Olympic torch arrives in Japan with little fanfare as coronavirus threatens Games

A plane carrying the Olympic torch from Greece arrived on Friday on Japan’s northwestern coast ravaged by a 2011 tsunami, but the welcome ceremony will have no spectators, amid worries the Games could be canceled over the coronavirus pandemic.

The flame arrived at Japan Air Self-Defence Force’s Matsushima base and will tour the Tohoku region hit by the tsunami and earthquake, in what the organizers call a “recovery flame” tour until the official kick-off ceremony in Fukushima on March 26.

Organizers have repeatedly said the Games, set to run from July 24 to Aug. 9, will go ahead, but as the rapid spread of the virus brings the sports world to a virtual standstill, fears are growing that the Olympics may be postponed or canceled.

The respiratory disease, which emerged in China late last year, has killed more than 10,000 people worldwide.

Japan is grappling with pressure to avoid a health crisis among 600,000 expected overseas spectators and athletes at an event that could see $3 billion in sponsorships and at least $12 billion spent on preparations evaporate.

The plane with the torch arrived nearly empty after the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee decided not to send a high-level delegation that was originally to have included its chief, Yoshiro Mori, and Olympics minister Seiko Hashimoto.

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Coronavirus live updates: Italy deaths at 3,405; cases up 41,000

Italy’s death toll from coronavirus pandemic continue to rise as China reports at least 228 new cases from abroad.

The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy rose in the last 24 hours by 427 to 3,405, overtaking the total number of deaths so far registered in China, officials said, as the tally worldwide nears 10,000.

Thursday’s figure in Italy represented a slight improvement on the day before, when the country recorded 475 deaths from COVID-19, while the world has stepped up efforts against the coronavirus pandemic by closing schools, shutting down cities and imposing strict border controls.

The total number of infections in Italy has also risen to more than 41,000, while cases in Germany, Iran and Spain rose to more than 15,000 each. Cases in the US also surged past 13,000.

More:

  • Coronavirus: Which countries have confirmed cases?

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  • What happens if you catch the new coronavirus?

More than 240,000 people have now been confirmed with the coronavirus globally, of which at least 85,000 have recovered from COVID-19, while more than 9,800 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University in the US.

Here are all the latest updates:

Friday 20 March

01:45 GMT – South Korea reports 87 new cases and three more deaths

South Korea has reported 87 new cases of the novel coronavirus and three more deaths, bringing its totals to 8,652 cases and 94 deaths.

The Associated Press news agency quoted South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday as saying that 316,600 people have so far been tested for the virus and 2,230 have been released from hospitals.

While infections have slowed in the worst-hit city of Daegu, there is also growing concern about a steady rise in cases in the Seoul metropolitan areas, where about half of South Korea’s 51 million people live.

01:25 GMT – China reports record new coronavirus cases from abroad

China’s coronavirus infections from abroad hit a new daily record while infected travellers reached an unprecedented number of Chinese provinces, pressuring authorities to hold the bar high on already tough custom rules and public-health protocols.

Mainland China had 39 new confirmed cases on Thursday, the country’s National Health Commission said on Friday, all of which were imported cases. There were no locally transmitted cases for the second day.

Of the new imported infections, 14 were in Guangdong, eight in Shanghai and six in Beijing, the health authority said in a statement on Friday.

As of Thursday, there were 228 imported infections in China.

01:18 GMT- Philippines bans entries of all foreigners

The Philippines is indefinitely banning the entry of foreigners after the government declared a state of calamity and public health emergency amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that it is temporarily suspending visa issuances in all its foreign posts effective immediately.

The drastic move exempts foreign government and international organization officials and their dependents as well as foreign spouses and children of Filipino citizens, the department said.

00:23 GMT- Australian banks announce $57bn loan relief package for businesses

Australian banks on Friday said they would defer loan repayments for six months for small businesses impacted by the coronavirus in a A$100bn ($57.34 billion) relief package, Reuters news agency reported.

Depending on customer take up, this could help put as much as A$8bn ($4.6bn) back into the coffers of small businesses, Australia Banking Association chief Anna Bligh said.

“These are extraordinary times,” she told reporters, adding Australia’s banking system was among the strongest and the most stable in the world.

There were more than 700 confirmed coronavirus cases in Australia as of Thursday. 

00:01 GMT Friday – Fears for tourism in Bali amid coronavirus pandemic

Indonesia will suspend its visa-on-arrival policy for a month from Friday to curb the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus in the archipelago, effectively shutting the country’s tourism.

