Coronavirus latest: US advises Americans to wear masks

– US President Donald Trump has unveiled new guidelines suggesting Americans wear nonmedical face masks while in public

– China has held a nationwide three-minute moment of reflection for the victims of COVID-19

– The IMF says it received requests for emergency financing from over 90 countries struggling to cope with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic

Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)

02:40 China on Saturday morning commemorated the people who died in the coronavirus outbreak in a three-minute nationwide moment of reflection.

Air raid sirens were heard and flags were flown at half-mast in most major cities, including Wuhan, which became the epicenter of the pandemic, to honor the dead, especially the “martyrs” — what China is calling the health care workers who died fighting the outbreak.

The Xinhua News Agency called the commemoration a “wail in grief” as horns of vehicles, trains and ships joined in.   

02:22 US Attorney General William Barr said Friday that “emergency conditions” due to COVID-19 are affecting the functioning of US federal prisons and said “vulnerable inmates at the most affected facilities” will be released into “home confinement.”

01:30 A group of around 300 people assembled outside a mosque in Berlin on Friday even as a restriction on public gatherings was in place in the German capital amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

The people were reportedly responding to a call to prayer at the Dar-as-Salam mosque in the southeastern district of Neukölln.

Reports said that the Friday prayers were wrapped up early with the cooperation of the imam. Mosque officials told police that they will reach out to people again on social media asking them to stop responding to prayer calls in person. They also said that the call to prayer will be suspended promptly if crowds begin to appear again.

Read more: Russia’s ‘corona-holidays’ leave small businesses in freefall

00:40 US stocks closed out dropping 1.5% on Friday, as US Department of Labor data shows that the country lost 701,000 jobs in the first half of March. The coronavirus pandemic is blamed for ending a record 113-month streak of job growth in the US.

00:07 The German Foreign Ministry estimates that around 40,000 German citizens are still abroad, according to a report published Saturday in the Rheinischen Post newspaper. The majority of them are thought to be in South Africa, New Zealand and Peru, the Foreign Ministry said in the report. Germany has been flying back its citizens stranded abroad during the pandemic, with around 194,000 having been returned so far.

00:05 World Bank Group President David Malpass says he expects a “major global recession” because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a LinkedIn post on Friday, Malpass said that the World Bank aims to respond “forcefully and massively” through support programs especially targeting poor and vulnerable nations, which could be hit the hardest by the recession. 

He also added that the World Bank will soon hold talks with Ethiopia, Kenya and other nations.

00:00 Here are some of the key takeaways from Friday:

The number of new COVID-19 cases in Italy increased at the same rate for five days in a row, giving officials cautious hope that the country is reaching the peak of the epidemic. On Friday, over 4,500 new cases in Italy were reported, including over 760 fatalities, roughly the same number as the day before. More people have died of COVID-19 in Italy than anywhere else in the world, with the current death toll at 14,681.

Officials in Berlin on Friday accused the US of intercepting a shipment of 200,000 protective face masks en-route from a Chinese manufacturer to Germany.

Berlin Interior Minister Andreas Geisel on Friday said that the masks had been ordered for the city’s police department, and that the seizure was linked to an export ban on masks by the US government, as the manufacturer is based in the US.

The US committed “an act of modern piracy,” Geisel said.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that people wear nonmedical “basic cloth or fabric masks that can either be purchased online or simply made at home.”

US health officials had originally recommended that healthy people need not wear masks.

US Surgeon General Jerome Adams said that the CDC’s new recommendation on masks is based on “recent studies” showing a “significant portion” of individuals with coronavirus who lack symptoms and can unknowingly transmit the disease.

wmr/dr (Reuters, dpa, AP, AFP)

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