March 26 coronavirus news

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4:52 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

US ambassador to Britain accuses China of withholding facts about the coronavirus

Woody Johnson, US ambassador to the United Kingdom, at Hyde Park in London in April 2018.
Woody Johnson, US ambassador to the United Kingdom, at Hyde Park in London in April 2018. Credit: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Woody Johnson, the US ambassador to the UK, has accused China of engaging in “blatant and dangerous propaganda” about the coronavirus, saying the world might have been spared the full impact had Chinese officials not suppressed facts early on.

In an opinion piece published in Britain’s The Times newspaper, Johnson says China failed in its obligation to the international community to share information about the outbreak transparently.

“First (China) tried to suppress the news. Then, it worked to protect its own population while selectively sharing critical information, such as genetic sequence data, and continuing to stonewall international health authorities that were offering assistance, requesting access and seeking more information,” Johnson wrote.
“Had China done the right things at the right time, more of its own population, and the rest of the world, might have been spared the most serious impact of this disease.

He added that when the crisis abates, there will need to be an evaluation of the costs of the “breakdown in international collaboration” and China’s actions early on.

Some context: China has faced criticism both internationally and domestically for its handling of the outbreak in the first few weeks, when local officials in Wuhan detained and targeted doctors who tried to speak out about the emergence of a new virus.

One of those doctors, Li Wenliang, later died of the virus, sparking fury and calls for freedom of speech on Chinese social media.

Earlier this month, the Chinese government included Li in a list of of 506 healthcare and response workers who acted as "advanced individuals in the prevention and control of novel coronavirus pneumonia epidemic in national health system." 

WHO response: The World Health Organization has acknowledged “mistakes” made by China, but its officials have largely been positive about how the country has responded to the crisis.

4:31 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Vietnamese airline launches controversial coronavirus insurance

As the aviation industry continues to be slammed by the coronavirus pandemic, one budget carrier has gone for a very different and rather divisive approach.

Vietnamese airline Vietjet has launched an insurance policy named "SKY COVID CARE" that allows passengers to claim up to 200 million Vietnamese dong ($8,550) if they are infected with the virus while traveling on one of its flights.

The aim of the policy, which is free of charge and covers all domestic flights between March 23 and June 30, is to help "bring passengers assurance," according to the airline.

In an official statement, Vietjet says it's prepared to pay out "tens of billion dong" to ensure that its customers feel at ease while traveling during the ongoing crisis.

"The health safety of passengers and cabin crews are protected at the highest level against all risks of disease," reads the statement on Vietjet's official website.
"With the insurance, passengers are eligible for insurance coverage and benefits from Vietjet within 30 days starting at 00:01 of the flight date, regardless of how passengers are infected with the disease."

How the policy works: To make a claim, passengers must provide proof that they've tested positive for coronavirus (subject to a test approved by Vietnam's Ministry of Health) and evidence they were treated "at a hospital or at authorized medical camps located in the territory of Vietnam."

Anyone who has already tested positive, or who has violated government travel regulations or quarantines, will be ineligible.

Those with "epilepsy or mental illness" are also ineligible, along with anyone who submits incorrect personal information.

Read the full story here:

4:16 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

A therapy dog brings comfort to ER doctors on the front lines

Credit: Susan Ryan
Credit: Susan Ryan

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes -- this one just happens to have four legs and a furry coat.

Wynn, a service dog in training, is bringing joy and comfort to the medical staff on the front lines of the battle against the coronovirus in Denver, Colorado.

The one-year-old yellow Labrador serves up cuddles to health care workers who need a much needed mental break from the emergency room at Rose Medical Center.

Wynn is no stranger to the medical staff, as she's being trained by Susan Ryan, an emergency physician at the hospital.

Ryan shared an image of the two of them on Sunday. In it, the doctor is seen wearing a face shield and a mask while sitting on the floor of the hospital petting Wynn.

"I saw Wynn coming back in from being walked outside," Ryan told CNN. "I just slumped down on the floor and said 'can I just have a minute with her?'"

Ryan said she had just finished with a patient and washed up before getting some quality time with Wynn.

"Seeing stuff and hearing stuff that you can't unsee has an impact on you," Ryan said. "That's where the dogs come in. When you are in the presence of the dog and petting them you are taking a moment to ground yourself at that present time."

