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US Live updates: Brazilian official who met Trump and Pence at Mar-a-Lago tests positive for coronavirus

19:36  12 march  2020
19:36  12 march  2020 Source:   washingtonpost.com

Close to a Million Could Be Tested for the Coronavirus This Week, Health Official Says

  Close to a Million Could Be Tested for the Coronavirus This Week, Health Official Says WASHINGTON — The Trump administration said on Monday that nearly a million tests could be administered for the coronavirus in the United States by the end of this week, a significant escalation of screening as the American death toll reached six and U.S. infections topped 100. Private companies and academic laboratories have been pulled in to develop and validate their own coronavirus tests, a move to get around a government bottleneck after a halting start, and to widen the range and number of Americans screened for the virus, Dr. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said Monday at a White House briefing.

A Brazilian official who met President Trump and Vice President Pence at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday has tested positive for coronavirus, though Trump said he “isn’t concerned” about the development.

Here are some other significant developments:

  • Upheaval persisted in global markets, as fears of a worldwide recession mounted.
  • Trump’s order restricting travel from Europe for 30 days over the coronavirus outbreak left many European officials blindsided, and the European Union expressed exasperation in a short statement that was rare in its directness.
  • Saudi Arabia followed the U.S. measures by announcing its own travel ban on Europe, while Italy remains under an unprecedented national lockdown.
  • The White House, U.S. Capitol and Pentagon are closed to tours as Americans face expanding restrictions at home. Trump scrapped his own domestic travel, while the NBA suspended its season after two players tested positive. MLS also suspended its season, and numerous college basketball tournaments were canceled.
  • More than 1,300 cases have been reported in the United States, with at least 37 deaths. Tom Hanks became the first American celebrity to publicly announce a coronavirus diagnosis. In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he is self-isolating after his wife returned from a trip with flu-like symptoms.

Sign up for our coronavirus newsletter | Mapping the spread of the coronavirus | What you need to know about the virus | Post Reports: Your questions about coronavirus, answered | What is a pandemic? Why did WHO just declare one?

Fabio Wajngarten, Brazilian president's press secretary, tests positive for coronavirus.

  Fabio Wajngarten, Brazilian president's press secretary, tests positive for coronavirus. Fabio Wajngarten tested positive for coronavirus, two sources have told CNN. It comes just days after Wajngarten met U.S. President Donald Trump in Florida.

12:34 PM: Several major NCAA basketball tournaments canceled

A string of major college basketball conferences called off their men's basketball tournaments Thursday as March Madness continued to be upended by coronavirus concerns.

The NCAA had announced on Wednesday that its showcase season-ending basketball tournaments, scheduled to begin next week, would go on without fans in the stands, and many conferences made similar announcements.

But by Thursday, the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, Southeastern Conference, Atlantic 10 and American Athletic Conference were among the leagues that ended their events prematurely.

Shortly after Michigan and Rutgers players had taken the court to warm up for their noontime game at the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis, word of the pending cancellations prompted them to leave the court for the locker rooms. Similar scenes were repeated across the country.

On a Saturday Night in Florida, a Presidential Party Became a Coronavirus Hot Zone

  On a Saturday Night in Florida, a Presidential Party Became a Coronavirus Hot Zone WASHINGTON — The lights were low and the disco balls spinning as a cake with a fiery sparkler shooting flames into the air was brought out to a robust rendition of “Happy Birthday,” joined by President Trump. The birthday girl, Kimberly Guilfoyle, the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr., then pumped her fist in the air and called out, “Four more years!” It was a lavish, festive, carefree Saturday evening at Mar-a-Lago a week ago in what in hindsight now seems like a last hurrah for the end of one era and the beginning of another. In the days since then, the presidential estate in Florida has become something of a coronavirus hot zone.

How the NCAA tournament will select its field without conference tournament results and whether that event will even go on remained unclear.

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By: Chuck Culpepper and Matt Bonesteel

12:32 PM: President Trump met with Brazilian official who has since tested positive for coronavirus

RIO DE JANEIRO — A Brazilian official who met with President Trump and Vice President Pence on Saturday has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Brazilian officials.

Fabio Wajngarten, communications secretary to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, posed for a photograph with Trump and Pence at a state dinner at Mar-a-Lago in Florida before returning this week to Brazil, where he developed flu-like symptoms and underwent testing.

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The potential exposure again brought the covid-19 illness within proximity of Trump, who has circulated among other people who later tested positive for the coronavirus.

Wajngarten was in the United States as part of a presidential delegation to tout the Brazilian economy and meet with U.S. officials. During the trip, he was also in close contact with Bolsonaro, who is being monitored for signs of the illness, according to local media.

“The medical service of the Presidency of the Republic has adopted and is adopting all of the necessary preventive measures to preserve the health of the President of the Republic and the entire presidential committee that accompanied him in the recent official trip to the United States,” the presidential press office said in a statement.

Brazilian officials have said they have communicated the test results to their U.S. counterparts.

When asked about it on Thursday, Trump said he wasn’t worried about his close encounter with Wajngarten.

“I’m not concerned,” the president said, while meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. “I did hear something about that. We had dinner together. We did nothing unusual. We sat next to one another for a period of time.”

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In a tweet last night, Wajngarten criticized early reports that he was being tested for the virus, saying he felt good.

“In spite of the fact that the rotten band of press has already spoken absurdities about my religion, my family and my business, now they speak about my health,” he said. “But I am fine.”

The presidential press office said Wajngarten is in quarantine at his home and will return to work only when there isn’t any risk of transmission.

By: Terrence McCoy and Heloisa Traiano

12:24 PM: White House, U.S. Capitol and Pentagon cancel tours

All tours of the White House, U.S. Capitol and Pentagon have been canceled amid growing coronavirus concerns.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said the building will be closed to tours “until further notice … out of an abundance of caution.”

A Pentagon spokeswoman, Alyssa Farah, said tours there were being canceled as of Thursday morning. “We regret the inconvenience to our more than 2,000 visitors a week, but our key priorities are the health of our people & ensuring our ability to continue executing vital national security missions.”

A memo outlining new access protocols for the U.S. Capitol complex said its freeze on public tours at the Capitol Visitor Center, including those led by staff and members, will begin Thursday at 5 p.m. and extend through April 1.

Live updates: Coronavirus cases confirmed in all U.S. states as death toll rises and world faces long-term turmoil

  Live updates: Coronavirus cases confirmed in all U.S. states as death toll rises and world faces long-term turmoil A critical care physician at the University of Washington Medical Center discusses how his hospital is getting ready for a surge of coronavirus patients. (Tim Matsui /The Washington Post )

Members of Congress, their staff and credentialed journalists will still have access to the Capitol. Additional precautions have been established for the Senate wing of the Capitol and its office buildings, including mandatory escorts for official business visitors.

The new Capitol protocols were set in consultation with the Office of Attending Physician, D.C. health officials and the House and Senate sergeant-at-arms, according to the memo.

Meanwhile, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said he would close his Washington office through the upcoming recess, citing the revelation that a staffer for Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) tested positive for coronavirus. “Other congressional employees are likely to test positive in the days ahead,” Cotton wrote in a statement.

He said his offices in Arkansas will remain open and his staff in Washington will work from home.

Cotton also pledged that the U.S. “will hold accountable those who inflicted (the coronavirus) on the world,” although he did not elaborate. He has often repeated a conspiracy theory suggesting that the virus is connected to research in the disease-ravaged epicenter of Wuhan, China. Numerous experts have dismissed the possibility that the coronavirus may be man-made.

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By: Katie Mettler, Andrew Freedman, Anne Gearan, Meryl Kornfield and Felicia Sonmez

12:23 PM: Justin Trudeau in self-isolation after wife exhibits symptoms following trip to Europe

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Thursday that he is self-isolating after his wife returned from a trip to Britain with flu-like symptoms.

In a statement from the prime minister’s office, Trudeau said Canada’s first lady, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, immediately consulted a doctor. She has been tested for the coronavirus, and the couple are in self-isolation as they await the results, the statement said.

“The doctor’s advice to the Prime Minister is to continue daily activities while self-monitoring, given he is exhibiting no symptoms himself,” the statement read, according to Canada’s CTV News. “However, out of an abundance of caution, the Prime Minister is opting to self-isolate and work from home until receiving Sophie’s results.”

Trudeau will continue to work from home, receiving phone calls and briefings and conducting virtual meetings, including those related to discussions about the coronavirus, his office said.

By: Miriam Berger

12:22 PM: Major League Soccer suspends season

Major League Soccer announced Thursday it has suspended matches for 30 days amid the coronavirus crisis and, according to people close to the situation, plans to reschedule postponed games on the back-end of the season.

“Our clubs were united today in the decision to temporarily suspend our season — based on the advice and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), and other public health authorities, and in the best interest of our fans, players, officials and employees,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a written statement. “We’d like to thank our fans for their continued support during this challenging time.”

The action affects 12 games this weekend, including D.C. United’s visit to Cincinnati on Saturday. United was also scheduled to play at Philadelphia on March 22. The next home game — April 3 against New York City FC — is also affected.

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  Why are remote Aboriginal communities especially at risk? Australia is severely restricting access to remote Aboriginal communities amid coronavirus fears.Now the government is using its Biosecurity Act to bring in these limitations to such places across the country.

The 26-team league, with franchises in the United States and Canada, announced the move Thursday, following the NBA’s decision to suspend its season. MLS teams are expected to continue practicing but will take precautions to mitigate the risk of illness.

