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March 26 coronavirus news

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8:01 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

A 96-year-old woman is now the oldest South Korean to fully recover from the coronavirus

A 96-year-old woman in South Korea has become the oldest patient in the country to fully recover from the novel coronavirus.

The woman was declared completely recovered on Wednesday.

Cheongdo County is close to the southern city of Daegu, where the country's coronavirus cases are most concentrated.

The woman had been diagnosed with the coronavirus on March 13, and received intensive treatment at the Pohang public clinic, east of Daegu.

She is now under self-quarantine in her home in Cheongdo, where she lives with her son.

3:31 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

It's morning in Europe. Here's what you might have missed overnight around the world

United States: Wednesday was the deadliest day the United States has seen during the coronavirus pandemic, with 233 fatalities reported.

The US Senate passed a massive $2 trillion stimulus package to boost the economy amid the coronavirus outbreak. The House of Representatives is expected to take up the measure on Friday. President Trump has indicated he will sign the bill.

Numbers in the US as of the end of the day Wednesday: 65,273 cases, 938 deaths.

Mainland China: The country's National Health Commission reported 67 new imported coronavirus cases yesterday, but no new locally transmitted ones. The rate of new infections within the country has slowed significantly

Numbers in mainland China as of the end of the day Wednesday: 81,285 confirmed, 3,287 deaths, 74,051 recovered and discharged from hospital.

Japan: The country saw its largest single-day spike in cases since the outbreak began, with 98 new cases and two more deaths reported on Wednesday.

The government issued a travel alert for the entire world on Wednesday, urging people in Japan to refrain from non-essential overseas trips. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has ordered a government task force be set up in response to the pandemic.

Numbers in Japan as of Thursday morning: 2,003 cases (712 from the Diamond Princess cruise ship), 55 deaths (10 from the Diamond Princess).

New Zealand: Authorities confirmed 73 new coronavirus patients and identified five more probable cases from 9:30 a.m. local time yesterday until the same time today, the country's Ministry of Health said in a statement -- the most in a 24-hour period to date there.

The country is in its first full day on alert Level 4, the highest possible category. Most people are required to stay home to stop the virus from spreading.

Numbers in New Zealand as of Thursday morning: 262 confirmed, 21 probable, 27 recovered.

3:13 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

UN warns that coronavirus could do "potentially catastrophic" damage in prisons

In this February 26, 2013 file photo, inmates walk through the exercise yard at California State Prison Sacramento, near Folsom, California.
In this February 26, 2013 file photo, inmates walk through the exercise yard at California State Prison Sacramento, near Folsom, California. Rich Pedroncelli/AP, File

As the coronavirus begins to strike in prisons and detention centers, the UN is urging governments “not to forget those behind bars” and protect the staff members working in those facilities. 

“Governments are facing huge demands on resources in this crisis and are having to take difficult decisions," said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet in a statement Wednesday.

"But I urge them not to forget those behind bars, or those confined in places such as closed mental health facilities, nursing homes and orphanages, because the consequences of neglecting them are potentially catastrophic."

She laid out measures that authorities could take: They could reduce the number of people in detention and examine ways to release particularly vulnerable detainees, like those who are older or already sick.

Authorities overseeing these facilities should continue providing for the specific health-care needs of women prisoners, including those who are pregnant, and those of inmates with disabilities and juvenile detainees, Bachelet added.

If prisons restrict visits for inmates, they should set up alternative measures like video conferencing or increased phone calls with family members, she said.

Prisoners' rights need to be protected, she emphasized. Anti-pandemic measures should not undermine the fundamental rights of detained people, including their rights to adequate food and water, and access to a lawyer and doctor.

2:59 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

This artist drew Wuhan under quarantine in January. A new cartoon shows hope and recovery

Credit: Chen Xiaotao Momo
Credit: Chen Xiaotao Momo

Back in January, when the coronavirus outbreak was triggering massive lockdowns and dramatic emergency measures in China, artist Chen Xiaotao Momo drew a cartoon that quickly became popular on Chinese social media.

In the sketch, a bowl of "hot dry noodles" -- signature dish of Wuhan, the city at ground zero of the pandemic -- sits in a hospital bed with a face mask and teary eyes. At the window, regional cuisines representing different parts of China hold signs expressing encouragement and support.

Wuhan was the first Chinese city to go under lockdown. Two months later, the worst of the pandemic appears to have passed in mainland China. Lockdowns and restrictions are slowly lifting, and provincial alert levels are being cautiously lowered.

In a new cartoon, published by Chen yesterday, the bowl of noodles is no longer in bed. Instead the Wuhan dish waves happily to the crowd of food friends outside the window, which appears to include Sichuan hot pot and southern Chinese dim sum, among others.

They appear to be cheering, "Hubei restart," referring to the hard-hit province of which Wuhan is the capital.

The cartoon has circulated widely in the past day -- the hashtag #HotDryNoodlesHasWokenUp is trending on Weibo, China's Twitter-like platform, with more than 210 million views.

