Coronavirus Live Updates: Nations Pledge Trillions to Stave Off Economic Catastrophe
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Credit…Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times
World leaders vow vast spending, and U.S. border with Canada is closed.
Nations around the world waged a two-front war on Wednesday: fighting the spread of the virus through ever tightening restrictions on people’s movements and trying to stabilize economies severely damaged by those efforts.
The White House is seeking more than one trillion dollars to blunt the financial fallout from the sudden and drastic changes to daily life caused by the coronavirus.
Germany has promised $600 billion to help businesses and individuals. British leaders said they would throw more than $420 billion at the crisis. The European Union promised hundreds of billions to support member states. Leaders in France, Spain, Italy and dozens of other nations have pledged to spend whatever is needed to meet the moment.
To put that in context — and to give a sense of the scale of the current crisis — the United States appropriated about $200 billion in today’s money for the Marshall Plan to help rebuild Europe after World War II.
But even as governments and central banks around the world promised to use all the fiscal and monetary policy instruments in their arsenal to prevent an economic collapse, the ripple effects of closing borders, locking down entire nations and telling people to stay in their homes continued to swell.
On Wednesday morning, President Trump announced on Twitter that the border with Canada was being closed to all but essential traffic.
Despite the ever-tightening restrictions, the virus continued its global rampage. More than 200,000 people have now been infected and at least 8,200 killed — more than half outside China.
Wall Street, rocked by wild swings, was off to a rough start on Wednesday after global markets fell sharply.
Around the world, cities expressed growing concern about funding for vital services after revenue disappeared virtually overnight.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs New York City’s subways and two commuter railroads, said it desperately needed $4 billion from the federal government.
With new infections continuing to rise in the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio said 8.6 million residents could be told to “shelter in place” within the next 48 hours. However, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo pushed back against that idea.
The term “shelter in place” has previously been associated with hurricanes and snowstorms — events of limited duration where people could be confident that, after a period of hardship, life would generally get back to normal.
But “social distancing” is the new normal for the foreseeable future, increasingly enforced by law.
It was unclear what a “shelter in place” order would look like in New York.
Wall Street plunges amid global market turmoil.
The S&P 500 fell more than 5 percent in early trading on Wednesday as persistent worries about the world economy overcame hopes for a major stimulus package from Washington.
Major European markets were 4 to 5 percent lower, following a late-day slump in Asian shares. Futures for oil declined, with Brent crude priced below $30 a barrel for the first time since 2016. Gold fell, as did bond prices, signaling that investors were continuing to retreat from a broad array of markets.
The significant drops represented a broad shift in sentiment on Wall Street from just hours earlier, when the White House called for urgent action to pump $1 trillion into the economy. The S&P stock index rose 6 percent on Tuesday.
Asian markets rose initially on Wednesday, but investors could not sustain the momentum. Late in the day, the losses accelerated.
Deaths in U.S. pass 100 as the virus reaches all states.
At least 100 deaths in the United States have now been linked to the coronavirus, according to a New York Times database that is tracking and mapping every known case in the country as more people are tested. On Tuesday evening, West Virginia became the 50th state to report an infection.
The 101 deaths, all announced in the last three weeks, came as the number of known coronavirus cases in the United States soared past 5,600 on Tuesday. Hundreds more are learning they have the illness each day, including more than 800 diagnoses on both Monday and Tuesday, as the nation’s testing capacity has grown significantly and as the virus spreads.
About half the country’s reported deaths have been in Washington State, including at least 30 linked to a long-term care facility in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland. Most of those who have died from the virus have been in their 60s or older, and several have been in their 90s. But other patients who died have been younger, including a corrections worker in New York City in his 50s and a man from the Seattle area in his 40s.
White House backs idea of sending cash to Americans as Trump tweets reassurances.
White House Announces New Economic Measures
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the administration is considering sending checks to Americans over the next two weeks to cushion the economic blow of the pandemic.