The league’s decision came a day after the Seattle Sounders and San Jose Earthquakes postponed their respective home matches on March 21.

Read more here.

By: Steven Goff

12:19 PM: Slovakia, Czech Republic and Philippines among countries issuing new travel restrictions

Within hours of President Trump restricting U.S. travel to Europe, more countries reacted with movement restrictions of their own aimed at stemming the spread of coronavirus.

The Czech Republic announced Thursday that it was closing its borders to visitors from Germany and Austria, as well as banning entry to people traveling from high-risk coronavirus countries. Citizens, moreover, are now banned from traveling to those countries.

The Czech government additionally ordered sports centers and spas to close and banned public events with more than 30 people, Reuters reported.

Slovakia took the even stricter step of shutting its borders to all foreigners and quarantining citizens who return, Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini announced Thursday, Bloomberg News reported.

In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday that he would restrict all travel in and out of the capital region amid a spike in coronavirus cases there. Land and domestic air and sea travel to and from metro Manila are suspended from March 15 to April 14, according to a resolution from a government task force managing the disease.

Duterte also announced that travel from countries with local transmissions would be restricted, but he did not immediately provide further details.

Many Filipinos work abroad, sending back remittances. Filipino workers based in China are exempt from a travel ban and can return, provided they are not traveling to Hubei province and they sign a declaration acknowledging the risks.

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By: Miriam Berger and Regine Cabato

12:17 PM: National Guard troops arrive in New Rochelle containment zone on logistics mission

a group of people wearing costumes: 10-year-old Selvin Jimenez receives food donations from the National Guard in New Rochelle on Thursday. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters) 10-year-old Selvin Jimenez receives food donations from the National Guard in New Rochelle on Thursday. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

New York National Guard troops arrived in New Rochelle on Thursday, mobilized to deliver food, distribute supplies and clean public facilities in the epicenter of the state’s coronavirus outbreak.

Their work will be focused in a one-mile radius of a synagogue that became ground zero for the state’s infections, more than half of which have emanated from Westchester County outside New York City.

a man sitting in front of a building: Members of the National Guard hand out bags of food to residents of New Rochelle near a one-mile radius containment area Thursday. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images) Members of the National Guard hand out bags of food to residents of New Rochelle near a one-mile radius containment area Thursday. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) mandated schools, places of worship and other large gathering places inside the zone close their doors for two weeks beginning Thursday, though businesses and restaurants will remain open, New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson said.

The guard troops, both from the Air and Army National Guard, will be used for logistical support, not in a military or policing role, Bramson said.

a man standing next to a train: A member of the New York Army National Guard prepares to hand out food to residents at a distribution station outside New Rochelle High School on Thursday. (Angus Mordant/Bloomberg) A member of the New York Army National Guard prepares to hand out food to residents at a distribution station outside New Rochelle High School on Thursday. (Angus Mordant/Bloomberg)

By: Alex Horton

12:05 PM: More schools close worldwide as coronavirus marches on

Countries worldwide are ordering more schools to temporarily shut their doors in an effort to contain and mitigate the novel coronavirus’s spread.

Israel, which had already banned international visitors, announced Thursday that it was strongly considering closing schools until the end of the Passover holiday break in mid-April. Several universities have also postponed the start of the spring semester next week, some opting instead for online instruction.

Earlier, Denmark and Norway said they were closing schools and banning large gatherings, Bloomberg reported.

A member of the National Guard fist bumps a teenager as they hand out bags of food to residents on Thursday. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images) A member of the National Guard fist bumps a teenager as they hand out bags of food to residents on Thursday. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images) “We all need to protect ourselves, in order to protect others,” Norway’s prime minister, Erna Solberg, said Thursday. “We stand together, not with hugs and handshakes, but by keeping our distance.”

Denmark’s government had already encouraged people to work from home when possible and to stop hugging and shaking hands. Some public sector employees, moreover, could be sent home on paid leave, the Local DK reported.

Finland is also considering closing schools, universities and day-care centers, as well as shopping malls and ferries, Bloomberg reported.

Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Thursday that schools and universities there will close until March 29, the BBC reported. He additionally called for the cancellation of indoor gatherings of more than 100 people and outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people. Lithuania, which has just three confirmed coronavirus cases, followed suit and ordered schools, universities and kindergartens to close Thursday.

The embattled president of Algeria ordered schools to close Thursday after the North African country announced its first coronavirus case. In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday extended the country’s school closures to April 12.

Earlier this month, the United Nations estimated that school closures around the world were affecting as many as 300 million children.

Steve Hendrix in Jerusalem and Regine Cabato in Manila contributed to this report.

By: Miriam Berger

11:55 AM: Hackers are using coronavirus fears to target people looking at information and infection maps

Chinese hackers have used fake informational documents about the coronavirus to deliver malicious software capable of taking remote control of devices, according to a report released Thursday by researchers who have documented a growing wave of cybercrime exploiting fears about the global pandemic.

As the coronavirus moves across the world, cybercriminals have taken advantage of the growing demand for information by loading malicious software into tracking maps, government reports and health recommendation fact sheets in numerous languages. New websites with variations on “coronavirus” in their Internet addresses also have exploded, with many of them masking online scams.

Among the most sophisticated efforts has been a campaign by a group of Chinese hackers dubbed Vicious Panda by cybersecurity researchers at Check Point, an Israeli-based technology company. In its report Thursday, Check Point called Vicious Panda an “advanced persistent threat,” a designation reserved for the most technically adept and well-organized attackers, often having government backing.

Vicious Panda used a faked document, purportedly disclosing coronavirus infection information from the Mongolian Health Ministry, to lure Internet users into sharing sensitive personal information, with the goal of gaining access to computers and smartphones, according to the Check Point report.

Read more here.

By: Craig Timberg

11:36 AM: Gathering canceled at Trump International Hotel because of outbreak

An upcoming gathering of Texas bankers at the Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington has been canceled, in one of the first public signs that the coronavirus outbreak is affecting President Trump’s family business.

The reception, planned for March 22, was to be hosted by the Texas Bankers Association for members visiting Washington that week to attend the American Bankers Association (ABA)’s government relations summit.

Once the ABA canceled its summit this week, “we, in turn, canceled our Texas-specific events,” Olivia Carmichael Solis, senior vice president of marketing and communications at the Texas Bankers Association, wrote in an email Thursday.

The ABA posted the cancellation of its March 23-25 summit on its website, citing “concerns raised by the coronavirus.”

There has been little public sign that the Trump Organization has been canceling events or restricting access to its hotels or golf courses. While the president still owns the company, his adult sons run it.

The company operates hotels in Washington, Chicago, Miami, Hawaii, New York City and Las Vegas, as well as in Canada and Europe.

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By: Joshua Partlow

11:31 AM: ‘We don’t need 48 hours’ to work out coronavirus relief bill, Pelosi says

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pushed back Thursday against Republican criticism of House Democrats’ coronavirus relief bill, arguing that lawmakers must take action as soon as possible to help the American public.

“We don’t need 48 hours,” Pelosi told reporters at her weekly briefing at the Capitol. “We need to just make a decision to help families right now, because we have to operate not as business as usual, but in an emergency status where we have to get the job done.”

Republicans sharply criticized the Democratic proposal earlier Thursday, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) calling it “an ideological wish list that was not tailored closely to the circumstances.”

Pelosi said that if Republicans have objections to certain agenda items not being included in the bill, “there could be another bill shortly down the road” that addresses them.

“Everyone can have a complaint about this or that — I said, ‘Save it for another day,’ ” Pelosi said. “We can have an after-action review about how we got into this situation. Save it for another day. Right now, we have to find our common ground, work together to get this done as soon as possible, because we have other needs.”

Pelosi also emphasized the importance of coronavirus testing.

“Testing, testing, testing, so very, very important, so that we can have an idea of the size of the challenge, but also that we — first and foremost — that we can meet the needs of those that test positive,” she said.

By: Felicia Sonmez

11:17 AM: Scientific journal editor rebukes Trump’s virus response

In a blistering editorial published Wednesday, the editor in chief of one of the U.S.’s top academic journals accused President Trump of “distorting the science” around the coronavirus even as he demands a vaccine faster than is scientifically possible.

“You can’t insult science when you don’t like it and then suddenly insist on something that science can’t give on demand,” wrote H. Holden Thorp, a chemist who has helmed the Science family of journals since last year.

It was an unusually strong rebuke from the typically apolitical scientific community, which has shied away from direct criticism of the president even as it condemned his efforts to cut research funding.

The White House’s most recent budget request, issued in February, sought to slash the Centers for Disease Control budget by 16 percent while cases of the coronavirus were already emerging in the U.S. Analyses by The Washington Post have found that more than 1,600 federal scientists left government since Trump took office, and health agencies’ response to the coronavirus is being hampered by shortages of staff and funds.

Thorp pointed out that Trump has rejected the established science of climate change and given credence to the widely discredited theory that vaccines cause autism.

And in the midst of the epidemic, Thorp said, the administration has “blocked” or “distorted” scientific facts about the virus, particularly in regards to how soon a vaccine would be available. Public health experts, including immunologist Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, have said deployment of a vaccine is more than a year away.

At a meeting of the nation’s top officials this month, Trump said he had told pharmaceutical executives: “Do me a favor, speed it up.”

“Do us a favor, Mr. President,” Thorp wrote. “If you want something, start treating science and its principles with respect.”

