March 24 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Emma Reynolds, Mike Hayes and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 1:09 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020
53 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
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

From CNN's Kaori Enjoji in Tokyo and Yoko Wakatsuki in Tokyo

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

From CNN’s Livia Borghese in Rome

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

From CNN's Fanny Bobille in Paris and Pierre-Eliott Buet

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

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.