March 17 coronavirus news

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8:06 a.m. ET, March 17, 2020

France goes into lockdown after Macron promises to protect businesses

From CNN's Barbara Wojazer in Paris and Lauren Kent in London

French President Emmanuel Macron is seen on a television screen on March 16 as he speaks during an address to the nation on the coronavirus outbreak.
French President Emmanuel Macron is seen on a television screen on March 16 as he speaks during an address to the nation on the coronavirus outbreak. Credit: Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images

France officially entered lockdown at midday Tuesday local time (7 a.m. ET) as part of a number of measures announced by President Emmanuel Macron.

All non-essential outings are outlawed and can draw a fine of up to €135 ($148).

In a televised speech Monday, Macron also promised to support French businesses by guaranteeing €300 billion worth of loans, as well as suspending rent and utility bills owed by small companies.

“No French company, whatever its size, will be exposed to the risk of collapse,” he said.

The French government will also support healthcare staff by paying for hotels, taxis and childcare during the coronavirus crisis, Macron said in a series of tweets following his speech. 

“We owe the care of their children to our healthcare teams: a minimum service has been put in place, from today, in kindergartens and schools,” Macron said.

“We also owe them peace in their travel and rest: this is why, from tomorrow onwards, taxis and hotels can be mobilized for their benefit. The state will pay.”

Macron also said hospital masks will be rationed for healthcare workers.

“We have decided to reserve the masks as a priority for hospitals and for medical personnel in cities and in the countryside, especially for general practitioners and nurses, who are now at the front line of dealing with the crisis,” he said in a tweet.

France joins Italy, which has been under total lockdown since Friday, and Spain, whose 47 million people have been under partial lockdown since Saturday, allowed to leave their homes only to go to work, buy food, or visit a pharmacy or hospital.

Switzerland has also banned all events and closed shops and restaurants from midnight Monday.

7:27 a.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Volkswagen to temporarily halt production

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

The Volkswagen AG (VW) logo sits on display at the automaker's headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, on March 12.
The Volkswagen AG (VW) logo sits on display at the automaker's headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, on March 12. Credit: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg/Getty Images

German carmaker Volkswagen plans to temporarily suspend production due to the coronavirus outbreak, it announced Tuesday.

The works’ council in Wolfsburg said the last shift would run this Friday at the vast majority of locations.

In the past few days VW confirmed there have been cases of coronavirus at its facilities.

8:28 a.m. ET, March 17, 2020

UK warns coronavirus outbreak spreading faster than expected

From Nada Bashir in London

London Mayor Sadiq Khan leaves 10 Downing Street in London on March 16, after an emergency meeting on the UK government's response to the coronavirus outbreak.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan leaves 10 Downing Street in London on March 16, after an emergency meeting on the UK government's response to the coronavirus outbreak. Credit: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images

The British government has warned that the coronavirus outbreak is spreading faster than it initially predicted, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said Tuesday.

The spread of the virus across the UK capital is "a few weeks ahead" of the rest of the country, Khan also said, citing guidance given by the government at Monday's emergency 'COBRA' meeting.

"I was told by the government, and the government's advisers, that London is a few weeks ahead of the rest of the country, and the way that this virus is spreading is faster than the government and advisers had thought," Khan said during an interview with ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

"We can understand why London is further ahead than the rest of the country, because of our connectivity, our global travel, our density," Khan said, highlighting that 23 people have so far died in London after contracting the virus.

"I think the advice given by the government now is the right advice...we've got to take sensible to steps to avoid the virus spreading faster," the mayor added.

Khan's remarks come just hours after Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced new measures to tackle the spread of coronavirus, advising against all unnecessary social contact.

"Now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel," Johnson said Monday.

"We need people to start working from home where they possibly can and you should avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues," he said.

WATCH: Boris Johnson ramps up UK response amid criticism

7:06 a.m. ET, March 17, 2020

8 former passengers on the Grand Princess cruise ship have returned home to Nebraska

From CNN's Brad Parks

Passengers disembark from the Grand Princess cruise ship in Oakland, California on March 10.
Passengers disembark from the Grand Princess cruise ship in Oakland, California on March 10. Credit: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Eight Nebraska residents who were passengers on the Grand Princess cruise ship returned back home Monday, according to a news release from the state's department of health.

More than 3,500 passengers and crew members on the liner were held off the coast of San Francisco for days after 21 people -- two passengers and 19 crew members -- tested positive for the illness.

The Nebraska residents disembarked the ship early last week and have been quarantined at a military facility in California before being flown back to Nebraska. 