By: Sarah Kaplan

10:28 AM: Spain’s La Liga halts games because of virus outbreak

The coronavirus has come for the global game.

Spain’s top soccer league, La Liga, announced Thursday that it was suspending competition for at least 14 days. The soccer and basketball teams of leading club Real Madrid went into quarantine after it became known that a member of the latter had tested positive for the virus.

The developments also put into question the status of the Champions League and Europa League, two competitions that pit the continent’s best teams against each other and usually involve thousands of fans crossing borders.

On Thursday morning, UEFA, soccer’s governing body in Europe, tweeted that it has “invited various stakeholders to discuss European football’s response to the outbreak.” The talks, it advised, “will include all domestic and European competitions, including UEFA EURO 2020.” The latter competition, a contest between European national teams slated for the summer, is widely considered to be soccer’s most popular tournament after the World Cup.

The spread of the virus has been met by a mostly uneven response from the continent’s soccer bodies. Some leagues continue to hold matches in front of huge crowds, while others are playing games behind closed doors, if at all. On Wednesday night, Paris St. Germain and Germany’s Borussia Dortmund played a Champions League match in Paris in an empty stadium.

Across the Channel, in Liverpool, more than 50,000 people watched the home team crash out to Atlético Madrid. La Liga’s decision follows a suspension already in place in Italy, where its top league, Serie A, along with all other organized sporting activities, were suspended earlier this week as part of a sweeping national lockdown.

On Thursday, league-leading Italian side Juventus announced that defender Daniele Rugani had tested positive for the coronavirus and was now in isolation. In a tweet, Rugani said he was feeling “fine” but was happy to “respect the rules.”

By: Ishaan Tharoor

10:08 AM: Jamaica considers imposing travel restrictions on the United Kingdom

Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness said Wednesday that he was considering implementing travel restrictions from the United Kingdom to Jamaica after the island reported its first two cases of the coronavirus, both of which involved people who had previously traveled to the U.K.

“With two imported cases from the United Kingdom, we are reviewing the possibility of imposing travel restrictions on the UK,” Holness wrote in a tweet.

Jamaica confirmed its first case of the virus on Tuesday, reporting that the patient had arrived on the island from Britain on March 4. The nation’s second confirmed case was a U.S. Embassy employee in Kingston, Jamaica, who had recently traveled to the U.K.

In a news conference on Wednesday, Holness urged Jamaicans to limit social gatherings and uphold the recommended protocols for social distancing in an attempt to combat the spread of the virus. “A protocol for school closure has been approved and is being reviewed for implementation as necessary,” he added.

The Jamaican government has already banned travel to and from China, Iran, South Korea, Italy and Singapore and suspended flights from Spain, France and Germany.

In remarks on Wednesday, Holness said officials would acquire more coronavirus test kits and that no event permits would be issued in the next two weeks.

“The greatest weapon in the fight against the spread of this disease is accurate information,” he said.

By: Jennifer Hassan

9:56 AM: Iran’s coronavirus burial pits are so vast they’re visible from space

A view of Qom's cemetery taken on March 1 in Iran. (Maxar Technologies) © Maxar Technologies/Maxar Technologies A view of Qom's cemetery taken on March 1 in Iran. (Maxar Technologies)

Two days after Iran declared its first cases of the coronavirus — in what would become one of the largest outbreaks of the illness outside of China — evidence of unusual activity appeared at a cemetery near where the infections emerged.

At the Behesht-e Masoumeh complex in Qom, about 80 miles south of Tehran, the excavation of a new section of the graveyard began as early as Feb. 21, satellite images show, and then rapidly expanded as the virus spread. By the end of the month, two large trenches — their lengths totaling 100 yards — were visible at the site from space.

According to expert analysis, video testimony and official statements, the graves were dug to accommodate the rising number of virus victims in Qom.

Iran, a nation of about 80 million people, has suffered a particularly deadly surge of coronavirus infections, including among its top leadership. The country’s health ministry says that 429 people have died of the virus, which causes the disease known as covid-19, and more than 10,000 have fallen ill.

Among the dead are members of parliament, a former diplomat and even a senior adviser to the supreme leader. At least two dozen other officials, including a vice president, have been infected.

A senior imagery analyst at Maxar Technologies in Colorado said the size of the trenches and the speed with which they were excavated together mark a clear departure from past burial practices involving individual and family plots at the site.

In addition to satellite imagery, videos posted on social media from the cemetery show the extended rows of graves at Behesht-e Masoumeh and say they are meant for coronavirus victims.

Read more here.

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By: Erin Cunningham and Dalton Bennett

9:45 AM: Princess and Viking suspend worldwide cruises due to coronavirus outbreak

Princess Cruises announced Thursday morning that it was canceling voyages on its 18 ships around the world through May 10. The cruise line has seen passengers and crew on two of its ships face quarantines since February after the coronavirus spread on board.

The “voluntary and temporary pause” goes into effect for all departures starting Thursday. Voyages that are underway and scheduled to end within five days will keep sailing their scheduled itineraries.

In a statement, the company said it was making the decision out of an abundance of caution and called the move “a proactive response to the unpredictable circumstances evolving from the global spread of covid-19,” the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Industry giant Carnival, which owns Princess Cruises as well as Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line and several other lines, has not announced whether its other brands will follow suit.

Late Wednesday night, Viking Cruises announced it was suspending all of its river and ocean voyages that were scheduled to depart between now and April 30. The company operates 78 river and ocean vessels.

In a message to future passengers, founder and chairman Torstein Hagen said operating a travel company during the outbreak posed “significant risk” of quarantining and screening, such has occurred with the Diamond and Grand Princess cruise ships, which became emblematic of the worldwide epidemic.

But potential exposure also prompted the suspension, Hagen said, after a river cruise passenger in Southeast Asia may have come in contact with the virus on an international flight.

“While this guest is not exhibiting symptoms, she has been placed in quarantine. Separately, the remaining 28 guests will also be quarantined,” he wrote.

By: Hannah Sampson and Alex Horton

9:17 AM: Pence says no confusion after several Europe travel clarifications from White House

Vice President Pence appeared Thursday morning on CNN to provide more details on President Trump’s European travel restrictions, including that returning U.S. citizens and residents will be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.

But he also denied assertions that Trump’s remarks in his Oval Office address late Wednesday were unclear. “I don't think there was confusion,” Pence said on CNN.

However, Trump’s restriction details in his address lasted about 70 seconds but prompted two clarifications from administration officials and Trump himself within an hour.

Trump said in his address that “all travel from Europe” to the United States would be banned for a month beginning Friday, except for Americans who have undergone unspecified “appropriate screenings,” and travel from the United Kingdom.

Ken Cuccinelli, a Homeland Security official on the White House coronavirus task force, later clarified on Twitter: “This does not apply to American citizens or legal permanent residents or their families.”

Trump also said the restrictions would apply to “trade and cargo.” Then, in a tweet following his remarks, the president said trade would be not affected. “The restriction stops people not goods,” he wrote.

The mass confusion was described by New York Times reporter Mike McIntire, who wrote that, following Trump’s remarks, he scrambled early Thursday in Paris to book a flight out of France before restrictions began in less than 48 hours. He tried to change his flight and was lost in an abyss of long lines and customer service hold calls.

McIntire wrote that before Trump’s clarifications, he bought a duplicate set of tickets that cost more than his mortgage payment. Then he realized he was exempt.

By: Alex Horton

8:59 AM: Sydney Opera House takes action after Rita Wilson performance

a man wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone: People wear face masks at the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, March 9, 2020. © Steven Saphore/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock People wear face masks at the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, March 9, 2020.

Hours after Hollywood star Tom Hanks shared a statement Wednesday that he and his wife, actress Rita Wilson, had tested positive for coronavirus while in Australia, a spokesperson for the Sydney Opera House told CNN that the famed performance venue would be undergoing disinfecting measures because Wilson performed there on Saturday.

The spokesperson also said the venue would work to get in touch with any patrons or staff who may have come into contact with the couple. According to the opera house’s website, Wilson performed songs from her new album “Halfway to Home” in the one-night-only engagement. A representative for the Sydney Opera House did not immediately respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment.

In his statement, Hanks assured the public that he and his wife, both 63, would be “tested, observed, and isolated for as long as public health and safety requires.”

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By: Bethonie Butler and Sonia Rao

8:51 AM: Brazil braces for impact as number of coronavirus cases doubles in one day

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s top health official sounded an alarm on Wednesday night over coronavirus’s rapid spread in Latin America’s largest country, describing in ominous terms the devastation it is likely to unleash on a public health system that’s already precarious in heavily populated areas.

“We are going to live through 20 difficult weeks,” said the minister of health, Luiz Henrique Mandetta. “We will pass through this. It will be difficult.”

Brazil largely evaded the grasp of the virus for weeks, but the global health crisis suddenly accelerated here on Wednesday. The number of cases nearly doubled from 35 to 69, most of them clustered in the urban southeast. Then the newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo reported that President Jair Bolsonaro’s communications secretary, who posed beside President Trump for a photo at Mar-a-Lago, is being tested for coronavirus.

The official, Fabio Wajngarten, tweeted that he was healthy, but did not deny the report.

Speaking before the Brazilian congress in an emergency assembly on Wednesday, Mandetta expressed deep concern over a health system about to experience an “abrupt rise” in the number of coronavirus cases.

“The virus is extremely difficult; it knocks down the health system,” he said. “Even if it doesn’t have an high individual lethality, it has a lethality for the health system.”