For the resort island of Bali, where more than three-quarters of the economy is linked to tourism, the de-facto border closure could prove catastrophic for the population of 4.2 million people.

Read full story here.

23:55 GMT Thursday – US court declines to release immigration detainees

A federal judge in the US has declined to order the release of immigration detainees who may be especially vulnerable to the new coronavirus because they are old or have underlying health conditions, according to the Associated Press news agency.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project sought the release of nine detainees at US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Northwest detention center in Tacoma in the state of Washington.

US District Judge James L Robart said he was aware of the gravity and rapidly evolving nature of the COVID-19 crisis, but that there is no evidence of an outbreak at the privately run jail or that the agency’s precautions are inadequate.

20:00 GMT Thursday – Potential coronavirus treatment touted by Trump already in shortage -pharmacists

Supply of a malaria treatment that has been tried with some  success against the new coronavirus is in short supply as demand surges amid the fast-spreading outbreak, according to independent pharmacies and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP).

The ASHP, which maintains a list of drugs in shortage independent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s list, plans to add the generic malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to its list of shortages later on Thursday, according to Erin Fox, senior director of drug information at University of Utah Health, who maintains the shortages list for the ASHP.

The FDA could not be immediately reached for comment, but hydroxychloroquine is not currently on its list of drugs in shortage.

President Donald Trump on Thursday called on US health regulators to expedite potential therapies aimed at treating COVID-19 for which there is no approved treatments or vaccines.

19:55 GMT Thursday – US sick leave aid leaves millions of workers in the cold

It’s usually standing room only at O’Duffy’s Pub on St Patrick’s Day, as patrons clad in green pack into the bar to share a drink or two and plenty of food. But this year, owner Jamie Kavanaugh and one of his bartenders sat alone on the holiday that commemorates Ireland’s patron saint. Like restaurants across the country, Kavanaugh’s Kalamazoo, Michigan, bar is now only allowed to serve takeout food as part of social distancing ordinances meant to curb the coronavirus pandemic. 

“People are usually celebrating, smiling, toasting one another, sharing hugs and smiles. Instead, the pub is empty,” Kavanaugh told Al Jazeera. “People that came in for takeout didn’t even want to come in the door, and they’re afraid to use the pen to sign.” 

Read more here.

I’m Ted Regencia in Kuala Lumpur with Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the unfolding coronavirus pandemic.

For all the updates from yesterday (March 19), please click here.

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Daytime Emmys cancelled due to coronavirus pandemic

The Daytime Emmy Awards ceremony is being called off over the coronavirus pandemic.

“There are just too many unknowns right now, not the least of which is whether we would actually be permitted to stage an event in June” involving more than 1,000 participants, National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Chairman Terry O’Reilly wrote in a letter to members.

The 47th Daytime Emmy Awards had been scheduled for June 12 to 14 in Pasadena, California.

“While we realize this is disappointing, this does not mean we will not be celebrating the work selected for recognition in our Awards judging processes,” Brent Stanton, the executive director of the Daytime Emmy Awards, said in a statement.

“Judging continues, and we look forward to announcing our incredibly talented nominees later this spring. We are working on some interesting alternative ideas for how to best recognize the honourees later this year and will share more details in the weeks ahead.”

–With files from Global News

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Stormy start to spring expected in London, Ont.: Environment Canada

A special weather statement is in effect for London and the surrounding area.

According to Environment Canada, residents in London, Parkhill, and Eastern Middlesex County should expect significant rain, thunderstorms, and potential briefly severe wind gusts on the way.

Those in Strathroy, Komoka, and Western Middlesex County will also be impacted.

The showers and thunderstorms are expected to move through the region Thursday evening and continue overnight in some areas.

Depending on the area, Environment Canada said some of the storms will contain heavy downpours with local rainfall amounts of 25 mm in an hour possible.

They are predicting that some thunderstorms may have wind gusts as high as 90 km/h.

Come Friday morning, there is a more significant threat for high wind gusts into early afternoon as a cold front approaches, preceded by a band of scattered showers and thunderstorms.

On Friday there will be potential for wind gusts near or over 90 km/h as the band moves through.

Environment Canada said should the winds develop, power outages would likely occur in some areas.

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B.C. construction workers concerned about sanitation amid coronavirus outbreak

Health officials in B.C. have said construction sites are so far not areas of high concern for transmission during the COVID-19 outbreak, when gatherings were limited to 50 people.

