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coronavirus outbreak

President Donald Trump has warned Americans to prepare for the “toughest week” of the coronavirus pandemic yet, predicting a surge in deaths.

At his daily briefing, the president said “there will be death” in a grim assessment of the days ahead.

Donald Trump sought to reassure the worst-hit states, promising medical supplies and military personnel to combat the virus.

However, in contrast to his warning, President Trump suggested easing social-distancing guidelines for Easter.

At a news conference at the White House on April 4, he said: “We have to open our country again.

“We don’t want to be doing this for months and months and months.”

President Trump’s calls to relax restrictions on life came on the day confirmed coronavirus infections in the US surpassed 300,000, the highest number in the world.

Image source Flickr

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Coronavirus: China Observes Three-Minute Silence for Covid-19 Victims

Coronavirus: Global Cases Pass 1 Million

As of April 4, there were almost 8,500 deaths from Covid-19 in the US, with most in New York state – the epicenter of the outbreak.

On the same day, New York state recorded 630 more Covid-19 deaths, another daily record that takes its toll to 3,565. New York state now has almost as many cases – over 113,000 – as the whole of Italy.

The president gave a candid assessment of what lies ahead for the US in the coming weeks.

He said: “This will be probably the toughest week between this week and next week, and there will be a lot of death, unfortunately, but a lot less death than if this wasn’t done but there will be death.”

To support states in their fight against Covid-19, President Trump said his administration would be deploying a “tremendous amount of military, thousands of soldiers, medical workers, professionals”.

The military personnel will “soon” be advised of their assignments, the president said, adding that “1,000 military personnel” were being deployed to New York City.

President Trump also addressed his use of the Defense Production Act, a Korean-War-era law which gives him powers to control the production and supply of US-made medical products.

He said he was “very disappointed” with 3M, a US company that makes masks, saying it “should be taking care of our country” instead of selling to others.

However, the president rejected accusations that the US had committed an act of “modern piracy” by redirecting 200,000 Germany-bound masks for its own use.

On the question of easing social-distancing restrictions, President Trump reiterated a familiar theme.

President Trump has said: “The cure cannot be worse than the problem itself.”

Elsewhere in the world, there has been cause for optimism as the number of new infections and deaths from coronavirus has started to gradually diminish.

Globally, more than 60,000 people have died and more than 1.1 million have been infected, Johns Hopkins University says.

President Donald Trump has said he will not wear a face mask despite new medical guidelines advising Americans to do so.

He said he could not see himself greeting “presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens” in the Oval Office while wearing one.

President Trump stressed that the guidance released on April 3 was “voluntary”.

“You do not have to do it,” he said.

“I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.”

The guidelines issued by the CDC came as the US reported more than 1,100 deaths in a single day – the highest total for a 24-hour period anywhere in the world.

According to Johns Hopkins University, the US has so far confirmed 278,458 cases of Covid-19 and more than 7,000 deaths.

New York state remains the worst affected area, with nearly 3,000 deaths, and state governor Andrew Cuomo has appealed for help from other parts of the US.

Until now, US health authorities had said that only the sick, or those caring for patients of coronavirus, should wear masks, but newer studies suggest that covering up one’s face is important to prevent inadvertent transmission.

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Coronavirus: Global Cases Pass 1 Million

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President Trump said on April 2: “From recent studies we know that the transmission from individuals without symptoms is playing a more significant role in the spread of the virus than previously understood.”

However, the president told reporters after announcing the CDC’s new guidance: “I just don’t want to do it myself.”

“Sitting in the Oval Office… I somehow don’t see it for myself.”

Americans are now advised to use clean cloth or fabric to cover their faces whilst in public. Officials have stressed that medical masks remain in short supply, and should be left for healthcare workers.

The CDC guidance comes as the number of cases globally climbs past one million.

President Trump announced the guidance at the White House daily coronavirus briefing, but repeatedly emphasized that the advisory was “voluntary”.

China has observed a three-minute silence for the victims of the coronavirus outbreak.

A day of remembrance was declared in China on April 4 to honor the more than 3,300 people who died of Covid-19.

At 10:00 AM local time, people stood still nationwide for three minutes in tribute to the dead.

Cars, trains and ships then sounded their horns, air raid sirens rang as flags were flown at half-mast.

The first cases of coronavirus were detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei province at the end of 2019.

Since then, the virus has swept the globe, infecting more than one million people and killing nearly 60,000 in 181 countries.

Coronavirus: Global Cases Pass 1 Million

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In Wuhan, the epicenter of China’s outbreak, all traffic lights in urban areas were turned red at 10:00, ceasing traffic for three minutes.

The Chinese government said the event was a chance to pay respects to “martyrs”, a reference to the 14 medical workers who died battling the virus.

They include Li Wenliang, a doctor in Wuhan who died of Covid-19 after being reprimanded by the authorities for attempting to warn others about the disease.

Wearing white flowers pinned to their chest, China’s President Xi Jinping and other government officials paid silent tribute in Beijing.

The commemorations coincide with the annual Qingming festival, when millions of Chinese families pay respects to their ancestors.

China first informed the WHO about cases of pneumonia with unknown causes on December 31, 2019.

By January 18, 2020, the confirmed number of cases had risen to around 60 – but experts estimated the real figure was closer to 1,700.

Just two days later, as millions of people prepared to travel for the lunar new year, the number of cases more than tripled to more than 200 and the virus was detected in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen.

From that point, the virus began to spread rapidly in Asia and then Europe, eventually reaching every corner of the globe.

However, in the past few weeks, China has started to ease travel and social-distancing restrictions, believing it has brought the health emergency under control.

