March 16 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 10:14 p.m. ET, March 16, 2020
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1:41 p.m. ET, March 16, 2020

First participant in coronavirus vaccine trial given dose

From CNN’s Michael Nedelman

A novel coronavirus vaccine trial in the US has now given a dose to its first participant, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases announced Monday.

The study aims to enroll a total of 45 healthy adults over a six-week time frame. Each participant will receive two injections about a month apart in varying doses. 

The study, which is a Phase I trial, is meant to establish that the vaccine is safe and induces a desired response from participants' immune systems. Proving that the vaccine is effective in preventing COVID-19 infection, however, will require follow-up studies involving many more participants, which will take many more months, experts say.

“Finding a safe and effective vaccine to prevent infection with [the novel coronavirus] is an urgent public health priority,” NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a statement Monday. “This Phase 1 study, launched in record speed, is an important first step toward achieving that goal.”

The trial is funded by NIAID and run out of the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. The vaccine, which uses genetic material called messenger RNA, was developed by NIAID scientists in collaboration with the biotech company Moderna.

The agency credited the speed with which it stood up a Phase I trial to its prior studies on related coronaviruses SARS and MERS. Scientists had previously worked on an experimental MERS vaccine targeting a protein on the virus' surface, which gave them a "head start for developing a vaccine candidate to protect against COVID-19," the statement said.

1:40 p.m. ET, March 16, 2020

World Health Organization's new coronavirus respond fund raised nearly $19 million so far

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Since the World Health Organization launched its COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund on Friday, more than 110,000 people have contributed almost $19 million to the fund, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press briefing on Monday.

"We’re grateful to everyone who has contributed," Tedros said

He continued: "These funds will help to buy diagnostic tests, supplies for health workers and support research and development.”

1:38 p.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Flights and trains suspended between Portugal and Spain

From CNN's Mia Alberti in Lisbon

Portugal and Spain have agreed to suspend all air and rail travel between the two countries.

The measure was announced by Portuguese Interior Minister Eduardo Cabrita on Monday, and it follows a previous decision to close the land border between the two countries. 

The measure will start at 7 p.m. ET on Monday and last at least until April 15. The decision seeks to stop the spread of the coronavirus outbreak in the region.

1:31 p.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Trump urges governors to secure additional medical equipment on their own

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

President Trump urged governors on a call today to try to secure additional medical equipment on their own without waiting for the federal government to intervene, though he did say they would try to help. 

"We will be backing you, but try getting it yourselves," Trump said on the call, according to a person familiar.

He was discussing what health experts say is a serious need for more respirators and ventilators to deal with the influx of coronavirus patients.

1:29 p.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Here's what the UK is telling its citizens about self-quarantining

From CNN’s Lauren Kent and Sarah Dean in London

The UK government is now advising people to stay at home for 14 days instead of seven days if they – or anyone in their household — has coronavirus symptoms: a new persistent cough or fever.

“If one person in the household has symptoms, the whole household should stay at home,” the UK’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said.

He reassured the nation that “the chances of dying from coronavirus is very low” and that “some people will get it and will have no symptoms at all."

“For those that do have symptoms the majority will be mild and be able to managed at home,” Whitty said. 

Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance said they are focused on delaying the spread of coronavirus in the community and keeping people safe.

He said people in the most vulnerable groups should follow social distancing measures for “12 weeks or so.”

“These measures have a big effect. This is not a series of small interventions. This could have a dramatic effect to reduce the peak and to reduce deaths,” Vallance said. 

The officials comments came at a news conference alongside Prime Minister Boris Johnson who acknowledged people would question why such “draconian” measures hadn’t been introduced sooner but he said they were part of a gradual plan.

2:43 p.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Hungary will close its borders to foreigners at midnight

From CNN's Milena Veselinovic

Beginning at midnight tonight, people who do not have Hungarian citizenship will not be allowed to enter the territory of Hungary, the country's international communication office tells CNN. 

"Immediate family members of Hungarian citizens, if they hold a residency permit, will be allowed to enter the country," the communication office told CNN via email. 

The number of people infected with coronavirus in Hungary is 39, according to the Hungarian government. 

1:16 p.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Here’s the latest on the coronavirus situation in the Arab world

From CNN's Tamara Qiblawi

Arab countries are scrambling to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak in the crisis-ridden region, taking sweeping measures to slow the spread of the virus, and trying to avoid an Iran-like outbreak.

Here's what we know:

Saudi Arabia: The government has partially shut shopping malls, banned eating and drinking inside restaurants and cafes, and closed public spaces. Apart from Saudi nationals, passengers who have transited through or have been in Bahrain, China, Taiwan, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Kenya, South Korea, Kuwait, Lebanon, Macau, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Somalia, South Sudan, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Turkey or the United Arab Emirates in the past 14 days are not allowed to enter.

The United Arab Emirates: The country has suspended tourist visas and cultural activities, and the country has taken a series of measures to promote social distancing, including the closure of bars, clubs and lounges in the country’s commercial hub, Dubai. 

Qatar: Only nationals are permitted entry into the country. The gas-rich state is largely composed of expatriates, with Qataris making up a minority of the population.

Kuwait: Last week, the country closed its borders after seeing a surge in reported cases that originated in Iran. Social media videos showed Kuwaiti mosque leaders urging believers to “pray at home” through megaphones. 

Lebanon: The government has announced a two-week lockdown, banning public and private gatherings and closing all commercial companies, except for those that produce food. The country, which is also embroiled in its worst economic crisis since its civil war, has closed aerial, naval and land borders.  

Iraq: Authorities announced a six-day curfew on Sunday, prompting people to throng supermarkets and stockpile on essential goods. The curfew is set to begin on late Tuesday.

Egypt: The World Health Organization has praised the country’s coronavirus response. Authorities have been “very well guided by the World Health Organization -- they practiced well in order to contain the clusters from the beginning of the occurrence.” 

Morocco: The country’s foreign ministry announced on Sunday that it would suspend all international flights to and from its territory “until further notice.” That move has reportedly left a number of tourists stranded in the country, considered a global tourist hotspot. 

1:06 p.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Veterans Affairs reports its first coronavirus death

From CNN's Zachary Cohen 

The Department of Veterans Affairs has confirmed its first coronavirus-related death. It also reported an increase in the number of confirmed/presumed positive cases from 16 to 30.

The patient died two days ago at a facility in Portland, Oregon, according to a department spokesperson.

“A Veteran patient in their 70s died March 14 at VA Portland Health Care System due to complications from Coronavirus (COVID-19).  This case was previously reported as a presumptive positive in an earlier case count," VA spokesperson Christina Mandreucci told CNN.

1:09 p.m. ET, March 16, 2020

UK's Boris Johnson advises people avoid all unnecessary social contact

From CNN’s Sarah Dean in London 


UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged people to stop all non-essential contact with others and stop all unnecessary travel.

The new advice is based on the fact the UK is “now approaching the fast growth part of the upward curve” in coronavirus cases and “without drastic action cases could double every five to six days." 

“To slow the spread in London it is important Londoners pay special attention to what we are saying,” Johnson said.

“We need people to start working from home wherever they possibly can,” he explained.

Johnson also urged people to avoid pubs, clubs and theaters.