Health and Science

Coronavirus updates: Fed slashes rates to shore up economy, US stock futures plunge

Chairman Jay Powell on massive actions taken by the Federal Reserve to aid economy
Chairman Jay Powell on massive actions taken by the Fed to aid economy

The coverage on this live blog has ended — but for up-to-the-minute coverage on the coronavirus, visit the live blog from CNBC's Asia-Pacific team.

All times below are in Eastern time.

  • Global cases: More than 156,000, according to Johns Hopkins University
  • Global deaths: At least 5,833, according to Johns Hopkins University
  • U.S. cases: At least 2,952, according to Johns Hopkins University
  • U.S. deaths: At least 57, according to Johns Hopkins University

7:25 pm: Plunging stock market futures hit 'limit down'

Stock futures tanked in overnight trading on Sunday, triggering "limit down" levels to reduce panic in markets.

Contracts on the S&P 500 dropped 5%, reaching a "limit down" band made by the CME futures exchange to prevent further losses. No prices can trade below that threshold, only at higher prices than that down 5% limit.

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures plunged more than 1,000 points, also triggering the limit down level. The halt occurs during non-U.S. trading hours — that is before the 9:30 a.m. ET open of regular trading.

The brutal sell-off in the futures market came even after the Federal Reserve cut interest rates to near zero in an aggressive bid to save the U.S. economy from the coronavirus fallout. —Yun Li

6:50 pm:  Trump administration says 'all options on the table' including suspension of domestic air travel

The Trump administration is leaving "all options" on the table for further travel restrictions, including an outright suspension of domestic air travel, a senior official said Sunday.

Such a drastic measure hasn't been instated since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and it would raise questions about U.S. airlines' chances for survival without government support.

"We continue to look at all options and all options remain on the table," said Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security in a press briefing when asked about the possibility. —Leslie Josephs

6:42 pm: Goldman Sachs sees zero US economic growth as the coronavirus spreads

Jan Hatzius, Goldman's chief economist, lowered his first-quarter GDP growth forecast to zero from 0.7%. The economist also sees a 5% contraction in the second quarter.

"We expect US economic activity to contract sharply in the remainder of March and throughout April as virus fears lead consumers and businesses to continue to cut back on spending such as travel, entertainment, and restaurant meals," Hatzius said in a note to clients Sunday.

The coronavirus has infected more than 156,000 people worldwide, including over 2,900 in the U.S. The rapid spread of the virus has sent stocks tumbling into a bear market, with both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 now trading more than 20% below their record highs set just last month.

"Even with monetary and fiscal policy turning sharply further toward stimulus … these shutdowns and rising public anxiety about the virus are likely to lead to a sharp deterioration in economic activity in the rest of March and throughout April," Hatzius said. —Fred Imbert, Pippa Stevens

6:24 pm: Peloton closes retail stores, will stream live classes from a closed set in coronavirus response

Starting Thursday, Peloton will produce and stream content from its new location, but it will be entirely closed to the public, "until further notice."

The company, which went public last fall, was scheduled to open a brand new flagship studio on Manhattan's West Side this coming Thursday but will postpone that and close the current New York studio Sunday.

Peloton will also close its retail showrooms in the U.S. and abroad until March 29. Its online retail business will operate as usual. —Diana Olick

6:20 pm: California Gov. Newsom shuts down bars, nightclubs, brewpubs to slow the outbreak

California Governor Newsom on Sunday directed all "non-essential" businesses such as "bars, nightclubs, wineries and brewpubs and the like" be closed in the state.

"We believe this is a non-essential function … And we believe this is appropriate under the circumstances."Newsom stopped short of asking all restaurants in the state to close down as Ohio and Illinois have done."We have more concerns and considerations ... We don't believe ultimately we need to shut them down," Newsom said.
Newsom called for restaurants to socially distance patrons within these establishments. "We're directing we reduce current occupancy by half and require social distancing," he said.

Newsom also called for the home isolation of all seniors in California as well as those with chronic health conditions. —Riya Bhattacharjee

6:14 pm: Trump says 'relax,' urges against hoarding as cases soar and Fed cuts rates to zero

President Donald Trump urged Americans not to hoard food on Sunday during a White House press conference that came just minutes after the Federal Reserve announced new steps to shield the American economy from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

"You don't have to buy so much," Trump said. "Take it easy. Relax."

