Health and Science

Spain's cases surpass 11,000; Iran temporarily frees 85,000 prisoners

Key Points
  • Hong Kong will put all visitors under quarantine starting midnight on March 19 to prevent further spread of the new coronavirus, chief executive Carrie Lam said at a press briefing. 
  • China's National Health Commission said as of Monday, there were 21 new confirmed cases. Of those, 20 of them were attributed to travelers from overseas.
  • The total number of cases in China stands at 80,881, of which 68,679 were cured and 3,226 people died.
  • Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said late Monday that the country will close its borders to travelers, shut schools and most businesses from Wednesday until March 31.
Members of the medical team spray disinfectant to sanitize outdoor place of Imam Reza's holy shrine, following the coronavirus outbreak, in Mashhad, Iran February 27, 2020.

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 U.S. team.

  • Global cases: At least 168,019, according to the latest figures from the World Health Organization
  • Global deaths: At least 6,610, according to the latest figures from the WHO

All times below are in Beijing time.

6:18 pm: German investor morale collapses amid coronavirus, economy on 'red alert'

German investor morale declined sharply in March to levels last seen in the 2008 financial crisis due to alarm at the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, a cloesly-watched survey by the country's ZEW research institute showed Tuesday.

In March, the ZEW Indicator of Economic Sentiment for Germany plunged by 58.2 points to minus 49.5 points — the largest drop since the survey was started in December 1991 — and down from 8.7 in February.

"The economy is on red alert," said ZEW President Achim Wambach in a statement, adding that financial experts expect the economy to shrink in the first quarter and think a contraction is also very likely in the second quarter. — Ellyatt

6:01 pm:  Spain's coronavirus cases rise above 11,000, death toll rises to 491

The number of coronavirus cases in Spain reached 11,178 on Tuesday and the number of deaths has risen to 491, said Fernando Simon, the head of the country's health emergency center. The number of cases is up from a previous tally of 9,161 on Monday. — Ellyatt

5:58 pm: Iran's coronavirus death toll rises to 998

Iran's death toll from the new coronavirus has increased to 988, with 135 new deaths in the past 24 hours, a health ministry spokesman told state TV on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

"The death toll is 988 ... with 1,178 new infected people in the past 24 hours, now the total number of infected cases is 16,169 across the country," said Kianush Jahanpur. He said 5,389 people infected with the virus have recovered. — Ellyatt

5:20 pm: Iran has temporarily freed 85,000 prisoners, including political ones

Iran has temporarily freed about 85,000 prisoners, including political prisoners, a spokesman for its judiciary said on Tuesday, Reuters reported, as it reacts to the coronavirus epidemic in the country.

"Some 50% of those released are security-related prisoners ... Also in the jails we have taken precautionary measures to confront the outbreak," Gholamhossein Esmaili said.

Iran has one of the worst outbreaks outside China, where the virus originated. Its death toll has reached 853 and a total of 14,991 people have been confirmed to have the virus. Esmaili did not elaborate on when those released would have to return to jail. — Ellyatt

5:15 pm:  Macron warns 'we are at war' as France unveils $50 billion in coronavirus measures

France will spend 45 billion euros ($50 billion) to help small businesses and employees struggling with the coronavirus outbreak, the country's finance minister announced Tuesday, after President Emmanuel Macron declared "we are at war" against the virus.

Speaking in a televised address late Monday, Macron told the French people they are only allowed outside their houses for essential trips, such as to buy food and medicines, for a period of two weeks. — Amaro

4:32 pm: VW to halt European car production for two weeks

Car giant VW is to suspend production at its plants in Europe amid the coronavirus outbreak. 

Production will be halted at Spanish plants, in Setubal in Portugal, Bratislava in Slovakia and at the Lamborghini and Ducati plants in Italy before the end of this week, VW's chief executive said, Reuters reported.

Most of the other German and European plants will begin preparing to suspend production, probably for two to three weeks, VW said.


By contrast, production in China has been resumed with the exception of the VW factories in Changsha and Urumqi.

Earlier, reporting full year results, VW said the coronavirus made giving an outlook for 2020 impossible. It unveiled a rise in full-year operating profit.

"The spread of coronavirus is currently impacting the global economy. It is uncertain how severely or for how long this will also affect the Volkswagen Group. Currently, it is almost impossible to make a reliable forecast," Chief Financial Officer Frank Witter said in a statement. — Ellyatt

4:22 pm: European markets open higher despite coronavirus crisis

European markets opened higher Tuesday with the fast-spreading coronavirus putting the continent in shutdown mode and fueling fears of an impending recession.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 climbed 2.7% at the start of trading, autos adding 5% to lead gains as all sectors except travel and leisure entered positive territory. — Ellyatt

4:00 pm: Airbus to temporarily stop production at plants in France and Spain 

Airbus announced Tuesday it would stop production and assembly activities at its plants in France and Spain for the next four days.

"This will allow sufficient time to implement stringent health and safety conditions in terms of hygiene, cleaning and self-distancing, while improving the efficiency of operations under the new working conditions," Airbus said in a statement. — Ellyatt

3:20 pm: Stocks in Australia surge almost 6% with Asia markets mixed

Stocks in Australia led gains among the region's major markets as they attempted to recover from the plunge a day earlier. The S&P/ASX 200 closed 5.83% higher on Tuesday at 5,293.40 after plummeting nearly 10% on Monday.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 closed slightly higher at 17,011.53. The Topix index surged 2.6% to end its trading day at 1,268.46.

Meanwhile, shares in mainland China ended their trading day lower. The Shanghai composite slipped 0.34% to around 2,779.64 while the Shenzhen composite edged 0.425% lower to approximately 1,704.74.

South Korea's Kospi, on the other hand, closed 2.47% lower at 1,672.44. — Eustance Huang

2:05 pm: Maldives could lose as much as $446 million in government revenue this year

Maldives' Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid told CNBC's "Street Signs" that the island-state, which relies heavily on tourism, is already feeling the effects of the global pandemic.

In the first ten days of March, tourist arrivals to Maldives fell 22% and by the end of the year, that could extend to a 35% decline, he said. The decline would also affect the island-state's foreign currency earnings. "If current decline in tourist arrivals hold, we're looking at a shortfall in government revenue between $140 million to $446 million this year alone," the minister said.

At the moment, Maldives has 13 confirmed cases of COVID-19, all of them foreigners. The government's target is to try and contain the virus as much as possible to limit its spread to the local population. "If COVID-19 hits the local population, the epidemiological predictions show that we would have 60% to 80% of the population infected. That is without any interventions," Shahid said. While the government is trying to reduce that prediction by 30% to 40%, the minister pointed out even then the country's medical facilities may not be enough to cope with the severely affected cases. — Saheli Roy Choudhury

Coronavirus outbreak could have serious consequences for Maldives' local population
Coronavirus outbreak could have serious consequences for Maldives' local population

2:00 pm: The virus outbreak is a 'different kind of crisis,' says Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz

Aggressive policy action by the Federal Reserve is "obviously not" enough to help the U.S. avert a downturn caused by the coronavirus outbreak, said Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics.

"Given the nature of the uncertainties, given the nature of the collapsing incomes of so many people, it can help stabilize financial markets at best and it's clear that it didn't do that," Stiglitz told CNBC on Tuesday.

On Sunday, the Fed slashed interest rates to near-zero and announced a $750 billion asset-purchasing program to shelter the economy from the impact of the virus. Despite that, the markets crashed Monday — with the Dow suffering its worst day since the "Black Monday" market crash in 1987 and its third-worst day ever. — Huileng Tan

1:10 pm: New Zealand announces $7.26 billion stimulus package 

New Zealand's government has announced a stimulus package worth 12 billion New Zealand dollars ($7.26 billion) to soften the economic hits from the coronavirus outbreak, reported Reuters. 

The amount is equivalent to around 4% of New Zealand's gross domestic product and larger than what the country implemented during the global financial crisis, according to the report.

Measures in the package include wage subsidies, tax cuts and support for the aviation industry that has been hit hard by reduced travel demand and travel restrictions globally, Reuters reported. — Yen Nee Lee

12:50 pm: Microsoft closes retail stores

Microsoft said it has closed down all of its retail stores in response to the coronavirus outbreak globally.

The U.S. technology giant is keeping its online store open.

"With today's recommendation from the United States government to not socially gather in groups of more than 10 people, we will be temporarily closing Microsoft Store locations — effective immediately," the company said in a statement.

Microsoft has 82 retail locations globally with the majority of them in the U.S.

Apple announced recently it was closing down all of its retail locations outside of the greater China region until March 27. — Arjun Kharpal

12:30 pm: The virus outbreak is spurring remote hiring. Here's how to nail your job interview from afar

Tech giants GoogleAmazon and Facebook, as well as recruiters PageGroup and Robert Walters, are among the global companies to announce a move to online job interviews for the duration of the outbreak. Video conferencing apps, including WeChat Work, Zoom and Slack, have risen nearly fivefold since the start of the year.

"In an effort to reduce some of the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on their businesses, companies are turning to technology to maintain business continuity during this time of uncertainty," Glassdoor's community manager, Jo Cresswell, told CNBC Make It

CNBC Make It spoke to the the experts from Glassdoor and Modern Hire to find out their top tips for getting the virtual job interview right. — Karen Gilchrist

11:45 am: Ohio primary polls to be ordered closed due to 'unacceptable health risk,' governor says

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said the state's primary polls will be ordered closed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Republican governor said in a statement, "During this time when we face an unprecedented public health crisis, to conduct an election tomorrow would force poll workers and voters to place themselves at an unacceptable health risk of contracting coronavirus."

DeWine said Amy Acton, director of the state's health department, will order the polls closed as a health emergency. He also said Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose will pursue voting options through the courts.

Ohio was one of the four states scheduled to hold presidential primaries on Tuesday. Illinois, another state expected to vote Tuesday, said in an earlier Monday statement that it was "proceeding with plans for tomorrow's primary as scheduled." — Christine Wang

10:50 am: Hong Kong will start quarantining everyone who visits from outside the city

Hong Kong will put all visitors under quarantine starting midnight on March 19 to prevent further spread of the new coronavirus, chief executive Carrie Lam said at a press briefing. 

The government told Hong Kong residents to avoid all non-essential travel. 

As of Monday, Hong Kong, which is one of Asia's major financial hubs, has confirmed 157 cases and four deaths in the city. — Saheli Roy Choudhury

10:45 am: Absent 'clear directives' from Trump, US state and city leaders take aggressive actions to contain virus

State and city leaders across America took aggressive action Monday to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, closing restaurants and movie theaters, telling residents to shelter in place, ordering people not to stand too close and urging residents against leaving their home state.

Without meaningful federal intervention, local leaders adopted what New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called a "hodgepodge" of actions across the nation to contain the outbreak, which has spread from roughly 100 U.S. cases on March 1 to more than 4,200 people across nearly every state by Monday. More than 70 people in the U.S. have already died from the new coronavirus, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Across the globe, COVID-19 has infected more than 181,000 people and killed more than 7,100 of them. — Dawn Kopecki, William Feuer, Noah Higgins-Dunn and Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

10:00 am: Nordstrom closes US, Canada stores for 2 weeks

Fashion retailer Nordstrom said in a statement it will close its stores in the U.S. and Canada for two weeks starting Tuesday due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Seattle-based company said it will provide pay and benefits for its store employees during this period. It added that its app and online platforms remain open to customers. — Yen Nee Lee

9:45 am: At least 5 Amazon warehouse workers in Europe test positive for the coronavirus

At least five workers at Amazon warehouses in Europe have tested positive for the coronavirus, the company confirmed to CNBC. 