Mandetta said health officials are working under the assumption there will be local contagion within the next week. The ministry, he said, is moving to beef up its number of doctors and hospital beds to meet what he expects to be a rush of patients.

By: Terrence McCoy

8:27 AM: A Wuhan family tries to keep its Beijing restaurant afloat in the age of coronavirus

BEIJING — The Wang family restaurant’s biggest selling point used to be its regional cuisine: The family comes from Wuhan, and their restaurant in Beijing makes Hubei specialties, including the city’s beloved “hot dry noodles.”

But since the coronavirus epidemic emerged in Wuhan in December, its geographical roots have turned into a curse for their restaurant, Spiced Food of Grandmother Wang.

Beijingers have hardly been eating out — or even going out — these last six weeks, and when they order in, they’re not ordering Wuhan food.

“Because we do Hubei cuisine, we are from Wuhan, we are right in the eye of the storm,” said 38-year-old Nicol Wang, who runs the restaurant with his parents and canceled his trip home for the Lunar New Year because of the outbreak.

But they’ve been keeping the restaurant open — wishing for a few online orders, although many days they barely make $15, and hoping that business will eventually come back.

“We understand that people may still be a bit afraid,” he said.

By: Anna Fifield

8:18 AM: Palestinians over 50 restricted from entering Israel, as part of measures to reduce coronavirus spread

a man riding a snowboard down a snow covered road: Palestinian security forces seal off a road at the entrance of the West Bank city of Bethlehem, March 12, 2020. © Abed Al Hashlamoun/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock Palestinian security forces seal off a road at the entrance of the West Bank city of Bethlehem, March 12, 2020.

JERUSALEM — Only Palestinian workers younger than 50 will be allowed to cross into Israel from the West Bank, Israeli officials said Wednesday night. The restrictions are part of a range of moves taken by authorities on both sides to reduce the risk of cross infection between Israel, which has reported 100 positive cases, and the Palestinian territories, which have 31.

More than 150,000 Palestinians normally enter Israel every day for jobs in health care, construction and other industries.

The new measures, as well as the recent closure of the checkpoint from Gaza into Israel, are set to be reevaluated Saturday evening, according to a statement by the Israeli agency responsible for West Bank issues. Gaza, which also closed off its crossing into Egypt, has not had a reported case of the virus.

Israel, in cooperation with the governing Palestinian Authority, has also closed the Allenby Bridge border crossing with Jordan, although West Bank residents in Jordan are still being allowed to return home.

Palestinian officials are cautiously encouraged that the rate of infection in the West Bank has not skyrocketed in the week since the first case was reported. With a health-care system ill-prepared for a major outbreak, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared a state of emergency and quickly shut down schools and religious sites, banned most public gatherings and canceled incoming tourist groups.

Bethlehem, origin of the West Bank outbreak and where all but one of the cases was located, remains almost completely sealed off.

Palestinian Authority spokesperson Ibrahim Melhem said the restrictions seem to be keeping the spread from accelerating as it had in other countries. “The measures in Bethlehem particularly were very effective,” he said in a statement.

A group of 14 Christian tourists from an Alabama church have been forced into quarantine in a Bethlehem hotel for more than a week.

Balousha reported from Gaza City.

By: Steve Hendrix and Hazem Balousha

8:02 AM: Ireland to close schools as coronavirus threat surges

Ireland will shutter schools, colleges and child-care facilities to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Thursday.

The public facilities will close Thursday afternoon until March 29, he said, as Europe battles a contagion that has put millions under lockdown and rocked the global economy.

The closures came one day after Ireland reported its first casualty linked to the new virus — an elderly woman who died in a Dublin hospital — and President Trump said he would ban most travelers from Europe to the United States for a month, starting Friday.

Hundreds of schools have temporarily shut down so far in the United States, Italy, China, Japan and elsewhere.

Leaders worldwide have canceled large public gatherings and advised employees to work from home if they can.

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By: Danielle Paquette

7:49 AM: Iran reports more than 1,000 additional cases in 24 hours, 75 new deaths

a group of people standing on a bridge: Firefighters wearing protective clothing, masks and goggles, spray disinfectant on Tabia't bridge pedestrian overpass in Tehran, on Monday, March 9, 2020. © Ali Mohammadi/Bloomberg Firefighters wearing protective clothing, masks and goggles, spray disinfectant on Tabia't bridge pedestrian overpass in Tehran, on Monday, March 9, 2020.

Iran updated its still skyrocketing rate of virus infection Thursday, reporting 1,075 new cases overnight, bringing its total to 10,075.

Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said on state television that the death toll climbed by 75 over the same 24-hour period, bringing fatalities to 429 — the most in the world after China and Italy.

Iran earlier Thursday requested $5 billion from the International Monetary Fund to finance its response to the worst outbreak in the Middle East. Large parts of the country have been locked down. Religious authorities also announced that Friday prayers would be canceled for the third straight week to stem the spread of the virus.

The country’s leading automaker, Khodro Company, also said it was halting production, just weeks after announcing ambitious plans to launch new models, according to reports in local media.

Also Thursday, an Iranian state broadcaster said that Iraj Harirchi, the deputy health minister who was notably ill during a television appearance early in the outbreak, had largely recovered from the coronavirus.

The virus has taken a toll on Iran’s leadership, with a top diplomat, an adviser to supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and a member of parliament dying from the covid-19 disease caused by the coronavirus. Dozens of lawmakers have reportedly tested positive, including Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri.

By: Steve Hendrix

7:41 AM: Europe-U.S. coronavirus cooperation breaks down over travel imposed ‘without consultation’

Ursula von der Leyen posing for the camera in front of a computer: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks at a news conference in Brussels, on Tuesday. © Stephanie Lecocq/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks at a news conference in Brussels, on Tuesday.

BRUSSELS — Of all the slights between Washington and Europe in recent years, the new travel restrictions had all the makings of a historic rupture. In a short statement on Thursday morning rare in its directness, the European Union expressed only exasperation.

“The Coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action,” the statement read, co-signed by E.U. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and E.U. Council President Charles Michel. “The European Union disapproves of the fact that the U.S. decision to impose a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation.”

The fiery response from Brussels was a sign of just how little the two sides appear to be coordinating their response to the coronavirus pandemic.

European officials were scrambling to play catch-up Thursday to understand the reasoning behind the ban. The U.S. Mission to the European Union declined to answer questions about how it was explaining the restrictions to its European colleagues.

James McAuley reported from Paris.

By: Michael Birnbaum and James McAuley

7:26 AM: Beijing says the Trump administration should focus on its own outbreak, rather than blame China

Xi Jinping standing next to a bicycle: A woman with a protective mask is seen passing a portrait of Chinese President Xi Jinping in Shanghai, on Thursday. (REUTERS/Aly Song) © Aly Song/Reuters A woman with a protective mask is seen passing a portrait of Chinese President Xi Jinping in Shanghai, on Thursday. (REUTERS/Aly Song)

BEIJING — The United States would do well to focus on containing the spread of the coronavirus, rather than blaming the outbreak on China all the time, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Thursday.

Robert C. O’Brien, President Trump’s national security adviser, said Wednesday that by covering up the outbreak of the virus, China had probably cost the world two months’ time to prepare.

Asked about comments Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that “this immoral and irresponsible behavior will not in any way help mitigate covid-19 in the U.S.”

“We hope a certain U.S. official can focus at this particular time on the domestic response, instead of trying to shift blame to China by making wanton accusations about China’s national efforts,” Geng told reporters at a news briefing.

Such comments willfully ignored the international appraisal of China’s response, Geng said, apparently referring to the World Health Organization’s praise for its containment of the virus.

“It is thanks to China’s forceful measures and our people’s huge sacrifices that covid-19 has been stopped from spreading to more places, that’s earning valuable time for the world to respond,” Geng said.

“As to whether the U.S. has made good use of the time, I don’t want to comment on that. … Pointing fingers at others is not constructive,” he said, citing an ancient Chinese saying that one should “turn inward and examine yourself when you encounter difficulties in life.”

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By: Liu Yang

7:10 AM: Austria, Greece report first deaths from virus; Spanish minister tests positive

a man and a woman walking down a street: A man leaves a supermarket after shopping in Madrid, Spain, March 12, 2020. © Fernando Alvarado/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock A man leaves a supermarket after shopping in Madrid, Spain, March 12, 2020.

Both Austria and Greece reported their first fatalities from the new coronavirus Thursday, as the newly labeled pandemic continues to take a toll across Europe and beyond.

In Vienna, a 69-year-old man died after contracting the virus, according to Reuters. More than 300 people have tested positive for the virus in Austria, including four who have recovered.

The 66-year-old man who died in Greece had traveled to Israel and Egypt for a religious pilgrimage late last month, the news agency said, and had been suffering underlying health issues. At least 99 Greeks have contracted the virus.

Also in Europe on Thursday, Spain’s minister of equality, Irene Montero, said on Twitter that she has tested positive for covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Her husband, Pablo Iglesias Turrión, who serves as the country’s deputy prime minister, said he would quarantine himself while awaiting his test results, upon the recommendation of local health officials.

All Spanish government officials will also be tested for the virus, according to the newspaper El País, with results to be reported later on Thursday.

Spain has reported more than 2,200 cases of the virus and at least 55 deaths, one of the highest tolls of the virus in Europe.

