White House officials also take unprecedented step of checking temperatures of journalists entering the briefing room.
The worldwide death toll from the coronavirus pandemic surged past 5,000 on Saturday with the total number of cases rising to more than 140,000, as the infection continues to prompt countries to take unprecedented measures to help stave off a global health crisis.
France announced that it will shut most shops, restaurants and entertainment facilities from midnight on Saturday and urging people to stay home as much as possible.
Spanish media reported that the country’s government will be announcing a countrywide lockdown while declaring a two-week state of emergency to fight the sharp rise in coronavirus infections.
The US announced that it was extending the travel restrictions imposed on the European nations to Britain and Ireland.
The World Health Organization (WHO), meanwhile, said Europe has now become the “epicentre” of the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus
Here are the latest updates:
Latvia will stop nearly all foreigners entering the country from Tuesday in an attempt to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the country’s prime minister said.
All international travel, by air, railway, sea and road, will be cancelled from midnight on Monday, Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said at a news conference. In addition, all public gatherings of over 50 people are banned with immediate effect, he said.
“The main aim is to do everything possible to avoid more people becoming ill with coronavirus,” Karins said.
Latvians and foreigners with residency rights in Latvia will be able to enter the country, and tourists will be able to leave after the deadline, he said.
The Palestinian Authority suspended prayers in mosques and churches in the occupied West Bank to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, and the Hamas-led government of Gaza said all the enclave’s border crossings would be shut for travel.
The Palestinian Authority’s Religious Affairs Ministry asked Palestinians to worship at home.
“In light of the Health Ministry’s recommendation to minimize contact between people and to reduce gatherings as much as possible we call upon our Muslim people in Palestine to hold their prayers at home,” a ministry statement said.
Gaza authorities said they web re closing Gaza’s border crossings with Israel and Egypt for travel, excluding life-threatening cases that required medical treatment outside the enclave. Gatherings would be limited to 100 people and schools were to remain shut through March.
France will shut most shops, restaurants and entertainment facilities from midnight on Saturday and people should stay home as much as possible as the spread of coronavirus is accelerating, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced.
He was speaking at a news conference after the public health authority said 91 people had died in France and almost 4,500 were now infected.
“I have decided to close all non-indispensable locations, notably cafes, restaurants, cinemas, nightclubs and shops,” he said. “We must absolutely limit our movements.”
Exceptions to the shop ban will include food stores, pharmacies and petrol stations.
Philippe said the government had been left with no choice because too many people were still out in the streets and not sufficiently applying recently announced measures, including keeping a safe distance from each other.
That, he said, was helping accelerate the spread of the virus.
France previously ordered the closure of schools from Monday and had advised people over the age of 70 to stay hom
The Seychelles confirmed two coronavirus cases, the country’s health commissioner said.
Two Italian citizens visiting the country tested positive, Jude Gedeon said.
Norway will temporarily shut all its airports from Monday 07:00 GMT in a move to curb the spread of coronavirus, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said.
The government is ready to do all what is needed to secure the country’s economy, hit by business shutdowns due to the virus outbreak, she told a news conference.
She also said the country would seek to import equipment from China.
VIDEO: 🇮🇹 Italians are beating the social isolation imposed by the country's coronavirus lock down by taking to their windows and singing in unison (🔊Turn on the sound)https://t.co/kXRtybzSv3 pic.twitter.com/SrHMUgJXFV
— AFP news agency (@AFP) March 13, 2020
Syria said its parliamentary elections scheduled for next month would be postponed as part of measures to protect the war-battered country against the coronavirus epidemic.
The president’s office said on its official social media accounts that the vote will be pushed back to May 20, from the original date of April 13.
In other “social distancing” steps adopted by Damascus, which has not to date reported any case of the disease, weekly Friday prayers in mosques have been suspended as well as prayer gatherings.
Spain’s coronavirus death toll reached 193 on Saturday, up from 120 on Friday, public broadcaster TVE said.
There are just over 6,250 coronavirus cases across the country, TVE said, up from 4,209 on Friday and also up from 5,753 cases reported earlier in the day.
The top US infectious diseases expert said that the country has recorded 2,226 case of the new coronavirus, but has not yet reached the peak of the outbreak.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said President Donald Trump’s declaration on Friday of a national emergency meant “now it’s all systems go” to ramp up testing in efforts to contain the pandemic.
