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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1:47 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Britain unveils $400 billion economic package for struggling businesses

From CNN's Rob Picheta in London

The British government has promised to provide £330 billion ($400bn) in loans and guarantees to businesses, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to act like he is leading a “wartime government” and do “whatever it takes to support our economy.”

Business rates will be put on hold for a year, the chancellor Rishi Sunak added at a daily coronavirus press conference on Tuesday evening, and mortgage lenders will also offer a three month “mortgage holiday” for those struggling due to coronavirus.

Sunak added that he will talk with the UK's transport secretary to discuss an economic package for airlines and airports, which are struggling around the world as sweeping travel restrictions are put in place.

The finance minister said the pandemic has caused an “economic emergency” as well as a public health one, and Johnson added that, in addition to the “extreme” measures previously announced, “we may well have to go further and faster in the coming days.”

Johnson advised Britons to avoid pubs, restaurants and theaters, and said they should limit social contact on Monday. Earlier on Tuesday, the government also advised against non-essential foreign travel.  

But some have questioned why Britain has been slower to enact more draconian restrictions, as many European nations have.

Sunak said pubs, bars and theaters with insurance that cover pandemics will be allowed to make insurance claims against their policy. For those that aren’t covered, there will be a £25,000 cash grant per business to help “bridge this period” for the likes of shops, music venues and theaters. 

But he did not go as far as countries such as France, which earlier this week waived utility bills and rents for citizens struggling during the crisis.

1:57 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

UK may need to go "further and faster" in the coming days, prime minister says

From CNN’s Sarah Dean and Lauren Kent

Matt Dunham/Pool/AP
Matt Dunham/Pool/AP

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the UK may need to go “further and faster” in the coming days to battle coronavirus

Speaking during his daily address to the nation from Downing Street alongside Finance Minister Rishi Sunak, Johnson said: “Yes, this enemy can be deadly, but it is also beatable and we know how to beat it… if we follow scientific advice.”

“We have the resolve and resources to win the fight,” Johnson said. 

1:43 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Florida bans groups of 10 or more from beaches

Chris O'Meara/AP
Chris O'Meara/AP

Florida is barring groups of 10 or more people from beaches, Gov. Ron DeSantis said today. This was in response to recent spring break crowds on beaches in the state.

This follows US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

The governor added that a six-foot distance should be maintained between groups. 

While the decision on whether or not to close beaches is being left with local governments, DeSantis says, "It's our hope that these new restrictions will reduce the ability of folks to congregate in large numbers."

1:28 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Somalia confirms first coronavirus case 

From CNN's Radina Gigova

 Somalia has confirmed the country's first coronavirus case, according to the Ministry of Health. 

The person is a Somali citizen who tested positive for the virus in the capital Mogadishu, the ministry announced.

"We commend all medical practitioners across the globe working hard to counter the #CoronavirusPandemic," Somalia's President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo wrote on his Twitter on Monday.  

"I urge everyone to support all efforts and recommended medical measures to slow the spread of #COVID19 and keep the numbers low," Farmajo also wrote. 

1:16 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

CNN's Coronavirus: Fact vs Fiction podcast is sharing stories of Americans who tested positive

What does it feel like when someone contracts COVID-19 and is under quarantine?

CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta shares the stories of two Americans who tested positive in today's episode of the Coronavirus: Fact vs Fiction podcast.

You can listen to the latest episode here.

1:02 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Fauci says we won't know if the curve if flattening "for several weeks or maybe longer"

From CNN's Betsy Klein

The National Institutes of Health's Dr. Anthony Fauci provided an explanation for why we might not know whether we’re actually flattening the curve for several weeks of containment and mitigation measures. 

Fauci said that because the curve of those who have the virus will certainly continue to go up, it will be hard to tell immediately whether those measure are having an effect.

“It probably would be several weeks or maybe longer before we know whether we had an effect. And maybe, at the end of the day, we’ll see a curve that would’ve been way, way up. But I wouldn’t, like, put us to task every few days. ‘Well wait a minute, it’s going up, is it working or not?’ That would be really misleading if we do that,” he said.
1:00 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Top doctor says "it's possible" US could see peak in coronavirus cases in 45 days

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

Top US infectious disease doctor Anthony Fauci said at a news conference "it's possible" the country could see a peak in the number of cases in 45 days, around May 1.

"45 days is not unreasonable," Fauci said.

Fauci also added that officials talk more about a range than a specific date: "You have to be careful. When you get a number, you own the number. If the number does not come out then you are in trouble."

What's this about: Earlier today, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York said that he expects the peak to be in around 45 days, based on information he has received from experts. Cuomo said at that point the state will need as many as 110,000 hospital beds.


12:29 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Trump administration working to send checks directly to Americans

From CNN's John Harwood, Kevin Liptak, and Betsy Klein 

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

The Trump administration is working to send money directly to Americans in a bid to curb the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis.

“We’re looking at sending checks to Americans immediately,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters at the White House.

Mnuchin said the administration was looking at ways to provide the checks within the next two weeks.

He also said the administration will allow Americans to defer up to $1 million in payments to the Internal Revenue Service for 90 days.

Mnuchin said the IRS would not charge interest or penalties for the deferral. He said corporations could defer up to $10 million in IRS payments.

CNN’s John Harwood also asked President Donald Trump and Treasury Sec. Steve Mnuchin about the logistics of an economic stimulus idea that could give $1,000 checks to Americans, which is gaining some bipartisan support. 

Mnuchin expressed some support for the idea and it would be discussed during his Capitol Hill meetings.

“I think it’s clear we don’t need to send people who make a million dollars a year checks. But we like — that’s one of the ideas we like. We’re going to preview that today and then we’ll be talking about details afterwards,” Mnuchin said.

Trump chimed in, saying, “I think we’re going to do something that gets money to them as quickly as possible. That may not be an accurate way of doing it because obviously some people shouldn’t be getting checks for $1000. But we’ll have a pretty good idea by the end of the day what we’re going to be doing.”

12:34 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Over 70s should stop having Sunday lunch with their families, says UK’s top science adviser

From CNN's Tara John

Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance
Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images

Healthy people over the age of 70 should avoid crowded places and social gatherings -- even family Sunday lunches -- the UK’s chief scientific adviser said Tuesday as he clarified some of the government advice given to the British public the day before.

Sir Patrick Vallance told the House of Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee that everyone over 70 -- not just those with underlying health conditions -- should drastically change their daily routines.

“Avoid crowded spaces, avoid gatherings, don’t got to the club where you normally go to, reduce travel, try to avoid unnecessary travel, don’t [do] your usual things in terms of going to the shops unless you absolutely have to,” Vallance said.

Asked by the committee’s chairman, and former health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, whether people that age should avoid Sunday lunch with their grandchildren, Vallance said they should.

Giving evidence later, the chief executive of the National Health Service in England, Sir Stewart Stevens, said elective (non-urgent) operations would be suspended until April 15, or earlier, if hospitals could manage it, in order to free up capacity to deal with the expected spike in coronavirus cases.

Asked whether the country would have enough ventilators to treat the expected number of cases in the new set of modelling published by scientists at Imperial College London yesterday, Stevens demurred, saying that it would be necessary to wait and see what the real-life effects of the social distancing advice given by the UK government would be.