Iran frees prisoners; Macron says ‘we are at war’

A man in a surgical mask walks through Manhattan’s Broadway Theatre district after Broadway shows announced they will cancel performances due to the coronavirus outbreak in Manhattan, New York City, New York, U.S., March 12, 2020.

Andrew Kelly | REUTERS

This is CNBC’s live blog covering all the latest news on the coronavirus outbreak. All times below are in Eastern time. This blog will be updated throughout the day as the news breaks. 

  • Global cases: More than 183,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.
  • Global deaths: At least 7,167, according to Johns Hopkins University.
  • U.S. cases: At least 4,661, according to Johns Hopkins University.
  • U.S. deaths: At least 85, according to Johns Hopkins University.

8:18 am: Former Obama health official says you should be able to test yourself ‘in the comfort of your own quarantined home’

There’s still a major shortage of testing capacity in the U.S., Dr. Kavita Patel, a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institute, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” Patel, who served as director of policy for the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement under Obama, said that even hospitals that have test kits in supply, are running out of the necessary reagents or other supplies like cotton swabs and specific chemicals. She said there’s no reason an at-home test could not be developed and made available to Americans across the country. “A test kit, just like anything else in our lives these days, can come to you even in the same day,” she said. “Doing it in the comfort of your own quarantined home makes a lot of sense.” —Will Feuer

7:53 am: Nordstrom to close all of its stores in the US

Nordstrom is temporarily closing all of its stores due to COVID-19. The retailer has also withdrawn its 2020 earnings outlook. Nordstrom said it has experienced “a broad-based deceleration in customer demand over the past couple of weeks, particularly in markets most affected by the virus.” 

The Seattle-based chain will close all of its locations, including its off-price division Nordstrom Rack, in the U.S. and Canada beginning Tuesday, for two weeks. Nordstrom said it will continue to offer pay and benefits to store workers at this time. —Lauren Thomas

7:15 am: Antibody treatment could be ready for human testing by early summer

A researcher working with Doctor Paul McKay (unseen), who is working on an vaccine for the 2019-nCoV strain of the novel coronavirus, uses a pipette controller to express coronavirus onto surface protein to apply cell cultures, in a research lab at Imperial College School of Medicine (ICSM) in London on February 10, 2020.

Tolga Akmen | AFP | Getty Images

Biotech giant Regeneron said it aims to have doses of a potential drug for COVID-19 ready to start human clinical trials by early summer. The approach involves creating antibodies to the virus that could be used to treat the disease and to prevent it, Regeneron said in a statement. 

The company had previously said it aimed to have hundreds of thousands of doses ready for human testing in late summer, so the new goal is a significant acceleration. Regeneron said it plans to start large-scale manufacturing by the middle of next month and still plans to ramp up to hundreds of thousands of preventive doses a month by the end of summer. —Meg Tirrell

7:10 am: Spain’s cases surpass 10,000, death toll rises

The total number of confirmed cases in Spain surpassed 10,000 on Tuesday and the number of fatalities rose to 491, said Fernando Simon, the head of the country’s health emergency center. He said the number of cases rose to 11,178, up from a previous tally of 9,161 cases on Monday. —Reuters

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

A citizen wears a medical mask as a precaution against coronavirus (COVID-19) on March 01, 2020 in Tehran, Iran.

Anadolu Agency

Iran has temporarily freed about 85,000 prisoners, including political prisoners, a spokesman for its judiciary said, according to Reuters, 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. —Holly Ellyatt

5:15 am: Macron warns ‘we are at war’ as France unveils $50 billion in coronavirus measures

French President Emmanuel Macron is seen on a television screen as he speaks during a televised address to the nation on the outbreak of COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus, on March 16, 2020, in Paris.


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

Car giant Volkswagen is suspending production at its plants in Europe. 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, Volkswagen’s CEO said, Reuters reported. Most of the other German and European plants will begin preparing to suspend production, probably for two to three weeks, Volkswagen said.

By contrast, production in China has resumed with the exception of the VW factories in Changsha and Urumqi. Earlier, reporting full year results, Volkswagen 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. —Holly Ellyatt

Read CNBC’s coverage from CNBC’s Asia-Pacific and Europe teams overnight here: Iran has temporarily freed 85,000 prisoners, including political ones

Reuters and CNBC’s Yen Nee Lee contributed to this report.

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