March 25 coronavirus news

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9:53 p.m. ET, March 24, 2020

Australia bans overseas travel and extends social restrictions

From Hilary Whiteman in Brisbane and Akanksha Sharma in Hong Kong

A Qantas jet lands at Sydney airport on March 25 in Australia.
A Qantas jet lands at Sydney airport on March 25 in Australia. Mark Evans/Getty Images

Australia banned overseas travel and extended social restrictions in order to tackle the spread of the novel coronavirus, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Tuesday.

The decision to ban overseas travel is aligned with Australia's upgraded "Level 4: do not travel" and comes under the Biosecurity Act of 2015, Morrison said.

"We will be living with this virus for at least six months," Morrison warned, stating further that, "The highest priority should be placed on social isolation measures." 

To that effect, the Australian prime minister unveiled stricter social distancing measures that include weddings with a maximum attendance of no more than five people and funerals with no more than 10 people, with one person per 4 square meters (or at least 6 feet apart).

Australia reported a jump of 429 new confirmed cases of novel coronavirus on Wednesday, taking the national tally to 2,252 cases of which eight have died, according to the country's Department of Health. 

9:55 p.m. ET, March 24, 2020

US has potential to be next epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, WHO spokesperson says

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

A worker with Clinical Pathology Laboratories waits for patients at a drive-through coronavirus testing site Tuesday, March 24, in Las Vegas.
A worker with Clinical Pathology Laboratories waits for patients at a drive-through coronavirus testing site Tuesday, March 24, in Las Vegas. John Locher/AP

As coronavirus cases continue to rise in the United States, the nation has "potential" to become the next epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, Margaret Harris, a spokesperson for the World Health Organization, said during a call with reporters on Tuesday. 

Harris was asked directly: "Do you see the United States going on to become the epicenter of this outbreak, overtaking Europe?"

In response Harris said, "We are now seeing a very large acceleration in the numbers of cases from the United States -- so it does have that potential. We cannot say that that is the case yet, but it does have that potential."

Earlier in the call, Harris said that the majority of the world's latest Covid-19 cases have been in European countries and the United States.

"The main drivers of the outbreak remain Europe, but also the US. So 85% of cases that have been reported in the last 24 hours have come from the European region and the US," Harris said on Tuesday. 

"A lot of countries are now taking very strong measures to distance people, to really quarantine entire societies, and these have been shown to be an important way of slowing down this spread of the virus and buying some time," Harris said. "But to defeat the virus, to stop it, countries also need very aggressive targeted tactics, testing every suspected case, isolating and caring for every person known to be ill and also tracing and quarantining and finding every close contact."