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Trump says he took coronavirus test but didn’t release results; Spain emerges as new hot spot

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 3/14/2020 Derek Hawkins, Marisa Iati, Miriam Berger, Meryl Kornfield, Brittany Shammas

The United States will be banning travel from the United Kingdom and Ireland beginning Monday at midnight, Vice President Pence announced during a news conference Saturday afternoon.

Citizens and legal residents will still be allowed to return home, Pence said.

The U.S. has previously announced a ban on flights covered only the Schengen area, the European Union’s border-free travel zone, a 26-nation region that does not include Britain or Ireland.

President Trump said the administration was considering domestic travel restrictions for some hot spots.

Trump also told reporters he was tested for the novel coronavirus Friday night, but did not reveal the results and said he did not know when he would get them.

Across the globe, governments are placing mounting limitations on international and domestic travel, large social gatherings and hospital and nursing home visitations as the coronavirus epidemic has extended its tendrils into halls of power and brought public life to a near halt.

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Here are some other significant developments: 

  • Spain is now reporting the second most cases in Europe after confirming about 1,500 more infections, bringing the national total to 5,753.
  • Italian Deputy Health Minister Pierpaolo Sileri tested positive for coronavirus on Saturday, as the country remains on a near-total lockdown.
  • Apple, one of the world’s largest companies, will close all retail stores outside of China until March 27 in an effort to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
  • England reports 10 new deaths as New York sees its first.
  • The Pentagon announced new domestic travel restrictions for service members and their families to help contain the outbreak, saying in a memo that virtually all trips must be put on hold through May 11.

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    10:28 p.m.

    Trump says he’s been tested for coronavirus, does not have results yet

    President Trump has been tested for the coronavirus, but said he didn’t know when he’d have the results.

    But Trump said he had just had his temperature taken and joked that he’d compare his result with the press in the room – the reporters would not have been allowed in if they’d had an elevated temperature.

    As Trump was leaving the briefing room, the reporters asked him what his temperature was.

    Trump turned back and said, “Totally normal.”

    Trump’s announcement that he’d been tested came as a surprise after days of his reluctance to do so. Over night the White House even released a letter from the president’s doctor saying that he didn’t need to be tested despite his close contact with two infected individuals.

    By William Wan and Colby Itkowitz

    9:53 p.m.

    Trump is breaking every rule in the CDC’s 450-page playbook for health crisis

    Amid an outbreak where vaccines, drug treatments and even sufficient testing don’t yet exist, communication that is delivered early, accurately and credibly is the strongest medicine in the government’s arsenal.

    But the Trump administration’s zigzagging, defensive, inconsistent messages about the novel coronavirus continued Friday, breaking almost every rule in the book and eroding the most powerful weapon officials possess: Public trust.

    Read more here.

    9:50 p.m. 

    White House to check temperature of anyone who interacts with Trump, Pence; doctor says president doesn’t need test

    After Trump was in contact with now two individuals who have tested positive for the coronavirus, the White House announced Saturday that it would begin testing the temperatures of any person who comes into contact with the president or vice president.

    This news comes several hours after the White House doctor said in a memo that Trump would not be tested for the virus, despite his interaction with the two people with confirmed infections and that others who interacted with the same individuals had voluntarily self quarantined.

    At his news conference Friday afternoon, Trump, after being asked several times, relented to say he’d “most likely” get tested “fairly soon.” But a memo later came from Sean P. Conley, the White House doctor, who wrote: “The President’s exposure to the first individual was extremely limited (photograph, handshake), and though he spent more time in close proximity to the second case, all interactions occurred before any symptom onset.

    “These interactions would be categorized as LOW risk for transmission per CDC guidelines, and as such, there is no indication for home quarantine at this time,” Conley added.

    The doctor said he would be monitoring Trump, but unless the president exhibits symptoms he will not need to be tested.

    Conley’s advice is in direct conflict with that of Anthony S. Fauci, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director, who has said if anyone who comes in contact with an infected person, they should isolate themselves.

    On Saturday morning, Trump tweeted: “SOCIAL DISTANCING,” after backslapping and handshaking people during his televised news conference the day before.

    By Colby Itkowitz

    9:29 p.m.

    Grocery stores closing early because of coronavirus shopping

    Grocery stores are altering their business hours to adjust to the influx of shoppers stocking up on goods under the new coronavirus national emergency.

    Harris Teeter announced Saturday that starting Sunday it will close its doors to customers at 9 p.m. each night indefinitely. The closures will allow store locations to clean and restock, that company tweeted. The North Carolina-based chain, which has stores in the Washington area, had some stores that were open until midnight, while others were open 24 hours.

    Publix, a Florida-based chain, announced that stores and pharmacies will start closing at 8 p.m. until further notice in an effort to “better serve our customers, give our store teams time to conduct additional preventive sanitation and restock product on our shelves.”

    Publix and Kroger, the nation’s largest supermarket chain by revenue, have also placed limits on certain products, including sanitary items, cleaning supplies and flu and cold medications.

    Whole Foods announced it was suspending food sampling in its stores and working to expand its ability to deliver groceries for free to Amazon Prime members, reported Yahoo News. Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.

    By Lateshia Beachum and Katie Mettler

    8:44 p.m.

    New York sees first death from covid-19: An 82-year-old Manhattan woman with emphysema

    New York is reporting its first death related to covid-19, an 82-year-old woman in Manhattan, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) told reporters during a conference call Saturday morning, according to multiple news reports.

    The woman, whose name was not released, died Friday. She had emphysema, Cuomo said, citing the condition as a contributing factor in her death.

    "If you are 82 years old and you have emphysema and you get the flu, you are in a serious position,” the governor said.

    Cuomo has repeatedly stressed that the elderly and those in assisted-living facilities are most at risk from the disease, which as of Saturday has been confirmed in more than 400 cases statewide.

    By Kim Bellware

    8:36 p.m.

    England reports 10 new deaths, patients in ‘at-risk groups’

    Ten more people died Saturday from coronavirus in Britain, nearly doubling the country’s death toll to 21, while 1,140 across the United Kingdom have tested positive, according to Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty.

    “All 10 individuals were in the at-risk groups,” Whitty said in a statement, according to the London-based Independent. He added, “The public should know every measure we are taking is seeking to save lives and protect the most vulnerable.”

    On Thursday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued new guidelines urging anyone showing any symptoms of the virus to self-isolate for at least seven days. His government has, so far, resisted calls to close schools or impose large-scale social-distancing measures, such as those being used in the United States and elsewhere, saying that these measures could be enacted in the future depending on guidance by medical experts.

    England’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, defended the government’s plans on Friday, saying some exposure could create “herd immunity” in the population.

    “What we don’t want is everybody to end up getting it in a short period of time so we swamp and overwhelm NHS services — that’s the flattening of the peak,” Vallance told BBC Radio 4, the Guardian reported.

    As the number of cases and fatalities grow, however, the United Kingdom is expected to announce a ban on large gatherings, possibly this coming week. On Saturday, a baby tested positive for the virus, becoming what’s believed to be the youngest patient in the United Kingdom. The mother had arrived in a north London hospital days before with a suspected case of pneumonia, the Guardian reported.

    By Miriam Berger

    8:17 p.m.

    Italy’s deputy health minister tests positive

    Italian Deputy Health Minister Pierpaolo Sileri tested positive for coronavirus on Saturday, as the country remains on near-total lockdown aimed at stemming the spread of the virus.

    Italian lawmakers also agreed Saturday on health-control measures for workplaces and factories that have been allowed to remain open as emergency measures, Reuters reported.

    Northern Italy has been struggling to contain the virus as hospitals are stretched to their limits.

    Rome has requested more masks and other protective gear from Europe, using a special European Union measure. However, no E.U. member has yet to respond, according to the London-based Financial Times. Instead, as European countries have moved to close borders and restrict movement, China has sent help: a nine-person delegation from China’s Red Cross is in Rome, after landing there Thursday to meet with staff at the infectious diseases hospital in Italy’s capital.

    The team from China brought with it 31 tons of supplies, including face masks and ventilators, according to the Financial Times.

    The decision to step in has provided a public relations boost to embattled Beijing, which is seeking to rebrand itself as helping the world battle the virus that originated in China. Critics say the country’s leaders originally hid information about the novel coronavirus, helping it to spread beyond its original epicenter in Wuhan.

    By Miriam Berger

    8:02 p.m.

    Around 40 percent of infected Americans will be at higher risk for serious covid-19 illness, study finds

    About 41 percent of Americans have a higher risk of developing serious illness if infected with the new coronavirus, according to a survey released Friday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

    The nearly 106 million Americans who would face medical difficulties include those over age 60 and people with underlying health conditions. The study echoes the at-risk populations as identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but it also provides context about the portion of the population that would be greatly affected should they become infected with covid-19.

    For instance, at least 72 percent of adults over 60 could develop serious illness if infected. Infection of the new coronavirus could also spell financial disaster for those who are uninsured.

    Researchers found that 5.7 million adults in the country who are at a higher risk of serious ailment from the virus are also uninsured. That’s nearly four million adults under age 60 and almost two million people between 60 and 64, according to the survey.

    Researchers noted that the size of those likely to be impacted by the virus is likely to change as more people test positive for it and as more information becomes available about the progression of illness and treatment of those who become seriously ill from it. The current estimates, however, enforce the need to take “unprecedented efforts” to minimize the spread of the new coronavirus, the survey stated.

    By Lateshia Beachum

    7:42 p.m.

    Japan’s prime minister says there’s no need to declare an emergency

    Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a news conference on Japan's response to the coronavirus outbreak at his official residence in Tokyo, Japan March 14, 2020.  REUTERS/Issei Kato © REUTERS/Issei Kato Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a news conference on Japan's response to the coronavirus outbreak at his official residence in Tokyo, Japan March 14, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato Japan’s prime minister said Saturday that the country does not need to declare a state of emergency and will instead continue to prepare for the 2020 Summer Olympics, set to kick off in July in Tokyo.

    “At this point, we’re not in a situation in which I need to declare a state of emergency,” Shinzo Abe said at a news conference Saturday, Japan’s Kyodo News reported.

    Japan’s parliament passed legislation Friday allowing Abe to declare an emergency to combat the virus that causes the deadly covid-19 disease.

    Globally, countries have been suspending sports games amid worries over large crowds gathering and spreading the virus. This has brought the Olympic Games into question. On Friday, President Trump urged Abe to delay the Olympics, after which the two leaders spoke by phone.

    “We will respond by closely coordinating with officials concerned, including the IOC (International Olympic Committee). There is no change in this,” Abe said, according to AFP. “We want to hold the Olympics as planned without any trouble by overcoming the spread of infections.”

    Abe’s administration has come under fire for its handling of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was held in quarantine in a Japanese port for weeks as the virus spread onboard and ultimately infected around 700 people.

    Japan has more than 700 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 21 deaths.

    By Miriam Berger

    7:35 p.m. 

    Spain confirms roughly 1,500 more coronavirus cases, shuts down much of Madrid

    Spanish officials confirmed roughly 1,500 new cases of coronavirus Saturday, bringing the national total to 5,753, the highest European tally outside Italy.

    The steep uptick came a day after Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez declared an official 15-day state of emergency and all restaurants, bars and theaters closed in Madrid, the epicenter of coronavirus infections in the country.

    Madrid’s parks and public squares, key gathering spots in Spanish social life, will close as of 4 p.m. local time Saturday, Mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida announced via Twitter.

    Those types of restrictions were extended throughout the country as Spanish authorities struggled to contain a rapidly spreading virus.

    From March 16, the Spanish government will suspend the appointment service for issuing government IDs such as passports, and officials ordered the closure for 14 days of all nonessential establishments in the Murcia region in southeast Spain.

    Holy Week celebrations were likewise canceled in Seville because of the risk of spreading covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to local news outlets.

    Schools and universities have also been shut down for two weeks as the government enacts increasingly urgent containment measures following an initially slow response to the crisis.

    Sanchez approved €18 billion ($20 billion) in aid to combat the spread of the coronavirus but warned the Spanish public on Friday that the worst was yet to come.

    “We are only in the first stage of fighting the virus,” Sanchez said Friday. “We can expect very tough weeks ahead. We will reach 10,000 infected next week.”

    7:07 p.m. 

    Tony-winning actress asks musical students to share videos of performances cancelled by virus

    Tony award-winning actress Laura Benanti wants high school musical performers to get the audiences they won’t have as schools across the country have canceled productions because of the novel coronavirus.

    Benanti took to her Instagram and Twitter accounts Friday to encourage students to tag videos of themselves using #sunshinesongs. She called the cancellations “a bummer” and said her own high school performances were a “life saver” for her while growing up.

    “If you would like to sing a song that you are not going to get to sing now and tag me, I want to see you. I want to hear it,” she said.

    Benanti, who said her own gigs have been canceled because of the virus, signed off her post with, “Sending all my love and black market toilet paper.”

    Hundreds of students and their parents have replied to Benanti’s social media posts with songs from Broadway favorites such as “Once on This Island” and “Mamma Mia!” Benanti won a 2008 Tony award for her supporting role in “Gypsy” and has played Melania Trump on the “Late Show With Stephen Colbert” since 2016.

    By Lateshia Beachum

    7:05 p.m.

    Congo shared wrong information about first coronavirus case

    Congo initially released incorrect information about its first coronavirus case this week, underscoring the challenges the virus poses to the war-torn central African country, which until February had been battling the world’s second-largest Ebola outbreak.

    A spokesperson for the Health Ministry first told reporters Tuesday that the country’s case was a Belgian national detected at the airport and quarantined in a suburb of the capital, Kinshasa, Reuters reported.

    The ministry later backtracked, clarifying that it was a Congolese citizen who, two days after returning from France, contacted health services and was then quarantined at a hospital in a different Kinshasa suburb.

    The misstep earned a rebuke from Congo’s president, Félix Tshisekedi, at a cabinet meeting Friday, according to Reuters. The DRC’s Health Minister Eteni Longondo maintained that authorities were equipped to hand the virus but lamented “the panic that overcame the population following an inappropriate communication,” according to a summary of the cabinet meeting cited by Reuters.

    The mineral-rich country, Africa’s second-largest, has been beset by decades of war and humanitarian crises that have killed and displaced millions of Congolese. Years of corrupt and authoritarian rule in the former Belgian colony have also ravaged the country’s health-care system.

    Further compounding Congo’s troubles, the country has been a hot spot for Ebola: The latest outbreak in eastern Congo killed over 2,000 people from August 2018 until mid-February, when it was largely contained.

    Still, the World Health Organization ruled in February to continue to classify the Ebola outbreak as “a public health emergency of international concern,” and warned the country required continued funding to prevent a resurgence.

    Neighboring Rwanda confirmed its first coronavirus case on Saturday, the 19th country on the continent to do so.

