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China banning foreign nationals from country temporarily

Updated March 26, 2020 - 9:46 am

China is temporarily barring all foreign nationals from entry as it seeks to curb the number of imported COVID-19 cases.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that foreign nationals with residence permits will be prevented from entering the country starting on Saturday. All visa-free transit policies also will be temporarily suspended.

Diplomatic workers will be exempt, while foreign nationals coming to China for “necessary economic, trade, scientific or technological activities or out of emergency humanitarian needs” can still apply for visas, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“The suspension is a temporary measure that China is compelled to take in light of the outbreak situation and the practices of other countries,” the statement said.

As the number of China’s reported domestic COVID-19 cases has dwindled, it has had to contend with imported infections from recent overseas arrivals. These individuals have accounted for the majority of China’s new cases for more than a week.

FBI arrests man who said he had a cure

The FBI has arrested a Southern California man who officials say falsely claimed to have developed a cure for the coronavirus.

The U.S. Justice Department says in a statement that Keith Lawrence Middlebrook told his 2.4 million Instagram followers that his company would return hundreds of millions of dollars in profit and solicited investments in the company to market the medication.

The statement says Middlebrook claimed he had developed pills to prevent COVID-19 infections and a drug to cure those suffering from the virus.

There are no known cures or vaccinations for the coronavirus. It wasn’t known if Middlebrook has an attorney who could comment.

Colorado stay-home order through April 11

A statewide stay-at-home order is in effect in Colorado to stem the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

Gov. Jared Polis announced Wednesday he was taking the “extreme measure” because the restrictions taken to date haven’t been enough to reduce the spread of the virus. Polis says if people don’t follow the order there will be a much worse economic disaster with greater disruption for a longer time.

Starting Thursday, the state’s 5.7 million people should only leave home for grocery shopping, medical care, exercise or taking care of a vulnerable person. It’s in effect until April 11.

US aircraft carrier has to divert

The Navy says an outbreak of COVID-19 infections aboard an aircraft carrier in the Pacific has forced it to divert to Guam so that all 5,000 aboard will undergo testing.

The acting secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly, told reporters that the carrier remains “operationally capable.” Even so, other officials said the number of infected sailors has risen sharply, from three reported initially to “dozens” as of Thursday.

Modly said the carrier, which is the first U.S. Navy ship to have a reported outbreak while at sea, had about 800 COVID-19 test kits aboard and more were being delivered. He said the initially reported cases were sailors with relatively mild symptoms.

The Navy said earlier this week that the Theodore Roosevelt’s most recent port call was in Vietnam.

Canada doesn’t want US troops on border

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government has been in discussions with the White House about persuading the U.S. not to put troops on its border with Canada amid the pandemic.

Trudeau noted Canada and the United States have the longest un-militarized border in the world and it is very much in their mutual interests for it to remain that way. He says it has benefited both economies tremendously.

El Al dropping all flights to-from Israel

Israeli airline El Al says it is suspending all flights to and from Israel beginning at midnight.

The suspension will last until April 4.

A statement from the company says it made the decision because of a sharp decline in demand and to protect passengers and crew from infection.

Like other airlines, El Al has faced a crisis following the spread of the coronavirus and is seeking government assistance.

The company, which had previously suspended flights from certain countries with outbreaks, has already laid off a chunk of its workforce.

Health care systems collapsing

Health care systems in Europe and New York buckled under the strain, with Spain’s death toll climbing to more than 4,000.

In the U.S., an unprecedented $2.2 trillion economic rescue package to help businesses, hospitals and ordinary Americans make it through the crisis cleared the Senate and is expected to be voted on in the House on Friday.

At least 2.8 billion people, or more than one-third of the Earth’s population, are under severe travel restrictions. But the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, scolded world leaders for wasting precious time in the fight against the virus that has already killed more than 22,000 people and infected over 480,000, thrown millions out of work and ravaged the world economy.

Lost time, says WHO head

“The time to act was actually more than a month ago or two months ago,” he said Wednesday. “We squandered the first window of opportunity. … This is a second opportunity, which we should not squander and do everything to suppress and control this virus.”

In the United States, where deaths passed 1,050 and at least 70,000 people were infected, the damage from the widespread economic shutdown was made plain when the number of people applying for unemployment benefits last week was more than four times the old record, set in 1982.

A political battle, meanwhile, raged between those demanding urgent action for a long siege against the pandemic, like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and President Donald Trump.

Trump has expressed hope churches could return to normal by Easter on April 12, and grumbled that “our country wasn’t built to be shut down” — apparently concerned that the outbreak’s devastating effects on financial markets and employment will harm his re-election chances. Democrats say Trump is putting the economy ahead of the health and safety of Americans.

“I’d like to say, let’s get back to work next Friday,” said Joe Biden, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. “That’d be wonderful. But it can’t be arbitrary.”

In Brazil, the country’s governors are defying President Jair Bolsonaro over his call to reopen schools and businesses, dismissing his argument that the “cure” of widespread shutdowns is worse than the disease. As of Thursday, the country had more than 2,500 cases and 59 deaths.

350 plus deaths in NY

New York has emerged as a virus hotspot. The city’s mammoth convention center is being turned into a hospital. The state recorded more than 350 deaths.

Spain has become the country in Europe where the outbreak is spreading the fastest. On Thursday, the Health Ministry reported reported nearly 8,600 new infections and 655 deaths, bringing the total cases to over 56,00 and more than 4,000 fatalities — second only to Italy’s death toll of about 7,500.

Health Minister Salvador Illa sought to assure Spaniards that government measures to slow the virus were working, telling Parliament that the rises had been smaller than in previous days and “indicate a changing trend that brings us to think that we are entering a phase of stabilization.”

In Italy, doctors and nurses begged the government to provide more masks, gloves and goggles and urged the public to understand how important onerous social distancing measures really are. Scientists say stopping just one person from getting the virus means scores of others will not become infected down the road.

“Help us help you,” Dr. Francesca De Gennaro, who heads a small medical clinic in Italy’s hard-hit Bergamo region, wrote in an open letter.

The rate of increase in Italy has slowed slightly, noted Dr. Hans Kluge, the head of the WHO’s European office. He said officials hope to soon figure out whether lockdown measures in numerous countries have worked.

Germany success

Germany has had a high number of infections at more than 39,000 people, but just 222 deaths — which has widely been attributed to early and aggressive testing, among other factors.

On Thursday, Lothar Wieler, the head of Germany’s Robert Koch disease control center, said the country now has the ability to test 500,000 people a week, perhaps the greatest capacity in the world.

European Union leaders were holding their third summit in three weeks on the virus to manage the havoc it is wreaking on their 27 economies. As the number of deaths in Europe soared past 12,000, Spain extended a state of emergency that will allow it to impose broader lockdowns, while French President Emmanuel Macron launched “Operation Resilience,” a military-backed response to the crisis.

France began evacuating infected citizens from the northeastern hotspot of Alsace using a special high-speed train.

Britain ordered 10,000 ventilators, working with engineers from Dyson. The government wants to increase its supply of the breathing machines from 8,000 to 30,000.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

Cases slow in China

So far, more than 115,000 people have recovered from the virus, according to a running count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

China’s cases have slowed, with only 67 new cases reported, all recent arrivals.

The leaders of the Group of 20 largest economies held a special video conference to better coordinate a response to the outbreak, amid criticism that the world’s wealthiest countries have not taken cohesive action. The conference was chaired by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman.

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