By: Teo Armus

6:58 AM: As WHO declares virus pandemic, fresh questions loom over Tokyo Olympics

a group of people standing in front of a body of water: A couple takes a selfie with the Olympic rings in the background in the Odaiba section of Tokyo, Thursday, March 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) © Jae C. Hong/AP A couple takes a selfie with the Olympic rings in the background in the Odaiba section of Tokyo, Thursday, March 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

TOKYO — Fresh questions emerged Thursday over the wisdom of holding the Olympics in Tokyo this summer, after the World Health Organization labeled the new coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.

Japan has repeatedly insisted the games must go ahead and its planning is proceeding as normal, and that line was repeated again on Thursday.

“There is no change to the government stance that we will make preparations for the Tokyo Games as planned by keeping close contact with the International Olympic Committee, organizers, and the Tokyo metropolitan government,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a regular news conference.

But cracks continue to emerge.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike responded more equivocally to the news from the WHO. “I can’t say there won’t be an impact,” she said. “But I believe cancellation is impossible.”

Meanwhile, an influential ruling party politician said Japan needed to brainstorm plans to deal with a possible cancellation or postponement of the games, even though he said the final decision was best left to the International Olympic Committee. “Not thinking about worst-case scenarios won’t eliminate the risk of them materializing,” Shigeru Ishiba, a critic of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, told Reuters.

“The government must start thinking now about what to do” in case the games are canceled or postponed, he added.

Earlier this week, an executive board member of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee said he would consider proposing a delay of one to two years when the board meets later this month. But Japan’s Olympics minister, the president of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee and the IOC all insisted the Games are going ahead as planned.

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By: Simon Denyer

6:35 AM: Europe blindsided by Trump’s travel restrictions, with many seeing political motive

a person riding a bicycle on a city street: Residents go about Corso Buenos Aires main street in Milan on March 12, 2020, as Italy shut all stores except for pharmacies and food shops in a desperate bid to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus. © Miguel Medina/Afp Via Getty Images Residents go about Corso Buenos Aires main street in Milan on March 12, 2020, as Italy shut all stores except for pharmacies and food shops in a desperate bid to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus.

PARIS — European officials were blindsided Thursday by President Trump’s decision to severely restrict travel from Europe to the United States, a surprise decision many saw as political above all else.

In Brussels, the official seat of the European Union, two officials said they were not aware of any formal coordination from Washington on an unprecedented move bound to upend travel and commerce on both sides of the Atlantic. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about the situation.

European markets plummeted in the aftermath of the decision.

In Britain, the benchmark FTSE 100 index, which tracks the 100 largest firms on the London stock exchange, fell after Thursday morning on news of Trump’s travel ban. The steep sell-off brought the FTSE to its lowest level in eight years. Both France’s CAC 40 index and Germany’s DAX index fell by more than 6 percent by midmorning Thursday.

The details of Trump’s travel restrictions also confounded many European leaders and policymakers, underscoring the view that the decision was largely political. Most importantly, Trump announced that European travel restrictions would, among some other countries, not include Britain, which has just quit the E.U., a multistate bloc that has been a regular recipient of Trump’s criticism since taking office in 2017.

“Trump needed a narrative to exonerate his administration from any responsibility in the crisis. The foreigner is always a good scapegoat. The Chinese has already been used. So, let’s take the European, not any Europe, the EU-one,” said Gérard Araud, France’s former ambassador to the U.S., in a statement posted on Twitter. “Doesn’t make sense but [it is] ideologically healthy.”

In his announcement, Trump specifically referred to what he called a “foreign virus” that “started in China and is now spreading throughout the world.”

Read more here: Europe blindsided by Trump’s travel restrictions, with many seeing political motive.

Michael Birnbaum and Quentin Ariès in Brussels, William Booth in London, and Rick Noack in Berlin contributed to this report.

By: James McAuley

6:29 AM: China closes north side of Mount Everest over coronavirus

a view of a snow covered mountain: This February photo taken from a commercial aircraft shows an aerial view of Mount Everest, center, and the Himalayan mountain range. © Jewel Samad/Afp Via Getty Images This February photo taken from a commercial aircraft shows an aerial view of Mount Everest, center, and the Himalayan mountain range.

Ahead of the spring climbing season, China will not be issuing permits for Mount Everest’s north side because of threats posed by the rapidly spreading coronavirus.

According to reports by AFP and ABC News, Chinese authorities told mountain expedition companies that Everest will be closed to climbers from its Tibetan access point, a safer and more tightly controlled route up the world’s highest peak.

Officials with the China Tibet Mountaineering Association were set to grant only 300 permits this year as prices nearly doubled, from $9,500 to $18,500. The Chinese government has yet to officially confirm the news.

The bulk of the ascents up the mountain are made on Everest’s Nepal side, which remains open, but the virus has taken a toll there, too. Some expedition operators have seen cancellations, they say, and climbers going via Nepal must submit medical reports and a 14-day travel history.

Adrian Ballinger, head of the mountaineering company Alpenglow Expeditions, told ABC that while Everest climbers are typically healthy, the high altitudes can dramatically reduce the effectiveness of the upper respiratory system. Close camps, meanwhile, also elevate the risk of catching the virus.

Despite bordering China, where the virus originated, Nepal has seen comparatively few cases of the virus. Earlier this week, Nepalese officials said they would be suspending visas for eight countries, including Italy, Iran and South Korea.

By: Teo Armus

6:23 AM: European airline stocks tumble after President Trump’s surprise new travel restrictions

a large passenger jet sitting on top of a parking lot: Austria Airlines (AUA) Airbus A320 aircrafts are parked at the Vienna International Airport (VIC) in Schwechat, Austria, 11 March 2020. (Photo by CHRISTIAN BRUNA/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock) © Christian Bruna/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock Austria Airlines (AUA) Airbus A320 aircrafts are parked at the Vienna International Airport (VIC) in Schwechat, Austria, 11 March 2020. (Photo by CHRISTIAN BRUNA/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

European airline stocks took a nosedive Thursday after President Trump said he would block most travel from Europe to the United States for a month to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

Shares lost as much as a fifth of their value following the surprise announcement of restrictions, which are slated to take effect Friday, as carriers worldwide slash flights and lay off workers to cope with the increasingly low passenger demand. Air France-KLM shares fell by 15 percent, while Lufthansa in Germany and British Airways tumbled by a 10th. Norwegian Air Shuttle stocks plunged another 20 percent.

“We encourage authorities to immediately implement measures to imminently reduce the financial burden on airlines in order to protect crucial infrastructure and jobs,” the airline’s chief executive, Jacob Schram, said this week in a statement.

The European Central Bank is widely expected to announce emergency measures Thursday — including cheap new loans, among other stimulus policies, according to Reuters — in the face of an economic shock that has kept millions of people at home and global markets in volatility.

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By: Danielle Paquette

6:01 AM: Chinese expert predicts pandemic will be through the worst by June

a group of people holding wine glasses: In this March 2 photo released by Xinhua, Chinese respiratory specialist Zhong Nanshan attends an oath-taking ceremony via video link in for two new probationary Communist Party members in Wuhan to take the oath of joining the Communist Party of China, in Guangzhou. © Deng Hua/AP In this March 2 photo released by Xinhua, Chinese respiratory specialist Zhong Nanshan attends an oath-taking ceremony via video link in for two new probationary Communist Party members in Wuhan to take the oath of joining the Communist Party of China, in Guangzhou.

HONG KONG — The Chinese epidemiologist leading his country’s response to the coronavirus predicted Thursday that the global pandemic would “wind down gradually in June,” but also warned that other countries needed to do more to stop its spread.

Zhong Nanshan, who oversaw the response to the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, in 2002 and has been leading the panel of Chinese experts assessing the coronavirus, also said that China needed to enforce strict controls to stop new infections arriving from overseas.

“Most imported infections are asymptomatic, with half not having a fever, similar to the situation in Wuhan in the early days,” Zhong told reporters in Beijing. “This shows that other countries are not doing enough to stop the virus.”

Of the 15 new coronavirus cases reported in China on Thursday, six of them were diagnosed in people arriving from abroad.

China, having criticized other countries for imposing travel restrictions on its citizens when the virus was raging at home, is now enforcing tough new measures to combat the arrival of new cases from outside its borders.

Zhong justified the response. “We have to strengthen prevention and control when facing imported cases, as well as enhance communication with other countries, to protect China from new sources of infection," he said.

Zhong had previously predicted that the epidemic in China would be through its worst at the end of February, and he wasn’t far off, with the country’s National Health Commission declaring Thursday that the worst had passed there. If other countries took decisive measures to stem the spread, the global pandemic could be over in June, he said.

By: Tiffany Liang

5:52 AM: Iran seeks emergency IMF funding for coronavirus crises

Iran is seeking $5 billion in emergency funding from the International Monetary Fund to finance its widening response to the Middle East’s worst coronavirus outbreak.

Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif called on the IMF to quickly make good on promises to provide financing to country’s in need.

The IMF “has stated that countries affected by #COVID19 will be supported via Rapid Financial Instrument. Our Central Bank requested access to this facility immediately,” Zarif said in a tweet.

Iranian Central Bank head Abdolnaser Hemmati said he requested $5 billion through the Fund’s Rapid Financial Instrument program. The IMF this week unveiled a $50 billion package of emergency financing for countries struggling with their responses to the virus. Iran has reported about 9,000 positive infections in the still rapidly expanding outbreak and more than 350 deaths.

