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Trump extends social distancing guidelines as governors warn of shortages

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
Image: A stamp seller shows off special postcards with anti-coronavirus images in Hanoi, Vietnam March 31, 2020.
A stamp seller shows off special postcards with anti-coronavirus images in Hanoi, Vietnam March 31, 2020.Kham / Reuters

President Donald Trump announced Sunday that he's extending his administration's guidelines on social distancing during the COVID-19 outbreak until April 30. The move marks a significant change for the president, who said last week that he wanted to see much of the country return to normal by Easter, April 12, despite warnings from top health experts that easing guidelines could cause widespread death and economic damage.

Meanwhile, in an interview with "TODAY" on Monday morning, White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said she's "very worried" about every city in the U.S., saying 100,000 to 200,000 American deaths would be the outcome of a response that works "almost perfectly," according to projections.

Birx's stark message comes after a weekend where the governors of Michigan and Louisiana warned of a lack of resources to respond to the crisis and said that shortages of ventilators and protective equipment could overwhelm hospitals as soon as this week.

The global death toll is now nearly 35,000, and there are more than 140,000 confirmed cases in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University.

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FBI warns video conference users to watch out for 'Zoom-bombing'

Image: Zoom videoconferencing
A sign for Zoom Video Communications ahead of its Nasdaq IPO in New York on April 18, 2019.Mark Lennihan / AP file

Use of Zoom and other video-conferencing platforms has soared during the coronavirus outbreak, and now the FBI in Boston is warning users to watch out for “Zoom-bombing,” in which hijackers disrupt Zoom sessions with pornography, profanity and hate.

The FBI says two schools in Massachusetts were “Zoom bombed,” with one hijacker yelling profanity and another displaying swastika tattoos.

To avoid such incidents, the bureau recommends requiring a password or using Zoom’s waiting room feature to screen guests, and never making teleconference links available on public social media posts.  Users can also set the screensharing option to “Host Only.”

Wall Street rallies on hopes vaccine and shutdown extension will limit economic damage

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended Monday 690 points higher, while the S&P gained around 3.3 percent. The tech-heavy Nasdaq ticked up by around 3.6 percent, after Amazon, Microsoft, and other sector leaders performed well throughout the day. 

Pharmaceutical companies saw some of the day's largest stock gains, on news that there could be a vaccine for coronavirus.

However, all three major averages are likely facing a volatile week, with a raft of economic data set to be released, including the consumer confidence index on Tuesday, weekly jobless claims on Thursday, and the monthly unemployment numbers on Friday.

The first three months of 2020 are still on track be the worst performing quarter since 2008.

Abortion rights groups sue over states suspending procedure

A coalition of reproductive rights groups, including Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights, are taking legal action in four states over abortion access during the coronavirus outbreak. 

Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said that now is the time to make abortion more accessible, not less. 

“Abortion is essential, reproductive health is essential and this is time sensitive care,” Johnson said. “Right now people are just trying to survive this crisis. Women are just trying to survive this crises and politicians are trying to take away their health care.”

The lawsuits were filed in Alabama, Iowa, Ohio and Oklahoma after officials suspended abortions, saying they were nonessential medical procedures.

Rep. Velazquez presumed positive, was near Pelosi and on House floor

Rep. Nydia Velazquez said Monday she's been "diagnosed with presumed coronavirus infection," three days after she spoke on the House floor and stood near 80-year-old House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the signing of the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill.

In a statement, the Democrat from New York said she first started feeling sick "in the wee hours of Sunday morning."

Read the full story here. 

Florida pastor arrested after holding church services despite coronavirus orders

Sheriff's deputies on Monday arrested the head of a Florida church, accusing him of ignoring local orders against mass gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic and showing "reckless disregard for human life," authorities said.

The River at Tampa Bay church held services over the weekend, and Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said he had no choice but to take action against the pastor, Rodney Howard-Browne.

Read the full story here.

San Francisco staying at home until at least May 1

San Francisco's mayor said the city's stay-at-home order would be extended until at least May 1.

