March 29 coronavirus news

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6:39 a.m. ET, March 29, 2020

Australia to limit gatherings to two people in public and close outdoor areas

From CNN's Hilary Whiteman in Brisbane

People spend time at St Kilda Beach in Melbourne, Australia on March 28.
People spend time at St Kilda Beach in Melbourne, Australia on March 28. Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images

Australia will limit gatherings to two people, among other new measures to fight the novel coronavirus, from Monday onwards, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

Gatherings will be limited to two people in public spaces and in other areas, down from a ceiling of 10 people implemented earlier, Morrison said at a press conference on Sunday.

All public outdoor areas, including playgrounds and skate parks, will also be closed.

Morrison said all residents “must stay home,” except to shop for necessities, medical care, exercise, work or education. He urged people aged over 70 to stay at home and self-isolate.

He also announced a six-month moratorium on evictions.

Returnees quarantined: On Sunday, 1,600 people who returned to Australia on international flights went into quarantine at hotels in major cities, Morrison added.

5:00 a.m. ET, March 29, 2020

How Russia is using authoritarian tech to curb coronavirus

From CNN's Mary Ilyushina in Moscow

Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP
Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

Russia under President Vladimir Putin has pioneered authoritarian tech: Last year, the Kremlin leader approved measures that would enable the creation of a "sovereign" Russian internet, able to be firewalled from the rest of the world.

The Covid-19 pandemic is now giving Russian authorities an opportunity to test new powers and technology, and the country's privacy and free-speech advocates worry the government is building sweeping new surveillance capabilities.

Perhaps the most well-publicized tech tool in Russia's arsenal for fighting coronavirus is Moscow's massive facial-recognition system. Rolled out earlier this year, the surveillance system had originally prompted an unusual public backlash, with privacy advocates filing lawsuits over unlawful surveillance.

Coronavirus, however, has given an unexpected public-relations boost to the system.

Read the full story here.

4:59 a.m. ET, March 29, 2020

Singapore cancels citizen’s passport for breaching home quarantine requirements

From Chermaine Lee in Hong Kong 

Singapore canceled the passport of a citizen for breaching stay-at-home notice requirements, according to a statement from the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority released on Sunday.

The 53-year-old male Singaporean citizen was reported to arrive at Singapore from Indonesia on March 19, after Singapore imposed a mandatory 14-day home quarantine on all travelers from March 16. He was required to be quarantined, but decided to return to Indonesia on the same day.

On March 24, he returned to Singapore again and was asked to be quarantined for another 14 days.

The Ministry of Health is investigating his breach of stay-at-home notice requirements.

Draconian measures: Singapore has introduced new laws governing social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak that could see offenders serve six months in jail.

Those who do not keep at least 1 meter (3.2 feet) apart, or who meet in groups of more than 10 people outside of work or school, could face a fine of up to 10,000 Singapore dollars ($7,000) and/or up to six months' imprisonment.

4:20 a.m. ET, March 29, 2020

South Korea to expand two-week quarantine to all incoming travelers

From CNN's Jake Kwon in Seoul

Airport staff are seen wearing facemasks to protect themselves from Covid-19 inside Incheon International Airport on March 10, in Incheon, South Korea. 
Airport staff are seen wearing facemasks to protect themselves from Covid-19 inside Incheon International Airport on March 10, in Incheon, South Korea.  Ezra Acayan/Getty Images

All travelers entering South Korea will be subjected to two weeks of mandatory quarantine starting midnight on Wednesday, April 1, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun announced Sunday.

"The measure will also include short-term foreign visitors in order to practically block the entry for unimportant purposes, such as tourism," Chung said during a Central Disaster Relief headquarters meeting. 

Those who don't have an address in the country will be quarantined in a government provided facility for two weeks at their own expense.

Previously, the mandatory quarantine order was for travelers coming into South Korea from the US and Europe.

6:39 a.m. ET, March 29, 2020

Afreximbank announces $3 billion fund to soften coronavirus impact

The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has announced a $3 billion fund to help African countries deal with the economic and health impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Pandemic Trade Impact Mitigation Facility (PATIMFA) will provide financing to assist Afreximbank member countries with the financial, economic and health services shocks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a statement released by the bank on Tuesday.

