March 26 coronavirus news

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8:44 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

3.3 million unemployment claims filed in the US last week

A record number of Americans filed for their first week of unemployment benefits last week, as businesses shut down to slow the spread of the coronavirus.  

Initial jobless claims soared to a seasonally adjusted 3.28 million in the week ended March 21, according to the Department of Labor. 

That is the highest number of initial jobless claims in history, since the Department of Labor started tracking the data in 1967. The previous high was 695,000 claims filed in the week ending October 2, 1982. 

Last week's jump marked a massive increase from a revised 282,000 claims in the prior week. Prior to the pandemic, initial claims had been hovering in the low 200,000s each week, reflecting a strong job market.

Watch:

8:42 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Nine European leaders call for greater joint EU action on coronavirus, including "corona bonds"

European Union flags are seen outside the European Commission on March 2, in Brussels, Belgium.
European Union flags are seen outside the European Commission on March 2, in Brussels, Belgium. Leon Neal/Getty Images

Nine European leaders have sent a letter to the European Union calling for joint action to tackle the coronavirus.

The leaders — including President Emmanuel Macron of France, Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, and the leaders of Spain, Ireland and Belgium — called for shared guidelines on ending any restrictions to avoid re-importing the virus.

The leaders also pledged their support for preserving the single market of the European Union. They called for the EU to work on a common debt instrument to allow all EU countries to raise money on the same basis. European leaders are due to hold a video conference today to discuss the crisis.

Remember: This common debt, which is being called a corona bond by many in the markets, is controversial within the EU because it is seen as transferring money from wealthier members to countries with lots of debt. It has always been resisted by EU members such as Germany, Finland and the Netherlands.

8:31 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Lebanon extends measures to fight coronavirus until April 12

Lebanese state security patrol the capital, Beirut, during a lockdown on March 25.
Lebanese state security patrol the capital, Beirut, during a lockdown on March 25. Anwar Amro/AFP/Getty Images

Lebanon has extended its “General Mobilization” measures until April 12, according to the Secretary General of the Lebanese Supreme Defense Council.

The measures, originally announced on March 15, included...

  • Banning all public and private gatherings
  • The closure of all private commercial companies, except for food production related ones
  • The closure of all government departments except for security and health services
  • Instructions for people to stay in their homes unless there is an “extreme necessity” to leave them

The measures were originally supposed to end at midnight on March 29.

A number of countries are now extending their measures to control the spread of the virus. Spain on Sunday said it could extend its state of emergency, which began on March 13 and was supposed to end on March 28, for 14 days. Iran has extended its countrywide lockdown through April 11.

8:29 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Louisiana doctor says health workers are buying gowns on eBay

The former Louisiana secretary of health warned about the shortage of equipment for doctors and nurses on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis. 

“We’re a couple of days away from being out of masks. We’re buying gowns on eBay in some cases,” Dr. Rebekah Gee told CNN’s John Berman.

She said that health care workers have also been making masks out of office supplies. 

Louisiana has seen a spike in the number of coronavirus cases, with more than 400 on Wednesday. Gee, who is currently the LSU Health Care Services Division CEO, said the federal government needs to step in, especially to provide more ventilators.

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8:17 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Singapore reports largest one-day increase in coronavirus cases, taking it to 631

A working wearing protective gear mops the floor inside the Hajjah Fatimah mosque in Singapore on March 13.
A working wearing protective gear mops the floor inside the Hajjah Fatimah mosque in Singapore on March 13. Ee Ming Toh/AP

Health officials in Singapore reported 73 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus on Wednesday, making it the country’s largest single-day increase in cases.

The Ministry of Health said that 38 of the 73 new cases were imported from Europe, North America and South East Asia. A total of 27 of the new cases are linked to clusters or previously confirmed cases. The Ministry of Health added that eight cases are currently unlinked, and contact tracing is ongoing.

As of March 25, of the 631 confirmed cases in the country, 160 cases have been discharged from hospital. 404 patients still being treated in hospital, with 17 currently in critical condition. Two patients have died.

Several countries have just seen their sharpest spike in 24 hours, including Russia, New Zealand and Japan.

7:22 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Covid-19 deaths exceed 4,000 in Spain, nation with most fatalities after Italy

Health workers transport a body on a stretcher outside the Gregorio Maranon hospital in Madrid on March 25.
Health workers transport a body on a stretcher outside the Gregorio Maranon hospital in Madrid on March 25. Oscar del Pozo/AFP/Getty Images

At least 4,089 people have now died from Covid-19 in Spain with a total of 56,188 cases recorded, according to Spanish Health Ministry data released Thursday.

But the rise in the death toll of 655 in the past 24 hours was a smaller increase than the record 738 set on Wednesday.

Spain continues to be the country with the second-highest number of fatalities from coronavirus, surpassed only by Italy. China, where the outbreak began, has had 3,291 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University figures.

Before Wednesday, Spain had recorded 47,610 total cases with 3,434 deaths.

Spain has been locked down and in a state of emergency since March 13. Top health official Fernando Simon predicted on Wednesday that the nation had still not reached the crest of its outbreak. The number of cases will continue to rise in the coming days, he said.

The lockdown was initially expected to last 15 days, but Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Sunday that the state of emergency could be extended for a further 14 days.

Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo is among those to test positive, the Prime Minister's office said in a statement. She is quarantined in a hospital and making good progress, the statement said. 

Elsewhere, Health Minister Salvador Illa said the government had agreed to buy $467 million worth of masks, tests, gloves and respirators from China, which will start arriving in weekly shipments from the end of this week.

The nation has appealed to NATO for international humanitarian assistance, requesting both medical and personal protective equipment.

7:42 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Cherry blossoms bloom at ground zero of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan

A group of medical staff workers take photos amid cherry blossoms at Moshan cherry garden in Wuhan on March 5.
A group of medical staff workers take photos amid cherry blossoms at Moshan cherry garden in Wuhan on March 5. Costfoto/Barcroft Media/Getty Images

Cherry blossoms are heading into full bloom in Wuhan -- ground zero of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Wuhan used to be known as a city of blossom, an economic engine of the central heartland, and the birthplace of a century-old revolution that brought down the country's last imperial dynasty.

Now, the metropolis of approximately 11 million people in Hubei province has become the face of the coronavirus outbreak -- a stigma the people of Wuhan are increasingly unable to shake off.

China's rate of new infections has now slowed significantly, with no new locally transmitted cases reported.

The blossom looks almost more beautiful as it blooms on a deserted university campus -- reflecting the signs of hope at the original epicenter of the pandemic.

7:21 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Rebel-held Syria braces for coronavirus "tsunami" -- without soap, running water or the prospect of social distancing

Everything Fatima Um Ali needs to protect herself and her family from the novel coronavirus is out of reach. There is no running water, soap is expensive and hand sanitizer is an unaffordable luxury. She cannot even imagine what social distancing for her family of 16 would look like in the three tents they share in a makeshift camp near the Turkish-Syrian border.

"We try with our limited capabilities to keep clean. All those sanitizers, cleaning materials that you are talking about, we can't get," Um Ali tells CNN. 

She lives in one of the many camps that have cropped up in the fields, olive groves, and rolling hills of Syria's rebel-held Idlib province. Most of the children have runny noses from exposure to harsh living conditions. 

Medical staff from a Turkish humanitarian group give a lecture to raise awareness about the coronavirus epidemic at a camp for displaced Syrians in Kafr Lusin, on the border with Turkey, in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib, on March 23.
Medical staff from a Turkish humanitarian group give a lecture to raise awareness about the coronavirus epidemic at a camp for displaced Syrians in Kafr Lusin, on the border with Turkey, in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib, on March 23. Aaref Watad/AFP/Getty Images

The family has dodged death multiple times over the course of the ongoing nine-year conflict in Syria. They fled a regime assault in Hama province when the war began in 2011, moving from one town to the next as the fighting dragged on. 

But they can't run away from the global pandemic. Covid-19 is heading toward the war-ravaged province like a "slow moving tsunami," the World Health Organization says, and could claim tens of thousands of lives. 

Idlib's population of 3 million, already buckling under extreme shortages of medicine, is considered to be among the world's most defenseless against the virus.

Read the full story here

7:08 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Italian doctor death toll reaches 37 as cases top 70,000 in new epicenter of pandemic

The number of doctors in Italy who have died of coronavirus has risen to 37, the Italian Federation of Medical Professionals said Thursday.

Italy, the new epicenter of the virus, has recorded more than 70,000 cases and more than 7,000 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

A doctor treats a coronavirus patient at a hospital in Rome, Italy, on March 21.
A doctor treats a coronavirus patient at a hospital in Rome, Italy, on March 21. Antonio Masiello/Getty Images

The country announced strict new punishments yesterday in an effort to clamp down on the spread of the coronavirus, including possible jail time for people who have the virus and violate quarantine.