Last week, Wuhan partially re-opened after more than two months of isolation.

On April 4, China reported 19 new confirmed cases of coronavirus, down from 31 a day earlier. China’s health commission said 18 of those cases involved travelers arriving from abroad.

As it battles to control cases coming from abroad, China temporarily banned all foreign visitors, even if they have visas or residence permits.

As the coronavirus crisis in China abates, the rest of the world remains firmly in the grip of the disease.

Peru has imposed strict new measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease, restricting public movement by gender.

According to new measures, men can only leave home on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; women can do so on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. On Sundays, no-one is allowed out.

Panama introduced similar restrictions earlier this week.

Peru has recorded more than 1,400 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 55 related deaths.

Coronavirus: Global Cases Pass 1 Million

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On April 2, President Martín Vizcarra said that previous control measures had given good results “but not what was hoped for”.

Calling for an “extra effort to control this disease”, the president said the new gender-based restrictions should halve the number of people circulating in public at any one time.

He added: “We have to get fewer people on the streets every day.”

The new rules came into effect on April 3 and will last until April 12, when a nationwide lockdown imposed on March 16 is scheduled to be lifted.

Peru’s Interior Minister Carlos Morán warned that the police and armed forces would be enforcing the new measures.

He said: “On Sunday everyone has to be at home.

“Banks will not work and supermarkets, markets and shops will be closed. There will also be no pharmacies. No-one has justification for leaving.”

According to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University, more than a million cases of coronavirus have been registered globally on April 2, 2020.

This is another grim milestone as the world grapples with the spreading pandemic.

More than 51,000 people have died and more than 208,000 have recovered.

The US accounts for the most cases and Italy has the highest death toll.

Covid-19 first emerged in central China three months ago.

Coronavirus: US Death Toll Goes Above 5,000

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Though the tally kept by Johns Hopkins records one million confirmed cases, the actual number is thought to be much higher.

It took a month and a half for the first 100,000 cases to be registered, but one million was reached after a doubling in cases over the past week.

Nearly a quarter of cases have been registered in the US, while Europe accounts for around half.

On April 2, Spain said 950 people had died in the previous 24 hours – thought to be the highest number of deaths of any country in one day.

The number of confirmed Spanish cases rose from 102,136 on April 1 to 110,238 – an 8% rise that is similar to the rate recorded in previous days. Spanish authorities believe the virus is now peaking and say they expect to see a drop in figures in the days ahead.

Spain is the second-worst hit nation in terms of deaths. It has also lost nearly 900,000 jobs.

On April 2, the US said it saw a record 6.6 million new unemployment benefit claims.

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The US death toll from the coronavirus pandemic has exceeded 5,000, while confirmed cases worldwide are reaching one million.

According to Johns Hopkins University, which tracks cornavirus figures globally, there were 884 deaths in the US in the last 24 hours, a new record.

The latest victims include a six-week-old baby. More than 216,000 are now infected, the world’s highest figure.

Reserves of protective equipment and medical supplies are almost exhausted.

The Trump administration says it can acquire adequate supplies, and has $16 billion available to do so. State and local officials have complained about insufficient protective equipment such as masks and gowns as well as ventilators, needed to help keep patients breathing.

Meanwhile, VP Mike Pence warned the US appeared to be on a similar trajectory as Italy where the death toll has exceeded 13,000 – the worst in the world.

The number of confirmed infections across the US rose by more than 25,000 in one day. The worst-hit place is New York City, where nearly 47,500 people have tested positive and more than 1,300 have died.

According to officials, as many as 240,000 people could die in the US from Covid-19 – the disease caused by the new coronavirus – even with the mitigation measures in place. In Connecticut, a six-week-old baby has died from coronavirus, believed to be America’s youngest victim of the virus so far.

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Queens, New York City’s second-most populous borough, has the highest number of confirmed cases and deaths. The area is home to a large population of low-income workers employed by the service sector who live in close proximity, and social-distancing guidelines are hard to enforce.

New York City needed 2.1 million surgical masks, 100,000 surgical gowns and 400 ventilators, among other items, by Sunday, said Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has warned that April would be worse than March as the outbreak gathered pace. The NYC mayor said the goal was to triple the number of hospital beds, to 65,000.

Bill de Blasio tweeted: “This will be an epic process through the month of April. It’s herculean, but I believe it can be reached.”

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Image source Wikipedia

President Donald Trump has warned of a “very painful two weeks” ahead, as the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak hit the US.

He said US deaths could reach 100,000, as the global infection toll rises above 800,000.

The president urged Americans to follow guidelines, calling it “a matter of life and death”.

The US death toll surpasses 4,000 and there are fears as many as 200,000 people could die there.

On March 31, the White House said projections show between 100,000 and 200,000 Americans could die with Covid-19.

The projection is based on some people not doing everything they can to stop the spread, US coronavirus coordinator Deborah Birx explained.

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US infectious disease chief Anthony Fauci said that “as sobering a number as that [100,000] is, we should be prepared for it. Is it going to be that much? I hope not and the more we push on mitigation the less likely it would be that number.

“But being realistic, we need to prepare ourselves… it will be difficult – no one is denying we are going through a very difficult time right now.”

President Donald Trump is expected to help businesses in America by allowing them to delay payments on certain tariffs.

The US imposes tariffs – fees for importing certain products from overseas – on a raft of goods, including steel from China.

However, the president is expected to waive payment of these fees for 90 days to help improve US companies’ cashflows as they struggle with lockdowns.

The 90-day breathing space will apply to specific goods from “most-favored nations”, although these are not expected to include imports from China or Europe.

