(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of a new respiratory virus that began in China just three months ago has tightened its grip around Europe and North America.
The novel coronavirus, known officially as COVID-19, has spread to every continent except Antarctica as well as every single European country, infecting more than 218,000 people globally and killing over 8,800 of them, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. While China still compromises the bulk of the world’s cases and fatalities, that proportion is shrinking by the day as the outbreak appears to ease up there and intensify abroad.
The disease has now infected 9,415 people across all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, making the United States the country with the fifth-highest national total of confirmed cases in the world. At least 141 people have died, according to ABC News’ count.
With more than 35,000 confirmed cases, Italy has the second-highest national total, behind China.
Here’s how the news is unfolding Thursday. All times Eastern:
6:56 a.m. 50 new infections per hour in Iran, health ministry spokesman says
A spokesman for Iran’s health ministry revealed Thursday just how badly the novel coronavirus is ravaging his country.
Kianoush Jahanpour said on Twitter that 50 people are contracting COVID-19 every hour in Iran, with one person dying from the disease every 10 minutes.
“In terms of this information, make a conscious decision about travel, traffic, transportation, and sightseeing,” Jahanpour tweeted.
More than 17,360 people in Iran have been infected with the new virus and 1,135 of them have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering. Iran has the third-highest national total of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world.
Iran’s deputy health minister, Alireza Raisi, urged residents on Wednesday to “please follow the guidelines and stay at home.”
6:30 a.m. EU’s Brexit negotiator tests positive
The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator revealed Thursday that he has tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Michael Barnier, a French politician serving as the European Commission’s Head of Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom, made the announcement on Twitter.
“I am doing well and in good spirits. I am following all the necessary instructions, as is my team,” Barnier tweeted. “For all those affected already, and for all those currently in isolation, we will get through this together.”
I would like to inform you that I have tested positive for #COVID19. I am doing well and in good spirits. I am following all the necessary instructions, as is my team.
For all those affected already, and for all those currently in isolation, we will get through this together.
— Michel Barnier (@MichelBarnier) March 19, 2020
Barnier was scheduled to hold talks over a future trade deal between Britain and the European Union on Wednesday with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Europe adviser, David Frost. But the negotiations were cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Although the United Kingdom formally left the European Union on Jan. 31, the country is in a Brexit transition period as both sides work to agree on a trade deal before the end-of-year deadline.
4:40 a.m. Honolulu denies two cruise ships from disembarking
Passengers and crew aboard two cruise ships set to dock in Honolulu won’t be allowed to disembark in Hawaii’s capital, officials said, even though there are no positive coronavirus cases on either vessel.
State authorities and cruise line officials previously said passengers and crew would be allowed to leave the ships at Honolulu Harbor. But on Tuesday, Hawaii Gov. David Ige asked visitors to postpone their travel to the island state for at least 30 days as part of efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. The two vessels were already at sea at the time.
Now, the ships will only be allowed entry to refuel and restock on food and supplies. The Maasdam, operated by Holland America Line, is scheduled to arrive at Honolulu Harbor on Friday and depart the following day. The Norwegian Jewel, operated by Norwegian Cruise Line, is scheduled to arrive Sunday.
“The health and safety of all people in Hawaii is always at the forefront of operational decisions. Presently, all state resources are focused and directed towards containing the spread of COVID-19. Allowing more than 2,500 passengers and crew to disembark will further strain these resources,” Hawaii Department of Transportation Director Jade Butay said in a statement Wednesday night. “HDOT and the State are allowing the ships to dock at Honolulu Harbor so they may refuel and restock. Neither ship had originally planned to make Hawaii its final port and both will carry on to mainland destinations, where more resources can be marshaled to handle the passengers and crew properly.”
4:09 a.m. Virus shuts down Las Vegas air traffic control tower
The air traffic control tower at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas has temporarily closed after an air traffic controller tested positive for the novel coronavirus on Wednesday, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
The Las Vegas Terminal Radar Approach Control has assumed control of the airspace. McCarran International Airport remains open and operations will continue at a reduced rate until the situation is resolved.
The FAA continues to maintain close contact with airports, airlines and other stakeholders during the situation, a spokesperson told ABC News.
“The safety of our staff and the traveling public is the FAA’s top priority,” the spokesperson said in a statement late Wednesday. “Our controllers, inspectors and others with critical safety or security sensitive roles are essential components of our national airspace.”
3:50 a.m. Half of the world’s student population out of school
More than 861.7 million children and youth — roughly half of the world’s student population — are not attending school as 107 countries enforce nationwide closures of educational institutions in an attempt to contain the coronavirus pandemic, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
An additional 12 countries have implemented localized school closures and, should these become nationwide, millions of more students will be impacted, UNESCO warned.
2:30 a.m. China reports no new domestic transmissions for 1st time since outbreak began
China’s mainland has reported no new domestic transmissions of the novel coronavirus for the first time since the outbreak started — a major milestone in the country’s fight against the epidemic.
The Chinese National Health Commission said on Thursday that there were 34 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the mainland during Wednesday, but all were imported from overseas. There were no new cases of any kind reported during Wednesday in the city of Wuhan nor its surrounding Hubei province, the original epicenter of the virus outbreak.
The newly identified virus first emerged in Wuhan back in December and, within weeks, the city was reporting thousands of new infections daily at the height of the country’s epidemic. Overall, China has reported more than 81,000 confirmed cases, mostly in Hubei province.
Earlier this month, Chinese state media reported that the last of a dozen makeshift hospitals built to house coronavirus patients in Wuhan had wrapped up operations and officially closed. The first groups of Chinese medical teams who were deployed to Wuhan to assist with the outbreak began leaving on Tuesday.
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