March 26 coronavirus news

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7:57 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Moscow closes all restaurants, stores and parks for a week

A man cleans a cafe door amid concerns of the coronavirus in central Moscow on March 25.
A man cleans a cafe door amid concerns of the coronavirus in central Moscow on March 25. Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty Images

Moscow is closing all restaurants, cafes, bars, shops and parks from March 28 until April 5 for the “stay-at-home holidays�� announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, the city’s mayor said in a statement.

"The restrictions introduced today are unprecedented in the modern history of Moscow and will create many inconveniences for the everyday life of every person,” said Mayor Sergey Sobyanin on Thursday. "But believe me, they are absolutely necessary in order to slow the spread of coronavirus infection and reduce the number of cases."

Exceptions will be made for grocery stores and pharmacies, and restaurants that deliver food are also allowed to stay open. Moscow residents were urged to refrain from attending religious sites.

Russia has seen its sharpest spike in numbers in the past 24 hours, adding 182 confirmed coronavirus cases, 136 of which are in Moscow. The total number of cases in the country now stands at 840, with three deaths, according to Russian health authorities.

The Russian government has also moved to ban all regular and charter international flights starting from March 27, per government decree.

Putin said last week Russia had managed to slow the spread of coronavirus thanks to early and aggressive measures -- and the number of confirmed cases is surprisingly low, despite Russia sharing a border with China and recording its first case back in January.

Watch:

6:47 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Prince Charles "didn't jump queue" for coronavirus test

Prince Charles did not “jump the queue” for a coronavirus test, one of the UK’s junior health ministers has said after it emerged that the royal had tested positive for the virus.

Edward Argar was asked on Sky News why the Prince of Wales was able to get the test while some frontline medical workers with symptoms have not been tested.

“The Prince of Wales didn’t jump the queue,” Argar said. “His symptoms, his condition, met that criteria."

Prince Charles, who is 71 years old and the heir to the British throne, is self-quarantining in Scotland with mild symptoms, Clarence House announced Wednesday. His wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, has also been tested and does not have the virus.

Scotland’s NHS website advises: “Generally, you'll only be tested for COVID-19 if you have a serious illness that requires admission to hospital."

Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Catherine Calderwood told BBC Scotland on Thursday that she has spoken to the team looking after Prince Charles.

“My understanding is there are very good clinical reasons for that person and his wife to be tested and I wouldn't be able to disclose anything else that I know because of patient confidentiality,” she said.

6:34 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

India announces $22.6 billion relief package to help "poor and suffering"

Indian firefighters spray disinfectants as a preventive measure against the spread of the new coronavirus on a street in Gauhati, India, on Wednesday, March 25.
Indian firefighters spray disinfectants as a preventive measure against the spread of the new coronavirus on a street in Gauhati, India, on Wednesday, March 25. Anupam Nath/AP

The Indian government has announced a relief package worth $22.6 billion to assist those most affected by the coronavirus pandemic and the nationwide lockdown.

“It’s only been 36 hours since the lockdown was imposed,” the country’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said at a news conference on Thursday. "Now we have come up with a package which will immediately take care of the welfare concerns of the poor and suffering workers and those who need immediate help."

The relief package includes medical insurance cover of $66,400 per person to those working on the frontlines, such as medical workers, sanitation workers and community health workers. This measure will cover around 2 million people.

The government will provide 800 million people -- nearly two-thirds of the country’s population -- with 5 kilograms of rice or wheat each month for the next three months for free. “We do not want anyone to go hungry,” Sitharaman said.

Other measures announced include fast-tracking subsidies and benefits for farmers, construction workers, widows and the disabled as well as increasing the minimum wage.

The 87 million farmers who currently receive $80 a year will be given the first instalment for the next financial year immediately, in the first week of April.

Workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) -- which guarantees 100 days of unskilled manual work per year -- will have their wages increased by $26.

Senior citizens, widows and the disabled will get a one-time $13 payment over the next three months in two instalments, benefiting 30 million people. 

The 200 million female Jan Dhan (government’s direct benefits transfer scheme) account-holders will get a one-time amount of $6.60 each per month for the next three months.

Women on the Ujjwala (government gas subsidy scheme) will be given free cylinders for three months. This will benefit 83 million families living below the poverty line.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a 21-day nationwide lockdown starting at midnight Wednesday. Only essential services are operational across the country’s 36 states and territories. These include water, electricity, health services, fire services, groceries and municipal services.

5:39 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Half a million Brits sign up as volunteers to support health service

More than half a million people in the UK have signed up as volunteers to support the country’s National Health Service (NHS), the UK’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock says.

The government was hoping to get 250,000 people to sign up.

Hancock tweeted on Thursday: “Fantastic that 560,000 people have now responded to our call to volunteer to support our NHS to defeat #Coronavirus."

Volunteers will be asked to carry out various tasks, including collecting shopping, medicines or other essential supplies to deliver to people who are self-isolating.

They might also be asked to provide transport for patients who are being discharged from hospital, transporting medical supplies, or chatting with people who are self-isolating and at risk of loneliness.

6:50 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Jordan eases lockdown after total curfew leads to chaos

People queue to buy subsidized bread from a municipal bus in the Marka suburb in the east of Jordan's capital Amman on March 24.
People queue to buy subsidized bread from a municipal bus in the Marka suburb in the east of Jordan's capital Amman on March 24. Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images

Jordan on Wednesday eased one of the world's strictest lockdowns over the coronavirus after it prompted chaotic scenes in the country. 

Days after a total curfew went into effect, people clamored to receive bread distributions from government trucks, the emergency hotline went offline after it apparently became overloaded with phone calls, and some reported they had nothing at home to eat. 

But on Tuesday, the government backtracked, loosening restrictions on movement. After four days of total lockdown, people were allowed to leave their homes on foot for essential trips, such as purchasing food from small convenient stores and obtaining medicine. A curfew is still in place from 6 p.m. to 10 a.m.

Read the full story here

6:51 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

This orchestra is performing mini concerts every day on Facebook

With the cascading glissandos of the harp and the rich sounds of the cello, classical music is known to relieve stress or even lull you to sleep. And amid the coronavirus pandemic, when anxiety has reached an all-time high, a good night's sleep is much needed.

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra's "Bedtime with Bach" series can help with that.

Every night at 9 p.m., members of the orchestra post videos of themselves performing on Facebook, all from the comfort of their homes in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Song choices range from Domenico Scarlatti's "Sonata in B minor K.27 (performed by ASO's principal harpist Alisa Coffey) to Aretha Franklin's "I Say a Little Prayer for You" (performed by ASO's conductor and violinist Geoffrey Robson).

The short performances are a way for the orchestra members to stay connected with the community while their concerts are canceled, members said.

"Music is alive, but it becomes more alive when you've got the audience's energy coming back at you," said Drew Irvin, ASO's co-concertmaster, who came up with the idea. "So for now, we're going to make that through Facebook."

The orchestra's normal concerts usually draw in about 1,000 audience members, Irvin said. The "Bedtime with Bach" series is even more popular, garnering thousands of views. Principal cellist David Gerstein's performance of "Romance" alone racked up 10,000 views.

Read more here:

6:51 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

In pictures: What the pandemic looks like worldwide

The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically altered daily life around the globe. Stores are shut, streets quiet, restaurants closed, face masks ubiquitous, and supermarket aisles empty.

People practice social distancing as they wait for takeout food at a shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand, on Tuesday.
People practice social distancing as they wait for takeout food at a shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand, on Tuesday. Credit: Sakchai Lalit/AP

Phrases like social distancing and self-isolation have made their way into the public consciousness. In some places, like Thailand's capital Bangkok, people diligently follow the rules of social distancing -- even sitting feet apart from each other in neat grids in mall food courts.

In other places like Japan, where the popular cherry blossom season is underway, social distancing doesn't appear to have taken hold yet.

People flock to Tokyo city parks to view the blooming cherry blossoms on March 21.
People flock to Tokyo city parks to view the blooming cherry blossoms on March 21. Credit: Clive Rose/Getty Images

There were similar scenes in the United States, where more than a dozen states have imposed stay-at-home orders. Last weekend, crowds gathered on beaches, hiking trails, and parks in California, in open defiance of the state-wide order to shelter in place and avoid close contact with others.

California's Huntington Beach on March 21.
California's Huntington Beach on March 21. Michael Heiman/Getty Images

Meanwhile, in places like mainland China, coronavirus case numbers continue to drop every day -- leading to a cautious easing of travel restrictions and strict lockdowns.

Businesses in China are returning to work, and even tourist sites are reopening -- the Badaling section of the Great Wall is finally open again this week, after being closed for two months.

See all the pictures here

A tourist visiting the reopened Badaling section of the Great Wall of China on March 24.
A tourist visiting the reopened Badaling section of the Great Wall of China on March 24. Credit: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
6:58 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

People are decorating their windows with hearts and messages of hope

Natasha James' window in her home in Nanaimo, British Columbia.
Natasha James' window in her home in Nanaimo, British Columbia. Courtesy Natasha James

Thousands of people are practicing social distancing worldwide -- but that's not stopping neighbors from leaving messages of hope in the windows of their homes.

It's unclear where or when the effort started, but photos of people putting rainbows, colorful heart cutouts, teddy bears and anything that resembles a sign of hope have been spreading all over social media.

Some are participating because they want their neighbors who have been deemed "essential workers" to see some joy on their way out of their homes. Others say they decorated their windows so families taking walks and getting fresh air have a nice reminder that everyone is in this together.

Nora Siebels stands outside her front door decked out in paper hearts in Norfolk, Virginia.
Nora Siebels stands outside her front door decked out in paper hearts in Norfolk, Virginia. Courtesy Tory and Kyle Siebels

In Norfolk, Virginia, Kyle Siebels told CNN he found out about the effort through his neighborhood Facebook page. When the Siebels family went for a walk Tuesday, Kyle said he saw 30 houses participating. On Monday, Kyle's wife, Tory, cut out the hearts and went to town on their front door.

"Our neighbors have started putting colored hearts in their windows for neighborhood kids to find on their walks while everyone is staying home," he wrote on Facebook. "We laced up our door so they wouldn't miss our circle. Pretty cool to see how many houses have participated. Nora (Kyle and Tory's daughter) definitely loves our walks."

Read the full story here:

5:06 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Fear drives $2 trillion economic rescue bid -- and sparks calls for the next one

Patrick Semansky/AP
Patrick Semansky/AP

Even $2 trillion is not enough to dispel fears stalking Washington that the coronavirus crisis could pull down the economic foundation on which American life depends.

There are several daunting takeaways from the bulging pandemic stimulus bill -- expected to clear Congress soon after the Senate passed it unanimously late Wednesday night, notwithstanding some last-minute quibbles by rank and file members on both sides. All of them underscore the extreme and historic nature of the crisis that may have already wiped out millions of jobs at a swipe.

The human tragedy of the pandemic is being played out in growing lists of lost family members and the courage of medical professionals saving lives behind closed hospital doors.

But the rescue bill's staggering size is the most public expression of the historic scale of the coronavirus disaster and the fragility of the systems that sustain American life. After all, in a matter of days, an economy powering ahead at historic rates suddenly needed a bill to plug a hole equal to 10% of US gross domestic product after the crisis swept away the complacency of a decade of economic expansion and perpetually rising stock markets.

The breakneck speed at which the bill came together in a capital fractured by vicious divides is an example of rare compromise in the bitter aftermath of impeachment. But it also reflects the motivating power inherent in the threat of economic implosion.

Thirdly, and perhaps most concerning, are signs that the biggest economic rescue measure in history won't be nearly sufficient to nurse the economy through the dark months to come.

Leaders on all sides are clear that the package is a stopgap to get through the next few months -- and will not revive the economy without another huge cash injection.

Read more about the stimulus package here