A view of an empty street, in Rome, Saturday, March 21, 2020. Mayors of many towns in Italy are asking for ever more stringent…
A view of an empty street, in Rome, March 21, 2020. Mayors of many towns in Italy are asking for ever more stringent measures on citizens' movements to help contain the surging infections of the coronavirus.

Italy has closed all nonessential businesses after its coronavirus death toll rose Saturday by 793 to 4,825.

Gaza reported its first two cases of the coronavirus Saturday. Officials say the two, who entered Gaza through Egypt, are in quarantine.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, have both tested negative for the coronavirus, the vice president’s office announced Saturday. The Pences were tested after it was disclosed that someone in Vice President Pence’s office had tested positive for the virus.

US approves rapid test

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted an emergency authorization to Cepheid, a U.S. company that makes the rapid coronavirus tests.

The tests, which produce results in 45 minutes, initially will be made available to hospital and emergency rooms, and then to “patient care settings” such as doctor's offices. The company plans to begin selling the tests at the end of March.

Millions of Americans were under orders Saturday from their state and local governments to stay home, venturing out only for essential needs, including trips to pharmacies, supermarkets and gas stations, and for solo exercise.

California, New York and New Jersey ordered residents to stay home to help stop the spread of COVID-19, a disease that claims more victims every day. Illinois residents joined in the stay-at-home strategy Saturday afternoon, and officials in Connecticut and Oregon have indicated they soon will impose similar restrictions.

With more than 22,000 confirmed cases in the U.S., at least 20% of the U.S. population will be under orders to remain at home by the end of the weekend, a percentage that is expected to climb.

This long exposure photo shows an empty street near Paris' Pantheon square, March 21, 2020. President Emmanuel Macron said that for 15 days starting at noon Tuesday, people will be allowed to leave the place they live only for necessary activities.

As the global fight against the virus continues, infections continue to multiply worldwide.

Restrictions in the U.S. have triggered job layoffs and have forced school closures and cancellations of worship services, weddings, sporting and other events.

Millions of U.S. front-line medical and emergency workers find themselves ill-equipped for the fight. They lack adequate supplies of masks and ventilators that not only protect them but also patients. Also lacking are supplies of test kits to determine who has confounding virus, as the government has been slow to act.   

On Saturday evening, the global count of infected cases was more than 304,000, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

Spike in Italy

Europe is now the epicenter of the outbreak as the virus continues to spread. New cases in China, where the outbreak began, have started to decline.

Italy reported the largest one-day spike in virus-related deaths of any country since the outbreak began in December. With more than 53,000 confirmed cases, Italy has more than any other country except China, which had more than 81,300 cases, according to Hopkins.

Italy, the epicenter of Europe’s outbreak, has prohibited all residents from going outdoors except for essential purposes and has closed all parks.

A woman wearing a protective face mask feeds birds in Las Ramblas of Barcelona, Spain, March 21, 2020. For some people the novel coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, but for some it causes severe illness.

Spain, the third-hardest-hit country, also reported its biggest single-day death toll Saturday, with 324 new cases, raising the total to 1,375.

Spanish officials warned Friday that the situation could soon overcome the country’s health care system. They announced plans to turn a Madrid conference center into a makeshift hospital. Earlier this week, a four-star inn in Madrid was converted into a hospital.

Temporary hospitals in Germany

Germany, another hard-hit country, was trying to increase the number of intensive care beds, which now total 28,000, by establishing temporary hospitals in hotels, rehabilitation clinics and other facilities. There were more than 22,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany on Saturday. Officials there said the coronavirus could strike as many as 10 million Germans unless proper precautions were taken, including social distancing.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has shut down dining establishments, bars and other leisure businesses.

Singapore and the United Arab Emirates both reported two deaths Saturday, their first confirmed fatalities. Finland and Mauritius also reported their first virus-related deaths Saturday.

The South Korea Centers for Disease Control reported 147 new cases of the virus Saturday. The Asian nation had 8,799 infections and 102 deaths attributed to the virus, according to Hopkins.

Cuban doctors and medical professionals who will depart for Italy to assist with the pandemic in the country pose for photographers with a photo of Fidel Castro and flags of Italy and Cuba, in Havana, Cuba, March 21, 2020.

Cuba, whose economy depends heavily on tourism, said Friday that it will not allow any foreign tourists to enter the country, beginning Tuesday.  The ban will be in effect for 30 days.

The drastic measure was being initiated in an effort to prevent any more COVID-19 cases, President Miguel Diaz-Canel said on state television. Cuba has reported 21 cases of the coronavirus and one death.

Financial damage

The pandemic continued to inflict financial and economic damage on world economies and their citizens throughout the week.

U.S. stock markets ended their worst week since the 2008 financial crisis, with the widely watched Dow Jones industrial average closing Friday at 19,174, essentially the same level at which it closed the day before President Donald Trump was inaugurated.

A Wall Street Journal survey of 34 economists revealed that up to 5 million U.S. jobs could be lost this year alone, and that a recession was nearly certain.

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