    By Miriam Berger

    6:14 p.m.

    House passes coronavirus economic relief package with Trump’s support

    The House overwhelmingly passed an economic relief bill early Saturday for the coronavirus, dedicating tens of billions of dollars for paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, free testing and other measures to help Americans impacted by the crisis.

    Hours after the vote, the president praised the “good teamwork” between the parties.

    The 363-40 vote — gaveled down just before 1 a.m. — capped two days of volatile negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that threatened to fall apart entirely for hours Friday amid GOP misgivings. But even after President Trump criticized House Democrats at an afternoon news conference Pelosi and Mnuchin kept at it, speaking by phone 13 times in the course of the day Friday and finally clinching a deal.

    Not long thereafter Trump endorsed the legislation over Twitter, ensuring widespread GOP support.

    “This Bill will follow my direction for free CoronaVirus tests, and paid sick leave for our impacted American workers,” Trump wrote, adding that he was directing Cabinet secretaries to issue regulations ensuring small businesses would not be hurt by mandates in the bill.

    “I encourage all Republicans and Democrats to come together and VOTE YES! I will always put the health and well-being of American families FIRST,” the president wrote. “Look forward to signing the final Bill, ASAP!”

    The House vote sends the legislation to the Senate, which is expected to pass it next week after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) canceled a planned recess so senators could act on the issue. All of the “no” votes Saturday came from Republicans, while one lawmaker — Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.) — voted “present.”

    Read more here.

    5:33 p.m.

    Apple to temporarily close all stores outside China

    Apple, one of the world’s largest companies, will close all retail stores outside of China until March 27 in an effort to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, chief executive Tim Cook announced Friday.

    “The most effective way to minimize risk of the virus’s transmission is to reduce density and maximize social distance,” Cook said in a letter posted to the company’s website. “As rates of new infections continue to grow in other places, we’re taking additional steps to protect our team members and customers.”

    The extraordinary move will affect hundreds of stores in roughly two-dozen countries, including more than 250 in the United States. The decision came the same day that Apple announced all of its stores in China had reopened after being shuttered for weeks because of the coronavirus outbreak in Hubei Province, the original epicenter of the global pandemic.

    Apple’s hourly employees will continue to receive pay “in alignment with business as usual operations,” Cook said. The company has expanded its leave policies to accommodate people who are recovering from covid-19, caring for a sick person, or undergoing mandatory quarantine, according to the letter. Childcare related to school closures will be covered as well.

    Online stores will remain open, and customer support will still be available, according to Cook.

    In Apple’s offices outside China, the company is encouraging employees to work remotely if their job allows it. Apple is also conducting health screenings and temperature checks at its offices and “deep cleaning” all sites, Cook said.

    Additionally, Cook announced that Apple would match employee donations to covid-19 response efforts two-to-one. As of Friday, he said, Apple’s committed donations reached $15 million worldwide.

    5:26 p.m.

    Russia announces closure of land borders with Poland and Norway

    As of midnight Saturday, Russia will close its land borders with Norway and Poland in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin announced Saturday morning.

    The border closure — which follows Russia’s earlier closure of its Chinese border — will only apply to foreigners who attempt to enter “for professional, private, study or tourist reasons,” Mishustin said. Russian residents, Belarusians and official delegation members would be exempted from the ban, he added.

    Russia has officially confirmed 47 cases of the coronavirus as of Saturday, but no deaths.

    By James McAuley

    5:19 p.m.

    These federal workers deal with the public. They’ve been exposed to the coronavirus.

    When Alexander Spain, a supervisor with the Transportation Security Administration, was told Tuesday to self-quarantine and not report to work at San Jose International Airport, he was not surprised.

    A screener he supervises, who checks IDs and boarding passes, had been sick for weeks and then tested positive for the coronavirus. Spain, 58, was told to remain at home but said he was given no instructions for how to self-quarantine. So Spain said he “went out to grab food twice. I stopped at a Chinese food restaurant and got some quick bites from 7-Eleven.”

    On Thursday, the day he was scheduled to return to work, Spain called his supervisors in the morning, asking how to get tested for the virus. “They acted like I was speaking French,” he said in an interview.

    Spain’s experience mirrors what federal workers across the country who deal with the public are saying about the lack of direction, protocols and protective gear they need from their agencies. They fear these failures may cause them to become ill and spread the virus not only in the United States but across the globe.

    The federal government has hundreds of thousands of workers who come in daily contact with the public — workplace inspectors, mail carriers, hospital workers, park rangers, passport processors, Social Security representatives, museum workers.

    Workers and union representatives from six different agencies — including the Social Security Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — said in interviews, emails and text messages with The Washington Post that Spain’s experience is not unique. They or their co-workers also have been exposed to the virus and say their supervisors are not giving proper guidance or support.

    Read the rest of the story here.

    5:04 p.m.

    The tale of a Nile cruise that spawned an international coronavirus outbreak

    LUXOR, Egypt — By the time Egyptian health authorities learned about the coronavirus case on the Nile cruise ship, the infections had spread around the world.

    As long ago as late January, a Taiwanese American passenger on the MS Asara was carrying the novel coronavirus, health officials said. But the vessel would make at least four more cruises, and at least 12 crew members would turn out to be infected. Some or all of them had worked on the cruises in February and early March, said a crew member under quarantine and a senior health official in Luxor.

    Hundreds of foreign passengers, including dozens of Americans, and Egyptians were potentially exposed to the virus between mid-February and early March — a dramatic illustration of how, from a single, overlooked infection, the novel coronavirus could swiftly multiply and be carried across the globe.

    At least six Americans infected aboard the Asara returned to Maryland, according to Gov. Larry Hogan, potentially seeding their communities with the virus. Twelve others have reportedly tested positive in the Houston area. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is contacting dozens of other Americans who were aboard the Asara in February to test them or ask them to self-quarantine.

    Even after Egyptian health authorities were notified March 1 that the Taiwanese American woman had been carrying the virus while on the Asara and may have infected others on the ship, the vessel set sail on March 5 on yet another cruise while Egyptian health officials awaited the results of tests on the crew.

    By then, an American travel agency that books Nile cruises had been told by the CDC that Americans on an earlier cruise of the Asara may have been infected. The travel agency, Gate 1, contacted the boat operator and the Egyptian Embassy in Washington, according to the company’s vice president for marketing, Marty Seslow. Gate 1 was informed that all the crew had tested negative for the virus, Seslow said.

    “We were given information that no one was sick and everyone was fine,” Seslow said. “Within 24 hours, we were told dozens were sick.”

    Read the rest of the story here.

    3:09 p.m.

    Taiwan says travelers from 27 European countries and Dubai must isolate themselves for 14 days upon arrival

    Taiwan Saturday said that people who have traveled to 27 European countries, including Britain and Ireland, in the previous 14 days must quarantine themselves at home for two weeks days upon arriving on the island.

    People who arrive from these countries but do not have housing in Taiwan will be quarantined in government-run facilities, for which they will be charged.

    The new rule also applies to people who have been to or transited through Dubai, a major air hub for Emirates airline, Taiwan's Ministry of Health announced Saturday.

    The rules will take effect from March 17.

    The announcement came after Taiwan said Saturday reported three more coronavirus infections, all in people who had arrived from European countries. Two of them were Taiwanese nationals and the other was Dutch, local media reported. A total of 53 cases have been found in Taiwan, although 20 people have been treated and released from hospital. One person has died.

    At the same time, Taiwan Saturday raised the alert level for travel to all 27 European countries and Dubai to Level 3, advising citizens against any unnecessary travel.

    By Derek Hawkins

    3:07 p.m.

    Bexar County suspends jury duty for the next month 

    Texas’s fourth-largest county is postponing trials and has suspended jury duty for one month as officials there try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 

    Starting Monday, all jury trials in Bexar County will be suspended through April 16, according to a memo by Judge Ron Rangel, a head administrative judge and presiding judge of the state’s 379th District Court.

    “Any jury summons received for those dates should be disregarded,” the memo read, as reported by the San Antonio Express-News. “Summoned individuals will not be penalized for not appearing to jury duty during these dates. In the interim, we will continue to monitor the spread of the virus and notify the public of any updates.”

    Some cases that are approaching statutory deadlines will be prioritized, and the courthouse will continue to operate, KENS 5 reported.

    Rangel also asked courts and judges to reduce their dockets and make sure they had no more than 15 cases set.

    “We want to limit the amount of individuals in the courtroom,” he wrote.

    A local defense attorney, Joseph Hoelscher criticized the move, saying it would delay justice for victims and defendants.

    “On the criminal side, it means people who are on bond or waiting for justice, aren’t going to get a resolution in their cases until this is resolved,” Hoelscher told KENS 5.

    San Antonio, the Bexar County seat, confirmed its first travel-related coronavirus case on Friday, prompting officials to declare a public health emergency and announce a ban on gatherings of 500 or more people for the next week.

    By Derek Hawkins

    2:44 p.m.

    Saudi Arabia suspends international flights

    Saudi Arabia is suspending all international flights for two weeks starting Sunday to control the coronavirus outbreak, the state news agency SPA reported Saturday.

    The Saudi government will consider the period an “exceptional official holiday” for people who can’t return to the country because of other flight suspensions or quarantine orders, SPA reported, citing an official source from the Ministry of Interior.

    Health exams, isolation and other preventive measures will be put in place for people returning from abroad, according to the news agency.

    Saudi Arabia has reported 86 confirmed cases of covid-19 and no deaths since the outbreak began.

    By Derek Hawkins

    2:34 p.m.

    Getting through the coronavirus outbreak, one song at a time

    AUCKLAND, New Zealand — If there’s one heartening thing about these strange days of “social distancing,” it’s the way people are sharing music as a way to stay connected. Social media has exploded with videos of Italians singing together, but separately, from their apartment balconies.

    Now cellist Yo-Yo Ma has added his talents to the mix, posting “Songs Of Comfort” on Twitter and Instagram .

    “In these days of anxiety, I wanted to find a way to continue to share some of the music that gives me comfort. The first of my #SongsOfComfort: Dvořák — “Going Home,”” he wrote on Twitter. “Stay safe.”

    By Anna Fifield 

    1:16 p.m.

    Apple to temporarily close all stores outside China

    Apple will close all retail stores outside of China until March 27 in an effort to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, chief executive Tim Cook announced Friday. 

    “The most effective way to minimize risk of the virus’s transmission is to reduce density and maximize social distance,” Cook said in a letter posted to the company’s website. “As rates of new infections continue to grow in other places, we’re taking additional steps to protect our team members and customers.” 

    The extraordinary move will affect hundreds of stores in roughly two-dozen countries, including more than 250 in the United States. The decision came the same day that Apple announced all of its stores in China had reopened after being shuttered for weeks because of the coronavirus outbreak in Hubei Province, the original epicenter of the global pandemic.

    Apple’s hourly employees will continue to receive pay “in alignment with business as usual operations,” Cook said. The company has expanded its leave policies to accommodate people who are recovering from covid-19, caring for a sick person, or undergoing mandatory quarantine, according to the letter. Childcare related to school closures will be covered as well.

    Online stores will remain open, and customer support will still be available, according to Cook.

    In Apple’s offices outside China, the company is encouraging employees to work remotely if their job allows it. Apple is also conducting health screenings and temperature checks at its offices and “deep cleaning” all sites, Cook said.

    Additionally, Cook announced that Apple would match employee donations to covid-19 response efforts two-to-one. As of Friday, he said, Apple’s committed donations reached $15 million worldwide.

    12:16 p.m.

    Manila to impose month-long curfew

    MANILA — The Philippines will impose a month-long curfew in the capital region of Metro Manila, sparking fears of possible human rights violations under the term of President Rodrigo Duterte. 

    The curfew will run from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., with the exemption of the movement of workers and supply chains. Government officials on Saturday announced that “nonessential” gatherings like visiting friends and family, as well as parties, are banned. 

    Details for its implementation are unclear, following the absence of a local law enabling the measure as of Saturday noon.

    The curfew comes on top of travel restrictions and the prohibition of mass gatherings, in line with government efforts to curb the spread of covid-19. Local government officials have also asked malls to stop operations.

    But in a congested region spanning 16 cities and at least 12 million people, the logistics — and the exemptions to the restrictions — have raised concerns about how the rules will be implemented.

    Critics of Duterte, most known for a bloody war on drugs that has left thousands dead, fear more human rights violations under this set-up. Duterte previously said that anyone who disobeys police or the military could be arrested.

    “The [police] cannot arrest and detain you for violating public health emergency measures,” tweeted Chel Diokno of the Free Legal Assistance Group, an organization of human rights lawyers. “You may be blocked… but you cannot be arrested and jailed, because trying to travel to Metro Manila is not a crime.”

    Human Rights Watch researcher Carlos Conde also cautioned the police against unnecessary use of force, “particularly when dealing with Metro Manila’s poor and those working in the informal sector, many of whom do not have employment identifications.”

    The Philippines has reported 64 coronavirus cases and six deaths. 

    11:21 a.m.

    Guatemala bans Americans in effort to stop virus

    MEXICO CITY — Guatemala appears to have become the first country to ban Americans in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus. President Alejandro Giammattei announced Friday night that Americans would not be allowed into the country beginning on Monday.

    “We have made the decision that citizens of the United States and Canada cannot enter the country,” said Giammattei in a news conference, referring to the rising number of cases in those countries.

    He called the step a “phase of containment.” Several European and Asian countries will also be banned.

    Giammattei also asked Mexico to halt the deportation of Guatemalans by land. 

    On Friday, Guatemala announced its first confirmed case of the virus. 

    Last year, more than 250,000 Guatemalans were detained at the U.S. border, more than from any other country.

    By Kevin Sieff 

    11:06 a.m.

    House passes coronavirus economic relief package with Trump’s support

    The House overwhelmingly passed an economic relief bill early Saturday for the coronavirus, dedicating tens of billions of dollars for paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, free testing and other measures to help Americans impacted by the crisis.

    The 363-40 vote — gaveled down just before 1 a.m. — capped two days of volatile negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that threatened to fall apart entirely for hours Friday amid GOP misgivings. But even after President Trump criticized House Democrats at an afternoon news conference Pelosi and Mnuchin kept at it, speaking by phone 13 times in the course of the day Friday and finally clinching a deal.

    Not long thereafter Trump endorsed the legislation over Twitter, ensuring widespread GOP support.

    “This Bill will follow my direction for free CoronaVirus tests, and paid sick leave for our impacted American workers,” Trump wrote, adding that he was directing Cabinet secretaries to issue regulations ensuring small businesses would not be hurt by mandates in the bill.

    “I encourage all Republicans and Democrats to come together and VOTE YES! I will always put the health and well-being of American families FIRST,” the president wrote. “Look forward to signing the final Bill, ASAP!”

