By The Washington Post · Teo Armus, Rick Noack, Katie Mettler, Marisa Iati, Miriam Berger · NATIONAL, WORLD, HEALTH, CONGRESS
The declaration would allow the administration to utilize the Stafford Act, the federal law that gives FEMA responsibility for coordinating disaster relief efforts, to provide emergency funding to state and local governments.
Concerns about the coronavirus pandemic rippled across the globe, as more events were canceled (including the Masters); schools closed to millions of students; the state of Louisiana delayed its presidential primary until summer; and the Group of Seven leaders planned a virtual crisis conference.
After facing heated, bipartisan criticism over U.S. testing, the Trump administration earlier Friday announced a series of steps to boost the availability of tests and said it would partner with the private sector to set up drive-through testing sites.
The World Health Organization warned that Europe "has now become the epicenter" of the pandemic, and more European Union nations took action - shutting down schools, implementing travel restrictions and passing other emergency measures. Spain declared a national emergency.
"Europe has now become the epicenter of the pandemic, with more reported cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, apart from China," said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. "More cases are now being reported every day than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic."
Meanwhile, Poland, Scotland, Ukraine and Greece each reported their first fatalities Friday. In Greece, the deceased patient was a 66-year-old man who traveled to Israel and Egypt on a religious pilgrimage in late February, Reuters reported.
Ukraine's National Security Council on Friday announced the closure of its borders to foreigners for two weeks, beginning Monday. The only exceptions will be diplomats and those working for U.N. organizations.
Security Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov said Ukrainians will be able to return home, but those returning from nations with a high concentration of coronavirus cases would be placed under observation. Ukraine also said it would bar entry to residents of the eastern Donbass region, which is controlled by separatists in a simmering war with Kyiv.
The European Union in a statement Friday further urged its members to put in place procedures for health screenings at each country's borders, amid worries over the future of the E.U.'s open borders policies.
Alongside reports of more school closures and work-from-home-orders across the continent, the Prince of Wales and the duchess of Cornwall announced that they will postpone a spring tour of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus and Jordan.
Buckingham Palace said Friday that it was also postponing 93-year-old Queen Elizabeth II's upcoming engagements, though she'll continue meeting with the prime minister.
Also Friday, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro announced on social media that he has tested negative for the coronavirus, ending hours of wild speculation that sent political shock waves through both Washington and Latin America's largest country.
Bolsonaro underwent testing after his communications secretary, Fabio Wajngarten, was confirmed to have contracted coronavirus. The pair had traveled to the United States, where Wajngarten had come into close contact with President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
In announcing the test results, Bolsonaro posted a picture of himself giving a vulgar gesture toward reporters, then sought to undermine media outlets that had reported that he had tested positive for the virus.
"DON'T BELIEVE IN THE MEDIA FAKE NEWS," he wrote on Facebook. "THEY ARE THEY WHO NEED YOU."
The confrontational stance was a continuation of Bolsonaro's long-standing antagonism toward the media, which he has repeatedly tried to discredit throughout his presidency, deriding news reports critical of him as untrustworthy.
In the hours before Bolsonaro reported that he didn't have coronavirus, numerous media outlets in Europe, the United States and Brazil published reports that the initial results of his coronavirus tests had been positive, citing Brazilian officials or even the president's son, Eduardo.
Eduardo Bolsonaro, however, is now condemning what he describes as fake news.
"THE PRESS LIES TO DESTROY THE NEW BRAZIL," the president's son tweeted after Bolsonaro announced his test results.
Critics of Bolsonaro, however, perceived something more malevolent in the contours of a very uncertain day.
"Bolsonaro won a campaign of disinformation today," tweeted political scientist Alberto Almeida. "The objective is to discredit the media."
In other developments:
- Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said he tested positive for the virus after attending an event with a Brazilian government aide, who has also tested positive. A top Australian official also tested positive just days after meeting with U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr in Washington.
- Countries across Africa reported more coronavirus cases, with Ethiopia, Kenya, Guinea and Sudan each confirming their first infections.The virus that causes the disease covid-19 has now spread to at least 18 countries in Africa, according to Reuters. The majority of the cases have been among non-Africans traveling to the continent or Africans who have recently traveled abroad.
- The Masters and the Boston Marathon became the latest major international sporting events postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak.Masters officials announced that golf's first major of the year would not start on April 9 as planned and offered no timeline on when it might be rescheduled.
- The most visited museum in the world has temporarily shut its grand doors as a precaution against the spreading coronavirus. The Louvre Museum in Paris said it would close indefinitely starting Friday, following a government directive banning gatherings of more than 100 people. Another popular art museum in Paris, the Musée D'Orsay, also announced its closure on Friday. In a statement on its website, the museum wrote that it "is exceptionally closed. Thank you for your understanding."