Italy coronavirus death toll rises by 793 to 4,825: Live updates

The numbers include 546 new deaths in Italy’s epicentre Lombardy region, as cities across the world are locked down.

Coronavirus Cambodia
More than 277,000 people have been infected globally [Cindy Liu/Reuters]

The death toll from the new coronavirus has surpassed 6,000 in Europe, with Italy, Spain and Germany reporting a steep rise in infections.

Worldwide deaths surged past 12,000 on Saturday, according to data collected by the Johns Hopkins University in the United States. More than 299,000 people have been infected, while some 91,500 have recovered.

Italy announced 793 more deaths on Saturday, the second day in a row of the biggest day-to-day increase in the country’s four-week epidemic, after surpassing China’s death toll on Thursday.

The total number of deaths in Italy has now reached 4,825. Spain’s death toll has also increased to more than 1,300, while in Iran, the number of deaths hit another grim milestone of 1,500 as the country marks the beginning of the Persian New Year.

Here are all the latest updates:

Saturday, March 21

20:45 GMT – Bolivia suspends presidential election

An electoral court had postponed Bolivia’s general election over the coronavirus, according to local media. 

Voters were due to head to the polls on May 3 to elect a permanent successor to former president Evo Morales, who resigned in November.

Bolivia’s congress will have to enact legislation in order to select a new date for the elections, according to Salvador Romero, president of the Supreme Election Tribunal.

20:15 GMT – Turkey’s coronavirus death toll rises by 12 to 21

Turkey’s coronavirus death toll has risen by 12  to 21 while the number of confirmed cases rose by 277 to 947, the health minister said.

A total of 2,953 tests were conducted in the previous 24 hours, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.

19:45 GMT – US approves rapid coronavirus test with 45 minutes detection time

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first rapid coronavirus diagnostic test, with a detection time of about 45 minutes, the test’s developer, California-based molecular diagnostics company Cepheid, has said.

Cepheid said in a statement it had received an emergency use authorisation from the FDA for the test, which will be used primarily in hospitals and emergency rooms. The company plans to begin shipping it to hospitals next week, it said.

Under the current testing regime, samples must be sent to a centralised lab, where results can take days.

19:30 GMT – Dutch government bans flights from Spain until April 4

The Dutch government has said it would halt all passenger flights from Spain to the Netherlands until at least April 4 in an effort to limit the coronavirus outbreak.

The government said it would only make an exception for flights to repatriate Dutch people from Spain and for medical staff.

19:05 GMT – Ireland reports 102 new cases of coronavirus, total now 785

Cases of coronavirus in Ireland have climbed by 102 to 785, the department of health said on Saturday.

As of Friday, three people had died of the illness.

18:55 GMT – North Korea says Trump wrote Kim, offered coronavirus cooperation

US President Donald Trump wrote to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and expressed his desire to cooperate on combating the coronavirus, according to North Korean state media.

Trump “expressed his intent to render cooperation in the anti-epidemic work, saying that he was impressed by the efforts made by the Chairman to defend his people from the serious threat of the epidemic,” North Korean state news agency KCNA reported. It did not say when the letter was received.

18:50 GMT – Qatar says it will take measures to protect expat workers

Qatar has said it is making every effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and protect its residents, including millions of expatriate workers, a day after a rights group criticised the Gulf state over its handling of the crisis.

A statement released by the Qatari government on Saturday said it is working closely with employers in the country to “ensure the welfare and medical needs of the residents are met”.

At least 480 cases have been reported in the country.

Read more here.

18:45 GMT – Eritrea confirms first coronavirus case, an arrival from Norway

Eritrea has confirmed its first coronavirus case, a traveller arriving from Norway, its information minister said on Saturday.

“The Ministry of Health announced this evening the first confirmed case of a coronavirus patient who arrived at Asmara International Airport from Norway with Fly Dubai at 7:00 a.m,” Yemane Meskel said on Twitter.

He added that the 39-year-old was an Eritrean national with permanent residence in Norway and was undergoing treatment.

18:40 GMT – US flight authority briefly halts flights to NYC, Philadelphia

The Federal Aviation Administration briefly halted flights to New York City-area airports because of coronavirus-related staffing issues at a regional air-traffic control centre.

In an alert posted online, the agency advised air traffic controllers to “stop all departures” from JFK, LaGuardia, Newark and other airports in the region. The directive also affected Philadelphia International Airport.

18:30 GMT – French coronavirus death toll rises by 112 to 562

France has recorded 112 coronavirus deaths in a day, taking its total to 562, the health ministry has said.

There have been 14,459 confirmed cases, the ministry said in a statement.

It said 1,525 people were in severe condition out of the 6,172 who were currently in hospital. Half the severe cases were people aged under 60.

18:20 GMT – Qatar bans gatherings, closes parks and beaches

Qatar has announced a ban on all gatherings and the closure of public parks and beaches.

The government has said that all forms of gatherings, including weddings and funerals, are banned. Qatar has recorded 481 cases, but no deaths.

The Supreme Committee for Crisis Management said a hotline had been set up for people to report breaches of the ban, and that violators would be arrested.

The government said food outlets, pharmacies and delivery services would operate normally.