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Photo: Protesters block traffic to call for prisoner release in Philadelphia

A protester calls for officials to release people from jails, prisons, and immigration detention centers in response to the coronavirus, as he and others block traffic outside City Hall in Philadelphia on Monday.
A protester calls for officials to release people from jails, prisons, and immigration detention centers in response to the coronavirus, as he and others block traffic Monday outside City Hall in Philadelphia. Matt Rourke / AP

Virginia issues stay at home order as cases top 1,000

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Monday issued a stay at home order for the state's 8.5 million residents as the state's coronavirus case count topped 1,000

Residents must stay where they live unless they are going out for food, supplies, work, medical care or to get fresh air or exercise, Northam said during a news conference. 

Gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited, the governor said.

"If you can work remotely, you need to do so, and companies need to allow that," he added. 

Biden defends visibility amid coronavirus pandemic

Joe Biden, in an interview with MSNBC Monday, defended himself from criticism that he’s not been sufficiently visible as the 2020 Democratic front-runner amid the growing coronavirus pandemic.

“The best I can do from my position is to lay out what I think should be done, how to do it,” Biden said, in response to a question about whether he was making himself “visible enough.” “When it is not being done, say why.”

Before launching a more robust virtual campaign, Biden had faced growing questions about his lack of a national presence during the ongoing outbreak.

The former vice president, asked during his interview whether Trump was doing anything right during this emergency, praised the president for resuming the frequent appearances of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Biden, however, ended the interview by making a joke that addressed the criticism of his whereabouts.

“Thanks for giving me the time. So they don’t wonder where I am,” he said.

Gannett, publisher of USA Today and other newspapers, is temporarily slashing salaries

Gannett, the country’s largest newspaper publisher by print circulation, is cutting editorial salaries, the company announced Monday.

"We expect our revenue to decline considerably during this period and we need to address this situation head on. By choosing a collective sacrifice, we can keep our staff intact, reduce our cost structure, deliver for our readers and clients and be ready to emerge strong and with opportunity to grow when this crisis passes," Paul Bascobert, CEO and president of Gannett Media, wrote in a memo to staff.

According to the memo, executives will be taking a 25 percent pay cut, and some journalists will be asked to give up one week of salary per month. Bascobert said he will not draw any salary until the pay reductions are reversed. 

Gannett, whose titles include USA Today and The Des Moines Register, recently merged with New Media Investment Group and promised cutbacks even before the devastating effects of coronavirus on the advertising economy. It had previously targeted $300 million in cost cuts in 2020.

Massachusetts veterinary school loans out ventilators to support Boston hospital

Dr. Alastair Cribb, a veterinarian and dean of Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, told NBC News that its facilities loaned out four ventilators and donated personal protective equipment to support hospital staff at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

“We have other ventilators that we could use short term with our patients,” Dr. Cribb said, referring to animal patients. He said that other U.S. veterinary hospitals have also donated ventilators.

Cribb added that his veterinary center is no longer allowing people with their pets into its clinics for safety precautions. 

“We speak to them on the phone, get the animal in,” Dr. Cribb said. “It’s very important that veterinary medicine is still available for people that need to care for their animals while keeping everyone as safe as possible.”

Cuomo says New York curve continues to grow as deaths top 1,200

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that the state’s curve continues to go up, as it now has 66,497 cases, including 1,218 deaths — up from 965 deaths the previous day.

“Those numbers are daunting,” Cuomo said at a news conference. “It’s continuing to move across the state of New York. Anyone who says this situation is a New York City only situation is in a state of denial.”

The governor said that among the over 66,000 people with the virus, 9,517 are hospitalized and 2,352 of those are ICU patients, adding that 4,204 patients have been discharged. 

“What you see us going through here, you will see happening across this whole country,” Cuomo warned.

The governor called on health care professionals across the country whose communities are not currently in crisis to come to New York and lend a hand. “Come help us please and we will return the favor,” he said.

Cuomo spoke of the need for more medical supplies, and the difficulty of getting supplies while competing against other states, private hospitals, and the federal government.