Around 400 chief executives of small, medium, and large companies in the US urged President Trump in a letter on March 31 to delay the collection of these fees for up to 180 days.

The cash would normally be paid direct to the US government.

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Federal coronavirus guidelines such as social distancing will be extended across the US until at least April 30, President Donald Trump has said.

The president had previously suggested that restrictions could be relaxed as early as Easter, which falls in mid-April.

He said: “The highest point of the death rate is likely to hit in two weeks.”

President Trump appeared to be referring to peak infection rates that experts fear could overwhelm hospitals.

White House medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci had earlier warned that the virus could kill up to 200,000 Americans.

He said that it was “entirely conceivable” that millions of Americans could eventually be infected.

The US now has more than 155,000 confirmed cases.

As of March 29, 2,493 deaths had been recorded in the country in relation to Covid-19, according to figures collated by Johns Hopkins University.

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The US last week became the country with the most reported cases, ahead of Italy and China.

Speaking during the latest Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at the White House on March 29, President Trump said that measures such as social distancing were “the way you win”, adding that the US “will be well on our way to recovery” by June.

Suggesting that the “peak” of death rates in the US was likely to hit in two weeks, President Trump said that “nothing would be worse than declaring victory before victory is won – that would be the greatest loss of all”.

Analysts suggest that when President Trump referred to a peak in the “death rate”, he probably meant the total number of recorded infections.

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North Korea hailed a test of “super large” multiple rocket launchers after two short-range missiles had been fired, the latest in a flurry of tests this month.

Just hours before, South Korea condemned the North as “inappropriate” for pursing tests amid the global coronavirus outbreak.

North Korea generally ramps up missile tests in the spring and the global virus outbreak has not deterred it.

The country has reported no virus cases, but experts have cast doubt on this.

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The March 29 test was of two short-range ballistic missiles fired from the eastern city of Wonsan. They flew for 255 miles with a maximum altitude of around 30 miles before falling into the sea, the South Korean military said.

On March 30, North Korean state media outlet KCNA reported that it had successfully tested “super large” multiple rocket launchers.

By then South Korea had already condemned the North’s actions in a harshly-worded statement.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said: “In a situation where the entire world is experiencing difficulties due to Covid-19, this kind of military act by North Korea is very inappropriate and we call for an immediate halt.”

According to Reuters, the latest test marked the eighth and ninth missiles launched in four rounds of tests this month.

North Korea had earlier announced it would be holding a session of the Supreme People’s Assembly, the country’s parliament, on April 10. Analysts say the meeting will involve almost 700 of North Korea’s leaders in one spot.

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Image source Wikipedia

President Trump backs down after saying he is considering a quarantine on New York and two other states.

He has said quarantining New York “will not be necessary”, after Governor Andrew Cuomo said doing so would be “preposterous”.

The president said the latest decision was taken on the recommendation of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

Donald Trump had earlier said he might impose a quarantine on New York, and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut, to slow the spread of Covid-19.

There are more than 52,000 cases in New York.

New York has about half of the total confirmed Covid-19 cases in the entire US.

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President Trump tweeted that instead of quarantine, a “strong travel advisory” would be issued to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut by the CDC.

The CDC then published a statement urging residents of those three states to “refrain” from all non-essential domestic travel for 14 days.

It said the advisory did not apply to “critical infrastructure” service providers, including healthcare professionals and food suppliers.

Speaking to reporters on March 28 about the situation in New York, President Trump said: “We’d like to see [it] quarantined because it’s a hotspot… I’m thinking about that.”

He said it would be aimed at slowing the spread of the virus to other parts of the US.

He said: “They’re having problems down in Florida. A lot of New Yorkers are going down. We don’t want that.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo responded by saying that quarantining the state of New York would be “preposterous” and “anti-American”.

“If you said we were geographically restricted from leaving, that would be a lockdown.”

The governor said New York had already implemented “quarantine” measures, such as banning major gatherings and ordering people to remain at home, but that he would oppose any “lockdown” efforts.

Andrew Cuomo told CNN: “Then we would be Wuhan, China, and that wouldn’t make any sense.”

He added that this would cause the stock market to crash in a way that would make it impossible for the US economy to “recover for months, if not years”.

“You would paralyze the financial sector,” he said.

Governor Cuomo added later: “I don’t know how that can be legally enforceable. And from a medical point of view, I don’t know what you would be accomplishing.

“But I can tell you, I don’t even like the sound of it.”

He also said he would sue nearby Rhode Island if the authorities there continued targeting New Yorkers and threatening to punish them for failing to quarantine.

On March 27, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo deployed National Guard troops to stop cars with a New York license plate, to remind them of their state’s advice that they quarantine.

Soldiers are going door-to-door in coastal vacation communities to ask if any residents have recently visited New York City.

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Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Wuhan, the Chinese city where the coronavirus pandemic began, has partially re-opened after more than two months of isolation.

Crowds of passengers were pictured arriving at Wuhan train station on March 28.

According to reports, people are being allowed to enter but not leave.

Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, saw more than 50,000 coronavirus cases. At least 3,000 people in the province died from the disease.

However, numbers have fallen dramatically, according to China’s figures. On March 28, the state reported 54 new cases emerging the previous day – which it said were all imported.

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As it battles to control cases coming from abroad, China has announced a temporary ban on all foreign visitors, even if they have visas or residence permits. It is also limiting Chinese and foreign airlines to one flight per week, and flights must not be more than 75% full.

The new coronavirus is thought to have originated in a seafood market in Wuhan that “conducted illegal transactions of wild animals”.