    The House vote sends the legislation to the Senate, which is expected to pass it next week after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) canceled a planned recess so senators could act on the issue. All of the “no” votes Saturday came from Republicans, while one lawmaker — Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.) — voted “present.”

    Read more here .

    By Erica Werner, Mike DeBonis, Paul Kane and Jeff Stein

    10:46 a.m.

    Australian minister photographed with Ivanka Trump says he’s feeling better after coronavirus diagnosis

    AUCKLAND, New Zealand — The Australian government minister who was diagnosed with a coronavirus infection just a week after meeting Ivanka Trump in Washington, D.C., said Saturday that he was “feeling much better.”

    Peter Dutton told Sydney radio station 2GB that his fever had subsided and his temperature had come down but that his throat was “still a bit sore.”

    “I have had asthma since I was a child, so they were a bit worried about that, but they think my lungs are clear. So all pretty good at the moment,” Dutton told the radio station, referring to the medical staff who had assessed him.

    Doctors said he posed no harm to the people he met at the White House on March 6, Dutton said, adding that he did not start exhibiting symptoms until March 13.

    “I woke up in the early hours of Friday morning with a fever and a sore throat and a slight shortness of breath, but as I say probably nothing more than I would have with a change in weather as an asthmatic,” he said. “Everybody’s experience will be different, but that is mine.”

    Australian medical authorities are now contacting the people he had spent more than two hours with since the morning of March 11.

    Ivanka Trump, who was photographed next to Dutton during the meeting, worked from home Friday “out of an abundance of caution and until guidance was given,” the White House said earlier.

    By Anna Fifield

    10:24 a.m.

    New Zealand says almost all people arriving from abroad will have to isolate for 14 days

    AUCKLAND, New Zealand — All people arriving in New Zealand will have to isolate themselves for 14 days upon arrival, except for those landing from nearby Pacific islands, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Saturday.

    Describing the “unprecedented” step, Ardern told reporters that every person entering the country from midnight Sunday would be subjected to new rules. “We must go hard and we must go early,” she said. “I make no apologies. This is an unprecedented time.”

    People arriving from everywhere except the Pacific islands will have to isolate themselves at home for two weeks, regardless of where they are coming from and whether they are citizens or not.

    In addition, Ardern said her government would impose strict new exit rules for people traveling to the Pacific islands. New Zealand has large Samoan and Tongan communities in particular, and Ardern said that New Zealand had a responsibility to look after the people there. Samoa suffered a devastating measles epidemic last year.

    “These [new exit measures for the Pacific] include: No travel for people who have traveled outside of New Zealand in the past 14 days,” Ardern said. “No travel for close or casual contacts of a confirmed case. No travel for anyone who is symptomatic, and health assessments, including temperature checks.”

    In addition, New Zealand has banned cruise ships from entering the country until at least June 30, but Ardern said cargo ships would still be allowed.

    She advised all New Zealanders not to travel overseas unless absolutely necessary.

    New Zealand has seen only six cases of the coronavirus, the latest diagnosed in an Auckland man in his 60s who recently returned from the United States.

    The previous five people are all isolated at home and recovering. There have been no reports of community transmission, but New Zealand was acting preemptively to avoid that, the prime minister said.

    Her government had previously canceled a national memorial due to be held in Christchurch on Sunday, the anniversary of the attacks on two mosques in the city, which claimed 51 lives. Ardern said the decision was a “pragmatic” one made to ensure the coronavirus is not spread at large gatherings.

    By Anna Fifield

    10:19 a.m.

    Pentagon adopts new domestic travel restrictions for troops

    The Pentagon announced new domestic travel restrictions for service members and their families Friday night to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, saying in a memo that virtually all trips must be put on hold through May 11.

    The prohibitions, which go into effect Monday, could affect hundreds of thousands of service members, civilian employees and their dependents in the United States and its territories.

    “All DoD military personnel will stop movement while this memorandum is in effect,” said the memo, signed by Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist. “In addition, DoD civilian personnel and DoD family members, whose transportation is government-funded, will also stop movement.”

    The policy will apply to transfers known as permanent changes of station (PCS) and temporary training assignments. Defense Department units also will bring on new people only if they already live within the local commuting area, and service members are authorized to take leave only within local areas, the memo said.

    Read more here .

    10:46 PM: Acting Brazil ambassador tests positive after dining with Trump at Mar-a-Lago

    Acting Brazil ambassador Nestor Forster, who sat at President Trump’s table Saturday night during a dinner at Mar-a-Lago, has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the embassy said late Friday. Forster is the third person who visited the president’s South Florida resort last weekend to test positive for the virus.

    Another Brazilian official who visited Mar-a-Lago that night, Fabio Wajngarten, communications secretary for the country’s president, tested positive on Wednesday.

    Wajngarten had posed for a photo with Trump. Forster was also in close contact with the president.

    “Following medical advice, Amb. Forster will extend his self-quarantine, which he had already placed himself into as a precautionary measure, for another two weeks,” the embassy said in a tweet.

    The other person who tested positive after visiting Mar-a-Lago was an individual who attended a Sunday luncheon hosted by Trump Victory, a committee that raises money for the Trump campaign and the Republican Party, according to an email from party officials.

    By: Derek Hawkins

    10:32 PM: White House says Google is building a coronavirus testing website, but details are fuzzy

    The White House is turning to Google to build a new screening website for anyone wanting information on how to get tested for the coronavirus, President Trump said on Friday. However, there are some discrepancies between the White House and Google versions of what the site will be able to do, where it will do it, and when.

    The site will actually be built by Verily, the life sciences division of Google parent company Alphabet that focuses on research and development around health issues, the company confirmed.

    The president said 1,700 engineers were working on the triage website and that it would be done “very quickly.” Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, said they wanted to bring it “across the continent.” Vice President Pence said they would have more information about when the website would be available starting Sunday evening.

    “I want to thank Google. Google is helping to develop a website. It’s going to be very quickly done, unlike websites of the past, to determine whether a test is warranted and to facilitate testing at a nearby convenient location,” said Trump during a news conference to declare the coronavirus a national emergency.

    But in a short statement shared on Twitter an hour and a half after the announcement, Verily said the website was only in “the early stages of development.” The tool will start in the San Francisco Bay area first with “the hope of expanding more broadly over time.”

    Read more here .

    By: Heather Kelly

    10:21 PM: Restaurant traffic takes a hit in D.C. and worldwide

    Restaurant traffic has taken a dive in the past week, according to data from the reservation service OpenTable, with seated diners down 31 percent globally and 32 percent nationally Thursday compared with a year ago.

    In the United States, the data shows, restaurants started seeing a downturn on March 3. The decline became more dramatic this week, with Thursday the worst day yet.

    “The COVID-19 pandemic is making many of us stay home and our community of nearly 60,000 restaurants is facing a severe reduction in diners,” OpenTable chief operating officer Andrea Johnston wrote on a company blog, noting that “things seem to be getting worse quickly.”

    At the city level, Thursday’s restaurant traffic was down 37 percent in Washington, 52 percent in New York City, 38 percent in Los Angeles, 58 percent in Seattle and 22 percent in Miami compared with one year earlier.

    “Please support your local restaurants during this turbulent time,” Johnston wrote, suggesting home delivery as an alternative to going out. “Another option is to buy restaurant gift cards for future use.”

    Public health officials have cautioned against large gatherings and recommended that older people, especially those older than 80, avoid person-to-person contact.

    By: Brittany Shammas

    10:01 PM: Patagonia shuts its doors and stops online sales

    As concerns about the effects on the supply chain during the coronavirus pandemic mount, Patagonia has become the first major retailer to bow out — closing its stores and shutting down its website.

    The outdoor outfitter said it will stop business on Friday, reassess and give an update on March 27. All Patagonia employees will receive their regular pay during the closure, CEO Rose Marcario wrote in a statement.

    Slideshow by photo services

    “The scale of impact is still unknown, and we want to do our part to protect our community especially while testing availability is unknown,” Marcario said.

    Some employees will work from home, and there will be delays on orders and customer service requests, Marcario said.

    Since the virus initially began spreading in China, where many American companies outsource production to, executives have expressed some uncertainty about how they will be able to replenish their supply, especially as fear has intensified demand for certain items like food.

    By: Meryl Kornfield

    9:38 PM: Rhode Island elementary school student infected by NBA player

    A Rhode Island elementary school student was infected with the novel coronavirus by an NBA player while getting an autograph during a Utah Jazz-Boston Celtics game on March 6, Westerly Police confirmed in a news conference on Friday.

    Jazz center Rudy Gobert and shooting guard Donovan Mitchell tested positive. While Police Chief Shawn Lacey didn’t specify during the news conference which player signed the student’s autograph, he later told that the child’s parents told him it was Gobert.

    The NBA suspended its season after Gobert was confirmed to have the coronavirus.

    At a news conference on Monday, three days after coming into contact with the Rhode Island student, Gobert joked about coronavirus and touched all the microphones and recording devices that reporters had placed on the table in front of him.

    Two days later, he tested positive.

    Lacey wouldn’t say how old the child is, but he confirmed there were two young patients, one in second grade and the other in preschool, who had tested positive for the coronavirus. Both are being isolated at home.

    By: Meryl Kornfield

    9:35 PM: State Department official confronts China’s ambassador about disinformation

    The State Department summoned China’s ambassador to the United States on Friday morning after a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry accused the U.S. military of starting the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.

    Ambassador Cui Tiankai refused to comment on his conversation with David Stilwell, the assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, as Cui was leaving the State Department about 11 a.m. He ignored questions shouted by three reporters who followed him as he walked from the building’s front door and got into the back of a car.

    A State Department official said Stilwell gave a very “stern representation” of the facts to the Chinese ambassador, who was described as “very defensive.”

    Lijian Zhao suggested on Thursday that the U.S. Army was responsible for originating the infection in Wuhan.

    “When did patient zero begin in US?” Lijian tweeted Thursday. “It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan.”

    The State Department decided to confront the Chinese directly over what officials said was a growing disinformation campaign. Morgan Ortagus, a State Department spokeswoman, said China is seeking to deflect blame for its role in “starting a global pandemic and not telling the world.”

    “Spreading conspiracy theories is dangerous and ridiculous,” she said. “We wanted to put the government on notice we won’t tolerate it for the good of the Chinese people and the world.”

    The Chinese have complained that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other administration officials and allies have referred to the virus as the “Wuhan virus,” in an effort to emphasize that its origin is foreign. China has called the word choice “slander.” The disease caused by the virus is known as covid-19.

    The State Department has been increasingly aggressive at countering claims by China and Iran, which also is struggling with an outbreak that has killed at least 500 people, the third highest number of fatalities after China and Italy.

    On Thursday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif charged that U.S. sanctions against Iran have caused medical shortages. Ortagus tweeted that Iran should release American and other foreign prisoners held unjustly amid fears the virus is spreading in Iranian prisons. She also rejected Zarif’s charge that sanctions were responsible for Iran’s medical shortages.

    “The U.S. offered — and continues to offer — assistance to the Islamic Republic of Iran on #COVID19 and the regime rejected it,” she tweeted. “We don’t discriminate. Nor should Iran.”

    By: Carol Morello

    8:19 PM: Trump announced the expansion of drive-through testing, but details remain sketchy

    Trump announced Friday that the government is partnering with private companies to set up drive-through coronavirus testing sites after a week of unrelenting criticism from lawmakers and frustrated Americans unable to find out whether they might be infected.

    At a Rose Garden news conference, the president said the push to let people get tested from their vehicles would involve a new Google website to advise consumers about whether they should get tested and where, and big-box companies and drugstores that would host drive-through testing sites in their store parking lots. State and federal health workers would staff the sites and perform the testing, officials said.

    But several key participants said the administration was overstating the plans, including its scope, timetable and other aspects.

    “This surprised all of us,” said one state health official who requested anonymity to speak frankly about how state health departments had gotten no advance notice. “This is bizarre,” the official said, pointing out that many of the U.S. Public Health Service’s 6,000 officers are deployed elsewhere and could not readily be shifted.

    An hour after the news conference, a Google communications account tweeted a comment from Verily , the life sciences division of Google parent company Alphabet, that suggested the plan to build a broadly available website is nowhere close.

    “Verily is in the early stages of development, and planning to roll testing out in the Bay Area, with the hope of expanding more broadly over time,” it said.

    Read more about Trump’s plans to partner with the private sector .

    By: Amy Goldstein, Laurie McGinley and Yasmeen Abutaleb

    8:13 PM: Washington Monument will suspend public tours, official says

    The Interior Department decided Friday evening to end tours at the Washington Monument, according to a senior administration official, making it the first National Park Service site in the country to shutter part of its operations because of the coronavirus outbreak.

    Interior Secretary David Bernhardt visited the monument Thursday and Friday with the Interior Department’s chief medical officer to evaluate the potential risk of virus exposure for tourists and employees there, according to two federal officials. To ascend to the top of the monument, visitors ride an elevator in relatively cramped quarters.

    The administration official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the decision had yet to be formally announced. Visitors can still walk around the monument’s grounds.

    Park Service officials at the Statue of Liberty and other park sites in New York City have asked their superiors for permission to shut down tours and access to monuments, according to two people familiar with the decision who spoke on the condition of anonymity to comment on internal deliberations. To access the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, visitors travel by ferry.

    Asked whether Park Service officials in New York City had asked headquarters Friday for approval to restrict visitors’ access, Interior Department spokesman Nick Goodwin said in an email, “We have not received such a request.”

    By: Juliet Eilperin

    8:12 PM: Trump offers support for cruise lines — while asking them to stop sailing

    President Trump on Friday praised the battered cruise industry — and shut it down in the United States for a month.

    In a tweet late Friday, he said major operators Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and MSC had agreed to his request that they halt outbound sailings from the United States for 30 days, effective at midnight Friday night.

    The Cruise Lines International Association confirmed the tweet soon after, saying oceangoing lines would be “voluntarily and temporarily suspending cruise ship operations from and to U.S. ports of call.”

    Earlier in the afternoon, Trump spoke in support of the cruise industry, whose largest three companies are headquartered in the Miami area but incorporated in other countries.

    “As far as the cruise line business, we’re with them all the way,” he said during a news conference. “It’s a great business. It’s a great U.S. business.”

    Trump also hinted that the federal government could offer a bailout to some hard-hit travel companies.

    “I can tell you it’s an industry that was very badly impacted by what’s going on with the virus, and it’s a great industry, it’s a very important industry,” he said. “And we will be helping them and we will be helping the airline industry if we have to, assuming we have to.”

    Last week, cruise executives from the four lines the president named in his tweet met with Vice President Pence in Port Everglades in Florida. Officials gave the industry leaders three days to come up with a plan to address the coronavirus threat, which has forced hundreds of passengers into quarantine.