People wearing protective masks in Souq Waqif as the number of coronavirus cases has increased by 17 on, Doha, Qatar, Saturday, March 14, 2020 [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]
People wearing protective masks in Souq Waqif as the number of coronavirus cases rises in Doha, Qatar [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera/Al Jazeera]

18:10 GMT – Sao Paulo to lock down for two weeks

Brazil’s largest state Sao Paulo will essentially shut down for two weeks to help fight the coronavirus, its governor said on Saturday, as President Jair Bolsonaro again claimed that “hysteria” over the outbreak could cause more harm than the virus itself.

Sao Paulo state Governor Joao Doria said a statewide quarantine order would take effect on Tuesday and last through April 7. All but non-essential businesses and services, including bars and restaurants, will remain closed across the country’s most populous state, which includes its financial hub, for the duration.

17:50 GMT – Coronavirus death toll in England up 53 to 220

A further 53 people have died in England after testing positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths to 220, the National Health Service has said.

The patients who died were aged between 41 and 94, and all had underlying health conditions

17:45 GMT – Lebanon PM orders security forces to enforce virus curfew

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab has asked the country’s security forces to enforce stricter measures to keep people indoors and prevent gatherings to curb a coronavirus outbreak.

In a speech, Diab said this would include patrols and checkpoints, calling on the Lebanese to stay home and only go out if “absolutely necessary”.

17:40 GMT – Pence says he will be tested for coronavirus after aide tests positive

US Vice President Mike Pence said he and his wife will be tested for coronavirus after a member of his staff tested positive.

“The White House doctor has indicated he has no reason to believe that I was exposed and no need to be tested,” Pence told the daily briefing at the White House. “Given the unique position I have as vice president and as the leader of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, both I and my wife will be tested for the coronavirus later this afternoon.”

17:30 GMT – UAE shuts beaches, parks, pools, cinemas and gyms

The United Arab Emirates is shutting beaches, parks, pools, cinemas and gyms from Sunday for two weeks over coronavirus concerns, the state news agency WAM has said.

Restaurants and cafes will be allowed to operate for the same period at 20% of capacity, and as long as customers are at least two metres apart, and for delivery services, subject to review

17:15 GMT – Italy coronavirus deaths surge by 793 in a day, lifting total death toll to 4,825

The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy has leapt by 793 to 4,825, officials have said, an increase of 19.6 percent, by far the largest daily rise since the contagion emerged a month ago.

The total number of cases in Italy rose to 53,578 from a previous 47,021, an increase of 13.9 percent, the Civil Protection Agency said.

The hardest-hit northern region of Lombardy remains in a critical situation, with 3,095 deaths and 25,515 cases.

17:00 GMT – Algeria’s coronavirus cases rise to 139 with 15 deaths

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Algeria has risen to 139 from 95, with 15 deaths, the ministry of health has said.

Algeria has stopped international and domestic travel, closed mosques, cafes and restaurants and told half of state employees to stay at home to try to limit the spread of the virus.

16:45 GMT – Guatemala orders eight-day curfew

Guatemala’s President Alejandro Giammattei has ordered an eight-day curfew starting Sunday as part of measures aimed at containing the coronavirus.

At least 17 people have been infected in the Central American nation.

16:40 GMT – Turkey imposes curfew on elderly, chronically ill citizens

Turkey has imposed a partial curfew for citizens over the age of 65 and those with chronic diseases, effective as of midnight, as part of measures against the coronavirus outbreak.

Details of the curfew would be announced later, the interior ministry said in a statement.

Earlier on Saturday, Turkey suspended flights with 46 more countries and banned picnics and barbecues, as the number of cases has roughly doubled every day for a week.

16:30 GMT – Libya’s LNA welcomes call for truce in light of pandemic

Libya’s eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), lead by general Khalifa Haftar, has said that it welcomed a call for a humanitarian pause in fighting to allow the country to focus on the danger from the coronavirus.

The United Nations and some individual countries had called on warring parties to stop fighting to make it easier to deal with the virus, although no cases have yet been confirmed in Libya.

The LNA has been trying since last year to capture the capital Tripoli, the seat of the internationally recognised Government of National Accord, which had already endorsed the ceasefire.

16:15 GMT – Death toll in Italy’s Lombardy jumps by 546

The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in the northern region of Lombardy, which has borne the brunt of Italy’s contagion, has risen by 546 in a day to 3,095, officials said.

It is the highest daily increase in the region since the outbreak emerged.

Lombardy’s head of welfare, Giulio Gallera, said the number of cases in the region, which includes Italy’s financial capital Milan, had increased by 3,251 to 25,515. On Friday, Italy’s death toll stood at 4,032, the highest in the world.

16:00 GMT – Bolivia announces total quarantine from Sunday

Bolivia’s government has announced a complete quarantine from Sunday in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

“It’s a tough but necessary decision,” said interim President Jeanine Anez, “we must be at home for 24 hours a day.”

Bolivia has so far registered 19 cases, far fewer than neighbouring countries such as Brazil, with more than 900, and Chile, with more than 500.

15:50 GMT – Nigeria to shut Lagos, Abuja international airports

Nigeria will close its two main international airports in the cities of Lagos and Abuja from Monday night, its civil aviation regulator has said, as the number of coronavirus cases in the country almost doubled.

The airports, which join three others around the country, will be shuttered for one month, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement. The closure comes as Nigeria’s number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose on Saturday from 12 to 22, three of them in Abuja, the capital’s first positive identifications.