US President Donald Trump said he had taken a coronavirus test, as the White House began protectively checking the temperature of anyone coming into close contact with him or Vice President Mike Pence.
Appearing at a White House news conference where he attempted again to provide guidance and assurance to worried US citizens, Trump said he had yet to receive the results of his own test.
Contrary to medical advice, the president was seen on Friday shaking hands all round as he gathered his coronavirus response team at the White House – a practice he said owed to long-time habit as a politician but which he said would have to change.
US Vice President Mike Pence said that Washington decided to extend the travel restrictions imposed on European nations to Britain and Ireland, starting at 04:00 GMT on Tuesday.
“Americans in the UK or Ireland can come home. Legal residents can come home,” Pence told a White House news conference, adding that such people would be “funneled through specific airports and processed.”
A 30-day US ban on travel from the EU’s Schengen border-free zone took effect on Saturday, but notably excludes Britain and Ireland.
Trump had earlier confirmed the ban would be extended to those countries as the pandemic progresses.
Read more here.
The first death of a person infected with coronavirus was confirmed in Denmark. An 81-year old patient died in a hospital in Copenhagen, the city’s health authorities said in a press release.
Denmark reported 827 coronavirus cases as of Saturday.
Greece said it would suspend all flights that were still operating to and from Italy, after reporting two more fatalities from the coronavirus, raising the total number of deaths in the country to three.
The deceased were two men, aged 67 and 90, both with serious underlying health problems, the health ministry said.
Greece has shut schools, bars, cafes and shopping malls and had already suspended all flights to and from northern Italy until March 23 to combat the spread of coronavirus.
It also reported 38 new confirmed cases of coronavirus since Friday, raising the total number of infections to 228.
An 82-year-old woman became New York’s first coronavirus fatality, authorities said, a day after US President Donald Trump declared a national emergency.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the woman, who had previously suffered from emphysema, was hospitalized in Manhattan on March 3. He told reporters that the state’s tally of cases had risen to 524.
Nationwide, more than 2,000 people have been infected and 48 have died.
The United Arab Emirates announced restrictions on visas, as an additional measure to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
The UAE will suspend visa issuance starting on March 17, the official news agency WAM reported, citing immigration authorities, adding that foreign diplomats would be exempted.
Jordan said it would stop all incoming and outgoing passenger flights into the country from Tuesday as it tightens border controls to combat the spread of coronavirus.
Announcing the move, Prime Minister Omar Razzaz said universities and schools would be closed for two weeks and all tourist sites and all sports and cinemas would also be shut.
Read more here.
Qatar has announced restrictions on visas, as part of measures to contain the new coronavirus outbreak.
The country will on Sunday stop issuing visas on arrival to several European nationalities, the government communication office said.
The decision includes citizens of Italy, France, Germany and Spain.
Individuals travelling from these countries who are in possession of a Qatar residence permit are excluded from this decision, but they have to stay in a quarantine facility for 14 days as per the local procedures.
Spanish media reported that the country’s government will announce that it is placing tight restrictions on movement for the nation of 46 million people while declaring a two-week state of emergency to fight the sharp rise in coronavirus infections.
News agency Europa Press and daily newspaper El Mundo reported the drastic step shortly before Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez was due to address the nation.
The draft decree, seen by the Reuters news agency, says the lockdown will enter into force on Monday at 8am (07:00 GMT).
Health authorities in Spain said that coronavirus infections have reached 5,753 people, half of them in the capital, Madrid. That represents a national increase of over 1,500 in 24 hours.
Morocco confirmed nine new coronavirus cases on Saturday bringing the total number of infected people to 17, the health ministry said.
The new cases include the country’s first locally transmitted case while the remaining cases contracted the virus in Spain, Italy and France, the ministry said in a statement.
The number of confirmed coronavirus infections in the Netherlands rose by 155 to 959, Dutch health authorities said.
The number of deaths rose by two to a total of 12 from a day earlier, the Dutch National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) said in a statement.
India suspended domestic football until the end of this month, while domestic cricket was put on hold indefinitely due to the coronavirus.
The All India Football Federation said in a statement, following Ministry of Health and state government-level advice, “all footballing activities under the aegis of AIFF stay suspended till March 31”.
