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WHO officials say decision to delay Olympics ‘difficult but wise’

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A pedestrian wearing mask walking past the Olympic rings in Tokyo, Japan. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced on Tuesday that Japan and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have agreed to postpone the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games by one year.

Du Xiaoyi | Xinhua News Agency | Getty

The International Olympic Committee’s decision to delay the Tokyo Olympic games until 2021 was “difficult but wise” as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the globe, World Health Origination officials said Wednesday. 

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press briefing Wednesday that the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed over 16,000 people globally, continues to take its toll, including the IOC’s “difficult but wise” decision to postpone the 2020 Summer Games. 

“I thank Prime Minister Abe and the members of the IOC for making this sacrifice to protect the health of athletes, spectators and officials,” Tedros said at a press briefing.

On Tuesday, the IOC and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe postponed the 2020 Olympics, which were scheduled to begin July 24 in Tokyo, and the Paralympic Games for no later than summer 2021. The decision came after weeks of rising calls to postpone the games due to the COVID-19 outbreak, which has killed over 16,000 people globally. 

Over the weekend, the IOC said in a statement that there were significant improvements in the coronavirus outbreak in Japan and, with certain safety restrictions, the Olympic Games could go on. 

Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal owns NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. NBC Olympics is the U.S. broadcast rights holder to all Summer and Winter Games through the year 2032.

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Amazon fires Staten Island coronavirus strike leader Chris Smalls

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Amazon has fired a Staten Island warehouse worker who organized a strike to demand greater protections for employees amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Chris Smalls, a management assistant at the facility, known as JFK8, said he was fired Monday afternoon following the strike. Smalls and other employees walked out to call attention to the lack of protections for warehouse workers. The workers are also urging Amazon to close the facility after a worker tested positive for the coronavirus last week. The organizers said that at least 50 people joined the walkout.

“Amazon would rather fire workers than face up to its total failure to do what it should to keep us, our families, and our communities safe,” Smalls said in a statement. “I am outraged and disappointed, but I’m not shocked. As usual, Amazon would rather sweep a problem under the rug than act to keep workers and working communities safe.” 

An Amazon spokesperson confirmed to CNBC that Smalls was fired, saying he received “multiple warnings” for violating social distancing guidelines and refusing to remain quarantined after coming into close contact with an associate who tested positive for the virus. 

“Despite that instruction to stay home with pay, he came onsite today, March 30, further putting the teams at risk,” the spokesperson said. “This is unacceptable and we have terminated his employment as a result of these multiple safety issues.”

Amazon also disputed the number of employees that participated in the strike, saying 15 people walked out at the facility. The company called the workers’ accusations “unfounded” and said it has taken “extreme measures” to make sure employees are safe while on the job.

“Like all businesses grappling with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we are working hard to keep employees safe while serving communities and the most vulnerable,” the company said in a statement. “The truth is the vast majority of employees continue to show up and do the heroic work of delivering for customers every day.”

Still, Amazon employees at multiple facilities who spoke to CNBC argue that the company’s efforts aren’t enough to keep them safe. They say uneven safety precautions at facilities across the country have sown feelings of distrust between workers and their managers. Workers say they’ve become worried that managers aren’t being honest about whether employees are sick with the virus, so that they can keep the facilities open. 

At some facilities, workers say essential supplies like hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes are rationed or there’s none available, putting them at risk of catching the virus. Warehouse workers say they’re forced to choose between going to work and risking their health or staying home and not being able to pay their bills. 

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Australia stocks jump 3%; China to release manufacturing PMI numbers

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Stocks in Asia Pacific traded higher on Tuesday morning ahead of the release of China’s official manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index for March, expected at 9:00 a.m. HK/SIN.

Australian shares led gains in the region’s major markets, with the S&P/ASX 200 up 3.17%. The moves came after the index got off to a flying start to the week and surged by 7% on Monday.

Over in South Korea, the Kospi also rose 1.63% while the Kosdaq index gained 2.58%. Japan’s Nikkei 225 saw more muted gains as it added 0.51%, while the Topix index advanced 0.13%.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index traded 0.76% higher.

Investors will be watching for the release of China’s official manufacturing PMI for March on Tuesday morning. The data could offer clues to the scale of economic impact from the coronavirus outbreak in China, where the disease was first reported.

“We expect the official manufacturing PMI to rebound from 35.7pt in February to 45pt in March,” Joseph Capurso, senior currency strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, wrote in a note. “That would be above the GFC‑low of 38.8pt reached in November 2008,” he said referring to the Global Financial Crisis.

PMI readings below 50 signify a contraction, while figures above that level indicate an expansion.

