The Latest: UN tells staff to work from home due to virus
The Latest on the world’s coronavirus pandemic:
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has asked all 3,000 staff members at U.N. headquarters in New York to work from home for three weeks starting Monday unless they are needed to carry out essential services.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric, who made the announcement late Friday, said meetings of the Security Council, General Assembly and other key bodies and committees can still take place.
Dujarric said Guterres made the decision to drastically reduce the number of staff at U.N. headquarters in order to reduce social contact to a minimum in light of the new coronavirus.
Dujarric said Friday that no U.N. staff member has been reported testing positive for COVID-19, but a diplomat from the Philippines assigned to their U.N. mission did test positive.
A national memorial in New Zealand to commemorate the 51 people who were killed when a gunman attacked two mosques one year ago has been canceled due to concern over the new coronavirus.
Thousands of people were expected to attend the Sunday service in Christchurch to mark the anniversary of the March 15 shooting.
New Zealand has had just six confirmed cases of COVID-19. All of those cases have been connected to people returning from abroad and so far there haven’t been signs of a local outbreak. The most recent case, involving a man in his 60s who recently returned from the U.S., was announced by health officials Saturday.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern the decision to cancel the service, also announced Saturday, was pragmatic and precautionary.
A cruise ship that docked in Oakland, California, on Monday after being struck with the coronavirus has disembarked 2,450 passengers and transported them to appropriate quarantine sites.
Princess Cruises said only 14 international passengers remained on board while waiting to be repatriated to their home countries.
California officials said after they get off, the ship will be anchored somewhere in San Francisco Bay while crew members wait for chartered flights to their destination.
The State Department on Friday summoned China’s ambassador to the U.S. to complain about recent comments from a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman suggesting that the U.S. Army may have introduced the coronavirus to Wuhan.
The department said it had protested the comments from deputy ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian and noted that China’s storyline about the COVID-19 virus “has been shifting away from the Wuhan Huanan market since mid-January indicating that China is trying avoid responsibility for the outbreak.”
“The U.S. is not interested in assigning blame, but asks the Chinese government to offse full access and transparency in order to prevent further loss of lives inside and outside the PRC,” the department said.
President Donald Trump is tweeting that four major cruise ship companies have agreed to suspend trips from the U.S. for 30 days, effective at midnight.
Trump says that Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and MSC Cruises all agreed to the suspensions.
The U.S. State Department advised Sunday against any travel on cruise ships, particularly for those with underlying health conditions.
Utah is dismissing public school classes for at least two weeks to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, Gov. Gary Herbert said Friday.
The “soft closure” starts Monday, though doors will stay open to allow kids to get things like meals and tutoring if needed.
Teaching for Utah’s 667,000 public school students will move online or to take-home packets. The state has a handful of cases, including high-profile Utah Jazz NBA players Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, who had previously declared a state of emergency in the nation’s capital, asked that all gatherings of more than 250 people be avoided.
That’s down from the original request earlier this week, which set the requested limit at 1,000 people. Bowser has shut down the District of Columbia’s schools through the end of March and all non-essential Washington government officials will begin teleworking starting next week.
Washington DC has 10 identified case of coronavirus infection.
The Kosovar government on Friday decided to close the country’s land border points and air routes in an effort to prevent further spread of the coronavirus.
Earlier Friday authorities reported two coronavirus cases, the first in the tiny Western Balkan country, a 20-year old Italian woman and a 77-year old Albanian man.
Idaho has its first confirmed case of coronavirus, state health officials announced Friday afternoon.
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said Gov. Brad Little would make an official announcement about the case at the end of the business day Friday. The news came several hours after he declared a state of emergency because of coronavirus.
The Republican governor said he wanted the state to be prepared and guard against healthcare systems being overwhelmed.
Oklahoma used more than half its testing capacity Wednesday to test 58 members of the Utah Jazz basketball organization after a player tested positive. Those tests results showed a second player, Donovan Mitchell, also tested positive.