But a large number of construction workers say they’re worried about the level of sanitation at job sites.

Several workers have called or emailed Global News and AM 980 CKNW Radio, saying there is little or no hand sanitizer or hot water and soap for handwashing at sites with dozens of workers up to camps with thousands.

Andrew Mercier, president of BC Building Trades, which represents a number of construction unions, agreed.

“Construction work is heavy work. It’s sweaty work. It’s hard enough to touch your face. There aren’t enough bathrooms; there are porta-potties,” Mercier told CKNW Mornings host Simi Sara.

“The conditions are unsanitary. We’re running out of hand sanitizer. We need not to be alarmist, but we need to recognize that the spread of this virus is a serious issue and we’re focused on risk mitigation.”

Mercier said it’s impossible to shut down all projects right now. For example, sites working on critical civil infrastructure will need to stay open, he said.

Not to mention, the construction industry has to stay afloat to help rebuild the economy after the pandemic is over.

“But we need to get there, and we need to get there with healthy workers.”

He asked anyone who feels a worksite has unsafe or unsanitary conditions to call BC Building Trades and report it — even if you aren’t a member.

“Union, non-union, it doesn’t matter. We’re through the looking glass.”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said she doesn’t intend to close non-essential businesses, but the employers are responsible for making the workplace as safe as possible and following rules on social distancing and hygiene.

As for what that looks like in an indoor work environment, such as an office, she suggests limiting the number of people in the office, increasing the distance between anyone who’s there, and making sure the space is heavily cleaned every day.

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While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, March 20

Coronavirus: Italy passes China’s death toll, prepares to extend lockdown

Italy’s death toll from coronavirus overtook that of China, where the virus first emerged, on Thursday as hospitals said they were being overwhelmed and the government prepared to prolong emergency lockdown measures.

A total 427 deaths were registered in Italy over the past 24 hours, bringing the total nationwide tally to 3,405 since the outbreak surfaced on Feb 21. China has recorded 3,245 deaths since early January.

However, Italy has far fewer confirmed cases – 41,035 as of Thursday against 80,907 in China.

Officials and experts believe the total number of infections here is significantly higher, with testing largely limited to those arriving for hospital care. The country’s large, elderly population, who are particularly vulnerable to the virus, is also seen as factor for the high number of fatalities.

READ MORE HERE

Coronavirus: Trump says virus could have been ‘stopped’ in China

President Donald Trump again suggested China is responsible for the global coronavirus outbreak, complaining at a news conference that the disease “could have been stopped” before it spread globally.

“If people would have known about it, it could have been stopped in place,” Trump said at a White House news conference on Thursday.

As he opened his news conference, Trump again called the disease the “Chinese virus,” a term that officials in Beijing have said is offensive.

READ MORE HERE

Canada-US border to close as early as Friday; millions trying to return home

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday that he expected the closure of the US-Canada border to take effect overnight on Friday and was working with domestic carriers to bring home citizens stranded overseas.

Canada, which closed its borders this week to most foreign nationals, agreed with the United States to close their shared border to “non-essential traffic” to curb transmission of the novel coronavirus.

Canada to date has 801 cases of the Covid-19 respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, and 10 deaths. Some 55,000 people have been tested across the country so far, chief medical officer Theresa Tam said.

READ MORE HERE

Monaco Grand Prix cancelled as coronavirus hits more F1 races

Monaco cancelled its showcase Formula One Grand Prix, the sport’s most famous and glamorous race, in another high-profile casualty of the coronavirus epidemic on Thursday.

The race was on the first world championship calendar in 1950 and has been held without fail since 1955.

Formula One earlier said the May 24 race was postponed, along with Dutch and Spanish races scheduled for the same month, and pushed back a major technical rules revamp from 2021 to 2022.

READ MORE HERE

Coronavirus: Cannes Film Festival postponed

The Cannes film festival, one of the entertainment industry’s most prestigious events, will be postponed as the coronavirus forces France into lockdown.

The festival joins a long list of events worldwide that have been scrapped because of the deadly pandemic.

The Cannes gathering was slated to run May 12-23 in the French Riviera resort. Organisers are now considering pushing it to the end of June or the beginning of July.

READ MORE HERE 

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Coronavirus: B.C. doctor asking businesses to help limit spread of COVID-19

A B.C. physician is calling for all businesses in the province to help limit the spread of the novel coronavirus by eliminating person-to-person transactions.

