The Latest: Handover of Olympic flame behind closed doors
The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 169,000 people and killed more than 6,500. 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 77,000 people have recovered from it so far, mostly in China.
Greece’s Olympic committee says the handover ceremony for the Olympic flame for the Tokyo games scheduled this Thursday will take place behind closed doors as part of efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
The Hellenic Olympic Committee said the accreditation cards that had been issued for the ceremony at the Athens Panaetenaic Stadium, where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896, will not be valid.
The HOC’s headquarters will also be closed from Monday until further notice, it added.
Last week, the committee canceled the remainder of the Olympic torch relay after crowds gathered in Sparta in southern Greece to watch part of the torch relay, where the torch was carried by actor Gerard Butler.
Greek health authorities have warned people to stay home and have shut restaurants, bars and cafes, ski resorts, hair salons and movie theaters to curb the virus.
Greece currently has 331 confirmed cases and four deaths.
Germany has partially closed its borders with five neighbors, leading to queues at some crossings, German police launched new controls at the usually check-free borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg and Denmark on Monday. Police turned back some pedestrians at Kehl, across the Rhine river from the French city of Strasbourg.
People who commute across the border to work are still allowed to cross, as can trucks carrying goods, and Germans are being allowed back in. But Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said Sunday that people “without a valid reason to travel” wouldn’t be allowed across.
That, for example, ends trips to shops across the border for now.
Denmark shut own border over the weekend – as did two eastern neighbors of Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic. Lithuania’s government said a convoy of some 500 vehicles — mostly Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians and Ukrainians — will be allowed to enter Poland from Germany and transit toward Lithuania on Monday.
Germany has confirmed over 4,800 infections with the new coronavirus, including 12 deaths.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced Monday that it is suspending production across most of its European plants through March 27.
The Italian-American carmaker is closing six plants in Italy that make cars under the Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Maserati nameplates as well as a plant in Serbia that makes the Fiat 500L and in Poland that makes the Fiat 500. The closure in Italy will affect lines producing the Panda sub-compact, the Jeep Renegade and Compact and the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Stelvio.
South Korea’s central bank has executed an emergency rate cut of 0.5 percentage point to help ease the economic fallout from the coronavirus, which has sickened more than 8,200 people in the country.
The Bank of Korea’s move on Monday brought its policy rate to an all-time low of 0.75% amid concerns that the global spread of COVID-19 will rattle South Korea’s trade-dependent economy.
The bank says the rate cut will help ease volatility in financial markets and help pump money into the economy by lowering borrowing costs for companies.
But some experts say it’s unclear whether lower interest rates will meaningfully boost economic activity that’s largely suppressed by preventive measures against the virus, which has influenced many to stay at home.
Bangladesh’s government has shut down all all educational institutions and private tutorial centers across the country until March 31.
Education Minister Dipu Moni said at a news conference Monday in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, that the measures were taken as a precautionary step against the coronavirus.
Bangladesh confirmed three more cases of infection on Monday, taking the total to eight. The new infections include two children under 10 years old, according to the country’s Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research.
Czech authorities are ordering a lockdown of 21 towns and villages in an area some 250 kilometers (150 miles) east of the capital to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.
The health authority in the nearby city of Olomouc barred residents from leaving those places and no one without residency can travel there.
The extraordinary measure initially for two weeks includes confining people to their homes except to shop for food and medicine and go to and from work.
The Czech Republic has 298 cases of infection with the virus that causes COVID-19.
The measure comes just hours after the government banned traveling across the country, with the same exceptions.
Iranian news agencies say a 78-year-old member of the Iranian clerical body that chooses the country’s supreme leader has died from the illness caused by the new coronavirus.
He was the latest of several senior Iranian officials to have been infected in the worsening outbreak.
The outbreak has infected nearly 14,000 people in Iran and killed more than 700, with the toll jumping by more than a hundred in the last 24 hours. The real numbers may be even higher, as some have questioned the government’s reporting.
The semi-official Fars and Tasnim news agencies reported that Ayatollah Hashem Bathaei, a low-profile, moderate member of the Assembly of Experts, died from the COVID-19 illness.
The clerical assembly has the authority to appoint or remove the supreme leader, who has the final say on all major policies.
Turkey is closing bars and nightclubs to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, meanwhile, reported on his Twitter account 12 more coronavirus cases, including seven people who had returned from European countries and three from the United States. The update raised Turkey’s confirmed cases to 18.
Bars and nightclubs will be temporarily closed as of Monday, the Interior Ministry said.
Turkey has stepped up measures to contain the spread of the virus, including suspending flights to several countries and closing schools and universities.
On Sunday, Turkey set up quarantine locations for more than 10,300 people returning from pilgrimages to Islam’s holy sites in Saudi Arabia.
The Peace Corps is evacuating all of its volunteers and suspending operations in dozens of countries.
Director Jody Olsen says Sunday’s decision comes as “international travel becomes more and more challenging by the day.” She said the agency wanted to avoid leaving volunteers stranded in host countries.
Her statement stressed that posts would not close, but didn’t provide a timeline for resuming operations.
As of September 2019, the service program run by the U.S. government said it operates in more than 60 countries and has more than 7,300 volunteers and trainees. Volunteers in China and Mongolia have already been evacuated over virus concerns.
Olsen says host country staff will remain in their current roles.
The statement didn’t provide details about the evacuations and suspensions, which Olsen called “logistically challenging.”
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