Daily Coronavirus updates: US govt promises $1,200 payout to Americans

The coronavirus has spread to 170 countries around the world, and it shows no signs of abating . The pandemic is proving particularly de...

The coronavirus has spread to 170 countries around the world, and it shows no signs of abating. The pandemic is proving particularly devastating in recent weeks, with total confirmed cases crossing 400,000 and fatalities of over 18,923 globally.

The virus has effectively shut down all sporting leagues around the world, major gatherings including tech events and music festivals, and closed down restaurants and malls. It also put a major dent in the airline industry, and is causing panic-buying across the globe, leading to severe food shortages.

The coronavirus has also had a huge impact on the tech industry, affecting the global supply chain and causing interminable product delays. Here's the latest on the coronavirus and how it's affecting the tech industry.

March 26, 2020: U.S. pledges $1,200 in direct checks to Americans,

  • COVID-19 cases see another huge uptick, with nearly 50,000 new infections in the last 24 hours. The virus has now claimed over 21,000 lives, with confirmed cases rising to 472,000.
  • The U.S. Senate has passed a $2 trillion stimulus package, the largest of its kind in American history. According to the bill, Americans earning up to $75,000 will receive $1,200 in direct checks, including an additional $500 per child. Anyone making over $99,000 will not be eligible to receive payment from the government. Joint filers netting under $150,000 will receive $2,400.
  • The U.S. government also set aside $350 billion in loans to small businesses, and $500 billion for a government lending program.

March 25, 2020: U.S. sets up $2 trillion stimulus package, Tokyo Olympics postponed to 2021, 1.3 billion people in India under lockdown

  • Global COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed in the last two days, with over 40,000 new cases in just the last 24 hours alone. Over 423,650 are now affected by the virus, with 18,900 deaths.
  • The White House and U.S. senators came to an agreement over a $2 trillion stimulus plan designed to provide much-needed financial assistance to businesses and American families. This is the biggest stimulus package in American history.
  • It's official: the Tokyo Olympics have been postponed because of the pandemic. They will be held in 2021 instead.
  • The Indian government ordered a country-wide lockdown for three weeks, with the move affecting 1.3 billion people. Social distancing is just not possible in such a dense country, so a lockdown is the only measure to prevent the spread of the outbreak. But with three weeks in isolation and essential utilities already running low, it doesn't look good for the subcontinent.
  • Warehouse workers in at least six Amazon fulfillment centers have tested positive for COVID-19: New York City; Shepherdsville, Kentucky.; Jacksonville, Florida.; Katy, Texas.; Brownstown, Michigan.; and Oklahoma City.
  • Facebook and Google stand to lose more than $44 billion in ad revenue as a result of the coronavirus.
  • WhatsApp is partnering with the WHO to create a new Health Alert service. It's aimed at sharing information on the latest numbers on covid-19 as well as tips to prevent spread and answers to FAQs. The service originally started in South Africa but is now going global.
  • Facebook is looking to limit the number of chats messages can be forwarded to over Messenger to fight the spread coronavirus hoaxes.
  • Snapchat is adding a coronavirus section to its Discover page. It will launch in both the U.S. and the UK, with more markets coming soon.

March 24, 2020: Amazon tackles price gouging, Verizon gives free data, and Big Tech turns to supercomputers

March 23, 2020: Coronavirus cases see meteoric rise over the weekend

  • There was a huge uptick in the number of coronavirus cases globally, with the virus now affecting 343,000 and claiming over 14,500 lives. Those numbers have doubled from just a week ago, with the U.S. tally at over 35,000. New York City now accounts for 5% of global cases, and the U.S. government is taking harsh measures to contain the spread.
  • Google's coronavirus website is now live, and it gives useful information on preventative measures and real-time metrics at the global level.
  • Apple CEO Tim Cook has announced that the company will donate millions of masks to healthcare professionals in the US and Europe.
  • Best Buy is switching to curbside pickup for all orders as the retailer tries to contain the spread of the outbreak.
  • After refusing to shut its stores last week, GameStop has announced that it will be closing its retail locations temporarily.
  • The CDC has released a new self-checker bot to allow people to make healthcare decisions if they think they have coronavirus symptoms.
  • Non-essential Amazon orders in March will slip into late April and early May as the company prioritizes household items.
  • T-Mobile is offering users two months of YouTube Premium for subscribers to reward users for staying in during the quarantine. The company will also be offering users a four-week subscription at Shaw Academy.