15:45 GMT – Amazon raises overtime pay for warehouse workers

Amazon said it is raising overtime pay for associates working in its US warehouses, as the world’s largest online retailer tries to meet the rapidly growing demand for online shopping from consumers stuck at home, according to Reuters news agency.

“All hourly associates working in the U.S. Ops network will receive double their regular hourly rate for every overtime hour worked in a workweek,” the company said in a statement. “This temporary increased overtime pay is effective March 15, 2020 and will continue through May 9. 2020,” the announcement said

Amazon workers
Amazon workers in France protested at one of its sites on March 18, calling on the online retailer to cease operations or make it easier for employees reluctant to work during the coronavirus pandemic [Mourad Guichard/Reuters]

15:40 GMT – US Senate coronavirus package worth more than $2 trillion: White House adviser

The coronavirus stimulus package being negotiated by the US Senate would be worth more than $2 trillion, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow has said

“The package is coming in at about 10 percent of GDP,” Kudlow told reporters. Asked if that amounted to more than $2 trillion, Kudlow said: “That’s correct.”

15:30 GMT – Bosnia reports first coronavirus death

A Bosnian man became the first to die of the coronavirus in the country, the manager of a hospital in the northwestern town of Bihac said.

Bosnia has declared a nationwide state of emergency over the coronavirus outbreak. The country has so far reported 90 cases.

15:25 GMT – Britain’s NHS strikes deal with private hospitals

Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) has struck a deal with the country’s independent hospitals that will see more beds, ventilators and thousands of extra healthcare staff made available from next week to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

NHS England said on Saturday that nearly 20,000 fully qualified staff will be joining the health service’s response to the pandemic, helping manage an expected surge in cases.

15:20 GMT – Armenia closes all malls and shops, except grocery stores

Armenia will close all malls and shops except for grocery stores and liquor shops from March 22 until April 14, Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan has said.

Bars, cinemas, clubs and casinos will remain closed as well to prevent the spread of virus. Armenia has reported 160 cases of coronavirus so far.

15:10 GMT – Portugal’s death toll doubles to 12

The death toll from the coronavirus pandemic in Portugal doubled overnight to 12, the country’s national health authority DGS has said.

The number of confirmed cases rose to 1,280 from 1,059 the previous day, it said, adding that 35 people were in intensive care. Portugal declared a state of emergency to stem the spread of the virus on Wednesday

15:00 GMT – Germany preparing $160bn supplementary budget

German Minister of Finance Olaf Scholz said the government is readying a supplementary budget of $160bn as part of a broader funding package to tackle the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

“A hundred and fifty billion (euros) is a large amount, but it gives us the flexibility that we now need,” Scholz said.

“We are laying the ground for various other institutions … to take the steps necessary to stabilise our companies,” he told a news briefing.

14:45 GMT – Angola confirms first case 

Angola on Saturday confirmed its first two cases of coronavirus.

The first infections were two male Angolan residents who flew back from Portugal on March 17 and 18, Health minister Silvia Lutucuta told a news briefing.

14:35 GMT – Olympics Brazil calls for Tokyo Games to be pushed back to 2021

The Brazilian Olympic Committee (COB) has called for this year’s Tokyo Olympics to be suspended because of the coronavirus and proposed they be held on the same dates in 2021.

Athletes are worried about keeping fit and being able to compete in qualifying events and other competitions ahead of the scheduled Games from July 24 to August 9.

“Every athlete’s dream is to go to the Olympics in top form,” said COB president Paulo Wanderley. “It’s clear that right now maintaining the games for this year will impede this dream from being fully realised.”

14:25 GMT – Egypt shuts mosques and churches

Egypt has ordered mosques and churches to close their doors to worshippers in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, after calls for the government to follow steps taken by neighbouring countries.

Egypt, which has over 100,000 mosques, has so far registered 285 confirmed coronavirus cases, eight of whome have died.

The Ministry of Islamic Endowments said it would close all mosques for two weeks “for the necessity of preserving souls”, but will allow them to broadcast prayer calls through loudspeakers.

14:15 GMT – Britain hires ex-Nestle executive to run food security ‘war room’: report

The British government is hiring former Nestle executive Chris Tyas to oversee a “war room” set up to ensure the country’s food security as the coronavirus crisis deepens, Sky News reported on Saturday. 

14:05 GMT – Bulgarian Orthodox Church tells faithful to pray at home

Bulgaria’s main Orthodox Church has urged Christians to stay away from churches and pray at home as the country tightens measures to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Bulgaria banned access to parks and playgrounds as well as non-essential travel between major cities in the country of 7 million people on Friday after closing schools, bars and restaurants to ensure social distancing. As of Saturday, Bulgaria had 142 cases, with three deaths.

14:00 GMT – Albania deploys army to enforce curfew

Albania’s government has deployed the army to enforce a strict 40-hour curfew to fight the coronavirus after people widely flouted previous measures aimed at stemming its spread.

About 120,000 Albanians came back from Italy just before Albania severed air and sea links with its neighbour across the Adriatic Sea 12 days ago.

So far, 76 people have tested positive for the coronavirus with two deaths recorded.

13:55 GMT – Mauritius reports first death as cases rise     

Mauritius has recorded its first death from coronavirus, the health minister said, the third in sub-Saharan Africa, as the archipelago nation imposed a lockdown to contain the outbreak.     

