March 16 coronavirus news

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4:30 a.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Air New Zealand considers cutting jobs by 30% as PM Ardern warns of coronavirus's economic impact

From journalist Eric Cheung in Hong Kong

 An Air New Zealand plane is seen at Auckland Airport in New Zealand on Monday.
 An Air New Zealand plane is seen at Auckland Airport in New Zealand on Monday. Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Air New Zealand, the country's flagship carrier, warned Monday that it is considering cutting jobs by as much as 30%, according to an internal memo sent by CEO Greg Foran to staff members.

"One of the harsh realities we find ourselves facing is that we will require fewer Air New Zealanders as we move to grounding most of our international operations," read the notice, which was forwarded to CNN by the company's public relations team.

"Based on what we see today our 12,500 workforce will reduce by up to 30%," the memo said.
"To minimize the level of redundancies we are strongly encouraging staff to take annual leave, long service leave or leave without pay where practicable."

The airline added that it would be "unlikely" to fly the same capacity or number of customers in the next 12 months.

On Monday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also warned of a "significant" economic impact from the novel coronavirus outbreak during a press conference.

"The preliminary advice I have received from the Treasury this weekend is that the economic impact of the virus on New Zealand could be greater than the impact of the global financial crisis," she said.

As a precautionary measure, New Zealand will also cancel all public gatherings involving 500 or more people, with the exception of schools or universities, she announced.

3:01 a.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Wuhan health officials say novel coronavirus still "severe," urge citizens to exercise caution

From Alexandra Lin in Hong Kong

Wuhan, the Chinese city where the novel coronavirus was first identified, is still facing a "severe" epidemic, amid a continuation of locally transmitted cases, the city's municipal health commission said in a press conference Sunday.

Wuhan, which is home to an estimated 11 million people, has been on lockdown since January 23. It is considered to be the epicenter of the global pandemic.

“Although the number of new (daily) cases in Wuhan remains in the single digits, there are still cases in the community,” Zheng Yun, deputy director of Wuhan municipal health commission, said.

He added that there is still a risk of community infection, as some recent patients are believed to have contracted the virus in their neighborhoods, citing an epidemiological investigation.

Zheng reminded citizens who are relaxing vigilance to maintain cautious and avoid going out as much as possible.

2:32 a.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Celebrities come out to help encourage social distancing amid pandemic

Actor and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has joined several celebrities in urging people to take social distancing seriously amid the growing coronavirus pandemic.

In a video posted to his official Twitter account on Sunday night, Schwarzenegger showed himself enjoying a quiet dinner at home with his miniature horse and miniature donkey.

"So much more fun than going outside. No more restaurants, okay? No more restaurants, forget all that. Public gatherings, restaurants ... out the window. Stay home," he said.

Earlier in the day, singer Ariana Grande released a statement urging people not to take the pandemic "lightly." "Like your hip hop yoga class can ... wait I promise," she said on her official Twitter account.

Meanwhile, "Will and Grace" star Debra Messing urged any of her 630,000 Twitter followers not taking social distancing seriously to read a thread detailing patients' experiences while hospitalized on ventilators, the life-saving equipment required for some serious coronavirus cases.

2:28 a.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Just joining us? Here's a quick catch up

Workers prepare to spray disinfectant as a precaution against coronavirus in Seoul, South Korea on March 16.
Workers prepare to spray disinfectant as a precaution against coronavirus in Seoul, South Korea on March 16. Lee Jin-man/AP

The numbers: There have now been more reported cases of the novel coronavirus outside of mainland China than inside, according to figures from the World Health Organization and public health agencies tracked by CNN. The coronavirus has killed more than 6,400 worldwide, and infected over 169,000, according to an estimate from Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking cases reported by the WHO and additional sources.

China economy: The People's Bank of China has pumped 100 billion yuan ($14.3 billion) into the financial system by offering one-year medium-term lending facility (MLF) loans to banks. It comes as fresh data from China today showed the economy has been hit harder than expected by the coronavirus outbreak.

South Korea on guard: New coronavirus infections are showing a continuous slowdown but Kim Ganglip, deputy head of the Central Disaster Relief Headquarters, said people should continue to keep their guards up. South Korea also announced that it has expanded special immigration measures for people arriving from all of Europe.

Los Angeles restrictions: From midnight Sunday, all bars, nightclubs and restaurants will be closed in LA until March 31, the city's mayor Eric Garcetti announced in a public address.

Jack Ma sends help: The Chinese entrepreneur and founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba used his first tweet to post a photo of a massive donation of face masks and coronavirus testing kits. The donated goods are on their way to the US, Ma said on Twitter, courtesy of the Jack Ma Foundation.

Disney closures: All Disney stores in North America will close from March 17 and all Disney-owned and operated locations at Downtown Disney in Anaheim and Disney Springs in Orlando will be closed on March 17, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products said.

Peace Corps suspension: The US Peace Corps has decided to temporarily suspend all operations around the world and evacuate its volunteers as the coronavirus pandemic spreads.

2:04 a.m. ET, March 16, 2020

South Korea tightens restrictions on European travelers as coronavirus infection rate slows

From CNN's Yoonjung Seo in Seoul

An employee assists passengers at the Incheon International Airport on March 10 in Incheon, South Korea.
An employee assists passengers at the Incheon International Airport on March 10 in Incheon, South Korea. Ezra Acayan/Getty Images

The number of new coronavirus infections in South Korea is continuing to slow but the government has warned people to keep their guard up against further outbreaks.

Kim Ganglip, deputy head of the country's Central Disaster Relief Headquarters, said at a briefing today that the next two to three weeks were a "critical period" in the battle against the pandemic.

"We need to focus all our efforts to stop regional infections in the nation,” Kim told reporters, adding the government is particularly concerned about new imported cases.

To avoid further contamination, South Korea announced today that it has expanded special immigration measures for people arriving from all of Europe.

All European travelers will be required to go through temperature checks, a medical survey, and download an app so their temperature can be monitored daily.

All travelers are also required to submit their reachable phone numbers upon arrival.

There are more than 8,100 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in South Korea, according to the World Health Organization.

On Monday, the country reported 74 new cases. Among them, 35 were from Daegu --epicenter of the outbreak in South Korea -- 20 from Gyeonggi province, and six in Seoul.

2:02 a.m. ET, March 16, 2020

White House debunks fake text message claiming a national lockdown is imminent

The White House is seen in Washington, DC, on January 27.
The White House is seen in Washington, DC, on January 27. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

In an effort to shoot down rumors of imminent strict security measures in the US, circulating via text messages, the White House National Security Council put a statement on their official Twitter account.

"Text message rumors of a national quarantine are FAKE. There is no national lockdown. The CDC has and will continue to post the latest guidance on Covid-19," the statement said.

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

Biden and Sanders meet to debate amid US coronavirus epidemic

From CNN's Maeve Reston

Sarah Silbiger for CNN
Sarah Silbiger for CNN

The two top contenders for the 2020 Democratic nomination for President of the United States clashed on how best to tackle the coronavirus at a televised debate Sunday night.

Even from the beginning of the night the coronavirus epidemic was influencing the proceedings. Upon entering the stage, Biden, with a grin, offered his elbow as a greeting to Sanders before the two men took their place behind the podiums.

The two men were spaced more than six feet apart in keeping with the government's guidelines for social distancing.

Both men agreed that the government should cover not only the health care costs of those who get sick, but also any lost wages, missed rent or mortgage payments and childcare costs incurred as a result of the illness.

However that was as far as the two men agreed. While Biden proposed a rapid expansion in drive-through testing across the country, Sanders touted his plan for Medicare for All as a critical part of the safety net in the midst of this crisis.

"I want every person in this country to understand what when you get sick, you go to the doctor. When you get sick, if you have the virus, that will be paid for," Sanders said.

Read more:

2:02 a.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Cuba offers to receive British cruise ship stranded with coronavirus cases

From CNN's Patrick Oppmann in Havana

The Cuban government is willing to receive the MS Braemar cruise ship which has been searching for somewhere to dock after it was refused entry at multiple Caribbean ports. 

The transatlantic cruise ship is carrying more than 600 passengers with at least five confirmed coronavirus cases onboard.

In addition, 20 passengers and another 20 crew members, including a doctor, are in isolation after displaying influenza-like symptoms while traveling on the ship.

The cruise ship was refused docking in Barbados on Thursday and the Bahamas on Friday.

A diplomatic source in Cuba told CNN Sunday that Cuba and the United Kingdom had been engaging in discussions around the ship.

According to the source, the Cuban government "comprehends the difficult situation these passengers find themselves in."

The Cuban government has said it will allow the ship to dock in Cuba out of “humanitarian concerns” and the need for “a shared effort to confront and stop the spread of the pandemic.”

1:11 a.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Jack Ma tweets photo of donated masks and testing kits on their way to US

In this file photo, Jack Ma arrives for the "Tech For Good" meetup at Hotel Marigny in Paris on May 15, 2019.
In this file photo, Jack Ma arrives for the "Tech For Good" meetup at Hotel Marigny in Paris on May 15, 2019.  Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images

Jack Ma, Chinese entrepreneur and founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba, used his first tweet to post a photo of a massive donation of face masks and coronavirus testing kits.

The donated goods are on their way to the United States, Ma said on Twitter, courtesy of the Jack Ma Foundation.

"The first shipment of masks and coronavirus test kits to the US is taking off from Shanghai. All the best to our friends in America," Ma said in his very first post on his official Twitter account.

According to an earlier post from the foundation, the shipment included about 500,000 coronavirus testing kits and a million face masks.