Pentagon directs military bases to stop releasing coronavirus figures

The Pentagon has directed military bases to no longer provide specific numbers of COVID-19 cases to the press and public, citing operational security concerns and the need to ensure America’s adversaries don’t see any vulnerabilities.

Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman said the Defense Department will continue to provide total numbers of coronavirus cases at the service level but will not release figures specific to each base. 

“If a commander believes that COVID-19 could affect the readiness of our strategic deterrent or strategic response forces, we understandably protect that information from public release and falling into the hands of our adversaries - as we expect they would do the same,” Hoffman said in a statement.

As of 5 a.m. Monday, there were 569 uniformed military members who have tested positive for the virus but no deaths, according to the Pentagon. An additional 220 Defense Department, 190 dependents, and 64 contractors have tested positive. One contractor and one dependent have died from the virus.

First minor in NYC dies

New York City reported its first death of a minor on Monday, as the city's death toll rose to 790. Like the majority of those who have died from COVID-19, the minor had an underlying health condition.

Of the 790 people who have died from COVID-19 in the city, all but 13 had underlying conditions. The city department of health's definition of "underlying conditions" includes diabetes, lung disease, cancer, immunodeficiency, heart disease, hypertension, asthma, kidney disease, and GI/liver disease.

Coronavirus unemployment rate could hit 32 percent, Fed estimates

Unemployment could hit 47 million, or 32 percent, according to a recent analysis from the Federal Reserve. That rate would be higher than levels seen during the Great Depression, where unemployment peaked at 24.9 percent.

“These are very large numbers by historical standards, but this is a rather unique shock that is unlike any other experienced by the U.S. economy in the last 100 years,” St. Louis Fed economist Miguel Faria-e-Castro wrote in a research paper.

That figure does not estimate the impact of recently passed government stimulus, which will extend unemployment benefits and subsidize companies for not cutting staff and extending unemployment benefits.

A record 3.28 million Americans filed initial jobless claims for the week ended March 21. Economists expect another 2.65 million to join them this week.

Travel nurse heading to New York scrambles to find housing

Before New York City became one of the epicenters of COVID-19, travel nurse Jessica Fink signed a contract with Stony Brook Hospital to take care of patients in the neurology ICU. But when thousands of cases started popping up in New York, it became clear there was an outbreak.

“My recruiter called and said I could cancel my contract if I wanted to and stay home,” the 32-year-old nurse said. But Fink, a 14-year nursing veteran, couldn’t back away. “I found out the unit I am going to is going to be dedicated to exclusively treating COVID patients,” she said.

She’s driving to New York City from Pennsylvania on Tuesday, and she’s scrambling to figure out her housing situation. Before the outbreak, Fink preemptively rented a room from an older woman. But given the infection rate of the virus, Fink is trying to find isolated housing to prevent community spread. 

“Thinking that I could be a vector of harm is very distressing for me. I am a nurse, I want to do no harm,” she said. She has called various hotels that are opening up rooms to healthcare workers during the pandemic, but she says she has been directed to auto response emails that say hotels are working with organizations. 

“I am worried that being an individual person, I won’t get access because I am not with FEMA.” she said.

Macy's to furlough most of its 130,000 employees

Macy's will be putting the majority of its 130,000 workers on furlough, the company said Monday. 

"Across Macy’s, Bloomingdales, and Bluemercury brands, we will be moving to the absolute minimum workforce needed to maintain basic operations," the company said in a statement. "This means the majority of our colleagues will go on furlough beginning this week."

Most of the furloughs will be in Macy's stores, which have been shut down since March 18, with some furloughs in Macy's online businesses, distribution centers and call centers.

The company said furloughed employees will continue to receive health benefits through at least May.

Johnson & Johnson to start human trials of coronavirus vaccine in September

Johnson & Johnson announced Monday that it has selected a coronavirus vaccine candidate to test in humans.

The experimental vaccine will begin the first phase of human clinical trials in September, and if the testing goes as planned, the first round of vaccines could be administered under emergency authorization in early 2021, according to the company.

Johnson & Johnson has been working on a potential vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, since January. In an interview with the “TODAY” show, the company’s chairman and CEO Alex Gorsky said it’s a candidate “that has a high degree of probability of being successful.” 