Wuhan’s 11 million residents have been shut off from the rest of the world since the middle of January, with roadblocks around the outskirts and drastic restrictions on daily life.

However, roads reopened to incoming traffic late on March 27, according to Reuters.

State media said the subway was open from March 28 and trains would be able to arrive at the city’s 17 railway stations.

All arrivals in Wuhan have to show a green code on a mobile app to prove that they are healthy.

Officials say restrictions on people leaving Wuhan will be lifted on April 8, when domestic flights are also expected to restart.

The new coronavirus emerged in China in December 2019 and more than 3,300 people there have died from the infection – but both Italy and Spain now have higher death tolls.

It is now battling to control a wave of imported cases as infections soar abroad.

This so-called “second wave” of imported infections is also affecting countries like South Korea and Singapore, which had been successful in stopping the spread of disease in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, the virus continues to spread rapidly in other countries around the world.

Nearly 600,000 infections have been confirmed globally and almost 28,000 deaths, according to figures collated by Johns Hopkins University.

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As a measure to stop the spread of the new coronavirus, Russia is beginning what President Vladimir Putin called a “non-working week”.

The Russian government is urging people to stay at home, though mixed messaging has left many people confused.

According to officials, the new restrictions could be extended beyond April 5, depending on the health situation.

The number of Russians infected with Covid-19 passed 1,000 on March 27, with most cases detected in Moscow.

Based on that figure, the Kremlin spokesman has stressed that there is “de facto no epidemic” here, comparing Russia’s position favorably with the crisis in Europe.

Whilst state TV’s rolling news channel has changed its name to We’re Staying Home – broadcasting from presenters’ living rooms – many people are struggling to adjust after its previous insistence that Covid-19 was a “foreign threat”.

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When President Putin announced a paid week off work for all, there was a rush to book holidays.

The governor of Krasnodar region, which includes the Black Sea resort of Sochi, had to order the closure of all shopping centers, parks and restaurants – and limit flights – after hotel reservations sky-rocketed.

Many Moscow residents have already headed out of town to their dachas, or summer houses.

In the Russian capital, there has been a noticeable increase in people in facemasks on the streets since President Putin’s national address.

Supermarket staff have begun wearing them and there are bottles of hand sanitizer in coffee shops.

Food stores will remain open, as well as other essential services, but from this weekend cafes and restaurants can offer takeaway only.

President Trump has signed into law the largest-ever US financial stimulus package, worth $2 trillion, as the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

The House of Representatives passed the cross-party bill two days after the Senate debated its provisions.

On March 25, the number of Americans filing for unemployment surged to a record high of 3.3 million people.

As of March 27, the US has more confirmed cases of coronavirus than any other country, with more than 100,000 positive tests.

No Democratic lawmakers were invited to the historic signing ceremony, which was held at the White House, though the president thanked both parties “for coming together, setting aside their differences and putting America first”.

President Trump said the package was “twice as large” as any prior relief bill.

He said: “This will deliver urgently needed relief to our nation’s families, workers and businesses.”

Just before signing the act into law, President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act (DPA), which gives the president the power to force private industries to create items required for national defense.

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President Trump said the order will compel General Motors (GM) to manufacture much-needed medical ventilators for the federal government.

Earlier in the day, President Trump tweeted that GM had promised to “give us 40,000 much needed Ventilators, very quickly “.

“Now they are saying it will only be 6,000, in late April, and they want top dollar,” he said, threatening to invoke the DPA.

During the bill signing, President Trump said that “tremendous [medical] supplies” would be coming soon, adding: “We’ve had great results on just about everything we’re talking about.”

On March 27, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced eight temporary hospitals to meet an expected surge in cases.

He said 519 people had died in the state – the worst-hit in the US – and there were 44,635 confirmed cases.

Democrats and Republicans in the Democratic-led House approved the stimulus package by voice vote on March 27 following a three-hour debate.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: “Our nation faces an economic and health emergency of historic proportions due to the coronavirus pandemic, the worst pandemic in over 100 years.”

Members of the House had been ready to conduct the vote at their homes but were forced to return to Washington at the last minute after a Republican representative from Kentucky demanded a quorum of half the chamber be present.

Thomas Massie – who objected to the stimulus package saying it contained too much spending – also sought to delay proceedings by demanding a formal recorded vote, as opposed to a voice vote, but was overruled.

President Trump vented his fury at Thomas Massie on Twitter, calling him a “third-rate grandstander” and demanding he be thrown out of the Republican party.

The new law enables direct payments to individuals and companies whose livelihoods and businesses have been affected by the pandemic.

It seeks to deliver $1,200 to every American earning less than $75,000 per year and $500 to the parents of every child.

The law also gives money directly to state governments, and bolsters the unemployment benefits program.

Under the law, jobless benefits will be extended to those not normally covered, such as freelancers and workers in the gig economy.

It also offers loans and tax breaks to companies that face going out of business, as one in every four Americans is ordered to remain at home and only go outside for essential needs.

Officials across the US have closed restaurants, bars, cinemas, hotels and gyms in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

Auto companies have halted production and air travel has fallen dramatically. According to economists, a fifth of the US workforce is on some form of lockdown.

With almost 1,500 virus-related fatalities, the US death toll remains lower than those in Italy and China. But there are virus hotspots in New York, New Orleans and Detroit.

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The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the US has surpassed any other affected country’s on March 26.

With more than 86,000 positive tests, the US has overtaken China (81,782 cases) and Italy (80,589), according to the latest figures collated by Johns Hopkins University.

However, with almost 1,300 Covid-19-related fatalities, the US death toll lags behind China (3,291) and Italy (8,215).

