March 26 coronavirus news

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6:13 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

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

A member of the public wears a a protective mask on the Tube on March 25  in London, England.
A member of the public wears a a protective mask on the Tube on March 25 in London, England. Alex Davidson/Getty Images

Markets struggling: US stock futures are stumbling today, even as the US moves closer toward passing a $2 trillion stimulus bill. The House of Representatives is expected to take up the measure on Friday. Markets in Asia Pacific struggled for direction, and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was the only major benchmark in the region to trade firmly in the green.

Deadliest day in the US: Wednesday was the deadliest day the US has seen during the pandemic with 233 fatalities reported, taking the US to 65,273 cases and 938 deaths. California's cases are doubling every few days, while officials have warned that San Francisco could reach New York levels.

Dire situation in Spain: The total number of infections in Spain is inching closer to 50,000, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. At over 3,600 fatalities, the number of deaths reported in the country has surpassed those in China. Only Italy has reported more.

New imported cases in China: The country reported 67 new imported coronavirus cases on Wednesday, but no new locally transmitted ones. Its rate of new infections has slowed significantly, with 81,285 cases, 3,287 deaths, 74,051 recovered.

Largest single-day spike in Japan: The country saw its largest single-day spike in cases since the outbreak began, with 98 new cases and two more deaths reported Wednesday. The nation has now had 2,003 cases and 55 deaths. Japanese people have been urged to avoid all non-essential overseas travel.

New Zealand on high alert: Authorities confirmed 73 new coronavirus patients and five more probable cases -- the most in a 24-hour period to date. The country is in its first full day on alert Level 4, the highest category. Most people are required to stay home.

India pledges $22.6 billion in support: The government has announced a relief package to assist those most affected by the pandemic and 21-day nationwide lockdown. It includes medical insurance cover of $66,400 per person to those working on the frontlines and 5 kilograms of rice or wheat per month for 800 million people.

Moscow closes down: All cafes, parks and stores (except grocery stores, delivery kitchens and pharmacies) will shut until April 5 after Russia saw its sharpest spike in the past 24 hours, reaching 840 cases and three deaths. Putin said last week Russia had managed to slow the spread of coronavirus thanks to early and aggressive measures.

Some happy news: Wynn, a service dog in training, is bringing joy and comfort to the medical staff on the front lines of the battle against the virus in Denver, Colorado.

7:57 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Moscow closes all restaurants, stores and parks for a week

 From CNN’s Mary Ilyushina in Moscow

A man cleans a cafe door amid concerns of the coronavirus in central Moscow on March 25.
A man cleans a cafe door amid concerns of the coronavirus in central Moscow on March 25. Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty Images

Moscow is closing all restaurants, cafes, bars, shops and parks from March 28 until April 5 for the “stay-at-home holidays” announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, the city’s mayor said in a statement.

"The restrictions introduced today are unprecedented in the modern history of Moscow and will create many inconveniences for the everyday life of every person,” said Mayor Sergey Sobyanin on Thursday. "But believe me, they are absolutely necessary in order to slow the spread of coronavirus infection and reduce the number of cases."

Exceptions will be made for grocery stores and pharmacies, and restaurants that deliver food are also allowed to stay open. Moscow residents were urged to refrain from attending religious sites.

Russia has seen its sharpest spike in numbers in the past 24 hours, adding 182 confirmed coronavirus cases, 136 of which are in Moscow. The total number of cases in the country now stands at 840, with three deaths, according to Russian health authorities.

The Russian government has also moved to ban all regular and charter international flights starting from March 27, per government decree.

Putin said last week Russia had managed to slow the spread of coronavirus thanks to early and aggressive measures -- and the number of confirmed cases is surprisingly low, despite Russia sharing a border with China and recording its first case back in January.

Watch:

6:47 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Prince Charles "didn't jump queue" for coronavirus test

From CNN's Simon Cullen in London

Prince Charles did not “jump the queue” for a coronavirus test, one of the UK’s junior health ministers has said after it emerged that the royal had tested positive for the virus.

Edward Argar was asked on Sky News why the Prince of Wales was able to get the test while some frontline medical workers with symptoms have not been tested.

“The Prince of Wales didn’t jump the queue,” Argar said. “His symptoms, his condition, met that criteria."

Prince Charles, who is 71 years old and the heir to the British throne, is self-quarantining in Scotland with mild symptoms, Clarence House announced Wednesday. His wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, has also been tested and does not have the virus.