J&J also revealed plans to devote more than $1 billion for vaccine research, development and testing in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

Economy will be back on track by June, says Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin

The government will provide eight weeks of payroll to small businesses, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Fox Business on Monday, for a total of around $350 billion.

If those funds do not prove to be enough, "we will go back to Congress" to negotiate for more, he said.

The economy will likely surge back by June, Mnuchin said, adding that the stock market with "absolutely" return to its previous highs. For long-term investors, the U.S. is still a great bet, he said, echoing the message frequently disseminated by Larry Kudlow, President Donald Trump's top economic adviser.

Mnuchin said the administration hopes to release further instructions for small businesses later on Monday.

Facebook commits $100 million for news organizations

Facebook has announced a $100 million commitment to support news organizations covering the coronavirus pandemic, bolstering last year's $300 million investment in local news.

Facebook will give $25 million in emergency grant funding for local news through the Facebook Journalism Project and $75 million in additional marketing spend in select news outlets.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced advertisers to cut their budgets, depriving news outlets of much-needed revenue and raising existential questions about the long-term health of the industry, particularly at the local level.

Spain surpasses China's total number of cases

Spain Extends Stricter Coronavirus Lockdown As Death Toll Continues To Rise
An ambulance driver disinfects a healthcare worker outside Gregorio Marañon Hospital on Monday in Madrid.Xaume Olleros / Getty Images

Spain has become the third country to surpass the total number of reported coronavirus infections in China.

The country's health ministry announced 6,398 new cases Monday, bringing the total to 85,195 cases.

That number is higher than China's reported 81,470 cases as of Monday. 

The U.S. currently has the most confirmed coronavirus cases with 142,801 infections. Italy is second with 97,689 coronavirus cases. 

Birx predicts up to 200,000 deaths if U.S. acts 'almost perfectly'

The White House coronavirus response coordinator said Monday that she is "very worried about every city in the United States" and projects 100,000 to 200,000 American deaths as a best case scenario.

In an interview on "TODAY," Dr. Deborah Birx painted a grim message about the expected fatalities, echoing that they could hit as high as 2.2 million without any measures, as coronavirus cases continue to climb throughout the country.

"I think everyone understands now that you can go from five to 50 to 500 to 5,000 cases very quickly," Birx said.

Read the full story here.

Israel's Netanyahu to self isolate after aide tests positive

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is self-isolating after one of his aides tested positive for the coronavirus. 

The prime minister’s office said Monday that Netanyahu and his close staff would remain in isolation until an epidemiological investigation into his contact with the aide had been completed. The ministry of health and the prime minister’s personal physician would determine the day to end the isolation, Netanyahu’s office said. 

The announcement came as Israel’s longest-serving prime minister is currently negotiating to form an emergency unity government with his chief political rival, Benny Gantz. It looks set to allow Netanyahu to retain power. Israel has recorded more than 4,300 positive cases, including 482 in the last 24 hours, according to the health ministry. Fifteen people have died in Israel due to the disease.

Tokyo Olympics rescheduled to start in July 2021

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games that were postponed last week because of the coronavirus pandemic have been rescheduled for next summer.

The games will open on July 23 and close on Aug. 8, 2021. The Paralympics will be held Aug. 24 through Sept. 5, 2021.

They were originally scheduled to take place between July 24 and Aug. 9 this year, but Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the International Olympic Committee agreed last Tuesday to postpone the games, as countries around the world struggle to contain the epidemic that has claimed more than 34,000 lives and forced millions around the world into lockdowns.

Read the full story here.

Hearses, songs and drones: How Colombian police get the coronavirus message across

U.S. military contractor tests positive for COVID-19 on S.Korea base

Another American military contractor at the U.S. Camp Humphreys base in South Korea tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, officials said, bringing the total to five.  

The U.S. citizen is currently in isolation at his residence, off the military base, and last visited the camp on March 27, according to a statement from the United States Forces Korea (USFK). 

Officials said they were undertaking contact tracing to determine if anyone else had been exposed to the virus. This makes the 13th case of coronavirus for U.S. Forces in Korea, according to an NBC News count.

