March 12 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Sheena McKenzie and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 0206 GMT (1006 HKT) March 13, 2020
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9:23 a.m. ET, March 12, 2020

Princess Cruises stops trips on 18 ships for 60 days

The Grand Princess cruise ship, operated by Princess Cruises, is seen off the coast of San Francisco, California on March 8.
The Grand Princess cruise ship, operated by Princess Cruises, is seen off the coast of San Francisco, California on March 8. Credit: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Princess Cruises announced today it will voluntarily pause global operations for its 18 cruise ships for two months.

The company said it will offer guests the opportunity "to transfer 100% of the money paid for their cancelled cruise" to a future cruise.

Earlier today, Viking Cruises announced it is temporarily suspending cruise operations until May.

2:29 p.m. ET, March 12, 2020

South Africa announces — then backtracks — on case of community spread

From CNN’s David McKenzie in Johannesburg

South African health minister Zweli Mkhize retracted an earlier announcement of community spread of coronavirus. 

The minister said that a follow-up test showed that the person was, in fact, negative for the virus.

Earlier today, South Africa announced what it thought was its first case of local transmission of coronavirus.

9:09 a.m. ET, March 12, 2020

Listen to today's Coronavirus: Fact vs Fiction podcast

Each day, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is breaking down the latest news about the coronavirus on the Coronavirus: Fact vs Fiction podcast.

In today's episode, Gupta speaks with Dr. Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about the agency's response to the coronavirus and the outbreak's impact on health, travel and education.

You can listen to it here.

10:29 a.m. ET, March 12, 2020

Usher for 2 Broadway shows tests positive for coronavirus

From CNN's Taylor Romine

A part-time employee of two New York City theater groups who recently worked at Broadway shows has tested positive for coronavirus.

The employee — an usher who works for both the Shubert and Nederlander Organizations — is currently under quarantine, according to a statement from the companies.

The individual most recently worked at Shubert’s Booth Theatre Tuesday through Friday of last week during performances of "Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf."

The person also worked at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on Feb. 25 and March 1 when it was showing the musical "SIX." The Brooks Atkinson Theatre has been deep cleaned, according to the statement, provided by DKC/O&M public relations.

“Employees of the theaters and productions who may have been exposed were notified and advised to monitor their health diligently and follow best practices related to personal hygiene, as well as directed to stay at home if they are ill. In addition, we are urging any high-risk audience members who attended these performances in the past several days to follow similar guidance," the statement said.

The two shows are continuing with performances.

“This evening’s performances of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf at the Booth, SIX at the Brooks Atkinson, and all other Broadway shows have determined they will continue as scheduled – any ticketholder that prefers to attend a future performance will be provided the opportunity for an exchange at the point of purchase,” the companies said in a statement.

De Blasio: I don't want to see Broadway go dark

8:51 a.m. ET, March 12, 2020

Delta issues waivers for flights from Europe to the US

Passengers line up at a Delta Airlines desk at Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle airport in France on Thursday.
Passengers line up at a Delta Airlines desk at Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle airport in France on Thursday. Credit: Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images

Delta has waived change fees for customers traveling to, from or through Europe and the U.K. through May 31, the company said in a news release. 

This comes after President Trump's announcement that the US is cancelling travel from 26 European countries for the next 30 days, beginning Friday at midnight.

"The safety and health of our customers and employees is always our highest priority," the airline said.

8:55 a.m. ET, March 12, 2020

Top-flight Spanish football league suspended for at least two weeks

From CNN’s Patrick Sung and Aleks Klosok

Spain's top division La Liga soccer league has become the latest sports association to cancel play in a bid to stem the spread of the virus.

All football matches have been suspended for two weeks, the league's organizing body said in a statement Thursday.

The decision comes after Real Madrid put all of its football and basketball squad into quarantine, after one of the club's basketball players tested positive for coronavirus.

The football and basketball clubs share the same training facilities.

Players of Real Madrid stand on the pitch prior to a Liga match with Real Betis, in Seville, Spain, on March 8.
Players of Real Madrid stand on the pitch prior to a Liga match with Real Betis, in Seville, Spain, on March 8. Credit: Fran Santiago/Getty Images

8:46 a.m. ET, March 12, 2020

"This is unchartered territory": Ireland becomes latest European country to close schools

From CNN’s Sara Spary and Mia Alberti

Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks at Blair House in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.
Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks at Blair House in Washington, D.C. on Thursday. Credit: Niall Carson/Press Association/AP Images

Schools, colleges and childcare facilities will be closed in the Republic of Ireland from Friday as part of a nationwide effort to halt the spread of coronavirus, the country's Prime Minister Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Thursday.

The closures will also apply to cultural institutions and will remain in place until March 29.

Indoor gatherings of more than 100 people and outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people will also be canceled, he said at a press conference in Washington.

"We have not witnessed a pandemic of this nature in living memory," Varadkar said. "And this is unchartered territory for us."

Read the full story here.

8:38 a.m. ET, March 12, 2020

Ghost flights: Why our skies are full of empty planes

From CNN's Paul Sillers

There may be a run on toilet rolls and dry pasta, but few shoppers seem to be in a rush to buy plane tickets.

Growing anecdotal evidence -- if the #emptyplane and #emptyflight hashtags on Twitter and Instagram are a reliable barometer -- indicates there's no shortage of empty airline seats. It's one consequence of anxieties surrounding the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Hardy passengers still up for flying may be under the impression they're aboard the Mary Celeste, with tales of "ghost flights" (empty or near-empty planes) traversing the stratosphere -- even before US President Donald Trump's sudden restrictions on flights between Europe and the United States.

Crew and fuel are costly, and the environment plays a price, too. The reason airlines continue to operate these expensive flights, however, is because the industry is engaged in a slots game more high-stakes and lucrative than anything you'll find in Las Vegas.

Even when passengers are staying away, airlines still need to protect their slots: their scheduled time on valuable routes.

Read the full story here.

8:44 a.m. ET, March 12, 2020

European leaders "disapprove" of US travel ban

From CNN’s Mia Alberti in London

European Union leaders said Thursday they disapprove of President Trump’s decision to ban travel from Europe to the US amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

In a statement, the Presidents of the European Council and the European Commission, Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen, respectively, said that the outbreak is a “global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action.”

“The European Union disapproves of the fact that the US decision to impose a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation,” the statement read.

In the UK, Donald Trump’s decision was received with skepticism by Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who said there “isn’t evidence that interventions like closing borders or travel bans are going to have a material effect on the spread of infection.”

Speaking to the BBC, Sunak – effectively the country’s Finance Minister – suggested the UK was not considering a similar ban, saying all decisions “with regard to flight bans are always guided by the science.” 

Talking to Talk Radio, Sunak also said the ban “will have significant impact” in the UK’s economy but only “but temporarily.”

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, left, speaks with Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England in London, England, on March 11.
Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, left, speaks with Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England in London, England, on March 11. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/Pool/AFP/Getty Images