The grim milestone came as President Donald Trump predicted the nation would get back to work “pretty quickly”.

Asked about the latest figures at a White House briefing on March 26, President Trump said it was “a tribute to the amount of testing that we’re doing”.

VP Mike Pence said coronavirus tests were now available in all 50 states and more than 552,000 tests had been conducted nationwide.

President Trump also cast doubt on the figures coming out of Beijing, telling reporters: “You don’t know what the numbers are in China.”

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Later, the president tweeted that he had had a “very good conversation” with China’s President Xi Jinping.

He said: “China has been through much & has developed a strong understanding of the Virus. We are working closely together. Much respect!”

President Trump has set a much-criticized goal of Easter Sunday, 12 April, for reopening the country. That plan seemed to gather impetus on March 26 as it emerged an unprecedented 3.3 million Americans have been laid off because of the virus.

At March 26 briefing, he said: “They [the American people] have to go back to work, our country has to go back, our country is based on that and I think it’s going to happen pretty quickly.

“We may take sections of our country, we may take large sections of our country that aren’t so seriously affected and we may do it that way.”

He added: “A lot of people misinterpret when I say go back – they’re going to be practicing as much as you can social distancing, and washing your hands and not shaking hands and all of the things we talked about.”

President Trump promised more details next week.

In a letter to state governors on March 26, President Trump said his team plans to release federal social distancing guidelines that may advise some regions to loosen restrictions.

He wrote of a “long battle ahead” and said “robust” testing protocols might allow some counties to lift their safeguards against the coronavirus.

President Trump said the “new guidelines” would create low, medium and high risk zones that would allow the government to advise on “maintaining, increasing, or relaxing social distancing and other mitigation measures they have put in place”.

On March 26, President Trump phoned in to Fox News host Sean Hannity’s program and said he believed Iowa, Idaho, Nebraska and parts of Texas could reopen earlier than other states.

The plan emerged as new research on March 26 estimated Covid-19-related deaths in the US could top 80,000 over the coming four months – even if people observe strict social distancing.

According to the study from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine, as many as 2,300 patients could be dying every day by April.

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Russia has postponed a vote on constitutional change that would allow President Vladimir Putin to stay in power, because of coronavirus concerns.

President Putin said the public vote – previously due to be held on April 22 – would be delayed until a “later date”.

The proposed changes include scrapping a ban on allowing Vladimir Putin to run for office again.

The changes have already been approved by parliament and Russia’s constitutional court.

They would give Vladimir Putin – who is serving his fourth presidential term and has dominated Russian politics for two decades – the right to serve two more consecutive terms.

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Later on March 25, Russia confirmed the deaths of two people who had been diagnosed with the new coronavirus. According to Ria Novosti, the 88- and 73-year-olds had pre-existing conditions. Russia has a total of 658 cases.

President Putin said: “The absolute priority for us is the health, life and safety of people. Therefore I believe that the vote should be postponed until a later date.”

He also announced that Russians would not work next week “to slow the speed” of the infection.

However, the Russian leader warned that it was impossible to prevent any spread of the virus at all in Russia because of the country’s size.

The Russian economy was also under serious pressure because of the virus, he said.

During their week off, employees would continue to be paid and key services would continue, Vladimir Putin said.

The president also announced extended welfare support, including for families with children and those who had lost jobs.

Russia has already taken measures such as 14-day quarantine for people arriving from abroad, school closures and warning for elderly people in Moscow to self-isolate.

It has also stopped cultural and sporting events and closed gyms, theaters and nightclubs, although cafes and restaurants have been allowed to stay open.

Russia has so far stopped short of imposing the kind of lockdown seen in some European countries.

There have been more than 435,000 confirmed cases worldwide. Europe is now the center of the global outbreak.

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Prince Charles has tested positive for coronavirus, Clarence House has announced.

The 71-year-old is displaying mild symptoms “but otherwise remains in good health”, a spokesman said, adding that the 72-year-old Duchess of Cornwall has been tested but does not have the virus.

Prince Charles and his wife are now self-isolating at Balmoral.

According to Buckingham Palace, Queen Elizabeth II last saw her son, the heir to the throne, on March 12, but was “in good health”.

The palace added that Prince Philip was not present at that meeting, and that the Queen was now “following all the appropriate advice with regard to her welfare”.

A Clarence House statement read: “In accordance with government and medical advice, the prince and the duchess are now self-isolating at home in Scotland.

“The tests were carried out by the NHS in Aberdeenshire, where they met the criteria required for testing.

“It is not possible to ascertain from whom the prince caught the virus owing to the high number of engagements he carried out in his public role during recent weeks.”

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Prince Charles’s last public engagement was on March 12 – the same day he last saw the Queen – when he attended a dinner in aid of the Australian bushfire relief and recovery effort.

However, the prince has also been working from home over the last few days, and has held a number of private meetings with Highgrove and Duchy of Cornwall individuals, all of whom have been made aware.

A number of household staff at Birkhall – Prince Charles’s residence on the Balmoral estate – are now self-isolating at their own homes.

A palace source said Prince Charles has spoken to both the Queen and his sons – Prince William and Prince Harry – and is in good spirits.

Senate leaders and the White House have agreed on a stimulus package worth more than $1.8 trillion to ease the impact of coronavirus.

The stimulus reportedly includes payments of $1,200 to most American adults and aid to help small businesses pay workers.

Full details of the deal, which Congress is expected to pass, are not known.

Financial markets around the world rose on news of the deal.

President Donald Trump has said he hopes the US will shake off coronavirus within less than three weeks.