“There have been 14 confirmed cases so far, one of which died on Thursday evening,” Health Minister Kailesh Jagutpal said, without providing details about the deceased patient.

Mauritius, some 1,800 kilometres (1,100 miles) off the eastern coast of Africa, went into lockdown Friday, with the country’s citizens told to stay indoors for 14 days.

13:45 GMT – US track and field body calls for Olympics postponement

USA Track and Field (USATF), the governing body of American athletics, has joined USA Swimming in calling for a postponement of the Tokyo Olympics.

The federation, in a letter to US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) Chief Executive Sarah Hirshland, asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to postpone the Games, which are scheduled from July 24-Aug. 9.

“We certainly understand the ramifications of this request, and the realities of trying to coordinate the logistics of a postponed Olympic Games … but the alternative of moving forward in light of the current global situation would not be in the best interest of our athletes,” USATF chief executive Max Siegel said in the letter.

13:40 GMT – German infections rise to 16,662 with 47 deaths

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has risen by 2,705 within a day to reach 16,662, the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases has said.

It said a total of 47 people had died after testing positive, an increase of 16 from a tally of 31 published on Friday.

13:35 GMT – Netherlands cases rise to 3,631 with 136 deaths

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Netherlands has risen by 637 to a total of 3,631, Dutch health authorities said in their daily update on Saturday, with 30 new deaths.

The total death toll in the Netherlands now stands at 136, with victims aged between 63 and 95 years old.

13:25 GMT – Finland confirms first coronavirus death

Finland has confirmed its first coronavirus death, according to national public broadcaster YLE. 

The patient was an elderly individual who lived in the Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district, according to the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). As of Saturday, 521 infections had been reported in the country.

13:20 GMT – Switzerland infections rise to 6,100, with 56 deaths

Switzerland has reported 6,100 coronavirus infections, some 25 percent more than a day earlier, and 56 deaths, the Swiss health ministry said, as hospitals in the canton of Ticino, bordering hard-hit Italy, came under intense pressure.

“The situation in Ticino is very tense,” said Daniel Koch, head of the Federal Office of Health’s communicable diseases division. The latest tally nationwide is up more than 1,200 cases in a day, while the deaths were up 13 from Friday.

13:15 GMT – Vietnam to bar entry of foreigners

Vietnam will bar entry for all foreigners from Sunday, except for special cases, as the Southeast Asian country seeks to contain the spread of coronavirus, the government said.

Those entering the country on “diplomatic and special purposes” will be subject to quarantine and approval from the ministries of police, health and foreign affairs, the government said in a statement. Vietnam had earlier said it would suspend all inbound international flights.

Vietnam’s coronavirus cases rose to 94 as of late Saturday, with no deaths, the Ministry of Health said

13:10 GMT – Four ministers infected as Burkina Faso reports new deaths

Four government ministers are among the latest cases of coronavirus in Burkina Faso where two new deaths were reported by the health emergency response operations centre, Corus.

According to press releases issued by their respective departments, the ministers of foreign affairs, interior, education, and mines and quarries have all tested positive for COVID-19.

“Two deaths (have been) recorded today, bringing the number of deaths since the start of the epidemic to three,” the report from Corus said. Burkina Faso now has a total of 64 confirmed cases.

13:00 GMT

Hi, this is Joseph Stepansky taking over from Tamila Varshalomidze in Doha.

12:45 GMT – Georgia declares state of emergency

Georgia declared a nationwide state of emergency, allowing the government to regulate prices for food and medicines if needed.

“The situation is grave and is expected to worsen,” President Salome Zurabishvili said in a televised address to the nation, saying the state of emergency will last for one month.

“A number of rights guaranteed under the constitution will be limited during the state of emergency, including the rights of movement and assembly,” Zurabishvili said, adding that there would be no restrictions on freedom of expression and the media and that the government was not planning to impose a curfew.

12:33 GMT – Singapore reports 47 more cases after first deaths

Singapore reported 47 new cases of coronavirus, most of which were imported, taking the city-state’s tally to 432 infections.

Of the new cases, 39 were imported and had a travel history to Australia, Europe, North America and Southeast Asian nations, the health ministry said in a statement. A majority were returning residents and long-term pass holders.

Singapore also reported two virus-related deaths of people with underlying health conditions, marking the first deaths in the city-state’s widely praised battle against the infection.

12:27 GMT – Iraq Shia defy curfews to commemorate revered imam

Tens of thousands of Iraqi Shia turned out to commemorate a revered imam, defying curfews imposed to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

On foot, they streamed to the golden-domed mausoleum of Imam al-Kadhim in Baghdad, where authorities kept an outer gate open to allow pilgrims into the surrounding courtyard.

The inner shrine remained closed despite some pilgrims pressing authorities to let them in, a shrine official told AFP news agency.

12:11 GMT – Turkey suspends flights to 46 more countries, bans picnics

Turkey suspended flights with 46 more countries, including Canada and the northern part of Cyprus, and banned picnics and barbecues.

Ankara had already banned flights to 22 countries, closed schools, cafes and bars, banned mass prayers and indefinitely postponed matches in its main sport leagues.

On Saturday, it extended the ban to picnics and barbecues, as well as barbershops and beauty salons.

A tourist wearin a protective mask as a preventive measure against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) walks at Augusta street in downtown Lisbon
A tourist wearing a protective mask in central Lisbon, Portugal [Rafael Marchante/Reuters]

12:07 GMT – Portugal’s death toll doubles to 12

The death toll from the coronavirus pandemic in Portugal doubled overnight to 12, the country’s national health authority DGS said.