Oklahoma state epidemiologist Laurence Burnsed said it would have been too risky to transport the team back to Utah for testing without knowing who might be positive.
Oklahoma State Commissioner of Health Gary Cox said the state’s testing capacity was 100 per day at the time the team was tested.
A spokeswoman for the Oklahoma State Department of Health said the tests on the members of the Utah Jazz did not disrupt testing of any Oklahoma patient samples.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has ordered the closing of every school in the state until March 30 starting Tuesday amid concerns over the spread of coronavirus.
Pritzker announced his decision Friday in Chicago where more than 355,000 public school students will be affected. Statewide, nearly 2 million students will not be returning to the classroom for two weeks.
Illinois officials also reported an additional 14 cases of people who had tested positive for the virus on Friday, bringing the state’s total number of cases to 46.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Friday ordered all of the state’s public and private K-12 schools closed from March 18 until April 5, saying they could close earlier if they wished and the reopening date may be delayed.
There were 19 confirmed cases in Wisconsin, including one who had recovered.
The number of people who have died from the new coronavirus in the U.S. jumped by eight on Friday – from 41 to 49.
Washington state health officials reported six new COVID-19 deaths on Friday making the state’s total 37. Three of the new fatalities were associated with a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, that has been the epicenter of the disease in the state.
Colorado health officials reported the state’s first coronavirus death. A woman in her 80s with underlying health conditions died in El Paso County.
California Department of Public Health announced Friday that the state now has 247 confirmed cases and one new death, bringing the fatality total to five.
Gov. Kate Brown said Friday that Oregon will help find childcare for the children of frontline medical workers and first responders as schools statewide are closed for two weeks to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
Oregon also obtained a federal waiver Friday to allow districts to serve free and reduced-price lunches to lower-income students outside a school setting, at places such as bus stops, churches and community centers.
About half of the 580,000 children in Oregon affected by the two-week closure of all school statewide receive meal subsidies, Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill said.
As for childcare for doctors and nurses, Brown equated it to a wartime effort to make medical workers available.
The World Health Organization’s chief has launched a global fund on Friday to raise money to help the world’s nations respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “Every dollar donated is a dollar towards saving lives.”
President Donald Trump has said he is likely to take a test for the coronavirus after all.
Trump over the weekend was near Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s communications director, Fábio Wajngarten, who tested positive for the virus just days later.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement Thursday that “both the President and Vice President had almost no interactions with the individual who tested positive and do not require being tested at this time.”
Trump was asked at a press conference Friday if he was being selfish by not undergoing testing, prompting Trump to reply: “I didn’t say I wasn’t going to be tested.”
“Most likely, yeah,” Trump added while downplaying his interaction with the Brazilian official at this resort in Florida. “Not for that reason, but because I think I will do it anyway. Fairly soon, we’re working out a schedule.”
The Catalan government wants to fully isolate the northeastern region of 7.5 million to stop the spread of the new coronavirus, its regional chief said late on Friday, urging central authorities in Spain to help enforcing the total lockdown.
Quim Torra spoke in a televised address on the same day when some 70,000 residents were confined to four towns of the region where a virulent cluster of the COVID-19 has infected dozens in a matter of days.
Central authorities in Spain announced Friday a state of emergency that will give the government extraordinary powers from Saturday and until the end of March to take over private facilities, restrict freedom of movement and impose mandatory supply of food and medicines.
Authorities in the Madrid region, with nearly half of the country’s more than 4,200 infections, have also urged the central government to order the total lockdown there.
In a press conference late in the evening, regional president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, confirmed that hotels had been designated to be used as makeshift hospitals in order to reach at least 1,000 rooms with intensive care capabilities in coming weeks.
Hungary is closing schools starting Monday.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Friday night in a video posted on the government’s Facebook page that classes will be held for students only through distance learning.
He also asked that children staying at home not be left in the care of grandparents, who, because of their age, are among those most at risk regarding the coronavirus.
Hungary already suspended university classes earlier this week because of the large number of foreign students.
Hungary has reported 19 cases of the coronavirus.
Washington’s governor has ordered a six-week closure of all public and private schools in the state, which has seen the most COVID-19 deaths in the United States.
Gov. Jay Inslee had previously ordered all greater Seattle area schools to shut down. Inslee’s order requires schools to close from March 17 to April 24. In Washington state, there are more than 1.1 million public school students.
At least 31 deaths from coronavirus have occurred in Washington, most in the Seattle area.
President Donald Trump is criticizing legislation in the House designed to help Americans dealing with the new coronavirus, saying, “we just don’t think they’re giving enough.”
Trump claimed that Democrats, in the end, “didn’t agree to certain things they agreed to.”
Central to the House package is free testing for the virus and guaranteed sick pay for workers who are taking time away from jobs, along with an infusion of dollars to handle unemployment benefits and boost food programs for children, families and seniors.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday the House would approve the aid package and implored the Trump administration and congressional Republicans to “put families first” by backing the effort.
Morocco announced a temporary nationwide school shut down amid concerns of the spread of the coronavirus.
Lessons will be conducted digitally, as the educational staff is required to continue providing lessons over the net, according to a statement from the education ministry.
Morocco introduced a range of other measures, including banning all gatherings of more than 1,000 people, prohibiting religious events and suspending flights to China, Italy, Spain and France.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says all passenger air traffic abroad will be halted on Tuesday.
Earlier Friday, the country banned entry by foreigners for two weeks.
The speaker of parliament, Dmytro Razumkov, told a Ukrainian TV station that Ukrainian citizens will still be able to enter the country by land and sea entry points.
President Donald Trump says he will waive interest on student loans being held by the federal government “until further notice” as part of an emergency action to help Americans deal with the new coronavirus.
Trump says he has also instructed his secretary of Energy to purchase large quantities of crude oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which stores fuel for emergency use.
Trump says “we’re going to fill it right up to the top” and the move would save American taxpayers and help the oil industry. Trump made the announcements during a White House press conference on Friday.
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a ramp-up Friday in testing for the new coronavirus in Florida, where more than 50 people have been infected with the virus including the Miami mayor.
DeSantis said the state was purchasing kits that allow for testing up to 625,000 people, with 40 percent of them already in hand and 60 percent of them on the way.
So far, people have tested positive for COVID-19 in at least 20 counties in Florida, most of them after traveling internationally or to other affected U.S. states. Two people in Florida have died.
Guatemala President Alejandro Giammattei says the country has its first confirmed case of coronavirus.
The Guatemalan man had arrived in the country Wednesday from Italy with relatives. There were also five citizens of El Salvador who arrived on the same flight and were immediately redirected to that country.
The man was taken to a local hospital that had been prepared to treat those with the illness. The man’s relatives were being monitored.
Neighboring Honduras confirmed its first two cases earlier this week.
President Donald Trump has announced that he is officially declaring a national emergency over the new coronavirus.
The president spoke at Rose Garden press conference and said no resource will be spared in responding to the virus. He says that the declaration will free up nearly $50 billion to help the states and cities.
Trump says he is also asking every hospital in the U.S. to activate their emergency preparedness plan.
He is facing growing criticism about his mixed messages on the severity of the outbreak and over the administration’s scattershot response.
But the president is defending the administration’s response, particularly its temporary ban on travel from Europe, saying it will save lives. He says of the virus that “this will pass” and the nation will emerge stronger.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem ordered a state of emergency on Friday and ordered public schools to close in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The move marks an intensification of Noem’s response to the virus outbreak. She ordered all public schools to close for a week to clean facilities and prepare for a potential reopening the following week.
This comes after another person in the state, a man in his 30s who had traveled outside the state, had tested positive for the virus, bringing the state total to nine cases. One of the men who tested positive for the virus died on Tuesday.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday ordered the cancellation or postponement of all events and gatherings of more than 250 people in an attempt to combat the spread of the coronavirus, exempting industrial work, mass transit and the purchase of groceries or consumer goods.
The move came a day after she announced that all public and private schools — covering more than 1.5 million kids — would be closed for three weeks starting Monday due to the pandemic.
As of Thursday, Michigan had 12 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Friday ordered all schools in Virginia to close for at least two weeks as the coronavirus spreads, a move that follows similar orders in several other states.
Schools will close Monday until at least March 27, Northam said in a statement.
“I recognize this will pose a hardship on many families, but closing our schools for two weeks will not only give our staff time to clean and disinfect school facilities, it will help slow the spread of this virus,” Northam said.
Northam’s decision follows the near doubling of coronavirus cases in the state. Virginia has 30 people who have tested positive, up from 17 a day ago, The Virginia Department of Health said Friday.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy says the number of positive COVID-19 cases has climbed to 50, up from 29.
The 21 positive cases amount to the biggest jump since the first positive test last week.
Murphy also said that the state is preparing for closing schools statewide, though he stopped short of taking that step. He said it’s a matter of when, not if, they close.
Gov. Tom Wolf is ordering the closure of all schools in Pennsylvania for two weeks as the state takes sweeping measures aimed at slowing the spread of the new coronavirus.
The order affecting more than 1.7 million school children in public and private schools came as confirmed cases in the state leaped to 33 from 22, including the first patient under age 18.
Wolf ordered all schools, day cares and other facilities closed in hard-hit Montgomery County, in the Philadelphia suburbs, home to more than 800,000 people.
The Russian government is sharply cutting passenger air traffic with countries of the European Union — but not Great Britain — as well with Norway and Switzerland.
The government’s operational center on Friday said all regular flights to and from those countries will be cancelled as of Monday, with the exception of flights connecting Moscow with the countries’ capitals and charter flights and charter flights taking citizens to their home countries.
Louisiana’s governor planned to postpone the state’s presidential primaries due to fears of the coronavirus, an aide said Friday, which would make it the first state to do so.
Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards planned to sign an executive order delaying the April 4 primary until June 20, said his spokeswoman Christina Stephens.
“We are experiencing community spread of coronavirus in Louisiana, and the governor is taking decisive action to slow its progress,” Stephens said on Twitter.
French Health Minister Olivier Veran has said in the daily address Friday that there are now 3661 confirmed cases in France — a figure that represents a rise of more than 800 since Thursday.
Veran said there have been 18 new deaths reported, bringing the French death toll to 79. All non-urgent actions in hospital are being postponed.
A count of 154 infected people are in a serious condition.
The Walt Disney Co. says its shutting down many of its live-action productions, including “The Little Mermaid,” due to the coronavirus.
Hollywood on Friday continued to halt shoots of most films and television series to help control the spread of the virus. For Disney, that also includes “The Last Duel” with Matt Damon, Adam Driver and Ben Affleck; Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”; a “Home Alone” remake and more.
“While there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on our productions, after considering the current environment and the best interests of our cast and crew, we have made the decision to pause production on some of our live-action films for a short time,” said a spokesman for Disney.
The Walt Disney Co. on Thursday said it would shutter its theme parks, including Disney World and Disneyland, and it delayed the releases of several upcoming films, including “Mulan.”
Italian civil protection authorities say the number of coronavirus infections has soared by more than 2,500 in the last 24 hours while virus-related deaths make largest single-day jump of 250.
That brings the total number of infected in Italy to 17,660 since the outbreak began on Feb. 21, and the number of related deaths to 1,266.
Italy is the epicenter of the virus outbreak in Europe.
The head of the World Health Organization says Europe, not China, is now the epicenter of the world’s coronavirus pandemic.
Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva that “more cases are now being reported every day than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic.”
He says Europe now has “more reported virus cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, apart from China.”
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