La-Z-Boy furloughs 70 percent of its workforce, slashes executive pay

La-Z-Boy is furloughing 70 percent of its workforce and closing all U.S. factories, stores, and warehouses until at least April 13, the furniture maker announced on Sunday.

In addition to cutting senior management salaries by 50 percent, and by 25 percent for other staff, the company said it will also freeze its 401(k) match.

"While the decisions made were extremely difficult and we deeply regret the impact they will have on those affected and their families, they are deemed necessary as we face one of the most challenging periods in our history," said Kurt Darrow, chairman, president and CEO of La-Z-Boy. 

La-Z-Boy is one of the largest employers in Michigan, with around 6,800 people.

Italian doctor plays ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ after grueling shift

After finishing a shift treating COVID-19 patients at a hospital in northern Italy, one doctor headed straight for the piano. 

Still wearing his personal protective equipment, including mask and shoe coverings, the doctor performed parts of the songs “Don’t Stop Me Now” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” by Queen, at the Ospedale di Circolo in Varese.

“He could not have chosen a better song,” hospital director Gianni Bonelli told NBC News, who did not name the doctor. 

Italy, the worst-hit country in Europe, has recorded more than 97,000 cases of coronavirus and nearly 11,000 deaths, officials said on Sunday.

Police in Nepal use special device to keep safe distances during lockdown

Iran to release 100,000 prisoners as 3,000 new cases recorded

Image: People wearing protective clothing attend a funeral of a victim who died from the coronavirus at a cemetery outside Tehran, Iran on Monday.
People wearing protective clothing attend a funeral of a victim who died from the coronavirus at a cemetery outside Tehran, Iran on Monday.Ebrahim Noroozi / AP

Iran has recorded more than 3,000 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases to 41,495, the country's health officials said Monday. 

More than 100 new deaths were registered, with the total now standing at 2,757.

On Sunday, Iran's judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said nearly 100,000 prisoners will be temporarily released to ease the pressure on the healthcare system as the country struggles to contain the coronavirus outbreak. It's the second wave of prisoners to be released amid the epidemic. 

Earlier this month, Iran temporarily freed about 85,000 people from jail, including political prisoners.

Italian fashion houses shift to making medical gear

From Bulgari to Prada, high-end Italian fashion houses are switching from manufacturing luxury handbags and perfumes to masks, white coats and hand sanitizers in an effort to stem the spread of coronavirus in one of Europe's hardest hit countries.

On Sunday, the special commissioner for the coronavirus emergency, Domenico Arcuri, announced that 25 Italian fashion brands would begin manufacturing 200,000 masks a day in converted factories and workshops.

The production will eventually gear up, with the aim of delivering 500,000 masks per day from next week and eventually reaching 700,000 masks a day, he said.

Last Friday, the Armani Group announced that its Italian production plants had switched to manufacturing single use overalls for healthcare workers involved in the fight against coronavirus. Bulgari, a luxury jeweler founded in 1884, said last week it had begun to produce several hundred thousand bottles of hand sanitizers, sporting the slogan: 'Hand in hand with Italy.'

Klobuchar opens up about husband contracting coronavirus

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said Sunday that it can be very lonely living with COVID-19, which her husband tested positive for and is self-isolating in their Washington, D.C., apartment. 

"This is a disease like no other," Klobuchar told MSNBC's "Kasie DC." "It's a very lonely disease. It's lonely in the ramp-up, it's lonely if you get really sick and it is lonely afterward, because you really can't go out there until you know are you not contagious."

She said that she was staying in a Senate colleague's apartment until her husband, John Bessler, gets the green light from doctors to make sure he can't spread the disease to others.

"I hope my husband's story will be helpful for many is that he is only 52. He's really healthy. We have no idea how he got it and he ended up in the hospital with severe pneumonia," she said. "He had been coughing up blood, he was there for a few days, turned the corner and is now home."

