March 23 coronavirus news

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3:09 a.m. ET, March 23, 2020

Here's how Australia is handling the coronavirus pandemic

A health worker assists visitors at a coronavirus testing center in Sydney on March 23.
A health worker assists visitors at a coronavirus testing center in Sydney on March 23. Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images

States around Australia have brought in strict new measures to control the spread of coronavirus.

Currently, the country has at least 1,098 cases and seven deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

Here's how the country is handling the outbreak.

Shutting non-essential services: At midday Monday, businesses across Australia followed the government’s orders to shut down bars, restaurants, gyms, places of worship and other venues where people traditionally congregate.

Domestic travel discouraged: South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory are among those to require anyone arriving into the state to self-isolate for 14 days. South Australia's Premier Steven Marshall described the move as a decision to "close the border." Despite that, travelers are still able to enter the state.

Olympics in doubt: Australia's Olympic Committee is telling its athletes to prepare for the possibility that the Games could be postponed until 2021. In a statement Monday, the committee said its Executive Board had unanimously agreed that an Australian team "could not be assembled in the changing circumstances at home and abroad."

"Toughest year of our lives": Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called on Australians to stand up to the “unprecedented challenge” of the global health crisis. "Life is changing in Australia for every Australian and life is going to continue to change," he said. "For many young and old, 2020 will be the toughest year of our lives."

2:47 a.m. ET, March 23, 2020

Tokyo's famous sushi scene has been crippled by the coronavirus outbreak

In this file photo, a Kiyomura Co. sushi chef serves a sushi plate inside one of the company's Sushi Zanmai sushi restaurants on January 5, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan.
In this file photo, a Kiyomura Co. sushi chef serves a sushi plate inside one of the company's Sushi Zanmai sushi restaurants on January 5, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan. Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

Shortly after dawn, Hideki Sugiura moves swiftly through the narrow aisles of Tokyo's Toyosu Market.

It's much quieter than usual, and the sushi chef doesn't need to buy as much fish for his small restaurant, Sushi Marubatsu.

Business is down around 50%, Sugiura says, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The virus has spread through large parts of Asia and is now gripping Europe and the US, with more than 300,000 cases globally. Japan currently has more than 1,000 confirmed cases, several dozen of whom have died.

Nearly every day for the past nine years, Sugiura has been carrying out his daily ritual at Toyosu -- the wholesale section of the famous Tsukiji fish market, which moved to new premises in 2018.

His tiny restaurant, which fits about a dozen diners, is in Shibuya, near Tokyo's famous intersection with a four-way pedestrian crossing. But the majority of his business comes from local Japanese.

"Company workers who used to come in for lunch don't come at all now," he says. "And housewives used to come in at lunchtime, but none of them come now."

Business already down: Sugiura says that business was already hurting before the virus spread, due to an ailing economy that slowed after the Japanese government increased the consumption tax in October.

"We've had a de facto shutdown of all the major engines of demand," says Jesper Koll, a Tokyo-based economist. "That's consumption, business spending, export of goods and inbound tourism."

Many businesses had been holding out for the expected economic boost of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, due to be held in July and August this year. But now, the future of the event -- and the associated benefits for Tokyo's retail and tourism industry -- looks uncertain due to the pandemic.

Read the whole story here.

2:33 a.m. ET, March 23, 2020

American vodka company Tito's Vodka says it is working to produce hand sanitizer

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 12: A view of Tito's Vodka on display as Titans of BBQ presented by National Beef and Pat LaFrieda Meats hosted by Dario Cecchini, Pat LaFrieda and Michael Symon at Pier 97 on October 12, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for NYCWFF)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 12: A view of Tito's Vodka on display as Titans of BBQ presented by National Beef and Pat LaFrieda Meats hosted by Dario Cecchini, Pat LaFrieda and Michael Symon at Pier 97 on October 12, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for NYCWFF) Cindy Ord/Getty Images

American vodka company Tito's Vodka says it plans to use its distillery for something a little different: Hand sanitizer.

"While we advise that you cannot use our standard vodka product as a hand santizier, our team at the distillery has been working hard to get all of the pieces in place to begin production on a hand sanitizer that adheres to industry and governmental guidance," the company said in a statement.

"While we don't have all of the details quite yet, we do know we will be giving it away for free to our community and those most in need."

They're not the first company to switch gear.

Earlier this month, luxury goods conglomerate LVMH, the parent company of Christian Dior, Guerlain and Givenchy, said it would help French health authorities by manufacturing hand sanitizer and providing it to them for free.

LVMH said it would use all the production facilities of its perfumes and cosmetics brands to produce large quantities of hydroalcoholic gel, or hand sanitizer.

2:25 a.m. ET, March 23, 2020

Hong Kong appeared to have the coronavirus under control, then it let its guard down

Only a week ago, Hong Kong seemed like a model for how to contain the novel coronavirus, with a relatively small number of cases despite months of being on the front lines of the outbreak

That was in large part thanks to action taken early on, while cases were spreading across mainland China, to implement measures that are now familiar throughout the world: virus mapping, social distancing, intensive hand-washing, and wearing masks and other protective clothing. 

Hong Kong was proof that these measures worked, with the city of 7.5 million only reporting some 150 cases at the start of March, even as the number of infections spiked in other East Asian territories like South Korea and Japan, and spread rapidly across Europe and North America. 

Increase in cases: Now, however, Hong Kong is providing a very different object lesson -- what happens when you let your guard down too soon. The number of confirmed cases has almost doubled in the past week, with many imported from overseas, as Hong Kong residents who had left -- either to work or study abroad, or to seek safety when the city seemed destined for a major outbreak earlier this year -- return, bringing the virus back with them

This is a pattern playing out across parts of Asia -- mainland China, Singapore, Taiwan -- that were among the first to tackle the outbreak. All are now introducing new measures as a renewed wave of cases begins to crest. 

