March 24 coronavirus news

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2:54 a.m. ET, March 24, 2020

While mainland China eases lockdown, restrictions tighten in Hong Kong and Macao

Passengers wear protective suits and face masks as they arrive at Hong Kong airport, Monday, March 23, 2020.
Passengers wear protective suits and face masks as they arrive at Hong Kong airport, Monday, March 23, 2020. Kin Cheung/AP

Residents of China's Hubei province -- ground zero of the coronavirus pandemic -- received good news today when government officials announced the lockdown they have been living under for the past few months will be lifted on Wednesday.

For those in Wuhan, where the virus was first discovered, those restrictions are set to remain in place until April 8.

The announcement follows news that part of a popular section of China's Great Wall will be reopened to the public.

Mainland China's coronavirus cases have slowed to a trickle. On Monday, the country reported the first case in Hubei province in six days. It was among 78 additional cases reported as of the end of day Monday -- 74 of them imported.  

And while nearly 82,000 people have been infected, 3,277 of whom have died, more than 73,000 have recovered.

But while restrictions may be easing on the mainland, the country and its semiautonomous territories are tightening their borders to stem the number of imported cases.

Beijing: Chinese authorities announced today that all international travelers arriving in Beijing, regardless of their final destinations, will be quarantined and tested for the coronavirus at designated government facilities at their own expense. The procedures will also apply to people arriving in Beijing after entering China through a different port of entry within the past 14 days.

Hong Kong: On Monday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said most non-residents will be banned from entering Hong Kong from midnight Wednesday local time. Non-Hong Kong residents arriving from Macao, Taiwan and mainland China will be allowed to enter the city, under the provision that they have not traveled abroad within the past 14 days. Travelers will also not be allowed to transit through the airport.

The city's government is also seeking to pass a law banning the sale of alcohol at bars with the aim of enforcing social distancing. Some 8,600 licensed bars, restaurants and private clubs have been asked to voluntarily stop selling alcohol before a law is potentially passed.

The strict new measures come as the number of confirmed infections in the city has almost doubled in the past week, with many of the cases imported from overseas.

Macao: Most non-residents will be banned from entering the territory starting tomorrow, including all foreign nationals. Visitors from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan who have not traveled to foreign countries can enter, but they will be required to undergo medical observation for 14 days.

2:39 a.m. ET, March 24, 2020

People are stocking Little Free Libraries with food and goods during coronavirus pandemic

From CNN's Ryan Bergeron

Brookview Elementary's Little Free Library has turned into a Little Free Pantry. 
Brookview Elementary's Little Free Library has turned into a Little Free Pantry.  Courtesy Shelly Anderson

As grocery store shelves sit bare during the coronavirus pandemic, good Samaritans across the US are taking it upon themselves to turn "Little Free Libraries" into "Little Free Pantries."

Little Free Libraries are public bookcases that allow for book-sharing within neighborhoods and communities. Anyone can take or leave a book.

Now, many of these honor-system book cabinets are stocked with things like canned food, pasta and even toilet paper for those in need.

Shelly Anderson filled a Little Free Pantry in Woodbury, Minnesota. For her, it was a chance to do something positive.

"This is an uncertain time. I think being able to provide something to anyone is worth it," she said.

She first heard about the idea from a friend and decided to ask her kids' elementary school about converting their Little Free Library into a free pantry.

"After we got approval, we went through our pantry and found all the things that would be essential -- toilet paper, paper towels, some noodles and fruits."

Read more about it here:

2:19 a.m. ET, March 24, 2020

Justin Trudeau is running Canada and bath-time simultaneously

From CNN’s Paula Newton in Ottawa 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gives a coronavirus briefing from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on March 23.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gives a coronavirus briefing from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on March 23. Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP

The news was not good. Not only did Justin Trudeau’s wife Sophie Gregoire test positive for the coronavirus after a trip to the UK, but that meant the Canadian Prime Minister would have to quarantine immediately, along with his three children.

Although huddled together in historic Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Gregoire would need to be isolated from her own family. And there would be no nanny, no grandparent, no cook, no one to help.

Trudeau has effectively taken on single parenthood, while leading Canada’s effort to battle a once-in-a century pandemic.

