Widespread Lockdown Takes Hold; Spain in Emergency: Virus Update

Fear closed the world in on itself as nations, from the U.S. to much of Europe and Latin America, acted to shield citizens from the spreading coronavirus.

That meant shutting borders, airports and,in France, its cafes and restaurants. Spain and Libya declared emergencies. Italy added 175 deaths, pushing its total to 1,441.

U.S. President Donald Trumptook the test for coronavirus andextended travel bans to the U.K. and Ireland. New York City reported its first fatality.

Key Developments:

  • Cases topped 152,000 worldwide, with deaths at 5,700
  • China has 80,824 confirmed cases, deaths by 13 to 3,189
  • In the U.S., seven new deaths and 514 new cases were reported
  • France’s prime minister says people ignore warnings
  • Schools in Jakarta will close for two weeks
  • African nations from Rwanda to Mauritania reportedfirst cases

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Britain Prepares Hospitals for More Cases (6:23 p.m. NY)

The U.K. government is in talks with private healthcare providers to get them to release beds for the National Health Service if necessary. Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged companies to increase the production of ventilators and promised to buy them for the NHS.

King County Cases Rise 18% (5:55 p.m. NY)

Seattle reported an 18% jump in infections, to 388, with three new deaths, pushing the total to 35, the King County health department said. Of the fatalities, 27 are associated with a nursing home in Kirkland, the department said.

Libya Closes Airports, Schools (5:45 p.m. NY)

Libya closed schools for two weeks and airports, seaports and border crossing for three weeks as part of an emergency declaration to fight the outbreak, the prime minister said.

Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj said $370 million has been set aside to fight the illness.

U.S. Air Travel Slumps 30% (5:25 p.m. NY)

The volume of air travelers in the U.S. has tumbled at least 30% with steeper declines at some airports, a Transportation Security Administration official said on a telephone briefing about new restrictions aimed at Europe.

Travel from 26 European nations, sharply restricted as of midnight, will probably decline from the 50,000 arrivals recorded Thursday and Friday as people rushed to beat a midnight ban, officials said. The Trump administration has added the U.K. and Ireland, effective Monday, citing a rise in cases. U.K. deaths have almost doubled.

U.S. officials are adding contract medical workers at 13 airports to screen Americans coming home from Europe. Non-U.S. citizens will be denied entry and sent back, officials said.

Amtrak Cuts Service on Demand Drop (5:15 p.m.)

Amtrak is temporarily suspending or reducing service, mostly on the east coast, as demand drops.

The railroad will cut about a third of daily service from Boston to Washington and run trains on a Saturday schedule through March 29. Keystone Service in Pennsylvania will run a Saturday schedule every day. Two trains to Canada will only operate in New York State.

Spain Declares Emergency (4:16 p.m. NY)

Spaniards’ freedom of movement will be significantly limited for the next 15 days under thestate of emergency declared by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

The Spanish government will take full control of administration nationwide, Sanchez said in an address. People will only be allowed to leave their houses in specific circumstances, he said.

GOP Chairwoman Tested for Virus (4:10 p.m. NY)

Ronna Romney McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee,has been tested for the coronavirus after experiencing fever and flu-like symptoms.

“She went to her local hospital in Michigan for treatment,” RNC communications director Michael Ahrens said in a statement posted on Twitter.

McDaniel has been blaming Democrats for using the virus as a way to spread panic and undermine President Trump.

France Closes Cafes, Restaurants, Shops (3:55 p.m. NY)

France is shuttering restaurants, cafes and shops deemed non-essential, following in the footsteps of neighboring Italy to curb the new coronavirus’s spread.

“Too many people still go to cafes and restaurants,” French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said at a press conference in Paris on Saturday. Philipe “We must show more discipline.”

At least 4,500 people in France have contracted the virus, double from 72 hours ago.

Canadians Warned Over Travel (3:50 p.m. NY)

Canadians are being urged to avoid non-essential travel. “New restrictions may be imposed with little warning.” Global Affairs Canada posted on its travel advisory website. “Your travel plans may be severely disrupted and you may be forced to remain outside of Canada longer than expected.”

Norway Closes Airport, Borders (2:07 p.m. NY)

Norway will shut all airports, ports and border crossings, calling in the army to help enforce what appears to be the nation’s closure to the outside world, Prime Minister Erna Solberg announced.

The nation may also seek infection control gear from China.

Countries around Europe, from Spain to Russia, are announcing measures to restrict the movement of people both inside and outside their nations.

FDA Clears Druggists to Make Sanitizer (2:15 p.m. NY)

The Food and Drug Administration is encouraging licensed pharmacists and physicians to make their own batches of hand sanitizer to combat widespread shortages. The agency is worried that home-made concoctions are not as safe to use as what pharmacists and doctors could make, using high-quality ingredients and at least 60% alcohol.

Hand sanitizer has mostly disappeared from physical stores around the nation as well as from most on-line retailers.

Alitalia Makes Face Masks Mandatory on Board (1:20 p.m. NY)

Alitalia said it will immediately require all passengers to wear facial masks onboard flights. The masks must be provided by the passengers themselves, a difficulty given the shortage in Italy, the epicenter of the coronavirus outside of China.

The locked-down nation announced another 175 deaths on Saturday, for a total of 1,441 dead. The total cases rose to 21,157.

Medical Experts Say NYC Hospitals Unready (1:35 p.m. NY)

New York City’s hospitals, among the best in the world, may still not be ready for the coronavirus outbreak, according to many health care experts.

“We are not prepared to deal with a rapid and severe surge of patients — we’re just not,” said Christopher M. Tedeschi, a longtime emergency physician and assistant professor at the Columbia University Medical Center.

New York City reported its first coronavirus death, an 82-year-old woman with respiratory illness, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said.

Trump Takes Test; Bans Travel (12:53 p.m. NY)

President Donald Trump said he took a coronavirus test and noted travel will be banned from the U.K. and Ireland. The rest of Europe falls under an essential no-entry policy announced last week.

Trump said he took the virus test on Friday night, and had his temperature taken early Saturday before appearing at a White House news conference. His temperature was “totally normal,” he said as he left the briefing room.

He said he expects results back in “a day or two.”

The U.S. added Great Britain and Ireland to its current international travel ban, effective late Monday. U.S. citizens flying home will still be able to enter, but will be checked at one of 13 airports, and if they show symptoms of the virus will be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days, Vice President Mike Pence said.

White House Checks Temperatures (12 p.m. NY)

The White House is now checking the temperatures of anyone coming in close contact with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, a deputy press secretary said.

The moves are being made “out of an abundance of caution,” Judd Deere said in an emailed statement.

Trump on Friday said he “most likely” will be tested “fairly soon” after a Mar-a-Lago meeting last weekend with several people — including members of an official delegation from Brazil — who later fell ill.

Belgium Warns Against Travel (11:53 a.m. NY)

Belgium is telling citizens not to travel abroad and warned that the risk of being stranded is “very high.” The foreign ministry said it can’t guarantee travelers will be able to return home as countries around the world start to close borders.

French Minister Tests Positive (11:57 a.m. NY)

Brune Poirson, France’s junior environment minster, tested positive for the coronavirus, AFP reported, citing the minister’s office.

Casinos Close (11:42 a.m. NY)

Casinos in Massachusetts and Illinois are closing for at least two weeks in response to the outbreak. In Portugal, casino operator Estoril Sol SGPS SA said it would shut its three properties.

Swiss Consider Drive-Through Tests (11:26 a.m. NY)

Switzerland is looking into drive-through tests, an approach already used in other countries, Interior Minister Alain Berset said in a radio interview.

U.K. Deaths Double (11:20 a.m. NY)

The number of U.K. deaths from the outbreak rose by 10 in the past 24 hours to a total of 21. The number of confirmed cases rose to 1,140 on Saturday, from 798 the day before.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is considering a ban on large public gatherings, which could come into force next weekend, an official said. He is under pressure from some medics and politicians to take a more aggressive approach to fighting the virus.

New York Cases Rise (10:35 am. NY)

New York reported 100 new cases, pushing the total to 524, and Governor Andrew Cuomo said accelerated testing will lead to a rapid rise in total infections. An 82-year-old woman with a respiratory illness died in New York City, the state’s first Covid-19 fatality.

A drive-through testing facility in New Rochelle worked “very well” and another center will open on Long Island next week, Coumo said.

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