By: Steve Hendrix

4:48 AM: China’s coronavirus epidemic has ‘passed its peak,’ National Health Commission says

a man and a woman walking down the street: In this picture taken on March 11, 2020 people wearing face masks as a preventive measure against the coronavirus walk outside of a shopping mall in Beijing. © Nicolas Asfouri/Afp Via Getty Images In this picture taken on March 11, 2020 people wearing face masks as a preventive measure against the coronavirus walk outside of a shopping mall in Beijing.

BEIJING — China’s coronavirus epidemic has passed its peak, with the number of new cases steadily declining, the National Health Commission said Thursday.

The latest figures showed that Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, recorded only eight new infections the day before, falling into single digits for the first time.

“Broadly speaking, the peak of the epidemic has passed for China,” said Mi Feng, a spokesman for the National Health Commission. “The increase of new cases is falling,” he said.

The commission Thursday reported only 15 new cases of coronavirus had been confirmed the previous day. Eight of them were in the epicenter province of Hubei, and six were found in people arriving in China from abroad.

With the virus spreading around the world, China’s ruling Communist Party has used its recovery from the outbreak to trumpet the superiority of its response.

“China has mobilized the whole nation and taken the most comprehensive, strict and thorough control and prevention measures to battle the epidemic, winning precious time for regions outside Hubei and countries and regions around the world,” Mi told reporters in Beijing on Thursday afternoon.

“Out of a heightened sense of responsibility for the global health security, China is willing to maintain openness and transparency, and step up effective cooperation with WHO and relevant countries and regions in playing its role in jointly battling the epidemic,” he said.

By: Lyric Li and Anna Fifield

4:37 AM: Coronavirus hits NBA, Hollywood, Capitol Hill and workforce as House readies for vote on Trump’s stimulus package

Federal and local officials took increasingly drastic measures to slow the spread of the spread of the new coronavirus Wednesday, as President Trump announced that he will sharply restrict travel to the United States from Europe.

“The virus will not have a chance against us,” Trump said in a televised national address late Wednesday. “No nation is more prepared or more resilient than the United States.”

But other officials have warned the government may not be doing enough to fight the virus, which has been declared a global pandemic. As of early Thursday, more than 1,300 people across the country had tested positive for the virus, while at least 37 had died.

“Bottom line, it’s going to get worse,” Anthony Fauci, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at a congressional hearing.

On Wednesday, the visible impact of the virus appeared to reach entertainment, professional sports, and the halls of Congress, as the actor Tom Hanks, a basketball player for the Utah Jazz and a Capitol Hill staffer all tested positive.

In response, the NBA suspended the rest of its season; hours earlier, the NCAA said it would play its March Madness basketball tournaments in nearly empty arenas.

The stock market fared no better, as the Dow Jones reached bear-market territory and Trump pitched an economic stimulus meant to cushion the country. The House of Representatives is expected to vote Thursday on the relief measures, which include expanded unemployment insurance, paid sick leave and food security assistance.

The pain on workers has spread far beyond the travel industry, too, as panic and losses over the virus cause layoffs across industries, including at an Omaha bakery, an Orlando stage-lighting company and the Port of Los Angeles, and economists worry that even more layoffs are coming.

On Thursday, Democratic presidential candidate Joseph R. Biden Jr. plans to speak about the global pandemic, after the former vice president assembled his own public health advisory committee and said he will conduct virtual events in place of in-person campaign activities in Illinois and Florida.

Meanwhile, a Trump campaign spokeswoman said the president would continue to hold large campaign rallies, despite the advice of experts. But late Wednesday, the White House said he had canceled planned fundraising activities and a weekend political trip to Nevada and Colorado.

Have you tried to get tested for coronavirus and been turned away? Share your experience with The Washington Post.

By: Teo Armus

3:46 AM: U.S. Embassy branch in Tel Aviv isolates some staffers after virus-positive visitor to visa office

JERUSALEM — An unknown number of employees at the U.S. Embassy branch office in Tel Aviv have been sent into self-isolation after a person who later tested positive for the coronavirus visited a waiting room in the facility’s non-immigrant visa section last week.

The embassy was notified Wednesday of the visit by Israel’s ministry of Health, which also put out a call for others who may have been in the waiting room on March 5, between 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., to self-isolate.

An embassy spokeswoman said she could provide no further details. President Trump ordered the embassy officially moved to Jerusalem in 2017, but many of its functions — and most of its staff — remain in Tel Aviv.

The number of confirmed cases in Israel has grown to 100, with no reported fatalities. Tens of thousands of Israelis are in precautionary self-quarantine and gatherings of more than 100 are prohibited. The country has radically tightened its borders, requiring all incoming arrivals, residents and visitors alike, to enter two-weeks isolation.

Effective Thursday evening, foreign visitors will be turned back at the airport unless they can prove they have a suitable place to spend the quarantine.

By: Steve Hendrix

3:45 AM: Duterte to be tested amid rise in coronavirus cases in Philippines

Rodrigo Duterte wearing a white shirt: In this March 11, 2020 photo, President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a speech during the oath-taking ceremony for the armed forces and police at the Malacanang Palace, Manila. © Albert Alcain/AP In this March 11, 2020 photo, President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a speech during the oath-taking ceremony for the armed forces and police at the Malacanang Palace, Manila.

MANILA — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will be tested for the coronavirus, his spokesman announced on Thursday.

He will take the test as a “preemptive” measure along with his special assistant-turned-senator, Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go.

“While [the president] and Senator Go do not have the symptoms of the virus, they have opted to undergo the test to ensure that they are fit and healthy to perform their duties as government workers,” said his spokesman Salvador Panelo.

The announcement comes amid a jump in coronavirus cases in the Philippines to 49, with two deaths. Government officials, including senators and the mayor of Manila, have announced they would go on self-quarantine after possibly being exposed to the virus.

Duterte’s security announced a no-touch policy between the president and the public earlier this week, although the president claimed that he would defy it and “shake hands with everybody.”

The tough-talking populist president is most known for his bloody war on drugs, which has left thousands dead. At home, the state of his health is the subject of public scrutiny. Duterte has previously said he has various ailments, including Buerger’s disease and an autoimmune condition called myasthenia gravis, among others. In the past year, he has skipped a number of events for health reasons.

By: Regine Cabato

3:12 AM: Coronavirus cluster in dense Seoul neighborhood spurs fears of new South Korean outbreak

a group of people standing in front of a building: Workers wearing protective gear spray disinfectant to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, at a subway station in Seoul on March 12, 2020. © -/Yonhap/Afp Via Getty Images Workers wearing protective gear spray disinfectant to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, at a subway station in Seoul on March 12, 2020.

SEOUL — A new coronavirus cluster in Seoul linked to more than 100 cases has raised concerns about a wider outbreak in the densely populated capital even as growth in South Korea’s national tally appears to be slowing.

Some 102 infection cases can be traced to a call center in one of the busiest districts in Seoul near Sindorim station, which handles over 400,000 commuters each day.

Of those, 71 live in Seoul and the rest in neighboring Incheon city and Gyeonggi province, Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said in a briefing Thursday.

South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun warned that the clusters can lead to “super-spreading” of the virus in the greater Seoul metropolitan area, where half of South Korea’s 51 million people live.

Health Ministry official Yoon Tae-ho told a briefing that the virus situation is getting under control in Daegu city, South Korea’s first coronavirus epicenter. Daegu reported 73 new cases of the virus on Thursday, compared to daily jumps in the hundreds over the past weeks. South Korea has almost 8,000 cases.

Yoon said it is too early to lower anyone’s guard given the sporadic outbreaks in other parts of South Korea.

Park said Seoul will try to contain the outbreak through rapid testing and social distancing campaigns while maintaining the city’s functions. Hundreds of residents and workers at the building with the call center have been tested, according to Park.

By: Min Joo Kim

3:12 AM: California, Oregon ban gatherings of more than 250 people

Kate Brown standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera: Oregon Gov. Kate Brown speaks last month in Salem, Ore. © Andrew Selsky/AP Oregon Gov. Kate Brown speaks last month in Salem, Ore.

California and Oregon will temporarily prohibit any gatherings of more than 250 people, officials in those states said, the most far-reaching restrictions yet meant to contain the rapidly spreading coronavirus.

The rules, an example of social distancing, will make this sweeping measure the standard across almost all of the West Coast. Washington state banned similarly sized events in three Seattle-area counties earlier in the day.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said that the cancellation or postponement of concerts and community events would result in “cascading effects” that save the state’s most at-risk populations.

“Changing our actions for a short period of time will save the life of one or more people you know," Newsom said in a statement. “That’s the choice before us. Each of us has extraordinary power to slow the spread of this disease.”

The orders are not meant to prevent people from attending classes or work or seeking out essential services. Newsom added that California’s rule, which lasts at least through the end of March, would not apply to tightly concentrated living situations, like college dormitories and homeless encampments.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) will announce the rule, which will last for at least four weeks, at a news conference Thursday, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.

“It’s time for us all to do what we can to slow its spread and take care of one another,” Brown said in a statement.

Earlier this week, Santa Clara County, which includes Silicon Valley and San Jose, had announced restrictions on gatherings of more than 1,000 people, a move largely targeted at concerts and sporting events. San Francisco followed suit on Wednesday.

That rule was followed by complaints from local businesses there who said the order would severely impact their livelihoods, and Newsom said California officials would be working to cushion the economic shock of the statewide policy.

“These changes will cause real stress,” he said, “especially for families and businesses least equipped financially to deal with them.”

Washington state’s ban so far affects an area covering nearly 4 million people, including the epicenter of the state’s outbreak in King County, as well as nearby Pierce and Snohomish Counties.

Later on Wednesday, Seattle Archbishop Paul D. Etienne immediately suspended all public mass, making his Catholic archdiocese, which covers the western part of state, the first in the country to do so.

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By: Teo Armus

2:55 AM: Saudi Arabia bans travel to and from the European Union, following U.S. lead

a group of people walking on a sidewalk: A couple walk through Qatif, Saudia Arabia, on Tuesday. © Stringer/Reuters A couple walk through Qatif, Saudia Arabia, on Tuesday.

DUBAI — Saudi Arabia on Thursday expanded the list of countries its citizens and residents are banned from visiting to include the European Union, just an hour after a similar travel ban on the EU from the United States.

In a statement from the Interior Ministry carried by the official press agency, travel for its citizens and expatriate residents was suspended to the European Union, Switzerland, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Sudan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Eritrea, Kenya, and Somalia.

Many of these countries are yet to report cases of the virus.

Anyone coming from those countries or who has been in them within the past 14 days are also banned from entering the kingdom.

Land ports with neighboring Jordan have also been closed to all but commercial traffic.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia announced similar travel bans to the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria, South Korea, Egypt, Italy and Iraq.

Saudi citizens and foreign residents have 72 hours to return to the kingdom before the ban will take effect on them. The national airline, Saudia, said it would continue running flights to Paris until Friday.

An exemption for the decision has been granted to Filipinos and Indians working in the health professions or involved in shipping and trade.

The statement said the move was part of “determined efforts to control the virus, prevent its entry and spread, and based on the concern to protect the health of citizens and expatriates and ensure their safety.”

Saudi Arabia has only reported 45 cases of the virus, but the numbers are rising swiftly among its neighbors. UAE has reported 74 cases, Kuwait has 72, and Bahrain 195.

Qatar, a tiny wealthy emirate next to Saudi Arabia, reported an alarming spike of 238 new cases on Wednesday, all residents of the same compound.

By far, however, the biggest source of the infection in the region is Iran, located across the Persian Gulf from Saudi Arabia and already hosting more than 9,000 cases, including several politicians and top officials.

Saudi Arabia’s eastern province of Qatif, whose mainly Shiite residents have been known to travel to Iran, was the initial focus of its infections and on March 10, the whole region was put on lock down, with roads in and out blocked. Schools across the kingdom have also been shut down.

By: Paul Schemm

2:23 AM: Rescue operation at collapsed quarantine center in China ends after final body is recovered

a group of people on a raft in the snow: A man is rescued March 8 from the rubble of a collapsed hotel in Quanzhou, China, that was being used as a quarantine facility. © Str/Afp Via Getty Images A man is rescued March 8 from the rubble of a collapsed hotel in Quanzhou, China, that was being used as a quarantine facility.

Chinese authorities declared an end Thursday to a rescue and recovery operation at a coronavirus quarantine center that collapsed over the weekend, taking a final toll of 29 lives, including at least two medical workers.

The body of the last victim was pulled from the rubble Thursday. The hotel in the southeastern city of Quanzhou had been converted into a temporary quarantine center during the coronavirus outbreak when it collapsed to an unrecognizable pile.

A total of 71 people, including 42 from the epicenter of Hubei province who had been traveling with the epidemic broke out, were trapped in the collapse. Nine escaped from the rubble on their own.

A preliminary investigation showed that the hotel had been illegally constructed and was repeatedly rebuilt, said Shang Yong, deputy head of the Ministry of Emergency Management. The owner of the building is in police custody.

Construction of the building, which had a floor area of about 75,000 square feet, was started in 2013, land it was later converted into a 66-room hotel that opened in June 2018. China’s State Council, the equivalent of a cabinet, set up a special team on Thursday to further investigate the collapse.

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By: Liu Yang

2:18 AM: Asian share markets tumble after Trump speech

a person standing in front of a sign: A man looks at an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm in Tokyo Thursday. © Eugene Hoshiko/AP A man looks at an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm in Tokyo Thursday.

Asian share markets tumbled for the second day in a row Thursday as markets reacted to President Trump’s announcement of travel restrictions on arrivals from European countries and plans to provide $50 billion in loans to support small businesses.

“Stocks are cratering on the president’s remarks from the White House,” Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist for MUFG Union Bank, told the Financial Times. “Stock markets around the world are in free fall as the spread of this deadly pandemic virus has the potential to slow the global economy to a crawl.”

Markets in Asia were also reacting to the World Health Organization’s designation of the coronavirus as a pandemic, and another terrible day on Wall Street, where the Dow Jones industrial average tipped into bear market territory.

The Australian Stock Exchange lost almost 8 percent of its value, or more than $64 billion on Thursday, recording its worst one-day fall since 2008.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was down 3.5 percent in the early afternoon, having fallen by as much as 4.8 percent earlier in the day, while Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225, was down 3.6 percent in the Tokyo afternoon.

In China, the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s composite index was down only 1.6 percent after lunch, while the Shenzhen index had lost 2.2 percent of its value.

By: Anna Fifield

2:00 AM: CDC warns Americans to avoid ‘nonessential travel’ to Europe

a airplane that is parked on the tarmac at an airport © Provided by The Washington Post

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a level 3 travel warning late Wednesday, urging Americans to avoid “nonessential” trips to Europe due to the impact of the novel coronavirus.

The warning, the most severe travel notice the CDC can issue on a three-point scale, came shortly after President Trump announced a suspension on travel from most of Europe. Neither the ban nor the CDC notice applies to the United Kingdom.

Trump’s sweeping measure, which he introduced in a televised national address Wednesday evening, sent shockwaves through financial markets and created panic over the potential effects on goods and travelers crossing the Atlantic.

But about an hour after his address, Trump took to Twitter to clarify that the 30-day travel restrictions would not apply to trade. “The restriction stops people," he wrote, “not goods.”

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the rule will suspend entry for “most foreign nationals" who have been in continental Europe at any point in the two weeks before their scheduled arrival in the United States.

The ban does not apply to legal permanent residents, most immediate family members of U.S. citizens, and some others, Chad Wolf, the agency’s acting secretary, said in a statement.

Health experts and the World Health Organization have strongly advised against this sort of targeted travel bans, warning that they can complicate the global response to an outbreak and lead to negative effects in the long term.

Also late on Wednesday, the State Department issued a global level 3 health advisory, urging U.S. citizens to reconsider travel plans abroad. That advisory is the second-highest warning the department can issue on a scale of one to four.

The Defense Department, meanwhile, suspended travel for 60 days to several virus-stricken nations for all service members, employees and their families.

At separate points earlier this year, the CDC issued level 3 warnings for the four countries that have experienced the most serious outbreaks of the virus: China, South Korea, Iran and Italy.

By: Teo Armus

1:50 AM: Australian government unveils economic stimulus package aimed at countering virus impact

Josh Frydenberg, Scott Morrison are posing for a picture: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, right, and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg address the media in Canberra on Thursday. © Lukas Coch/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, right, and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg address the media in Canberra on Thursday.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday announced a $11.4 billion stimulus package to try to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus, focused on helping businesses get through the disruption.

Morrison said he wanted to particularly make sure that small and midsized businesses could stay operational as the global outbreak takes its toll on Australia’s economy.

“It is about a cash injection into the Australian economy, which supports small businesses and supports medium businesses,” he said Thursday, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

About 690,000 small to medium-sized businesses employing some 7.8 million people will be eligible to receive between $1,300 and $16,000 to help with cash flow. Those with apprentices can ask for $14,000 to keep them on, a measure that is expected to keep about 117,000 apprentices in work. Other affected businesses will be able to apply to a $645 million fund.

A total of 6.5 million people on welfare — including those receiving disability or veterans’ benefits, and 2.4 million seniors — stand to receive one-off payments of almost $500 each.

“The biggest beneficiaries of that will be pensioners,” Morrison told reporters. “They comprise around half of those who will receive those payments, but they also will be extended to those in family tax benefits, which obviously goes to those in earning households."

The value of the package is equivalent to almost 1 percent of Australia’s gross domestic product, and will be “front loaded” to make sure that money gets into the economy as quickly as possible, Morrison said.

Some Australian companies are taking it upon themselves to try to counteract the impact of the virus. Woolworths, a leading grocery store chain, said Thursday that it would provide two weeks’ paid leave for employees, including casual workers, who can’t come to work because they have to go into isolation or stay home to look after children if schools closed.

Woolworths said employees required to be absent from work due to coronavirus – either due to their own self-isolation, illness or their need to care for others – should not be disadvantaged based on their employment status or the availability of personal leave.

“As Australia’s largest private employer, we recognize we have a key role to play as part of the broader public health response," said Caryn Katsikogianis, Woolworths Group’s chief people officer, the Australian newspaper reported. Other companies including Telstra, the leading telecom operator, have already made similar provisions.

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By: Anna Fifield

1:04 AM: North Dakota reports first case of coronavirus

Doug Burgum et al. standing next to a person in a suit and tie: Kirby Kruger, director of Disease Control at the North Dakota Department of Health, answers questions during a news conference in Bismarck, N.D. Gov. Doug Burgum looks (R) on from the right. © Mike Mccleary/AP Kirby Kruger, director of Disease Control at the North Dakota Department of Health, answers questions during a news conference in Bismarck, N.D. Gov. Doug Burgum looks (R) on from the right.

North Dakota reported its first presumptive case of the new coronavirus late Wednesday.

At a news conference, Gov. Doug Burgum (R) said a man in his 60s had tested positive for covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, after traveling out of the state and interacting with another patient who tested positive.

The man is recovering at home in isolation in Ward County, which includes the city of Minot, as health officials work to identify people who may have come into close contact with him.

As of late Wednesday, more than 40 states and the District of Columbia have said they are treating patients with presumptive or confirmed cases of the virus. Delaware and Mississippi both announced their first cases on Wednesday.

The North Dakota man’s case must still be confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, health officials said. Of 27 North Dakota residents tested for the virus, 12 tests have come back negative and another 14 are still pending.

By: Teo Armus

12:41 AM: Ukraine closes schools nationwide, bans large gatherings

a group of people standing next to a bicycle: A man wearing a protective face mask walks with his bicycle among passersby in Kyiv on Wednesday. © Sergei Supinsky/Afp Via Getty Images A man wearing a protective face mask walks with his bicycle among passersby in Kyiv on Wednesday.

KYIV — Ukraine’s government on Wednesday announced the temporary closure of all schools and banned gatherings of more than 200 people in response to coronavirus fears, though only one case in the country has been confirmed.

The three-week school closure and ban on large gatherings will last from Thursday until April 3 and will include sporting events and conferences.

The government also banned the export of medical masks and other goods needed to fight the epidemic, and plans to purchase infrared sensors to measure people’s body temperatures at Boryspil International Airport outside the capital Kyiv, rather than the manual checks current being used.

Beginning Wednesday, temperature screening will be done in shopping centers, with a focus on people who exhibited physical symptoms such as coughing.

Kyiv’s deputy mayor Mykola Parovoznyk said the city had received 2,500 express test kits and had two diagnostic machines that will be placed at airports. Cinemas, theaters, museums and recreation centers will also be closed for three weeks.

The case identified involved a Ukrainian who returned from Italy.

By: Robyn Dixon

12:39 AM: Coronavirus concerns impact Opening Day for MLB’s Seattle Mariners

a baseball player holding a bat: Seattle Mariners' Connor Lien, left, and Mitch Nay stop to sign autographs before a spring training baseball game Tuesday in Peoria, Ariz. © Elaine Thompson/AP Seattle Mariners' Connor Lien, left, and Mitch Nay stop to sign autographs before a spring training baseball game Tuesday in Peoria, Ariz.

The Seattle Mariners and San Francisco Giants will be forced to postpone or relocate games scheduled at their home stadiums this month, or play them without fans, after government officials in those locales banned large public gatherings due to concerns about the spread of coronavirus.

The announcements moved the impacting of Major League Baseball regular season games from the realm of the theoretical to that of the actual, and could soon be followed by more teams being forced to alter plans as coronavirus continues to spread.

The Mariners were due to open the season with a four-game series at home against the Texas Rangers on March 26, which is Opening Day across baseball, followed by a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins. Six of the seven games in that season-opening homestand fall in March.

The Giants, meanwhile, open the regular season on the road, but will relocate their March 24 exhibition game against the Oakland A’s — previously scheduled to be played at their home stadium of Oracle Park in San Francisco — possibly to their spring training home in Scottsdale, Ariz. The Giants’ home opener is scheduled for April 3 against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The XFL’s Seattle Dragons said they would play their next home game in an empty stadium, while the Seattle Sounders of Major League Soccer postponed their next home game.

Read more here.

By: Dave Sheinin

12:38 AM: Wuhan prepares to reopen its airport, as end of lockdown comes into view

a group of people standing in a room: Travelers pass through a health screening checkpoint at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport in January. © Emily Wang/AP Travelers pass through a health screening checkpoint at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport in January.

BEIJING — Wuhan, the epicenter of China’s coronavirus epidemic, is making plan to reopen its main airport in late March, indicating a tentative lifting of quarantine as new infections in the city continue to fall.

Wuhan Tianhe International Airport was one of China’s biggest air terminals in terms of passenger traffic until it was closed due to virus in late January, when the city quarantined its 11 million residents in a lockdown of unprecedented scale.

The travel ban is expected to end, however, with the number of new confirmed cases in Wuhan having fallen to single digits for the first time in over a month.

“We have been making preparations for a tentative reopening of the airport later this month, somewhere after March 20,” a senior airport manager told The Washington Post on Thursday, declining to give his name because he wasn’t permitted to speak publicly. About one-fifth of airport staff have returned to work.

“We don’t have any concrete dates yet and are still waiting for further instructions from the city and the provincial governments,” he said.

The earliest flight available is one departing from Wuhan to Qingdao at 10:40 a.m. on March 29, run by low-cost carrier Beijing Capital Airlines — a subsidiary of the government-owned Hainan Airlines, according to a search by The Post on major flight booking sites including Ctrip and Alibaba-owned Fliggy.

Passengers from Wuhan could also take connecting flights to Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and several other cities.

“The airport will make relevant arrangements and make the dates public as soon as we receive a notice from government authorities,” the airport manager said.

Beijing Capital Airlines told Chinese media that March 29 remains a “tentative” date and would be subject to adjustments in accordance with the development of the epidemic.

The airport in Wuhan and those serving the wider Hubei province have been asked to get ready by next Monday for government assessment. A document issued by the Hubei Airports Group shows that the preparations in Wuhan kicked off on Tuesday.

Earlier this week, a health expert with the country’s top panel on tackling the outbreak told the Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily that Wuhan will likely see new infections drop to zero by the end of this month.

The number of new confirmed cases in China outside Hubei has remained in single digits for two weeks, with eight new infections recorded in Wuhan on Wednesday and seven elsewhere, according to the country’s National Health Commission.

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By: Lyric Li

12:38 AM: New Zealand hopes its in-built isolation will protect it from virus

Jacinda Ardern looking at the camera: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to media following a government meeting Wednesday on covid-19 in Wellington, New Zealand. © Mark Tantrum/AFP/Getty Images New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to media following a government meeting Wednesday on covid-19 in Wellington, New Zealand.

AUCKLAND — New Zealand, which a former prime minister once called “the last bus stop before Antarctica,” is watching the spread of coronavirus around the world and wondering if its geographical isolation can help keep it outside the pandemic.

The country is pursuing a “keep it out, stamp it out, slow it down” approach, Ashley Bloomfield, the director-general of health, said Thursday.

The remote South Pacific nation has now gone five days without any new confirmed infections, and the five people who had previously tested positive are all at home and recovering, he said.

New Zealand is looking at what other island jurisdictions — especially Taiwan and Singapore — have done to control infections there.

“It is not an inevitability that we get an out-of-control pandemic here,” Bloomfield told reporters in Auckland on Thursday. “We have been acting and planning as if this would be a pandemic for some weeks and now and we continue to plan and respond with pace.”

Health authorities have ample test kits, he added, saying that labs were equipped to do 500 tests a day but only 100 had been needed on Wednesday.

New Zealand has instituted mandatory 14-day self-quarantine periods for people arriving from badly affected countries like China, South Korea, Iran and Italy. But there is little to no enforcement, with the system instead relying on trust.

But the country has not banned large-scale gatherings, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Thursday that a memorial for the March 15 Christchurch mosque attack will go ahead as planned this Sunday.

“I’ve sought specific advice from the Ministry of Health around large gatherings and their message to us has been very clear: we are at a point where we don’t have community transmission,” Ardern said.

By: Anna Fifield

12:38 AM: Shanghai, with no new cases of coronavirus, begins to reopen attractions

a clock tower in the background: A security guard wearing a face mask and gloves stands guard at with the landmark Oriental Pearl tower in the background in Shanghai late last month. © Liu Xingzhe/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock A security guard wearing a face mask and gloves stands guard at with the landmark Oriental Pearl tower in the background in Shanghai late last month.

Major tourist attractions in Shanghai, including the famous Oriental Pearl TV Tower with the ball in the middle, were set to reopen Thursday under strict conditions designed to stop a new outbreak of coronavirus in the city.

With Thursday’s additions, a total of 22 attractions will have reopened, including Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum and the Shanghai and Jin Mao towers, according to the Shanghai Culture and Tourism Administration. Shanghai Disney Resort began to resume operations earlier in the week.

Shanghai’s Health Commission said Thursday morning that there had been no new coronavirus infections reported in the city the previous day, part of a steady decline in cases nationwide as Chinese authorities have locked down all hotspots and enforced strict regulations elsewhere.

People wanting to visit the newly opened attractions must wear a mask at all times and will have their temperatures checked before entering. Anyone with a reading above 99.1 degrees will not be allowed to enter.

They will also have to register their real names and contact details, and show a green “health QR code” attesting to their clean travel and health record before being permitted to enter.

Most attractions will have caps on how many people are allowed in each day, and will encourage people to stand three feet apart from each other.

When Shanghai Disney Resort reopened on Monday after six weeks of being closed, it also limited the number of entrants and its hours of operation.

Shanghai is a major financial and business center in China, and authorities have been proceeding slowly to ensure the number of infections does not explode as people begin to return to normal life.

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By: Anna Fifield

Why are remote Aboriginal communities especially at risk? .
Australia is severely restricting access to remote Aboriginal communities amid coronavirus fears.Now the government is using its Biosecurity Act to bring in these limitations to such places across the country.

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