Now, Wynn is set up in the social workers office and on-call for staffers who need some puppy love to relieve stress. In the room, lights are dimmed and meditation music plays to provide the best place for medical staff to take a little mental break before returning to their jobs.

Read more here about Wynn and the therapy dog program.

4:02 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

US stock futures and Asian markets stumble as massive stimulus deal moves forward

Asian markets and US stock futures are stumbling today, even as the US moves closer toward passing a $2 trillion economic stimulus bill.

Markets in Asia Pacific struggled for direction. Japan's Nikkei 225 (N225) dropped 3%, the worst performer in the region. China's Shanghai Composite (SHCOMP) declined 0.2%. Hong Kong's Hang Seng (HSI) was flat.

South Korea's Kospi (KOSPI) was up 1.1% during volatile trading in Seoul. Australia's S&P/ASX 200, meanwhile, was the only major benchmark in the region to trade firmly in the green, and was last up 2.6% heading into the close.

US stock futures were weak during Asian trading hours. Dow (INDU) futures were essentially flat after swinging between gains and losses. S&P 500 (SPX) futures were last down 0.5%, while Nasdaq futures were down 0.3%.

Unemployment hits the US: On Thursday, US jobless claims will highlight just how badly the economy has been hit by coronavirus. Economists expect 1 million people to have filed for unemployment benefits in the week ended March 21, which would be the highest ever recorded, and some believe the number could be even higher.

Read the full story here:

8:01 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

A 96-year-old woman is now the oldest South Korean to fully recover from the coronavirus

A 96-year-old woman in South Korea has become the oldest patient in the country to fully recover from the novel coronavirus.

The woman was declared completely recovered on Wednesday.

Cheongdo County is close to the southern city of Daegu, where the country's coronavirus cases are most concentrated.

The woman had been diagnosed with the coronavirus on March 13, and received intensive treatment at the Pohang public clinic, east of Daegu.

She is now under self-quarantine in her home in Cheongdo, where she lives with her son.

3:31 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

It's morning in Europe. Here's what you might have missed overnight around the world

United States: Wednesday was the deadliest day the United States has seen during the coronavirus pandemic, with 233 fatalities reported.

The US Senate passed a massive $2 trillion stimulus package to boost the economy amid the coronavirus outbreak. The House of Representatives is expected to take up the measure on Friday. President Trump has indicated he will sign the bill.

Numbers in the US as of the end of the day Wednesday: 65,273 cases, 938 deaths.

Mainland China: The country's National Health Commission reported 67 new imported coronavirus cases yesterday, but no new locally transmitted ones. The rate of new infections within the country has slowed significantly

Numbers in mainland China as of the end of the day Wednesday: 81,285 confirmed, 3,287 deaths, 74,051 recovered and discharged from hospital.

Japan: The country saw its largest single-day spike in cases since the outbreak began, with 98 new cases and two more deaths reported on Wednesday.

The government issued a travel alert for the entire world on Wednesday, urging people in Japan to refrain from non-essential overseas trips. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has ordered a government task force be set up in response to the pandemic.

Numbers in Japan as of Thursday morning: 2,003 cases (712 from the Diamond Princess cruise ship), 55 deaths (10 from the Diamond Princess).

New Zealand: Authorities confirmed 73 new coronavirus patients and identified five more probable cases from 9:30 a.m. local time yesterday until the same time today, the country's Ministry of Health said in a statement -- the most in a 24-hour period to date there.

The country is in its first full day on alert Level 4, the highest possible category. Most people are required to stay home to stop the virus from spreading.

Numbers in New Zealand as of Thursday morning: 262 confirmed, 21 probable, 27 recovered.

3:13 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

UN warns that coronavirus could do "potentially catastrophic" damage in prisons

In this February 26, 2013 file photo, inmates walk through the exercise yard at California State Prison Sacramento, near Folsom, California.
In this February 26, 2013 file photo, inmates walk through the exercise yard at California State Prison Sacramento, near Folsom, California. Rich Pedroncelli/AP, File

As the coronavirus begins to strike in prisons and detention centers, the UN is urging governments “not to forget those behind bars” and protect the staff members working in those facilities. 

“Governments are facing huge demands on resources in this crisis and are having to take difficult decisions," said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet in a statement Wednesday.

