Coronavirus updates: Global cases approach 200,000 as lockdown becomes the new normal

The number of coronavirus cases globally was approaching 200,000 on Wednesday, as people in the U.S. and in countries across the world adjusted to life under lockdown and isolation.

According to Johns Hopkins University, there are more currently more than 198,000 confirmed cases and almost 8,000 deaths related to coronavirus.

The United States and many European nations have this week installed measures to stop the spread of coronavirus, including curfews and restrictions on movement. U.S. nationals are among those traveling back to their home nations.

The U.S. death toll surpassed 100 on Tuesday as all 50 states have now reported cases, and the E.U. announced sweeping restrictions on most travel within the 27-country bloc.

The White House announced Tuesday that it is looking to send checks directly to Americans in order to soften the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.

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Pop stars hold online concerts for fans forced inside by coronavirus

A slew of musicians turned to Instagram on Tuesday to entertain their fans, many of whom are in isolation because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

John Legend was joined by wife Chrissy Teigen for a live online concert on his Instagram page to raise awareness about how to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Country star Keith Urban performed his own half-hour concert on Instagram, accompanied by his wife, actress Nicole Kidman. During the concert, Urban said he was due to perform live on Tuesday, but coronavirus interrupted those plans, so he chose to play for his 2.3 million fans online instead. 

Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin also hosted a 20-minute livestream on Instagram and took song requests from fans. Martin said his band members were stuck in different countries because of border closures so they couldn't perform together. 

Italy further tightens restrictions on residents leaving home

As Italy enters its second week of nationwide quarantine, the government is imposing even stricter restrictions on daily life.

For those needing to go out, police have issued a new self-declaration form that requires residents to declare who they are, where they are going and for what reason. 

Italians will also have to declare that they did not test positive for the coronavirus and are not currently observing a 14-day quarantine.

According to Italy's Interior Ministry, more than a million people and 415,000 shops have been checked by the police since March 11.

More than 35,000 people have been fined, with 7,000 people receiving fines on Tuesday alone. 

Saudi Arabia to convene virtual G-20 summit on coronavirus

Saudi Arabia will convene an extraordinary G-20 summit next week amid the growing coronvirus pandemic.

The summit, which will take place virtually, will focus on coordinating a response to COVID-19 and its human and economic effects.

Image: A delivery man rides to deliver food, as restaurants closed, following the outbreak of coronavirus in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.A delivery man rides to deliver food, as restaurants closed, following the outbreak of coronavirus in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Tuesday. Ahmed Yosri / Reuters

Saudi Arabia, which chairs the Group of 20 major economies, said the group's leaders will put forward a coordinated set of policies to protect people and safeguard the global economy. 

Saudi Arabian officials said Tuesday that mosques would no longer be open for the customary five daily prayers or for Friday congregations as the number of cases in the country reached 118.

WHO: 'Aggressive measures' against coronavirus needed in Southeast Asia

Image: Volunteers use disinfectant to clean Wat Traimit temple in Bangkok on March 18, 2020, amid concerns over the spread of coronavirus.Volunteers use disinfectant to clean Wat Traimit temple in Bangkok, Thailand on Wednesday amid concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.Mladen Antonov / AFP - Getty Images

The World Health Organization is asking countries in Southeast Asia to scale up their coronavirus response and take "aggressive measures" to combat the virus as the number of confirmed cases in the region has reached nearly 500.

"The situation is evolving rapidly," said the WHO's Southeast Asia Regional Director, Poonam Khetrapal Singh. "We need to immediately scale up all efforts to prevent the virus from infecting more people."

Eight of the 11 countries in the region have confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease the virus causes, according to the WHO.

So far, Thailand has the most cases at 177, with Indonesia close behind with 134 and India with 125. Cases have also been confirmed in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.

These numbers are increasing quickly, the WHO warned, and some countries are clearly heading towards community transmission of COVID-19.