March 20, 2020: Netflix and YouTube reduce video quality in Europe, Amazon shuts down Prime Pantry

  • At the EU's urging, Netflix has reduced its streaming video quality in the region. With everyone self-isolating and working from home, ISPs are under a lot of strain. Netflix has announced that it will reduce the bitrate for 30 days, with the service noting that it should free up 25% more traffic.
  • YouTube has also mentioned that it will reduce video quality in Europe to free up bandwidth. At this point, the restriction is only for the region and doesn't affect the U.S.
  • The FCC has signed off on U.S. carriers using additional spectrum in the 600MHz channel for the next 60 days. The move is possible by leveraging unused spectrum from the likes of Dish, Comcast, NewLevel, and others.
  • Amazon is shutting down Prime Pantry for the time being as the retailer deals with "high order volumes" because of the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Google I/O 2020 is officially no more. Google had planned to host a livestream in place of a physical event, but even that has been axed.
  • Now an information hotspot, Twitter is focusing on verifying user accounts that are providing credible updates around the pandemic. The company has directed experts to update their bio with relevant information and link their accounts to the email address of their associated public institutions.

March 19, 2020: U.S. government plans $500 billion in direct checks, Amazon shuts down NY warehouse, Google pauses Chrome OS development

March 18, 2020: U.S. government closes Canada border for non-essential travel

  • The U.S. government is readying a massive $1 trillion stimulus, including $250 billion in direct checks to Americans. A government plan to combat the coronavirus suggests the pandemic could last 18 months.
  • The U.S. is also closing its border with Canada for non-essential travel, and while trade will not be affected, it's clear that countries are locking down to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • Google was set to conduct an online-only version of its Cloud Next event, but the search giant has mentioned that it is delaying the event indefinitely.

March 17, 2020: Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, and Reddit are working together to fight coronavirus misinformation

  • Major tech companies — including the likes of Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit — are uniting to fight misinformation on the coronavirus. Google in particular has been very proactive in taking down coronavirus-related hoaxes and fraudulent posts, and the move further strengthens collaboration between various platforms.
  • Verily's coronavirus testing site has hit full capacity in just a day, and it is now not taking on any more users. Google has also mentioned that its informational site on the virus will be going live later this week.
  • Mint Mobile is providing all customers with unlimited high-speed data between now and April 14. Furthermore, anyone that purchases high-speed data add-ons will be 100% reimbursed by the company.
  • Uber is getting rid of its carpooling feature in the U.S. and Canada as the ride-sharing service tries to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Lyft is also temporarily stopping its carpooling option, but this extends to all markets that it's offered in.

March 16, 2020: Verily's coronavirus screening website goes live in San Francisco Bay Area, fake texts, and Android malware

  • Verily's coronavirus testing website is now live for residents of the San Francisco Bay Area. The move comes after the Trump administration inadvertently announced that Google is building a nationwide testing site for COVID-19.
  • Google was caught off-guard when Trump announced the details of the site and mentioned that 1,700 engineers were on the task. Over the last two days the Google provided more insight into what's actually going on. Verily — another organization under the Alphabet umbrella — is the one that's building the coronavirus testing site, and for now it is limited to residents of the Bay Area.
  • Google, for its part, is rolling out a website that provides more information on the coronavirus by pulling in details from the likes of the CDC and WHO. The search giant is already promoting advice like "Do The Five", which includes public guidelines on how to limit the spread of the virus.
  • Today, the White House National Security Council tweeted the text circulating about the president declaring a two-week national quarantine is fake. Instead, the WHNSC advises people follow the CDC for the latest information regarding the novel coronavirus.
  • Security researchers DomainTools discovered there is a ransomware app for Android disguised as a coronavirus tracker. The app will lock your device with a password threatening to erase everything and leak your social media accounts online if you don't pay the ransom. The CovidLock app should only affect phones running older versions of Android because Google has added protections against the flaw starting with Nougat. If you get locked out by the ransomware, using the password "4865083501" without the quotes should get you back into your phone.

