The Latest: France pledges $50B to aid small businesses
The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 182,000 people and killed more than 7,100. The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms but most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or people with existing health problems. More than 79,000 people have recovered from it so far, mostly in China.
France’s government is pledging 45 billion euros ($50 billion) in aid for small businesses hurt by the spreading coronavirus.
That’s in addition to tens of billions already promised for French workers forced to stop working because of store and restaurant closures and strict new confinement measures.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire announced the new aid Tuesday morning, after another dark day for French markets. The makers of Renault, Peugeot and Citroen cars suspended all production and other companies were forced to sharply curtail activity to stem the virus’ spread.
The aid will include tax breaks and a “solidarity fund” for struggling small businesses across the economy.
Le Maire said the pandemic “will be a catastrophe for all countries of the world. The shock will be violent.”
France now has more than 6,600 cases of the virus, including 148 deaths.
India says it will bar all passengers — including Indian citizens — from entering the country on flights from the European Union, Turkey and the United Kingdom beginning Wednesday.
According to a statement issued by India’s aviation regulator, travelers coming from or transiting through the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar will be required to undergo a 14-day quarantine when they arrive. Arrivals from China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, France, Spain and Germany are already subject to similar restrictions, while many border points with neighboring Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar have been shut.
India’s tourist ministry announced this week that it is shutting down the Taj Mahal, its iconic “monument of love,” to visitors.
Several other important monuments have also been shut across the country to keep people safe amid the coronavirus outbreak. Most schools and entertainment facilities have also been shuttered across India.
Qantas, Australia’s largest airline, says it will cut its international passenger capacity by 90% until the end of May due to falls in travel demand due to the new coronavirus and travel restrictions across multiple borders.
Qantas said in a statement Tuesday that domestic capacity will be cut by 60% until at least the end of May.
This represents the grounding of around 150 aircraft, including almost all of Qantas’ wide-body fleet.
A third Australian government lawmaker has tested positive for the coronavirus ahead of the planned resumption of Parliament next week following a scheduled two-week break.
New South Wales state Sen. Andrew Bragg said Tuesday that he had suffered flu-like symptoms and tested positive for the virus after attending a friend’s wedding on March 6. Authorities say at least six wedding guests have contracted the virus.
Queensland state Sen. Susan McDonald said she tested positive on Monday after becoming unwell on Friday evening. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, who is also from Queensland, tested positive after showing symptoms a day earlier. Dutton has since been discharged from the hospital but remains in isolation at home. McDonald was admitted to a hospital on Monday, which is standard procedure in Queensland regardless of the severity of symptoms. Bragg is expected to self-isolate at home.
Lawmakers have been told to bring minimum staff back to the national capital, Canberra, when Parliament resumes to legislate a 17.6 billion Australian dollar ($11.4 billion) economic stimulus package meant to stave off a recession due to the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Only around 90 lawmakers of 151 in the House of Representatives are required to return under a deal struck between the major parties. Planning is also underway to excuse some of the 76 senators from attending.
Also, Australia’s highest court has decided not to sit as a full bench to hear cases until at least August because of the coronavirus. The High Court announced on Tuesday that hearings that were to be heard by what’s known as a full bench of seven or five judges will be postponed starting next week.
South Korea has further postponed the beginning of the new school year by two weeks to protect students from the spread of the coronavirus.
Education Minister Yoo Eun-hye said Tuesday that kindergartens as well as elementary, middle and high schools nationwide would now reopen on April 6, which is five weeks later than usual. It was the third time the country delayed the start of new school terms amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Yoo said in a nationally televised briefing that the Education Ministry is also looking closely into the rise of infections among people under the age of 19, which rose from 379 on March 7 to 505 on March 14.
She said education authorities are also considering rescheduling college admission processes to ease disruption for high school seniors. She said it’s unclear whether the country will be able to announce the date for the national college exam on March 31 as scheduled.
Wuhan, the city at the center of China’s coronavirus outbreak, recorded just one new case on Tuesday as officials said they believed the country was over the worst of the crisis. Another 20 cases were recorded around the country, including nine in Beijing. All were reported among people who arrived from overseas.
Beijing has required all arrivals to undergo 14 days of quarantine but has not closed its borders. Other Chinese cities have adopted similar measures, even as authorities work to restart industries that are key to global supply chains.
With foreign universities closing classes, thousands of Chinese studying overseas are seeking to return home, shifting the focus from domestic containment to preventing infected people from bringing the virus back with them.
Wuhan has closed emergency field hospitals and state broadcaster CCTV on Tuesday reported the nation is now counting down to its final domestic cases. With the infection still growing overseas, China has sent personal protective gear and medical experts to Italy, Iran and other nations grappling with the epidemic.
A South Korean province surrounding Seoul has threatened to shut down nearly 140 churches that have failed to implement preventive measures amid a spread of the coronavirus in the country’s most populous metropolitan region.
Gyeonggi Province said Tuesday that it has issued an administrative order for the churches to list the names of attendants, screen them for fever and ensure that they wear masks and are at least 2 meters apart during services until March 29. The province can close the churches and fine them as much as $2,400 if they fail to abide by the order.
More than 70 of the province’s COVID-19 cases have been connected to gatherings at Protestant churches. Forty-six of the infections have come from a small church in the city of Seongnam, where officials possibly worsened infections by using the same spray bottle to inject saltwater into the mouths of followers in an ill-advised effort to disinfect them.
South Korea has confirmed 84 new cases of the virus and six more deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing its total numbers to 8,320 infections and 81 fatalities.
Sri Lanka says it will add more quarantine centers to help fight the coronavirus in the Indian Ocean island nation.
Army commander Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva said Tuesday that 23 army vacation bungalows will be used as quarantine centers for a group of travelers who arrived recently from London.
The government, meanwhile, said it has imposed new measures to limit gatherings. Court cases to be taken up from March 17 to 20 will not be called in open courts. The public can obtain information on their cases at courts in the first week of April.
Sri Lanka has confirmed 28 cases of the virus, with no deaths so far.
Ohio’s top health official halted the state’s presidential primary over concerns about the coronavirus, hours before voting was to begin.
Gov. Mike DeWine announced the decision after failing to persuade a judge to delay in-person voting because crowds at polling places Tuesday could put people at unacceptable risk of catching and spreading the virus.
DeWine’s office later confirmed Dr. Amy Acton had issued the order.
Officials in Arizona, Florida and Illinois felt they had done enough to ensure the safety of voters, even though there may be too few poll workers and some poll locations have changed. Georgia, Kentucky and Louisiana have postponed their scheduled primaries.
Turnout is already expected to be light as only the Democrats have a contested primary, between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.
The Philippine Stock Exchange was closed with no trading Tuesday after the president placed the northern part of the country including Manila in quarantine.
The exchange’s CEO said the end of trading activity would be “until further notice.”
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte placed the northern third of the country under an “enhanced community quarantine” that requires millions of people to stay mostly at home in an attempt to contain the coronavirus.
Most office work and mass transit on Luzon Island, including Manila, will be suspended for a month. Public movement will be restricted and large gatherings banned except for medical and other emergencies.
Banks, hospitals, drugstores and supermarkets will remain open but only one family member can make such trips and should observe “social distancing.”
The Philippines has 140 cases of infection. The 12 deaths due to COVID-19 are the most in Southeast Asia.
Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri said he had tested positive for the virus, becoming the highest Philippine official to be infected.
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