U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter Friday morning that there will soon be COVID testing "on a very large scale basis." He added that "All the Red Tape has been cut," but he did not give any details or indication about when or how the testing would begin.
.... Their response to H1N1 Swine Flu was a full scale disaster, with thousands dying, and nothing meaningful done to fix the testing problem, until now. The changes have been made and testing will soon happen on a very large scale basis. All Red Tape has been cut, ready to go!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2020
He said the Centers for Disease Control had "looked at, and studied, its testing system, but did nothing about It." He added that "President Obama made changes that only complicated things further." Trump did not provide any evidence about the changes he attributed to his predecessor.
Fewer infections in China
Earlier Friday, China reported just eight new COVID-19 infections Friday.
It is an astonishing turnaround for China where thousands of new infections have been recorded in one day.
The virus first emerged in China's Wuhan province late last year.
The single-digit increase of new cases does not mean, however, that the virus is on its way out of the Asian nation. There are still thousands of Chinese who remain infected with the virus that has spread across the world.
China state media reported that Chinese President Xi Jinping told U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a telephone conversation Thursday that China will "carry on its prevention and control efforts in an unrelenting, solid and meticulous fashion."
In addition, Xinhua reported the president said China is ready to share its experiences with the virus with other countries and conduct joint drug and vaccine research and development.
Life upside down
There are now more than 134,000 coronavirus cases in 127 countries and territories – a tiny number out of a global population of 7 billion.
But the pandemic is turning life upside down and inside out for nearly every man, woman, and child.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi late Thursday emerged from a meeting with lawmakers about coronavirus response legislation. She said she expected the politicians would make an announcement Friday about measures they had agreed upon that would help Americans deal with the upheaval the virus has caused in their daily lives.
Few in the United States have avoided being affected by the coronavirus outbreak in some way, including the president.
Brazilian communication secretary Fabio Wajngarten tested positive for the virus, days after he met with President Trump at his Mar-a-Lago estate. The White House said the president has not been tested, and Trump said Thursday he is "not concerned" even though he sat next to Wajngarten for a some time.
Brazilian officials say doctors there have tested and are keeping a close watch on President Jair Bolsonaro.
The wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has tested positive for the virus, Canada announced late Thursday. The couple went into isolation Wednesday after she showed mild symptoms after returning from a speaking engagement in London.
NY state of emergency
The largest city in the United States declared a state of emergency Thursday over what its mayor calls "striking and troubling" developments in the coronavirus pandemic.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said there were 95 confirmed cases in the city Thursday, but said there could be up to 1,000 next week.
"Going to this level is not done lightly, but it has reached the point where it is necessary," de Blasio said. He warned New Yorkers to be prepared for major job losses, evictions, business closings, and food shortages. Broadway theaters and Lincoln Center have already announced closures, some extending into April.
The mayor said the state of emergency gives city authorities the power to close subways and buses, tell people to get off the streets, set curfews, and ration supplies.
But de Blasio was annoyed by rumors flying across social media that he was planning to shut down New York City and order a quarantine.
"If it's not coming from my mouth, don't believe it," he stressed.
Maryland, Ohio close schools
Maryland and Ohio are the first states to close down all public schools, forcing parents to scramble to find day care or a way to work from home.
California's Disneyland calls itself "The Happiest Place on Earth." It will soon look like the loneliest place on Earth. The theme park will be closed for the rest of the month starting Saturday. Disney World in Florida is also closing through March.
Congress is closing the Capitol and all House and Senate offices to the public, at least until April.
The acting secretary of Homeland Security praised two cruise lines late Thursday for ceasing operations for several weeks in the wake of the virus outbreak. "I commend Princess Cruises and Viking Cruises for initiating a voluntary pause in their operations to protect the health and safety of their passengers, crew, and countries they visit," Chad Wolf said in a statement. "I encourage others in the industry to follow their lead until appropriate safety measure are put in place." Viking has suspended operations until May 1, while Princess is pausing until May 10.
Sporting events canceled
Major league basketball, soccer and hockey seasons are halted indefinitely, frustrating millions of fans with tickets to the big games. Baseball is postponing its March 26 opening day for two weeks. The remainder of baseball's spring training schedule has been called off.
College basketball's highly-anticipated annual tournament has also been canceled with many campuses shutting down and students taking classes remotely.
Belgium, France, Honduras, Ireland, Portugal, and Canada's Ontario province are the latest national governments to shut down all schools.
India has ordered some of the toughest travel restrictions so far, suspending visas for all tourists and foreigners for one month starting Friday.
El Salvador has banned entry to all foreigners, while neighboring Guatemala issued its own ban on those traveling from Europe, Iran, China, and the Koreas.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday that Americans returning from Europe must self-quarantine for 14 days to help prevent more cases.
Iran is asking for a $5 billion emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund. Officials report more than 10,000 confirmed cases with 429 deaths Thursday.
Iranian global health scholar Kamair Alaei tells VOA Persian he believes the actual number is 40,000.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has appealed to U.N. Secretary-General Gutteres to demand international support for an end to U.S. sanctions, saying they are hurting Iranian efforts to fight the disease.
Zarif calls the sanctions "economic terrorism."
"We are stymied in our efforts to identify and treat our [patients in combating the spread of the virus and ultimately in defeating it," Zarif wrote in a letter to Guterres. He called, Iranian doctors and nurses "among the very finest in the world."
UN correspondent Margaret Besheer in New York, VOA Persian’s Farhad Pouladi and Arian Risbaf contributed to this report.