A total of 12 residents from Nebraska were on the ship. The remaining four are expected to return home in the next few days, the release stated. 

The individuals will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days. 

Hear from passengers on the Grand Princess cruise ship:

6:51 a.m. ET, March 17, 2020

German health agency raises virus risk level and says it doesn't yet know what death rate will be

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

Lothar Wieler, President of the Robert Koch Institute, speaks to the media during a daily update on the coronavirus in Germany on March 17 in Berlin.
Lothar Wieler, President of the Robert Koch Institute, speaks to the media during a daily update on the coronavirus in Germany on March 17 in Berlin. Credit: Maja Hitij/Getty Images

Germany's Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the national agency for disease control and prevention, has raised the risk of the coronavirus to public health to “high.”

“We notice that even well-established clinics are now having problems," said RKI president Lothar Wieler Tuesday. "We have to do everything possible to interrupt any possible chain of infection."

Wieler said he assumed the number of coronavirus cases is "significantly higher" than reported to the institute.

“We don't yet know what the death rate will be," he added. 

Wieler singled out the community of Heinsberg, North Rhine-Westphalia, as being especially affected by the pandemic.

6:43 a.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Macao to ban all foreign travelers from entering to stop spread of virus

From Isaac Yee in Hong Kong

An official checks the temperature of visitors before they enter a government office in Macao on March 3.
An official checks the temperature of visitors before they enter a government office in Macao on March 3. Credit: Billy H.C. Kwok/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The government of Macao will ban all travelers from overseas countries from entering starting from midnight March 18.

The measure was set out in an Executive Order published Tuesday, according to a government press release. 

The measure does not cover Macao residents and non-resident workers, or residents of mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

Macao currently has 12 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus.

6:34 a.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Airbus to temporarily halt production in Spain and France

From CNN Business' Hanna Ziady

Maintenance work is carried out on an Airbus aircraft at a plant near Madrid, Spain, in November 2019.
Maintenance work is carried out on an Airbus aircraft at a plant near Madrid, Spain, in November 2019. Credit: Jesús Hellín/Europa Press/Getty Images

Airbus said Tuesday that it will “temporarily pause production and assembly activities” at sites in France and Spain for the next four days as part of efforts to contain Europe’s coronavirus outbreak.

“This is meant to allow sufficient time to implement stringent health and safety conditions in terms of hygiene, cleaning and self-distancing,” the company said in a statement.

The planemaker said it is providing employees affected by school and childcare closures with “a maximum of flexibility," including allowing remote working.

Airbus employs 12,700 people in Spain and 48,000 people in France. It also has a significant presence in the United Kingdom and Germany, which is home to 27 of its largest operations employing more than 46,000 people.

The company also has facilities in Russia, Turkey, Finland, Poland and Romania.

Global aviation has come under intense pressure from the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced countries around the world to impose severe travel restrictions. Airlines have seen demand for flights evaporate, and many could now require government bailouts.

6:24 a.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Malaysia announces first coronavirus death

From Ushar Daniele in Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia announced its first novel coronavirus death in a statement from the government’s Disaster Management Committee Tuesday.

The victim is reported to be a 60-year-old pastor from Emmanuel Baptist Church Kuching in Sarawak.

6:15 a.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Coronavirus vaccine trial administers first dose to participant

From CNN's Michael Nedelman

A pharmacist gives Jennifer Haller the first shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine for Covid-19 on Monday, March 16, at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle.
A pharmacist gives Jennifer Haller the first shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine for Covid-19 on Monday, March 16, at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. Credit: Ted S. Warren/AP

coronavirus vaccine trial in the US has now given a dose to its first participant, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases announced Monday.

The study aims to enroll a total of 45 healthy adults over a six-week time frame. Each participant will receive two injections about a month apart in varying doses.

There is currently no vaccine for coronavirus.

The study, which is a Phase I trial, is meant to establish that the vaccine is safe and induces a desired response from participants' immune systems. Proving that the vaccine is effective in preventing Covid-19 infection, however, will require follow-up studies involving many more participants, which will take many more months, experts say.

"Finding a safe and effective vaccine to prevent infection with (the novel coronavirus) is an urgent public health priority," NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a statement Monday. "This Phase 1 study, launched in record speed, is an important first step toward achieving that goal."

The agency credited the speed with which it stood up a Phase I trial to its prior studies on related coronaviruses SARS and MERS. Scientists had previously worked on an experimental MERS vaccine targeting a protein on the virus' surface, which gave them a "head start for developing a vaccine candidate to protect against Covid-19," the statement said.

Read the full story here.