Medical workers in Spain and Italy 'overloaded' as more of them catch coronavirus

Doctors, nurses and other medical workers on‌ ‌the‌ ‌front lines‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌coronavirus‌ ‌epidemic‌ ‌in‌ ‌Italy‌ ‌and‌ ‌Spain are succumbing to the respiratory illness themselves in ever increasing numbers, leading many to complain about inadequate protective equipment and supplies.

The two hardest-hit countries in Europe have together recorded more than 17,000 deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, as of Monday.

In Italy, the country’s ‌National Institute of Health said‌ ‌Monday that 8,358 health‌ ‌workers‌ ‌have‌ ‌tested‌ ‌positive‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌coronavirus‌ ‌so‌ ‌far,‌ ‌nearly‌ ‌nine ‌percent‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌total‌ ‌number‌ ‌of‌ ‌infected‌ ‌nationwide.‌ ‌A total of 61 ‌medical‌ ‌workers‌ ‌have‌ ‌died‌ ‌of‌ ‌COVID-19 ‌since‌ ‌the‌ ‌beginning‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌outbreak, according ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌Italian‌ ‌Federation‌ ‌of‌ ‌Medical‌ ‌Professional‌ ‌Associations. ‌

Officials in Spain have not revealed how many, if any, medical workers have died from the coronavirus, but in his most recent briefing about the subject, Fernando Simon, the head of the country's emergency coordination center, said Friday that 9,444 had contracted it. Just six days earlier, that number stood at 3,475.

Read the full story here.

Image: Portraits of Italian doctors and nurses taken during a break or at the end of their shifts in Rome, Bergamo and Brescia
Portraits of Italian doctors and nurses taken during a break or at the end of their shifts in Rome, Bergamo and Brescia on Friday.Domenico Stinellis, Antonio Calanni, Luca Bruno / AP

Russian PM asks regions to consider implementing new restrictions

Image: Red Square stands empty on Monday after Moscow authorities announced restrictions ordering residents to stay at home to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Red Square stands empty on Monday after Moscow authorities announced restrictions ordering residents to stay at home to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Shamil Zhumatov / Reuters

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has asked regional governors to look at restrictive measures taken in Moscow to curb the spread of the coronavirus, state news agency RIA reported Monday.

"I ask the leadership of Russian federal subjects to pay attention to the experience of their colleagues [in Moscow] and work out the possibility of implementing similar measures in their regions," Mishustin said, according to RIA. 

Authorities announced a partial lockdown on Sunday, with Mayor Sergey Sobyanin signing an order that severely restricts freedom of movement both in the capital and the surrounding suburbs. 

People can now only leave their homes to get emergency medical help, shop at the nearest grocery store or pharmacy and to go to and from work if deemed essential. On Monday, Russia reported 302 new cases, 212 of which are in Moscow, bringing the total to 1,836 cases with nine deaths. 

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Arrivals to South Korea face two-week self-isolation

Image: A South Korean woman wears a mask while walking along the street in Seoul on Monday.
A South Korean woman wears a mask while walking along the street in Seoul on Monday.Chung Sung-Jun / Getty Images

The South Korean government is tightening quarantine measures for all overseas arrivals starting on April 1.  

On Monday, Health Minister Park Neung Hoo said anyone entering the country will need to self-isolate for two weeks.

“The two weeks of self-isolation rule will be applied to both locals and foreigners regardless of long-term or short-term stay,” Park said.

He added that entrants without a place to stay in South Korea will be housed in an isolation facility provided by the government and will have to pay for the space provided.

Nearly 10,000 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in South Korea, but the number of deaths stands at 158, much lower than in the U.S. and European countries where thousands of people have died.

Questions as Tokyo sees spike in cases after Olympics delay

A rise in the number of coronavirus cases in Tokyo immediately after the postponement of the Summer Olympics has raised questions about whether Japan understated the extent of the outbreak and delayed the enforcement of social distancing measures, while clinging to hopes that the games would start in July as scheduled.

“In order to make an impression that the city was taking control of the coronavirus, Tokyo avoided making strict requests and made the number of patients look smaller," former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said in a tweet. “The coronavirus has spread while they waited. (For Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike) it was Olympics first, not Tokyo's residents.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Saturday that Japan is now on the brink of a huge jump in cases as it becomes increasingly difficult to trace and keep clusters under control.