The number of confirmed cases rose to 1,280 from 1,059 the previous day, it said, adding that 35 people were in intensive care.

Portugal declared a state of emergency to stem the spread of the virus on Wednesday.

11:48 GMT – Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church shuts churches

Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church ordered all its churches to shut their doors and suspend masses for two weeks over coronavirus fears, it said in a statement.

The church also banned visits to monasteries and closed condolence halls attached to churches.

Each parish will name only one church for funeral prayers, and services will be restricted to the family of the deceased.

11:40 GMT – Emirates suspends France, Germany, Nigeria and some US flights

Emirates, one of the world’s biggest airlines, is suspending all flights to France, Germany, Nigeria, and New York and New Jersey in the US due to the coronavirus outbreak, according to internal emails seen by Reuters news agency.

France, Germany and Nigeria flights will be suspended from March 23 until further notice, according to one email.

Flights to New York’s JFK and New Jersey’s Newark EWR will be suspended from March 24 until further notice, another email said.

Congolese policemen wear masks as they ride on their patrol pick-up truck amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Goma
Congolese policemen wear masks in Goma, eastern DRC [Olivia Acland/Reuters]

11:35 GMT – DRC reports first virus death

The Democratic Republic of the Congo reported its first coronavirus death, along with five new cases that brought the total to 23.

“All are Congolese. Our teams are taking care of them,” Eteni Longondo, the country’s health minister, said on Twitter.

Though Congolese authorities did not offer information about the deceased patient, local media said he is a close relative of an unnamed minister who has herself tested positive.

11:31 GMT – UK’s Smiths makes ventilator available to other producers

British technology firm Smiths Group said it was making one of its ventilators available for other manufacturers to produce, part of a coordinated attempt to tackle a shortage of life-saving equipment as coronavirus spreads.

The group’s Smiths Medical unit was providing intellectual property and advice to other companies to make its PARAPAC Plus lightweight ventilators, and it was ramping up its own production at its site in Luton, just north of London.

Smiths said it was also talking to contract manufacturers to add production capacity in the US and elsewhere.

11:27 GMT – Spain’s deaths surpass 1,300

Spain’s death toll from the coronavirus epidemic soared on Saturday to 1,326 from 1,002 on Friday, according to the Health Ministry’s latest data.

The number of registered cases in the country rose to 24,926 from 19,980 on Friday.

Taiwan Battles Against The Coronavirus Outbreak
A woman is seen at a shopping mall in Taipei, Taiwan [Paula Bronstein/Getty Images]

11:07 GMT – Pakistan suspends international flights for two weeks

Pakistan suspended all international flights for two weeks in a bid to contain the coronavirus pandemic, the civil aviation authority said.

“The Government of Pakistan has decided to suspend operation of all international passenger, chartered and private flights to Pakistan, effective from 21st March 2020 (2000 hrs PST) to 4th April 2020 (2000 hrs PST),” it said in a statement.

Cargo and diplomatic flights are exempt. Pakistan has reported three deaths and 617 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

10:40 GMT – Hong Kong postpones university entrance exams

Hong Kong said it would postpone university entrance exams until April 24 as the city tries to contain a surge in coronavirus cases as people return from overseas infected with the disease.

The government said civil servants would work from home and urged employers to be flexible with work-from-home arrangements. Schools will remain closed until further notice, it added.

Hong Kong has 273 confirmed cases of coronavirus, which has killed four people in the city.


10:35 GMT – Mauritius reports first death from coronavirus

Mauritius has confirmed its first death from the coronavirus, while the number of confirmed cases has risen, a health ministry official said.

“Mauritius has registered its first death linked to COVID-19. Actually, some 13 patients have been tested COVID-19 positive. Their state of health is stable, and they are being treated in isolation,” Kavish Pultoo, adviser on information matters at the Ministry of Health, told Reuters news agency.

10:30 GMT – Georgia’s PM asks president to declare emergency

Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia said he had asked the country’s president to declare an emergency situation due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Gakharia said the measure, which is due to be approved by parliament after the president’s approval, would be introduced for one month.

Georgia reported 47 cases of coronavirus as of Saturday. One patient recovered.

10:25 GMT – Coronavirus cases reach 52 in Palestinian territories

Palestinian Minister of Health Mai Kaileh confirmed four new cases of coronavirus in the Palestinian territories, bringing the total to 52.

Kaileh told Palestinian news agency WAFA that three of the new cases were Palestinian students from Ramallah who returned home from the UK and the fourth a physician from Hebron who contracted the disease while working at the Israeli Hadassah Ein Karem hospital.

Most of the cases are in the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem and its area towns, including the 17 recoveries. The other six were in Ramallah, along with the three new cases, two in Tulkarm, two in Nablus, one in Salfit and one in Hebron.

A Palestinian groom, wearing a mask as a preventive measure against the coronavirus disease, leaves with his bride her family house, on their wedding day in Beit Jala in the Israeli-occupied West Bank
A Palestinian groom and his bride leave her family home in Beit Jala in the occupied West Bank [Mustafa Ganeyeh/Reuters]

10:05 GMT – Angola announces first two cases

Angola’s Health Minister Silvia Lutucuta confirmed the country’s first two cases of coronavirus.

