Daily COVID-19 pandemic roundup: March 17

(Update: adds information from US, the Americas, China, Turkey, and Tunisia)

Miami Desk, Mar 17 (efe-epa).- Here’s a roundup of stories around the world related to the novel coronavirus pandemic:

WHO: The World Health Organization on Tuesday reported it has registered 184,976 cases of the coronavirus worldwide, about 12,000 more than on Monday. The death toll from Covid-19, the pneumonia that the virus causes, currently stands at 7,529, about 50 more than on Monday, according to statistics confirmed to WHO by the affected countries.

US: US scientists on Tuesday did not rule out the possibility that the coronavirus may be able to be transmitted among people via the air, given that it is stable in aerosols and on surfaces for up to several days, according to a study released by the National Institutes of Health. The study reported that the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19 is detectable in aerosols for up to three hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, while it can remain active on plastics and stainless steel for between two and three days. The study suggests that people could become infected simply by breathing it in or by touching contaminated objects hours or days after a sick person had been in the vicinity.

US: New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday that it had levied 550 fines to date totaling $275,000 on businesses that had been attempting to take advantage of the coronavirus crisis by raising prices on products that are in high demand such as facemasks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant towelettes. He said that 814 people have tested positive for the virus in New York City and seven people have died.

BRAZIL: Brazil reported its first death from COVID-19, a 62-year-old man with diabetes and hypertension who passed away at a private hospital in Sao Paulo less than a week after first displaying symptoms. Latin America’s largest country has 234 confirmed cases, including 14 members of the delegation that accompanied President Jairo Bolsonaro on a recent trip to Florida.

ARGENTINA: Transport Minister Mario Meoni announced that domestic passenger flights and all inter-city bus and train service will be suspended for four days beginning at midnight Friday to discourage people from traveling over what will be a four-day weekend in Argentina, where two people have died from the coronavirus and 63 others are infected. The announcement comes days after the nation closed its borders and banned mass gatherings.

ECUADOR: People who fail to comply with measures to curb the spread of coronavirus will be prosecuted and sent to prison, Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner said. Noting that the number of cases had doubled in 24 hours to 111, he said the country would run out of space in its hospitals if contagion continued at the same pace. Two people have died of COVID-19, while the 451 infected people under quarantine are subject to surveillance – including from satellites – to ensure compliance.

BOLIVIA: The government ordered borders closed, international flights halted and a suspension of inter-city travel by land as Bolivia recorded its 12th confirmed infection with the coronavirus. Authorities also reduced working hours and cut back public transit service after already having told restaurants, bars, theaters and gyms to close. The country’s most populous city, Santa Cruz, is set to begin a four-day lockdown on Thursday.

PARAGUAY: Paraguay forbade non-resident foreigners from disembarking from all arriving flights at local airports through March 26, although the ban could be extended. Diplomats and personnel of accredited organizations, along with airplane crews, will not be affected.

CHINA: The Chinese Defense Ministry said Tuesday in a communique that the Military Sciences Academy has “successfully” developed a vaccine against the SARS-Co-V-2 virus that causes Covid-19 pneumonia, and it has authorized its testing in humans, although the text of the announcement did not specify when those clinical trials will begin. Several Chinese institutions said that they will begin clinical trials in April to compare the efficacy of several vaccines Beijing is developing to combat the virus.

TURKEY: Turkey registered its first death from the coronavirus on Tuesday, an 89-year-old man, according to Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, who added that 51 more people have tested positive for the virus, bringing the total number of patients to 98, although of those the majority are currently recovering.

TUNISIA: Tunisian President Kaies Said on Tuesday imposed a nationwide curfew from 6 pm to 6 am each day as a preventive measure against the spread of the coronavirus, which to date has infected at least 27 people in the North African nation. In a nationwide address, Said urged Parliament to pass laws to pay workers who have had to cease working during the quarantine and to renegotiate the debts of companies adversely affected by the pandemic. He also announced he would donate half his salary – which is 5,400 euros (about $6050) per month – to the state’s “effort” to deal with the virus and he invited “those who can” to do the same.


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