    Among the proposed solutions are requiring anyone 70 or older to have a doctor’s note to board, taking the temperature of all passengers before they get on a ship, adding coronavirus test kits and staffers to monitor for the virus and conducting daily temperature checks on crew members, according to a synopsis of the plan.

    By: Hannah Sampson and Meryl Kornfield

    8:06 PM: 14 states and several major cities close K-12 schools

    Fourteen states are closing all their public schools, as are several large urban districts — including Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest, and Washington, D.C .

    District of Columbia schools will be closed starting Monday through March 31, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said Friday. Schools plan to resume normal operations April 1. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced Friday that all schools in his state will close indefinitely, WSAZ-TV reported .

    As of Friday evening, states that had announced school closures were Virginia, Maryland , Pennsylvania , Illinois, Michigan, Ohio , Wisconsin , Alabama , Louisiana, Oregon, New Mexico, Utah , West Virginia and Washington state .

    Closing schools is a growing trend across the country as state education officials look to contain the spreading coronavirus through social distancing measures, but the efforts present complications for families who rely on public education for food access and child care.

    State officials who had previously seemed reluctant to shutter schools changed course Friday, when a cascade of states began announcing closures.

    Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzer (D) said Thursday he did not plan to close schools. But, he said during a news conference Friday, his thinking changed after contemplating new information that came in overnight and through the day. He also said he had been thinking about state officials’ decision to limit large gatherings.

    “I really came to the conclusion that we’re telling adults, essentially, don’t gather in large groups, but we’re telling kids that you can bump up against each other in a hallway, even if you might not have an assembly,” he said.

    Oregon had worked hard to keep schools open, but student absences and workforce issues there had made it “impossible to functionally operate schools,” said Gov. Kate Brown (D). Earlier this week, she banned gatherings of more than 250 people, another social distancing rule being adopted across the country.

    An increasing number of cities and other localities, including Boston, San Francisco , San Diego and Sacramento, have made similar moves. Kentucky stopped short of a mandatory order but recommended that all schools, both public and private, halt in-person classes. Florida also provided “strong recommendations” that schools extend spring break.

    In all, at least 46,000 schools were closed, scheduled to close or had closed and reopened as of Friday evening, according to Education Week , with at least 26 million students affected.

    By: Teo Armus, Katie Mettler and Brittany Shammas

    7:19 PM: Idaho is 49th state to announce coronavirus within its borders

    Idaho on Friday night became the 49th state to announce a case of the novel coronavirus within its borders.

    The patient, a woman in her 50s, had attended a conference in New York City and traveled through Boise Airport. She lives in Ada County, where Boise is located, officials said in a news conference . She is isolated at home and had mild symptoms. Officials did not say what conference she had attended.

    The only state to not confirm a coronavirus case as of Friday was West Virginia.

    By: Meryl Kornfield

    7:18 PM: Coronavirus isn’t stopping one huge annual fundraiser in Pennsylvania’s Amish country

    Though coronavirus fears are shutting down events nationwide, they’re not stopping one huge fundraiser in Pennsylvania’s Amish country that annually attracts thousands of people.

    In defiance of warnings by state and local officials, the two-day Gordonville Fire and EMS Company “Mud Sale” — where Amish-made quilts, crafts and furniture are offered up — started as planned Friday afternoon.

    The group went forward despite confirmed coronavirus infections in the state increasing 50 percent in the past 24 hours, to 33 cases, with tests on another 130 people pending. Almost all of those confirmed cases are clustered in southeastern Pennsylvania, though none has yet surfaced in nearby Lancaster County.

    The Paradise Township Board of Supervisors issued a statement Thursday “strongly encouraging” the event not be held. The fire company declined, saying in a statement Friday that canceling at the last minute would have “crippled” its operations for the coming year.

    Still, the group agreed to put in place additional measures to protect attendees. Most auction items are being moved out of enclosed buildings, hygiene informational pamphlets distributed and hand-washing stations set up at all entrances, restrooms, food vendors and other high-traffic sites.

    “We still believe it’s in the best interest not to have it,” Adam Bills, a Paradise Township supervisor, said after the decision. He voiced particular concern for Amish and Mennonite families, who live in close proximity to one another and, because they lack TV or Internet, have more limited information about the coronavirus. “They gather in large numbers in close quarters, so an outbreak could spread,” Bills said. “I hope that this helps educate the Amish.”

    These sales are held in what are usually “muddy” fields during springtime, hence the name. On average, they generate a third of local fire companies’ annual revenue and draw big crowds of tourists from numerous states in addition to many Amish and Mennonites shopping for new buggies or plow horses. Many of the companies have sizable numbers of Amish and Mennonite volunteers.

    The fire company’s Facebook page drew some angry responses to its decision to proceed. “For all of you foolish to attend,” one person wrote, “I have posted the address and phone # to the local hospital.”

    By: Amy Worden

    7:12 PM: Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian halt cruises temporarily

    Ocean and river cruise lines around the world have announced they are suspending some or all of their operations temporarily in response to the new coronavirus as ports turn ships away, attractions close and travelers call off their trips.

    President Trump said in a tweet late Friday that at his request, several cruise lines including Carnival and Royal Caribbean had agreed to suspend cruises leaving the United States for 30 days.

    The Cruise Lines International Association confirmed the suspension less than 15 minutes later in a statement.

    Royal Caribbean Cruises, the world’s second-largest cruise operator, had announced the move earlier in the day. The decision affects 114 sailings on 26 ships over the next month; the company’s brands include Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises.

    Also Friday, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings said it would suspend all sailings through April 11 on its three lines: Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises. MSC Cruises will stop new voyages from the United States until April 30.

    The first to announce a global pause were Viking Cruises and Princess Cruises, which has been hit hard by the outbreak: Passengers and crew on two different ships, Diamond Princess and Grand Princess, have been sickened and subject to quarantine since February. The line said the stoppage will stretch through May 10.

    Britain-based Fred Olsen Cruise Lines said Friday it is pausing ocean cruises until May 23. Five people on one of its ships, Braemar, tested positive for the virus Tuesday during a Caribbean sailing, and the company was scrambling Friday to find a port where it could let passengers off.

    Other lines announcing widespread cancellations for long stretches include Disney Cruise Line, Windstar Cruises, Uniworld, AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways and Carnival Corp.-owned European lines AIDA Cruises and Costa Cruises.

    Upstart line Virgin Voyages postponed the maiden voyage of its first new ship for several months, to early August.

    Read more about the cruise industry’s temporary shutdown .

    By: Hannah Sampson

    6:27 PM: White House taps Google sister company Verily to build coronavirus site

    The White House is turning to Google to build a new screening website for anyone wanting information on how to get tested for the novel coronavirus, President Trump announced Friday.

    It will be built by Verily, the life sciences division of Google parent company Alphabet that focuses on research and development around health issues.

    The site will start with a survey that asks people about their symptoms and risk factors. If it determines that they should get a test, it will direct them to the nearest drive-through testing center, according to Deborah Brix, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator.

    The president said 1,700 engineers were working on the triage website and that it would be done “very quickly.”

    In a short statement shared on Twitter an hour and a half after the announcement, Verily said the site was only in “the early stages of development.” The tool will roll out in the Bay Area first with “the hope of expanding it more broadly over time.”

    Vice President Pence said they would have more information about when the website would be available starting Sunday evening.

    Google and Verily did not have any other additional information about the site, including when it would be online or how it would handle users’ personal medical data.

    Sign up for our daily Coronavirus Updates newsletter to track the outbreak. All stories linked within the newsletter are free to access.

    By: Heather Kelly

    6:11 PM: Trump wants to buy oil to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve — and help companies

    President Trump said Friday that the federal government will buy enough oil to fill up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in an effort to bolster crude prices and shore up the financial condition of U.S. oil drilling companies .

    The government will purchase up to 92 million barrels, enough to buy the entire output of Texas in approximately 18 days. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve, held in salt caverns in four locations near the Gulf of Mexico, currently holds 635 million barrels but can store as much as 727 million barrels.

    By buying oil in an emergency rather than selling it, the move runs contrary to the original purpose of the reserve, created by President Gerald Ford in 1975 as a response to the Arab oil embargo in 1973-74. That embargo cut supplies and sent crude prices soaring. The United States, then a major importer, faced shortages and gas rationing.

    In this case, the government is buying oil to bail out domestic oil companies when prices are collapsing rather than selling oil to protect consumers when prices are rising.

    Read more about the decision to fill the reserves here .

    By: Steven Mufson

    5:59 PM: Trump shook hands, patted backs and touched the mic 31 times during news conference

    President Trump at a Friday news conference touted the work of his administration’s health experts on coronavirus, even as he ignored their public health advice .

    Trump shook hands, patted backs and touched the microphone at the White House podium at least 31 times at the Rose Garden event, the sort of behaviors health experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have advised against to prevent the spread of the virus.

    When the last executive had finished speaking, Trump offered him a handshake.

    “We’ll practice that,” LHC Group Executive Vice President Bruce Greenstein said, offering Trump an elbow bump instead.

    “Okay, I like that, that’s good,” Trump said, before adjusting the microphone with his hand yet again.

    Read the Fix analysis here .

    By: JM Rieger

    5:42 PM: Second guest who was with Trump at Mar-a-Lago last weekend has tested positive

    A second person who visited President Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago estate last weekend has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to emails from Republican Party officials to other guests who were present.

    The case means the president has been near two people who have since been diagnosed as infected. On Saturday, Trump dined and was photographed with a senior Brazilian official who later tested positive.

    The latest diagnosis involves an individual who attended a Sunday luncheon hosted by Trump Victory, a committee that raises money for the Trump campaign and the Republican Party, according to an email from party officials. Trump delivered remarks at the event, which was attended by about 1,000 people.

    The person who was diagnosed was the guest of a donor who had no contact with Trump, according to a Republican official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. While it was not clear if the attendee had covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, at the time of the event, the decision was made to notify all attendees out of an abundance of caution, officials said.

    In an email to donors, the party wrote, “If you or any of your loved ones is ill or develops a fever, shortness of breath, or other respiratory symptoms, please contact your medical provider.”

    Sign up for our daily Coronavirus Updates newsletter to track the outbreak. All stories linked within the newsletter are free to access.

    By: Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Josh Dawsey

    5:35 PM: ‘I don’t take responsibility:’ Trump says delays in testing wasn’t the fault of the White House

    Speaking in the Rose Garden on Friday, President Trump said he doesn’t take responsibility for the delays and shortages that have reduced testing for the novel coronavirus in the United States.

    “I don’t take responsibility at all," Trump told reporters, “because we were given a set of circumstances and we were given rules, regulations, and specifications from a different time that wasn’t meant for this kind of an event with the kind of numbers that we’re talking about.”

    When pressed by Yamiche Alcindor, the White House correspondent for PBS NewsHour, about the White House dismantling the office on pandemics, he called the question “nasty" and suggested that Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, knew something he didn’t.

    “I didn't do it,” he said. “I could perhaps ask Tony about that because I don't know anything about it. I mean you say we did that but I don't know anything about it.”

    Fauci, who works under the National Institutes of Health, does not have purview over the National Security Council, which the team worked for.

    Trump also called the question, asked by Yamiche Alcindor, the White House correspondent for PBS NewsHour, “nasty.”

    In May 2018, after John Bolton became national security adviser, with the departure of Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer from the National Security Council, a team working on global health security under him was disbanded, The Post reported at the time .

    Beth Cameron, the former senior director for global health security and biodefense on the White House National Security Council, said in a Washington Post editorial Friday that the decision most likely slowed the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic.

    “It is clear that eliminating the office has contributed to the federal government’s sluggish domestic response,” Cameron wrote. “What’s especially concerning about the absence of this office today is that it was originally set up because a previous epidemic made the need for it quite clear.”

    Public health experts at the time said the staffing change signaled that the administration didn’t prioritize science.

    Trump shrugged that off Friday, suggesting that it was not unusual.

    “Things like that happen,” he said.

    By: Meryl Kornfield

    5:14 PM: Poland, Denmark close to foreigners as restrictions are imposed in Europe’s border-free zone

    BERLIN — Poland and Denmark on Friday became the latest European countries to introduce new border controls, closing to all foreigners as the spread of coronavirus shakes the continent’s 26-nation boundary-free travel zone.

    Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said a ban on all foreigners would begin at midnight Saturday and run for 10 days but could be prolonged further, the Polish Press Agency reported. Poles crossing the border must quarantine for 14 days, it said.

    The ban came just hours after a similar edict from Copenhagen.

    “All tourists, all travel, all vacations and all foreigners who cannot prove a creditable purpose of entering Denmark will be denied entrance at the Danish border,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said Friday.

    The Czech government, which had already banned travelers from 15 particularly virus-stricken countries, declined to confirm media reports that its restrictions had been expanded Friday.

    Poland and Denmark join several other countries in the Schengen Area — 26 European countries that typically have unrestricted borders — in mandating additional restrictions and checks. The European Union urged Friday that such decisions remain “proportionate” and coordinated.

    “In the last few hours we’ve seen travel bans and controls being put in place in a number of member states,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “Certain controls may be justified, but general travel bans are not seen as being the most effective by the World Health Organization,” she said.

    Von der Leyen said a more appropriate response would be extra health checks, including inside countries and at internal and external European borders. She added that proposals for new recommendations are being discussed.

    French President Emmanuel Macron proposed “reinforced” external border controls around the bloc in discussions with von der Leyen on Friday, his office said. That could include limiting travel from areas where the virus is particularly prevalent, it said. 

    By: Loveday Morris, James McAuley and Rick Noack 

    5:06 PM: Passengers flying to the U.S. from 26 countries in Europe will face enhanced screening

    Starting at midnight, travelers on flights from 26 countries in Europe will be channeled through one of 13 U.S. airports, where they will undergo enhanced health screening, be given information about the novel coronavirus and instructed to self-quarantine for 14 days.

    The measures will apply to U.S. citizens, green card holders, their family members and other authorized travelers who have recently traveled from, or otherwise been present, within “a country of the Schengen Area within 14 days of the date of the person’s entry or attempted entry into the United States,” according to a directive issued by acting Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf on Friday. Under the new restrictions, most non-U.S. citizens will be blocked from entering the United States from those countries.

    The 26 nations of the Schengen Area are Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

    The flights will be directed to international airports in Boston, Miami, New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Honolulu, Newark, Dallas, Detroit or Washington, D.C.

    The restrictions are part of several new strategies announced this week by the Trump administration, with the goal of slowing the spread of the coronavirus, which has sickened more than 1,800 people and killed more than 40 in the United States.

    Administration officials believe Europe — not China — is the new hot spot for outbreaks and want to reduce the number of people entering the United States from those nations.

    Wolf said arriving passengers will be directed to “enhanced entry screening,” where they will be asked about their medical history and current condition, and for contact information to be given to local health authorities. Passengers will then be provided written information about the novel coronavirus and instructed to self-quarantine in accordance with best practices from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    “While the overall risk of serious infection from the coronavirus to the general public remains low at this time, the Trump administration is taking these aggressive measures to keep the risk low, requiring all Americans returning from affected areas in Europe to be funneled through 13 airports for screening upon their return to the U.S.,” Wolf said in a statement.

    To minimize disruption, Wolf said airlines, officers from the Transportation Security Administration and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection will work to identify passengers who fit the criteria before they board their previously scheduled flights. Once identified, those passengers would then be put on flights headed to one of the 13 designated airports.

    “I understand this new process will be disruptive to some travelers, however this action is needed to protect the general public from further exposure and spread of the coronavirus,” Wolf said. “Once back in the U.S. it is imperative that individuals honor self-quarantine directives to help protect their loved-ones and communities.”

    The Trump administration has similar restrictions in place for travelers from China and Iran.

    Correction: A previous version of this post in one section mistakenly said there were six countries subject to new travel restrictions. This post has been updated.

    By: Lori Aratani and Nick Miroff

    5:04 PM: Air pollution over Italy has plummeted since virus crackdown

    First it happened in China. Now, Italy.

    The coronavirus struck hard, and authorities responded with sweeping interventions to keep people from spreading the disease further. As citizens hunkered down at home, businesses and roads suddenly fell empty and silent. One startling result: a decline in air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

    The Washington Post this week analyzed data from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-5P satellite , which can measure concentrations of greenhouse gases and other pollutants in the lower atmosphere. It shows that between Jan. 1 and March 12, concentrations of nitrogen dioxide , fell drastically, especially over hard-hit northern Italy.

    See the analysis here .

    By: Chris Mooney, John Muyskens, Brady Dennis and Andrew Freedman

    4:46 PM: Trump says he will ‘most likely’ get tested for coronavirus

    President Trump said Friday he may get tested for the coronavirus but said it was not because he has recently been in contact with people who have contracted the virus or have been exposed to someone who has.

    A senior Brazilian official who dined and was photographed with Trump and Vice President Pence last weekend in Florida is infected with the coronavirus. Trump said White House doctors have told him he does not need to be tested because he is showing no symptoms.

    But several federal officials have said that people who come into contact with an infected person should seek a test. Pressed on why he wasn’t applying that standard to himself, Trump said he would “most likely” get tested but not because of who he has come into contact with.

    “Not for that reason but because I think I will do it anyway,” Trump said. “Fairly soon, we’re working out a schedule.”

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    By: Dave Clarke

    3:51 PM: President Trump declares a national emergency, freeing $50 billion in funding

    President Trump in a Friday afternoon news conference announced that he is declaring a national emergency to address the spread of coronavirus, as public life in America continued to grind to a halt.

    “I am officially declaring a national emergency, two very big words,” President Trump said, addressing reporters and news cameras in the Rose Garden.

    The declaration will allow the administration to utilize the Stafford Act, the federal law that governs disaster-relief efforts, to provide emergency funding to state and local governments. Trump said that the declaration would free up $50 billion to distribute to states and territories to address the growing emergency.

    On news of the declaration, the Dow Jones industrial average shot up nearly 2,000 points, about 10 percent. The Standard & Poor’s 500 and Nasdaq also surged more than 9 percent. It was Wall Street’s biggest rally since 2008.

    In the news conference, Trump also announced the administration will attempt to improve testing around the country by expanding drive-through sites at retailers, including Walmart and Target. Trump has previously said testing was going well despite widespread acknowledgement that the effort was falling far short of what was needed.

    Administration officials also announced the White House is working with Google to develop a website to help people who think they might need a test, to determine whether a test is needed, and to help facilitate testing at a nearby location.

    Trump also said that the Energy Department would buy up more crude oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and that he would waive interest on federal student loans, but did not go into specifics.

    By: Angela Fritz and Meryl Kornfield

    3:21 PM: Ivanka Trump evaluated after meeting with Australian minister who tested positive for coronavirus

    A top government official from Australia said that he tested positive for the novel coronavirus, just days after he returned from a visit to Washington where he interacted with Ivanka Trump, U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr and U.S. acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf.

    On Friday, Australia’s home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, woke up with a fever and sore throat and was immediately tested for coronavirus, he said in a statement. After the test was returned, he checked into the hospital in compliance with Queensland’s health protocols.

    Dutton visited Justice Department headquarters on March 5 for a news conference about an initiative to fight online sexual exploitation of children. He was one of six government officials who spoke at the news conference, including Barr and Wolf.

    With counterparts from Britain, New Zealand and Canada, the officials stood together on a dais for about 45 minutes to discuss the initiative. Given the number of countries involved in the announcement, there were scores of people who attended the gathering.

    The group also met that day with White House officials, and Dutton was photographed standing directly next to Ivanka Trump, President Trump’s daughter, and a few feet from Barr.

    Officials said Barr stayed home from work Friday but is feeling well, and medical experts have not recommended he get tested.

    “The AG is feeling great and not showing any symptoms,” said a Justice Department spokeswoman. “He is staying home today and has consulted with CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]. CDC is not recommending he be tested at this point.”

    A statement from White House spokesman Judd Deere said Dutton was asymptomatic during his interaction with U.S. officials last week.

    “Exposures from the case were assessed and the White House Medical Unit confirmed, in accordance with CDC guidance, that Ivanka is exhibiting no symptoms and does not need to self-quarantine,” Deere said. “She worked from home today out of an abundance of caution until guidance was given.”

    Kellyanne Conway, White House counselor to the president, also was present at the meeting and confirmed she met with Dutton but said she had not been tested for the virus.

    James Brokenshire, the British security minister, said in a tweet Friday that he’d had breakfast with Dutton in Washington before the two went to a White House roundtable. Brokenshire said he is planning to self-isolate.

    The news of Dutton’s diagnosis came as Australian officials urged people not to interrupt their “daily normal routines” over the pandemic, even as they announced some sweeping efforts to contain it.

    The virus’s wide spread across many countries in Europe and Asia has yet to fully replicate itself in Australia, which has more than 120 cases and at least three fatalities.

    But the government response has not been without controversy. Australia quarantined citizens evacuated from Wuhan, China, at an offshore immigration detention center best known for holding asylum seekers.

    Sign up for our Coronavirus Updates newsletter to track the outbreak. All stories linked within the newsletter are free to access.

    By: Teo Armus, Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky and Katie Mettler

    2:50 PM: University of Michigan cancels commencement

    The University of Michigan announced Friday it is canceling commencement ceremonies for 2020 graduates, making it the first large U.S. university to do so as part of ongoing reactions to the coronavirus pandemic.

    “Today, we take further important action to reduce density & protect the health & safety of our staff, faculty, and students,” President Mark Schlissel tweeted , along with announcing several new directives.

    “Students are encouraged to go home when possible,” he wrote. “Managers are encouraged to provide remote work opportunities. All exams will take place remotely.”

    He also advised students to avoid large social gatherings and said that the university had established a paid leave fund for employees.

    “We will look at ways to celebrate 2020 graduates in the future,” Schlissel added in an announcement on the university’s website.

    The University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus has about 30,000 undergraduate students , and the school also offers graduate programs.

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    By: Miriam Berger

    2:13 PM: Election officials in Tuesday’s four primary states say voters can ‘safely’ cast ballots

    Election officials in the four states slated to hold primaries on Tuesday — Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio — said in a joint statement Friday that they are confident that voters can “safely and securely cast their ballots in this election” and encouraged “otherwise healthy” poll workers to carry out their duties.

    "As each of our four states prepare for voters to head to the polls on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, we are working closely with our state health officials to ensure that our poll workers and voters can be confident that voting is safe,” the statement said. “Unlike concerts, sporting events or other mass gatherings where large groups of people travel long distances to congregate in a confined space for an extended period of time, polling locations see people from a nearby community coming into and out of the building for a short duration.”

    The statement was issued by Arizona Secretary of State Kathy Hobbs, Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee, Illinois Elections Board Chairman Charles Scholz and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose.

    The four officials said guidance is also being posted at poll locations on how to best sanitize voting machines, as well as on best practices for hand-washing.

    “Americans have participated in elections during challenging times in the past, and based on the best information we have from public health officials, we are confident that voters in our states can safely and securely cast their ballots in this election, and that otherwise healthy poll workers can and should carry out their patriotic duties on Tuesday,” the officials said.

    By: John Wagner

    2:01 PM: Trump to declare national emergency in response to coronavirus

    President Trump plans to declare a national emergency this afternoon during a 3 p.m. news conference, according to a senior administration official.

    The move would allow the administration to utilize the Stafford Act, the federal law that governs disaster-relief efforts, to provide emergency funding to state and local governments.

    The administration has been taking increasingly aggressive steps to contain the outbreak after criticism that not enough is being done to address the public health threat facing the country.

    Earlier this week, Trump announced restrictions on flights from Europe, and Friday morning the administration announced a series of steps aimed at boosting the availability of coronavirus testing.

    Sign up for our Coronavirus Updates newsletter to track the outbreak. All stories linked within the newsletter are free to access.

    By: Josh Dawsey

    1:58 PM: Customer traffic dries up for small businesses across the country

    As daily routines shut down in D.C. and beyond, customers are disappearing for the small businesses that make up 44 percent of the U.S. economy. Coffee shops and lunch spots near the K Street corridor in the District say business is down by as much as 40 percent as office workers stay home. Catering orders have evaporated as embassies and think tanks cancel events. Fewer customers are dropping off suits and shirts at dry cleaners.

    Raj Kapoor, owner of the Italian Gourmet Deli on L Street, says the catering collapse means he’s losing a third of his revenue.

    “We are very worried about being in business next week,” Kapoor said as an employee wrapped a sub for one sole customer.

    The problems are most acute for businesses that rely on foot traffic and social gatherings, but the National Federation of Independent Business says entrepreneurs in all sectors are feeling pain.

    John Bailey, the owner of a charter-bus company employing 50 people in York, Pa., said 50 groups have canceled trips in the past week, with more to come as college sports, schools and universities shut down. He anticipates the disruption will cost his company hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, business dried up for about three weeks, and then things rebounded, Bailey said. “With this one, there’s no end date,” he said.

    The Small Business Administration said this week it’s ready to provide low-interest loans of up to $2 million to small firms hurt by the coronavirus outbreak.

    Read more: Keeping your distance is good for public health but tough for small businesses

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    By: Jeanne Whalen

    1:55 PM: Paris’s Louvre Museum and Eiffel Tower close indefinitely

    The most-visited museum in the world has temporarily shut its grand doors as a precaution against the spreading coronavirus.

    Officials at the Louvre Museum in Paris said the museum would close indefinitely starting Friday, following a government directive banning gatherings of more than 100 people.

    Officials announced later Friday that the Eiffel Tower would close to starting at 9 p.m. as part of coronavirus management, AFP reported .

    Another popular art museum in Paris, the Musée D’Orsay, also announced its closure on Friday. In a statement on its website, the museum wrote that it “is exceptionally closed. Thank you for your understanding.”

    By: Miriam Berger

    1:35 PM: Trudeau emerges from self-isolation to announce new travel restrictions, coronavirus measures

    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau emerged from quarantine in his family home in Ottawa on Friday to reassure Canadians that he is in good health and to announce new measures aimed at stalling the spread of the novel coronavirus causing covid-19.

    Trudeau said his government would propose a “significant” fiscal stimulus within the next few days to combat the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic. He also urged Canadians to cancel or postpone any nonessential travel and for employees to work from home whenever able.

    The prime minister additionally announced a temporary ban on cruise ships carrying more than 500 people docking in Canada and said overseas flights to Canada would now be concentrated at several airports to limit possible transmission points.

    “We have to do this,” he said. “Because we have to protect our neighbors and friends. Especially our more vulnerable seniors and people with preexisting conditions.”

    Trudeau’s wife announced Thursday night that she had tested positive for coronavirus shortly after Trudeau said he would go into self-isolation for two weeks.

    The prime minister said Friday that he is not showing any symptoms of the virus and had therefore not been tested, per the guidance of medical professionals.

    “As long as I have no symptoms or I’m not feeling any symptoms, there’s no point in testing me,” he said.

    Reporters, however, questioned the logic of this protocol, given that he is in self-quarantine in the same home as his wife and kids, the latter of whom Trudeau said spent the morning playing with Legos.

    Canada had 157 reported coronavirus cases, as of Trudeau’s news conference.

    By: Miriam Berger

    1:32 PM: U.K. delays elections for a year because of virus spread

    Britain is postponing its scheduled local government and mayoral elections for 12 months, in an early sign that the coronavirus pandemic is undercutting democratic activities.

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Friday that the election will not take place until May 2021, following guidance by the Electoral Commission, which fears polling could have taken place as a wave of infection rolls over Britain in eight weeks’ time.

    The commission was concerned that “significant numbers” of voters would not be able to cast their ballots in May.

    London’s mayoral election — the biggest prize of all — will also be delayed for a year. The current mayor, Sadiq Khan of the Labour Party, has a long history of Twitter feuds with President Trump.

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    By: William Booth

    1:30 PM: Iran to employ near-martial-law tactics to contain coronavirus

    CAIRO — Iran’s Shiite theocracy is planning to employ near-martial-law tactics to contain the spread of the coronavirus, according to the country’s state television. In the next 24 hours, security forces will fan out across the nation’s cities, emptying streets.

    “Our law enforcement and security committees, along with the interior ministry and provincial governors, will be clearing shops, streets and roads. … This will take place in the next 24 hours,” state TV cited Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, the armed forces chief of staff, as saying at a meeting about the virus, according to a translation by Reuters.

    Within 10 days, Bagheri added that all Iranian people are to be monitored and checked via Internet, phone calls or in-person visits to determine whether they have been infected by the virus.

    Iran is among the nations most heavily impacted by the virus outside of China. On Friday, the nation’s health ministry reported 1,289 new infections and 85 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases to 11,364 and the death toll to 514.

    The decision to deploy Iran’s security forces comes days after Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei reportedly appointed President Hassan Rouhani to lead the fight to contain the coronavirus outbreak. On Friday, Khamenei ordered Bagheri to set up a “health and treatment headquarters” to fight the spread of the virus.

    The 80-year-old cleric also reportedly described the pandemic as an American “biological attack.” Iran also publicly slammed President Trump’s offer to assist Iran in battling the virus Friday. In a tweet, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi call Trump’s comments “hypocritical displays of compassion and repulsive bragging.” To help Iran, he said the United States needed to end its sanctions on the country, which Mousavi described as “economic and medical terrorism,” so that medicines and medical supplies could enter the country.

    By: Sudarsan Raghavan

    1:29 PM: Louisiana becomes first state to postpone primaries because of virus

    Louisiana on Friday became the first state to postpone its presidential primaries amid the coronavirus outbreak.

    The state, which was supposed to have its primaries on April 4, will instead hold them June 20, Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin (R) said at a news conference. State officials said they made the decision amid concern about older poll workers getting exposed to the novel coronavirus.

    “Louisiana is no stranger to natural disasters and well-adapted at navigating any situation Mother Nature throws our way,” Ardoin said at the news conference. “While hurricanes, floods and tornadoes are at the forefront of all Louisianans’ minds, the threat we threat from the covid-19 is an unprecedented threat and unlike any we have faced.” Covid-19 is the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

    Ardoin said he certified a state of emergency Friday and requested that Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) issue an executive order postponing the Democratic and Republican contests. He said the decision was made with several factors in mind, including the age of Louisiana’s poll workers — more than half are 65 or older.

    “Safe and secure elections also mean safety for the people of Louisiana,” he said.

    Ardoin said the emergency provision had been used before, delaying the elections in 2005 after hurricanes Katrina and Rita and in 2008 after hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

    “It’s a very serious issue,” said Tyler Brey, spokesman for the secretary of state. “We’re trying to prevent the spread of [the virus] and take precautions.”

    The April 4 presidential primaries will take place June 20. The May 9 municipal general election will take place July 25.

    Ardoin said the delay would help his office “procure necessary supplies” to protecting polling locations and take other steps related to the coronavirus threat.

    By: Elise Viebeck and John Wagner

    1:11 PM: WHO says Europe is new ‘epicenter of the pandemic’

    Europe is now “the epicenter of the pandemic,” the World Health Organization said Friday during a news conference.

    “Europe has now become the epicenter of the pandemic, with more reported cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, apart from China,” said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “More cases are now being reported every day than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic.”

    Meanwhile, Poland, Scotland, Ukraine and Greece each reported their first fatalities Friday. In Greece, the deceased patient was a 66-year-old man who traveled to Israel and Egypt on a religious pilgrimage in late February, Reuters reported.

    Ukraine’s National Security Council on Friday announced the closure of its borders to foreigners for two weeks, beginning Monday. The only exceptions will be diplomats and those working for U.N. organizations.

    Security Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov said Ukrainians will be able to return home, but those returning from nations with a high concentration of coronavirus cases would be placed under observation. Ukraine also said it would bar entry to residents of the eastern Donbass region, which is controlled by separatists in a simmering war with Kyiv.

    The European Union in a statement Friday further urged its members to put in place procedures for health screenings at each country’s borders, amid worries over the future of the E.U.’s open borders policies.

    Alongside reports of more school closures and work-from-home-orders across the continent, the Prince of Wales and the duchess of Cornwall announced that they will postpone a spring tour of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus and Jordan.

    Buckingham Palace said Friday that it was also postponing 93-year-old Queen Elizabeth II’s upcoming engagements , though she’ll continue meeting with the prime minister.

    Robyn Dixon in Moscow contributed to this report.

    By: Miriam Berger

    1:09 PM: Brunch postponed at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club

    A 700-person brunch planned for Saturday at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida has been postponed, the organizers said Friday — the latest sign that fears of the novel coronavirus have begun to hit Trump’s own private business.

    The “Wine, Women and Shoes” brunch was planned by an animal shelter called Big Dog Ranch Rescue. Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, was an official chairman of the event. The brunch’s cancellation came a day after reports that a Brazilian official who visited the club last weekend and met with Trump had tested positive for the virus.

    “The well being of our incredible supporters, vendors and staff is paramount,” Big Dog Ranch Rescue’s president, Lauree Simmons, said in a statement. She also cited reports of two other people testing positive in surrounding Palm Beach County, and cited a warning from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to avoid large gatherings.

    But Trump’s club remains open, according to a message sent to members Thursday, after reports of the Brazilian official’s positive test.

    “The safety of our members and guests are of our utmost importance. We are monitoring all of our businesses closely and are following the guidelines provided by the CDC,” the Trump Organization said in a statement.

    In messages to members — obtained by The Washington Post — the club has listed only a few minor changes. Hand sanitizer was widely available. There had been extra cleanings. The Wednesday night seafood buffet was canceled.

    And a private event scheduled for Wednesday had been postponed. For members, however, the club would “be open on Wednesday, March 18, as normal.”

    By: David A. Fahrenthold

    1:05 PM: The coronavirus pandemic makes inroads into the highest echelons of world politics

    With startling speed, the coronavirus pandemic has extended its tendrils into the halls of power around the world.

    For many top officials tasked with responding to the public health and economic crisis that has strained hospitals to their limits and sent markets spiraling, the matter is now personal. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro became one of the highest-ranking world leaders to announce he would be tested for the coronavirus on Friday, a day after his communications director, Fábio Wajngarten, announced he was infected. Bolsonaro’s test came back negative, he said.

    Wajngarten met with President Trump last week at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. Trump has said he would not undergo a test for the virus.

    Canada’s parliament moved to suspend operations Friday after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went into self-isolation for two weeks Thursday shortly before his wife tested positive for the coronavirus. He said he is not showing symptoms of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and has not been tested.

    Romania’s interim prime minister, Ludovic Orban, and his cabinet announced Friday that they were entering self-quarantine after being in contact with a senator who later tested positive.

    On the other side of globe, also on Friday, Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton confirmed he had the virus . Dutton had just been in a cabinet meeting in Sydney on Tuesday.

    Spain suspended its lower parliament on Tuesday after the secretary general of the far-right Vox party confirmed he had the virus . Two days before, Javier Ortega had attended a crowded annual Vox rally.

    Last Friday, Nicola Zingaretti, the head of Italy’s Democratic Party, reported on Facebook that he was infected, too.

    Iran’s political leadership has been among the hardest hit. At least two dozen officials, including a vice president and the deputy health minister, are among the more than 10,000 people infected with the virus there. The official death toll — more than 400 — also includes members of parliament, a former diplomat and a senior adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Another top Khamenei adviser reported he was in self-quarantine Thursday amid unconfirmed reports he was infected.

    The United States — which has watched for weeks as the virus has marched through Asia and now Europe — is no exception. Some of the country’s high-profile lawmakers, such as Sens. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), are in self-quarantine after meeting Bolsonaro’s aide last week. Incoming White House chief of staff Rep. Mark Meadows and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) are among a handful of others on self-quarantine after interacting with a coronavirus patient at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

    Other members of Congress have temporarily closed their offices or urged people to work from home following reports that several Capitol Hill staffers have the virus.

    By: Miriam Berger

    1:03 PM: G-7 leaders to hold virtual summit, Macron says

    The leaders of the Group of Seven economic bloc will hold a virtual summit Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced Friday.

    “Following my call with @realDonaldTrump and all G7 leaders, we agreed to organize an extraordinary Leaders Summit by videoconference on Monday on Covid-19,” Macron wrote on Twitter, in French and English. “We will coordinate research efforts on a vaccine and treatments, and work on an economic and financial response.”

    President Trump this week announced a ban on most European air travel to the United States, including from France, Germany and Italy, which are members of the G-7. Britain, also a member, is not covered by the new ban.

    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Thursday that he will self-quarantine after his wife tested positive for the virus.

    The United States has not separately announced the meeting, although it is the official host country this year and will hold an in-person leaders summit in June. A meeting among finance ministers to plan for that June gathering at Camp David in Maryland will be conducted by teleconference later this month. It had been scheduled as an in-person meeting in Pittsburgh.

    Sign up for our Coronavirus Updates newsletter to track the outbreak. All stories linked within the newsletter are free to access.

    By: Anne Gearan

    12:54 PM: Venezuela confirms first two cases of virus

    CARACAS — Venezuela confirmed its first two cases of the novel coronavirus Friday, raising immediate alarm over the question of how an economically pulverized nation with a broken health-care system will manage to cope with the global pandemic.

    Vice President Delcy Rodriguez announced that the two patients who had tested positive were Venezuelan nationals — a 41-year-old woman who had recently returned from the United States, Italy and Spain, and a 52-year-old man who had recently traveled to Spain.

    “Both cases have been completely isolated,” Rodriguez said, adding that the socialist government is working to locate passengers on their flights, as well as other individuals who might have been in contact with them.

    Large public gatherings, she said, would be prohibited — something that could complicate the Venezuelan opposition’s attempts to oust President Nicolás Maduro, in part through street protests. Cinemas and museums will also be closed, she said.

    Medical experts in Venezuela have warned that the country is completely unprepared for an outbreak. According to the Global Health Security Index, Venezuela’s health system is ranked among the worst in the world in its capacity to detect, quickly respond and mitigate a pandemic.

    The average hospital in Venezuela went more than 300 hours per month without electricity last year. Eight out of ten hospitals reported water supply disruptions every week, according to a recent national survey. Doctors have decried the broken equipment, lack of hygiene and scarcity of medicines at hospitals as contributing factors in patient fatalities.

    Venezuela’s neighbors, particularly Colombia, which has absorbed hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan migrants in recent years, has warned of a potential new wave of “medical migrants” from Venezuela carrying the coronavirus and who could overwhelm its already stressed health-care system. Colombian authorities have recently installed heat-detecting cameras at the major migrant crossing points near the city of Cúcuta to identify migrants with fever entering the country.

    By: Ana Herrero, Anthony Faiola and Mariana Zuñiga

    12:53 PM: Brazilian president says he has tested negative for the coronavirus

    RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro announced on social media Friday that he has tested negative for the coronavirus, ending hours of wild speculation that sent political shock waves through both Washington and Latin America’s largest country.

    Bolsonaro underwent testing after his communications secretary, Fabio Wajngarten, was confirmed to have contracted coronavirus. The pair had traveled to the United States, where Wajngarten had come into close contact with President Trump and Vice President Pence.

    In announcing the test results, Bolsonaro posted a picture of himself giving a vulgar gesture toward reporters, then sought to undermine media outlets that had reported that he had tested positive for the virus.


    The confrontational stance was a continuation of Bolsonaro’s long-standing antagonism toward the media, which he has repeatedly tried to discredit throughout his presidency, deriding news reports critical of him as untrustworthy.

    In the hours before Bolsonaro reported that he didn’t have coronavirus, numerous media outlets in Europe, the United States and Brazil published reports that the initial results of his coronavirus tests had been positive, citing Brazilian officials or even the president’s son, Eduardo.

    Eduardo Bolsonaro, however, is now condemning what he describes as fake news.

    “THE PRESS LIES TO DESTROY THE NEW BRAZIL,” the president’s son tweeted after Bolsonaro announced his test results.

    Critics of Bolsonaro, however, perceived something more malevolent in the contours of a very uncertain day.

    “Bolsonaro won a campaign of disinformation today,” tweeted political scientist Alberto C. Almeida. “The objective is to discredit the media.”

    By: Terrence McCoy

    12:53 PM: Miami mayor tests positive after meeting with Brazilian government aide who also has coronavirus

    Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has tested positive for covid-19, he said in an interview with the Miami Herald Friday morning, days after attending an event with a Brazilian government aide who also has the novel coronavirus.

    In a statement Suarez issued Friday morning, the mayor encouraged those who had close contact with him to isolate for 14 days and monitor their health for flu-like symptoms.

    Suarez, along with the mayor of Miami-Dade and 21 Miami police officers, opted to self-quarantine after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s press secretary, Fabio Wajngarten, tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the Herald reported .

    Bolsonaro announced on Facebook that he had tested negative for covid-19. Wajngarten appeared in a photograph with President Trump and Vice President Pence at Mar-a Lago.

    The 21 officers make up the Miami Police Department’s entire motorcycle brigade and were part of the team that escorted Bolsonaro and Wajngarten during their visit.

    “It’s out of an abundance of caution,” Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina told the Herald. “They were in contact during photo-ops or might have shaken hands.”

    Wajngarten tested positive for the virus after the Florida trip.

    Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez began self-isolating Thursday, the Herald reported, and was tested for the novel coronavirus.

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    By: Katie Mettler

    12:46 PM: Internet providers agree to not cut off service to people who fall behind on bills

    AT&T, Comcast and Verizon joined dozens of telecom providers in agreeing to aid Americans who are out of work or school because of the coronavirus, including by preserving service for those who are unable to pay their bills.

    The commitments came Friday as part of a pledge orchestrated by the Federal Communications Commission, whose chairman, Ajit Pai, said the vast disruptions caused by the deadly outbreak make it “imperative that Americans stay connected.”

    As part of the “Keep Americans Connected Pledge,” nationwide telecom giants including CenturyLink and T-Mobile and more regional providers across the country agreed for the next 60 days that they would not terminate service or assess late fees on customers and businesses that fall behind on their bills. They also agreed to open WiFi hot spots to any American who needs them.

    Read more here .

    By: Tony Romm

    12:43 PM: Four new African countries report coronavirus cases

    Countries across Africa reported more coronavirus cases Friday, with Ethiopia, Kenya, Guinea and Sudan each confirming their first infections.

    The virus that causes the disease covid-19 has now spread to at least 18 countries in Africa, according to Reuters . The majority of the cases have been among non-Africans traveling to the continent or Africans who have recently traveled abroad.

    The spread of the disease to Kenya, which has east Africa’s richest economy, and Ethiopia, the continent’s second-most populous country, also raised worries, as both are key transit hubs for the region.

    Kenya’s first patient is a 27-year-old Kenyan who recently traveled home from the United States via London, according to the country’s Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe, who said the government was tracing any possible contacts, including flight passengers. The government has suspended all large public gatherings, including sports events.

    Ethiopia’s health ministry reported its case involves a 48-year-old Japanese man who arrived on March 4 and was also in Burkina Faso. Guinea’s first patient is an employee of the European Union delegation who had recently arrived and self-isolated after feeling sick, Reuters reported.

    Sudan’s health ministry said their case involved someone who had traveled to the United Arab Emirates at the start of March.

    Senegal on Friday also reported 11 new cases. The ministry of health said they had all visited the holy city of Touba last week during a religious festival.

    The other African countries with confirmed cases are South Africa, Nigeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Togo, Cameroon and Burkina Faso.

    By: Miriam Berger

    11:29 AM: Spain declares national emergency over coronavirus

    MADRID — Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Friday declared a 15-day state of emergency in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus as the number of cases continued to climb in Spain, with the epicenter in Madrid.

    “The declaration of a state of emergency allows us to mobilize the most resources to combat the virus,” Sánchez said in a nationally televised broadcast. “But the victory depends on each one of us. Heroism consists in also washing your hands and staying home. We are going to stop the virus with responsibility and unity.”

    As of the latest count on Friday, Spain had 4,200 cases of infection, more than 2,000 of which were in Madrid. At least 62 countries have imposed restrictions on Spanish travelers.

    The prime minister, who has approved 18 billion euros to help stop the spread of the virus, appealed specifically to young people to not transmit the virus to more vulnerable segments of the population, noting that though they may not suffer the worst symptoms, they should still stay home.

    The move comes days after Madrid’s local government closed all schools and universities. Local reports suggest the Spanish capital will order bars, restaurants, theaters and other nonessential businesses to suspend activity to limit social interaction as early as Saturday.

    “We are only in the first stage of fighting the virus,” Sánchez said. “We can expect very tough weeks ahead. We will reach 10,000 infected next week."

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    By: Pamela Rolfe

    11:17 AM: First drive-through testing site opens in coronavirus cluster of New Rochelle, N.Y.

    NEW YORK — New Yorkers will have access to coronavirus screening at a drive-through testing facility that opened Friday in New Rochelle, a suburb outside New York City that became a containment zone after dozens of confirmed cases of the virus.

    “New Rochelle has the highest cluster of coronavirus cases in the country, the highest density,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) told reporters in New Rochelle Friday morning at the opening of the drive-through facility.

    Residents in New Rochelle and Westchester County who make appointments by phone will be able to be tested from their cars. The testing facility will prioritize those who are most vulnerable, including New Rochelle residents who have been in precautionary quarantine, the governor’s office said. Swabs will be sent to BioReference Laboratory, which will contact residents with their test results.

    “This is a very creative way of testing,” the governor said, because it eliminates potential exposure to others in a waiting room, for instance.

    The six-lane testing site can accommodate 200 cars per day. The site will remain open for “the trajectory of the disease,” which could last months, Cuomo said.

    The state of Colorado opened a similar operation in Denver, where patients with a doctor’s note can be tested free, and in San Francisco, tests have been made available to patients at Kaiser Permanente hospitals who meet criteria from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and have a doctor’s order, KRON 4 reported .

    South Korea pioneered the quick and convenient testing method , which the United States has been slow to adopt as cases grow here.

    By: Ben Guarino and Katie Mettler

    10:47 AM: Masters golf tournament and Boston Marathon are postponed as sports disruptions continue

    The The Masters and the Boston Marathon on Friday became the latest major international sporting events postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak.

    Masters officials announced that golf’s first major of the year would not start on April 9 as planned and offered no timeline on when it might be rescheduled.

    “We hope this postponement puts us in the best position to safely host the Masters Tournament and our amateur events at some later date,” Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, said in a statement.

    Moments later, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced that the 124th Boston Marathon would be postponed until Sept. 14.

    “Our expectation and hope right now is that this day will get us to a safer date,” Walsh said in a news conference.

    The race has been altered only once its history, in 1918 during World War I. The Masters has been held in Augusta, Ga., every year since 1934, except for 1943 through 1945, when it was canceled because of World War II.

    By: Rick Maese and Matt Bonesteel

    9:43 AM: Germany announces ‘bazooka’ economic plan to mitigate coronavirus hit

    BERLIN — The German government on Friday announced an economic plan to cushion the hit of the coronavirus, including “unlimited” loans for affected businesses, in addition to tax breaks.

    German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier described the package as unique in the postwar history of Germany and said that there is no limit to the funding that the government is willing to provide to protect businesses.

    “What we are presenting to you today is the most comprehensive and effective help and guarantee that has ever existed in a crisis,” he said in a joint news conference in Berlin with Finance Minister Olaf Scholz.

    Altmaier said the package would initially make available around 500 billion euros ($555 billion) in financing.

    “That’s the beginning,” Altmaier added. “We’ve said that we shouldn’t fail because of a shortage of money or a shortage of political will.”

    The proposals include allowing companies to defer tax payments. Scholz said that it is “not implausible” that Germany would have to take on new debt to finance the rescue plan for Europe’s largest economy.

    “Our country is facing a very serious situation, one that we’ve never experienced before,” he said. He described the plan as “the bazooka.”

    “What small arms we still need, we’ll see later,” he said.

    By: Loveday Morris and Luisa Beck

    9:18 AM: Under harsh criticism, Trump administration announces efforts to speed testing

    The Trump administration announced a series of steps Friday aimed at boosting the availability of coronavirus testing, which has drawn heated criticism from lawmakers of both parties and frustrated Americans who are sick and have been unable to find out whether they are infected.

    The Food and Drug Administration has created a 24-hour emergency hotline for laboratories having difficulty getting materials or finding other impediments to running tests, according to announcements early Friday.

    Officials also announced they were giving nearly $1.3 million in federal money to two companies trying to develop rapid covid-19 tests that could determine whether a person tests positive within an hour.

    In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services assigned Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health, to coordinate all covid-19 testing efforts among federal public health agencies, including the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state and local health departments, and public and private clinical laboratories. The FDA also is giving New York state the ability to authorize certain public and private labs to test for the virus under the aegis of the state health department, without first getting federal approval.

    Earlier this week, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) announced he was moving ahead to contract with 28 private labs in New York. “We’re not in a position where we can rely on the CDC or the FDA to manage this testing protocol,” the governor said. Cuomo said that he told the private labs they should “get up, get running and start moving forward with testing.”

    The state’s Health Department has a preexisting relationship with these labs, which Cuomo says has the experience with virology to get the testing done.

    The Trump administration announced these and other testing-related measures a day after a particularly harsh drubbing of federal health officials at a congressional hearing on Capitol Hill. At one House hearing, Antony Fauci, longtime director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, acknowledged that the system for testing Americans for coronavirus is “not really geared to what we need right now … That is a failing. Let’s admit it.”

    Read more here .

    By: Amy Goldstein

    9:16 AM: Analysis: Why South Korea, not Iran, is a model for U.S. coronavirus response

    A stark contrast in the coronavirus mortality rates in South Korea and Iran show how critical a government’s response can be in determining whether the disease is stymied or spread. Public health experts say they want to ensure the U.S. outcome turns out more like the former.

    “Will we take the tough actions to mitigate spread, or will we let this spread like the flu?” said Scott Gottlieb, former head of the Food and Drug Administration. “I think we will end up somewhere in between: not helpless like Iran, but not as aggressive and swift as South Korea.”

    South Korea managed to dramatically arrest the spread. It’s conducting more tests per person than any other country in the world, with about 15,000 people getting tested every day. The government has set up dozens of drive-through testing centers. South Korean officials aggressively informed the public about how to respond, including with cellphone alerts notifying people of new cases near them.

    The country has reported 7,800 cases, but just 66 deaths — a relatively low mortality rate under 1 percent. Its daily growth in new cases also appears to be slowing. But it’s a different story in Iran, a country with 80 million people where cases are surging and several top officials — including two dozen members of parliament and a vice president — have been infected .

    As neighboring countries canceled flights and alerted medical personnel, Iranian officials said little in public about the virus. They didn’t announce the disease’s arrival in the country until Feb. 19, when officials said two people had already died.

    The country’s Health Ministry claims that about 10,000 have been infected and 429 have died. But mass graves — confirmed by videos, satellite images and other open-source data — could mean Iran has suffered more deaths than its government has let on.

    By: Paige Winfield Cunningham

    8:32 AM: Fauci says coronavirus disruption is unlike anything he has experienced in 36 years on job

    During an interview on “CBS This Morning, ” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the widespread disruption to everyday American life from the coronavirus is unlike anything the nation has experienced in his 36 years on the job.

    “There have been an awful lot of challenges,” Fauci said, noting the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s and the H1N1 influenza pandemic in 2009. “With regard to disruption of everyday life, we have not seen that before, but we’ve not had this kind of a situation before."

    With H1N1, also known as the swine flu, Fauci said there was less mass panic because unlike the new coronavirus, it was an influenza virus.

    “We were familiar with what influenza does. We were familiar with its seasonal capability," Fauci said. "Right now there are a lot of unknowns and I think that’s the thing that’s frightening people.”

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    By: Katie Mettler

    8:30 AM: Coronavirus can be transmitted before symptoms arise, scientists find

    Scientists studying the novel coronavirus are quickly uncovering features that allow it to infect and sicken human beings.

    The coronavirus can be shed by people even before they develop symptoms. That pre-symptomatic transmission has helped it become a stealth contagion. The coronavirus may take many days — up to 14 — before an infection flares into symptoms, and although most people recover without a serious illness, this is not a bug that comes and goes quickly.

    The virus lurks in the body even after people feel better. A new study in the Lancet , based on research in China, found that the median length of time the virus remains in the respiratory tract of a patient after symptoms begin is 20 days. Among patients who survived the disease, the virus continued to be shed for between eight and 37 days.

    This coronavirus can establish itself in the upper respiratory tract, said Vincent Munster, chief of the Virus Ecology Section of Rocky Mountain Laboratories, a facility in Hamilton, Mont., that is part of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. That enables the virus to spread more easily through coughing and sneezing, and stands in contrast to another coronavirus that Munster’s laboratory has studied — MERS, which tends to infect cells in the lower respiratory tract, he said.

    Munster and his colleagues have conducted experiments showing that at least some coronavirus can potentially remain viable — capable of infecting a person — for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

    During a CNN town hall program on the coronavirus Thursday night, Anthony Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, addressed whether it is safe to open a package delivered by mail: “I think if you start thinking about money and mail and things like that, you can almost sort of immobilize yourself, which I don’t think is a good idea.”

    Read more here .

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    By: Joel Achenbach

    8:24 AM: Federal government could soon send employees home to work. That poses serious cyber dangers.

    As coronavirus infections mount, the federal government is preparing for an unprecedented experiment in remote working that brings with it a slew of digital dangers.

    The Trump administration is ordering hundreds of thousands of federal employees to be prepared to telework full time if the virus spread worsens, as my colleague Lisa Rein reports . And it’s far from clear government technologists are prepared to handle that strain.

    If U.S. adversaries, such as Russia or Iran, creep inside government computer networks, they could disrupt efforts to mitigate the virus by stopping or slowing down communications. They could also sow chaos by sending phony alerts about the virus to the government workforce or the public.

    Federal agencies are trying to get ahead of any problems as telework is being encouraged, though not mandated at this point. The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is working entirely remotely today to stress-test whether the agency will be up to the job “if CISA-wide telework becomes necessary in response to the outbreak,” spokeswoman Sara Sendek said.

    But the government has never attempted to work remotely on anywhere near this scale before. At DHS alone, as many as 240,000 workers could be asked to work remotely; the CISA test alone involves 3,500 people.

    Read more here .

    By: Joseph Marks

    8:21 AM: This is the coronavirus math that has experts so worried

    For weeks now, America’s leaders and its public have been obsessed with one set of numbers: How many people have died? How many confirmed cases? And in what states?

    But to understand why experts are so alarmed and what may be coming next, the public needs to start paying attention to a whole other set of numbers: How many ventilators do we have in this country? How many hospital beds? How many doctors and nurses? And most importantly, how many sick people can they all treat at the same time?

    Consider the ventilators. For those severely ill with a respiratory disease like covid-19, ventilators are a matter of life and death because they allow patients to breathe when they cannot on their own. In a report last month, the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins estimated American has a total of 160,000 ventilators available for patient care.

    A planning study run by the federal government in 2005 estimated that if America were struck with a moderate pandemic like the 1957 influenza , the country would need more than 64,000 ventilators . If we were struck with a severe pandemic like the 1918 Spanish flu, we would need more than 740,000 ventilators — many times more than are available.

    The math on hospitals isn’t any better. The United States has roughly 2.8 hospital beds per 1,000 people.

    South Korea, which has seen success mitigating its large outbreak, has more than 12 hospital beds per 1,000 people. China, where hospitals in Hubei were quickly overrun, has 4.3 beds per 1,000. Italy, a developed country with a reasonably decent health system, has seen its hospitals overwhelmed and has 3.2 beds per 1,000.

    Read more here .

    By: William Wan, Ariana Eunjung Cha and Lena H. Sun

    7:50 AM: U.S. stock futures clawing back after worst meltdown in 30 years

    Wall Street was poised for a rebound Friday after its most brutal sell-off in more than 30 years, as central banks around the world delivered expansive packages to try to shore up the economy against the novel coronavirus outbreak, which has battered global markets for weeks and disrupted nearly every facet of daily life.

    Dow Jones industrial average futures are calling for a more than 1,100-point spike at the open. The Standard & Poor’s 500 and Nasdaq are also signaling surges in excess of 5 percent. Emergency action by the Federal Reserve to free up $1.5 trillion to smooth operations of the massive U.S. Treasury market and an Oval Office speech from President Trump outlining the beginning of the White House’s response to the U.S. outbreak sent investors into complete panic Wednesday, resulting in a jaw-dropping 10 percent decline for the Dow and the week’s second forced halt to trading.

    Wall Street’s stunning meltdown over the past month has erased most of the stock market gains since Trump’s election in November 2016. At its Feb. 12 peak, the Dow had climbed more than 61 percent; by Thursday’s close, that number had been shaved to roughly 11 percent.

    Read more here .

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    By: Thomas Heath and Taylor Telford

    7:49 AM: Coronavirus curve shows much of Europe could face Italy-like surge within weeks

    BERLIN — Some of the world’s top experts tracking the spread of the coronavirus predict that in a matter of weeks, much of Europe could be facing a similar surge in cases that has locked down Italy, overwhelmed its hospitals in the north and brought the country of 60 million to a standstill.

    Mathematical models developed by epidemiologists to track the virus show a sharp trajectory of infections in Germany, France and Britain. Spain showed particularly concerning exponential growth, some experts said. The modelers in Europe say a similar arc is likely in the United States, but anticipating the spread is made more difficult by the lack of widespread testing of suspected cases there.

    “Italy is about two weeks ahead of Britain and the rest of Europe,” said Francois Balloux, director of the Genetics Institute at University College London. Observations by epidemiologists show that if unchecked, the number of infections doubles approximately every five days, with infected individuals capable of passing the virus on to an average of about 2.5 people. “What we are seeing is not rocket science,” Balloux said.

    Epidemiologists say that decisive action is required to change the rate of infection and “flatten the curve.” That reality appeared to sink in for some political leaders in the United States and Europe this week, as countries closed schools, encouraged working from home, banned large gatherings and imposed new travel restrictions. French Health Ministry Director General Jérôme Salomon said France must prepare itself for “the Italian scenario.”

    Still, some experts worry that governments aren’t doing enough to reduce rates of transmission so cases don’t soar exponentially and overwhelm health systems. A lack of urgency in previous weeks may have wasted valuable time, they say.

    Read more here .

    By: Loveday Morris and William Booth

    7:30 AM: Champions League, Premier League matches called off as coronavirus puts a halt to European soccer

    European soccer officially ground to a halt Friday.

    The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) , the continent’s governing body, announced that all round-of-16 matches in its Champions League and Europa League club competitions scheduled for next week have been postponed amid heightened concerns over the coronavirus.

    Meanwhile, a number of European professional soccer leagues also announced a halt in play Friday because of the coronavirus.

    The English Football League announced Friday that its top-flight soccer leagues, including the Premier League, will halt play until at least April 3, when the situation will be reviewed.

    In France, where this weekend’s Ligue 1 and 2 matches originally were to be played without spectators present, the Ligue de Football Professionnel announced Friday that all matches in the country’s top two divisions will be suspended until further notice.

    The announcement came a day after French President Emmanuel Macron said the nation’s schools and universities would shutter next week, calling the outbreak the “biggest health crisis that France has known in a century.”

    Germany’s Bundesliga and its second-division league will go on hiatus until April 2 after this weekend’s matches, which begin Friday afternoon Eastern time.

    Club soccer in Spain, Italy, Portugal and the Netherlands already had been shut down because of the coronavirus, and with club competitions across Europe halted and season completions delayed, UEFA now must decide what to do with this summer’s Euro 2020 tournament.

    Read more here .

    By: Matt Bonesteel and Danielle Paquette

    7:18 AM: Death toll mounts in Europe, as more governments take action

    BERLIN — As coronavirus cases continued to surge across Europe Friday, governments took more decisive but differing measures to slow down the spread of the virus.

    In Italy, a nationwide lockdown continued, as almost 13,000 people were confirmed to be infected by the virus Thursday night. Known current cases increased by more than 2,000 within 24 hours.

    In central Europe, Poland’s president canceled a planned trip to Russia. The Czech Republic announced self-quarantine rules for travelers from 15 countries, including neighboring Germany.

    Meanwhile, some German federal states began announcing school closures Friday, as confirmed cases there exceeded 2,000, but other states remained reluctant to shut down educational institutions.

    In Spain, where figures surged this week, the death toll nearly doubled. As of Thursday, it stood at 84, according to local health officials.

    Meanwhile, there were signs that the outbreak now covered a wide geographic area. In Bulgaria, the parliament voted to declare a state of emergency, which will last one month, after confirmed cases in the country exceeded 20.

    In Romania, interim prime minister Ludovic Orban said he would self-isolate after he came in contact with an individual who was later confirmed to have the virus.

    Facing criticism over its handling of the public health crisis, the European Commission was expected to drop spending restrictions that normally apply to member states but have hindered efforts to boost virus-stricken economies.

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    By: Rick Noack

    7:16 AM: The singing echoing through empty Italy

    ROME — Stuck in their houses under lockdown, the people in the Tuscan town of Siena on Thursday night found a way nonetheless to breathe a little life into their empty streets. They opened their windows and started singing.

    Video, shared on Twitter and by Siena’s newspaper, showed vacant streets lit up by music — the local song “Verbena.” As the song continued, more and more voices joined in. The local newspaper, the Corriere di Siena, said the music “warmed all of Siena.”

    The trend is catching on. Similar events are planned Friday night in Rome, with people widely sharing a memo on social media calling for people to come to their balconies at 6 p.m.

    Italians have been largely confined to their homes because of a nationwide government-ordered lockdown. Almost nothing is open aside from supermarkets and pharmacies, and Italians have been advised to remain indoors as much as possible.

    By: Chico Harlan

    6:06 AM: Contactless deliveries, medical aid: India’s food delivery apps respond to coronavirus

    NEW DELHI – Zomato and Swiggy, India’s most popular food delivery apps, announced that customers can opt for “contactless” deliveries as a precautionary measure to check the spread of coronavirus. In emails sent to customers this week, reviewed by The Washington Post, the companies said that food packets can be left at the customer’s door, if they wanted. Zomato customers will receive a photo of the delivered food as confirmation.

    Both companies said they were training their delivery fleets in best practices of hygiene and had asked them to self-quarantine if they showed any symptoms. Swiggy said it would provide “free medical consultation.”

    Zomato’s founder, Deepinder Goyal, said in a tweet that the company had informed it’s delivery staff that, “they don’t need to force themselves to work for financial reasons.” The company would provide financial support besides medical insurance for those affected. Media reports suggest that in December the two companies combined received over 2.5 million orders daily.

    India’s health ministry has so far reported one death and confirmed 75 positive coronavirus cases. The government has virtually quarantined the country by suspending all short-term visas and sealing land borders in a rash of strict measures to deal the virus. Several states have shut down schools, theaters, and malls. One of India’s biggest sporting extravaganzas, a cricket tournament, has also been postponed to next month.

    By: Niha Masih

    6:04 AM: Reluctance to close schools becomes a polarizing issue in Germany and other European countries

    BERLIN — Two days after German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed the nation with a blunt warning — that more than two-thirds of the population could be infected by coronavirus — many German schools remained open on Friday.

    As other nations across the continent shut schools and universities, including neighboring France , the German approach appeared to stand out, revealing the country’s struggle to confront the virus in a federal system similar to the United States.

    Earlier this week, German Health Minister Jens Spahn had urged the cancellation of big gatherings, but he only could offer a recommendation rather than an outright ban. Under German federal law, such cancellations can only be enforced by the 16 federal states.

    The chaos that ensued — with some states pushing ahead with immediate cancellations and other regional governments appearing to hesitate — is now once again playing out with school closures, critics argue. 

    By Friday morning, the governments of Bavaria, Saarland and Berlin had decided to close their schools. Elsewhere, teachers continued to lack instructions.

    Opponents of school closures argue that infection rates there have been relatively low and that sending children home would prevent many parents from being able to work. Case tallies have also strongly differed between federal states, which has made school closures a more pressing concern in some federal states that have already taken action.

    But others disagreed. “If the reality is that we all live in the same country and the same world, then it’s unacceptable that schools are closed [in some areas] but not a few kilometers away,” said Heinz-Peter Meidinger, the president of the German teachers’ association, according to Germany’s public broadcaster.

    In the Netherlands, the government faced similarly harsh criticism during a parliamentary debate overnight, after it closed museums and banned many gatherings, but kept schools and universities open.

    By: Rick Noack

    5:07 AM: European stocks stage a cautious rebound, amid intervention hopes

    BERLIN — European stocks rose Friday morning after they suffered major losses Thursday amid concerns over the coronavirus spread.

    The Stoxx 600 Index was initially up more than 3.5 percent on Friday. London’s FTSE 100 initially rose by more than 2.5 percent, even though both indexes subsequently retraced some of those gains.

    Analysts credited the interventions by central banks this week for the initial rebound, with U.S. stock futures suggesting that Wall Street may also recover some of Thursday’s losses. Previously, the Federal Reserve had taken the decision to inject more money into the bond market.

    Despite such interventions this week, U.S. stock losses snowballed Thursday — compounded by President Trump’s decision to restrict most travel from Europe for a month. The Dow slid by 2,352.60 points, its steepest one-day slide since 1987.

    On Wednesday, markets had plunged after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.

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    By: Rick Noack

    2:11 AM: Coronavirus shuts down Mount Everest

    NEW DELHI — The most popular route to Mount Everest is shutting down as Nepal seeks to check the spread of the pandemic.

    All permits to summit Everest from Nepal will be halted, the country’s tourism department said in a statement on Friday. China earlier reportedly informed tour companies that it was also shutting down access from its side of the mountain.

    Most climbers summit the mountain via Nepal and the climbing season runs from April to May. Last year, Nepal issued a record number of climbing permits, leading to dangerous overcrowding on the world’s highest peak.

    At least 2,000 people – support staff, porters, medics – normally camp at the base of the mountain for the duration of the climbing season.

    Nepal has one confirmed coronavirus case, but the government has announced sweeping new restrictions on people entering the country. The country will no longer issue any visas on arrival, foreigners will be required to show proof of testing negative for the coronavirus, and every person arriving from abroad will be subject to a two-week home quarantine.

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    By: Joanna Slater and Ankit Adkhikari

    2:06 AM: First coronavirus case spotted in Wuhan in mid-November, newspaper reports 

    HONG KONG — The first coronavirus case detected in China was a 55-year-old man from Hubei province whose illness was found on Nov. 17, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reported Friday, citing Chinese government documents.

    This date is almost a month earlier than previous reports that a strange new illness first began to appear in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, on Dec. 10 or thereabouts. However, the first person to have caught the virus, which is believed to have jumped from bats to humans, remains unidentified.

    China first reported a case of the virus to the World Health Organization on Dec. 8.

    The virus spread quickly. By Dec. 31, at least 266 people were infected and had been treated by Chinese medical authorities, the paper reported. The number jumped to 381 on Jan. 1.

    Scientists are now trying to identify “patient zero” so they can trace the exact source of the coronavirus.

    None of the first nine cases to be reported in November – four men and five women – was this “patient zero,” the paper reported.

    The South China Morning Post did not say how it got the documents or which authority they came from.

    By: Tiffany Liang

    2:03 AM: Singapore widens travel restrictions to Italy, France, Germany and Spain; bars cruise ships 

    Singapore on Friday expanded travel restrictions to parts of Europe, barring anyone with recent travel history to France, Germany and Spain from entering or transiting through the country. Travel restrictions against countries like China, South Korea, Italy and Iran are already in place.

    These new restrictions will come into effect on Sunday at 11:59 p.m., officials said, citing a “tenfold increase” in coronavirus cases outside of mainland China. In Singapore, as of Thursday, a quarter of the 187 confirmed cases were imported, the government said — including 13 cases with recent travel history to European countries, and six cases from Indonesia in the past 10 days alone.

    Singapore has also changed measures for those exhibiting symptoms of respiratory illnesses. Since March 4, all travelers with symptoms have had to do a mandatory swab test for covid-19, regardless of their travel history. With immediate effect, all travelers exhibiting any respiratory symptoms will have to self-quarantine, even if the test results come up negative. Port calls for all cruises have also ceased with immediate effect.

    Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore’s prime minister, said in a national address Thursday that though his country had taken the situation with “utmost seriousness,” Singapore too faces a “serious situation” and expects new clusters and waves of infections coming from many countries rather than one or two. He pointed to the World Health Organization’s statements accusing some countries around the world of not doing enough to stem the spread of the virus.

    By: Shibani Mahtani

    1:54 AM: Lawmakers near deal on economic relief package, as virus brings most public activities in U.S. to a standstill

    The Trump administration and congressional Democrats are close to agreeing on economic relief measures intended to help people and businesses affected by the new coronavirus , they say, as the pandemic leads to more cancellations and generates more uncertainty from the public.

    On Thursday alone, major theme parks , houses of worship, museums and cruises said they will shut down. The country’s professional hockey, basketball and soccer leagues suspended their seasons. Small towns have emptied out, big cities have banned large gatherings, and at least five states announced they will close all schools.

    Amid intense pressure from both sides, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she expected a vote Friday ”one way or another” to approve the economic relief package. Expected to total several tens of billions of dollars, it will include expanded unemployment insurance, paid sick leave and food security assistance, as well as free coronavirus testing.

    But concerns about testing are already well underway, vexing laboratories, health officials and patients across the country. Strict regulations on who can be tested mean that not everyone who wants one has been able to get one, despite President Trump’s sweeping declarations to the contrary.

    As of early Friday, more than 1,600 cases of the virus were being treated across the United States, including at least one patient in nearly every state and the District of Columbia. But experts — including many government officials — say the spread of the virus may be far more pronounced.

    The coronavirus increasingly appears to be turning into one of the biggest tests for Trump’s presidency, it has taken a toll on him personally. As many of his family’s hotels and clubs shut down this week, a Brazilian official who had been photographed next to him and Vice President Mike Pence tested positive for the virus.

    On the Democratic campaign trail, meanwhile, both Sen. Bernie Sanders and former vice president Joseph R. Biden Jr. slammed the president for his response to the virus. And the president hit back.

    Late on Thursday, Trump said Biden’s efforts to curb the H1N1 swine flu epidemic in the Obama administration were some “one of the worst on record.”

    “Our response is one of the best,” Trump said on Twitter.

    Have you tried to get tested for coronavirus and been turned away? Share your experience with The Washington Post.

    By: Teo Armus

    1:15 AM: Analysis: Trump’s nationalism can’t fix a global crisis 

    Diseases know no borders, but President Trump seems to think otherwise. In an address to the nation Wednesday, he called the coronavirus spreading a “foreign virus,” an external menace that originated in China and was handled improperly by the United States’ European allies. He slapped a 30-day travel ban on most of Europe, to the bemusement of officials in Brussels, and tried to spin an earlier decision to block travel from China as a prescient measure.

    Trump also hailed his administration’s mobilization of federal resources to combat the spread of the disease. “The virus will not have a chance against us,” he said.

    But that bravado, which preceded the worst day for U.S. stocks since 1987 , appeared to backfire. “From the misstatements to the omissions to his labored demeanor, the president sent a message that shook financial markets, disrupted relations with European allies, confused his many viewers and undermined the most precious commodity of any president, his credibility,” wrote The Post’s Dan Balz .

    On Thursday, Trump flummoxed onlookers when he told reporters that the United States had “a tremendous testing set up” despite widespread complaints that medical facilities aren’t providing tests or are taking too long to provide results.

    In the view of many European officials, Trump’s rhetoric and travel ban smacked of naked ideology , not sound public health policy. After all, quite a few countries from within Europe’s Schengen zone — targeted by the U.S. ban because of the open borders policy inside it — had reported smaller numbers of coronavirus cases than Britain, which was exempt from the restrictions.

    Read more in today’s WorldView analysis here .

    By: Ishaan Tharoor

    1:15 AM: Asian markets slump on pandemic disruption fears

    HONG KONG — Asian markets were firmly in the red Friday as coronavirus-induced shutdowns of swaths of public life in the United States heightened concerns about prolonged global economic disruption.

    Stocks retreated despite increasing signs that the pandemic is under control in the region, especially in China, where new cases of coronavirus infection have slowed to a trickle. China’s National Health Commission on Friday reported only eight new infections the day before, five of them in the epicenter province of Hubei.

    But with the world’s largest economy in the throes of a meltdown, investors again took fright, sending Japan’s Nikkei index and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng down about 6 percent. That was something of an improvement on earlier in the day, however, when the Nikkei plunged 10 percent after Wall Street’s worst day for stocks since 1987.

    Oil and U.S. index futures were higher.

    Earlier, President Trump praised Japan’s preparations for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and said there were still “lots of options” for holding the Games, only hours after suggesting they might have to be postponed for a year.

    The shift in the president’s tone came after a phone call with Japanese leader Shinzo Abe.

    --Anna Fifield contributed to this report.

    Sign up for our Coronavirus Updates newsletter to track the outbreak. All stories linked within the newsletter are free to access.

    By: David Crawshaw


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