“Today we received results confirming two cases of patients infected with COVID-19,” Lutucuta said at a briefing on national broadcaster TPA.

10:01 GMT – Vietnam to suspend all inbound flights

Vietnam will suspend all inbound international flights to contain the spread of coronavirus in the country, the government said in a statement.

“[Vietnam] will suspend all the flights carrying foreign passengers to minimize the number of people coming to the country,” Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said, without giving a timeframe.

Vietnam’s coronavirus cases rose to 92 as of Saturday, with no deaths, according to the health ministry.

09:57 GMT – Coronavirus cases rise to 271 in India

India’s health ministry says the country has a total of 271 confirmed cases, including 22 recoveries and four deaths in Delhi, Karnataka, Punjab and Maharashtra states.

India is due to impose a national curfew on Sunday.

09:30 GMT – Iran reports 123 new deaths

Iran says the number of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus reached 20,610 in the country, while the death toll was 1,556 after 123 more deaths.

Coronavirus precautions in Tehran
Fire brigade crews wearing protective masks carry out disinfection work in Tehran [Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu]

09:19 GMT – Philippines confirms 45 new cases

The Philippine health ministry reported 45 more cases of coronavirus, bringing Saturday’s tally to 77.

With the latest addition, confirmed cases in the Philippines totalled 307. It announced 32 new cases earlier in the day and the 19th death related to the coronavirus.

The government has placed more than half of the country’s population under strict home quarantine to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

09:13 GMT – Bangkok shuts malls, schools, restaurants

Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang signed a shutdown order effective from March 22 to April 12, affecting establishments in the Thai capital.

The order will see the closure of restaurants, department stores, markets, schools, barbers, stadiums, golf courses, and massage parlours, among others.

The announcement makes exceptions for takeaway sections in restaurants, supermarkets, drug stores, and fresh food markets which are considered “important to sustain life”.

09:03 GMT – Indonesia confirms 81 new cases, 6 more deaths

Indonesia has announced 81 new coronavirus cases and six more deaths, bringing the total number of cases to 450 and deaths to 38, a health ministry official told reporters.

A traveller wearing protective clothing and a full-face mask goes up an escalator after leaving Beijing Railway Station as the country is hit by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus
A traveller wearing protective clothing and a full-face mask at Beijing Railway Station [Thomas Peter/Reuters]

09:02 GMT – Oman reports four new cases

Oman’s health ministry said the sultanate registered four new cases of the new coronavirus.

All of the patients are Omani citizens, two had contact with previous cases and the other two had returned from the UK and Spain.

The total number of cases stood at 52, including 13 recoveries, the health ministry said in a statement carried by Oman’s ONA.

08:31 GMT – Kuwait announces five more recoveries

Kuwait’s Minister of Health Sheikh Basel al-Sabah said five more patients had recovered from the new coronavirus, bringing the total number to 27.

Al-Sabah said that laboratory tests and x-rays proved that the five cases were cured of the coronavirus, Kuwait’s KUNA reported.

The recovered people will be moved to the recuperation ward of the hospital specialised in treating COVID-19, pending discharge in the coming days, he said.

08:18 GMT – Rouhani expects restrictions to ease in three weeks

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that social distancing measures, including travel restrictions, will apply for only two to three weeks as he expects the crisis to ease by then.

Iran “has to do everything necessary to return economic production to normal”, he said in comments broadcast on state TV.

He also accused “counter-revolutionaries” of plotting to shut down economic production.

08:13 GMT – UAE confirms first two deaths

The United Arab Emirates has announced the death of two coronavirus patients, the first to be reported in the country.

Read more here.

08:04 GMT – Turkey announces new measures

Turkey has beefed up its measures to stem the spread of coronavirus, including new measures for hotels, restaurants, dormitories and nursing homes.

Hotels and other accommodation facilities must now get detailed information on where their guests recently travelled to and their future travel plans, said the health ministry.

In restaurants, to reduce the risk of infection, tables must be set at least one metre apart, it said. If nursing home and elderly care centre residents show symptoms consistent with coronavirus, all the residents will be closely monitored, it said.

07:44 GMT – East Timor confirms first case

East Timor reported its first case of coronavirus, its ministry of health said, adding that the case was someone who had just returned from overseas.

In an official Facebook post, the ministry said the patient posed little risk to the public, as he immediately consulted with doctors after showing symptoms and isolated himself immediately after. 

The ministry did no give details of where the patient travelled from.

06:26 GMT – Central Asia tightens restrictions

In Kazakhstan, where 52 cases have been confirmed, authorities said they were closing all parks in Almaty, the country’s biggest city, which was put in lockdown this week along with capital city Nur-Sultan.

In Uzbekistan, with 33 confirmed cases, the government said it was shutting down all entertainment venues and tea houses and banning large wedding parties and other family ceremonies.

A worker wearing a protective face mask carries meat at a local food market in Almaty
A worker wearing a protective face mask carries meat at a local food market, also known as bazaar, in Almaty, Kazakhstan in March [Pavel Mikheyev/Reuters]

In Turkmenistan, which has so far reported no coronavirus cases, locals travelling to and from the capital, Ashgabat, said that officials at checkpoints around the city informed them non-essential travel was banned.

The government of Kyrgyzstan, where the number of coronavirus cases doubled overnight to 12, said it was locking down the provincial districts where the infection had been diagnosed.

