March 26 coronavirus news

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7:06 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Iraq extends country-wide curfew through April 11

From CNN’s Aqeel Najim in Baghdad

Iraqi police work at a checkpoint in Baghdad, Iraq, on March 24.
Iraqi police work at a checkpoint in Baghdad, Iraq, on March 24. Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images

The Iraqi government is extending the countrywide curfew/lockdown through April 11, state media reported Wednesday.

The curfew was previously set to expire on March 28.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced on state TV Tuesday that the temporary release of prisoners in Iran would extend to 25 days until April 18, 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.

As of Wednesday, there were 346 confirmed coronavirus cases in the country and 29 deaths, the Health Ministry announced.

8:12 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Hundreds of foreign trekkers stranded on Nepal’s mountain trails after coronavirus lockdown

From CNN's Sugam Pokharel in Atlanta 

Porters walk past mules carrying empty gas cylinders along a path in Phakding, Nepal, on March 23, after mountain expeditions and trekking were suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Porters walk past mules carrying empty gas cylinders along a path in Phakding, Nepal, on March 23, after mountain expeditions and trekking were suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak. Prakesh Mathema/AFP/Getty Images

Hundreds of foreign trekkers are stranded on famous high-altitude trekking trails across Nepal after the country began a week-long nationwide lockdown on Tuesday in a bid to contain the coronavirus spread, officials said.

On at least four trekking routes, there are a total of around 500 foreign trekkers unable to return due to the lockdown, Shradha Shrestha, a spokeswoman for the Nepal Tourism Board told CNN.

We are working with multiple government agencies to rescue the trekkers and bring them to Kathmandu, so that we can coordinate with the embassies to fly them back home, Shrestha said, adding the board has launched a website to make it easier for the stranded trekkers to reach out to authorities.

“Several embassies such as the German and French are already planning to send chartered flights to some of these areas to rescue the trekkers,” Shrestha said.

In a Twitter post, the British embassy in Kathmandu asked UK citizens in Nepal who are looking to return home to send it their details. “We're working closely with carriers and authorities to try to find a solution, and will contact you ASAP,” the embassy said.

Nepal’s government announced earlier this month the spring climbing season for all the Himalayan peaks in the country including the world’s highest Mount Everest would be canceled.

Nepal has three confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to the Nepal Health Ministry data.

6:33 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

US Forces Japan member tests positive for coronavirus

From CNN’s Yoko Wakatsuki in Tokyo and Isaac Yee in Hong Kong

An active duty member of the United States Forces Japan (USFJ) has tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

In a press release issued on Thursday, USFJ said that the active duty patient who tested positive had been in "Restriction of Movement status upon his return from the United States on March 15th."

The statement added that since March 11, "United States Forces Japan has required personnel returning to Japan to be immediately restricted to quarters for 14 days." The member who tested positive was assigned to Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka.

USFJ health professionals are now conducting contact tracing to determine if the patient had interacted with other personnel.

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