March 17 coronavirus news

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11:44 p.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Qantas slashes international flights by 90% because of growing coronavirus restrictions

From CNN's Sherisse Pham

Two passengers walk past a Qantas jet at the International terminal at Sydney Airport on March 10 in Sydney, Australia.
Two passengers walk past a Qantas jet at the International terminal at Sydney Airport on March 10 in Sydney, Australia. Mark Evans/Getty Images

Qantas Airways is slashing international flights by 90% until at least May, as coronavirus travel restrictions hammer bookings.

The Australian carrier said on Tuesday that the drastic reduction is because severe quarantine requirements are curbing people’s ability to travel overseas.

Qantas will also cut domestic capacity by about 60%.

An industry in crisis: The unprecedented travel restrictions and plunge in demand has prompted the worst aviation crisis in history. A growing number of countries, including the United States and Canada, are closing their borders to international travelers in an effort to contain the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Government officials around the world are also urging citizens to avoid any non-essential travel and advising people to cancel or postpone events, such as concerts, sports, and even weddings. 

Billions at stake: Global airlines stand to lose $113 billion in sales if the coronavirus continues to spread, according to the latest assessment from the International Air Transport Association.

The massive losses are prompting industry bodies to call on governments to help.

"Coordinated government and industry action is needed — now — if catastrophe is to be avoided," CAPA Centre for Aviation, a consultancy, said in a report published Monday.

The firm said most airlines in the world will be bankrupt by the end of May unless governments intervene. "Cash reserves are running down quickly as fleets are grounded, and what flights there are operate much less than half full.”

Last month, when the virus was still largely affecting the Asia-Pacific region, Qantas had already warned the coronavirus outbreak could reduce its profit by up to 150 million Australian dollars ($91.7 million) in the second half of its fiscal year.

The carrier's dramatic cuts to international flights on Tuesday is up from the 23% reduction it had announced just last week -- Qantas said that the plunge in demand and flight cuts will be felt across the business. The carrier, which employs 30,000 people, said it will roll out paid and unpaid leave. The company had previously said its CEO and chairman would receive three months of no pay.

11:37 p.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Microsoft closes all stores globally

Microsoft is closing all of its stores globally, effective immediately, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

"We know families, remote workers and businesses are under unique pressure at this time, and we are still here to serve you online at Microsoft.com," said Microsoft Store in a statement on Twitter.

11:28 p.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Just joining us? Here's the latest on the coronavirus pandemic

The Oculus at the World Trade Center's transportation hub is sparsely occupied, Monday, March 16 in New York.
The Oculus at the World Trade Center's transportation hub is sparsely occupied, Monday, March 16 in New York. AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

The numbers: As of 4 p.m in Geneva on Monday, the World Health Organization has recorded 168,019 coronavirus cases and 6,610 deaths globally.

A separate tally from the Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking cases reported by the WHO and additional sources, puts the number of cases at over 181,500 with at least 7,100 deaths. Nearly 79,000 patients have recovered around the world, according to Johns Hopkins.

China: The country where the pandemic began reported 21 new confirmed cases of coronavirus -- all but one imported from overseas -- and 13 new deaths by end of day on Monday, according to China’s National Health Commission.

This brings the death toll in mainland China to 3,226 and total confirmed cases to 80,881. Some 68,679 patients in mainland China have recovered and been discharged from hospitals.

World in lockdown: Countries all over the world have closed borders, enacted restrictions on travel and daily life, issued bans on public gatherings and told citizens to work from home or not to leave the house.

US: Cases have surpassed 4,400 and at least 86 people have died. The White House recommends people avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, and a growing number of US states and cities have announced widespread mandatory closures as part of attempts to curb the spread of the virus.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said today that the state's health director will order presidential primary polls closed tomorrow "as a health emergency."

Asia: In response to several cases of the virus imported to the city, Hong Kong will require all arriving travelers from foreign countries to be quarantined for 14 days at home.

Meanwhile, countries in Southeast Asia are issuing far-reaching restrictions as cases in the region jump. Malaysia will impose a nationwide movement control order, banning citizens from traveling abroad, banning all religious, sports, social, and cultural activities, while foreign tourists and visitors will be restricted from entering the country.

The Philippines placed half of the country into lockdown on Monday, with all public transportation and offices shut and people told to stay in their homes.

Europe: The European Commission will introduce temporary restrictions on non-essential travel to the EU.

Germany, Spain, France, Russia and Hungary have closed or will close their land borders, while some 47 million Spanish residents have been banned from leaving their homes.

Restrictions on public life have been imposed in countries including France and Germany. The UK has urged people to stop all non-essential contact with others and stop all unnecessary travel.

11:20 p.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Ohio will close its polls during tomorrow's presidential primary

Mario Tama/Getty Images
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said today that the state's health director will order the polls closed tomorrow "as a health emergency."

Ohio's presidential primary had been set for tomorrow. DeWine had urged the primary to be postponed until a later date, but a judge rejected the petition earlier this evening.

The secretary of state "will seek remedy through the courts to extend voting options" tomorrow while the polls are closed, DeWine said in a statement.