A Jordanian policeman stands guard in front of al Husseini mosque building after closing it to the worshipers amid concerns over the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spread, in downtown Amman
A policeman stands in front of a mosque after closing it to the worshippers in Amman, Jordan [Muhammad Hamed/Reuters]

06:24 GMT – Jordan sounds sirens for start of nationwide curfew

Jordan sounded sirens to signal the start of a nationwide curfew, limiting the mobility of its 10 million citizens indefinitely to combat the spread of the coronavirus, witnesses and officials said.

Anyone violating the curfew, which severely restricts movement beyond emergencies and essential services, will be jailed for up to a year, the army said.

The curfew is in place until further notice. Read more here.

A Royal Thai Army soldier sanitizes in the city due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Bangkok
A Royal Thai Army soldier sanitises streets in Bangkok, Thailand [Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters]

06:21 GMT – Thailand reports 89 new cases in highest daily jump

Thailand reported its largest daily increase in coronavirus infections, with 89 new cases taking the national tally to 411.

Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a Public Health Ministry spokesman, said the new cases were linked to earlier infections from a boxing match, an entertainment complex and a religious gathering in neighbouring Malaysia.

Of those infected, 366 are currently being treated, while 44 have recovered. Thailand has reported one death in the outbreak. 

06:17 GMT – IMF sees severe impact of pandemic on global economy

The impact of the global coronavirus pandemic will be “quite severe”, but a long expansionary period and high employment rates mean the global economy should weather the current shock, a top International Monetary Fund official said.

Martin Muhleisen, who heads the IMF’s strategy policy and review department, said in an IMF podcast that the main goal for governments should be to limit the spread of the virus in a way that provides confidence that the economic shock will be temporary.

He said banks and governments have taken unprecedented measures to provide liquidity to markets and keep them functioning, “and maybe more will be needed,” but such steps should be coordinated internationally to amplify their effect.

06:13 GMT

Hello, I am Tamila Varshalomidze in Doha, taking over the blog from my colleague Ted Regencia in Kuala Lumpur.

Slum Dwellers Defend Against The Coronavirus In The Philippines
A makeshift barricade blocking an entrance in Manila, Philippines [Ezra Acayan/Getty Images]

05:00 GMT – Philippines reports 32 new cases

The Philippines’ Department of Health announced on Saturday 32 new cases of coronavirus, pushing the total number of cases to 262.

It also reported at least one more death, of a leading professor at the University of the Philippines, who died early on Saturday, bringing the total to 19.

05:05 GMT – Colombia imposes mandatory lockdowns

Colombia is joining a growing list of nations that have imposed mandatory lockdowns on citizens in an effort to contain the coronavirus.

President Ivan Duque announced that Colombians will be required to isolate in their homes from Tuesday until April 13.

Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela are among other Latin American countries that have taken similar measures.

Colombia coronavirus
Police officers fit a mask on a woman they found alone in a street of downtown Bogota, Colombia on Friday [Ivan Valencia/AP]

Colombia has confirmed 158 cases so far, with no deaths, and officials are hoping that imposing drastic measures now will help reduce the number of cases in the weeks ahead.

Colombia’s capital, Bogota, began its lockdown on Friday, leaving the city’s usually traffic-filled streets largely empty.

04:30 GMT – Australia shuts Bondi Beach after crowds defy order

Australian officials closed Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach on Saturday after thousands of people flocked there in recent days, defying social distancing orders, amid an unusually warm autumn spell.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the crowds on the country’s most famous strip of sand were “unacceptable” as he reported the number of infections across Australia had risen to 874. The death toll was seven, unchanged from a day earlier.

Bondi Beach - Sydney
Beachgoers enjoy a sunny day at Bondi Beach despite growing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus [Loren Elliott/Reuters]

New South Wales state Minister for Police David Elliott announced Bondi’s closure, warning “this is going to become the new norm” if people did not comply with regulations banning non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people.

“This is about saving lives,” Elliott said in a televised news conference.

04:10 GMT – Filipino professor and China expert dies

A University of the Philippines professor and leading expert on China-Philippines relations has died of coronavirus early on Saturday, according to the university. 

Professor Aileen San Pablo Baviera, former dean of the university’s Asian Center, died at San Lazaro Hospital in Manila of severe pneumonia caused by COVID-19.

As of Friday, there were 230 confirmed cases in the Philippines, with at least 18 deaths.

The government has been criticised for the slow pace of testing, following reports that there were only 2,000 initial test kits for the country of more than 100 million people. The government has vowed to ramp up testing with the promised arrival of 120,000 kits from different countries in coming days. 

03:50 GMT – Singapore reports first two deaths

Singapore’s Ministry of Health reported on Saturday the first two deaths linked to the coronavirus.

The first was a 75-year-old female Singaporean, while the second was a 64-year-old man from Indonesia. At least 16 patients are in critical condition, the health ministry said.

Singapore reports first two coronavirus deaths
Before the announcement on Saturday, there were 385 cases confirmed in Singapore – 131 have recovered and 16 are in critical condition [Ee Ming Toh/AP]

Before the announcement, there were 385 cases confirmed in Singapore, 131 of whom have recovered.

02:40 GMT – Canadian man from Diamond Princess dies in Japan

Japan’s health ministry says a Canadian man who was a passenger infected with the coronavirus on board the cruise ship Diamond Princess died of COVID-19 pneumonia on Saturday.