In an interview with Global News on Thursday, Dr. Dr. Alex van Duyvendyk said she started a petition calling on “businesses within our community to take appropriate and necessary measures due to COVID-19.”

The Kelowna physician said more than 400 people have signed the petition.

The petition can be found here.

The petition says:

“Please, we beg you, join us in battling this disease. The recently declared state of health emergency in B.C. has resulted in the obligatory closure of high-risk businesses (gyms, fitness centres, casinos, and bingo halls) and suggested strategies to mitigate spread at others.

“While we support these measures, we call on the B.C. business community to go even further and proactively close or transform their businesses in a way that eliminates person-to-person interaction.

“This will be a painful but necessary way to prevent community transmission of COVID-19.

“The downstream impact of early action by our business community will save lives and give our healthcare system a fighting chance. We would not ask this of you if we thought there was any other way.”

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Miss Persona has a message for kids amid coronavirus pandemic: ‘We must stay strong’

Miss Persona and Brandon Bear have an important message for kids everywhere during the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The Treehouse Direct personalities announced on YouTube that teddy bear kindergarten is cancelled as people are being asked to self-isolate and protect themselves from COVID-19 transmission.

“Even though they may feel a little worried, they dance and learn all the ways they can be helpful by being a superhero,” the caption reads.

“Today, we found out that Brandon’s teddy bear kindergarten has been cancelled because of a really strong germ, called a virus,” Miss Persona says in the video. “It’s kind of like having a cold or the flu, but it’s spreading to other people and making some people sick.

“We must stay strong and remember that everything is going to be OK. Our friends and family and the entire forest are working together as a team to make sure everyone that’s sick is getting better.”

In the video, Miss Persona and her bear friend show their young viewers what they can do to keep themselves and others safe, like washing their hands for 20 seconds and coughing into their elbows.

She even shows off some fun dance moves that kids can learn to help have fun and pass the time while in isolation.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials say the risk is low for Canadians but warn this could change quickly. They caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

— With files from Global News’ Maryam Shah

You can watch Miss Persona on Treehouse, or check out the show’s official YouTube channel.

[email protected]

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What coronavirus financial supports are available for British Columbians

With tens of thousands of British Columbians facing layoffs, work stoppages or business closures due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, many are wondering how they will make ends meet.

Both the federal and provincial government have pledged stimulus packages to help Canadians get through the coming months.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an $82-billion financial aid package, worth three per cent of Canada’s GDP.

British Columbia is expected to unveil details of its own plan on Monday.

Earlier this week, Premier John Horgan said B.C.’s plan would be designed to fill gaps or top up areas where federal assistance wasn’t enough.

Here’s what we know about financial supports available to British Columbians so far.

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Coronavirus nurses channel Mrs Hinch to disinfect NHS hospital wards in pandemic

Hero nurses are channelling inner Instagram cleaning goddess Mrs Hinch to clean hospital wards to help fight the fight against the deadly coronavirus.

Nurses at Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust posed in rubber gloves and aprons as they disinfected their department.

The heartwarming snap was posted to Instagram, alongside the caption: "Our fantastic MAU [Medical Assessment Unit] Team have been #hinching and giving the department a spring clean.

"Inspired by @mrshinchhome, their saying is 'A bleach and a spray keeps the germs at bay'!"

Despite working around the clock, the nurses managed to raise a smile, as they continued to do their part against coronavirus.

Coronavirus has killed 144 people in the UK, and infected thousands more, with the peak expected to hit in 12 weeks time.

Internet cleaning sensation Mrs Hinch – real name Sophie Hinchcliffe – shared the photo with her 3.2million Instagram followers as she praised their inspiring efforts.

The Essex-based cleaning influencer wrote: "REAL life superwomen. Thank you."

She also asked her followers how they were feeling about the pandemic and said it calms her to watch the news instead of read it.

  • Coronavirus: Woman's tip to keep steering wheels clean during COVID-19 pandemic

Mrs Hinch is a cleaning influencer who took Instagram by storm and garnered millions of followers within a year.

She is good friends with TV star Stacey Solomon and made headlines for the rise in sales of home cleaning buys.

A former hairdresser, Sophie lives in Essex with her husband Jamie and their baby boy Ronnie and their beloved dog Henry.

Through her popular Instagram account she has garnered a "Hinch Army" of loyal fans and has appeared on This Morning alongside Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby.

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