Italy reports 602 new coronavirus deaths: Live updates

UK joins others in locking down, Italy death toll reaches 6,077 and WHO chief warns pandemic ‘accelerating’.

Italy Continues Nationwide Lockdown To Control Coronavirus Pandemic

Italy has reported 602 new deaths from the coronavirus on Monday, bringing the total to 6,077 with the tally of cases in the country, a major hotspot, rising to 63,928. 

The number of reported deaths in the country dropped for a second day in a row, after on Saturday reaching an all-time high since the outbreak began of 793. 

In the UK, the number of those who have died from the disease the virus causes, COVID-19, increased by 54, bringing the toll in the country to 335 among 6,650 cases. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered residents across the country to stay at home

In the US, the number of cases surged past 35,000, with a death toll of 495, according to John Hopkins University data.

More than 15,400 people have died from COVID-19 globally. An estimated 100,000 of the 362,000 people who have been diagnosed with the disease across the world have recovered, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

Also on Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned “the pandemic is accelerating” with it taking 67 days for cases to reach the 100,000 mark globally, 11 days for cases to reach 200,000 and just four days for cases to reach 300,000.  

I’m Joseph Stepansky in Doha, taking over from Mersiha Gadzo with Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

Here are the latest updates:

Monday, March 23

22:10 GMT – New Zealand PM appeals ahead of coronavirus lockdown

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern appealed to New Zealanders to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, as the country prepared for a complete lockdown from Thursday to beat the spread of the virus.

Ardern said in an interview to state broadcaster TVNZ that the lockdown gives the country of about five million people a good chance of beating the virus.

“This plan will only work if you help us. You may feel resilient and well, but it’s not just about you. It’s about everyone around you,” she said. “If we all do this together then we can do this.”

New Zealand has 102 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease associated with the coronavirus, with two local transmission cases so far with the others related to overseas travel. There have been no deaths.

21:00 GMT – Senegal, Ivory Coast declare states of emergency  

The West African states of Senegal and Ivory Coast have each declared a state of emergency in the face of the new coronavirus pandemic. 

Senegal will impose a dusk-to-dawn curfew, while Ivory Coast said it would introduce gradual confinement measures.

“The speed of the progress of the disease requires us to raise the level of the response,” Senegalese President Mack Sall said in a televised address to the nation.

20:55 GMT – Ontario and Quebec to close all non-essential businesses

Canada’s most populous province said Monday that non-essential businesses must close for at least 14 days starting at 11:59pm Tuesday in efforts to stem the new coronavirus pandemic.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he would release the list of businesses that will be allowed to stay open, but food will remain on the grocery store shelves and people will still have access to medication.

Ford also acknowledged students would not going back to school on April 6, the date initially set for a return to classes.

The French-speaking province of Quebec also ordered all non-essential businesses to close until April 13.

20:45 GMT – Turkey death toll up seven to 37, with 293 new cases

Turkey’s death toll from the coronavirus has increased by seven to 37 as the number of confirmed cases rose by 293 to 1,529, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.

He said on Twitter that 3,672 test results had emerged in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of tests carried out in Turkey to above 24,000.

Canada coronavirus
Medical staff prepare to receive patients for coronavirus screening at a temporary assessment centre at the Brewer hockey arena in Ottawa, Ontario [Patrick Doyle/Reuters]

20:35 GMT – PM Johnson orders UK residents to stay home, closes non-essential businesses

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered all residents to stay home and for non-essential businesses to close for at least three weeks. 

“From this evening, I must give the British people a very simple instruction, you must stay at home,” said Johnson in a televised national address. 

People are only allowed to leave their homes for shopping for basic necessities, one form of exercise a day, any medical need, and travelling to and from work “but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home”.

Johnson said police would enforce the rules with “fines and dispersing gatherings”. 

He also ordered all non-essential shops to close and said gatherings of more than two people are banned, except for funerals.