“Last night, the F.D.A. announced groundbreaking new policies to further increase testing — very substantially. So, all states can now authorize tests developed and used within their borders in addition to the F.D.A.” “The payroll tax holiday would get people money over the next six to eight months. We’re looking at sending checks to Americans immediately. And what we’ve heard from hardworking Americans, many companies have now shut down, whether it’s bars or restaurants. Americans need cash now, and the president wants to get cash now. And I mean now in the next two weeks. The president has instructed me, we have to do this now. So this is now —” Reporter: “Within a week?” “We are going to work with the Senate who is in session right now, actively. We will continue to have conversations with the House. I’ve already spoken to Speaker Pelosi once today. This is stuff that needs to be done now. The president has instructed me that this is no fault to American workers. For medical reasons we are shutting down parts of this economy. And we’re going to use all the tools we have as I’ve said, and what tools we don’t have we’re going back to Congress. I’ve got to go back to —” Reporter: “Can we assume the price tag is $850 billion, to those who might be concerned that’s too expensive —” “We don’t want to talk about it, but it’s a substantial number. We’re going big. The expression — we can do it two ways: We can keep going back every day or every week, we’re going big. And that’s where Mitch McConnell, that’s the way he wants to go — that’s the way I want to go. I think we want to get it done, and have a big infusion as opposed to going through little meetings every couple of days. We don’t want to do it that way. We want to go big, go solid.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the administration is considering sending checks to Americans over the next two weeks to cushion the economic blow of the pandemic.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times
As the effects of the coronavirus pandemic hit the job market, the damage is likely to be much deeper and longer lasting than seemed possible even a week ago.
Marriott International, the hotel operator, said Tuesday that it would begin furloughing tens of thousands of employees worldwide. Restaurants, coffee shops, gyms and other small businesses have begun laying off workers outright. On Monday, a flood of inquiries from newly jobless New Yorkers crashed the website for the state’s unemployment insurance system.
“Everyone is afraid to hire,” said Angela Gervasi, 24, who is suddenly looking for work after being let go by her employer, a Philadelphia restaurant.
Relatively few companies outside the hospitality industry have announced significant job cuts so far, with many saying they will continue to pay employees even while they are closed. But that cushion seems unsustainable. Most small businesses do not have the financial buffer to pay workers for long if revenue dries up.
President Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday morning to offer reassurance.
“For the people that are now out of work because of the important and necessary containment policies, for instance the shutting down of hotels, bars and restaurants, money will soon be coming to you,” he posted.
“I will totally protect your Medicare & Social Security!” Mr. Trump also wrote.
He added that he would be holding a news conference “to discuss very important news from the FDA concerning the Chinese Virus!” Referring to the coronavirus in that way has enraged officials in Beijing.
Belgium goes on total lockdown and European officials warn against flouting rules.
Belgium joined the list of European nations to impose strict restrictions on Wednesday, effective at noon, as the virus rampaged across the continent.
The president of the German center for disease control and prevention, Prof. Lothar H. Wieler, warned that if people did not follow public health guidance, Germany could have 10 million cases in just a few months.
“The epidemic is taking an exponential course,” he told reporters in Berlin on Wednesday.
There are 8,200 cases in Germany, a rise of 1,000 in the last 24 hours.
In France, the military started operations to evacuate patients from the hard-hit eastern part the country.
An air force transport plane left from southern France on Wednesday morning for Mulhouse, in the eastern Alsace region, to evacuate six Covid-19 patients to military hospitals in Marseille and Toulon.
A military field hospital is also expected to be deployed near Mulhouse.
The French health minister, Olivier Véran, announced on Wednesday that the authorities would shut down open-air markets where people were not complying with distancing guidelines, even though grocery stores and other food purveyors were not affected by the lockdown.
“Wherever it is impossible to enforce the distance of one meter between two people, we must intervene,” Mr. Véran said.
In Belgium, people are allowed to go outside to walk, bike or exercise, but those activities must be done alone or with the people with whom they live.
The new rules are similar to those instituted in France, but they are not as strict as those in Italy. Nor are Belgians required, as they are in France and Italy, to download and complete “permission forms” to carry with them offering an explanation for why they are not in their homes.
Transportation is disrupted across the U.S., including a walkout of bus drivers in Detroit.
As the number of coronavirus cases increases, the impact is being felt across every facet of American life, including transportation.
After three technicians who work in an air traffic control tower at Midway International Airport in Chicago tested positive for the virus on Tuesday, the Federal Aviation Administration temporarily shut it down, causing scores of flights to be canceled, delayed or diverted.
Public transit agencies in many cities have struggled amid low ridership and health concerns from their employees and customers. New York City’s public transportation system, the largest in North America, is seeking a $4 billion federal bailout after the pandemic set off an extraordinary fall in ridership.
In Detroit, bus service was halted after drivers, fearing for their safety, balked at leaving their garages. The president of the union which represents the drivers said that some had reported to work in the morning and found that buses had not been adequately cleaned.
Uber and Lyft, two of the most popular ride-sharing companies, said on Tuesday that they were suspending pooled trips, in which riders pay a reduced fee by sharing the ride with a passenger headed in the same direction.
Europe resurrects borders, and chaos follows.
Hastily reintroduced border checkpoints have prompted chaos across Europe as nations step up entry restrictions and limit movement.
The European Union announced a decision on Tuesday to implement a 30-day restriction on nonessential travel to its territory, and at least 12 countries have re-erected border checkpoints, stemming the flow of people and goods.
Romanian and Bulgarian citizens trying to return home from Austria via Hungary were denied entry to Hungary on Tuesday, a day after Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced that his country would close its borders to non-Hungarians.
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Britain, no longer a member
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Ireland shares a
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Countries participating in travel ban
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longer a member
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Some travelers staged a protest on the highway, causing a traffic jam stretching some 13 miles. The authorities later announced that they would allow a one-time passage of Romanians and Bulgarians through Hungary through a “humanitarian corridor.”
Poland, which suspended all international air and rail travel and barred entry on Sunday to everyone except Polish citizens and legal residents, was also scrambling to manage the chaos.
Thousands of travelers on Wednesday were stuck in lines stretching dozens of miles near entry points to Poland, with many forced to wait up to 30 hours without access to food or water. According to officials, the waiting time for thousands of truckers, especially on the Poland-Belarus border, could be even longer, delaying the transport of goods into Poland.
Responding to the crisis, the Polish Ministry of the Interior said on Tuesday night that more checkpoints would be opened and that about 1,000 soldiers would be dispatched to help maintain peace at the borders.
Social distancing doesn’t have to mean isolation. Let us help.
The regulations around social distancing have forced many friends and family to change the way they communicate and spend time together. It is important to stay connected during these stressful times. Here are some ideas that may help:
Pakistan, its health care system already teetering, braces for coronavirus.
Pakistan’s health care system is already on the brink of collapse. The virus may push it over the edge.
The country is at the center of one of the most densely populated regions in the world, South Asia, which has some 1.8 billion people and porous borders.
Around 246 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Pakistan, and many public health experts say they are worried that the true numbers are much higher.
As the outbreak hit neighboring Iran, thousands of Pakistanis tried to return home. Some 4,600 were quarantined at Taftan, Pakistan, a town on the border. They spent 14 days in tents, with little running water and barely working toilets.
Many of those who were released from quarantine returned home and tested positive for the virus. In Sindh Province, the number of infected jumped from 35 to 150 on Sunday, after dozens of people who underwent quarantine in Taftan were confirmed as having contracted the illness.
Many in Pakistan say they are having trouble getting tested. So far, around eight people per million have been tested in the country, compared to about 1,000 per million in Italy.
In a televised address on Tuesday night, Prime Minister Imran Khan warned that hospitals were too weak to accept an influx of people seeking testing and asked only the very ill to get screened.
He urged social distancing but said that the nation’s economy was too weak to handle a complete shutdown.
“Pakistan’s situation is not the same as that of the United States or Europe,” Mr. Khan said. “There is poverty in our country, with 25 percent of the people living in extreme poverty.”
Pope encourages those in lockdown to show love.
Pope Francis encouraged those under the severe restrictions in place across Italy and the broader world to use the “difficult days” to show others that they care, using “small, concrete gestures.”
“A caress for our grandparents, a kiss for our children, for the people we love” are “important, decisive gestures,” Francis said in an interview with the Rome daily La Repubblica on Wednesday. “If we live these days like this, they won’t be wasted.”
The coronavirus is ravaging Italy, with 2,503 deaths reported as of Tuesday and more than 31,000 cases across the country. The health care system as been overwhelmed, and daily life has been brought to a halt, with residents confined to their homes except to buy food, medicine or other necessities.
The pope has continued to conduct Mass, but in a very different setting. On Sunday, he spoke to Catholics from the library of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican at midday, a change from his usual place of delivery, the window of the papal apartment overlooking Saint Peter’s Square, which is closed.
In the newspaper interview, Francis thanked those on the front lines of the epidemic. “They are an example of this concreteness,” he said. And he urged people to reach out to those who had lost loved ones.
Gestures of affection are often “lost in the anonymity of everyday life” and in our dependence on virtual communication, he said. But, he added, actions like “a hot meal, a caress, a hug, a phone call” make “life meaningful.”
On Sunday, the pope went to two Rome churches to pray. “I asked the Lord to stop the epidemic,” he said.
Taliban get into coronavirus control, cracking down on returnees from Iran.
The Taliban, which control large parts of Afghanistan, have started requiring Afghans traveling from Iran, where the coronavirus is running rampant, to prove that they have been screened before being allowed to return to their homes in areas controlled by the insurgent group.
Proof of screening is being provided by the Afghan-Japan Communicable Disease Hospital in Kabul, a medical center in the capital that is operated by the Afghan government, which the Taliban considers illegitimate.
Thousands of Afghans return daily from Iran via Herat, a city in western Afghanistan, then take buses or taxis to Kabul.
“Such action is necessary because you know this virus is spreading to several provinces,” a Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, said in a phone interview about the screening requirement.
Mr. Mujahid said Afghans who had returned from Iran “should have their medical examinations so that we are certain they don’t infect others.”
The Afghan Health Ministry has reported 22 cases of coronavirus. But health officials worry there may be many more infection’s because so few people have been tested.
The virus could survive in the air, a new study suggests.
The coronavirus can live for three days on some surfaces, like plastic and steel — though the amount of viable virus decreases sharply over this time — suggests a new study, published on Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Experts say the risk of consumers getting infected from touching those materials is still low, though they offered additional warnings about how long the virus could survive in the air, which may have important implications for medical workers.
When the virus becomes suspended in droplets smaller than five micrometers — known as aerosols — it can stay suspended for about 30 minutes, before drifting down and settling on surfaces where it can linger for hours, the researchers said. The finding is inconsistent with the World Health Organization’s position that the virus is not transported by air.
The new study also suggests that the virus can survive up to 24 hours on cardboard packages, though it disintegrates over the course of a day — meaning cardboard packages that arrive in the mail would have only low levels of the virus unless the delivery person has coughed or sneezed on it or has handled it with contaminated hands.
Another study, the largest to date of children and the virus, has found that while most develop mild or moderate symptoms, a small percentage — especially babies and preschoolers — can become seriously ill. Children account for the smallest percentage of the tens of thousands of infections identified globally.
And though the health minister of France has urged people ill with the coronavirus to stay away from ibuprofen and aspirin, there was no research to back up the contention.
Reporting was contributed by Elisabetta Povoledo, Maria Abi-Habib, Zia ur-Rehman, Marc Santora, Megan Specia, Heather Murphy, Damien Cave, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Ben Casselman, Sapna Maheshwari, David Yaffe-Bellany, Mark Landler, Stephen Castle and Farnaz Fassihi.