Credit: Chen Xiaotao Momo
Credit: Chen Xiaotao Momo
2:41 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Three cruise ships off the coast of Western Australia have been refused permission to dock

Oil tanker Vacamonte refuels the MSC Magnifica while berthed at Fremantle Passenger Terminal on March 24, in Fremantle, Australia.
Oil tanker Vacamonte refuels the MSC Magnifica while berthed at Fremantle Passenger Terminal on March 24, in Fremantle, Australia. Paul Kane/Getty Images

Three cruise ships off the coast of Western Australia have been told that under no circumstances will they be allowed to dock.

The Artania is carrying 800 passengers, mostly Germans, seven of whom have the coronavirus.

“The Artania cruise ship must continue on its journey to South Africa urgently. This ship needs to leave immediately,” Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan told reporters Thursday. He said if the seven passengers needed urgent medical assistance they should be sent to an Australian Defence Force base, then flown home to Germany. “We are working with the Australian government to do this immediately,” he said.

The MSC Magnifica has refueled in Fremantle and remains in waters off the coast of Western Australia. It had been planning to end its voyage in Dubai, and was at sea when its operator, MSC Cruises, temporarily halted its fleet.

MSC Cruises told CNN on March 23 that no passengers were ill. “Nobody on board -- passengers or crew -- has fever, signs of respiratory insufficiency or gastroenteric diseases,” it said in a statement.

The Vasco da Gama is carrying around 800 Australians, including 200 Western Australians, 109 New Zealanders, and 33 UK citizens and other foreigners, according to the WA government. It had been due to dock in Fremantle on Friday but has been requested to postpone its arrival until Monday to allow for the preparation of temporary accommodation on Rottnest Island.

The island, a protected nature reserve, will be used to house Western Australians onboard the ship for their 14-day quarantine period. Others onboard must remain on the ship until provisions are made to send them straight home.

No repeat: The Western Australian government is trying to avoid the scenario that played out in Sydney on March 19, when more than 2,600 passengers were allowed to leave the Ruby Princess cruise ship. Since then, 121 passengers have been confirmed to have Covid-19, according to the New South Wales Health Department.

“We are not going to have a Sydney Harbor fiasco on our watch,” McGowan said.
2:26 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Fact Check: The US has done more coronavirus tests than South Korea, but not per person

President Donald Trump claimed today the US had done more coronavirus testing than any other nation, after receiving domestic criticism over the rate of testing.

"In fact, over an eight day span, the United States now does more testing than what South Korea (which has been a very successful tester) does over an eight week span," Trump tweeted.

Fact check: While the US has overtaken South Korea in total numbers of coronavirus tests administered, it has conducted far fewer tests per capita, given the US population is more than six times larger than South Korea's.

"Yes, it is true that South Korea has run less tests as an absolute number. However, it is important to point out the huge difference in the population sizes," Aubree Gordon, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan, told CNN.

South Korea has a population of 51 million, and has conducted 357,896 tests so far, according to government figures. That means one in every 142 South Koreans have been tested.

The US has a population of 329 million and has conducted 418,810 tests so far, according to the Covid Tracking Project. That means one in every 785 Americans have been tested.

2:05 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Russia will stop all international flights starting Friday

People sit stuck at Moscow's Vnukovo airport on March 24 after neighboring countries closed borders and stopped flights.
People sit stuck at Moscow's Vnukovo airport on March 24 after neighboring countries closed borders and stopped flights. Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images

The Russian government has ordered a ban on all regular and charter international flights starting tomorrow, Russian state media reported Thursday.

An exception will be made only for flights used for repatriation of Russian citizens from abroad.

1:54 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

British diplomat, 37, dies after contracting coronavirus

A senior British diplomat stationed in Hungary has died after contracting coronavirus, the UK's Foreign Office said on Wednesday.

Steven Dick, aged 37, was the Deputy Head of Mission for the British embassy in Budapest.

He died on Tuesday after contracting Covid-19, the Foreign Office said.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: "I am desperately saddened by the news of Steven's death and my heart goes out to his parents Steven and Carol."

"Steven was a dedicated diplomat and represented his country with great skill and passion. He will be missed by all those who knew him and worked with him."

Read more:

1:44 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Tokyo's streets are full of people, a day after the governor urged social distancing

Commuters wearing face masks make their way to work on March 26 in Tokyo, Japan.
Commuters wearing face masks make their way to work on March 26 in Tokyo, Japan. Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

Yesterday, the governor of Tokyo held an emergency news conference urging citizens to stay at home and avoid going out unnecessarily.

Today, it appears residents are ignoring the warnings.

Streets around the Meguro River are packed with people gathering to view the blooming cherry blossoms. Some are wearing masks, but just as many people aren't.

It's cherry blossom season -- meaning all week, people have been going to parks and public areas, picnicking outdoors, and gathering in large numbers.

Authorities are urging citizens not to take the pandemic lightly -- Japan reported its largest single-day jump in cases yesterday -- but their pleas for social distancing appear to have had little effect.