However, the top US infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, warned that “you have to be very flexible” about a timeframe for ending the crisis.

Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo warned the illness was spreading faster than “a bullet train” in his state, which is at the centre of the pandemic in the US.

After 802 deaths and 55,225 confirmed infections, the US is more than midway through a 15-day attempt to slow the spread of the virus through social distancing.

Around 19,000 people have died with coronavirus across the planet since it emerged in China’s Wuhan province in January, and more than 425,000 infections have been confirmed.

Southern Europe is now at the centre of the pandemic, with Italy and Spain recording hundreds of new deaths every day.

Governments around the world have responded by locking down societies in the hope of slowing the spread of the virus.

The stimulus agreement announced by Democratic and Republican senator leaders at 01:30EDT on March 25 includes tax rebates, loans, money for hospitals and rescue packages.

According to media, individuals who earn $75,000 or less would get direct payments of $1,200 each, with married couples earning up to $150,000 receiving $2,400 and an additional $500 per each child.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell described the package as a “wartime level of investment” in the US nation.

If passed, it would be the largest government economic stimulus in US history.

The agreement must still be voted through the House of Representatives and the Senate before President Trump signs it off but it enjoys cross-party support.

One factor that may delay its passage is the question of how voting will be conducted, given that some members of Congress are off with coronavirus or are self-isolating having come into contact with infected people.

New York Governor Cuomo dismissed the plan as “terrible for the state” and called the proposed $3.8 billion “a drop in the bucket, as to need”.

He said New York was facing a $15 billion revenue shortfall, and estimated that $1 billion has already been spent on the coronavirus response.

The details of the stimulus bill have not yet gone to the House, making some lawmakers wary of signaling their early approval.

If any member objects to unanimous consent, lawmakers will be asked to return to Washington and vote over the course of an entire day, in order to limit how many people are present on the House floor at one time.

President Trump said he hoped America could get back to normal by Easter, which falls on April 12 this year.

He told Fox News: “We’re going to be opening relatively soon…

“I would love to have the country opened up and just rearing to go by Easter.”

However, the president later sounded more cautious, saying: “We’ll only do it if it’s good.”

President Trump added that re-opening could be limited to “sections” of the country such as “the farm belt”.

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Image source: indiatvnews.com

India’s PM Narendra Modi has announced that a nationwide lockdown will be imposed on March 24 in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The restrictions will apply from midnight local time and will be enforced for 21 days.

The prime minister said in a TV address: “There will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes.”

India – which has a population of 1.3 billion – joins a growing list of countries that have imposed similar measures.

Nearly 400,000 people have tested positive for the virus worldwide, and around 17,000 have died.

The new measures in India follow a sharp increase in cases in recent days. There have been 519 confirmed cases in the country and 10 reported deaths.

PM Narendra Modi said: “The entire country will be in lockdown, total lockdown.”

He added: “To save India, to save its every citizen, you, your family… every street, every neighborhood is being put under lockdown.”

Narendra Modi warned that if India does not “handle these 21 days well, then our country… will go backwards by 21 years”.

“This is a curfew,” he said.

“We will have to pay the economic cost of this but [it] is the responsibility of everyone.”

Under the new measures, all non-essential businesses will be closed but hospitals and other medical facilities will continue to function as normal.

Schools and universities will remain shut and almost all public gatherings will be banned.

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In his address, PM Modi also stressed that the 21 day lockdown was “very necessary to break the chain of coronavirus”. He emphasized the seriousness of the situation and said that even developed countries had faced problems in combating it. He also said that “social distancing was the only way to stop” the virus spreading.

The prime minister announced that nearly $2 billion would be made available to boost India’s health infrastructure.

He called on people not to “spread rumors” and to follow instructions.

The prime minister’s announcement came after several Indian states introduced measures of their own, such as travel restrictions and the closure of non-essential services.

India has already issued a ban on international arrivals and grounded domestic flights. The country’s rail network has also suspended most passenger services.

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Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games have been postponed until 2021 because of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.

The Olympics, due to begin on July 24, will now take place “no later than summer 2021”.

Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe: “I proposed to postpone for a year and [IOC] president Thomas Bach responded with 100% agreement.”

The event will still be called Tokyo 2020 despite taking place in 2021.

In a joint statement, the event’s organizers and the IOC said: “The unprecedented and unpredictable spread of the outbreak has seen the situation in the rest of the world deteriorating.

“On Monday, the director general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that the Covid-19 pandemic is ‘accelerating’.

“There are more than 375,000 cases now recorded worldwide and in nearly every country, and their number is growing by the hour.

“In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO today [Tuesday], the IOC president and the prime minister of Japan have concluded that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.”

The IOC had given itself a deadline of four weeks to consider delaying the Games but there had been mounting pressure from a host of Olympic committees and athletes demanding a quicker decision.

On March 22, Canada became the first major country to withdraw from both events, while USA Track and Field, athletics’ US governing body, had also called for a postponement.

International Paralympic Committee president Andrew Parsons said the postponement was “the only logical option”.

Andrew Parsons added: “The health and wellbeing of human life must always be our number-one priority and staging a sporting event of any kind during this pandemic is simply not possible.

“Sport is not the most important thing right now, preserving human life is. It is essential, therefore, that all steps are taken to try to limit the spread of this disease.

“By taking this decision now, everyone involved in the Paralympic movement, including all Para-athletes, can fully focus on their own health and wellbeing and staying safe during this unprecedented and difficult time.”

The Olympics have never been delayed in their 124-year modern history, though they were canceled altogether in 1916, 1940 and 1944 during World War One and World War Two.