Overnight on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 690.70 points to close at 22,327.48 while the S&P 500 added 3.4% to end its trading day at 2,626.65. The Nasdaq Composite also closed 3.6% higher at 7,774.15.

Oil prices attempted to rebound from the previous day’s plunge in the morning of Asian trading hours on Tuesday. International benchmark Brent crude futures gained 1.19% to $23.03 per barrel. U.S. crude futures were also up 2.84% to $20.66 per barrel.

The moves came after oil prices plummeted Monday to levels not seen in almost two decades — Brent fell 8.7% to settle at $22.76 per barrel, a price last seen in 2002. U.S. crude fell 6.6%, or $1.42, to settle at $20.09, its lowest level since February 2002.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 99.221, below levels above 100 seen last week.

The Japanese yen traded at 108.04 per dollar after touching an earlier high of 107.72. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6167, still above levels below $0.6 seen last week.

Here’s a look at what’s on tap in the trading day ahead:

  • China: Official manufacturing PMI and non-manufacturing PMI for March at 9:00 a.m. HK/SIN

⁠— CNBC’s Pippa Stevens contributed to this report.

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Global cases continue to climb

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This is a live blog. Please check back for updates.

  • Global cases: More than 782,300
  • Global deaths: At least 37,582
  • Top 5 countries: United States (161,807), Italy (101,739), Spain (87,956), China (82,198), and Germany (66,885)

The data above was compiled by Johns Hopkins University as of 7:42 a.m. Beijing time.

All times below are in Beijing time.

7:19 am: US cases surpass 160,000

The total number of reported cases of coronavirus infection in the United States was at least 161,807, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University. Among them, at least 2,978 have died and just over 5,500 people have recovered in the country, the data revealed.

Global cases continued their upward trend, standing at least 782,319 reported instances of infection worldwide, according to JHU. The data also showed the worldwide death toll stood at more than 37,500 as countries continued to implement stricter social distancing measures in an effort to slow the virus’ spread. — Saheli Roy Choudhury

7:10 am: Italy has more than 100,000 cases but says new infections have slowed

In one of the worst-hit countries in the global pandemic, Italy’s health ministry reported that as of 6 p.m. local time on March 30, there were at least 101,739 total cases of infection among its 60 million citizens. But the ministry said the rate of new cases declined; though Reuters reported that could also be due to fewer COVID-19 tests being conducted. 

At least 11,591 people died and about 14,620 have recovered from the illness. 

A woman prays during the Sunday Holy Mass celebrated by priests from the roof of the church San Gabriele dell’Addolorata in Rome on March 29, 2020, amid the spread of the COVID-19 (new coronavirus) pandemic.

Tiziana Fabi | AFP | Getty Images

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told El Pais newspaper that Italy was “in the most acute phase” of the outbreak and that it was reasonable to believe that the peak was near. But, concerns remain about another surge in the number of cases in the coming days. For its part, Italy is set to extend its nationwide lockdown measures at least until the Easter season, Reuters reported. — Saheli Roy Choudhury

All times below are in Eastern time.

6:41 pm: Department of Defense watchdog appointed inspector general for $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package

The Defense Department’s internal watchdog will serve as newly named chair of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, a body created to oversee the roughly $2 trillion stimulus deal that President Donald Trump signed into law last week in response to the economic devastation wrought by the coronavirus outbreak.

Glenn Fine, the acting inspector general of the Department of Defense, was appointed by another committee of IGs assigned by the new law to name a chair. 

Fine will oversee a board of fellow inspectors general, all responsible for monitoring their respective departments. They include the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Justice, Labor, as well as the Treasury, the Small Business Administration and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. — Lauren Hirsch

6:35 pm: Airbnb extends coronavirus cancellation window to May 31, sets aside $250 million to pay hosts for missed stays

Airbnb announced it will allow guests to receive full refunds for any trips starting on or before May 31 that were booked prior to March 14, as the company continues to struggle through the coronavirus’ impact on the travel industry. The company will also set aside $250 million to pay hosts for the missed bookings.

Airbnb announced the decision in a letter sent to hosts in an effort to rebuild Airbnb’s relationship with its partners. Previously, the company had said that it would allow guests to cancel and receive full refunds for trips between March 14 and April 14.

That decision overrode many hosts’ existing cancellation policies that ensured they still received partial payments for those bookings. Many hosts harshly criticized Airbnb for that decision, and several told CNBC that they would be moving their properties onto other websites and into the long-term rental market. — Sal Rodriguez

6:27 pm: Field hospital goes up in New York City’s Central Park

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