Coronavirus Live Updates: Italy Is Locked Down; Global Deaths Top 4,000


The Italian government on Monday night extended restrictions on personal movement and public events to the entire country in a desperate effort to stem the coronavirus outbreak — an extraordinary set of measures in a modern democracy that values individual freedoms.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced in a prime-time news conference that public gatherings were banned and that people would be allowed to travel only for work or for emergencies.

Those restrictions had been placed on the “red zone” created in northern Italy, covering about 16 million people, but Mr. Conte extended them to an entire nation of 60 million.

“We all have to renounce something for the good of Italy,” said Mr. Conte, saying that the government would enact more stringent rules over the entire Italian peninsula.

Italy has recorded more than 9,000 coronavirus infections and 463 deaths — well over half the toll for Europe — and the numbers continue to climb fast.

By Tuesday, Austria urged its citizens to return home ahead of the lockdown in the neighboring country.

“Austrian travelers are urgently advised to return to Austria,” the foreign ministry said on its website.

The Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, arrived on Tuesday in Wuhan, visiting the center of the global coronavirus epidemic for the first time since the outbreak began and sending a powerful signal that the government believes the worst of the national emergency is over.

Mr. Xi’s visit was reported in a brief bulletin from Xinhua, the main official news agency, which said he met with front-line medical workers, military personnel, community workers, police officers and officials.

His trip is sure to be seen as a sign that China’s leaders believe that a series of draconian restrictions, including the lockdown of hundreds of millions of people starting in late January, have brought the outbreak under control.

According to official data, coronavirus infections have recently receded in China, falling to a few dozen new cases every day, nearly all of them in Wuhan, the provincial capital of Hubei. More than three-quarters of the 3,136 deaths recorded in China were in the city of 11 million people.

On Tuesday, China said it recorded 19 new infections from the coronavirus, and 17 deaths, in the past 24 hours. All but two of the newly confirmed infections were in Wuhan.

In Wuhan, most residents remain under heavy restrictions. But growing numbers of neighborhoods across the city have been declared free of new infections, and officials have said they could soon lift travel restrictions for some nearby areas in Hubei Province.

Provincial leaders said they planned to allow workers from the province’s lowest-risk areas to soon return to work.

Mr. Xi’s visit to a residential community under quarantine in Wuhan came just days after a delegation of top government officials toured another neighborhood in the city, only to be heckled by angry residents from their apartment windows. “Fake! Everything is fake!” shouted one resident, in a video widely circulated on social media.

On Tuesday, security officials took no chances. Images on Chinese social media showed security staff stationed in residents’ apartments, in an effort perhaps to prevent a repeat of last week’s disruptions. Videos showed Mr. Xi walking around a housing compound, cheerily waving to the residents above, who sat by their open windows, unable to leave their homes.

As of Tuesday, at least 4,020 people worldwide have died after becoming infected by the new coronavirus. Just 884 of those deaths occurred outside mainland China.

Also by Tuesday, more than 100 countries had detected the virus, among them Panama, Mongolia and Brunei, which reported their first cases.

Coronavirus cases are spreading across the United States — the number of new infections grew on Monday for the seventh consecutive day — but the focus has largely remained on the West Coast.

A nursing care center in the Seattle suburbs where many residents have died announced 31 new cases. Thousands of passengers aboard a cruise ship that docked in Oakland, Calif., are preparing to be quarantined at military bases.

The national total of infections surpassed 700, contributing to the cancellation of mass gatherings like the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Boston.

The authorities in South Korea said Tuesday that the number of new infections in the country was broadly in decline but warned of a troubling new cluster of cases at a call center in Seoul, the capital.

South Korea recorded 131 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the country’s total to 7,531, the third highest tally in the world. Of the new cases, 46 were from a single crowded call center in the Guro District of Seoul. The capital’s metro area is home to about 23 million people.

Investors in the Asia-Pacific region crept back into the markets on Tuesday, one day after the coronavirus and a battle among the world’s biggest oil producers shook the global financial scene.

Many of the markets in the Asia-Pacific region were trading modestly higher by midday on Tuesday. Australian shares led the way, ending 3.1 percent higher. Markets in mainland China and Hong Kong were about 2 percent higher. Tokyo, which began the day in the red, ended higher as well.

Futures markets indicated that Wall Street and Europe would follow the trend.

The gains did not make up for the global plunge in markets on Monday, and other signs pointed to continuing investor skittishness. Yields on U.S. government debt rose slightly but remained close to record lows. The price of gold fell slightly.