20:25 GMT – Suspected case among White House press corps

A White House reporter is suspected of having contracted the coronavirus, the White House Correspondents Association has said, raising questions about daily news briefings that gather dozens of journalists and Trump administration officials in a single room.

In a statement, the association did not disclose the name of the individual but said it has been in contact with the White House physician and the journalist’s news organisation. 

20:00 GMT – UK supreme court switches to video conferencing

The UK’s supreme court will switch to video conferencing to hear cases and deliver judgments, the court has said in a statement.

“As a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the UK Supreme Court and Judicial Committee of the Privy Council will hear all cases and deliver judgments through video conferencing, from tomorrow,” the statement said.

The supreme court building will be temporarily closed, but the public and media will still be able to follow proceedings online. 

19:51 GMT – Bangladesh: Sex workers appeal for funds amid brothel closure

Sex workers from one of the world’s largest brothels have appealed to the Bangladesh government for emergency funding after a ban on customers to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

More than 1,500 sex workers are based at the Daulatdia brothel, about 100km (60 miles) west of capital Dhaka, which is one of about 12 officially sanctioned brothels in the South Asian country, and receives an estimated 5,000 customers every day.

On Friday, the government announced the closure of the brothel until at least April 5, but promised to give all of the sex workers a package of 30kgs of rice, $25, and a freeze on rent. But women working there appealed for immediate help, saying they no longer had money to pay for food for themselves or their children.

Read more here

A volunteer sprays disinfectant inside an auto-rickshaw amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Dhaka
A volunteer sprays disinfectant inside an auto-rickshaw amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus in Dhaka, Bangladesh, March 18, 2020. [Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters]

19:45 GMT – France to tighten lockdown rules on physical exercise, open-air markets

France is to tighten its lockdown imposed to battle the coronavirus, strictly limiting physical exercise and closing most open-air markets, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has said.

Philippe told TF1 TV in a live interview that he would later sign a decree banning from Tuesday physical exercise such as jogging more than one kilometre (0.6 miles) from a person’s place of residence and also halting open-air markets, although local authorities could request exemptions in exceptional cases.

19:30 GMT – Iran calls for 2020 Olympics to be postponed amid coronavirus

Iran has called for the postponement of 2020 Olympics amid the new coronavirus outbreak, the country’s state news agency IRNA has reported.

“Given the recent events and the spread of the coronavirus in the world, as well as the cancellation of a number of major continental and global competitions … I am urging you to postpone the Olympic games,” head of National Olympic Committee of Iran Reza Salehi Amiri said in a letter to International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach.

Earlier in the day, IOC member Dick Pound told the USA Today newspaper that the games would be postponed. 

19:10 GMT – Cyprus announces lockdown until April 13 

Cyprus has announced a lockdown on the island until April 13 to fight of the spread of coronavirus, saying the movement of people will be banned until then unless absolutely necessary.

“We are truly at war, and this isn’t won by enlisting our children to give or take lives by means of arms,” Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said in an address. “It’s a war which can only be won if we batten down the hatches.”

Cyprus has reported 116 cases of coronavirus, including 21 new cases confirmed on Monday. The island had effectively sealed its borders with a widespread ban on civilian air traffic which came into effect on March 21. 

19:05 GMT – Abu Dhabi’s Etihad says only UAE citizens or diplomats to board flights from overseas

Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways has said that effective immediately only citizens of the United Arab Emirates or diplomats will be able to board its flights from overseas destinations and only if their final destination is Abu Dhabi, the airline said on Twitter.

The UAE is suspending all passenger flights for two weeks from Wednesday to contain the spread of the coronavirus. 

19:00 GMT – Algeria imposes curfew in capital

Algeria will impose a curfew to combat the coronavirus in the capital Algiers from 7 pm to 7 am and a full lockdown in the town of Blida, centre of the worst outbreak in the country, with both measures starting on Tuesday and lasting for 10 days.

The measures, to be enforced by the army, were announced in a statement by the presidency on Monday and residents of Blida will be able to receive food and other staples by delivery, it said.

Protective face masks
Protective face masks and hand cleaning gel are displayed for sale, as precaution against the spread of coronavirus, during an anti-government protest in Algiers, Algeria on March 13, 2020. [Ramzi Boudina/Reuters]

18:45 GMT – PM Johnson to address UK amid lockdown speculation

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to make a statement to the country at 20:30 GMT.

The statement will be on a new measure to address the outbreak, according to Reuters News Agency. It comes amid speculation the government may announce a nationwide lockdown. 

18:40 GMT – Ireland cases rise by 219 with two new deaths

Ireland’s health department has reported two more deaths related to coronavirus, bringing the total number of fatalities in the country to six.

An additional 219 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed, bringing the total to 1,125, the health department said.

18:35 GMT – Dutch gov’t bans public gatherings until June 1

The Dutch government has said it would strengthen an existing ban on public gatherings and extend it until June 1 in light of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Previously, gatherings of more than 100 people had been banned until April 6, and all gatherings had been discouraged.

Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus said police would now be given the power to break up groups of more than three people in public and levy “heavy fines” if necessary to enforce the ban.

A traveller washes her hands at a sanitizer distribution point intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Cape Town International Airport, in Cape Town
A traveller washes her hands at a sanitiser distribution point intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease, COVID-19), at Cape Town International Airport [Mike Hutchings/Reuters]

18:30 GMT – South Africa to implement a 21-day lockdown from midnight Thursday

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has said that the government would impose a nationwide 21-day lockdown from midnight on Thursday to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

In an address to the nation, Ramaphosa said the army would be deployed to assist the police during the lockdown. South Africans will still be able to leave their homes to buy food, seek medical care and collect social grants, Ramaphosa added.

18:25 GMT – France reports 186 more coronavirus deaths, raising total to 860

French health authorities have reported 186 new deaths from coronavirus, taking the total to 860 or an increase of 28 percent, with the toll rising more sharply than the last three days as the country is about to enter its second week of lockdown.

During a press conference, Health Minister Olivier Veran added the number of cases had risen to 19,856, which is a rise of about 20 percent in 24 hours.

Veran said 2,082 people were in a serious condition needing life support, up 19 percent compared to Sunday, another increase compared to the last three official tallies 

18:20 GMT – For some elderly Italians, loneliness brings more fear than the virus

With people over 80 making up 56 percent of coronavirus deaths in Italy,elderly citizens describe the difficulty of dealing with the pandemic in isolation. Read here. 

Elderly Italian man
An elderly man riding a bicycle looks at funeral posters displayed outside the small cemetery of Bolgare, Lombardy on March 23. [Piero Cruciatti/AFP]

18:15 GMT – UK tells travelling citizens to return home immediately

Britain’s foreign office has advised all travelling Britons to return home immediately, saying the coronavirus pandemic was limiting international travel and causing the closure of some air routes and land borders.

“We are strongly urging UK travellers overseas to return home now where and while there are still commercial routes to do so,” foreign minister Dominic Raab said in a statement. “Around the world, more airlines are suspending flights and more airports are closing, some without any notice.”

18:10 GMT – US military to send field hospitals to New York, Seattle

The US military is preparing to deploy field hospitals to New York and Seattle, Defense Secretary Mark Esper has said, as he acknowledged for the first time that the global coronavirus pandemic could impact military readiness. 

“Right now I anticipate sending a (field) hospital to Seattle and a hospital to New York City,” Esper told a news conference, adding he had put five expeditionary units on prepare to deploy orders.

“Once that’s confirmed, we will look to sending to other places,” he said. 

18:00 GMT – New Jersey becomes first US state to release some inmates

New Jersey plans to release “low-risk” inmates serving county jail sentences to limit the spread of the coronavirus, making it the first state to take such a step, the governor has said.