The cases are at warehouses in Spain and Italy, two areas that have been hit hard in the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus. The facilities will remain open, despite Italy instituting a nationwide lockdown and Spain declaring a state of emergency.

An Amazon spokesperson said the "vast majority" of its employees around the world continue to come to work and it has stepped up safety measures at fulfillment centers to protect against the virus. The company is following all guidance from health officials related to operating its buildings, the spokesperson added. — Annie Palmer

9:15 am: South Korea reports 84 new cases, 6 additional deaths

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported an additional 84 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the country's total to 8,320.

There were six additional deaths, with the total number of fatalities now at 81, according to KCDC. — Yen Nee Lee

8:50 am: Qantas Group slashes international capacity by 90%

Australia's Qantas Group, which operates airlines Qantas and Jetstar, said it will cut its international and domestic capacities as a result of "significant falls in travel demand" due to the new coronavirus outbreak.

The company said in a statement it will slash its total international capacity by around 90% in phases from the end of March until at least the end of May this year, while reducing domestic capacity by around 60% over the same period.

"This represents the grounding of around 150 aircraft," the statement read. — Yen Nee Lee

8:25 am: Philippines suspends stock market operations indefinitely

The Philippine Stock Exchange has suspended trading starting Tuesday "to ensure the safety of employees and traders in light of the escalating cases of the coronavirus disease," it said in a Monday statement.

The closure is part of a broader one-month quarantine that President Rodrigo Duterte announced on the main island of Luzon. The quarantine involve the shutting down of transport networks and limiting business operations, Reuters reported.

The country has reported 142 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Monday noon, according to its Department of Health. The Philippine benchmark index fell by 7.91% at Monday's close. — Yen Nee Lee

7:50 am: China reports 21 new cases, 13 additional deaths

China's National Health Commission said as of Monday there were 21 new confirmed cases. Of those, 20 of them were attributed to travelers from overseas, bringing the total number of imported cases to 143. Another 13 people have died, 12 of them in Hubei province where the infection was first detected.

The total number of cases in China stands at 80,881, of which 68,679 were cured and 3,226 people died. — Yen Nee Lee

7:40 am: Malaysia closes borders, schools and businesses

Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said late Monday that the country will close its borders to travelers, shut schools and most businesses from Wednesday until March 31.

The announcement came after Malaysia reported an additional 125 coronavirus cases to bring its total to 553, the highest number in Southeast Asia. Of those, 42 have recovered. Malaysia hasn't reported any deaths.

In a televised speech, Muhyiddin announced the closure of all schools and universities, as well as ordering most public and private enterprises to shut — except supermarkets, grocery stores and those providing "essential services" such as airports and defense.

Foreigners will not be allowed into the country and Malaysian residents will not be allowed to leave, said the prime minister. — Yen Nee Lee

All times below are in Eastern time.

7:12 pm: Stock market leaders unite against calls to stop trading, saying it would only compound anxiety

The country may be prepared to shut its schools, concerts, sporting events, shops, and even bars and restaurants, but one industry that is deeply resistant to shutting down is Wall Street.

 "It is important for the markets to remain open, and for them to function in a fair and orderly manner, as they have been," Stacey Cunningham, New York Stock Exchange president, tweeted out this afternoon.

She's not alone. The directive to keep open the markets goes as high as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. "We intend to keep the markets open," he said Friday on CNBC. "That's a sign of confidence to people. There are people who want to come in and buy. We want to have markets open." —Bob Pisani

4:02 pm: Dow closes nearly 3,000 points lower

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended trading nearly 3,000 points lower, marking the worst day since the 1987 financial crisis. Major stock averages extended losses late in the session after President Donald Trump said the coronavirus crisis in the U.S. could extend into August. He also told reporters the U.S. "may be" heading into a recession. —Sara Salinas, Fred Imbert

Read CNBC's coverage from the U.S. overnight: Telemedicine system crashes, Trump issues 'coronavirus guidelines,' SF and France order 'stay home'

— CNBC's Bob Pisani, Sara Salinas and Fred Imbert contributed to this report.