All I-League matches have also been suspended but the final of the franchise-based Indian Super League was due to go ahead without spectators in Goa later on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) suspended all domestic matches as well “till further notice”.
UPDATE: In view of the ongoing Novel Corona Virus (COVID-19) outbreak, all domestic matches have been put on hold.
— BCCI Domestic (@BCCIdomestic) March 14, 2020
Seville’s Holy Week processions will be cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, said the mayor of the southern Spanish city.
“I want to communicate the most difficult decision I have taken in my five years as mayor, the suspension of the Holy Week processions 2020,” Seville Mayor Juan Espadas Cejas wrote on Twitter.
Quiero comunicaros la decisión más dura en la que he participado como alcalde en estos cinco años y que significa la suspensión de los desfiles procesionales de la Semana Santa 2020 de forma consensuada con @ElConsejoSev y el Arzobispado. @Ayto_Sevilla #COVIDー19 pic.twitter.com/nPXF6R1dKV
— Juan Espadas Cejas (@JuanEspadasSVQ) March 14, 2020
The number of cases in Afghanistan has jumped to 11, the Heath Ministry said, prompting the country to ramp up its efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Among new restricting measures, the country cancelled traditional Nowruz ceremonies usually held to celebrate the Persian New Year. The government has also cancelled all sporting events, and schools are closed until an unspecified date, tweeted Waheed Omar, the director-general of the president’s office of public and strategic affairs.
Austria is making 4 billion euros ($4.4bn) immediately available to deal with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, the conservative-led government said as it ditched a central pledge to balance its budget.
“A balanced budget is always important, but Austrians’ health, jobs and a stable economy is more important,” Finance Minister Gernot Bluemel told a government news conference, referring to his and fellow conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s top economic target.
Malaysia reported 41 new coronavirus cases, all linked to a religious event on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur that was attended by about 10,000 people from several countries.
Following the new findings, the total number of infected people rose to 238, the health ministry said in a statement.
A total of 81 cases in the country have now been confirmed as connected to the same event held at a mosque between February 27 and March 1.
To contain the wave of infections, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin cancelled or postponed all gatherings, including international meetings, sport, social and religious events until after April, he said.
Thousands of French security forces fanned out across central Paris as anti-government “Yellow vest” protesters took to the street despite a ban on mass gatherings issued to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said on Friday that all gatherings with more than 100 people had been banned. Paris police had already turned down requests for protesters to demonstrate at sensitive sites, including the Champs Elysees where violent clashes broke out between security forces and protesters almost a year ago to the day.
“It’s Saturday, demonstration day. Some people think that the coronavirus won’t touch them and refuse to respect the advice,” a riot police officer told Reuters in front of a heavily armed vehicle blocking the road that leads to the presidential palace.
Cambodia has banned entry for visitors coming from Italy, Germany, Spain, France and the US to curb the spread of coronavirus.
The 30-day ban on “foreigners” will come into effect on March 17, the Ministry of Health said in a statement as Cambodia recorded two new cases, bringing its tally to seven.
“The Kingdom of Cambodia has subsequently detected the COVID-19 virus on different foreign nationals, which requires immediate measures to prevent the spread and importation of the COVID-19 virus into Cambodia,” said Minister of Health Mam Bunheng.
The coronavirus has killed another 97 people in Iran, pushing the death toll to 611 amid 12,792 cases, Iranian state TV said.
Iran is at the epicentre of the outbreak in the Middle East and also the country with the highest number of infected cases among government figures, including at least seven top officials who lost their lives.
To combat the coronavirus, Iran asked the International Monetary Fund for $5bn in emergency funding.
Authorities in Abu Dhabi have closed major tourism and cultural venues, including the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum and the Ferrari World theme park, from March 15 to 31, hoping the move will help contain the spread of the coronavirus.
In line with precautionary measures to ensure the health and safety of visitors, #AbuDhabi’s main tourist attractions, theme parks & cultural destination will be temporarily closed from 15 to 31 March to limit large gatherings and protect public health in response to COVID-19
— مكتب أبوظبي الإعلامي (@admediaoffice) March 14, 2020
Rwanda has become the latest country to report a case of the new coronavirus.
