March 16 coronavirus news

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6:04 a.m. ET, March 16, 2020

UK's coronavirus response sparks backlash in Asia

Chinese state media has criticized the UK and other Western nations' response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, alleging they have adopted a policy of "total surrender."

In several articles over the weekend, Chinese state-run tabloid Global Times questioned the UK's decision to not introduce stricter social distancing measures -- unlike Italy, France, Germany and Spain.

A member of Spanish Military Emergency Unit (UME) stands guard outside a train station in Madrid, Spain, on March 15.
A member of Spanish Military Emergency Unit (UME) stands guard outside a train station in Madrid, Spain, on March 15. Credit: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

UK government ministers estimate that the outbreak may not peak until 14 weeks from now and have argued that it would be detrimental to implement such measures at this stage of the outbreak.

"Such a laissez-faire mindset and lax measures are considered extremely irresponsible and risk causing a rebound in China due to the growing number of imported infections," one article in Global Times said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, center, speaks alongside Chief Medical Officer for England, Chris Whitty, left, and Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance during a news conference addressing the government's response to the novel coronavirus outbreak in London on March 12.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, center, speaks alongside Chief Medical Officer for England, Chris Whitty, left, and Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance during a news conference addressing the government's response to the novel coronavirus outbreak in London on March 12. Credit: Simon Dawson/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Second wave: There are growing fears in Asia of the possibility of a second wave of infections from imported cases.

Undoing the work: Asian countries including China, South Korea, and Singapore have seen caseloads stabilize in recent weeks, thanks largely to a combination of aggressive containment and social distancing measures. But a rise in infections linked to overseas travel has led to concerns that those sacrifices could be undone.

Workers prepare to disinfect a neighborhood in Seoul, South Korea, on Sunday.
Workers prepare to disinfect a neighborhood in Seoul, South Korea, on Sunday. Credit: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Stricter measures: Governments across the region are now stepping up quarantine and travel restrictions. From Monday, all overseas travelers arriving in the Chinese capital Beijing will be sent to quarantine facilities for 14 days at their own cost, according to state media. And from March 19, Hong Kong will expand it 14-day mandatory self-quarantine to include the UK, alongside 30 other countries and regions.

Singapore has also had success at containing the virus. Speaking at a news conference on Sunday, Singapore’s Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said the city state's concern with cases in countries such as the UK and Switzerland is that it "isn’t just about the numbers."

"It is that these countries have abandoned any measure to contain or restrain the virus,” Wong said. “If there’s no attempt to contain, we estimate the number of cases in these countries to rise significantly in the coming days and weeks.”

On Friday, the World Health Organization's director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Europe had become the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. "More cases are now being reported every day than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic," he said.

Read more here

5:43 a.m. ET, March 16, 2020

What are the symptoms of the novel coronavirus? What should I do if I think I have it?

From CNN's Faith Karimi

A notice instructs people experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus not to enter St. Mary's Hospital in London, England, on March 11. The hospital houses a dedicated 'coronavirus pod' isolation unit for symptomatic patients.
A notice instructs people experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus not to enter St. Mary's Hospital in London, England, on March 11. The hospital houses a dedicated 'coronavirus pod' isolation unit for symptomatic patients. Credit: David Cliff/NurPhoto/Getty Images

As the number of coronavirus cases grows globally, many people will be concerned that they or their family members may have caught the disease.

In most cases, the coronavirus makes people sick, usually with a mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illness, similar to a common cold.

Its symptoms include a runny nose, cough, sore throat, headache and a fever that can last for a couple of days.

For those with a weakened immune system, the elderly and the very young, there's a chance the virus could cause a lower, and much more serious, respiratory tract illness like a pneumonia or bronchitis.

If you want to protect yourself, there's no vaccine yet and may not be for many months.

In the meantime, you may be able to reduce your risk of infection by avoiding people who are sick. Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and disinfect the objects and surfaces you touch.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Awareness is also key. If you are sick and have reason to believe it may be coronavirus, you should let a health care provider know and seek treatment early.

5:20 a.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Restaurant chain Chick-fil-a is temporarily closing dining room seating

A sign at a Chick-Fil-A in New York informs customers of limited dining room capacity, on March 14.
A sign at a Chick-Fil-A in New York informs customers of limited dining room capacity, on March 14. Credit: David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

Chick-fil-a is temporarily closing its dining room seating to help limit person-to-person contact amid the coronavirus pandemic, the restaurant chain announced in a post on its website today.

Customers will still be able to use drive-thru services and, in some locations, takeout, delivery and mobile order options will still be available. 

The restaurant did not say when the dining room service might resume, but thanked customers for their patience.  

"Our highest priority continues to be the health and well-being of everyone who comes into our restaurants," Chick-fil-a said in the statement.

5:10 a.m. ET, March 16, 2020

High-ranking Iranian cleric dies from the coronavirus

From CNN's Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran and Hira Humayun in Atlanta

Iranian cleric Ayatollah Hashem Bathaie Golpayegani has died after being infected by the coronavirus, state news agency IRNA said today. 