Major Cold War boycotts disrupted the Moscow and Los Angeles summer Games in 1980 and 1984.

The Tokyo 2020-IOC joint statement continued: “The leaders agreed that the Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present.

“Therefore, it was agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan. It was also agreed that the Games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.”

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Image source Wikimedia

Harvey Weinstein has tested positive for coronavirus while in prison, according to Michael Powers, president of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association.

The former Hollywood producer is now in isolation.

Harvey Weinstein was found guilty of rape and assault last month and sentenced to 23 years in prison.

His lawyers have vowed to appeal against his conviction.

Harvey Weinstein is being held at Wende Correctional Facility near Buffalo in upstate New York. Two prisoners at the facility tested positive for the virus on March 22, an officer who did not wish to give his name told Reuters.

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Michael Powers told Reuters that several members of staff had been quarantined. He expressed concern for corrections officers who he claims lack proper protective equipment.

A lawyer for Harvey Weinstein said his legal team had not been informed of the coronavirus diagnosis.

Imran Ansari said: “Given Mr. Weinstein’s state of health, we are of course concerned, if this is the case, and we are vigilantly monitoring the situation.”

Before arriving at Wende, Harvey Weinstein had spent time at Rikers Island, a prison in New York City and a hospital where he was treated for heart problems and chest pains.

The former Hollywood mogul was found guilty of committing a first-degree criminal sexual act against production assistant Miriam Haley in 2006 and of the third-degree rape of aspiring actress Jessica Mann in 2013.

New York jurors acquitted him of the most serious charges, of predatory sexual assault, which could have seen him given an even longer jail term.

Dozens of women have come forward with allegations of misconduct, including rape, against Harvey Weinstein since October 2017.

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Germany has extended its restrictions on social interactions to try to contain the coronavirus outbreak, banning public gatherings of more than two people.

People will not be allowed to form groups of three or more in public unless they live together in the same household, or the gathering is work-related. Police will monitor and punish anyone infringing the new rules.

In a TV address, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said “our own behavior” was the “most effective way” of slowing the rate of infection.

The measures included closing hair, beauty and massage studios. Other non-essential shops had already been shut.

Restaurants will now only be allowed to open for takeaway service. All restrictions apply to every German state, and will be in place for at least the next two weeks.

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Shortly afterwards, Chancellor Merkel’s office said she would quarantine herself.

A doctor who vaccinated Angela Merkel on March 20 against pneumococcus, a pneumonia-causing bacteria, had tested positive for coronavirus.

The 65-year-old chancellor will be tested regularly in the next few days and work from home, her spokesman said.

Germany, Europe’s largest economy, has so far confirmed 18,610 cases and 55 deaths from Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Chancellor Merkel urged citizens to keep contact outside their own household to an absolute minimum and to ensure a distance of at least 1.5m (5ft) from another person when in public.

She said: “The great aim is to gain time in the fight against the virus.”

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Image by Fritz_the_Cat from Pixabay

Italy’s worst-hit region of Lombardy has introduced stricter measures in a bid to tackle the spread of coronavirus.

Under the new rules announced on March 21, sport and physical activity outside, even individually, is banned. Using vending machines is forbidden.

The move comes as Italy reported nearly 800 coronavirus deaths on March 21 and saw its toll for the past month reach 4,825, the highest in the world.

Lombardy is the worst-affected region in the country with 3,095 deaths.

The region’s President Attilio Fontana announced the new measures in a statement.

Businesses have been asked to close all operations excluding “essential” supply chains. Work on building sites will be stopped apart from those working on hospitals, roads and railways.

All open-air weekly markets have been suspended.

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Across Italy there have been 53,578 total cases to date, with about 6,000 people having recovered.

The region of Lombardy has been under a lockdown since March 8 and the government had hoped to see results there first.

On March 21, Italian PM Giuseppe Conte ordered the closure of all “non-essential” businesses in the country. However, the prime minister did not specify which businesses would be considered essential.

Supermarkets, pharmacies, post offices and banks will remain open and public transport will continue to run.

During a TV address to the nation, PM Conte said: “We will slow down the country’s productive engine, but we will not stop it.”

He described the situation as “the most difficult crisis in our post-war period”.

Despite the measures introduced so far, the number of new cases and deaths in Italy has continued to grow.

Meanwhile, Spain’s health ministry has reported a 32% spike in new deaths from Covid-19 with 1,326 confirmed deaths, the second highest in Europe after Italy.

In a news conference on March 21, PM Pedro Sánchez warned “the worst is yet to come” and that “very difficult days lay ahead”.

The Spanish government has issued a lockdown for some 46 million people who are only allowed to leave their homes for essential work, food shopping, medical reasons or to walk the dog.

Global cases pass 300,000 with more than 13,000 deaths around the world; 92,000 people have recovered.

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Image source: Wikimedia Commons

California governor has issued a “stay at home” order to residents as the state tries to stem the march of the coronavirus across the most populous US state.

Governor Gavin Newsom told residents they should only leave their homes when necessary during the pandemic.

He earlier estimated more than half of the 40 million people in his state would contract Covid-19 in just the next two months.

Speaking from the state’s emergency operations centre in Sacramento – a place that is normally used to coordinate the response to wildfires or earthquakes – Governor Newsom called on people here to only leave their homes if it was absolutely necessary, to get food, collect medicines, or care for a friend or relative.

Citing a model that state planners here have been using, the governor predicted that more than half of California’s population will contract the virus over the course of the next eight weeks – a staggering total of around 25 million people.

