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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7:12 a.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Dow futures plunge 1,000 points after Fed cuts interest rate to zero

From CNN’s Rob McLean, Laura He and Julia Horowitz

Global stock markets plunged Monday as investors were unnerved by drastic action from the US Federal Reserve to cushion the blow from coronavirus and data showed the outbreak has caused an unprecedented economic collapse in China.

Markets were battered across Asia, with Australia's benchmark index crashing nearly 10% in its worst day on record. In Europe, London's FTSE 100 fell 7% in early trading, while France's CAC 40 and Germany's DAX dropped roughly 9%. 

A view of digital market boards at the Australian Stock Exchange in Sydney, Australia, on Monday.
A view of digital market boards at the Australian Stock Exchange in Sydney, Australia, on Monday. Credit: James Gourley/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

US markets were poised to suffer heavy losses. Dow futures were last down 1,041 points, or about 4.5%. S&P 500 futures slumped 4.8%, while Nasdaq futures shed 4.5%. There are now more than 3,000 cases of the novel coronavirus in the United States, according to government agencies and the CDC.

Investors bailed out of stocks despite a major intervention by the US Federal Reserve on Sunday. The central bank slashed rates to close to zero at an emergency meeting, and said it would purchase another $700 billion worth of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities.

The rate cut is designed to prevent the economic shock leading to the kind of credit crunch and financial market disruptions that occurred during the global financial crisis -- the last time the Fed cut rates all the way to the bottom. 

"I don't think [the Fed] would have done this unless they felt the financial markets were at significant risk of freezing up tomorrow. They're very concerned the financial markets won't work. So I don't know how the markets take solace in this," Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics, told CNN Business.

On Monday, airline stocks were badly hit as they announced waves of flight cancellations in response to global travel restrictions. Air France KLM opened 12% lower and IAG, owner of British Airways, fell 16%.

Brent crude, the global benchmark for oil, declined 6% to $31.83 per barrel.

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6:24 a.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Russia to shut Belarus border in one of several "proactive steps"

From CNN’s Nathan Hodge in Moscow

Russia will close its border with neighboring Belarus because of the coronavirus pandemic, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said Monday.

Mishustin said in a meeting that the decision to prevent the movement of people across the border was one of several “proactive steps” the Russian government was taking to combat the spread of the virus.

“People all over the world are being forced to change their usual way of life,” he said. “The proactive measures that we took back in February of this year allowed us to seriously limit the spread of coronavirus in Russia. We must do everything so the situation does not develop as it has in other countries, and we are consistently, depending on the spread of the pandemic, closing our borders.”

Russia moved to close its lengthy border with China as coronavirus spread in Asia. Russia has 63 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University, and Belarus has 27.

6:12 a.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Two US ER doctors in critical condition with coronavirus

From CNN's Alta Spells

Two emergency doctors in the US are in a critical condition after they were infected with the coronavirus, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).

One doctor is in his 40s in the state of Washington, the second is a 70-year-old from New Jersey.

The physician in Paterson, NJ, leads his institution’s emergency preparedness and was admitted to the hospital several days ago with upper respiratory problems. He remains in isolation in its intensive care unit.

ACEP President William Jaquis said: “I am deeply saddened by this news, but not surprised. As emergency physicians, we know the risks of our calling. We stand united with our colleagues and our thoughts and prayers for a full and speedy recovery are with each of them and their families.

"It is my hope that these colleagues and their cases serve as a reminder to each of us to stay vigilant. This virus is dangerous, and its impact is still unfolding," Jaquis added.

"As emergency physicians, we answer the call to care for our most vulnerable, even at great personal risk. Knowing that, I urge each of you to meticulously follow the recommended precautions to protect yourself."

6:00 a.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Kennedy Space Center closes to visitors after coronavirus outbreak

From CNN's Alta Spells

People visit the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Cape Canaveral, Florida in August 2019.
People visit the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Cape Canaveral, Florida in August 2019. Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida has temporarily closed following the novel coronavirus outbreak, the complex announced on its website.

No reservations or bookings will be accepted while the center is closed, but daily admission tickets for dates from March 16 until the facility reopens will be refunded. 

Chief Operating Officer Therrin Protze said in an accompanying letter: "When it is deemed safe for guests to return, the entire facility will be cleaned and sanitized prior to re-opening. This will include Kennedy Space Center Tour buses, all attractions, eateries and theaters at the main campus and at the Apollo/Saturn V Center."

No reopening date was provided. 

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.