While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, March 19

Coronavirus: US suspending visa services worldwide

The United States is suspending all routine visa services as of Wednesday in most countries worldwide due to the coronavirus outbreak, a spokeswoman for the State Department said, an unprecedented move that will potentially impact hundreds of thousands of people.

The Department did not say which or how many countries are halting services but US missions in more than half a dozen countries including South Korea, South Africa, Germany and Spain on their web sites announced that they were either stopping or significantly reducing services.

“Embassies and consulates in these countries will cancel all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments as of March 18, 2020,” the spokeswoman said.

The State Department spokeswoman said US missions abroad will continue to provide emergency visa services “as resources allow,” and that the services to US citizens will remain available.


Trump says he will invoke wartime act to fight ‘enemy’ coronavirus

US President Donald Trump moved on Wednesday to accelerate production of desperately needed medical equipment to battle the coronavirus pandemic and said an estimate that US unemployment could conceivably reach 20 per cent was a worst case scenario.

Scrambling to address the virus after initially down playing it, Trump said he is invoking the Defence Production Act, putting in place a law that will allow the US government to speed production of masks, respirators, ventilators and other equipment needs.

“We’re going to defeat the invisible enemy,” said Trump, who said the unfolding crisis had basically made him a “war-time president”.


Coronavirus: Italy reports 475 new deaths, highest one-day toll of any nation

Italy on Wednesday reported 475 new deaths from the novel coronavirus, the highest one-day official toll of any nation since the first case was detected in China late last year.

Total deaths in Italy have reached 2,978, more than half of all the cases recorded outside China, while the number of infections stood at 35,713.

The previous record high of 368 deaths was also recorded in Italy, on Sunday.


Passenger numbers down more than 60% and falling at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport

Passenger traffic has slumped more than 60 per cent at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, Europe’s fourth-largest flight hub, as the coronavirus epidemic shuts down much of the global airline industry.

KLM, the Dutch arm of Air France KLM, has scrapped most of its flights out of its hub in the Netherlands and announced job cuts in response to declining business .

“The number of travellers at Schiphol has now fallen by more than 60 per cent and the number of flights is also falling sharply,” the airport said in a statement on Wednesday.


Dow falls 6.3% in latest US stocks rout

Wall Street stocks plunged again on Wednesday as the economic toll from the coronavirus mounts and analysts warn of a deep recession.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled 6.3 per cent, or more than 1,300 points, to close the day at 19,898.92, its first close below 20,000 since 2017.

The broad-based S&P 500 dropped 5.2 per cent to finish at 2,398.10, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index tumbled 4.7 per cent to 6,989.84.


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