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2 members of U.S. Congress test positive, New York City cases double

Here are the latest updates from around the world.
Image: People walk in Times Square as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak continues in Manhattan, New York City
People walk in Times Square as the coronavirus disease outbreak continues in New York City on March 18, 2020.Andrew Kelly / Reuters

The number of coronavirus cases globally topped 200,000 Wednesday, as people in the United States and in countries across the world adjusted to life under lockdowns and isolation.

The concern about the economic consequences of the pandemic spurred another widespread decline in stock prices, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing down over 1,300 points on Wednesday. Many major stock indexes around the world were down more than 4 percent.

According to Johns Hopkins University, there are currently more than 201,000 confirmed cases and 8,000 deaths related to the coronavirus around the world.

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Idris Elba on backlash over wife being with him during coronavirus reveal

Idris Elba addressed critics who said his wife, Sabrina Dhowre Elba, should not have been with him as he announced in a video message that he tested positive for coronavirus

"Sabrina wanted to be by my side. As much as we talked about her not coming to where I am, she did and wanted to," he said in two videos on his Twitter account. "And I would do the same for her."

Elba, who said he does not have symptoms, said that he and his wife assumed that because he has coronavirus, it was possible she already had it too. Dhowre Elba was tested for the virus on Tuesday, he said. 

IKEA will temporarily close all U.S. stores

The furniture company IKEA will temporarily close all 50 of its U.S. store locations beginning Wednesday as a precautionary measure due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures,” IKEA Retail U.S. president Javier Quiñones said in a statement.

The company told NBC News that workers will receive pay for the hours they were scheduled to work. The store's customers can still shop online and use the company’s home delivery (or store pick-up) in select locations.

Irish PM warns of 'calm before the storm, before the surge'

Ireland's prime minister, Leo Varadkar, issued a stark warning as he prepared his country for the growing coronavirus pandemic.

“This is the calm before the storm, before the surge and when it comes and it will come, never will so many ask so much of so few,” he said in a TV address on a St. Patrick’s Day he described as being like no other.

Acknowledged the "huge stress" that the containment measures were causing people on top of the fear of the virus, Varadkar also praised health care workers fighting the epidemic on the front lines in Ireland, where 292 cases have been confirmed.  

"Not all super heroes wear capes, some wear scrubs and gowns," he said. 

Chicago's voting struggles illustrate the challenges of coronavirus

Chicago voters were turned away for hours at dozens of polling locations that opened without voting machines, adequate cleaning supplies or enough poll workers — acutely illustrating the strain of voting under the threat of coronavirus exposure and mandates for social distancing and disinfecting surfaces. 

The delays were driven by a shortage of poll workers and the need to move polling equipment to new locations, Noah Praetz, a former director of elections at Cook County, told NBC News, adding that "probably 60 percent of necessary poll workers” handled things. 

After 200 polling locations were changed, about 50 precincts didn’t have enough supplies to open, James P. Allen, a spokesman for the city's elections board, told reporters. Locations struggled to find enough workers and went through a large number of replacement judges, he said. By Monday, the number of resignations from judges had risen to “a torrent, a tsunami of calls,” Chicago Board of Elections Chair Marisel Hernandez said.

At the end of the day, turnout was slightly over 30 percent in the city in what were “extremely challenging conditions,“ the city’s elections board reported — a steep drop from over 50 percent turnout in 2016 and only a few percentage points above the city’s record-low presidential primary turnout in 2012.

Efforts to push alternate means to in-person voting like early voting and voting by mail appeared successful Tuesday, with nearly 600,000 early votes cast and nearly 300,000 ballots sent by mail across the state, compared to about 423,000 early votes and 162,000 mail-in ballots in the 2016 primary, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort headed to New York harbor

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said President Donald Trump has agreed to dispatch a floating hospital called the USNS Comfort to help with the coronavirus crisis.

The Navy ship, which Cuomo said has 1,000 beds and operating rooms, will be berthed in New York harbor.

“This is literally a floating hospital,” Cuomo said. “The president said he will dispatch that immediately.”

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Coronavirus checks cause huge traffic jams on German-Polish border

Belgium becomes latest European country to enter lockdown

Belgium became the fourth European nation to enter into a nationwide lockdown on Wednesday, joining Italy, France and Spain in imposing drastic measures to limit transmission of the coronavirus. 

The country's government asked people to stay home and avoid as much contact as possible under the measures which are in place until at least Apr. 5. Companies have also been asked to ensure that everyone who works from home if they can. 

People making essential trips for food and medicine will be exempt and the government said outdoor exercise will be allowed and even recommended. Mass gatherings will also be banned.    

Non-essential shops and businesses will remain closed, with the exception of supermarkets, pharmacies and pet food shops, the government said, 

State unemployment websites crash as applications surge

People wait in line for help with unemployment benefits at the One-Stop Career Center, on March 17, 2020, in Las Vegas.John Locher / AP

U.S. workers who have suddenly found themselves without a paycheck because of the growing coronavirus pandemic are now dealing with another frustration — state unemployment websites crashing under the weight of high traffic.

From Oregon to New York and Washington, D.C., public officials and social media users have highlighted the problem as many Americans are thrown out of work by the mass closure of restaurants, retail stores and other businesses.

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The scene in the Philippines

Travelers wearing raincoats, plastic covers and masks wait for a flight at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, Philippines, on Wednesday. The Philippine government shut down Luzon, the country's largest and most populous island, to slow the spread of coronavirus.Ezra Acayan / Getty Images