The announcement follows an order late Sunday night signed by Stuart Rabner, chief justice of the state’s supreme court, to suspend or commute sentences being served by inmates as a condition of probation or a municipal court conviction.

“We are the only state in America doing this,” New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy told a regular news conference to update the public on the state’s response to the virus.

17:45 GMT – Switzerland joins calls for postponing Tokyo 2020 Games

Switzerland’s top sports body has called for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics to be postponed, joining appeals to the International Olympic Committee to put the event on hold while the coronavirus pandemic rages.

“Under these conditions, we do not believe that a fair, global Olympic Games in the sense of the Olympic movement are possible. That is why we applied to the IOC for a postponement,” Swiss Olympic President Juerg Stahl said in a statement.

17:30 GMT – Olympics Tokyo 2020 Games will be postponed, says IOC member 

The International Olympic Committee has decided to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games because of the coronavirus pandemic, IOC member Dick Pound has said.

Major sporting nations Australia and Canada had already withdrawn on Monday as organisers came under global pressure to postpone the event for the first time in its 124-year modern history.

“On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided,” Pound said in the USA Today newspaper. “The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know.”

Pound told Reuters news agency that a one-year postponement looked like the best solution. This would mean the Games, which had been scheduled for July 24-Aug. 9, are likely to be held in the summer of 2021.

17:15 GMT – Italy deaths rise by 602 for the day

The death toll in Italy has risen by 602 to a total of 6,078, according to authorities. 

Meanwhile, the numbers of cases in the country, one of the worst-hit in the world, rose to 63,928 from 59,138, authorities said. 

On Saturday, the daily reported deaths reached a high since the outbreak began of 793. On Sunday, there were 651 reported deaths. 

17:10 GMT – Sudan imposes 10-hour night-time curfew

Sudan will impose a nationwide curfew every night starting on Tuesday, beginning at 8 pm (1800 GMT) and lasting until 6 am to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, a member of the ruling transitional council has said.

Sudan will also halt all long-haul bus trips between cities and states beginning on Thursday from 6 pm local time, the council member, Sadig Tawir, said on state television.

Sudan confirmed its second case of coronavirus last Friday. It has so far confirmed only one death from the disease. 

17:05 GMT – IMF warns coronavirus recession could be worse than 2009

The world economy is facing “severe” economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic that could be even more costly than in 2009 and would require an unprecedented response, International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Kristalina Georgieva has said.

In comments to finance ministers from the Group of 20 nations, Georgieva called on advanced economies to provide more support to low income countries, and the IMF stands “ready to deploy all our $1 trillion lending capacity.”  

As much of the world faces mass shutdowns, Georgieva warned the outlook for global growth in 2020 “is negative – a recession at least as bad as during the global financial crisis or worse”.

How to overcome obstacles to widespread coronavirus testing?

17:00 GMT – UAE asks its students abroad to return home within 48 hours 

The United Arab Emirates has told all its students studying abroad to return home within 48 hours as a precautionary measure due to coronavirus fears, state news agency WAM reported.

The decision includes UAE students on scholarships or studying on their own expenses, WAM added

16:55 GMT – EU ministers suspend budget rules

EU finance ministers have agreed to suspend the bloc’s stringent rules on running public deficits, a historic first that allows crisis-struck governments to spend freely to tackle the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The temporary measure effectively halts strict oversight by Brussels of national spending. It will be welcome in Italy, the EU country suffering most from the novel coronavirus and the one previously often in violation of the bloc’s rules.

The so-called general escape clause gives governments “the needed flexibility to take all necessary measures for supporting our health and civil protection systems and to protect our economies,” a statement said.

16:45 GMT – Czech government extends ban on most shops, movement 

The Czech Republic has extended an order closing most shops and restaurants and limiting people’s movement until April 1, continuing measures to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said on Monday.