Scotland’s NHS website advises: “Generally, you'll only be tested for COVID-19 if you have a serious illness that requires admission to hospital."

Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Catherine Calderwood told BBC Scotland on Thursday that she has spoken to the team looking after Prince Charles.

“My understanding is there are very good clinical reasons for that person and his wife to be tested and I wouldn't be able to disclose anything else that I know because of patient confidentiality,” she said.

6:34 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

India announces $22.6 billion relief package to help "poor and suffering"

From CNN’s Manveena Suri in New Delhi

Indian firefighters spray disinfectants as a preventive measure against the spread of the new coronavirus on a street in Gauhati, India, on Wednesday, March 25.
Indian firefighters spray disinfectants as a preventive measure against the spread of the new coronavirus on a street in Gauhati, India, on Wednesday, March 25. Anupam Nath/AP

The Indian government has announced a relief package worth $22.6 billion to assist those most affected by the coronavirus pandemic and the nationwide lockdown.

“It’s only been 36 hours since the lockdown was imposed,” the country’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said at a news conference on Thursday. "Now we have come up with a package which will immediately take care of the welfare concerns of the poor and suffering workers and those who need immediate help."

The relief package includes medical insurance cover of $66,400 per person to those working on the frontlines, such as medical workers, sanitation workers and community health workers. This measure will cover around 2 million people.

The government will provide 800 million people -- nearly two-thirds of the country’s population -- with 5 kilograms of rice or wheat each month for the next three months for free. “We do not want anyone to go hungry,” Sitharaman said.

Other measures announced include fast-tracking subsidies and benefits for farmers, construction workers, widows and the disabled as well as increasing the minimum wage.

The 87 million farmers who currently receive $80 a year will be given the first instalment for the next financial year immediately, in the first week of April.

Workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) -- which guarantees 100 days of unskilled manual work per year -- will have their wages increased by $26.

Senior citizens, widows and the disabled will get a one-time $13 payment over the next three months in two instalments, benefiting 30 million people. 

The 200 million female Jan Dhan (government’s direct benefits transfer scheme) account-holders will get a one-time amount of $6.60 each per month for the next three months.

Women on the Ujjwala (government gas subsidy scheme) will be given free cylinders for three months. This will benefit 83 million families living below the poverty line.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a 21-day nationwide lockdown starting at midnight Wednesday. Only essential services are operational across the country’s 36 states and territories. These include water, electricity, health services, fire services, groceries and municipal services.

5:39 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Half a million Brits sign up as volunteers to support health service

From CNN's Simon Cullen in London

More than half a million people in the UK have signed up as volunteers to support the country’s National Health Service (NHS), the UK’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock says.

The government was hoping to get 250,000 people to sign up.

Hancock tweeted on Thursday: “Fantastic that 560,000 people have now responded to our call to volunteer to support our NHS to defeat #Coronavirus."

Volunteers will be asked to carry out various tasks, including collecting shopping, medicines or other essential supplies to deliver to people who are self-isolating.

They might also be asked to provide transport for patients who are being discharged from hospital, transporting medical supplies, or chatting with people who are self-isolating and at risk of loneliness.

6:50 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Jordan eases lockdown after total curfew leads to chaos

From CNN's Rob Picheta, Zeena Saifi and Tamara Qiblawi

People queue to buy subsidized bread from a municipal bus in the Marka suburb in the east of Jordan's capital Amman on March 24.
People queue to buy subsidized bread from a municipal bus in the Marka suburb in the east of Jordan's capital Amman on March 24. Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images

Jordan on Wednesday eased one of the world's strictest lockdowns over the coronavirus after it prompted chaotic scenes in the country. 

Days after a total curfew went into effect, people clamored to receive bread distributions from government trucks, the emergency hotline went offline after it apparently became overloaded with phone calls, and some reported they had nothing at home to eat. 

But on Tuesday, the government backtracked, loosening restrictions on movement. After four days of total lockdown, people were allowed to leave their homes on foot for essential trips, such as purchasing food from small convenient stores and obtaining medicine. A curfew is still in place from 6 p.m. to 10 a.m.

Read the full story here

6:51 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

This orchestra is performing mini concerts every day on Facebook

From CNN's Alicia Lee

With the cascading glissandos of the harp and the rich sounds of the cello, classical music is known to relieve stress or even lull you to sleep. And amid the coronavirus pandemic, when anxiety has reached an all-time high, a good night's sleep is much needed.

