The Latest: UN cancels sponsored meetings at headquarters
The Latest on the world’s coronavirus pandemic:
The United Nations has announced the cancellation of unofficial U.N.-sponsored meetings at its headquarters in New York.
Canceled events range from the launch of a global environment outlook for young people to a civil society orientation and session with partners of this year’s 75th U.N. anniversary celebration.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Thursday that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made the decision to cancel all informal U.N.-sponsored events from March 16 until the end of April.
Guterres is strongly urging the organization’s 193 member nations to consider canceling all meetings, exhibition openings and other events they are sponsoring.
.Dujarric said this could affect nearly 100 so-called side events planned by the U.N. and by member states over the next seven weeks.
Meetings of the U.N.’s main bodies that will still take place at its headquarters include the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council.
The White House says U.S. President Trump has no plans to be tested for the new coronavirus or go into self-quarantine after attending events last weekend with a senior Brazilian official who tested positive.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s communications director tested positive just days after traveling with Bolsonaro to a meeting with Trump and senior aides in Florida.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Thursday that “exposures from the case are being assessed, which will dictate next steps.”
Grisham says Trump and Vice President Mike Pence “had almost no interactions with the individual who tested positive and do not require being tested at this time.”
A top adviser to the World Health Organization’s chief says countries may reap short-term gains by limiting travel as the new coronavirus outbreak spreads worldwide.
But Dr Bruce Aylward says the U.N. health agency believes overall “it doesn’t help to restrict movement.”
Aylward led a WHO team in China as its outbreak of COVID-19 was surging last month and said in an interview Thursday that travel bans “generally aren’t part of the armamentarium you bring to bear on something like this.”
Aylward is a former WHO emergencies chief and says public health officials are most interested in where virus cases have emerged and identifying people who have been in close contact with those infected by the virus.
Concerns about the new coronavirus are disrupting work in U.S. state capitols across the country.
The Illinois and Delaware legislatures and the Missouri Senate canceled sessions for next week.
Officials at other state capitols canceled tours and urged the general public to stay away while they work.
Leaders of the Maryland General Assembly said Thursday that they were limiting public testimony at committee hearings, instead encouraging people to submit comments electronically about pending legislation.
Lawmakers in Washington state, where most of the U.S. deaths from COVID-19 have occurred, are rushing to finish work on a budget that includes funding for the state’s coronavirus response before their session comes to its regularly scheduled adjournment on Thursday.
In South Dakota, state Rep. Spencer Gosch felt ill and left to get tested for the virus on Thursday while his colleagues kept working, trying to finish the state budget.
A Chinese medical team and surplus ventilators, protective masks and other equipment are heading to Italy in a remarkable exchange of medical knowhow and material from the source of the coronavirus outbreak to its current epicenter.
The Italian Red Cross says a plane bringing a nine-person Chinese team of experts and nine cargo pallets of medical equipment would land late Thursday in Rome.
The team includes Chinese ICU specialists, pediatricians and nurses who helped manage the crisis in China.
Italian officials say they are eager to learn from the Chinese experience, particularly clinical data and experimental drug regimens.
With 15,113 positive cases Thursday and 1,016 dead, Italy’s fatality rate is running at 6.7%, far higher than other countries. Italy has the second oldest population in the world after Japan.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the state will ban all gatherings with 500 or more people in an effort to contain the virus.
Cuomo says the ban will start for most places on 5 p.m. Friday. Broadway theaters will be affected earlier.
Cuomo said Thursday that venues of under 500 people can only be filled to half their capacity.
The move comes after several major cultural institutions in New York City including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall announced they would temporarily close.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom says nearly 500 passengers remain aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship docked in Oakland, California. He hopes they will all be off the ship by the end of the day Thursday.
In addition to the 21 people who previously tested positive while aboard the ship, Newsom says at least two more people have tested positive after leaving.
Newsom expects the number to climb as more people are tested.