Governor Newsom said that cases of the virus were doubling every four hours in some areas, and – based on projections – nearly 20,000 more hospital beds would be needed to deal with the effects of the outbreak than the state could currently provide.

The virus has claimed 205 lives in the US and infected more than 14,000.

Globally nearly 250,000 patients have tested positive for the respiratory illness and more than 10,000 have died.

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Governor Newsom said on March 19: “This is a moment we need to make tough decisions. We need to recognize reality.”

California is among the first states to bring in blanket restrictions. Earlier this week Nevada said non-essential businesses should close for 30 days.

The governor’s order will allow residents to leave their homes to buy groceries or medicine, or walk a dog or take exercise, but seeks to limit public interactions.

It will force businesses deemed non-essential to close, while allowing others including grocery stores, pharmacies, banks and petrol stations to stay open.

About half of California’s population is already subject to similar stringent measures, including the city of San Francisco.

Speaking at a press conference in Sacramento, Governor Newsom said the virus “will impact about 56% of us – you do the math in the state of California, that’s a particularly large number”.

The governor did not clarify how his officials had calculated that figure, which would amount to nearly 22.5 million infected people.

However, his spokesman acknowledged the estimate did not take into account the mitigation measures being implemented state-wide.

Governor Newsom is asking Congress for a billion dollars in federal funding to support California’s response to the crisis, and calling for a navy hospital ship to be deployed to the Port of Los Angeles to help deal with the anticipated surge in patients.

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According to Johns Hopkins University, the global coronavirus death toll has now exceeded 10,000.

There are 10,033 deaths from Covid-19 worldwide as of March 19.

Johns Hopkins University – which has been compiling its data soon after the outbreak began late last year – says the number of confirmed cases is fast approaching 250,000.

For the second day in a row, China has reported no new domestic cases.

Meanwhile, Italy has overtaken China’s death toll with 3,405 victims.

Argentina has imposed a nationwide lockdown, the first Latin American country to do so.

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California is, nonetheless, one of the main centers of the coronavirus in the US, and the state’s Governor Gavin Newsom has issued an order covering virtually the entire population of 40 million people.

Speaking from the state’s emergency operations centre in Sacramento – a place that is normally used to coordinate the response to wildfires or earthquakes – Governor Newsom called on people here to only leave their homes if it was absolutely necessary, to get food, collect medicines, or care for a friend or relative.

Citing a model that state planners here have been using, the governor predicted that more than half of California’s population will contract the virus over the course of the next eight weeks – a staggering total of around 25 million people.

Governor Newsom said that cases of the virus were doubling every four hours in some areas, and – based on projections – nearly 20,000 more hospital beds would be needed to deal with the effects of the outbreak than the state could currently provide.

He is asking Congress for a billion dollars in federal funding to support California’s response to the crisis, and calling for a navy hospital ship to be deployed to the Port of Los Angeles to help deal with the anticipated surge in patients.

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Ben McAdams and Mario Diaz-Balart became the first members of Congress to test positive for the Covid-19.

The office of Congressman Ben McAdams, a Utah Democrat, said on March 18 that he had tested positive for the virus.

The representative said he developed “mild cold-like symptoms” after returning from Washington DC on March 14.

Ben McAdams said he immediately self-isolated at home, but “my symptoms got worse and I developed a fever, a dry cough and labored breathing”.

According to the statement, his doctor referred him on March 17 for a Covid-19 test, which came back positive on March 18.

Ben McAdams, 45, said he would remain in self-quarantine until he had recovered.

Mario Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican, also announced on March 18 that he had tested positive for coronavirus.

The 58-year-old tweeted from self-quarantine at his flat in Washington DC: “I’m feeling much better. However, it’s important that everyone take this seriously.”

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Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has vowed the US will achieve “total victory” over the coronavirus, describing himself as a “wartime president”.

At a White House press conference, the president was asked by a reporter whether he considered the country to be on a war footing in terms of fighting the virus.

He said: “It’s a war.

“I view it as a, in a sense, a wartime president.”

President Trump spoke as he revived a Korean War-era measure allowing the US to ramp up production of vital medical supplies.

According to estimates, the US has more than 9,300 cases of Covid-19 and has seen 150 deaths so far.

Globally there are some 220,000 confirmed cases and over 8,800 deaths.

President Trump has been holding daily briefings on the emergency this week after being accused of playing down the outbreak in its early stages.

He said: “We must sacrifice together, because we are all in this together, and we will come through together. It’s the invisible enemy. That’s always the toughest enemy.

“But we are going to defeat the invisible enemy. I think we are going to do it even faster than we thought, and it’ll be a complete victory. It’ll be a total victory.”

President Trump announced he was signing the 1950 Defense Production Act, which empowers the president to direct civilian businesses to help meet orders for products necessary for national security.

However, the president said later on Twitter that he would only invoke the measure “in a worst case scenario in the future”.

President Trump also described as an “absolute, total worst case scenario” a warning by his Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, that the pandemic could send US unemployment rocketing to 20%.

He said two US Navy hospitals ships would be pressed into service to help alleviate an expected shortage of sick beds.

The USNS Comfort is expected to be sent to New York Harbor, though defense officials said it is currently undergoing maintenance in Virginia.

The other vessel, USNS Mercy, is being prepared to deploy to a location on the West Coast.

During the press conference, President Trump again rejected suggestions that his use of the term “Chinese virus” to describe Covid-19 was racist.

The US-Canada border, the world’s longest, was effectively closed, except for essential travel and commerce.

President Trump also announced a new crackdown on immigrants or asylum seekers crossing the US-Mexico border.

The president said his administration would invoke a statute that allows people to be blocked in order to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.