March 26 coronavirus news

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

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

From CNN's Laura Perez-Maestro in Madrid and Max Ramsay in London

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

From CNN's Gul Tuysuz, Arwa Damon, Zaher Jaber and Eyad Kourdi

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

From CNN's Livia Borghese in Rome

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.

7:06 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Iraq extends country-wide curfew through April 11

From CNN’s Aqeel Najim in Baghdad

Iraqi police work at a checkpoint in Baghdad, Iraq, on March 24.
Iraqi police work at a checkpoint in Baghdad, Iraq, on March 24. Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images

The Iraqi government is extending the countrywide curfew/lockdown through April 11, state media reported Wednesday.

The curfew was previously set to expire on March 28.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced on state TV Tuesday that the temporary release of prisoners in Iran would extend to 25 days until April 18, as the country's death toll continues to rise.

Last week, judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili announced Iran had temporarily sent home 85,000 prisoners to curb the spread of the coronavirus, according to semi-official Tasnim news agency.

Meanwhile, 1.2 million of Iran’s approximately 2.5 million civil servants have not been going to work for the past month amid the coronavirus outbreak, Rouhani said.

As of Wednesday, there were 346 confirmed coronavirus cases in the country and 29 deaths, the Health Ministry announced.

8:12 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Hundreds of foreign trekkers stranded on Nepal’s mountain trails after coronavirus lockdown

From CNN's Sugam Pokharel in Atlanta 

Porters walk past mules carrying empty gas cylinders along a path in Phakding, Nepal, on March 23, after mountain expeditions and trekking were suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Porters walk past mules carrying empty gas cylinders along a path in Phakding, Nepal, on March 23, after mountain expeditions and trekking were suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak. Prakesh Mathema/AFP/Getty Images

Hundreds of foreign trekkers are stranded on famous high-altitude trekking trails across Nepal after the country began a week-long nationwide lockdown on Tuesday in a bid to contain the coronavirus spread, officials said.

On at least four trekking routes, there are a total of around 500 foreign trekkers unable to return due to the lockdown, Shradha Shrestha, a spokeswoman for the Nepal Tourism Board told CNN.

We are working with multiple government agencies to rescue the trekkers and bring them to Kathmandu, so that we can coordinate with the embassies to fly them back home, Shrestha said, adding the board has launched a website to make it easier for the stranded trekkers to reach out to authorities.

“Several embassies such as the German and French are already planning to send chartered flights to some of these areas to rescue the trekkers,” Shrestha said.

In a Twitter post, the British embassy in Kathmandu asked UK citizens in Nepal who are looking to return home to send it their details. “We're working closely with carriers and authorities to try to find a solution, and will contact you ASAP,” the embassy said.

Nepal’s government announced earlier this month the spring climbing season for all the Himalayan peaks in the country including the world’s highest Mount Everest would be canceled.

Nepal has three confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to the Nepal Health Ministry data.

6:33 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

US Forces Japan member tests positive for coronavirus

From CNN’s Yoko Wakatsuki in Tokyo and Isaac Yee in Hong Kong

An active duty member of the United States Forces Japan (USFJ) has tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

In a press release issued on Thursday, USFJ said that the active duty patient who tested positive had been in "Restriction of Movement status upon his return from the United States on March 15th."

The statement added that since March 11, "United States Forces Japan has required personnel returning to Japan to be immediately restricted to quarters for 14 days." The member who tested positive was assigned to Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka.

USFJ health professionals are now conducting contact tracing to determine if the patient had interacted with other personnel.

6:13 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Just joining us? Here's what you need to know

A member of the public wears a a protective mask on the Tube on March 25  in London, England.
A member of the public wears a a protective mask on the Tube on March 25 in London, England. Alex Davidson/Getty Images

Markets struggling: US stock futures are stumbling today, even as the US moves closer toward passing a $2 trillion stimulus bill. The House of Representatives is expected to take up the measure on Friday. Markets in Asia Pacific struggled for direction, and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was the only major benchmark in the region to trade firmly in the green.

Deadliest day in the US: Wednesday was the deadliest day the US has seen during the pandemic with 233 fatalities reported, taking the US to 65,273 cases and 938 deaths. California's cases are doubling every few days, while officials have warned that San Francisco could reach New York levels.

Dire situation in Spain: The total number of infections in Spain is inching closer to 50,000, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. At over 3,600 fatalities, the number of deaths reported in the country has surpassed those in China. Only Italy has reported more.

New imported cases in China: The country reported 67 new imported coronavirus cases on Wednesday, but no new locally transmitted ones. Its rate of new infections has slowed significantly, with 81,285 cases, 3,287 deaths, 74,051 recovered.

Largest single-day spike in Japan: The country saw its largest single-day spike in cases since the outbreak began, with 98 new cases and two more deaths reported Wednesday. The nation has now had 2,003 cases and 55 deaths. Japanese people have been urged to avoid all non-essential overseas travel.

New Zealand on high alert: Authorities confirmed 73 new coronavirus patients and five more probable cases -- the most in a 24-hour period to date. The country is in its first full day on alert Level 4, the highest category. Most people are required to stay home.

India pledges $22.6 billion in support: The government has announced a relief package to assist those most affected by the pandemic and 21-day nationwide lockdown. It includes medical insurance cover of $66,400 per person to those working on the frontlines and 5 kilograms of rice or wheat per month for 800 million people.

Moscow closes down: All cafes, parks and stores (except grocery stores, delivery kitchens and pharmacies) will shut until April 5 after Russia saw its sharpest spike in the past 24 hours, reaching 840 cases and three deaths. Putin said last week Russia had managed to slow the spread of coronavirus thanks to early and aggressive measures.

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

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

Moscow closes all restaurants, stores and parks for a week

 From CNN’s Mary Ilyushina in Moscow

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.

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