The ship was carrying about 3,500 passengers and crew when it docked earlier this week in Oakland.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called the coronavirus pandemic “the worst public health crisis for a generation” and said “many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time.”
Johnson called Thursday for Britons to unite behind efforts to slow the spread of the epidemic, saying “the most dangerous period is not now but some weeks away.”
Britain has 590 confirmed cases of the virus and 10 deaths, but Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said the actual number of infected people could be up to 10,000.
Some scientists have criticized Britain’s measured response to the outbreak. Unlike many European countries, the U.K. has not announced the widespread closures of schools or other gathering-places.
A Chinese government spokesman has suggested that the U.S. Army could be responsible for bringing the new coronavirus to China.
Lijian Zhao offered no explanation for his allegation in a late Thursday night tweet that read in part “It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe(s) us an explanation!”
Wuhan is the Chinese city where the first cases of the disease were detected in December.
China has taken offense at Trump administration officials blaming the outbreak on China.
Worldwide, 126,000 people have been infected with the new coronavirus, 68,000 have recovered and 4,600 have died.
Top U.S. health officials are defending President Donald Trump’s new travel restrictions on Europe.
Under questioning Thursday at a House hearing, NIH’s Dr. Anthony Fauci and CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said the travel restrictions were a response to the changing nature of the pandemic. Fauci has served six presidents and is considered the country’s pre-eminent infectious disease expert, while Redfield is a Trump political appointee.
Fauci told the House Oversight and Reform committee that 70% of new infections in the pandemic are coming from Europe.
Italy, the center of Europe’s coronavirus pandemic, has hit the milestone of 1,000 deaths since it saw its first cases in mid-February.
Italy’s positive cases continued their upward trend Thursday, registering 15,113 confirmed cases and the death toll hit 1,016.
More than half of those who are in intensive care in Italy are located in hard-hit Lombardy provice, which on Thursday reported 605 ICU patients in a region with only 610 ICU beds.
Hospitals in Lombardy are are overflowing with the dead. Lombardy’s top health care official, Giulio Gallera, said at the request of the hospitals, the region had simplified the bureaucracy needed to process death certificates and bury the dead.
The European stocks index has ended the day with its biggest loss on record.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index, which measures major stocks across the region, fell 11.5% on Thursday, its worst day on record. It eclipsed the 8.5% drop during the 1987 stock market crash.
Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 10.9%, its worst loss since 1987. Germany’s DAX plunged 12.2%, which is more than it lost after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. France’s CAC 40 12.3% and Italy’s FTSE MIB a massive 16.9%.
Investors worried about a U.S. travel ban that covers much of Europe and could presage tougher government limits on business activity in order to clamp down on the virus outbreak.
Austria reported its first COVID-19 fatality in a 69-year-old man who fell ill after a trip to Italy.
Vienna’s Kaiser-Franz-Josef Hospital said the patient died of “multiple organ failure,” appeared to have recovered from the virus but suffered irreparable damage as a result of infection.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City says it is closing all three of its locations in the city starting Friday as a precautionary measure in the wake of the new coronavirus outbreak.
The museum, popular with art lovers and tourists, said it would remain closed indefinitely and its buildings will undergo a deep cleaning. Met President Daniel Weiss said there were no confirmed cases tied to the museum.
Officials on both sides of the Atlantic say Europe is the new epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.
CDC Director Robert Redfield told U.S. lawmakers in House hearing that “within the world now, over 70% of new cases are linked to Europe. … Europe is the new China.”
The head of the Danish Health Authority, Soeren Brostroem, said Thursday that “ the epidemic has gotten a new epicenter, and that is Europe.”
He told reporters that “if one looks at day-by-day developments, Europe has the greatest growth now. And it is not just Italy, but also a number of other countries in Europe that have had a worrying development.”
The European Center for Disease says the continent has more than 22,000 cases of the new coronavirus and 943 deaths.
