Italy coronavirus deaths at 5,476 after 651 rise: Live updates

Death toll from coronavirus outbreak in Italy increases 13.5 percent as no sign of let up in killer contagion.

The death toll from the coronavirus pandemic continued its relentless rise in Europe on Sunday with Italy announcing 651 dead in one day, bringing its total to 5,476.

It was an increase of 13.5 percent but down from Saturday’s figure when 793 people died.

The Canadian death toll from the coronavirus outbreak jumped almost 50 percent in less than a day, and the mayor of New York City – the US epicentre of the contagion – called the situation the greatest crisis since the Great Depression and warned hospitals would likely be overwhelmed in 10 days. 

Globally, more than 13,000 people have now died from COVID-19. An estimated 92,000 of the 304,500 people who contracted the disease globally have recovered.

Here are the latest updates:

Sunday, March 22

21:15 GMT – More than 100 COVID-19 deaths in the US in 24 hours

Coronavirus claimed more than 100 lives in the past 24 hours in the United States, bringing the total to 389 deaths, according to an authoritative tally from Johns Hopkins University.

The states of New York (114 deaths), Washington (94 deaths) and California (28 deaths) have been the hardest hit by far. The virus has infected at least 30,000 people nationwide.

21:00 GMT – France coronavirus death toll jumps 112 to 674

The number of people killed in France by the coronavirus outbreak increased by another 112 to a total of 674, the top French health official said. 


The rise in the death toll was identical to that of the previous day. “The virus kills and it is continuing to kill,” said top French health official Jerome Salomon as he announced the new numbers at a daily briefing.

A total of 16,018 cases of infection had been recorded in France, while warning this was an “underestimate” as not all of those with the virus had been tested, even though 4,000 tests were now being done every day.

A total of 7,240 people have been hospitalised after falling ill with the virus, he added.

France has been in lockdown since Tuesday, with only essential trips outside allowed, but Salomon urged the French to show “patience”.

20:50 GMT – Coronavirus death toll climbs to 30 in Turkey

Turkey confirmed nine more deaths from the novel coronavirus late, bringing the total fatalities to 30.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter all the deceased were elderly people.

More than 20,000 coronavirus tests have been conducted so far on people suspected to be infected with the virus and 289 people tested positive in the last 24 hours, carrying the tally of infections to 1,236, he said.

Koca called on all the citizens to be cautious and said: “This country will not be defeated by this threat.”

20:40 GMT – Qatar offers $150m to support Gaza Strip in coronavirus battle

Qatar will provide $150m to support the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic, according to the state news agency QNA.

QNA said this package aims at “alleviating the suffering of the Palestinian people, and in support of UN relief and humanitarian programmes in Gaza”.

20:05 GMT – Syria confirms first coronavirus case: minister of health

Syria said it had confirmed its first case of coronavirus, in a person who had come from abroad.

Health Minister Nizar al-Yaziji told state media the “necessary measures” had been taken.

There had been unconfirmed reports in recent weeks of coronavirus cases in Syria, whose health system, housing and infrastructure have been ravaged by nine years of civil war, but the authorities had denied them. 

19:55 GMT – Johnson tells UK: Stay apart or face tougher coronavirus measures

British PM Johnson gives daily address to nation on coronavirus in London
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a news conference on the ongoing situation with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in London [Ian Vogler/Reuters]

Britain may need to impose curfews and travel restrictions to halt the spread of the coronavirus people do not heed the government’s advice on social distancing, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned.

Pubs, clubs and gyms have already closed, but social media on Sunday was awash with pictures of people congregating in parks and food markets, apparently ignoring advice to stay two metres apart.

India at ‘critical stage’ in coronavirus outbreak

Parks in London are already closing down as authorities struggle to slow the advance of coronavirus through the population, the biggest public health crisis since the influenza pandemic of 1918. So far 281 Britons have died from coronavirus, and the number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 5,683 on Sunday, up from 5,018 on Saturday.

Johnson was blunt as he delivered his message to the public. “Stay two metres apart. It’s not such a difficult thing. Do it,” he said.

“Otherwise…. there is going to be no doubt that we will have to bring forward further measures and we are certainly keeping that under constant review.”

