March 26 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Joshua Berlinger, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner, Emma Reynolds and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 0252 GMT (1052 HKT) March 27, 2020
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2:41 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

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

From CNN's Hilary Whiteman in Brisbane

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

Fact Check: The US has done more coronavirus tests than South Korea, but not per person

President Donald Trump claimed today the US had done more coronavirus testing than any other nation, after receiving domestic criticism over the rate of testing.

"In fact, over an eight day span, the United States now does more testing than what South Korea (which has been a very successful tester) does over an eight week span," Trump tweeted.

Fact check: While the US has overtaken South Korea in total numbers of coronavirus tests administered, it has conducted far fewer tests per capita, given the US population is more than six times larger than South Korea's.

"Yes, it is true that South Korea has run less tests as an absolute number. However, it is important to point out the huge difference in the population sizes," Aubree Gordon, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan, told CNN.

South Korea has a population of 51 million, and has conducted 357,896 tests so far, according to government figures. That means one in every 142 South Koreans have been tested.

The US has a population of 329 million and has conducted 418,810 tests so far, according to the Covid Tracking Project. That means one in every 785 Americans have been tested.

2:05 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Russia will stop all international flights starting Friday

From CNN's Alla Eshchenko

People sit stuck at Moscow's Vnukovo airport on March 24 after neighboring countries closed borders and stopped flights.
People sit stuck at Moscow's Vnukovo airport on March 24 after neighboring countries closed borders and stopped flights. Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images

The Russian government has ordered a ban on all regular and charter international flights starting tomorrow, Russian state media reported Thursday.

An exception will be made only for flights used for repatriation of Russian citizens from abroad.

1:54 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

British diplomat, 37, dies after contracting coronavirus

From CNN's Rob Picheta in London

A senior British diplomat stationed in Hungary has died after contracting coronavirus, the UK's Foreign Office said on Wednesday.

Steven Dick, aged 37, was the Deputy Head of Mission for the British embassy in Budapest.

He died on Tuesday after contracting Covid-19, the Foreign Office said.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: "I am desperately saddened by the news of Steven's death and my heart goes out to his parents Steven and Carol."

"Steven was a dedicated diplomat and represented his country with great skill and passion. He will be missed by all those who knew him and worked with him."

Read more:

1:44 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Tokyo's streets are full of people, a day after the governor urged social distancing

From CNN's Will Ripley

Commuters wearing face masks make their way to work on March 26 in Tokyo, Japan.
Commuters wearing face masks make their way to work on March 26 in Tokyo, Japan. Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

Yesterday, the governor of Tokyo held an emergency news conference urging citizens to stay at home and avoid going out unnecessarily.

Today, it appears residents are ignoring the warnings.

Streets around the Meguro River are packed with people gathering to view the blooming cherry blossoms. Some are wearing masks, but just as many people aren't.

It's cherry blossom season -- meaning all week, people have been going to parks and public areas, picnicking outdoors, and gathering in large numbers.

Authorities are urging citizens not to take the pandemic lightly -- Japan reported its largest single-day jump in cases yesterday -- but their pleas for social distancing appear to have had little effect.

1:29 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Travelers entering South Korea must download a self-quarantine app

From CNN’s Jake Kwon in Seoul

Travelers from the US and Europe entering South Korea will now be required to download a government self-quarantine smartphone app, according to the country’s Central Disaster Relief Headquarters.

The app will remind users to check their symptoms every day, and will monitor their location to confirm they are following the quarantine order.

Those violating quarantine without a proper reason will be immediately reported to the authorities, and deported if they are foreign citizens. Police will immediately respond to the site when a person leaves their quarantine without authorization. 

Violating quarantine is punishable by up to one year in prison or a fine of up to 10 million won ($8,150).

1:16 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Japan sets up virus task force as cases spike

From CNN’s Yoko Wakatsuki in Tokyo

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, arrives to speak to journalists in front of the prime minister's residence in Tokyo, Tuesday, March 24.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, arrives to speak to journalists in front of the prime minister's residence in Tokyo, Tuesday, March 24. Charly Triballeau/Pool Photo via AP

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has ordered a government task force be set up in response to the coronavirus pandemic, as the number of cases in the country spiked today. 

The establishment of a task force is a requirement to declaring a state of emergency -- though Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said today that the country was not yet at the point of declaring one. 

Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told media after the meeting that the government feared the number of new coronavirus cases was on the rise, with spikes in cases in big cities and from inbound travelers.

Wednesday saw the highest single-day jump in cases so far, with 98 new cases.

1:06 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

77 people are showing symptoms on a cruise ship headed for Florida 

From CNN's Stephanie Gallman and Rosa Flores

Holland America Line
Holland America Line

A total of 77 people aboard Holland America's cruise ship "Zaandam" are reporting flu-like symptoms, according to a news release on the cruise line’s website. 

The 77 people consist of 30 passengers and 47 crew members.

“Since it is flu season, and Covid-19 testing is not available on board, it is difficult to determine the cause of these elevated cases at this time,” the release said.

The Zaandam left Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 7, before the cruise operator announced it would be suspending global cruise operations for a month.

The voyage was scheduled to end in San Antonio, Chile, last Saturday. According to the release, no one has been off the ship since March 14 in Puenta Arena, Chile, where guests were initially told they could disembark for flights but were not permitted to.  

All ports along the Zaandam’s route are now closed to cruise ships. 

A second ship is bringing help: Holland America has deployed a second ship to bring extra supplies, staff, coronavirus test kits and other support to the Zandaam.

The support ship left Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on Sunday and will meet with the Zandaam on Thursday night.  

Passengers isolated on board: Passenger Maureen Foran, 75, says she has had no face-to-face contact with anyone, family or crew, since the ship imposed a quarantine onboard. 

“We are forbidden to leave our rooms,” Foran told CNN. “I am thankful for a window but I am getting claustrophobic.”
12:55 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

California's cases are doubling every few days. Officials warn San Francisco could reach New York levels

From CNN's Sarah Moon and Jon Passantino in Los Angeles

Los Angeles residents are administered with a test for the coronavirus while in their vehicles inside the Crenshaw Christian Center in South Los Angeles Wednesday, March 25.
Los Angeles residents are administered with a test for the coronavirus while in their vehicles inside the Crenshaw Christian Center in South Los Angeles Wednesday, March 25. Damian Dovarganes/AP

The number of coronavirus cases in California is doubling every three to four days, the state's top health official said.

“We originally thought that it would be doubling every six to seven days and we see cases doubling every three to four days,” Dr. Mark Ghaly, the secretary of California's Health and Human Services Agency, said at a news conference Wednesday. "We’re watching that trend very, very closely.” 

Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered most of the state's nearly 40 million residents to stay at home to stop the virus from spreading further. However, public health experts say that it may take up to two weeks to see the results of such travel restrictions, as the virus' incubation period ranges from one to 14 days.

Ghaly said authorities in California are anticipating a surge of cases and patients in a week or two. 

A stark warning for San Francisco: Meanwhile, San Francisco Mayor London Breed warned Wednesday that if residents don't heed orders to stay at home, the California city could see a surge in coronavirus cases.

“If people who are out on the streets continue to congregate with one another, continue to interact with one another, which increases the spread of this virus, we will not have enough beds, enough ICU units, enough ventilators to support the people that we know are going to need them,” Breed said.

The mayor estimated San Francisco would need at least 1,500 more ventilators and 5,000 extra hospital beds to meet a larger surge of patients.

"It is plausible that despite all these efforts we could have a scenario similar to the one that is playing out in New York this very day," said San Francisco Director of Health Dr. Grant Colfax. "If that happens our capacity, our surge capacity will be far exceeded."