The order was due to expire on Tuesday morning. Grocery stores, drugstores, pharmacies, gas stations and other shops, including restaurants that fill takeaway orders, can still operate, while travel to work or family is allowed.

Czech tram - reuters
A worker in a protective suit disinfects a tram due to coronavirus concerns in Prague on March 12 [David W Cerny/Reuters]

16:30 GMT – UN head calls for ‘immediate global ceasefire’ 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appealed for an “immediate global ceasefire” to protect vulnerable civilians in conflict zones from the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic.  

“The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war,” he said in a brief speech at UN headquarters in New York. “That is why today, I am calling for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world.”

16:20 GMT – England death toll rises to 303

The number of people who have died from COVID-19 in England has risen by 46, bringing the death toll 303, according to the National Health Service. 

That is up from 37 deaths on Sunday. National Health Service England said the patients whose deaths were announced on Monday were aged between 47 and 105 years old and all had underlying health conditions. 

16:15 GMT – WHO director general says ‘pandemic is accelerating’

World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said that the “pandemic is accelerating” and urged countries to take an aggressive approach. 

“The pandemic is accelerating,” the WHO chief told journalists in a virtual news briefing, saying “it took 67 days from the first reported case to reach the first 100,000 cases, 11 days for the second 100,000 cases and just four days for the third 100,000 cases.”  

But he said that “we are not helpless bystanders. We can change the trajectory of this pandemic.”

The WHO chief said that he would address G20 world leaders to ask them to boost production of protective gear to safeguard health workers. He also warned that using untested medicines that are not support by the appropriate evidence could create “false hope”.

US businesses seek federal aid amid coronavirus lockdown

16:00 GMT – Cambodia reports three new coronavirus cases, bringing total to 87

Cambodia has reported three new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 87, the health ministry said.

The three new cases included a 28-year-old French mother of a four-month-old infant who had tested positive for the virus last week. The mother, who travelled from Paris via Singapore to Phnom Penh last week, has also now tested positive for coronavirus, the ministry said in a statement. 

14:55 GMT – Trudeau: Others should follow Canada’s lead and pull out of 2020 Olympics

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that decision by Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) not to participate in the summer Olympics and to push for a postponement was correct, and the prime minister urged other countries to do the same.

“This was absolutely the right call and everyone should follow their lead,” said Trudeau, speaking outside his home where he is under quarantine,

14:45 GMT – Angela Merkel tests negative

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has tested negative for coronavirus, her spokesman has said.

Merkel went into quarantine on Sunday, after visiting a doctor who has tested positive for the illness. Her spokesman said more tests would be conducted. 

Merkel - reuters
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has tested negative for coronavirus [Reuters]

14:40 GMT – Pakistan army to help impose nationwide restrictions

The Pakistani army has it would help to impose nationwide restrictions to contain the spread of the coronavirus following a request from the government.

“The army chief of staff has ordered the deployment of all available troops and medical resources according to requirements,” a military spokesman, Major General Babar Iftikhar, said in an announcement broadcast live on television news channels.

Pakistan has so far reported 875 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and six deaths. 

15:30 GMT – Death toll in Italy’s Lombardy rises by about 320 in a day: report

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 about 320 from the previous day, bringing the total 3,770, a source familiar with the data told Reuters news agency. 

The number of cases in the region, which includes Italy’s financial capital Milan, increased by more than 1,550 to roughly 28,760. 

Monday’s figures represent an improvement on Sunday, when there were 361 deaths and 1,691 new cases. On Saturday there were 546 deaths and 3,251 new cases in the region.

Italian grandma’s coronavirus advice

15:20 GMT – Jordan extends coronavirus curfew, vows to deliver food to homes nationwide

Jordan said has said it will extend a curfew indefinitely, with supermarkets and other stores closed, and deliver food across the country to try to rein in the coronavirus.

Confirmed cases in the country of 10 million have steadily risen within a week to 112 cases from six. There have been no deaths.

