has appeared to so far avoid the full hit of the coronavirus pandemic. It has only 492 confirmed cases of the virus and nine deaths.

But fears are growing that the country remains susceptible to a wider, potentially more damaging outbreak. Experts have cautioned that India is not testing enough people to know the true extent of the problem -- and warn that the country faces several issues that could accelerate the spread of the virus.

Testing capacity: India has a test capacity of 60,000 to 70,000 per week, according to Balram Bhargava, director-general of the Indian Council of Medical Research. By comparison, the United Kingdom -- a country with 5% of the population size of India -- says it is hoping to increase its test capacity to 25,000 a day.

Why an outbreak could be hard to control: In parts of India, even basic isolation measures would be extremely difficult.

Slums: In 2011, an Indian government report estimated that 29.4% of the country's urban population live in low quality, semi-permanent structures, known as slums. Many of the homes here don't have bathrooms or running water. Some slum residents get their water from a communal tap, while others collect theirs in canisters and buckets from tankers that visit a few times a week.

This all makes it difficult to wash hands regularly. "Where on earth are they going to find the water and soap that they need?" asks Bellur Prabhakar, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Illinois. "I think it's going to be nearly impossible to implement that plan."

Social distancing: In India, there are 455 people per square kilometer (or 1,178 people per square mile), according to World Bank statistics -- significantly more than the world average of 60 people, and much higher than China's 148.

Millions of jobs at risk: India's cleaners, household workers, and construction workers could be hurt by lockdowns. According to official statistics from 2011-2012 -- the most recent data available -- there were around 400 million people in India's labor market. Of those, more than half were self employed, and 121 million were casual workers.

Read the full story here:

5:39 a.m. ET, March 24, 2020

Laos confirms first two cases of novel coronavirus

From Isaac Yee in Hong Kong

Laos confirmed its first two cases of the novel coronavirus on Tuesday, according to the state-run Lao News Agency.

Laos Deputy Minister of Health Phouthone Meuangpak said at a news conference that the two cases were a tour guide who worked with visitors from Europe earlier this month and an employee at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Vientiane, the Southeast Asian nation's capital. 

The Lao News Agency reports that the two confirmed cases are currently receiving medical treatment in Vientiane.

Laos and Myanmar -- which announced its first cases earlier in the day -- were the only countries in Southeast Asia that had not reported a case of coronavirus before today.

5:04 a.m. ET, March 24, 2020

Hawaii has reported its first coronavirus-related death

From CNN's Joe Sutton

A coronavirus patient in Hawaii has died, authorities said. It is the first fatality in the state related to the viral pandemic.

The individual, who died on Friday, was an adult from the island of Oahu who was suffering from "multiple underlying health conditions."

The Hawaii Department of Health said the person was likely infected via "indirect travel-related exposure."

"All of Hawai‘i expresses condolences to the family of the person who died and shares in grieving their loss. Everyone is encouraged to take care of themselves and their loved ones during these difficult times," the department said.

To date, 542 coronavirus patients have died in the US.

4:49 a.m. ET, March 24, 2020

Patients were in "imminent danger" at Life Care Center nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, federal agency says

From CNN's Joe Sutton

An ambulance leaves Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington on March 12.
An ambulance leaves Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington on March 12. Ted S. Warren/AP

The US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and state regulators said that the Life Care Center nursing home in Kirkland, Washington -- the epicenter of the state's novel coronavirus outbreak -- found that patients at the facility were in "imminent danger" during the beginning of the outbreak.

CMS said in a statement that inspectors uncovered three so-called “Immediate Jeopardy” situations -- when a patient’s safety is placed in imminent danger -- after conducting inspections on March 16.

"Specifically, the facility’s failure to rapidly identify and manage ill residents, notify the Washington Department of Health about the increasing rate of respiratory infection among residents, and failure to possess a sufficient backup plan following the absence of the facility’s primary clinician, who fell ill," the statement read. 

Washington Department of Social and Health Services Secretary Cheryl Strange called the situation at the retirement facility "unprecedented."

She added:

“We have worked closely with our federal partners over the last several weeks to determine what lead to the outbreak there and what contributed to its spread throughout the facility. We have learned valuable lessons. We are applying these lessons daily in our efforts to prepare long term care facilities throughout the state for the potential of COVID-19. Our regulatory teams are highly focused on visiting all nursing homes in Washington state to ensure those who care for some of our most vulnerable citizens are practicing proper infection control.”

The agency said that according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 147 nursing homes across 27 states had reported at least one resident who had contracted the virus.

4:51 a.m. ET, March 24, 2020

Pakistan is deploying its army to assist with the coronavirus outbreak

From CNN’s Sophia Saifi in Islamabad and Isaac Yee in Hong Kong

Soldiers stand guard on a deserted street during lockdown in Karachi, Pakistan on March 23.
Soldiers stand guard on a deserted street during lockdown in Karachi, Pakistan on March 23. Rizwan Tabassum/AFP/Getty Images

The Pakistani Army has deployed "all available troops and medical resources" across the country to aid the government's efforts to contain the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, said spokesman Maj. Gen. Babar Iftikhar. 

"The task at hand is enormous and very difficult," Iftikhar said. He called the threat of the coronavirus one that "we haven't seen in our lifetime." 

Iftikhar said authorities will shutter all public transport in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus. He also said that gas stations will also only be open on certain days of the week. 

Pakistan currently has 892 confirmed coronavirus patients, six of whom have died. 

 

4:22 a.m. ET, March 24, 2020

Just joining us? Here's the latest on the coronavirus pandemic

Workers disinfect a subway train on March 23 in preparation for the restoration of public transport in Wuhan, China.
Workers disinfect a subway train on March 23 in preparation for the restoration of public transport in Wuhan, China. Xiao Yijiu/Xinhua via AP

The global toll: There are 382,108 cases of novel coronavirus and 16,574 deaths globally, according to the Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking figures from the World Health Organization and additional sources. 

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 districts across 30 states and union territories, impacting about two-thirds of the population. Several Australian states are enacting border checkpoints on Tuesday and Wednesday. Albania has entered a strict 16-hour daily curfew. Countries across 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.

IMF loans: 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.

Calls to postpone Olympics: New Zealand athletes became the latest to voice their support for postponing the 2020 Olympic Games, and are backed by the country’s Olympic committee. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to hold a call with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach this evening.

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 coronavirus cases spike. Myanmar reported its first two cases. Beijing will quarantine and test all international arrivals, regardless of destination and Macao will ban most non-residents from entering.