In it for the long haul: Compared to major cities in the West, like London or New York, residents in Hong Kong can sometimes feel as if they're living in the future. Many of the measures enacted in the Asian metropolis back in February are now being rolled out in European and American cities. 

But this latest lesson may be a bitter pill to swallow, as it indicates that quarantines and social distancing must continue well beyond the initial wave of cases, if another round of infections is to be avoided. 

For those just going into lockdown, that could mean they're in for the long haul.

Read the full story here.

2:21 a.m. ET, March 23, 2020

Australia rolls out tough new measures to combat coronavirus spread

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Monday that “2020 will be the toughest year of our lives,” as the country rolled out new, tougher measures to slow down the spread of the coronavirus.

Speaking in Parliament, Morrison called on Australians to stand up to the “unprecedented challenge” of the global health crisis.

At midday Monday, businesses across Australia followed the government’s orders to shut down bars, restaurants, gyms, places of worship and other venues where people traditionally congregate.

“Life is changing in Australia for every Australian and life is going to continue to change,” he said. “For many young and old, 2020 will be the toughest year of our lives.”

Morrison’s remarks came as long queues were seen outside Centrelink offices around the country, where people were lined up to apply for social services payouts.

“As Australia works to flatten the curve and slow this virus, we also face an immense economic challenge…this is the biggest economic shock our nation has faced in generations,” Morrison said.

The Australian government website where residents sign up for benefits and jobseekers’ allowance crashed Monday, Government Services Minister Stuart Roberts said.

Roberts said a distributed denial of service (DDOS) alarm was triggered on the MyGov site when 95,000 users logged on at the same time just after 9 a.m., Monday morning. The system was built for 55,000 concurrent users, he said, adding that the government is examining ways to expand the system’s capacity.

A statement from the Australian Cyber Security Centre said the government is currently investigating the outage but has no evidence to suggest it was caused by malicious cyber activity.

As of Monday, Australia reported 1,479 confirmed cases and seven deaths from the novel coronavirus, according to the country's Department of Health.

2:01 a.m. ET, March 23, 2020

Just joining us? Here's the latest

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic flame is displayed at Ofunato, Iwate prefecture on March 23.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic flame is displayed at Ofunato, Iwate prefecture on March 23. Philip Fong/AFP/Getty Images

The numbers: At least 339,000 people have contracted the novel coronavirus and over 14,700 have died, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking cases recorded by the World Health Organization and additional sources.

Olympic dreams hang by a thread: For the first time Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe acknowledged that Tokyo 2020 may have to be postponed. Canada has already said it won't send a team even if the Games go ahead this year as planned.

Stock markets take a hit: Dow futures fell 5%, while the Australian benchmark -- the S&P/ASX 200 -- plunged more than 7% to an eight-year low when markets opened Monday morning. Chinese and Korean markets were also down.

Indian cities go into lockdown: The capital New Delhi is among 75 districts in the country that will go into lockdown until March 31 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Several districts are now enforcing a pre-existing law that makes it a punishable offence for four or more people to gather.

New Zealand issues highest-level alert: All non-essential businesses across the country will close, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said. The Pacific nation already limited international arrivals amid fears of imported cases.

US relief bill delayed: A key Senate vote related to a massive economic stimulus plan in response to the coronavirus pandemic has been pushed back as lawmakers continue to wrangle over its contents.

2:16 a.m. ET, March 23, 2020

Japan reports its biggest one-day surge in coronavirus deaths

Japan reported five deaths due to the novel coronavirus on Sunday, its biggest one-day surge.

That takes the national toll to 49 deaths, the health ministry announced on Monday.

The ministry also reported 42 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Sunday, taking the national tally of confirmed cases to 1,801.

Of that total, 712 are from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

1:21 a.m. ET, March 23, 2020

New Delhi and major Indian cities are going into lockdown until March 31

A couple looks down from their balcony in Greater Noida, a suburb of New Delhi, India, on March 22.
A couple looks down from their balcony in Greater Noida, a suburb of New Delhi, India, on March 22. Altaf Qadri/AP

The Indian capital New Delhi is among 75 districts in the country that will go into lockdown until March 31 in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The measures extend an initial 14-hour lockdown, which came into effect on Sunday. They also include major cities, such as Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad and Kolkata, which means millions of workers in the technology and financial sectors will be forced to work from home for the rest of the month.

Only essential services will be operational in these districts, according to the official Press Information Bureau of India. 

All shops, commercial establishments, factories, workshops, offices, markets and places of worship will be closed, and interstate buses and metros will be suspended.

Several districts -- including the financial capital of Mumbai -- are now enforcing a pre-existing law that makes it a punishable offence for four or more people to gather.

Several states have gone into complete lockdown.

In the northern state of Punjab, the chief minister announced that except for essential services, the entire state will be under a lockdown until March 31. The state has confirmed more than 20 coronavirus cases, including one death.

The entire state of Uttarakhand -- which has only reported three confirmed cases -- announced a non-essential services lockdown until March 31.

"Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures," Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said in a tweet.

India has reported 341 infections and five deaths from the coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization.

1:13 a.m. ET, March 23, 2020

The United Arab Emirates is closing all shopping malls and food markets for two weeks

A worker sorts produce at a market in Dubai on March 21.
A worker sorts produce at a market in Dubai on March 21. Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images

The United Arab Emirates is closing all commercial centers and shopping malls along with fish, meat and vegetable markets.

The new rule will come into force in 48 hours, and will be in place for two weeks -- but could be renewed, UAE authorities announced.

The UAE currently has at least 150 coronavirus cases.