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra's "Bedtime with Bach" series can help with that.

Every night at 9 p.m., members of the orchestra post videos of themselves performing on Facebook, all from the comfort of their homes in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Song choices range from Domenico Scarlatti's "Sonata in B minor K.27 (performed by ASO's principal harpist Alisa Coffey) to Aretha Franklin's "I Say a Little Prayer for You" (performed by ASO's conductor and violinist Geoffrey Robson).

The short performances are a way for the orchestra members to stay connected with the community while their concerts are canceled, members said.

"Music is alive, but it becomes more alive when you've got the audience's energy coming back at you," said Drew Irvin, ASO's co-concertmaster, who came up with the idea. "So for now, we're going to make that through Facebook."

The orchestra's normal concerts usually draw in about 1,000 audience members, Irvin said. The "Bedtime with Bach" series is even more popular, garnering thousands of views. Principal cellist David Gerstein's performance of "Romance" alone racked up 10,000 views.

Read more here:

6:51 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

In pictures: What the pandemic looks like worldwide

The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically altered daily life around the globe. Stores are shut, streets quiet, restaurants closed, face masks ubiquitous, and supermarket aisles empty.

People practice social distancing as they wait for takeout food at a shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand, on Tuesday.
People practice social distancing as they wait for takeout food at a shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand, on Tuesday. Credit: Sakchai Lalit/AP

Phrases like social distancing and self-isolation have made their way into the public consciousness. In some places, like Thailand's capital Bangkok, people diligently follow the rules of social distancing -- even sitting feet apart from each other in neat grids in mall food courts.

In other places like Japan, where the popular cherry blossom season is underway, social distancing doesn't appear to have taken hold yet.

People flock to Tokyo city parks to view the blooming cherry blossoms on March 21.
People flock to Tokyo city parks to view the blooming cherry blossoms on March 21. Credit: Clive Rose/Getty Images

There were similar scenes in the United States, where more than a dozen states have imposed stay-at-home orders. Last weekend, crowds gathered on beaches, hiking trails, and parks in California, in open defiance of the state-wide order to shelter in place and avoid close contact with others.

California's Huntington Beach on March 21.
California's Huntington Beach on March 21. Michael Heiman/Getty Images

Meanwhile, in places like mainland China, coronavirus case numbers continue to drop every day -- leading to a cautious easing of travel restrictions and strict lockdowns.

Businesses in China are returning to work, and even tourist sites are reopening -- the Badaling section of the Great Wall is finally open again this week, after being closed for two months.

See all the pictures here

A tourist visiting the reopened Badaling section of the Great Wall of China on March 24.
A tourist visiting the reopened Badaling section of the Great Wall of China on March 24. Credit: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
6:58 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

People are decorating their windows with hearts and messages of hope

From CNN's Alisha Ebrahimji

Natasha James' window in her home in Nanaimo, British Columbia.
Natasha James' window in her home in Nanaimo, British Columbia. Courtesy Natasha James

Thousands of people are practicing social distancing worldwide -- but that's not stopping neighbors from leaving messages of hope in the windows of their homes.

It's unclear where or when the effort started, but photos of people putting rainbows, colorful heart cutouts, teddy bears and anything that resembles a sign of hope have been spreading all over social media.

Some are participating because they want their neighbors who have been deemed "essential workers" to see some joy on their way out of their homes. Others say they decorated their windows so families taking walks and getting fresh air have a nice reminder that everyone is in this together.

Nora Siebels stands outside her front door decked out in paper hearts in Norfolk, Virginia.
Nora Siebels stands outside her front door decked out in paper hearts in Norfolk, Virginia. Courtesy Tory and Kyle Siebels

In Norfolk, Virginia, Kyle Siebels told CNN he found out about the effort through his neighborhood Facebook page. When the Siebels family went for a walk Tuesday, Kyle said he saw 30 houses participating. On Monday, Kyle's wife, Tory, cut out the hearts and went to town on their front door.

"Our neighbors have started putting colored hearts in their windows for neighborhood kids to find on their walks while everyone is staying home," he wrote on Facebook. "We laced up our door so they wouldn't miss our circle. Pretty cool to see how many houses have participated. Nora (Kyle and Tory's daughter) definitely loves our walks."

Read the full story here: