March 11 coronavirus news

By Veronica Rocha, Fernando Alfonso III, Joshua Berlinger, Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, March 12, 2020
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4:11 a.m. ET, March 11, 2020

China's Hubei province says it will gradually allow businesses to reopen in the coming days and weeks

From CNN's Eric Cheung in Hong Kong and Steven Jiang in Beijing

Nearly empty roads are seen in Wuhan, China on March 10.
Nearly empty roads are seen in Wuhan, China on March 10. Stringer/AFP/Getty Images

China's Hubei province, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, will allow businesses to gradually come back online and will resume some public transportation services, the provincial government said in a statement Wednesday.

The decision comes as the number of cases in the province has declined significantly. Hubei was reporting thousands of infections a day just weeks ago. There were only 14 new infections reported in Hubei Tuesday, according to China's National Health Commission.

Businesses in Wuhan -- the provincial capital and the city where the virus was first identified -- that are related to epidemic control, public utilities and daily necessities are allowed to resume work now, the statement said. Other firms can return to work starting on March 20.

The provincial government said that regions outside Wuhan will be divided into areas of high, medium and low risk. The order of work resumption will depend on the nature of businesses and where they are located. Meanwhile, business that involve people gathering in small spaces -- like karaoke bars, movie theaters and beauty salons -- will not be allowed to reopen until after the outbreak is over.

Areas where the risk is deemed medium or low will be allowed to gradually resume public transportation services like city buses and flights between provinces.

However, public transportation in Wuhan and other high-risk areas will continue to be suspended until further notice, it said. Schools across Hubei province will continue to be suspended until further notice and checkpoints will remain in place for those wishing to enter or leave Hubei. 

3:58 a.m. ET, March 11, 2020

Pope Francis made special mention of prisoners in his prayers for those infected by the coronavirus

From CNN’s Livia Borghese in Rome

Pope Francis delivers his blessing as he recites the Angelus prayer in St. Peter's Square in this file photo from March 1.
Pope Francis delivers his blessing as he recites the Angelus prayer in St. Peter's Square in this file photo from March 1. Andrew Medichini/AP

Pope Francis has expressed his feeling of metaphorical closeness to all coronavirus patients, particularly those in jail, at the beginning of his daily mass that was held from his residence in Santa Marta on Wednesday.

“We continue to pray for the sick of this epidemic. And today in a special way I would like to pray for prisoners, our brothers and sisters imprisoned,” he said. “They suffer, and we must be close to them in our works for the Lord to help and comfort them in this difficult moment.”

Since Sunday, riots have broken out in 22 Italian prisons as inmates protested the new measures imposed by the government to fight the spread of the coronavirus. At least 11 inmates have died, according to the latest official statement from the justice minister.

3:45 a.m. ET, March 11, 2020

Bank of England slashes interest rates in emergency move related to coronavirus pandemic

From CNN Business' Julia Horowitz in London

The Bank of England has cut interest rates by half a percentage point in an emergency move to fight the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement, the central bank said that while the magnitude of the shock from the coronavirus remains "highly uncertain," economic activity is "likely to weaken materially in the United Kingdom over the coming months."

It said that slashing its main interest rate to 0.25% would "help to keep firms in business and people in jobs and help prevent a temporary disruption from causing longer-lasting economic harm."

Read more:

3:27 a.m. ET, March 11, 2020

Washington state will restrict gatherings of over 250 people in 3 counties, The Seattle Times reports

From CNN's Joe Sutton

Fans attend an MLS match between the Seattle Sounders and Chicago Fire on March 1 in Seattle.
Fans attend an MLS match between the Seattle Sounders and Chicago Fire on March 1 in Seattle. Ted S. Warren/AP

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to announce today that gatherings of more than 250 people in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties will be banned to help public health authorities stop the coronavirus from spreading further, according to The Seattle Times.

The measure will affect sporting events, concerts and cultural gatherings, but not retail stores, the newspaper reported. 

Washington is currently dealing with the most severe coronavirus outbreak in the United States. At least 273 patients have been identified and 24 people have died.

3:22 a.m. ET, March 11, 2020

India expands list of people who must self-quarantine upon arrival to the country

From CNN's Swati Gupta in New Delhi

India's Central Industrial Security Force personnel stand at the entrance of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata, India on March 7.
India's Central Industrial Security Force personnel stand at the entrance of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata, India on March 7. Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP/Getty Images

Indian authorities have issued a new travel advisory that requires any passengers who arrive in the country to self-quarantine for 14 days if they have visited China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Thailand, Singapore, Iran, Malaysia, France, Spain or Germany.

Fifty-six coronavirus cases have been identified in India as of Wednesday morning local time.

India has also suspended visas issued to nationals of several countries with large outbreaks in order to prevent importation of the virus.

Authorities announced that they would be suspending visas issued to nationals of Germany, France and Spain, if those visas were issued on or before March 11 and if the visa-holder has not yet entered India. The country had already enacted similar visa restrictions for Italian, Iranian, South Korean and Chinese nationals.

3:03 a.m. ET, March 11, 2020

Mongolia is temporarily closing its border with Russia due to the coronavirus

Mongolia is temporarily banning any travel into the country through its border with Russia, state news agency Montsame reported.

The country is also suspending all flights to and from Russia, Turkey and Kazakhstan, according to Montsame.

Mongolia reported its first novel coronavirus case yesterday.

2:47 a.m. ET, March 11, 2020

Players are pushing back after cancellation of the Ivy League basketball tournament

From CNN's Leah Asmelash

The Ivy League may have decided to cancel its basketball tournaments amid coronavirus concerns, but the players are not letting it go down without a fight.

In an announcement Tuesday, the League said its season-ending championship tournaments -- which help determine what teams attend the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball tournament -- would be canceled for both its men's and women's teams as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Princeton University's women's basketball team and Yale University's men's basketball team, both the regular season champions, became the automatic qualifiers for the NCAA tournaments as a result of the decision.

The decision resulted in immediate backlash from some players in the league, who created a petition on called "Reinstate the Ivy League Tournament."

Cody Manmiller, an athletic communications assistant at the University of Pennsylvania, confirmed to CNN that "the Penn Women's Basketball team created and wrote the petition with the support of multiple Ivy League teams."

"The hypocrisy of our Ivy League presidents is baffling and alarming," the petition, which as of Tuesday evening had garnered more than 8,000 signatures, reads. "Other conferences, such as the SEC and Pac-12, are still scheduled to host their men's basketball championship tournaments."

The petition's authors argue that the careers of the league's senior players unfairly got cut short. They point out that other sports, such as the Ivy League wrestlers, are continuing to compete and travel in spite of the virus.

"If it is deemed safe enough for teams to travel to higher level tournaments, then it should be safe enough for us to travel locally for the chance to compete," the petition states.

Read more:

2:30 a.m. ET, March 11, 2020

A conference in Boston was ground zero for a coronavirus outbreak in Massachusetts

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe

A Biogen building in Massachusetts is seen in this file photo from 2017.
A Biogen building in Massachusetts is seen in this file photo from 2017. Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images

Massachusetts' coronavirus cases have more than doubled and the state's governor declared a state of emergency after employees who attended a company meeting in Boston last month tested positive for the virus.

The state announced 51 new presumptive positive cases Tuesday that are awaiting confirmation by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The surge brings the total number of confirmed or presumptive positive cases in Massachusetts to 92.

Seventy of the cases are related to employees at Cambridge biotechnology company Biogen, state Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said.

Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency in response to the outbreak.

"The purpose of moving forward with these measures now is to act before the numbers increase to the point where the virus spread is severely impacting the commonwealth," Baker told reporters Tuesday, adding that a spike in cases could overwhelm the state's systems.

Read more:

2:17 a.m. ET, March 11, 2020

Researchers in Seattle repurposed a flu test and found community spread of coronavirus

From CNN's Jen Christensen, Ben Tinker & Arman Azad

A doctor in Seattle studying influenza hypothesized that the coronavirus had been spreading in Washington for days before anyone realized it, according to a New York Times report yesterday.

For weeks, states have raised concerns that there are not enough tests available, as international agencies like the World Health Organization warned that early testing and contact testing is paramount to halting the virus' spread.

According to the Times, Dr. Helen Y. Chu and her team, without government approval, re-purposed tests for influenza to instead look for coronavirus. The study found a positive test from a teen with no travel history to any area where there had been an outbreak, showing the coronavirus was spreading in the community earlier than officials thought.

Early this morning, the Seattle Flu Study tweeted a statement by Lead Principal Investigator Dr. Jay Shendure:

“Our researchers are deeply dedicated to keeping our community safe. In the face of this unprecedented health threat, there are times when we have all felt the need to move fast in an effort to save lives. We are actively working and have had good cooperation with local, state, and national health authorities on the response to COVID-19.
Our team is productively collaborating with state regulators and has identified a path forward that will allow us to continue testing. This collaboration will be crucial to helping us overcome the current challenge and putting in place a strong foundation for the future.”