Olympics make no sense if athletes can't come, Japan's deputy PM says

Even if Japan can contain the coronavirus outbreak, this summer's Olympic Games "would not make sense" if other countries cannot send their athletes, Japan's Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso said Wednesday.

"As the prime minister said, it's desirable to hold the Olympics in an environment where everyone feels safe and happy. But that's not something Japan alone can decide," said Aso in Parliament. 

The International Olympic Committee said on Tuesday that it does not plan any "drastic" decisions about the Games, saying it remains fully committed to the event being staged in four months despite the global spread of the coronavirus.

Rio de Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer statue closes

Rio de Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer statue closed at day-end Tuesday and won't reopen for at least a week after Brazil's Chico Mendes Institute ordered the closure of all national parks it oversees, including the one home to the statue.

The move is designed to help contain the spread of the coronavirus and the illness it causes, COVID-19. The 125-foot-tall statue last year saw almost 2 million visitors.

Image:Tourists pose for photos in front of the Christ the Redeemer statue during a foggy day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, March 17, 2020.Silvia Izquierdo / AP

Gun and ammunition sales rise amid coronavirus fears

Coronavirus starts to take a major toll on automakers

Most white-collar auto industry employees by Fiat Chrysler, Ford and General Motors are working from home this week, but Detroit's Big 3 have formed a task force with the United Auto Workers Union to see if there's a way also to protect hourly workers from the coronavirus without shutting down their U.S. parts and assembly lines.

With schools closed, major sports leagues suspending their seasons, large gatherings being canceled and the travel industry in freefall, automotive analysts are downgrading their 2020 sales forecasts. Morgan Stanley now anticipates U.S. demand for new cars will plunge to 15.5 million, down from last year's 17.1 million vehicles.

There are a few, faint bright spots. 

Read the full story here.

As more Washington state deaths reported, Inslee OKs $200M coronavirus response

SEATTLE — As the death toll from COVID-19 in Washington state reached 54, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a measure drawing $200 million from the state's emergency "rainy day" fund for the state's coronavirus response.

Inslee said the funding bill "is really about protecting what we hold most dear, our lives and the lives of our loved ones." The measure has $175 million going to the public health system and the remainder to a dedicated unemployment fund for coronavirus impacts. The bill contains an emergency clause and takes effect immediately.

The new spending comes as King County reported three more people have died, bringing its total to 46. Clark County health officials announced their first fatal cases, a husband and wife in their 80s, while Snohomish County said a fifth person has died. One person died in Grant County.

Washington has the highest number of deaths in the U.S., with most being associated with a nursing home in Kirkland. By Tuesday, the number of positive cases topped 1,000.

NYC mayor: 'Torrent' of new coronavirus cases coming, military aid may be needed

Visitation limits can't stop man's face-to-face chats with elderly father

Image: Charlie Johnson, Bernard JohnsonCharlie Johnson, left, visits with his father, Bernard Johnson, through the window of his assisted living facility in Anoka, MN on Sunday, March 15.Sandy Hamilton

A photo of a Minnesota man visiting with his father through the window at an assisted living facility illustrates the lengths some are going to in order to see their loved ones as nursing homes and assisted living facilities implement tougher restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.  

When Charlie Johnson found out that Whispering Pines, the center where father Bernard Johnson, 88, lives, was going into lockdown, he figured he would speak to him by phone every day.

"I said, 'You know actually, that's good. I'm glad that they're doing that,'" Johnson told NBC News. 

But he quickly realized that talking by phone was not enough -- he needed to see his dad. So, he set up a chair Sunday outside his father's window. The two spoke by phone while maintaining a version of their usual face-to-face visits, something Charlie Johnson said would keep up for as long as the lockdown lasts. 

"They just had a normal conversation, like the window wasn't even in between them," said Sandy Hamilton, the Whispering Pines employee who took the photo, which has more than 800,000 shares on Facebook.

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