U.S. and global news on COVID-19

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The Senate overwhelmingly passed a massive stimulus package late Wednesday night aimed at softening the economic blow of the coronavirus pandemic for American workers and businesses. The bill includes billions of dollars in credit for struggling industries, a boost to unemployment insurance and direct cash payments to Americans.

The fate of the bill now rests with the House, which will not vote until Friday, according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.

The U.S. reached a grim milestone as the number of deaths linked to the coronavirus passed 1,000 in the country, according to a count of reports of cases and deaths by NBC News. Globally, the death toll topped 20,000, with nearly half a million reported cases.

Meanwhile at the U.N., the Trump administration is pushing the Security Council to call attention to the Chinese origins of the coronavirus, four diplomats posted to the United Nations told NBC News, triggering a stalemate as the global body seeks to cobble together a response to the pandemic.

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Japan calls virus a 'national crisis' after surge in Tokyo

Japan banned entry from Europe on Thursday and warned of a high risk that the outbreak would become rampant after a surge in Tokyo.

In a step towards a possible state of emergency, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe described the outbreak as a "national crisis" in a task force meeting Thursday. Authorities are particularly worried that a jump in cases in Tokyo means Japan — which has so far escaped a mass spread that has hit Europe and North America — could now be on course for a big new wave. 

On Thursday, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike warned of the risk of an explosive rise in infections in the capital and asked residents to avoid non-essential outings through April 12. Japan’s Health Ministry reported 98 new cases Thursday, with more than a total of 1,200 reported infections as of Thursday. This comes just days after the Tokyo 2020 Olympic were postponed.

More than 3 million Americans filed for unemployment last week

A record-breaking 3.28 million Americans filed for unemployment claims last week, as the coronavirus pandemic shuttered businesses nationwide and ground the economy to a halt.

The massive spike in new jobless claims comes as nationwide lockdowns to halt the spread of the coronavirus pandemic have kept Americans from their workplaces, grinding businesses to a halt and forcing many companies to shutter or to lay off staff.

These numbers are just "the tip of the iceberg," said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton, noting that these figures do not even include data from this week.

Read the full story here. 

Coronavirus checks, direct deposits are coming. Here's everything you need to know.

As the coronavirus crisis ravages the U.S. economy, millions of Americans are urgently awaiting financial help from Congress in the form of direct cash payments.

Congressional leaders and President Donald Trump announced a bipartisan deal late Wednesday on a massive $2 trillion emergency economic package that includes direct cash payments to people across the country to help them through the crisis. The Senate passed the bill 96 to 0, and the House is expected to follow suit on Friday.

But who’s eligible to get a check, and for how much? How will it be sent, and will there be multiple payments?

Read the answers here.

Coronavirus burger makes the menu of Hanoi restaurant

Restaurant owner Hoang Tung shows off a coronavirus-themed burger on Thursday in Hanoi, Vietnam. "We have this joke that if you are scared of something, you should eat it," he told Reuters, at the Pizza Home takeaway shop. The shop has sold around 50 burgers a day.Manan Vatsyayana / AFP - Getty Images

G-20 leaders to meet remotely to tackle coronavirus challenges

Leaders from the Group of 20 major economies will take part in a video call on Thursday to address the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact, as global infections neared half a million with more than 21,000 dead.

G-20 finance ministers and central bankers agreed this week to develop an "action plan" to respond to the outbreak — which the International Monetary Fund expects will trigger a global recession — but they otherwise offered few details.

World Health Organization Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus will also address the leaders to seek support for ramping up funding and production of personal protection equipment for health workers amid a worldwide shortage.

This year's G-20 chair, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, called for the extraordinary virtual summit. He tweeted overnight that its goal was "to unite efforts towards a global response."

Spanish artists collaborate as lockdown is extended

Spanish musicians wear pajamas, sit in the bathtub, entertain their kids and dance with their pets in a light-hearted video for “Quédate En Tu Casa,” or "Stay in Your House," posted Wednesday. The new song was created by 17 Spanish artists all in their respective homes.

The song was created as the anthem for the #yomequedoencasafestival (I’m Staying Home Festival) — a series of performances via Instagram Live that has run for the last two weekends, and will continue this coming weekend.

Spain's coronavirus death toll topped China's on Wednesday, and is now second only to Italy. 

On Thursday, the Spanish Parliament overwhelmingly approved a proposal to extend the country’s lockdown until April 11.

'We may well be in a recession,' Fed Chair Powell says

The coronavirus pandemic is putting unprecedented strain on the U.S. economy, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell acknowledged Thursday.

However, "there can be a good rebound on the other side of this," Powell said Thursday morning in an exclusive interview with Savannah Guthrie on the "TODAY" show.

"There's nothing fundamentally wrong with our economy, quite the contrary," he said, while noting that, 'we may well be in a recession."

Read the full story here.

Pompeo's use of term 'Wuhan virus' shows 'evil intention,' China says

China accused Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of having an "extreme evil intention" after he used the term "Wuhan virus" in relation to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Thursday that the continued use of the phrase was "slandering China's efforts to combat the disease" and was an attempt to jeopardize international collaboration to fight the virus.

"This American politician insists on defaming China against the international consensus," he said in a press briefing. "This is an attempt with extreme evil intention to divert domestic attention and putting the blame on others."

President Donald Trump has repeatedly accused Beijing of concealing early knowledge of the virus but has since tweeted that he would no longer call it the "Chinese virus."

More than half a million rush to volunteer for Britain's health service

Britain’s Health Minister Matt Hancock said on Thursday that 560,000 people had volunteered to help the strained National Health Service — more than double the number he had hoped to recruit.

Hancock had on Tuesday issued a call for 250,000 volunteers to sign up to help the National Health Service and vulnerable people hit by the crisis.

The U.K. is in its first week of a three-week lockdown.

Global coronavirus death toll tops 21,000

The global death toll passed 21,000 as a result of the pandemic on Thursday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The institution's online count showed there have been at least 474,000 confirmed cases around the world, with more than 115,000 people recovering.

While China still has the most confirmed cases — more than 81,000 — it's reported local transmissions have slowed rapidly.  Italy is the second most affected country, with the United States close behind, according to the university's data.

The numbers from the World Health Organisation are slightly behind the university's count, with 18,589 deaths as of Wednesday evening.

London's quiet streets give workers a chance to repaint iconic Abbey Road crossing

A maintenance team takes advantage of the quiet streets during the coronavirus lockdown to repaint London's iconic Abbey Road crossing made famous by The Beatles.Leon Neal / Getty Images