The modest moves followed Wall Street’s worst day in over a decade. In Asia and Europe, some of the biggest financial exchanges flirted with, or crossed into, bear market territory on Monday.

The price of oil, which had slumped by a quarter on Monday, rose more than 7 percent on Tuesday, with futures tracking the price of Brent crude trading at about $36.90 a barrel. Two of the world’s biggest oil producers, Saudi Arabia and Russia, are engaged in a price war and demand for oil around the world has fallen as the coronavirus spreads, halting global travel. Low oil prices are good for drivers at the pump, but they unsettle dozens of countries that depend heavily on the price of oil to keep their currencies afloat and their economies running.

President Trump has been promising the imminent arrival of a vaccine to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

Federal health officials have repeatedly pointed out that his timetable is off — it will take at least a year — but Mr. Trump’s single-minded focus on warp-speed production of a new vaccine represents a striking philosophical shift.

For years, he was an extreme vaccine skeptic who not only blamed childhood immunizations for autism — a position that scientists have forcefully repudiated — but once boasted he had never had a flu shot.

At least a decade before Mr. Trump was elected president, with responsibilities that would include nominating experts to lead the nation’s health centers, the hotelier and commercial developer was holding forth with great confidence about medical topics. When an interviewer would note that physicians disagreed with the dim view he took of vaccines, Mr. Trump remained ever ebullient, impervious and dismissive of scientific authority.

While Mr. Trump was promising quick action on a vaccine, he also announced on Monday that he would work with Congress on measures to bolster the economy following the steepest market drop in more than a decade, fueled by fear over the coronavirus outbreak.

Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House that he would meet with Senate leaders and House Republicans on Tuesday to discuss a “very substantial” payroll tax cut and legislation intended to protect hourly wage earners who may have to miss work because of the virus. He also said he would ensure that the Small Business Administration extends more loans.

“This was something that we were thrown into, and we’re going to handle it, and we have been handling it very well,” Mr. Trump said.

Streets across New Delhi were eerily empty on Tuesday as families quietly observed Holi, choosing to stay at home rather than attend public celebrations of India’s second most important Hindu festival.

The holiday, known as the “festival of colors” or the “festival of love,” is a celebration of good versus evil and marks the start of spring. Parks and streets across India are usually packed with residents dancing to loud music, decorating each other’s faces with vibrant colored powders and children staging giant water fights.

But this year, the government had a message: Shut it down. Last week, the Indian government encouraged citizens to cancel large Holi celebrations to stem the spread of coronavirus after the capital, New Delhi, declared its first case.

By Tuesday afternoon, it was clear the warning had worked.

Every year, S. N. Sinha’s residential complex of about 1,300 apartments throws a massive Holi party in the community’s shared park. But this year they called the party off, citing government warnings about coronavirus. India has at least 44 cases and every day, the numbers of infected rise.

“Holi is the time of year when you meet all friends and relatives in a joyous and happy mood. But this year that mood is spoiled by coronavirus,” said Mr. Sinha, 65.

“I am sad and I miss my relatives and friends today,” he added. “Now we have to wait for one more year to have that fun.”

The sudden upheaval in the oil markets may claim victims around the world, from energy companies and their workers to governments whose budgets are pegged to the price of crude.

The fallout may take months to assess. But the impact on the American economy is bound to be considerable, especially in Texas and other states where oil drives much of the job market.

With the coronavirus outbreak slowing trade, transportation and other energy-intensive economic activities, demand is likely to remain weak. Even if Russia and Saudi Arabia resolve their differences — which led the Saudis to slash prices after Russia refused to join in production cuts — a global oil glut could keep prices low for years.

Many smaller American oil companies could face bankruptcy if the price pressure goes on for more than a few weeks, while larger ones will be challenged to protect their dividend payments. Thousands of oil workers are about to receive pink slips.

The battle will impose intense hardship on many other oil-producing countries as well, especially Venezuela, Iran and several African nations, with political implications that are difficult to predict.

The only winners may be drivers paying less for gasoline — particularly those with older, less fuel-efficient cars, who tend to have lower incomes.

“This is a clash of oil, geopolitics and the virus that together have sent the markets spiraling down,” said Daniel Yergin, the energy historian. ”The decline in demand for oil will march across the globe as the virus advances.”

Reporting and research was contributed by Jan Hoffman, Peter S. Goodman, Clifford Krauss, Claire Fu, Elsie Chen, Choe Sang-Hun, Maria Abi-Habib, Amber Wang and Zoe Mou.


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