In brief remarks, Trump cautioned against panic buying and said that food supply chains remained intact. He noted that earlier in the day he had met with executives from consumer and grocery companies including Target, Campbell's and Costco.

"They have asked me to say, 'Could you buy a little bit less please.'" Trump said. "I thought I would never hear that from a retailer." —Tucker Higgins

6:10 pm: Dow futures fall even after Fed slashes rates to calm markets amid outbreak

Stock futures fell Sunday night even after the Federal Reserve embarked on a massive monetary stimulus campaign to curb slower economic growth amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were last off by more than 600 points shortly after the open. They fell as much as 800 points at one point.

"The Fed blasted its monetary bazooka for sure," said Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group. "This better work because I don't know what they have left and no amount of money raining from the sky will cure this virus. Only time and medicine will."  —Fred Imbert

5:59 pm: New York City school system begins to shut down

New York City's public school system will begin to shut down this week to help combat the spread of the coronavirus outbreak that has now spread to 700 people throughout the state, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office.

"NYC must have a plan in place in the next 24 hours for childcare for essential workers and a plan to make sure kids will continue to get the meals they need," Cuomo wrote on Twitter. "NYC schools will close early this week."

All public schools in Westchester, Long Island and NYC will close this week, Cuomo said Sunday. —Emma Newburger

5:44 pm: Starbucks temporarily adopts 'to go' model, will close or shorten hours near coronavirus clusters

If you need your Starbucks latte, be prepared to grab it to go.

The Seattle-based coffee chain said it is taking increased precautions in its stores as more communities, and the federal government, call for increased levels of "social distancing" to guard against the COVID-19 outbreak.

For at least the next two weeks, Starbucks will take steps to prevent customers from gathering in its cafes in the U.S. and Canada. It is pausing the use of all seating, both inside and on patios, but keeping its cafes, mobile order and pay and drive-thru and delivery options open.

The company is also looking to make changes in its mobile order pickup station and its condiment bar in stores, and will allow partners to wear gloves while collecting payments. —Christina Cheddar Berk

5:15 pm: Fed cuts rates to zero and launches a massive $700 billion quantitative easing program

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell speaks during a press conference following the January 28-29 Federal Open Market Committee meeting, in Washington, DC on January 29, 2020.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

The Federal Reserve, saying "the coronavirus outbreak has harmed communities and disrupted economic activity in many countries, including the United States," cut interest rates to near-zero on Sunday and launched a massive $700 billion quantitative easing program to shelter the economy from the effects of the virus.

Facing highly disrupted financial markets, the Fed also slashed the rate of emergency lending at the discount window for banks by 125 bps to 0.25%, and lengthened the term of loans to 90 days.

The new fed funds rate, used as a benchmark both for short-term lending for financial institutions and as a peg to many consume rates, will now be targeted at 0%-0.25%.  —Steve Liesman

4:46 pm: Ohio closes all restaurants and bars

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced the state will close all restaurants and bars starting at 9 p.m. tonight to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Carryout and deliveries will still be allowed, DeWine said. 

Ohio has confirmed 36 cases of coronavirus and 350 people are awaiting test results. —Spencer Kimball

4:41 pm: Amazon says it is out of stock of household items and deliveries are delayed due to coronavirus demand

Amazon warned it's experiencing Prime delivery days and running out of stock of popular household items amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The issues are a result of a "dramatic increase in the rate that people are shopping online," Amazon said in a blog post that was updated on Saturday. Some popular brands and items in the "household staples" categories were out of stock, while Amazon said some of its "delivery promises are longer than usual."

"In the short term this is having an impact on how we serve our customers," Amazon said in the blog post. "We are working around the clock with our selling partners to ensure availability on all of our products, and bring on additional capacity to deliver all of your orders."

Amazon added a notice to the top of its marketplace this weekend that reads: "Inventory and delivery may be temporarily unavailable due to increased demand. Confirm availability at checkout." —Annie Palmer

4:17 pm: Consumer companies like Clorox are calling on White House to defend US against supply chain disruptions

The lobbying group representing some of America's largest consumer companies sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer urging them to fight global export restrictions on any product used to treat or prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Consumer Brands Association, which represents companies including Lysol-owner Reckitt Benckiser and Clorox, wants Pompeo and Lightizer to determine which products are facing a possible export ban, and what the impact of that ban may be. They also want the leaders to  "take appropriate action" should they determine that any export restriction is in violation of a trade agreement. 

They want them to considering lifting tariffs that may be adding an extra burden to the supply chain. —Lauren Hirsch

4:04 pm: NYPD commissioner to officers — 'We will, without a doubt suffer'

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea sent a 4-page memo to the force's 36,000 officers and 19,000 civilian workers, telling them to brace for sickness and staggered schedules.

"We will, without a doubt suffer," Shea said in the memo obtained by NBC News, noting many members of the force "may become ill."

Shea also tried to reassure NYPD workers and officers, saying: "We will stand with you." The memo was sent a day after a school safety officer in Queens, NY tested positive for coronavirus. —Fred Imbert

3:18 pm: SAS suspends most flights, cuts 90% of staff because of 'non-existent' demand

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) Airbus A320 planes are parked at the Copenhagen Airport in Kaastrup, Denmark, on March 15, 2020.
Johan Nilsson | AFP | Getty Images

Scandinavian airline SAS will temporarily cut 10,000 jobs, or 90% its workforce and suspend most of its flights starting Monday because coronavirus and associated travel restrictions has rendered air travel demand "essentially non-existent." The airline said it aims to continue flying in the next few days to allow travelers to get home. -- Leslie Josephs

3:02 pm: The Senate has not yet scheduled a vote for relief bill already passed by the House

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has yet to schedule a Senate vote to pass the country's second emergency coronavirus deal after the House passed the package early Saturday morning. 

The next vote the Republican led-Senate has scheduled is over the renewal of national security surveillance law, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. That is scheduled for Monday at 5:30 p.m.

"Until the FISA legislation is passed, any action on the House coronavirus legislation will take unanimous consent," a spokesperson for McConnell told CNBC. 

The Democrat-led house last week passed the second round of legislation, which was aimed at helping workers and individuals struggling to make it through the crisis. Among the provisions agreed to between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House speaker Nancy Pelosi was increased unemployment insurance and paid sick leave.

Deal talks between the administration and the House went late into the night Friday, and Mnuchin said Saturday the two have agreed to issue a "technical correction" to the bill on Monday. That means the Senate does not yet have a bill to vote on. —Lauren Hirsch

2:17: Germany introduces border controls with France 

Germany is introducing border controls with France, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Denmark beginning Monday to stem the spread of the fast-moving coronavirus across Europe.

The introduction of border controls is rare and done only in emergency situations among members of the so-called Schengen Area, which allows the free movement of people across national borders.

Germany is the European Union's largest economy and the introduction of border controls with France, the EU's second largest economy, could further slow economic growth in the region.  

France, Italy and Spain are already largely in lockdown due to virus, with only grocery stores, pharmacies and other essential stores open the public. —Spencer Kimball 

2:03 pm: Maryland closes casinos

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan issued an emergency order to shut down all casinos, racetracks and simulcast betting facilities in the state amid the coronavirus pandemic. The shutdown will take effect at midnight on Monday.
"Anyone who hosts or is part of the crowds in bars this weekend is jeopardizing the health of others and must avoid any contact with family members or friends over the age of 60 or those with underlying health conditions," he said.  —Emma Newburger

1:59 pm: Netanyahu tests negative

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to supporters following the announcement of exit polls in Israel's election at his Likud party headquarters in Tel Aviv.
Artur Widak | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tested negative for coronavirus, his office said in a statement. Netanyahu was asymptomatic before undergoing the precautionary test, which was also administered to officials  working close to him. —Reuters

1:34 pm: Cuomo defends not closing schools

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is defending his decision not to shut down the state's public schools, arguing that doing so is "not that simple" since schools play an important role in providing childcare and food.

"We can't have nurses staying home because they have to stay home and watch their child," Cuomo said during a briefing in Albany, N.Y. He said school closings could contribute to losing access to essential workers in the city, including cops, firefighters and healthcare workers.

Cuomo also didn't call for a mandatory shut down of the city's restaurants and bars, but instead urged private businesses to consider work from home measures and voluntary closings. Some elected officials are pressuring the governor to close restaurants and bars, which are currently allowed to operate at half their maximum capacity. On Saturday night, many bars and restaurants across New York City were still full of people, igniting concern that the city was moving too slowly in implementing restrictions on the public.
"We could consider mandatory actions later on," Cuomo said. He noted that by closing stores in New Jersey, it effectively sends people shopping to other areas and spreads infections even more.

"Don't panic, don't shut down everything," Cuomo urged.The number of confirmed virus cases in New York has reached over 700 and three people have died.  —Emma Newburger

1:16 pm: Netanyahu took precautionary coronavirus test

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was tested for coronavirus as a precautionary measure, his office said

Netanyahu was asymptomatic before undergoing the test, which was also administered to officials working close to him, his office said in a statement.

Coronavirus testing takes time and no results were given in the statement. —Reuters

12:29 pm: Expect more retailers to withdraw first-quarter outlooks, analyst warns

Abercrombie & Fitch announced temporary store closures outside the Asia-Pacific region, and withdrew its earnings forecast, citing "material adverse" conditions.

It likely won't be the last retailer to offer up such a warning. Jefferies analyst Randal Konick said he expects to see more retailers close stores, and if they don't, they likely will see little demand as malls become ghost towns. 

"With stores accounting for 75% of sales for most retailers, we anticipate massive EPS declines for 1Q, especially as most retailers appear to be paying employees during the 2 week closures," Konick wrote in a research note.

Things could get even more dire if closures extend beyond the two-week period, he said. He named L Brands, Nike, Under Armour, Capri Holdings and department stores like Macy's and Kohl's as the most under threat. —Christina Cheddar Berk

12:11 pm: Bank of America's Brian Moynihan — 'We're in a war to contain this virus'

Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan said the coronavirus has united the world as it tries to find a way to curb the outbreak.

"We're in a war to contain this virus," Moynihan said Sunday on CBS. "The interesting thing is everybody has the same common enemy across the whole world. So, it's a question of how we do that as employers?"

Moynihan noted that Bank of America, along with other banks, is helping consumers impacted by the virus outbreak with payment deferrals on credit cards and mortgages.

"You don't want people to be penalized" because of the virus, he added.—Fred Imbert

12:01 pm: Apple allows customers to skip March card payment

Apple has announced a customer assistance program for the Apple credit card in order to help people unable to make their March payment amid pressure from the coronavirus pandemic.

The program will allow people to skip this month's payment without incurring interest charges.

"We understand that the rapidly-evolving COVID-19 situation poses unique challenges for everyone and some customers may have difficulty making their monthly payments," the company said in a statement. "Apple Card is committed to helping you lead a healthier financial life."  —Emma Newburger

11:55 am: Kudlow says federal government may give loan guarantees to airlines

White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said the federal government may give airlines loan guarantees to weather falling demand amid the coronavirus outbreak.

"We're talking to the airlines," Kudlow said on CBS. "We're going to go up to the Hill this week. we will have a number of new proposals with respect to the airlines."

Airline stocks have tumbled in recent weeks as countries impose travel restrictions and consumers cancel plans due to the outbreak, which is also hurting other parts of the global economy.

"This is a story that will be very challenging in the short run," Kudlow said. "But this is not a story of years. This is a story of weeks and months." —Fred Imbert

11:38 am: Top NYC official calls for city shutdown

New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer is calling for a shutdown of the city as concerns mount over the city's relatively slow response to the virus spread.
Elected officials have raised alarms that the city is not moving quickly enough to place restrictions on places like bars and restaurants, many of which were still full of people on Saturday night. Bars and restaurants can currently stay open if they operate at half the maximum capacity.
"Only essential services should remain open. No bars, restaurants, or movie theaters," Stringer wrote on Twitter. "And I am again calling for NYC schools to be shut down. We cannot go on with business as usual." —Emma Newburger

11:30 am: US at risk of 'Wuhan style outbreak,' says former FDA commissioner

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the U.S. is at risk of a "Wuhan style outbreak" in multiple cities across the country. An outbreak of such intensity in a city like New York would "overwhelm its system," he said during an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation."
The coronavirus originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan and killed more than 3,000 people in mainland China. Health officials say China's coronavirus epidemic had passed its peak as cases continue to spread to other areas of the world.
"There's ways to avert it, but that's the risk that we face right now," Gottlieb said, adding that the U.S. will "certainly" have tens of thousands of virus cases. He said research shows there is likely 10 - 40,000 cases currently distributed across the country. —Emma Newburger

11:19 am: US states turn to cash reserves as budgets strained

States across the U.S. are allocating hundreds of millions of dollars to respond to the coronavirus, even as the U.S. government prepares to send billions more their way.

Many states have built up sizable stockpiles in their "rainy day" funds during several robust years of tax collections. Some governors and state lawmakers now are tapping into those savings for emergency expenses. Others are looking to set aside even more in reserve, fearing the economic uncertainties stemming from the coronavirus could send tax revenues into a tailspin.

State and local public health agencies have been on the front lines of the response, monitoring and testing those suspected of having the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease. Costs are mounting for staff time and medical supplies.

But states also are bracing for a potential ripple effect on their revenues. The cancellation of major sporting and entertainment events could mean less tax revenue from tourists and local residents. Directives to work and study at home instead of at offices, schools and colleges could mean less revenue from fuel taxes and public transit fares.

And if some employees can't go to work, that could put a damper on state income and withholding taxes while driving up spending for public welfare programs such as unemployment insurance and state Medicaid health care programs. —Associated Press

10:46 am: Cuomo calls on Trump to mobilize military

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is calling on President Donald Trump to mobilize federal troops and localize testing to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.
"Every country affected by this crisis has handled it on a national basis. The United States has not," Cuomo wrote in The New York Times. "State and local governments alone simply do not have the capacity or resources to do what is necessary, and we don't want a patchwork quilt of policies."
Cuomo urged the administration to allow states to certify a wide range of testing labs, as well as federalize shutdowns across the country. He also pointed to the "imminent failure of hospital systems" as cases mount and argued that the Army Corps of Engineers should serve as temporary medical centers.

"We believe the use of active duty Army Corps personnel would not violate federal law because this is a national disaster," Cuomo wrote. "Doing so still won't provide enough intensive care beds, but it is our best hope." —Emma Newburger

10:24 am: Mnuchin doesn't expect recession

Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Treasury secretary, speaks during a news conference in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Saturday, March 14, 2020.
Shaw Thew | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is confident the U.S. economy will weather the downturn from the coronavirus outbreak, noting he does not expect a recession.

"Later in the year, obviously the economic activity will pick up as we confront this virus," Mnuchin said Sunday on ABC. He also told Fox News Sunday he expects a "big rebound later this year."

However, not everyone is as confident as Mnuchin that the economy will ride out the coronavirus outbreak.
Alan Blinder, an economist and former Federal Reserve vice chairman, told CNBC last week that the economy is probably already in a recession.

Gary Cohn, former National Economic Council director, also thinks the U.S. is already in a recession. —Fred Imbert

10:14 am: 'This is the equivalent of a war,' de Blasio says

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called on the U.S. federal government to "wake up" and speed up coronavirus testing capacity and work with places in the country that urgently need more supplies like ventilators, surgical masks and hand sanitizer.

"If the federal government doesn't realize this is the equivalent of a war already, there's no way that the states and localities can make all the adjustments we need to," he said on CNN's "State of the Union." "We are all on our own in so many ways."
The mayor is under pressure to order the closure of restaurants, bars and public schools in New York City to combat the spread of the virus. Gatherings of more than 500 people have been banned, but restaurants and bars can stay open at half the maximum capacity. — Emma Newburger

10:00 am: Americans returning from abroad face hours-long lines at US airports

Travelers return early from a trip to Paris, France, due to the U.S. air travel ban at International Arrivals at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California, U.S. March 13, 2020
Kate Munsch | Reuters

Thousands of Americans returning home faced cramped arrivals halls and hours-long waits for the Trump administration's new coronavirus screenings at some of the busiest airports in the country, sparking some worry that it could further the spread of the virus.

Trump last week banned most Europeans from visiting the United States for 30 days in a bid to contain the virus. The unprecedented restrictions created chaos at European airports as Americans raced to get home before airlines canceled flights and European countries take their own drastic measures to fight the illness. 

Returning American citizens and permanent residents would face "enhanced entry screening where the passenger will be asked about their medical history, current condition, and asked for contact information for local health authorities," the Department of Homeland Security said Friday.


Upon arrival in the U.S., however, some travelers waited more than four hours for screening. — Leslie Josephs

9:30 am: Hundreds of thousands could die, Fauci warns

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday that hundreds of thousands of Americans could die from the coronavirus as the number of cases is expected to rise across the U.S.
"We are clearly going to have more infections," he said on CNN's "Face the Nation". "The challenge we have right now is how do we blunt that."
"We have to be realistic and honest. Our job, our challenge is to try and make that not happen. But to think if we go about our daily lives and not worry about anything, that's it's not going to happen --  it could happen. And it could be worse," he said.
While the virus is overwhelmingly affecting elderly people and those with underlying health conditions, Fauci warned that younger people could get ill and spread the virus to people who are more vulnerable. He also hinted that hot spots in the U.S. should consider closing still crowded bars and restaurants.
"I would like to see a dramatic diminution of the personal interaction we see in restaurants and in bars," he said. "There are going to be people who are young who are going to wind up getting seriously ill."
Public health officials are urging "social distancing" to contain the spread of the virus in the U.S., as the government restricts large gatherings and travel from outside of the country.  —Emma Newburger

8:30 am: Olympics 2020 torch handover behind closed doors in Athens

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games flame handover in Athens next week will be done behind closed doors amid the coronavirus outbreak, the Greek Olympic Committee said.

Greece on Friday cancelled the remainder of the domestic Olympic torch relay through the country to avoid attracting crowds a day after the Tokyo Games flame was lit in ancient  Olympia. —Reuters

8:18 am: American Airlines to suspend nearly all long-haul international flights

American Airlines will start a phased suspension of almost all its long-haul international flights from the U.S. starting Monday, the airline said in a statement. The flights affected include those in Asia Pacific, Europe and South America. 

The latest move will be implemented from March 16 to May 6, and will reduce international capacity by 75% year-on-year, the carrier said. It comes as the U.S. government imposes travel restrictions over the coronavirus outbreak that had already dampened demand. —Reuters

7:23 am: Nike is closing all of its stores in the US

A tourist wears a protective mask as she carries her suitcases past a closed Nike store at Las Ramblas on March 15, 2020 in Barcelona, Spain.
David Ramos | Getty Images

Nike is closing all of its stores in the U.S., along with other parts of the world, to try to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, the company said Sunday morning.

Its locations across the U.S., Canada, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand will close from Monday through March 27, the company said. —Lauren Thomas

7:12 am: Health official says Iran's death toll at 724

Alireza Vahabzadeh, an advisor to Iran's health minister, has reportedly said the new coronavirus has killed a further 113 people in the last 24 hours.

The death toll now stands at 724 with total infections at 13,938, according to Reuters. — Matt Clinch

3:23 am: Pope's Easter services to be held without faithful attending: Vatican

Pope Francis' Easter services in April will be held without any faithful in attendance in an effort to limit coronavirus spread, the Vatican said Sunday.

The pope's weekly Sunday blessings will continue to be held over the internet and television until April 12, the Vatican said on its official website. The Easter services typically attract tens of thousands of attendants to Rome and the Vatican.   

2:50 am: South Korea declares disaster zones in areas hard hit by virus

South Korean President Moon Jae-in declared the country's hardest-hit areas from the coronavirus as "disaster zones" on Sunday, announcing 76 new cases and three deaths in what was a decrease in new cases to double-digits for the first time in three weeks, Reuters reported. 

The declaration was the first to happen in South Korea under the context of a disease, and allows the government to subsidize up to half of restoration expenses and clears residents of their requirement to pay taxes and utility bills. The country has 8,162 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus and 75 deaths, the highest in Asia after China.

1:48 am: Wife of Spanish prime minister tests positive

The wife of Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez has tested positive for the new coronavirus, Reuters reported citing the PM's office. Both Sanchez and his wife, Begona Gomez, are doing fine, the news agency said.

The news comes as Spain imposed a 15-day nationwide lockdown that began on Saturday as part of emergency measures to contain the spread of the virus, which has infected at least 6,391 people in the country so far, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University. Spain now has the second highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Europe, after Italy. —Joanna Tan

1:14 am: Australia to impose 2-week self-quarantine on anyone arriving from overseas 

Australia will impose a two-week quarantine requirement for anyone arriving from overseas, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Sunday. The new measures, taken as the country battles to contain the highly contagious coronavirus, will take effect from midnight. "All people coming to Australia will be required — will be required, I stress — to self-isolate for 14 days," he said.

In addition, the country will be barring all cruise ships from foreign ports for an initial 30 days before further decisions are made, he said.

There were 249 confirmed cases, including 3 deaths, in Australia as of 10:30 a.m. local time on Sunday, the health ministry said in its latest update. —Joanna Tan