Health minister Katsunobu Kato said there is “absolutely no relationship” between the Olympic postponement and the number of confirmed cases.

postpone 

U.K. could take six months to get 'back to normal,' official says

It could take the U.K. six months to get "back to normal" as it enters the second week of a nationwide lockdown to curb the coronavirus pandemic, England's deputy chief medical officer said Sunday. 

Speaking at the government's daily coronavirus briefing, Jenny Harries said the government will need a couple more weeks to see if restrictions to stop the virus spreading are working, adding that the U.K. must not suddenly revert to business as usual if the measures are successful.

"So over time, probably over the next six months, we will have a three-week review. We will see where we are going," she said, later clarifying that it doesn't mean the country will be in complete lockdown for six months.

There are also concerns that an extended lockdown in the U.K. could put a significant emotional strain on the public. On Sunday, Prince William and his wife Kate encouraged people to look after their mental health. 

Nigerian cities set for new restrictions

Nigerians in Lagos, Abuja and Ogun State will enter a partial lockdown after the president ordered the "cessation of movement" set to begin Monday evening. The order will last for at least 14 days.

"All citizens in these areas are to stay in their homes. Travel to or from other states should be postponed. All businesses and offices within these locations should be fully closed during this period," President Muhammadu Buhari said in a televised address Sunday.

Given its poor public health system, health experts are concerned about a widespread outbreak in the country of 200 million.

Hand sanitizer and thermometers ready at entrance to Wuhan mall

Image: Staff members of a shopping mall in Wuhan hold disinfectant gel and a thermometer at the entrance on Monday.
Staff members of a shopping mall in Wuhan, the epicentre of China's coronavirus outbreak, hold disinfectant gel and a thermometer at the entrance on Monday.Aly Song / Reuters

Songwriter of 'I Love Rock 'n' Roll' dies of COVID-19

Alan Merrill — who wrote the song “I Love Rock 'n' Roll" that became a signature hit for fellow rocker Joan Jett — died Sunday in New York of complications from the coronavirus, his daughter said. He was 69.

Laura Merrill said on her Facebook account that he died in the morning.

“I was given 2 minutes to say my goodbyes before I was rushed out. He seemed peaceful and as I left there was still a glimmer of hope that he wouldn’t be a ticker on the right hand side of the CNN/Fox news screen," she wrote. “I walked 50 blocks home still with hope in my heart. The city that I knew was empty. I felt I was the only person here and perhaps in many ways I was. By the time I got in the doors to my apartment I received the news that he was gone."

Merrill said her father was in good spirits recently. She went to a show of his about two weeks ago and had taken a photograph of him for his new album, Merrill said.

Drugs donated to feds as possible COVID-19 treatment

The federal government said Sunday that it accepted millions of doses of a drug that scientists are studying as a possible treatment for COVID-19.

The Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement that Sandoz, a subsidiary of Novartis, donated 30 million doses of hydroxychloroquine sulfate, and Bayer Pharmaceuticals donated 1 million doses of chloroquine phosphate.

The oral prescription drugs are used to treat malaria, but there’s anecdotal evidence they may help patients suffering from COVID-19.

The donations were announced one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned people against using a non-pharmaceutical version of the drugs. Last week, an Arizona man died and his wife became critically ill after they consumed it in a parasite treatment for fish.  

Two large health insurers waive coronavirus treatment costs

Health insurers Cigna and Humana are now waiving patient cost-sharing on all treatment for coronavirus, including hospitalizations and ambulance transfers, for their insured members and employer plans.

“Our customers with COVID-19 should focus on fighting this virus and preventing its spread,” said David Cordani, Cigna president and CEO, in a statement, adding “while our customers focus on regaining their health, we have their backs.”

The insurers said the waiver applies to all medical costs related to the treatment of coronavirus, including FDA-approved medications and vaccines when they become available. They will apply to their privately insured individual and groups plans, Medicare Advantage and Medicaid members.

Read the full story.