March 15 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Jenni Marsh, Ivana Kottasová and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 0222 GMT (1022 HKT) March 16, 2020
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2:57 a.m. ET, March 15, 2020

American Airlines is cutting long-haul international flights by 75%

An American Airlines jet at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Texas on Friday.
An American Airlines jet at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Texas on Friday. Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

American Airlines is suspending most long-haul international flights from the US between March 16 and May 6, said the airline in a news release.

Demand has plummeted amid virus concerns and new US government travel restrictions.

The airline is reducing its international capacity by 75% compared to last year.

It will only continue three long-haul international routes: one flight a day from Dallas to London, one from Miami to London, and three flights a week from Dallas to Tokyo.

Short-haul international flights, like those from the US to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and certain parts of South America will continue.

Domestic flights are not immune, however. The airline anticipates its domestic capacity in April will be reduced by 20% compared to last year, and the number could fall to 30% by May on a year-over-year basis.

2:45 a.m. ET, March 15, 2020

Rwanda has its first case of the virus. Now it's closing schools and places of worship

From CNN's David McKenzie in Johannesburg 

Schools and places of worship in Rwanda will close in a bid to "strengthen the country's ability to mitigate the risk" of coronavirus, the Health Ministry announced on Saturday. 

Places of worship are closed starting today, and schools are closed from tomorrow. The measures will be in place for two weeks.

Employees are urged to work from home "whereever possible," and large gatherings, like weddings or sporting events, should be postponed.

Businesses and restaurants are allowed to operate, but customers must keep at least one meter (about three feet) apart.

Rwanda confirmed its first case yesterday. The patient is an Indian citizen who traveled from Mumbai to Rwanda on March 8. He developed symptoms after he arrived, sought medical attention on March 13, and was immediately tested, said the Health Ministry. He is in stable condition, and is being treated in isolation.

2:34 a.m. ET, March 15, 2020

Politicians worldwide are being affected by the coronavirus

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregorie Trudeau, who tested positive for the coronavirus, in Ottawa, Canada, in December 2019.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregorie Trudeau, who tested positive for the coronavirus, in Ottawa, Canada, in December 2019. Credit: Dave Chan/AFP via Getty Images

As the coronavirus spreads politicians and their families are being affected, too. Many have gotten tested this week, with some confirming that they have contracted the virus.

Here's a look at politicians affected by the virus:

  • In the US, President Donald Trump tested negative for the virus, after coming into contact with Brazilian delegates who tested positive after the meeting. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has tested positive. 9 lawmakers are also under self-quarantine after coming into contact with infected people.
  • In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's wife Sophie has tested positive. She and Trudeau are now under isolation. Trudeau says he will continue his duties, but he has not been tested for the virus as he shows no symptoms.
  • In France, four politicians have tested positive: a member of parliament, a parliament staffer, the Minister of Culture, and the Secretary of State to the Minister for Ecological and Inclusive Transition.
  • In Spain, the wife of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez tested positive. They are both in good condition and are following health officials' preventative measures.
  • In Brazil, three members of a delegation that visited the US have tested positive: Brazil’s Chargé d'Affaires in Washington, a senator, and the president's press secretary.
  • In the UK, the junior health minister has the virus. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was at a meeting with her not long before she tested positive, but he has said he will not get tested, as he is showing no symptoms.
  • In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte tested negative, after potentially being exposed to an infected patient.
  • In Iran, 8% of the government has tested positive, or 23 of its 290-member parliament. Two members have died. Several vice presidents, of which Iran has many, have tested positive.
  • In Australia, the home affairs minister tested positive, less than a week after meeting with US Attorney General William Barr, senior White House adviser Ivanka Trump and other White House officials.
  • In Mongolia, President Khaltmaagiin Battulga and other officials are under quarantine for two weeks, after returning from a one-day trip to China. The leader has since reportedly tested negative.
2:33 a.m. ET, March 15, 2020

Korean Air is using passenger planes for cargo to make up for lost revenue

From CNN’s Yoonjung Seo in Seoul

A Korean Air plane at Los Angeles International Airport in October 2019.
A Korean Air plane at Los Angeles International Airport in October 2019. Credit: Daniel Slim/AFP via Getty Images

Korean Air has started using grounded passenger planes to transport cargo, the airline said in a news release today.

The move will help make up for lost revenue and support South Korean companies in importing and exporting goods, according to the company.

Due to various global travel bans and restrictions, Korean Air has suspended 89 of its 124 passenger routes. The airline is only operating 14% of its international passenger flights.

Korean Air began using passenger aircraft for cargo on a flight to Ho Chi Mihn, Vietnam, on Friday, and will begin cargo transport to Qingdao, China, on March 21.

The aviation industry is suffering. Earlier this month, Airports Council International (ACI) predicted that airport passenger traffic volume for the first quarter of 2020 will be down at least 12 percentage points compared to what it previously projected, with Asia-Pacific passenger traffic down 24% compared to previous forecasts.

Before the pandemic, global airport revenues for the first quarter of 2020 were forecast to reach almost $39.5 billion. ACI now estimates a loss of revenue of at least $4.3 billion.


2:15 a.m. ET, March 15, 2020

80% of South Korea's cases are linked to cluster transmissions

From CNN’s Yoonjung Seo in Seoul

Workers spray disinfectant at a subway station in Seoul, South Korea, on Friday.
Workers spray disinfectant at a subway station in Seoul, South Korea, on Friday. Credit: Jung Yeon-je/AFP via Getty Images

About 80% of all coronavirus cases in South Korea are associated with cluster transmissions, according to the country’s Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

The country has reported 8,162 cases and 75 deaths.

Several clusters have been found around the country. The Shincheonji religious group, based in the southern city of Daegu, is the biggest cluster; 74% of all cases nationwide are from the city.