March 13, 2020: Amazon asks all employees to work from home, Microsoft Build goes online, and sports leagues shut down

  • Microsoft's annual developer event will now be held online. Microsoft Build was scheduled to take place in Seattle, but with the city becoming a hotbed for the virus, Microsoft is putting the safety of the community first.
  • Amazon is asking over 750,000 employees around the world to work from home. The move doesn't target its fulfilment division, and the retailer set up a $25 million fund to meet the needs of its fulfilment staff.
  • NCAA cancels March Madness over coronavirus fears. NHL followed suit, and MLB will delay Opening Day by at least two weeks. The PGA Tour has also been called off.
  • Formula 1 and the FIA have decided to pull out of the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne over coronavirus fears. The sporting body waited until the last minute to make a decision, even as a team member from McLaren was tested positive, leading the team to withdraw from the event. The Bahrain Grand Prix will go along as planned, but will be held without any fans in attendance.
  • IPVanish has launched a promotion on its VPN service offering 63% off for 3 months plus 250GB of free SugarSync cloud storage. This could come in handy for streaming media from other regions to stay entertained at home and for file sharing if you now have to work remotely.
  • Google warns that customers needing to access support may have longer wait times due to "operating with a limited team." This applies to hardware platforms like Pixel and Pixelbook, as well as software like Google Drive.
  • Google and the U.S. government are collaborating on a new coronavirus screening site. President Donald Trump says Google has "1, 700 engineers" working on it.

March 12, 2020: Twitter asks employees to work from home, U.S. bans travel from Europe as coronavirus becomes a pandemic

March 11, 2020: E3 won't be taking place this year

  • Owing to the "alarming levels of spread and severity" of the outbreak, the World Health Organisation has officially classified COVID-19 as a pandemic.
  • One of the gaming industry's biggest events won't be taking place this year. E3 has been officially canceled over coronavirus fears, with the three-day event originally scheduled to take place from June 9 - 11. It's a big blow to the gaming industry, and it is possible we'll see brands announce new games in dedicated virtual events.
  • Google is now recommending that all of its North American staff work from home. The search giant previously told full-time staff in San Francisco, Dublin, and Seattle offices to work remotely, but that is now being extended to cover all of North America.
  • The Mountain View giant has now expanded that recommendation to include all staff in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, as well.

March 10, 2020: U.S. stock market plummets, China's phone segment sees a massive 54.7% YoY decline

  • Phone shipments in China have taken a massive hit in February because of the coronavirus outbreak. South China Morning Post notes that year-on-year figures were down by a staggering 54.7%, with the likes of Huawei and Xiaomi significantly affected. Apple's shipments were also down by over 50% last month.
  • Huawei will now unveil the P40 series in an online-only event. The manufacturer planned an event in Paris on March 26, but has switched to a virtual event because of the coronavirus.
  • Major tech companies took a massive hit as the stock market witnessed its worst day since the 2008 meltdown. Alphabet, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon cumulatively lost over $300 billion worth of value in one day.

March 9, 2020: Tech companies recommend remote work as COVID-19 spreads in the U.S.

  • The U.S. now has over 500 cases of COVID-19, with 21 confirmed deaths. Major tech companies — including Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook — are encouraging their employees to work from home to limit the spread of the outbreak.
  • Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter have also committed to paying hourly wage workers during the outbreak. With these companies switching to remote work for full-time staff, hourly workers like security guards and janitors will be paid in full even if they're asked to stay home.
  • Stanford University, University of Washington, Seattle University and Northeastern University's Seattle campus have all switched to online-only classes for the rest of the semester.
  • Xiaomi has donated thousands of masks to the Italian government in a show of solidarity. The tech firm included a quote from Roman Philosopher Seneca to drive the sentiment home: "We are waves of the same sea, leaves of the same tree, flowers of the same garden."

Get real-time global data on COVID-19

The best resource for real-time information on COVID-19 infection rates globally is the dashboard maintained by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins. It provides a real-time view of the virus' spread around the globe, and has a country-wise breakdown of infection rates and total deaths/recoveries.

