(Bloomberg) — The U.S. is the first country to reach 100,000 coronavirus cases, while Italy had its deadliest day. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is due to hold a news conference amid a critical weekend for Tokyo, which saw its biggest daily rise in cases.
China signaled it is preparing larger-scale stimulus to counter the economic fallout. President Donald Trump ordered General Motors to start making ventilators by invoking a Cold War-era law.
Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden backs a nationwide shutdown to slow the virus spread.
Cases top 598,000; 27,000 dead, 131,000 recovered: Johns HopkinsChina signals ramped-up stimulus, says all 54 new virus cases on March 27 are importedL.A. warns of surge and New York of “astronomical” new infectionsU.S. cases exceed 104,000, more than Italy, ChinaTrump complains about governorsTokyo sees biggest daily rise in casesHow India plans to lock down 1.3 billion people in a democracy
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Dozens Clash on Hubei Border After Quarantine Lifted (3:45 p.m. HK)
Dozens of people clashed on the Hubei border after the Chinese government lifted a two-month quarantine on the epicenter of the country’s coronavirus outbreak. The conflict began Friday morning on a bridge connecting Hubei and neighboring Jiangxi province as policemen from both sides argued over how to verify if people were allowed to enter Jiangxi, according to local media reports.
The two counties issued a joint statement on Saturday, saying checkpoints between them would be removed and no special documentation would be needed to cross.
Tokyo Sees Biggest Daily Increase in Cases Ahead of Abe Briefing (3:30 p.m. HK)
New coronavirus infections in Tokyo rose by more than 60 on Saturday, the biggest daily increase yet, according to Kyodo News. The rise comes amid a critical weekend for the capital, where people have been asked — though not forced — to stay at home.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is due to hold a news conference at 6 p.m. in Tokyo.
Iran to Punish Those Who Ignore Social Distancing Rules (3:00 p.m. HK)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said people who ignore social distancing rules aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus would be punished.
“Anyone who doesn’t want to listen or chooses to resist will face harsher measures this time around,” Rouhani said in a television broadcast. “Punishments are in place to that end, but hopefully we will never get there.”
This week authorities introduced stricter measures to combat the outbreak, including a ban on intercity travel and the closing of parks and other public spaces.The country’s oil, power facilities and fuel supply have been unaffected by the outbreak, the president added.
Singapore Advises Public to Stay Indoors and Buy Food Online (1:05 p.m. HK)
Singapore advised its public to stay at home in its latest effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, a day after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the city state is facing a grave economic challenge posed by the pandemic.
The public should only head to malls for essential items such as food, the government said in an advisory on its official WhatsApp channel, suggesting that people “buy food and groceries online.”
Mexico’s AMLO Encourages Shopping in Public Markets Amid Virus (11:19 a.m. HK)
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said people should shop in public markets to support small businesses during the coronavirus outbreak.
“Those at the top know how to defend themselves; they can resist,” he said in a video posted on Facebook. “Those at the bottom have a hard time in times of crisis”
The president has been criticized for his response to the virus, though he appeared to be changing tone recently. The Health Ministry has advised people to maintain social distance from one another to inhibit the virus’s spread.
China Signals Ramped-Up Stimulus as Coronavirus Impact Widens (10:26 a.m. HK)
China’s top leaders pledged to widen the fiscal deficit and sell sovereign debt, signaling that Beijing is preparing larger-scale stimulus to counter the economic fallout from the virus.
China will increase its fiscal deficit as a share of gross domestic product, issue special sovereign debt and allow local governments to sell more infrastructure bonds as part of a package to stabilize the economy, according to a Politburo meeting on Wednesday, Xinhua reported late Friday.
Trump Complains About Governors, Consults With BlackRock (10:05 a.m. HK)
President Donald Trump complained that two Democratic governors in Washington and Michigan don’t appreciate his administration’s efforts to combat the coronavirus epidemic, and said Vice President Mike Pence shouldn’t take their calls.
“I want them to be appreciative. I don’t want them to say things that aren’t true,” Trump said of the governors at a White House news conference Friday.
Meanwhile, Trump is consulting on coronavirus aid for companies with top Wall Street executives including BlackRock Inc. Chief Executive Officer Larry Fink, who met with the president last week, according to people familiar with the matter.
Singapore’s Shangri-La Dialogue Defense Forum Is Called Off (10:00 a.m. HK)
The Shangri-La Dialogue, a high-profile regional security forum held annually in Singapore, has been canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The forum, usually attended by ministerial-level delegates and top defense officials globally, was scheduled to be held from June 5-7. This is the first time the event is being canceled since its inception in 2002.
Australian State Victoria Introduces Social Distance Fines (9:45 a.m. HK)
In the Australian state of Victoria, police have been given power to issue on-the-spot fines of up to A$1,652 ($1,020) for individuals and A$9,913 for businesses who don’t follow rules on social distancing or limits on gatherings. Premier Dan Andrews said he wouldn’t hesitate to close beaches after police were forced to disperse hundreds of people sunbathing on Melbourne’s St. Kilda beach on Friday.
Australia’s death toll from the coronavirus outbreak has risen to 14, according to government figures released Saturday. The number of confirmed infections stood at 3,635 as of Saturday afternoon, an increase of 469 from Friday afternoon.
China Says All New Virus Cases on March 27 Imported (9:30 a.m. HK)
China’s National Health Commission said all 54 new coronavirus cases reported on March 27 were imported, as an order to seal the borders to most foreigners takes effect Saturday.
China had 81,394 confirmed cases as of March 27, with 649 of those imported, according to a statement on NHC’s website. The death toll rose by three to 3,295, with all new deaths reported in Hubei province. Discharged patients rose by 383 to 74,971.
Biden Backs Nationwide Shutdown to Slow Coronavirus (8:55 a.m. HK)
Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden said Friday he would urge governors nationwide to close down all non-essential activities in hopes of slowing the spread of coronavirus.
“For the time being, I would, yes,” Biden said during a town hall on CNN. “You don’t know who doesn’t have the virus, so a lot of people walking around looking like they’re pretty healthy, and they may very well have the virus and transmit it.”
Abbott Launches Five-Minute Virus Test (7:31 a.m. HK)
Abbott Laboratories is unveiling a coronavirus test that can tell if someone is infected in as little as five minutes, and is so small and portable it can be used in almost any health-care setting.
The medical-device maker plans to supply 50,000 tests a day starting April 1, said John Frels, vice president of research and development at Abbott Diagnostics. The molecular test looks for fragments of the coronavirus genome, which can be detected in as little as five minutes when it’s present at high levels. A thorough search to definitively rule out an infection can take up to 13 minutes, he said.
Read full story here
Trump Says U.S. Handles 100,000 Tests a Day (6:38 a.m. HK)
President Donald Trump said the U.S. is conducting about 100,000 tests a day for the coronavirus after weeks of complaints from governors and health-care workers about a scarcity of tests.
The president, in a White House news briefing, also questioned whether New York will need as many ventilators as Governor Andrew Cuomo is seeking, saying the state’s projections could be “extremely high.”
Cuomo said Friday that New York may need as many as 40,000 of the medical devices to treat patients in critical condition in the state, which is the center of the U.S. outbreak.
U.S. Becomes First Nation With 100,000 Cases (5:27 p.m. NY)
The U.S. became the first country to surpass 100,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Friday, a day after it overtook China to become the largest outbreak in the world. America’s most prominent hot spots are New York and New Jersey, which together account for half the country’s total cases. California has more than 4,000, and smaller outbreaks in Illinois and Michigan continue to gain traction.
L.A. Warns of New York-Level Surge in Five Days (5:06 p.m. NY)
Los Angeles could see a coronavirus surge similar to New York City’s in five days if the spread continues at the rate it’s been going, Mayor Eric Garcetti said.
