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Fed Announces Huge Capital Injection to Try to Stabilize Markets

The U.S. central banking system announced moves Thursday to stabilize the global financial system by putting $1.5 trillion into short-term lending markets, and the purchase of $60 billion in Treasury bonds to fuel the bond market.

A Fed statement said the highly unusual moves were made by Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Jerome Powell, who was sharply criticized by President Donald Trump last week for not responding more quickly with financial relief.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is reportedly being tested and monitored for the coronavirus after his communications secretary, Fabio Wajngarten, contracted the virus following their recent meeting with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago estate in the southeastern state of Florida.

"The medical service of the Presidency of the Republic has adopted and is adopting all of the necessary preventive measures to preserve the health of the President of the Republic and the entire presidential committee that accompanied him in the recent trip to the United States," Brazil's presidential press office said in a statement released Thursday.

As he met Thursday with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, Trump said he wasn't concerned about contracting the coronavirus, though he and Wajngarten, "sat next to one another for a period of time."

Another world leader, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, put himself in isolation after his wife showed mild symptoms of the virus late Wednesday. The prime minister's office said Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau began exhibiting flu-like symptoms late Wednesday after returning from a speaking engagement in London.

Travel bans

Governments around the world are responding to the coronavirus pandemic with more and more travel bans as they seek to prevent imported cases, while also avoiding or containing the spread of cases within their borders.

Trump issued a ban late Wednesday on foreign travelers who recently visited Europe's Schengen Area as he gave a televised speech that also highlighted economic measures his administration is taking.

The ban drew criticism from the European Union, which issued a statement hours after Trump's announcement.

"The Coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action," the statement said. "The European Union disapproves of the fact that the U.S. decision to impose a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation."

Democratic leaders also criticized Trump, saying not enough is being done to accelerate testing of potential cases in the United States, and they have offered legislation that includes free testing and paid leave that would encourage people to stay home from work.

India announced one of the most stringent travel restrictions to date by suspending visas for all foreigners for at least one month. The temporary ban, which effectively bans tourism until at least April 15, takes effect Friday.

The Philippine government suspended domestic travel to and from Manila and closed schools in the capital city.

Saudi Arabia added to its travel restrictions by banning both travel to and from a group of nations, including those in the European Union, India, Pakistan, Sudan and Kenya.

Across the globe, El Salvador has banned entry to all foreigners, while neighboring Guatemala issued its own ban on those traveling from Europe, Iran, China, and North and South Korea.

Colombia and Peru are being less strict, requiring only isolation from those who arrive from China, Italy, Spain and France.

Pandemic

The World Health Organization officially called the outbreak a pandemic on Wednesday.

"We must push countries, all of us, to fight as hard as they can to suppress this virus because by doing so, you are saving lives. By doing so, you are buying more time for your hospitals to prepare," said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead at WHO Health Emergencies Program. "So, do everything you can to be as aggressive as you can in these early cases."

WHO data early Thursday put the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases at 124,500 with 4,600 deaths. The virus has reached 118 countries. Some of the newest include Turkey, Bolivia and Jamaica. Cuba has reported its first three cases, all tourists from Italy.

The death toll in Italy exceeded 1,000, and the total number of confirmed cases there is 15,000, according to VOA's Jamie Dettmer.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday that Americans returning from Europe must self-quarantine for 14 days to help prevent more cases, which he said are certain to multiply in the U.S.

"We know there will be thousands of more cases of coronavirus," Pence said on NBC's "Today" show. When asked if millions of new cases could erupt, Pence responded he would "leave it to the experts to make the estimates of how many people will be infected."

Cancellations

The outbreak prompted Ireland to temporarily close schools, universities and child care facilities Thursday after China, Italy, Japan and other countries had previously done so.

In addition to travel bans and the shuttering of schools and other institutions, governments have increasingly turned to restricting public gatherings to go along with advice from public health officials who say such social distancing, along with hand-washing and staying home for those who feel sick, can help stop the virus from spreading.

The U.S. government canceled regularly scheduled public tours of the White House, the Capitol and the Pentagon.

The U.S. state of California said late Wednesday that any gathering of more than 250 people should be canceled, and those in smaller groups should stay about two meters apart.

The National Basketball Association suspended its season indefinitely after a player for the Utah Jazz tested positive for coronavirus. The governing body for collegiate sports in the United States initially said the popular men's and women's basketball championship tournaments would be held with only staff and family members in attendance. The tournaments have since been canceled.

The top soccer league in Spain, La Liga, postponed matches for a minimum of 14 days.

The world figure skating championships set to be held next week in Montreal have also been canceled.

In Australia, the Formula One racing series is set to go ahead with its opening event Sunday, despite several team staff members being held in isolation while they await the results of coronavirus tests.

British driver Lewis Hamilton, who has been the top F1 driver in five of the past six seasons, said Thursday he was "very surprised" the race is still on.

"It seems that the rest of the world is already reacting a little bit late, but you have seen this morning with Trump shutting down the border to Europe to the States, the NBA suspended, yet Formula One continues to go on," Hamilton told reporters.

Bahrain, host of the second race of the season, has already said it would not allow spectators.

Source: Voice of America

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