You also get a city-wise breakdown of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. The dashboard plugs into several data sources, including the World Health Organisation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, China's National Health Commission, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, and local government data. You can also head to the WHO and CDC to know more about the virus and how you can stay safe:

List of cancellations/online-only events because of COVID-19

COVID-19 has caused several cancellations, including Mobile World Congress, the largest mobile-related event in the world. With the rising risk of infection and restrictions on global travel, most brands are rescheduling, canceling, or switching to virtual events to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

  • E3 2020 (June 9 - 11): The annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) has been canceled over coronavirus fears. The event was scheduled to take place in LA, and with the city in a state of emergency, the organizers of E3 decided to cancel the three-day event. This is the first time since 1996 the event won't take place.
  • Coachella (April 10 - 19): Coachella has been postponed until October. The music event will now run from October 9 to 18 instead of April 10 - 19.
  • SXSW 2020 (March 13 - 22):: SXSW 2020 has been canceled a week before its scheduled start. This is the first time the event has been canceled, and its fate was sealed when tech companies — including Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Facebook, and Intel — pulled out along with major record labels.
  • Game Developers Conference (GDC): Originally scheduled to run from March 16 to 20, the event has been postponed to a date later in the summer. We don't have details on dates just yet, but will update once we hear more.
  • Mobile World Congress (February 24 - 27): The biggest mobile-related event of the year was one of the first to be canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak. With major brands like Intel, LG, Ericsson, Vivo, and others pulling out, GSMA had to pull the plug on this year's installment of MWC.

A lot of tech events are still going on as planned, but will now be held online to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. That includes Google's annual I/O, where the tech giant usually showcases its latest software efforts. These are the events that will now be conducted over the internet:

  • Google Cloud Next (April 6 - 8): Google is now delaying its Cloud Next event indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic. The search giant initially planned on a "free, global, digital-first, multi-day event" with hundreds of sessions set to broadcast digitally, but that won't be the case.
  • Microsoft Build (May 19 - 21): Micorosoft's biggest annual event will now be held online. The event was slated to be held in Seattle, but with the coronavirus posing a significant threat to the city and Washington state, Microsoft has switched to a virtual event.
  • Huawei P40 unveil (March 26): Huawei initially planned to unveil the P40 and P40 Pro at an event in Paris on March 26, but the Chinese manufacturer has now switched to an online-only event.
  • Microsoft MVP Global Summit (March 16 - 19): Microsoft's yearly summit gives the company's MVPs the ability to connect and take part in technical discussions at Microsoft's Redmond campus. This year's event will be virtual-only, with Microsoft noting that it is working to set up a "globally inclusive set of virtual sessions" to accommodate different time zones.
  • NVIDIA GPU Technology Conference (GTC): NVIDIA is all set to serve up details on its next-gen video cards, so there's a lot of excitement around GTC 2020. NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang's keynote and all the sessions from the event will now be broadcast online, with the event set to kick off on March 26.
  • Adobe Summit: Every year, Adobe brings its customers and partners to Las Vegas and shares insights on its latest products. This year's installment of Adobe Summit will be held online, with Adobe set to kick things off on March 29.
  • Facebook F8 (May 5 - 6): Facebook pulled the plug on its annual developer event, and the company says it will instead rely on a combination of "locally hosted events, videos and live streamed content." More details will be forthcoming leading up to the event date.
  • Google I/O (May 12 - 14): Google's annual I/O event is where the search giant shows off its latest developments. This year's event has been pushed online, and anyone that has purchased a ticket will get a full refund and an automatic entry into I/O 2021. Google says it will "explore other ways to evolve Google I/O to best connect with our developer community" over the coming weeks.

Other major events like Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, Computex, and Gamescom are still scheduled for now, but we will have to wait and see if that changes in the coming weeks. E3 in particular may be affected as Los Angeles is currently in a state of emergency.

Product delays due to the coronavirus

The coronavirus effectively shut down China's manufacturing industry for several weeks, and that will have long-term effects for tech brands. It's business as usual for the industry for now as most manufacturers stockpile products months in advance, but we're already seeing the likes of Apple and Microsoft slashing their earnings forecast for Q1 2020.

The real effect of the coronavirus will be felt in the coming weeks as components run into shortages. Although companies like Samsung don't rely on China for manufacturing anymore, the individual components that go into your phone are still manufactured predominantly in the country. We'll be monitoring the situation closely, but for now there have not been any major product delays because of the virus.

COVID-19's effect on the tech industry

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