“It’s an interesting challenge to run a G7 country in this situation, he’s doing it with kids running around in the background, they’re playing Lego, keeping busy. But you know it’s no different right now from what lots of other Canadians are doing, working from home right now,” said Cameron Ahmad, the Prime Minister’s communications director.

“He’s on the phone all day long, he has to print his own speeches, sometimes we hear the kids playing in the background, sometimes he has to go deal with bath time but he’s getting it done,” Ahmad told CNN.

Trudeau and his wife have three children: Xavier, 12, Ella-Grace, 11, and Hadrien, 6.

Trudeau's 11-year-old daughter Ella-Grace has become his photographer of sorts, snapping a photo of her father in his study while on a video conference with other G7 leaders. In the photo posted to Instagram, you can make out the images of six world leaders on the screen.  

Trudeau has been venturing out daily -- but only as far as the foot of his front steps -- to deliver an update to Canadians on the pandemic and to take questions from the media at a safe distance. 

“He’s enjoying being a dad right now and getting to spend much more time with his kids,” said Ahmad, acknowledging that Trudeau is coping as best he can, along with hundreds of millions of parents all over the world. 

2:03 a.m. ET, March 24, 2020

Hubei province will lift most lockdown measures on Wednesday

From CNN's Nectar Gan, Eric Cheung and Steven Jiang

China's Hubei province, ground zero for the worldwide novel coronavirus pandemic, is planning to lift nearly all lockdown restrictions across the province on Wednesday, authorities announced.

Similar measures will remain in place in Wuhan, the provincial capital, until April 8, authorities said on microblogging platform Weibo.

The mysterious illness that turned out to be Covid-19 was first reported in Wuhan in December. Authorities responded by locking down the province and forcing millions to remain indoors.

As of the end of the day Monday, Hubei had reported 67,801 coronavirus cases and 3,160 virus-related fatalities.

However, the rate of new infections has been brought down significantly -- the province has only reported one new infection in the past six days.

Nearly 82,000 people across mainland China have been infected, 3,277 of whom have died. More than 73,000 have recovered and been discharged from hospital.

1:51 a.m. ET, March 24, 2020

Macao is banning entry to most non-residents

From journalists Vanesse Chan and Eric Cheung in Hong Kong

Vehicles drive across a bridge on February 5 in Macao, China.
Vehicles drive across a bridge on February 5 in Macao, China. Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

Macao will ban most non-residents from entering the semiautonomous Chinese territory starting tomorrow, the city's leader said at a news conference Tuesday.

All foreign nationals will be denied entry into the city, Chief Executive Ho Iat-seng said.

Visitors from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan who have not traveled to foreign countries can enter the city, but they will be required to undergo medical observation for 14 days.

Macao residents who are returning from overseas will be required to undergo medical observation for 14 days, Ho said.

The gambling mecca is one of Asia's most popular tourist destinations. Its economy is heavily reliant on gaming and tourist revenues, which have been severely impacted by coronavirus-related travel restrictions.

Twenty-five people in the city have contracted the virus, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, 10 of whom have recovered.

1:40 a.m. ET, March 24, 2020

If you're just joining us, here's a quick catch up

People walk past closed shops in New Delhi on March 23, the first day of the lockdown.
People walk past closed shops in New Delhi on March 23, the first day of the lockdown. Manish Swarup/AP

Here are the latest developments on the coronavirus pandemic over the past few hours.

The situation in Asia today: Singapore reported its biggest one-day surge in cases since the outbreak began. Tokyo's governor warned that Japan's capital could be placed under lockdown if the number of coronavirus cases spike. Myanmar reported its first two cases. Beijing will quarantine and test all international arrivals, regardless of destination.

Australia: Hardest-hit state New South Wales reported 149 new cases on Monday, including 107 cases related to the Ruby Princess cruise ship. A woman passenger in her 70s died on Tuesday -- she was diagnosed with Covid-19 onboard the ship. The Northern Territory, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland will enact border checkpoints on Tuesday and Wednesday.