The facility will support member country central banks and financial institutions to meet trade debt payments that fall due, and will work to avert trade payment defaults, the bank said, adding that the package will also serve to support and stabilize the foreign exchange resources of central banks of member countries.

African ExportImport Bank's (Afreximbank) President Benedict Oramah speaks during the Tony Elumelu Foundation's African entrepreneurship forum in Abuja, Nigeria, 2019.
African ExportImport Bank's (Afreximbank) President Benedict Oramah speaks during the Tony Elumelu Foundation's African entrepreneurship forum in Abuja, Nigeria, 2019. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP via Getty Images

“A rapid and impactful financial response is required to avert a major crisis in Africa,” Benedict Oramah, President of Afreximbank said in a statement, adding that “Africa is exposed in many fronts, including significant declines in tourism earnings, migrant remittances, commodity prices and disruption of manufacturing supply chains.”

READ MORE: What Africa can teach the world about beating the coronavirus

3:37 a.m. ET, March 29, 2020

Domestic flights in China's Hubei province resume

From Alexander Lin and Chermaine Lee in Hong Kong

Workers walk through the nearly empty Wuhan Tianhe airport in Wuhan, China on March 17.
Workers walk through the nearly empty Wuhan Tianhe airport in Wuhan, China on March 17. STR/AFP/Getty Images

Domestic flights will resume in Hubei province, except in the city of Wuhan, from Sunday midnight local time, according to a statement from the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

Cargo flights will resume as well as passenger flights. 

The Chinese government has been steadily reducing the restrictions on Hubei and other previously heavily affected provinces, as the number of coronavirus cases has continued to fall.

Today China reported 45 new cases, all but one of which came from outside the country.

Flights to and from Wuhan, the original epicenter of the virus, will resume at midnight on April 8 when the city’s lockdown is expected to be lifted.

3:34 a.m. ET, March 29, 2020

Indian student cut off from his boyfriend by mass lockdown

From CNN's Julia Hollingsworth

Hemangay, a University of Delhi student, hasn't heard his boyfriend's voice for about a week.

The 19-year-old, who asked not to use his real name as he is not out to his parents, lives with his family in New Delhi, the capital of India. For the past few months, he's been dating his 22-year-old boyfriend -- in secret.

On Tuesday, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the country of 1.3 billion people was going into lockdown for the next 21 days.

That means no one is allowed outside. Public transport is shut, so Hemangay wouldn't be able to make it to his boyfriend's house on the other side of Delhi anyway.

And because Hemangay can't take walks, he hasn't been able to phone his boyfriend -- he's too worried his parents would find out about their relationship if he calls him from the family home.

"I have never felt so helpless in my entire life," he said.

Read the full article here.

2:58 a.m. ET, March 29, 2020

OPINION: How to protect the US 2020 elections from the coronavirus crisis

From Julian Zelizer, CNN Political Analyst

Nam Y. Huh/AP
Nam Y. Huh/AP

Despite the global pandemic, we must take steps to ensure a high turnout is possible during the 2020 US election.

While public attention has naturally turned toward our health care system's ability to treat the mounting number of Covid-19 patients — along with the spluttering economy — it would be a disastrous mistake to assume everything will run smoothly in November.

This could have a profound impact on our presidential election. During the 1918 flu pandemic, the US saw voting decline significantly in the midterm elections, from 50% in 1914 to 40% four years later.

Even if people turn out to vote in November, getting millions of Americans to wait in long lines and touch the same voting equipment could be the last thing we want.

In 2020, the stakes are too high to simply sit back and watch what will happen. Even before the pandemic hit, the election was already being considered by many a pivotal moment in our country's history and a referendum on President Trump.

Now that we are living through a global crisis akin to a massive depression or world war, the stakes are even higher.

Read the full article here.

2:49 a.m. ET, March 29, 2020

Governor announces death of 33-year-old staff member who tested positive for coronavirus

Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks at a press conference on March 25, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks at a press conference on March 25, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Melinda Deslatte/AP

A 33-year-old staff member of Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has died from complications with Covid-19, the governor announced Saturday.

April Dunn served in the Governor's Office of Disability Affairs. 

“It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the loss of our dear April," said Edwards. “She brightened everyone’s day with her smile, was a tremendous asset to our team and an inspiration to everyone who met her.

"She lived her life to the fullest and improved the lives of countless Louisianans with disabilities. April worked hard as an advocate for herself and other members of the disability community."