He was a high-ranking clergyman and one of the 88 members of the Assembly of Experts, a key government body of top clergymen which determines Iran’s Supreme Leader.

Golpayegani was hospitalized in Qom on Saturday.

Several political and religious figures have been infected by the coronavirus in Iran. Some have died, including newly-elected female politician Fatemeh Rahbar.

Iran has recorded nearly 14,000 infections and 724 deaths from the coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization.

5:00 a.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Beijing is promoting traditional medicine as a 'Chinese solution' to coronavirus. Not everyone is on board

From CNN's Nectar Gan and Yong Xiong

Xiong Qingzhen, a drone engineer in the central Chinese metropolis of Wuhan, spent more than two weeks in a makeshift hospital in February receiving treatment for Covid-19, the respiratory disease causing a global health crisis.

Every morning and evening, the 38-year-old was handed a bag of brown soup -- a traditional Chinese remedy blended from over 20 herbs, including ephedra, cinnamon twigs and licorice root.

But unlike most patients around him, Xiong was skeptical of its efficacy and refused to drink it.

"In my opinion, it is a sheer placebo," Xiong said.

The "lung-clearing and detoxing soup," as the herbal compound he was given is called, was part of the Chinese government's push to use Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in the fight against the novel coronavirus outbreak.

As scientists race to find a cure and vaccine, China is increasingly turning to its traditional remedies. As of late last month, more than 85% of all coronavirus patients in China -- about 60,000 people -- had received herbal remedies alongside mainstream antiviral drugs, according to the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Read the full article here.

4:56 a.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Coronavirus outbreak in France is "very worrying," top health official says

From CNN's Barbara Wojazer in Paris

The empty Louvre Museum entrance is pictured on March 15 in Paris, France.
The empty Louvre Museum entrance is pictured on March 15 in Paris, France. Credit: Veronique de Viguerie/Getty Images

The situation in France is "deteriorating very quickly," the head of the country's public health authority said in a radio interview this morning.

Jerome Salomon said that the coronavirus epidemic was "very quick," with the number of cases currently doubling "every three days."

"The epidemic in France is very worrying," he said. "The situation concerns children as well as elders.”

Salomon did specify that there were relatively few cases concerning children.

"We can all counter the epidemic by respecting the measures, the barrier measures that French people know but that they’re not applying now," he said.

French measures: France has closed restaurants, cafes, cinemas and clubs, and issued a ban on large gatherings to contain the spread of the virus. More than half of the country's 300 coronavirus patients in intensive care are under the age of 60, Salomon said on Saturday.

There are more than 5,300 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in France, including 127 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

4:39 a.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Macron to speak with Merkel and EU officials on Monday morning

From CNN's Barbara Wojazer in Paris

Some of the EU's top leaders will be holding a meeting today about the coronavirus pandemic that is spreading rapidly across Europe.

French President Emmanuel Macron will be discussing the coronavirus outbreak with German chancellor Angela Merkel, European Council President Charles Michel and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen on Monday at 5 a.m. ET, the Elysee Palace announced. 

France and Germany have both seen large outbreaks of the coronavirus, with more than 5,000 people infected in each country.

In total, six of the 10 countries worst affected by the pandemic are in Europe.

4:29 a.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Trump says the pandemic crisis was "unforeseen" -- but lots of people foresaw it

Analysis from CNN's Daniel Dale

President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference at the White House on March 15.
President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference at the White House on March 15. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump has repeatedly described the coronavirus outbreak in the United States as a problem that nobody anticipated.

The crisis is "an unforeseen problem" that "came out of nowhere," Trump said on March 6.
"We're having to fix a problem that, four weeks ago, nobody ever thought would be a problem," he said on March 11. "It's something that nobody expected," he said again on March 14.

Trump's attempt to improve perceptions of his response by depicting the pandemic as a shock to everyone is just one of numerous ways he has dishonestly described the crisis.

Trump claimed Saturday that the situation has been "urgent for me" from the very beginning, citing his late-January decision to restrict travel from China.

But Trump downplayed the severity of the issues facing the US long after that -- even as experts were issuing the warnings Trump is now suggesting did not happen.

Read the full analysis here.

4:23 a.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Airlines announce massive cutbacks to flights amid coronavirus pandemic

Air France-KLM and IAG, owner of British Airways and Iberia, have both announced major cutbacks of flights in the coming weeks and months as borders shut and travel stops worldwide.

Air France-KLM told CNN today it would be reducing its flights by 70% to 80% over the next two weeks. This will mean Air France will ground all of its Airbus 380 and Boeing 747 fleet, the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, IAG said it plans to reduce flight capacity by at least 75% during April and May, due to the coronavirus

The airline said travel restrictions and advisories had a “significant and increasingly negative impact on the demand for global air traffic on almost all routes.”

IAG said it will take further action to reduce expenses such as grounding aircraft, cutting spending, freezing hiring and reducing working hours.