CDC Director Robert Redfield says his agency is working to make sure that uninsured Americans can get tested for coronavirus if it’s medically needed.
About 28 million Americans are uninsured. Rep. Katie Porter, a Democrat from California, pressed Redfield on their predicament Thursday at a congressional hearing. Porter says the Health and Human Services department has the legal authority to pay for health costs.
After going back and forth with the congresswoman, Redfield said he agreed. He says “those individuals who are in the shadows can get the health care that they need during the time of us responding to this crisis,” he said.
Mountain climbing expedition operators on Mount Everest says Chinese mountaineering officials will not allow spring climbs from their side of the world’s highest mountain due to fears of coronavirus.
On the other side of the mountain in Nepal, operators say cancellations for the popular spring climbing season have been pouring in, despite the mountain being open for business.
As the virus is coming under control in China, officials there are taking steps to prevent new infections coming from abroad, including by putting overseas travelers arriving in Beijing into 14-day quarantines.
China has seen nearly 81,000 infections but some 61,000 of them have already recovered. Over 3,000 virus victims have died in China, the world’s hardest-hit nation.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is self-isolating at home after wife has exhibited flu-like symptoms.
Trudeau’s office said Sophie Grégoire Trudeau returned from a speaking engagement in the United Kingdom and began began exhibiting mild flu-like symptoms including a low fever late Wednesday night. She is being tested for COVID-19 and is awaiting results.
The statement said “Out of an abundance of caution, the prime minister is opting to self-isolate and work from home until receiving Sophie’s results.”
Borders are re-emerging in Europe due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Czech government declared a state of emergency Thursday due to coronavirus and was renewing border checks at its borders with Austria and Germany.
People will be banned from crossing in at any other place.
Prime Minister Andrej Babis said people from 13 risk countries that include not only China, South Korea and Iran but also EU nations such as Italy, Spain, France, Austria and Germany as well Britain will not be allowed to enter the Czech Republic.
Congress is shutting the Capitol and all House and Senate office buildings to the public until April in reaction to the spread of the new coronavirus.
The House and Senate sergeants at arms said that the closure will begin at 5 p.m. EDT Thursday. Only lawmakers, aides, journalists and official visitors will be allowed into the buildings. The statement says officials are acting “out of concern for the health and safety of congressional employees as well as the public.”
Politicians in Europe, Iran and China have contracted the virus and several U.S. lawmakers have already self-quarantined due to exposure. The virus has infected over 126,000 people worldwide and killed over 4.600 but over 68,000 victims have already recovered.
Princess Cruises has announced, due to the new coronavirus, it will voluntarily pause global operations of its 18 cruise ships for 60 days, affecting trips departing March 12 to May 10.
Cruise ships have been particularly hard hit amid the new pandemic and have been turned away by dozens of ports and countries. The Diamond Princess cruise ship, which Japanese officials held in a flawed quarantine operation, infected hundreds of passengers and crew.
Passengers on a Princess cruise that will end in the next five days will continue to sail as expected. Current voyages that extend beyond March 17 will end at the most convenient location for guests.
Iran has asked for an emergency $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to combat the outbreak of the novel coronavirus there, which has killed more than 360 people and infected some 9,000 nationwide.
Iran’s economy has been battered by U.S. sanctions, which have choked Tehran’s ability to export oil widely. The virus outbreak prompted all of Iran’s neighbors to shutter their borders and nations have cut travel links with Iran, including shipping in some cases, affecting imports, as well.
Ireland is closing all schools and cultural institutions until March 29, in a major escalation of its response to the new coronavirus.
Prime Minister Leo Varadkar announced the measures would take effect at 6 p.m. Thursday. He said the closure applies to schools, colleges, childcare facilities and cultural institutions. All indoor gatherings of more than 100 people and outdoor events with more than 500 are also canceled.
Speaking during a trip to Washington, Varadkar said people should work from home as much as possible.
So far 43 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Ireland and one person has died.
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