More curfews and restrictions: India has expanded its mammoth lockdown to districts across 30 states and union territories, impacting about two thirds of the population. At least 16 US states have issued stay-at-home orders, which will impact 142 million people, or 43% of the US population. Albania has entered a strict 16-hour daily curfew.

Calls to postpone Olympics: New Zealand athletes became the latest to voice their support for postponing the 2020 Olympic Games, and are backed by the country’s Olympic committee. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to hold a call with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach this evening, as calls for a postponement grow louder.

1:28 a.m. ET, March 24, 2020

Australia's New South Wales sees big spike in coronavirus cases

From Eric Cheung in Hong Kong and Hilary Whiteman in Brisbane, Australia

A health worker assists visitors at a Covid-19 testing center in Sydney on March 23.
A health worker assists visitors at a Covid-19 testing center in Sydney on March 23. Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images

The Australian state of New South Wales reported that it identified 149 new novel coronavirus cases from 8 p.m. local time Sunday until 8 p.m. local time Monday, according to a statement from the state's Department of Health.

Those new patients include 107 cases related to the Ruby Princess cruise ship, authorities said. Public health officials were forced to track down nearly 2,647 people who disembarked from the ship in Sydney following revelations that four onboard had tested positive for the virus.

A woman passenger in her 70s, who was diagnosed with Covid-19 onboard the ship, died on Tuesday morning, authorities said. 

Total cases: As of Monday, Australia had reported 1,709 cases of novel coronavirus. New South Wales has reported 818 cases, more patients than any other state or territory in Australia.

Restricting movement: Several Australian states are implementing new restrictions on interstate travel in order to slow the virus' spread. South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory will enact border checkpoints on Tuesday and Wednesday.

From Tuesday afternoon onward, the Northern Territory will require most people entering from other parts of the country to undergo a two-week quarantine, police said in a statement Monday. Those who do not comply face a fine of up to 62,800 Australian dollars ($37,160). 

1:18 a.m. ET, March 24, 2020

Two-thirds of India's population are facing coronavirus-related movement restrictions

From CNN's Swati Gupta, Helen Regan and Esha Mitra 

Policemen erect barbed wire to stop commuters as they enforce a lockdown in Jammu, India on March 23.
Policemen erect barbed wire to stop commuters as they enforce a lockdown in Jammu, India on March 23. Channi Anand/AP

Hundreds of millions of people across India have been placed under lockdown until the end of the month as efforts to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country intensify.

Thirty of India's 37 states and union territories have enacted lockdowns, affecting some two thirds of the 1.34 billion people who live in the country.

The most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, has still not announced a complete state lockdown but has implemented it across more than a dozen districts. The lockdown includes the shutdown of all non-essential services like public transport, malls and markets, among others.

Residents living in 548 districts across the country -- including in major cities such as the capital New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata -- now face travel, work and movement restrictions until March 31.

India has also essentially cut off the country to outsiders -- all 107 of the country's airport, seaport and land port immigration checkpoints have been shuttered, though the transfer of goods and supplies will continue.

To date, Indian authorities have confirmed nearly 500 coronavirus cases inside the country. Nine people have died.

Read more:

1:08 a.m. ET, March 24, 2020

Japan's Prime Minister will speak with the Olympics chief tonight

From CNN's Yoko Wakatsuki in Tokyo

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during the graduation ceremony of the National Defense Academy on March 22, 2020 in Yokosuka, Japan.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during the graduation ceremony of the National Defense Academy on March 22, 2020 in Yokosuka, Japan. Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is going to hold a phone call with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach at 8 p.m. Tokyo time, Abe's office said, as calls for both the IOC and Japanese government to postpone the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo grow louder.

Abe and his ministers had previously resisted calls to either cancel or delay the Games, which are scheduled to start on July 24. But as other major sports leagues and events worldwide canceled and postponed tournaments and games, pressure has mounted for the IOC to do the same for the quadrennial competition.

Abe told lawmakers Monday that postponing the Games is a possibility, the first time he has publicly taken such a position.

Japan and the IOC have faced calls to postpone the Games in recent days from several athletes and countries.

The IOC said a final decision on postponement will be made within four weeks, due to the vast complexities of rescheduling a massive global sporting event like the Olympics.