“We will have doctors making excruciating decisions,” Garcetti said at a press briefing alongside Governor Gavin Newsom. They spoke in front of the U.S. Navy hospital ship Mercy, which docked in Los Angeles to lend extra medical space for non-coronavirus needs. It will be the largest hospital in the city, Garcetti said.
Trump Signs $2 Trillion Stimulus Bill (4:47 p.m. NY)
President Donald Trump signed the largest stimulus package in U.S. history, a $2 trillion aid bill intended to rescue the economy. The plan will provide a massive injection of loans, tax breaks and direct payments to large corporations, small businesses and individuals whose revenue and income have plummeted under social distancing restrictions.
Read full story here
Four Die on Holland America Cruise Ship (4:30 p.m. NY)
Carnival Corp.’s Holland America line said four passengers died on its Zaandam ship, which has had an outbreak of flu-like symptoms on board, including at least two confirmed cases of Covid-19. The cruise line said the passengers were “older” but didn’t say how they died.
The Zaandam, currently near Panama, was still at sea when cruise companies halted new voyages earlier this month.
Trump Orders GM to Make Ventilators (4 p.m. NY)
President Donald Trump ordered General Motors Co. to immediately begin making ventilators, invoking a Cold War-era defense act amid productive talks with the automaker.
“Our negotiations with GM regarding its ability to supply ventilators have been productive, but our fight against the virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course. GM was wasting time,” Trump said in a statement. “Today’s action will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives.”
GM and ventilator maker Ventec Life Systems Inc. had much of what they needed in place to ramp up production of the breathing machines. They were just waiting on the Trump administration to place orders and cut checks.
Belgium May Keep Limits Until May 2 (3 p.m. NY)
Belgium extended restrictions on citizens and businesses, which took effect March 14, by two weeks until April 19, and Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes signaled a further extension to May 3, saying it’s too early to declare the epidemic under control. Belgians must stay at home except for essential activities such as grocery shopping. Gatherings by more than two people are banned and stores selling non-essential goods remain closed.
Luxembourg Plans to Test for Herd Immunity (1:30 p.m. NY)
Luxembourg is in an intensive planing phase to be among the first nations to research so-called herd immunity based on new blood tests the country is expecting to get, Health Minister Paulette Lenert said Friday.
The new tests wouldn’t check for Covid-19 infections but whether people have developed immunity against the new virus. Luxembourg, due to its small population of just over 600,000 people, is in a fortunate position to do this, the minister said. Scientists would be able to test samples that would be representative of the entire population, the minister said.
Italy’s Daily Toll Nears 1,000 (12:35 pm. NY)
Italy had its highest daily death toll even as the number of new cases declined on Friday. Fatalities shot up to 969, the most in a 24-hour period since the start of the outbreak.
New infections totaled 5,959, compared with 6,153 the previous day, civil protection authorities said at their daily news conference in Rome. Italy now has 86,498 total cases, roughly the same number as the U.S. and more than China, where the disease’s first outbreak occurred
France Extends Restrictions (12:20 p.m. NY)
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said public confinement is being extended to April 15. The restrictions could be further extended if needed, he said in a press conference after a cabinet meeting on Friday. A scientific committee consulted by the government recommends at least six weeks of confinement, he said.
Libya, Syria Face Catastrophe: WHO (11:35 a.m. NY)
Libya reported its first case this week, meaning 21 of 22 Eastern Mediterranean nations have infections. The World Health Organization said Libya’s capacity to respond is extremely limited in some areas and non-existent in others, with a large movement of people from neighboring countries.
The outbreak also threatens to cause a catastrophe in Syria, the WHO said. Half of the nation’s hospitals are not functioning after nine years of war and thousands of health workers having fled the country. Millions of displaced people live in overcrowded camps in the country’s northwest, but after two days of tests using 300 WHO kits, no cases so far have been detected, the agency said.
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