Nationally, 60% of all cases are linked to the group, said the KCDC release.

Officials identified another cluster at a call center in Seoul this week, which has led to 124 cases so far.

Another cluster is within the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, where 29 people have tested positive.

2:05 a.m. ET, March 15, 2020

Cleveland State women's basketball coach tests positive for the coronavirus

Cleveland State University (CSU) announced late Saturday night that its women’s head basketball coach has tested positive for the coronavirus.

This is the university's first confirmed case. It has been confirmed by Cuyahoga County health officials.

“It has been a very challenging couple of days,” said the coach, Chris Kielsmeier, in the university's statement. “I am beginning to feel better and look forward to getting back to 100%.”

CSU President Harlan Sands praised Kielsmeier for alerting the school quickly and staying at home, saying his actions "were helpful in limiting exposure to the CSU community.”

The university is working with health officials to conduct contact tracing, and are asking those who have been in contact with Kielsmeier to self-quarantine.

1:49 a.m. ET, March 15, 2020

China is lifting travel restrictions and life is returning to normal

Children play in a garden in Beijing, China, on Saturday, as travel and movement restrictions begin to lift.
Children play in a garden in Beijing, China, on Saturday, as travel and movement restrictions begin to lift. Credit: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Life in China is beginning to return to normal now that the coronavirus outbreak has largely been contained across the country, with lockdowns lifting and employees returning to work.

China only reported 20 new cases today -- a drastic drop from just a few weeks ago, when the country was recording thousands of new infections a day.

The new cases are no longer spread out across the country -- now, new cases are mostly either imported from international travelers or concentrated in Hubei Province, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Domestic travel is resuming: During the worst of the outbreak, 1,119 highway entrances and exits across the country were closed. Now, all but two have reopened, according to state media outlet Xinhua.

Hundreds of previously-closed roads in counties, towns, and provinces have also reopened. The national road network is "basically running normally," and 28 provinces have resumed inter-provincial travel, Xinhua reported.

Of 12,028 health and quarantine stations set up on highways, 11,198 have been removed.

This is a huge contrast to February. Just a month ago, much of China was essentially locked down. Many residents weren't allowed to leave their apartment complexes, let alone the city. Some stayed indoors for weeks on end.

Even within cities, public transport was restricted; in Wuhan and other locked-down cities, subway trains were halted and most taxis suspended, with only a small number of government-issued shuttles and cars operating.

1:38 a.m. ET, March 15, 2020

Illinois governor: "The federal government needs to get its s@#t together"

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker expressed strong dissatisfaction with federal authorities after American travelers returning to the country were forced to wait in long lines for hours to get through customs.

Passengers at Chicago's O'Hare airport told CNN they had been waiting for up to five hours in line, with no hand sanitizers in sight. Photos from the airport show crowds jammed together as they wait, with only a few people wearing face masks.

Tweeting directly at President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, Gov. Pritzker said the crowds at O'Hare were "unacceptable & need to be addressed immediately."

"To the frustrated people trying to get home, I have spoken with the mayor and our Senators and we are working together to get the federal government to act to solve this," Pritzker continued. "We will do everything within our power to get relief. The federal government needs to get its s@#t together. NOW." 

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf acknowledged the problem in a tweet, saying, "DHS is aware of the long lines for passengers who are undergoing increased medical screening requirements. Right now we are working to add additional screening capacity and working with the airlines to expedite the process."

Some context: On Wednesday, Trump suspended travel from 26 European countries to the US, starting Friday.

The announcement sparked chaos at European airports as Americans sought ways to return home before the ban went into effect.

Yesterday, the Trump administration expanded restrictions to include the UK and Ireland. Like the previous restrictions, US citizens and their family members are exempt from the restrictions but are being subjected to enhanced medical screenings upon arrival. 

1:20 a.m. ET, March 15, 2020

If you're just joining us, here's the latest

Empty stalls in a supermarket in Tinteniac, France, on Saturday, as the government announced new restrictions due to coronavirus.
Empty stalls in a supermarket in Tinteniac, France, on Saturday, as the government announced new restrictions due to coronavirus. Credit: Damien Meyer/AFP via Getty Images

Countries worldwide are now implementing drastic emergency measures to deal with the pandemic -- lockdowns, travel bans, and quarantines. Here are the latest developments:

The virus is spreading across the US. President Trump has tested negative for the virus. The new travel ban, which went into effect on Friday midnight, has been extended to include the UK and Ireland, as well as 26 European countries. The virus has now reached 49 of the country's 50 states; only West Virginia has yet to report any cases.

Dozens of states have declared states of emergency, and individual cities and counties are declaring emergency measures, like a 10 p.m. curfew in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Things don't look much better in Europe. Italy remains under total lockdown, with the second-highest number of cases globally after China. Reports are emerging of hospitals struggling to deal with the volume of patients.

Spain's residents are now restricted from leaving their homes; they can only leave for work, groceries or emergency supply runs, hospitalizations, and caring for other family members. And France is closing all bars, restaurants, cafes, clubs, and cinemas.

Many European countries -- Spain, France, and Germany, in particular -- have seen dramatic spikes in case numbers this week, with hundreds of new infections a day.

The situation is improving in some Asian countries ... China and South Korea reported a dramatic fall in new daily cases all week, suggesting that the outbreak may have passed its peak in these hard-hit countries. Other places in Asia, like Hong Kong, are still reporting a handful of new cases, but the rate of infection has slowed compared to a few weeks ago.

... But not all: In Japan, numbers are spiking, with new cases reaching twice the average daily figure. And the Philippines' capital region of Metro Manila is now under partial lockdown -- meaning restricted movement, screenings at border points, employees working from home, and community quarantines.