Global cases of coronavirus surpassed 600,000 and the U.S. became the first country to reach 100,000 infections. Spain reported a second consecutive day of record deaths as the pandemic shows no signs of abating.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the country will extend stimulus on an “unprecedented scale.” China also signaled it is preparing larger-scale stimulus to counter the economic fallout.
Cases top 607,000; 28,000 dead, 132,000 recovered: Johns HopkinsSpain reports 832 deaths, exceeding Friday’s recordTrump uses federal law to order GM to make ventilatorsJapan plans cash handouts, supplementary budgetChina signals ramped-up stimulus, says all 54 new virus cases on March 27 are importedU.S. cases exceed 104,000, more than Italy, China
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Spain’s Deadliest Day (6:42 a.m. NY)
Spain said 832 people died from coronavirus in the last 24 hours, its deadliest day since the outbreak began. That brings total fatalities to 5,690 after the country recorded 769 deaths on Friday.
Health Minister Salvador Illa warned on Friday that the pandemic has yet to reach its peak in Spain.
Germany to Stay Locked Down (6:37 a.m. NY)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the country’s lockdown rules are unlikely to be relaxed because they are needed to protect the health-care system.
Her chief of staff, Helge Braun, separately told newspaper Der Tagesspiegel it has been decided to keep the current measures largely in place until April 20.
Loss of Smell Key Symptom (6:30 a.m. NY)
The coronavirus is capable of attacking key cells in the nose, which may explain the unusual finding that some Covid-19 sufferers lose their ability to smell and taste, Harvard Medical School researchers found.
Their study of human and mice genomic data found certain cells at the back of the nose harbor the distinctly shaped proteins that the coronavirus targets to invade the body. Infection of these cells could directly or indirectly lead to an altered sense of smell, they said in a paper published Saturday.
Japan Stimulus to Exceed Financial Crisis (5:30 p.m. HK)
Japan will extend economic stimulus on an “unprecedented scale” in response to the outbreak, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.
There will be cash handouts for citizens and the government will act to protect regional employment, he said in a televised press briefing on Saturday. The government actions will be on a larger scale than that of the financial crisis more than a decade ago, he said.
Abe said a supplementary budget will be passed as soon as possible, as he cautioned that the battle against the virus will be a long one. Japan is preparing its virus-related policities with the worst-case scenario in mind, the prime minister said.
Dutch Hospitals to Reach ICU Bed Capacity (5 p.m. HK)
Dutch hospitals will probably reach full capacity of intensive care beds on Sunday due to the pandemic, local newspaper Trouw writes, citing numbers from a medical association. The government is currently in talks with Germany to see if it can transfer intenive-care patients. Doctors have also started calling elderly people at home to ask if they want to be treated in the hospital or at home if they get Covid-19, causing panic among older citizens, newspaper Telegraaf reported.
Hubei Border Clash 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 (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.
Iran to Punish Those Who Ignore Social Distancing Rules (3 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, Shop 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 (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 (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 Defense Forum Called Off (10 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 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 (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.
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.