The patient is an Indian citizen who arrived in the East African nation from Mumbai on March 8, according to Rwanda’s health ministry. He had no symptoms on arrival, but presented himself to a health facility on March 13.
“He is currently under treatment in stable condition, isolated from other patients,” the ministry said. “The tracing of all contacts has been conducted for further management”.
Rwanda is the 19th African nation to register a case.
Indonesia reported 27 more coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of confirmed infection to 96 in the Southeast Asian country, said Achmad Yurianto, a health ministry official.
The total number of deaths from coronavirus rose to five, Yurianto said.
Cases were found in several cities across the archipelago, including the capital Jakarta, some cities in western and central Java, Manado city on Sulawesi island and Pontianak on Borneo island, he said.
Namibia reported its first two cases of coronavirus, with a Spanish couple who arrived in the Southern African country on Wednesday both testing positive and quarantined, Health Minister Kalumbi Shangula said.
Despite the news, the government would continue with plans to celebrate Namibia’s Independence Day on March 21, Shangula told a news conference.
The Philippines reported 34 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 98, ahead of the implementation of quarantine measures in the capital Manila.
It marked the largest single-day increase in confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian nation, which has eight coronavirus deaths.
Details of the new cases are being validated and authorities are verifying reports of additional cases, Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told a news conference.
China appears to be facing a new challenge as the number of infections coming from outside its borders
is now higher than the one of locally transmitted cases, as China continues to slow the spread of the virus domestically.
The National Health Commission confirmed 11 new cases, but seven of those were all detected in travellers coming into China from overseas, specifically Italy, the United States and Saudi Arabia.
Later on Saturday, Shanghai’s city government confirmed a further two imported cases in travellers from France and Spain.
Iran has decided to halt work on the expansion of its Abadan oil refinery until mid-April.
“In order to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, the second phase of the Abadan refinery project will be halted from next week until mid-Farvardin (first Iranian calendar month which starts on March 20),” the semi-official Mehr news agency said, citing Managing Director of National Iranian Oil Engineering and Construction Company (NIOEC) Saeed Sattari Naini.
In December 2017, China’s Sinopec Engineering (Group) Company, signed a deal with National Iranian Oil Engineering and Construction Company to carry out the work over a period of four years.
Cambodia has ordered the closure of schools in the capital, Phnom Penh, and the popular tourist destination of Siem Reap in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, local media reported.
An annual two-week school break next month during the Khmer New Year holiday would start early, the Education Ministry said.
Students will return to school after the holiday period, which will be observed from April 14 to 16 this year.
Cambodia has so far reported seven infections in total.
Apple will close all its retail stores outside China until March 27 hoping to minimise the risk of coronavirus transmission.
“We will be closing all of our retail stores outside of Greater China until March 27,” Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote in a letter posted on the company’s website.
“In all of our offices, we are moving to flexible work arrangements worldwide outside of Greater China,” he added. “That means team members should work remotely if their job allows.”
Experts warn world leaders will have to overcome nationalist tendencies to deal with the rapidly spreading disease.
Read more here.
Schools across Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, will close for two weeks after 69 people tested positive and four people died from the novel coronavirus.
“People have been calling for these measures for a number of days now as this growing sense of anxiety builds up about the coronavirus outbreak,” said Al Jazeera’s Jessica Washington, reporting from Jakarta.
“There are concerns particularly around transparency and how Indonesia’s government is handling this crisis,” Washington said.
Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry said on Saturday it would suspend international flights for two weeks in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
“The Kingdom’s government decided to suspend international flights for two weeks (Starting from Sunday March 15th) as part of its efforts to prevent the spread of #CoronaVirus,” it wrote on Twitter.
Precautionary Health Measures |
— Foreign Ministry 🇸🇦 (@KSAmofaEN) March 14, 2020
The kingdom, which has registered 86 cases so far but no deaths, had already halted flights to some countries and closed schools and universities.
It has also suspended the Umra year-round pilgrimage to the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), which oversees the Philippine capital and its surrounding districts, has announced that it is imposing a curfew in the metropolis from Sunday.
MMDA Chairman Jojo Garcia told reporters on Saturday that 17 Metro Manila mayors have approved the curfew from 8pm to 5am local time.
The move follows an announcement by President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday that the entire capital region, with a population of more than 12 million, would be placed under lockdown from Sunday.