The ministry offered its condolences, identifying the deceasaed only as a man in his 70s.

The ship, one which the infection was detected early in its voyage, returned to its home port of Yokohama near Tokyo in early February.

Diamond Princess
The Canadian man, who died on Saturday, is the eighth confirmed death from among those on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship, where 712 people were infected [File: Eugene Hoshiko/AP]

The 3,711 on board remained on the ship for a two-week quarantine that was much criticised as ineffective and allegedly making the vessel “an incubator”.

The Canadian is the eighth confirmed death from among those on the ship, where 712 people were infected and transferred to hospitals during the quarantine. A total of 551 have recovered.

01:49 GMT – South Korea reports 147 new cases

South Korea reported 147 new infections on Saturday, according to Reuters news agency quoting the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new cases bring the country’s total to 8,799.

Saturday’s reported cases rose above 100 from 87 recorded on Friday, halting a downward trend in new cases from the peak of 909 reported on February 29.

At least 100 people have died of the disease in the country.

01:21 GMT – New Zealand confirms first local outbreak

For the first time in New Zealand, health authorities say there might be a local outbreak.

Health authorities on Saturday announced 13 new cases, bringing the number of confirmed cases to 52. They say two of the cases cannot be linked immediately to overseas travel, as has been the situation for all previous cases, according to an AP news agency report.

In a rare address to the nation, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern urged people aged over 70 to stay home and all other New Zealanders to avoid nonessential travel.

She introduced a new alert system, placing the country at 2 on a scale where 4 is the highest. The country has already closed its borders to everybody but citizens and residents and placed restrictions on public gatherings. Ardern said most schools will remain open, for now.

01:15 GMT – Mexico cases rise to more than 200

Mexico’s health ministry said on Friday that its confirmed coronavirus cases now total 203, up by nearly a quarter from the previous day’s tally of 164, according to a Reuters news agency report.

On Friday, US President Donald Trump announced that the US border with Mexico would be closed to non-essential travel to help contain the spread of the disease.

Mexico - coronavirus
Pedestrians pass the Gateway International Bridge after entering the US state of Texas from Mexico on Friday [Eric Gay/AP]

00:50 GMT – No new cases in Wuhan for third straight day

The virus outbreak’s epicentre of Wuhan in China reported no new or suspected cases again for a third consecutive day.

Overall, China on Saturday reported 41 new cases detected over the previous 24 hours, all among people travelling from overseas, and another seven deaths, six in Wuhan.

China now has recorded 81,008 cases and 3,255 deaths. A total of 71,740 people have been declared cured.

00:10 GMT – Cuba imposes temporary ban on tourists

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel says the country is temporarily barring tourists to prevent more cases of coronavirus, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Diaz-Canel and Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz said in an announcement on state television that only residents of the island would be allowed to enter for 30 days starting Tuesday.

As of Friday, Cuba had announced 16 cases of COVID-19 and one death, all in people who had travelled overseas or been in direct contact with a traveller.

Cuba - coronavirus
The Cuban economy is heavily dependent on tourism, already dramatically impacted by to US sanctions tightened by the Trump administration [Ramon Espinosa/AP]

Exceptions would be made for people involved in commercial importation, like crews of merchant ships, and for tourism industry workers who need to help tourists leave the country.

Marrero said there were about 60,000 tourists in Cuba as of Friday evening.

The Cuban economy is heavily dependent on tourism, which had already slowed dramatically due to US sanctions tightened by the Trump administration.

23:45 GMT Friday – Trump invokes wartime act to fight coronavirus

US President Donald Trump announced on Friday he had put the wartime Defense Production Act into action to aid the fight against coronavirus after saying earlier this week he would invoke the measure when needed.

The measure is meant to allow the US government to speed production of masks, respirators, ventilators and other necessary equipment.

Trump said he put the measure into action on Thursday evening. Asked why he was doing so now, he told reporters it would be used to ensure that US states could get the equipment needed to fight the virus.

23:15 GMT – US vice president’s staff member tests positive

The White House has announced that a member of Vice President Mike Pence’s staff has tested positive for coronavirus.

Pence’s spokeswoman, Katie Miller, said Friday that the staff member, who is not being identified, did not have “close contact” with either the vice president or President Donald Trump.

Miller says Pence’s office was notified Friday evening of the positive test result.

Coronavirus - Spain
Members of Spain’s Military Emergency Unit disinfect Madrid’s subway on Friday in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus, which has killed more than 1,000 in the country [Manu Fernandez/AP]

20:23 GMT – Turkey’s death toll rises, 670 confirmed cases

The death toll in Turkey due to the coronavirus rose to nine, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.

The number of confirmed cases increased to 670 from 359

Koca said 3,656 tests had been conducted in the past 24 hours, 311 of which came back positive.

20:11 GMT – Israel reports first death from coronavirus

Israel reported its first death from the coronavirus, an 88-year-old man who also suffered from previous illnesses.

The health ministry said in a statement the man had been brought to the hospital about a week ago in serious condition.

Israel has reported 705 cases of coronavirus, the large majority with mild symptoms. About 10 patients are in serious condition, and 15 have recovered completely.

I am Ted Regencia in Kuala Lumpur with Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the unfolding coronavirus pandemic.

For all the updates from yesterday (March 20), please click here.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies