Coronavirus cases top 784,000 globally

By Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton and Joshua Berlinger, CNN

Updated 9:48 p.m. ET, March 31, 2020
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6:00 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Indonesia bans most foreign visitors amid coronavirus pandemic

From journalist Eric Cheung in Hong Kong

Officials spray disinfectant at Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in Jakarta, Indonesia on March 18.
Officials spray disinfectant at Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in Jakarta, Indonesia on March 18. Dasril Roszandi/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Indonesia is to ban most foreign nationals from entering and transiting through the country, as it steps up measures to limit the spread of novel coronavirus.

Speaking at a press conference, Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi said the restrictions would not apply to work permit holders, diplomats, and other official visitors, state-run Antara News Agency reported. He did not specify when the restrictions will be implemented.

On Tuesday, Indonesian President Joko Widodo also highlighted the importance of monitoring all returning migrant workers to prevent imported cases of the coronavirus, Antara reported.

"The inflow of migrant workers from various countries, especially from Malaysia, must be handled carefully, as it involves hundreds of thousands or millions of Indonesian migrant workers keen to return home," he said.

Indonesia currently has at least 1,414 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to data collated by Johns Hopkins University.

5:36 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Italy will hold a minute's silence today for the victims of coronavirus

From CNN's Hada Messia in Rome

An Italian flag hangs outside the San Giuseppe church in Seriate, Italy, as a soldier waits to load coffins to be taken to crematoriums, on March 28.
An Italian flag hangs outside the San Giuseppe church in Seriate, Italy, as a soldier waits to load coffins to be taken to crematoriums, on March 28. Antonio Calanni/AP

Italian cities and towns throughout the country will lower their flags and hold a minute's silence on Tuesday to commemorate the victims of coronavirus, according to the Italian mayors' association.

The Vatican said it would also join the tribute.

"Today, in solidarity with Italy, the Holy See will raise their flags at half mast, mourning, to express their closeness to the victims of the pandemic in Italy and in the world, to their own families and those generously struggling to end it," the Vatican said in a statement.

According to a count by Johns Hopkins University, 11,591 people in Italy have died from coronavirus -- the highest death toll of any country.

5:30 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Taiwan calls on the WHO to include it in expert meetings

From CNN's Eric Cheung in Hong Kong

Medical personnel work in a coronavirus screening station at a hospital in Taipei, Taiwan, on March 30.
Medical personnel work in a coronavirus screening station at a hospital in Taipei, Taiwan, on March 30. Jin Liwang/Xinhua via Getty

Taiwan wants to be included in World Health Organization expert meetings.

In a news conference Tuesday, the spokeswoman for the island's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Joanna Ou, called on the WHO to make the change.

Self-governing, democratic Taiwan is not a member of the WHO, and only around a dozen nations recognize it as an independent state. China's leadership refuses to maintain diplomatic ties with any country that recognizes Taiwan, which it sees as part of China.

Taiwan has been praised for its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, and only has 306 confirmed cases, according to a count by Johns Hopkins University.

Despite that, the WHO has not shared the information provided by Taiwan with the international community, according to Ou.

Countries were therefore unable to understand Taiwan's epidemic situation, its preventive policies and its border quarantine measures, she said.

"So what the WHO said in its statement that it is learning from all regions, including Taiwan, to share 'best practices' with the world, differs from the facts, because they haven't at all shared with other countries the information provided by Taiwan," Ou said at the press conference.
"This shows that the WHO still have political considerations when dealing with participation in technical expert meetings.

Ou also noted that the WHO includes Taiwan under China in its epidemic report, adding: "we have already expressed our severe protest regarding this."

Recent questions: Ou's words follow a recent interview, in which a WHO representative appeared to evade questions about Taiwan while speaking to a reporter from Hong Kong public broadcaster RTHK.

In response, the WHO put out a statement, saying:

"The question of Taiwanese membership in WHO is up to WHO Member States, not WHO staff. However, WHO is working closely with all health authorities who are facing the current coronavirus pandemic, including Taiwanese health experts."
4:54 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Investors pump $1 billion into online learning startup as more students stay home

From CNN's Michelle Toh in Hong Kong

Chinese startup Yuanfudao just secured new investment. The company is based in Beijing and has over 15,000 employees.
Chinese startup Yuanfudao just secured new investment. The company is based in Beijing and has over 15,000 employees. Yuanfudao

Yuanfudao, an online education startup based in Beijing, has won a billion dollars in fresh funding from prominent investors including Tencent (TCEHY) and Hillhouse Capital.

The eight-year-old company, which runs an online platform for live tutoring and homework help, is now valued at $7.8 billion.

The investment is notable because startups in China have found it notoriously difficult to raise funds in recent months.

Over the past year, deal activity has slowed so much that it's come to be known as the "capital winter." Disruption from the coronavirus pandemic is prolonging the problem.

The online education industry, however, is widely expected to benefit as schools around the world remain closed and millions of children stay home.

"Previously, investors looked at (educational technology) as a niche industry," Adam Nordin, who covers the sector for investment banking at Goldman Sachs, said in a recent research briefing.

Not so much anymore, he added.

"We’re also seeing more interest from long-term investors, such as pensions and sovereign wealth funds, as well as family offices, all of whom appreciate the long-term secular drivers for the space."

Read more here:

5:29 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

This German town is making it mandatory to wear a mask in some places

A restaurant's outside dining area is seen taped off in Jena, Germany, on March 18.
A restaurant's outside dining area is seen taped off in Jena, Germany, on March 18. Bodo Schackow/picture alliance/Getty Images

The German city of Jena is to make wearing a mask mandatory in some places, amid fears about the spread of coronavirus.

In a statement posted on its website Monday, Jena's city hall said that in a week's time it would be mandatory to wear mouth-and-nose protection in shops, on public transport and in public buildings there.

The measure was requested by the health service, according to the statement. In addition to masks, scarves are also considered protection.

The mask rule does not apply across Germany as a whole.

Jena, in the Eastern state of Thuringia, says it has 119 coronavirus cases in its population of approximately 108,000 people. 

Germany has at least 66,885 cases of coronavirus, according to data collated by Johns Hopkins University.

4:43 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

There are now 160,714 coronavirus cases in the US

There are at least 160,714 cases of coronavirus in the United States, including 3,004 deaths, according to CNN Health's tally.

The total includes cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as all repatriated cases. Hawaii and Wyoming are the only states not to have reported a death from coronavirus. 

For the most up-to-date US numbers compiled by CNN, please check this map, which automatically refreshes every 10 minutes:

4:36 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

China's health minister called his US counterpart and pledged to work together to fight coronavirus

From Eric Cheung in Hong Kong

China's Health Minister Ma Xiaowei speaks during a news conference in Beijing on January 26.
China's Health Minister Ma Xiaowei speaks during a news conference in Beijing on January 26. Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images

China is willing to work with the United States in the fight against coronavirus, the country's health minister Ma Xiaowei said during a phone conversation with US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar on Monday.

During the call, Ma said China has exercised "openness, transparency, and responsibility" in combating the novel coronavirus outbreak, according to a news release by China's National Health Commission.

He added that China is willing to share its experiences with the US.

According to the statement, Azar praised China for having achieved great success in combating the novel coronavirus, and agreed to work with China to protect public health around the world.

5:11 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

A couple waited years to go on a cruise. Now they're stuck at sea in a "nightmare scenario"

From CNN's Steve Almasy and Stephanie Gallman

Holland America's cruise ship Zaandam enters Panama City bay on March 27.
Holland America's cruise ship Zaandam enters Panama City bay on March 27. Ivan Pisarenko

It had been their longtime dream to take a cruise.

Instead, one couple's holiday on a Holland America cruise ship has turned into a "nightmare scenario," according to their son.

Maximilian Jo's parents are onboard the Zaandam cruise ship, which is heading toward the United States looking for a port.

Eight people on the ship have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and about 200 others have influenza-like symptoms. Four guests onboard the Zaandam have died, the cruise line confirmed on Friday. Holland America did not immediately provide the cause of death.

"They're doing the best they can," Jo said of the medical staff, but there's "just not enough people and supplies to go around."

He said his dad is exhibiting minor symptoms, like a fever. His parents -- who had waited years to take the month-long cruise -- are stuck at sea.

It's truly a nightmare scenario," he told CNN's Anderson Cooper.

What the cruise company says: The president of Holland America Line, Orlando Ashford, wrote in an op-ed in the South Florida Sun Sentinel that Panama had been kind to let the ship transit through.

"And we need confirmation from a port that is willing to extend the same compassion and grace that Panama did, and allow us to come in so our guests can go straight to the airport for flights home.
"It's tempting to speculate about the illnesses that may have been avoided or lives saved if we'd gotten the assistance we sought weeks ago," he wrote.

Another Holland America ship, the Rotterdam, brought the Zaandam supplies and took passengers "who aren't ill," according to Ashford.

Read the full story here.

4:25 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

In Australia and New Zealand, a large proportion of coronavirus cases are in young people

A health worker conducts tests at a coronavirus testing center in Adelaide, Australia on March 11.
A health worker conducts tests at a coronavirus testing center in Adelaide, Australia on March 11. Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images

In Australia and New Zealand, there's a high proportion of young people among those diagnosed with coronavirus.

According to Australian government statistics:

  • 21% of confirmed cases are aged 20 to 29
  • 16% of cases are aged 30 to 39
  • 31% of cases are 60 or older

In New Zealand:

  • 26% of confirmed cases are aged 20 to 29
  • 14% of cases are aged 30 to 39
  • 21% of cases are 60 or older

For comparison, a report issued by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that analyzed the cases of 2,500 patients in the US whose ages were known, found that:

  • 29% were aged 20 to 44
  • 18% were aged 55 to 64
  • 25% were aged 65 to 84

So why is there a high proportion of cases among younger people in Australia and New Zealand?

One reason could be travel. In both New Zealand and Australia, the vast majority of cases are connected with overseas travel or links to known cases, meaning there is limited transmission in the community. Professor Peter Collignon, an infectious disease expert from the Australian National University, said the Australian data was a reflection of the demographics engaging in overseas travel, according to a report in The Guardian.