March 17 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes and Jack Guy, CNN

Updated 0220 GMT (1020 HKT) March 18, 2020
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6:32 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Coronavirus is now in all 50 states

From CNN's Dave Alsup

Coronavirus is now reported to be in all 50 US states after West Virginia confirmed its first case Tuesday .

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced at a news conference Tuesday that the state had a case of coronavirus.


6:00 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Gambia reports first case of coronavirus

From CNN’s Jackie Castillo in Atlanta

Gambia announced its first confirmed coronavirus case in a short tweet from the Health Ministry.

The ministry did not provide additional details only stating more information will be released at another time.

5:59 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

US-Guatemala asylum agreement suspended over coronavirus

From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez 

An asylum agreement between the United States and Guatemala was temporarily suspended out of caution over coronavirus, Guatemala’s government announced Tuesday, a setback for the Trump administration which has increasingly relied on its accord with the country to curb asylum. 

The move comes a day after Guatemala's president Alejandro Giammattei said the country was closing its border in an attempt to prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

Guatemala’s ministry of foreign affairs also said US deportation flights of Guatemalans were canceled Tuesday. 

DHS did not respond to CNN’s request for comment. 

5:57 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

UK police may detain "infectious" persons under new coronavirus "emergency bill" proposals

From CNN's Mia Alberti in Lisbon

Proposed emergency legislation to tackle coronavirus in the UK will allow police and immigration officials to detain a person who is, or might be "infectious," according to the government’s website.

“Public support and compliance is crucial and we are grateful for the flexibility people have shown, but we need to ensure police and immigration officers have the authority to enforce these measures where necessary. Therefore, the bill will enable the police and immigration officers to detain a person, for a limited period, who is, or may be, infectious and to take them to a suitable place to enable screening and assessment,” an outline of the "coronavirus bill" on the UK government websites said.

This is a step up from the March 3 government guidelines in which authorities could only detain those not respecting mandated quarantines. The bill will also enable UK Border Force to temporarily suspend operations at airports or transport hubs "if there are insufficient resources to maintain border security."

According to the UK government, the bill also increases the protections for health professionals and independent workers. It will be introduced to Parliament this week.

It will allow "recently retired NHS staff and social workers to return to work" without any impact in their pensions, reduce paperwork to allow quicker discharges, insure health professionals working outside their area of expertise and allow volunteers to pause their normal jobs up to four weeks, the government website said.

"This could benefit more than 3 million people who already volunteer in health and care settings and bolster the NHS’s capacity to respond to the virus," the outline said. 

Independent workers in self-isolation without symptoms since day one will also be able to access statutory sick pay. 

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the new measures “will only be used when it is absolutely necessary and must be timed to maximize their effectiveness, but crucially they give the government the powers it needs to protect lives."

The legislation will be limited – for 2 years – and not all of these measures will come into force immediately, the website said.

"By planning for the worst and working for the best we will get through this," Hancock said in a statement.

The UK’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said the UK's approach to COVID-19 "has and will remain driven by the scientific and clinical evidence."

6:16 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

British-Iranian mother released from Iranian prison for 2 weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak

From CNN’s Hande Atay Alam in Atlanta 

A person holds up a photo of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe during a vigil in London, England on January 16, 2017.
A person holds up a photo of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe during a vigil in London, England on January 16, 2017. Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian mother jailed in Iran on espionage charges, has been released from prison in an effort to control the countrywide spread of coronavirus on Tuesday, according to the Free Nazanin campaign’s statement. 

According to a family statement, Nazanin believed that she had contracted coronavirus in Evin Prison last month. Although Iranian authorities have not tested her, she described her symptoms as those reported of the coronavirus, her family reported. Iran’s Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaeili said that Nazanin is “in good health” during a press conference on state TV on March 3.

The Nazanin campaign statement said: “Unfortunately, Nazanin will be exceptionally required to wear an ankle tag during the furlough, which her parents have now hired from the authorities. Nazanin’s movements will be restricted to 300m from her parents’ home.” 

“This makes her release more comparable to house arrest than the standard furlough arrangement that has been granted to other prisoners in Evin this week,” the statement also said. 

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, now 42, was arrested in 2016. The Iranian government accused her of working with organizations allegedly attempting to overthrow the regime. She was sentenced to five years in jail. Her family and her employer, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, deny the allegations.

5:49 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

The PGA Championship has been postponed

From CNN's Kevin Dotson

TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, California.
TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, California. Gary Kellner/PGA of America/Getty Images

The 2020 PGA Championship, the second "major" on the golf calendar, has been postponed, according to a statement from the PGA of America.

The tournament had been scheduled to take place May 11-17 at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, California.

PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh said organizers are working with the PGA Tour to find an alternate date to hold the tournament.

The postponement of the PGA Championship follows the decision by Augusta National Golf Club last week to postpone the Masters, the season's first major.

5:34 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

NBA stars are encouraging people to reduce the risk of coronavirus

NBA players and legends are sharing ways to combat the spread of coronavirus.

In a series of public service announcements, they urged people to practice social distancing and good hygiene.

Here's what some of them had to say:

Golden State Warriors' star Stephen Curry

NBA legend Magic Johnson

Atlanta Hawks' Trae Young

5:29 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

French prime minister says UK must up its coronavirus quarantine measures

From Pierre Bairin in Paris

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe speaks on French state TV channel France 2.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe speaks on French state TV channel France 2. Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has warned the UK must up its coronavirus quarantine measures, in a further sign that some European leaders are uneasy with the UK’s approach to reducing the spread of virus. 

Speaking on French state TV channel France 2, Philippe said: “There are confinements in Italy, in Spain. But for instance, if the UK continues not to apply any measures, we will find it difficult to accept British nationals on our territory.”

His comments came after European Council President Charles Michel announced EU member states had agreed to reinforce EU external borders by applying a coordinated temporary restriction of non-essential travel to the EU for a period of 30 days. The ban applies to people traveling into Europe from countries that are not part of European Union, the EFTA (European Free Trade Association) area, or the UK. The UK currently still has freedom of movement within the EU until the end of the Brexit transition period.

However, under EU law, EU citizens or members of their family may be expelled from the host Member State on grounds of public policy, public security or public health.

“The President has fought hard with the European authorities to make a coherent response possible,” Philippe told France 2. “On the issue of containment, it may make sense to do sanitary border control. Closing borders completely also means making it more complicated to get the products we need.

“It is not illegitimate to re-establish health controls at borders. We must ensure that entry into the European area is controlled,” Philippe added.

5:14 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

South Carolina will close bars and some restaurant services on Wednesday

From CNN's Jamiel Lynch

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster has issued an executive order closing all South Carolina restaurants and bars except for delivery and takeout, he announced at a news conference.

McMaster is also asking the Department of Revenue to extend state tax deadlines until June 1st for filing and payments.