"During this time when we face an unprecedented public health crisis, to conduct an election tomorrow would would force poll workers and voters to place themselves at a unacceptable health risk of contracting coronavirus," he said in the statement.

The move is a complicated one for Ohio officials, as voters have already started voting in the state where 136 pledged delegates are at stake. 

11:18 p.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Monaco's state minister tests positive for coronavirus

From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq in Atlanta and Duarte Mendonça in London

Monaco's State Minister Serge Telle attends a mass at the Saint Nicholas cathedral during the celebrations marking Monaco's National Day on November 19, 2017 in Monaco
Monaco's State Minister Serge Telle attends a mass at the Saint Nicholas cathedral during the celebrations marking Monaco's National Day on November 19, 2017 in Monaco Eric Gaillard/AFP/Getty Images

Serge Telle, the state minister of Monaco, has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the principality's Ministry of Health.

Health authorities were informed Monday morning about the test results, according to a statement from the ministry.

An epidemiological investigation is underway to trace Telle's movements in the past few days, according to the statement. 

He is not showing any major symptoms, and is quarantined at home, where he's continuing his professional activities through video conference. 

11:15 p.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Hong Kong will require all arrivals from foreign countries to undergo quarantine

From CNN's Karina Tsui and Eric Cheung in Hong Kong

A airport employee worker monitors a thermal screening display as passengers enter Hong Kong's Chek Lap Kok International Airport on March 10.
A airport employee worker monitors a thermal screening display as passengers enter Hong Kong's Chek Lap Kok International Airport on March 10. Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

Hong Kong will require all arriving travelers from foreign countries to be quarantined for 14 days at home, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced during a weekly press briefing today.

The city will also issue a red outbound travel alert on all foreign countries with the exception of mainland China, Taiwan, and Macao, she said.

Currently, Hong Kong requires anyone traveling from mainland China to the city to self-quarantine at home for 14 days. 

The new measures will take effect on Thursday, and will affect both residents and non-residents.

“We are an aviation hub and we have tens and thousands of students studying overseas. We’re giving them until Thursday to make their way home," said Lam.

Rise in imported cases: This comes as the number of imported cases have risen in recent days. In the past two weeks, 50 of the 57 new cases reported have been imported to Hong Kong from overseas, Lam said.

The city now has a total of 157 cases.

Lam urged travelers to practice personal hygiene and wear face masks during the journey, and said the government would provide airlines with masks to prevent a possible shortage.

She also spoke about extending existing measures as the pandemic stretches on; schools have been closed for months now, and are unlikely to fully reopen in the next month as previously planned, Lam said.

11:02 p.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Dollar General to dedicate first hour of shopping to elderly customers amid pandemic

The US chain Dollar General is dedicating its first open hour every day to "senior shoppers" in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The new modified hours will begin on Tuesday local time, the Dollar General Corporation said in a statement.

The measures are to meet the needs of more elderly shoppers, "who are one of the groups most vulnerable to the Covid-19 coronavirus," the statement said.

"In keeping with the Company’s mission of Serving Others, Dollar General wants to provide these at-risk customers with the ability to purchase the items they need and want at the beginning of each day to avoid busier and more crowded shopping periods."
10:48 p.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Colorado shuts down public spaces and restricts restaurants from serving food

A sign hangs on the door to the Schlessmann YMCA as gyms have been forced to close in Colorado's efforts to fend off the spread of coronavirus Monday, March 16, in Denver.
A sign hangs on the door to the Schlessmann YMCA as gyms have been forced to close in Colorado's efforts to fend off the spread of coronavirus Monday, March 16, in Denver. AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Colorado is closing all gyms, theaters, and casinos, and placing restrictions on bars and restaurants, the state's Department of Public Health and Environment announced on Monday.

Food establishments aren't allowed to serve food and drink on premises, but can do so through delivery, takeout, and drive-through service.

The new measures will go into effect on Wednesday morning local time, for 30 days.

“We understand the gravity of this public health order, and the disruption it will cause,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the Department of Public Health and Environment.

“But we are weighing this disruption against the need to save lives. Based on the experience of other countries, the state of Washington, and modeling data, the sooner we begin social distancing measures on a large enough scale, the more quickly we can slow transmission of the virus, which translates into less people requiring hospitalization at the same time and more lives saved.”  
10:36 p.m. ET, March 16, 2020

Venezuela announces nationwide "social quarantine" to contain coronavirus

From CNN’s Abel Alvarez and Jackie Castillo in Atlanta

Customers wait to go into a supermarket in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, March 16.
Customers wait to go into a supermarket in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, March 16. AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos

Venezuela's embattled President Nicolas Maduro announced a nationwide quarantine during a televised coronavirus briefing earlier today. 

The "social quarantine" will go into effect 5 a.m. local time Tuesday, Maduro said in the briefing.

“We are trying to get ahead of this crisis,” Maduro said. "If we don’t get a hold of it and stop it, it could severely damage our community.”

Police, health officials, and local governments will work together to enforce the quarantine, according to a statement from the presidential press office.

Venezuela has 33 coronavirus cases, according to Maduro.