19:40 GMT – Germany’s Merkel to go into quarantine after contact with infected doctor

German Chancellor Angela Merkel statement on the spread of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Berlin
German Chancellor Angela Merkel leaves a media statement on the spread of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Chancellery in Berlin [Michel Kappeler/Reuters]

Chancellor Angela Merkel will go into quarantine after coming into contact with a doctor who had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Merkel will continue to work from home and will submit to repeated tests over the next few days, her spokesman said. It was too soon for a conclusive test on her at the moment, he added.

Merkel on Friday afternoon received a vaccine shot against pneumococcus, a pneumonia-causing bacteria, from a doctor who later tested positive for the coronavirus.

19:30 GMT – Brazil’s Bolsonaro plays down coronavirus risk as cases top 1,000

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro denied the country’s healthcare system will collapse next month, contradicting his own health minister as the number of confirmed cases in the country rose above 1,000.

In an interview with CNN Brasil on Saturday night, Bolsonaro also expressed his frustration with several states’ measures to essentially shut down commerce and restrict people’s movement, saying they have gone too far and are damaging the economy.

“I think Mandetta was exaggerating,” Bolsonaro said, referring to health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who said on Thursday that Brazil’s fragile healthcare system will collapse under the weight of coronavirus by the end of April.

Bolsonaro said “collapse” was the wrong choice of words.

“What we’re doing is lengthening the infection curve. I don’t believe in a collapse,” he said.

19:20 GMT – Saudi coronavirus cases pass 500

A cleric calls for the prayer at an empty Al-Rajhi Mosque, as Friday prayers were suspended following the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Riyadh
A cleric calls for the prayer at an empty Al-Rajhi Mosque in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia [Ahmed Yosri /Reuters]

Saudi Arabia recorded 119 new cases of the virus for a total of 511, the highest in the Gulf Arab region, the health ministry said.

The tally of cases in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) now stands at more than 1,700. Bahrain reported a second death on Sunday, a citizen evacuated from Iran, taking the GCC’s total to four.

The ministry said 72 of the new cases were Turkish nationals under quarantine in the holy city of Mecca after interacting with an infected compatriot.

18:05 GMT – First US senator tested positive for coronavirus

Rand Paul, the Republican of Kentucky has become the first US senator to test positive for coronavirus. A post on his official page said that Paul is “asymptomaniac” and was not aware of direct contact with any infected person.

17:23 GMT – Italy: Deaths rise by 651 in a day, bringing total to 5,476

The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Rome
A woman with her dog is seen crossing the deserted Piazza del Popolo while the Italians stay at home as part of a lockdown against the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Rome [Alberto Lingria/Reuters]

The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy has risen by 651 to 5,476, officials said, an increase of 13.5 percent but down on Saturday’s figure when some 793 people died.

The total number of cases in Italy rose to 59,138 from a previous 53,578, an increase of 10.4 percent, the Civil Protection Agency said – the lowest rise in percentage terms since the contagion came to light on February 21.

Of those originally infected nationwide, 7,024 had fully recovered on Sunday compared to 6,072 the day before. There were 3,009 people in intensive care against a previous 2,857.

The hardest-hit northern region of Lombardy remained in a critical situation, with 3,456 deaths and 27,206 cases against a previously given 3,095 and 25,515 respectively.

17:00 GMT – Germany to ban meetings of more than two people

Everyday Life Fundamentally Altered As Measures To Stem Coronavirus Spread Are Tightened
People cross a nearly-empty street leading to the Victory Column at Tiergarten park in the city centre in Berlin, Germany [Sean Gallup/Getty Images]

Germany will ban public meetings of more than two people unless they are about work on slowing the spread of the coronavirus, the premier of North Rhine-Westphalia state said.

“The danger lies in the direct social interaction,” state premier Armin Laschet said, adding that the federal government and regional states had agreed on the stricter rules.

16:45 GMT – Bogota prison riot over coronavirus kills nearly two dozen

A prison riot in Colombia’s capital Bogota left 23 prisoners dead and 83 injured, the justice minister said as detainees protested sanitary conditions amid the global outbreak of coronavirus.

Seven prison guards were also injured late on Saturday and two are in critical condition, the minister said.

The Andean nation will enter a nationwide lockdown from Tuesday night. So far, 231 people have been confirmed infected with the disease in the country and two have died.