There are now six deaths and 64 confirmed coronavirus cases in the Philippines.
The US House of Representatives early on Saturday overwhelmingly passed a coronavirus relief package for Americans hit by the pandemic.
The measure, which seeks additional fund amounting to $50bn, passed by 363 votes to 40 and will now move to the US Senate.
President Donald Trump tweeted his support for the bill before the vote and urged both Republicans and Democrats to back it. – AFP news agency
Thailand reported seven new coronavirus cases on Saturday, bringing the total number of cases in the Southeast Asian country to 82, health officials said.
One person has died so far, according to Reuters news agency.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Saturday that everyone entering the country from midnight on Sunday must self isolate for 14 days in an effort to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.
People from small South Pacific island countries, which currently have no reported cases, will be exempted, Ardern said in a news conference.
New Zealand has a large South Pacific islander population.
All cruise ships will also be told not to come to New Zealand until June 30, she said.
Ardern said these were “far-reaching and unprecedented” measures to tackle a global pandemic. New Zealand has six confirmed cases and has not recorded any deaths. (Reuters news agency)
Colombian President Ivan Duque Marquez has ordered the border with Venezuela closed as part of the country’s coronavirus containment measures.
As of Friday, there were nine coronavirus cases in Colombia, and at least two cases in Venezuela.
The two countries share a 2,200-km (1,370-mile) border that is crossed by thousands of Venezuelans each day, searching for food and medicine.
More than 4.5 million Venezuelans have left their country in recent years amid its economic crisis, many arriving in Colombia.
The US military has announced that it will halt all domestic travel, with some exceptions, for service members, defence department civilians and their families amid the fast-spreading coronavirus.
The memo, signed by the deputy secretary of defence, David Norquist, said the policy would go into effect on Monday through May 11, according to the Reuters news agency.
It added that exceptions could be granted for mission essential travel, travel necessary for humanitarian reasons and travel warranted due to extreme hardship.
The Czech government will shut most shops and restaurants from 6am local time on Saturday as part of measures to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, it said in an overnight statement.
Exceptions on the shop ban will include food stores, pharmacies and petrol stations.
Cambodia has announced a ban on the entry of foreigners from Italy, Germany, Spain, France and the US for 30 days, the Khmer Times reported on Saturday.
The ban will take effort on Tuesday, March 17. There are an estimated seven cases reported in Cambodia.
Mainland China had 11 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections on March 13, the country’s National Health Commission said on Saturday, up from eight cases a day earlier.
That brings the total number of confirmed cases on the mainland so far to 80,824.
The death toll from the outbreak in China had reached 3,189 as of the end of Friday, up by 13 from the previous day.
All of the latest deaths were in the central province of Hubei, the epicentre of the outbreak, and 10 of them were in Hubei’s provincial capital of Wuhan.
The Philippine Department of Health announced on Saturday the death of another coronavirus patient – the first reported from the southern island of Mindanao.
The health department statement said that a 54-year-old resident of Metro Manila died on Friday night at the Northern Mindanao Medical Center in the city of Cagayan de Oro.
The Philippines has at least 64 confirmed coronavirus cases. President Rodrigo Duterte has imposed a lockdown of the capital Metro Manila beginning on Sunday.
Mexico has registered a rise in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases to 26 from 15 a day earlier, Reuters news agency reported on Saturday, quoting the Mexican health ministry.
There have been reports that Mexico is considering measures at its northern border to slow the spread of the virus from the United States.
Earlier, Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell was quoted as saying that the contagion from the United States was a threat.
Mauritania’s health ministry confirmed the first case of coronavirus in the West African country in a statement on Friday, according to Reuters news agency.
The United Kingdom is planning to introduce emergency laws next week to ban mass gatherings in an attempt to curb the coronavirus outbreak, Reuters news agency reported, citing Sky News late on Friday.
“We have drafted emergency legislation to give the government the powers it needs to deal with coronavirus, including powers to stop mass gatherings and compensate organisations,” Sky News quoted the source as saying, according to the report.
I’m Ted Regencia in Kuala Lumpur.
You can read all the updates from yesterday (March 13) here.
The World Health Organization (WHO), meanwhile, said Europe has now become the “epicentre” of the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.