"But I urge them not to forget those behind bars, or those confined in places such as closed mental health facilities, nursing homes and orphanages, because the consequences of neglecting them are potentially catastrophic."

She laid out measures that authorities could take: They could reduce the number of people in detention and examine ways to release particularly vulnerable detainees, like those who are older or already sick.

Authorities overseeing these facilities should continue providing for the specific health-care needs of women prisoners, including those who are pregnant, and those of inmates with disabilities and juvenile detainees, Bachelet added.

If prisons restrict visits for inmates, they should set up alternative measures like video conferencing or increased phone calls with family members, she said.

Prisoners' rights need to be protected, she emphasized. Anti-pandemic measures should not undermine the fundamental rights of detained people, including their rights to adequate food and water, and access to a lawyer and doctor.

2:59 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

This artist drew Wuhan under quarantine in January. A new cartoon shows hope and recovery

Credit: Chen Xiaotao Momo
Credit: Chen Xiaotao Momo

Back in January, when the coronavirus outbreak was triggering massive lockdowns and dramatic emergency measures in China, artist Chen Xiaotao Momo drew a cartoon that quickly became popular on Chinese social media.

In the sketch, a bowl of "hot dry noodles" -- signature dish of Wuhan, the city at ground zero of the pandemic -- sits in a hospital bed with a face mask and teary eyes. At the window, regional cuisines representing different parts of China hold signs expressing encouragement and support.

Wuhan was the first Chinese city to go under lockdown. Two months later, the worst of the pandemic appears to have passed in mainland China. Lockdowns and restrictions are slowly lifting, and provincial alert levels are being cautiously lowered.

In a new cartoon, published by Chen yesterday, the bowl of noodles is no longer in bed. Instead the Wuhan dish waves happily to the crowd of food friends outside the window, which appears to include Sichuan hot pot and southern Chinese dim sum, among others.

They appear to be cheering, "Hubei restart," referring to the hard-hit province of which Wuhan is the capital.

The cartoon has circulated widely in the past day -- the hashtag #HotDryNoodlesHasWokenUp is trending on Weibo, China's Twitter-like platform, with more than 210 million views.

Credit: Chen Xiaotao Momo
Credit: Chen Xiaotao Momo
2:41 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Three cruise ships off the coast of Western Australia have been refused permission to dock

Oil tanker Vacamonte refuels the MSC Magnifica while berthed at Fremantle Passenger Terminal on March 24, in Fremantle, Australia.
Oil tanker Vacamonte refuels the MSC Magnifica while berthed at Fremantle Passenger Terminal on March 24, in Fremantle, Australia. Paul Kane/Getty Images

Three cruise ships off the coast of Western Australia have been told that under no circumstances will they be allowed to dock.

The Artania is carrying 800 passengers, mostly Germans, seven of whom have the coronavirus.

“The Artania cruise ship must continue on its journey to South Africa urgently. This ship needs to leave immediately,” Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan told reporters Thursday. He said if the seven passengers needed urgent medical assistance they should be sent to an Australian Defence Force base, then flown home to Germany. “We are working with the Australian government to do this immediately,” he said.

The MSC Magnifica has refueled in Fremantle and remains in waters off the coast of Western Australia. It had been planning to end its voyage in Dubai, and was at sea when its operator, MSC Cruises, temporarily halted its fleet.

MSC Cruises told CNN on March 23 that no passengers were ill. “Nobody on board -- passengers or crew -- has fever, signs of respiratory insufficiency or gastroenteric diseases,” it said in a statement.

The Vasco da Gama is carrying around 800 Australians, including 200 Western Australians, 109 New Zealanders, and 33 UK citizens and other foreigners, according to the WA government. It had been due to dock in Fremantle on Friday but has been requested to postpone its arrival until Monday to allow for the preparation of temporary accommodation on Rottnest Island.

The island, a protected nature reserve, will be used to house Western Australians onboard the ship for their 14-day quarantine period. Others onboard must remain on the ship until provisions are made to send them straight home.

No repeat: The Western Australian government is trying to avoid the scenario that played out in Sydney on March 19, when more than 2,600 passengers were allowed to leave the Ruby Princess cruise ship. Since then, 121 passengers have been confirmed to have Covid-19, according to the New South Wales Health Department.

“We are not going to have a Sydney Harbor fiasco on our watch,” McGowan said.