16:34 GMT – In Pictures: India holds 14-hour coronavirus lockdown

Nearly a billion Indians stayed indoors on Sunday, heeding Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s appeal to citizens to self-isolate as authorities battle to contain the fast-spreading coronavirus pandemic.

At least 324 people so far have contracted the disease while four have died in India, according to official data.

See more photos here.

15:35 GMT – Canada death toll jumps by 50 percent in a day

B.C. declares state of emergency in response to coronavirus pandemic
People wearing face masks as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 in Vancouver, Canada [Anadolu Agency]

The Canadian death toll from the coronavirus outbreak jumped almost 50 percent to 19 in less than a day, official figures released by the federal government showed.

Ottawa said late on Saturday that 13 people had died but by 9am Eastern Time (13:00 GMT) on Sunday that number had grown to 19, a 46 percent increase. The number of confirmed cases rose to 1,302 from 1,099.

15:20 GMT – ‘Biggest US crisis’ since Great Depression: NYC mayor

New York City Deals With Rise In Coronavirus Cases, As Mayor Considers Shelter-In-Place Order
Dawn breaks over Manhattan as the city struggles to contain the number of coronavirus cases [File: Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP]

The mayor of New York City, which has more than one-third of the nation’s coronavirus cases, described the outbreak as the biggest domestic crisis since the Great Depression and called for the US military to mobilise to help keep the healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed.

“If we don’t get more ventilators in the next 10 days people will die who don’t have to die,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio, as the nation’s most populous city saw cases top 8,000 and deaths hit 60. Nationwide cases are more than 25,000 with at least 340 dead.

“This is going to be the greatest crisis domestically since the Great Depression,” he told CNN, referring to the economic crisis of the 1930s. “This is why we need a full-scale mobilisation of the American military.”

“April is going to be a lot worse than March and I fear May could be worse than April,” de Blasio said.

15:10 GMT – Afghanistan reports first confirmed death

Afghanistan’s health ministry has reported the country’s first confirmed death from coronavirus.

A 40-year-old man died in the northern Balkh province, Ministry of Public Health spokesman Wahidullah Mayar said.

Afghanistan has 34 confirmed cases of the virus and there are fears its vulnerable health system, devastated by years of war, would be overwhelmed by an outbreak.

14:15 GMT – Emirates to stop all passenger flights by March 25

Emirates, one of the world’s biggest international airlines, will temporarily suspend all passenger flights starting Wednesday, it said on Sunday.

“As a global network airline, we find ourselves in a situation where we cannot viably operate passenger services until countries re-open their borders, and travel confidence returns,” Emirates Chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum said in a statement.^tfw

14:07 GMT – Coronavirus could destroy 10 million US jobs: Economists

With the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic still far from clear, researchers in the US are struggling to get to grips with how many American jobs could be lost to the crisis. 

Many economists suggest that even with an unprecedented intervention by the federal government and the US Federal Reserve, millions of jobs could be permanently erased within months.

On Thursday, a US government report showed that 281,000 Americans were let go from their jobs the previous week – a 33 percent spike over the last report. But many analysts believe the number is set to skyrocket. 

Read more here.

Hello, this is Linah Alsaafin taking over from my colleague Virginia Pietromarchi.

13:15 GMT – Singapore reports 23 new cases

Singapore reported 23 new cases of coronavirus, mainly imported, taking the city state’s tally of the infection to 455, according to a health ministry statement.

Authorities said they will not allow any short-term visitors to transit or enter Singapore, a move aimed at trying to contain the spread of the virus and conserve resources for citizens who are returning from other countries.

13:10 GMT – Kenya police clash with traders in attempted closure

Riot police in Kenya fired tear gas and beat protesters with sticks after traders resisted police attempts to close a crowded market in Kisumu in a measure to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

This happened after Kisumu County Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o ordered traders to shut down their stalls.

Traders shouted “Nyong’o must go” and “[The] market must [stay] open”, as police patrolled and ensured the market remained closed.

“Some of the traders here are willing to take their chances with the coronavirus and die because we don’t have any other choice. But why should we be beaten and attacked with tear gas?” asked Mohamed Hassan, one of the traders at Kibuye Market.

12:50 GMT – Iraq orders lockdown until March 28 

Iraq has imposed a nationwide lockdown until March 28 to fight the novel coronavirus as the number of cases rose and the death toll climbed to 20.  

Most of Iraq’s 18 provinces had so far imposed their own local curfews but the new measures would include the entire country, according to a new decision by the government’s crisis cell. 

COVID-19 mental health tip: Focus on something else

Schools, universities and other gathering places would remain closed, as would the country’s multiple international airports, it said in a statement. 

12:30 GMT – Palestinians to self-quarantine for 14 days 

The Palestinian government ordered Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank to remain indoors for two weeks as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus.

The order, announced by Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh on television, goes into force at 10pm local time. Medical personnel, pharmacists, grocers and bakers would be exempt, he said.

12:20 GMT – Macron threatens travel ban from UK 

French President Emmanuel Macron threatened to close France’s border with the UK on Friday if Prime Minister Boris Johnson failed to take more stringent measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak, French newspaper the Liberation reported.

“We had to clearly threaten him to make him finally budge,” the newspaper quoted an Elysee official close to Macron as saying, referring to the Johnson administration’s lenient approach to the pandemic.

The report echoed comments made by French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, who also expressed the government’s displeasure over how the UK was dealing with the crisis.

12:00 GMT – Kosovo records first death

The Kosovo Public Health Institute announced that an 82-year-old man is the country’s first patient to die from the coronavirus.

“Patient already had chronic illness, cardio and pulmonary,” the statement said. 

A country of some two million people, Kosovo has registered 31 cases of people infected with the virus.

11:50 GMT – Emirates suspends flights to Beijing, Seattle

Seattle and Beijing are the latest cities to be added to the UAE-carrier’s list of suspended destinations, the company announced on its website. 

The state-run Dubai carrier has suspended flights to 109 different destinations, representing nearly 70 percent of its network of 159 international destinations, because of the coronavirus outbreak and its impact on travel demand.

11:45 GMT – Spain reports 394 new deaths

Spain’s death toll from the coronavirus epidemic soared to 1,720 on Sunday from 1,326 the day before, according to multiple media outlets citing the latest health data.

The number of registered cases in the country rose to 28,572 on Sunday from 24,926 in the previous tally announced on Saturday, the reports added.

11:30 GMT – Australia to shut down nonessential services

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has ordered the closure of pubs, casinos, gyms and other public venues starting midday on Monday to combat the coronavirus after many people appeared to disregard health warnings. 

“I am deeply regretful that those workers and those business owners who will be impacted by this decision will suffer the economic hardship that undoubtedly they will now have to face,” Morrison said in a national address.

After an initial relatively slow spread, the number of infections in Australia has quickly risen, climbing to 1,098 confirmed cases and seven deaths. 

10:30 GMT – Oman bans public gatherings, shuts currency exchanges

Oman has restricted movement, banning public gatherings and limiting staffing at state entities, as it attempts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The Gulf state also shut currency exchange bureaus as part of its containment efforts. 

Authorities in the sultanate, which has reported 55 cases of the virus, also asked the private sector to facilitate remote working and urged commercial businesses and individuals to limit cash transactions, state television reported.

10:15 GMT – Lockdown to combat coronavirus not enough: WHO

Mike Ryan, the World Health Organization’s top emergency expert, said locking down societies to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus will not suffice to exterminate it. 

“What we really need to focus on is finding those who are sick, those who have the virus, and isolate them, find their contacts and isolate them,” Mike Ryan said in an interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

“If we don’t put in place the strong public health measures now, when those movement restrictions and lockdowns are lifted, the danger is the disease will jump back up.”

9:50 GMT – Iran’s death toll from the coronavirus hits 1,685 

Iran has announced 129 new deaths caused by the novel coronavirus, raising to 1,685 the official death toll in one of the worst-hit countries along with Italy and China.

“There were 1,028 new confirmed infected cases in the past 24 hours … and 7,913 people have recovered,” said health ministry spokesperson Kianush Jahanpur.

Members of firefighters wear protective face masks, amid fear of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), as they disinfect the streets, ahead of the Iranian New Year Nowruz, March 20, in Tehran, Iran March 18
Members of firefighters wear protective face masks as they disinfect the streets of Tehran [Ali Khara/Reuters]

9:30 GMT – Malaysia reports 123 new coronavirus cases, total at 1,306

Malaysia has confirmed 123 new coronavirus cases, taking the total to 1,306 cases, with 10 deaths. 

The health ministry said 34 of the new cases were linked to a religious gathering held late last month. Malaysia has the highest number of cases in Southeast Asia.

9:10 GMT – Indonesia registers 64 new coronavirus cases, 10 deaths 

Indonesia confirmed 64 new coronavirus cases and 10 new deaths, a health ministry official told reporters on Sunday, bringing the total number to 514 and 48, respectively.

Nine coronavirus patients have recovered, the health ministry spokesman, Achmad Yurianto said, bringing the total number of recoveries to 29.

A girl wearing a protective face mask and synthetic gloves sits on luggages as she queues for temperature checking amid the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at Halim Perdanakusuma airport in J
More than 500 people have tested positive for the virus in Indonesia [Willy Kurniawan/Reuters]

9:05 GMT – Britain to start producing new ventilators

Britain has received the first prototypes of new ventilators from manufacturers who had been asked to step up to help the health service handle the coronavirus pandemic, and production of new machines should start soon, housing minister Robert Jenrick said on Sunday.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by offers of support. There’s now a number of manufacturers who are working with us. We’re in receipt of some of the first prototypes, and we expect that manufacturing can start quite quickly,” Jenrick said in an interview with Sky News, adding that around 13,000 ventilators were currently available to Britain’s National Health Service.

“But we do need more, and we’re trying to ramp up production as quickly as we can.”

9:00 GMT – Czech coronavirus cases rise to 1,047 

The number of coronavirus cases in the Czech Republic has risen to 1,047, according to the latest health ministry tally.

The country of 10.7 million people had 158 new cases on Saturday, the ministry said.

Six people have recovered, and there have been no deaths. Health workers had tested 15,584 people as of Saturday.

08:45 GMT – NHS nurse appeals to shoppers to not panic-buy

“You just need to stop it!” said a UK critical-care nurse, breaking down in tears as she left a supermarket where she has been unable to find any vegetables or fruits to eat. 

Coronavirus: UK nurse in tears over panic buying

08:24 GMT – Romania confirms first coronavirus death

A 67-year-old man who had been suffering from terminal cancer is Romania’s first death due to coronavirus. 

The deceased was confirmed to be infected on March 18 and was being treated in a hospital in the southern Romanian city of Craiova.

Romania, which has recorded 367 cases of coronavirus to date, declared a state of emergency on March 16. 

Illuminated by police car lights, a female police officer, left,  wearing a protective mask stands at a roadblock in the vicinity of one of the hospital where COVID-19 infected patients are under trea
Illuminated by police car lights, a female police officer, left, wearing a protective mask stands near a hospital where COVID-19 infected patients are under treatment in Bucharest, Romania. [Andreea Alexandru/AP] 

08:11 GMT – Libya UN-recognised government imposes curfew 

As fighting in the south of Libya’s capital continues, the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) declared a night-time curfew from 16:00 to 04:00 GMT to keep the coronavirus out of areas it controls.

The internationally recognised GNA has also ordered the closure of restaurants and cafes while parties, funerals and weddings have been banned.

No cases have been reported in Libya to date, but experts fear an outbreak could be catastrophic due to the country’s gutted health system.

08:01 GMT – Iran’s Khamenei sceptical about US offer to help Iran

The offer by the US to help Iran fight the coronavirus pandemic is strange, said Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

A handout picture provided by the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on March 20, 2020 shows him delivering a speech on the occasion of Noruz, the Iranian New Year, in Tehran. - No
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivered a broadcast speech on the occasion of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year [AFP]

“Several times, Americans have offered to help Iran to contain the virus. Aside from the fact that there are suspicions about this virus being created by America […] their offer is strange since they face shortages in their fight against the virus,” Khamenei said during a speech in Tehran broadcast live across Iran marking Nowruz, the Persian New Year. 

“Iran has the capability to overcome any kind of crisis, including coronavirus outbreak.”

07:45 GMT – China witnessing increase in imported cases

For a fourth consecutive day, China reported an increase in the number of cases imported from overseas, mostly from Chinese people returning home.


The country recorded 46 new cases, all but one coming from outside China – a drastic reduction in the number of domestically transmitted infections.

China is stepping up measures to identify new cases, including diverting all flights due to arrive in Beijing to another airport where passengers will undergo virus screening, government agencies said.

07:24 GMT – Tokyo considering postponing Olympics: Reuters 

The Tokyo Olympics Games organisers are considering alternatives to holding the event this summer, two sources told Reuters news agency.

If confirmed, the news would mark a change in direction by the Japanese government which has so far ruled out postponing the Olympics.

While the coronavirus outbreak has disrupted sports events around the world, Japan has been steadfast in saying the Games will go on. 

07:10 GMT – Bike and automakers to halt activities in India

India’s giant bike maker Hero Motocorp is about to stop operations at all its manufacturing facilities until March 31 to protect its employees from the pandemic.

With plants in India, Bangladesh and Colombia, Hero accounts for more than 35 percent of the two-wheeler market in India.

Also, US carmaker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced it will suspend production at its plant in the western Indian state of Maharashtra until March 31.

A motorist rides through deserted Rajpath road during a one-day Janata (civil) curfew imposed as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in New Delhi on March 22, 2020. - Nearly one bil
A motorist rides through deserted New Dehli during a one-day curfew imposed as a preventive measure against the coronavirus, in New Delhi. [Sajjad Hussain/AFP]

06:45 GMT – Russia to send help to Italy

Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered to help Italy contain the spread of coronavirus.

In a phone call with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Putin offered his support in the form of mobile disinfection vehicles and specialists to help the worst-hit Italian regions, according to the Kremlin.

The Russian defence ministry said military transport planes would deliver eight mobile brigades of military medics, special disinfection vehicles and other medical equipment to Italy starting Sunday.

Italy coronavirus death toll rises by 793 to 4,825

I will shortly be handing over this blog to my colleague Virginia Pietromarchi in Doha.

Here’s a summary of the main developments on Sunday morning:

– Italy has announced a tightening of its lockdown with all non-essential businesses ordered to close.

– Singapore has closed its borders to short-term visitors and transit passengers.

– Australia has closed beaches, and is considering more ‘draconian’ measures to get people to follow social distancing guidelines.

– Gaza has announced its first two cases of the disease.

05:45 GMT – Malaysia announces ninth death

A 48-year-old doctor has died from coronavirus in Malaysia, becoming the first medical worker to die from the disease.

The man, who was being treated in the northern state of Perlis, had a history of travel to Turkey, the health ministry said. He had not been involved in treating people with COVID-19. 

The country on Sunday deployed the army to assist the police in getting people to follow a restricted movement order that is in force until March 31.

05:25 GMT – Malaysia mosque event organiser says worshippers cooperating

People who attended a mass gathering at a mosque in Malaysia that is now linked to 840 confirmed coronavirus cases across Southeast Asia are cooperating with authorities, an organiser said after the government said thousands of them were still being traced.

The four-day event is connected to 60 percent of Malaysia’s 1,183 cases, as well as clusters elsewhere in the region including Brunei, Cambodia and Singapore.

“After hearing reports of thousands of participants yet to be screened, many had returned to their district health departments or hospitals repeatedly until their names and details were recorded,” Abdullah Cheong, a leader of the event’s organising team, said in a statement on Saturday.

05:15 GMT – Ecuador’s health minister replaced after surge in cases

Ecuador’s health minister stepped down on Saturday, just hours after authorities announced the number of confirmed cases had shot up to more than 500, with seven deaths.

Hours after the announcement, officials confirmed the resignation of Health Minister Catalina Andramuno, without providing details, and appointed Juan Carlos Zevallos, a doctor who has worked in several universities, as her replacement.

The labour minister also resigned, a presidential announcement said.

04:35 GMT – First two cases confirmed in Gaza Strip

The Palestinian Health Authority has confirmed the first two cases of coronavirus in the occupied Gaza Strip. 

The two people had recently returned from Pakistan.

04:10 GMT – Japan suspects new virus cluster in southwest

Japan’s Oita prefecture confirmed two new coronavirus infections at a medical centre on Sunday, bringing the total at the facility to 14 and making it a suspected cluster, according to Japanese newswire Kyodo.

Two female nurses who work at the Oita Medical Center, one in her 20s and another in her 50s, were diagnosed with the coronavirus although they showed only mild symptoms, Kyodo said.

The medical centre has already confirmed 12 cases, and the southwestern prefecture is conducting tests for about 600 staff and patients who are or were hospitalised there, they said.

Japan has recorded 1,055 cases of domestically-transmitted cases of coronavirus as of Sunday, up 40 from the previous day, according to public broadcaster NHK.

04:00 GMT – US vice president tests negative for coronavirus

The office of US Vice President Mike Pence says he and his wife have tested negative for the coronavirus.

The couple took the test after one of Pence’s staff was diagnosed with the virus.

03:50 GMT – Singapore closes to short-term visitors, transit passengers

Singapore has decided to close its borders to all short-term visitors given the “heightened risk” of the coronavirus. 

The Ministry of Health says the measures are necessary because 80 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases over the past three days came from overseas.

The country will also stop transit through Singapore. 

The measures come into effect from 23 March at 11:59pm local time (15:59 GMT). 

Singapore’s Changi Airport, one of Asia’s major hubs, has emptied as the coronavirus has prompted border closures [File: Edgar Su/Reuters]

03:10 GMT – Scepticism as North Korea claims no cases

North Korea watchers are expressing scepticism – and some alarm – about the government’s claim that the country is coronavirus-free.

Sources have informed them of a number of cases, and they worry that if it begins to spread within the wider community, the consequences would be devastating.

Al Jazeera’s Kelly Kasulis has the story.

03:00 GMT – Turkey confirmed cases rise, partial curfew for vulnerable

Turkey’s confirmed cases of coronavirus rose to 947, and the number of dead to 21, the health minister said on Saturday.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said some 2,953 tests had been conducted in the previous 24 hours.

The country is also planning a partial curfew for citizens over the age of 65 and those with chronic diseases. The interior ministry is expected to announce more details later.

02:50 GMT – Cases rise in the Philippines

The Philippines has reported 73 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 380, the health ministry said on Sunday.

It also announced six more deaths related to coronavirus, bringing total fatalities to 25.

Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire told DZBB radio that the increase in confirmed cases could be “artificial” because the government is catching up on a backlog of tests

02:40 GMT – India in 14-hour curfew to limit virus spread 

India is about an hour into a 14-hour curfew as part of its attempts to curb the spread of the virus. 

All citizens have been told to stay indoors from 01:30 to 15:30 GMT.

“Let us all be a part of this curfew, which will add tremendous strength to the fight against the COVID-19 menace,” Modi tweeted minutes before the curfew commenced.

01:30 GMT – South Korea reports 98 new cases of coronavirus

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 98 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the national total to 8,897.

01:20 GMT – Wuhan reports fourth day with no new cases

Wuhan, where the coronavirus first emerged late last year, said it had no new cases of coronavirus on Saturday, marking the fourth straight day without a new infection.

China reported 46 new confirmed cases, all but one of them imported from overseas.

It also said six more people died from COVID-19.

01:00 GMT – Australia to consider ‘draconian measures’ to enforce social distancing

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said states and territories would consider draconian measures to enforce social distancing after thousands of people thronged the country’s beaches amid unusually warm weather.

Most of Sydney’s main beaches, including Bondi Beach, were closed on Sunday.

“The measures that we will be considering tonight means that state premiers and chief ministers may have to take far more draconian measures to enforce social distancing,” Morrison said in Canberra.

A lifeguard explains the closure of Bondi Beach to surfers and swimmers after thousands of people flocked there in recent days, defying social distancing advice over COVID-19 [Loren Elliott/Reuters]

00:15 GMT – Conte says Italy will further tighten lockdown to tackle virus

Italy has ordered all but the most essential businesses to close until April 3.

“It is the most difficult crisis in our post-war period,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in a video posted on Facebook, adding “only production activities deemed vital for national production will be allowed.”

Conte did not go into detail on which businesses would have to close under the order which is expected to come into effect through an emergency decree on Sunday.

Supermarkets, pharmacies, postal and banking services will remain open and essential public services, including transport, will be ensured.

“We are slowing down the country’s production engine, but we are not stopping it,” Conte said.

00:00 GMT – UK urges more vulnerable to ‘stay at home’

Some 1.5 million people identified by the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) as being at higher risk of severe illness if they contract coronavirus are being urged to stay at home to protect themselves.

The people include those who have received organ transplants, those living with severe respiratory conditions or specific cancers, and some receiving certain types of drug treatments.

They will be contacted by their doctor and strongly advised to stay at home for a period of at least 12 weeks.

I’m Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur with Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Read all the latest updates from yesterday (March 21) here.

Source: Al Jazeera