Jordan announced a nationwide curfew on Saturday under draconian emergency laws that give authorities sweeping powers. The country has deployed thousands of troops at checkpoints in main cities to limit movement, saying many residents had flouted earlier calls to stay at home.

15:15 GMT – EU to provide $21mn in humanitarian aid to Iran

The European Union will send $21mn in humanitarian aid to Iran, which is subject to US sanctions, to help alleviate the coronavirus, and will also support Tehran’s request for IMF financial help, the EU’s top diplomat has said.

“We’ve not been able to provide a lot of humanitarian help but there is some 20 million euros in the pipeline … that we expect to be delivered over the next weeks,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a video news conference on Monday.

“We also agree in supporting the request by Iran and also by Venezuela to the International Monetary Fund to have financial support,” he said after a video conference of EU foreign ministers, although he did not give more details. Iran has reported 1,800 deaths and 23,049 coronavirus infections.

15:10 GMT – Pakistani doctors decry lack of supplies as lockdown debate rages

Authorities in Pakistan continue to debate whether to enforce a widescale lockdown to control the accelerating spread of coronavirus cases across the country, as cases hit more than 800 and doctors complain of dwindling personal protective kits.

On Monday, the southern city of Karachi, home to more than 20 million people, went into a mandatory lockdown, with the government restricting people to their homes other than to access essential services such as groceries, pharmacies or medical care, according to a government announcement.

Countrywide, Pakistan has so far recorded at least 810 cases of coronavirus, with six deaths and six patients making a full recovery, according to government data. The number of cases has more than quadrupled in a week. 

Read more here

Coronavirus measures in Pakistan
Members of medical team sprays disinfectant as a precautionary move against the spread of coronavirus in Karachi on March 23. [Muhammad Sabir Mazhar/Anadolu]

15:00 GMT – Zimbabwe records first death

Zimbabwe has recorded the first death of a coronavirus patient, the health minister said, and urged the nation not to panic.

Obadiah Moyo identified the patient as a 30-year-old man who had recently travelled abroad and had a pre-existing condition.

“He had other concurrent serious medical conditions, which made him vulnerable. I wish to urge the nation not to panic because of this death,” Moyo told reporters in Harare, urging all those who came into contact with the deceased to go for screening. Zimbabwe had reported three confirmed confections as of Sunday.

Coronavirus outbreak affects flow of goods in Kenya and Rwanda

14:50 GMT – Norway Olympic President: Country should not send athletes to Tokyo unless pandemic under control

Norway should not send athletes to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics until the coronavirus pandemic is under control, Norwegian Olympics Committee President Berit Kjoell has said.

“My clear advice to the board (of the Norwegian Olympics committee) is that you should ask not to send any athletes to the Paralympics or Olympics in Tokyo 2020 in light of the serious situation,” Kjoell told reporters.

The statement comes as several countries have pressured Japan to postpone the international sporting event. 

14:45 GMT – African finance ministers call for $100 bn stimulus, debt holiday

African finance ministers have called for a $100 billion stimulus package, including a suspension of debt service payments, to help the continent combat coronavirus.

Some $44 bn would come from not servicing debt and they would also tap existing facilities in the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), African Development Bank (AfDB) and other regional institutions.

The ministers held a virtual conference on Thursday to discuss how to deal with the social and economic impacts of the pandemic on African nations, a statement by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa said on Monday. It did not specify which countries participated in the meeting.

14:35 GMT – UK sends in army to deliver masks to hospitals 

The United Kingdom has sent in its army to deliver protective equipment to hospitals and told people to stay at home and heed warnings over social distancing – or the government will bring in more extreme measures to stop the coronavirus spread.

With some doctors saying they felt like “cannon fodder”, the government on Monday said the military would help ship millions of items of personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks, to healthcare workers who have complained of shortages.

So far, 281 Britons have died from coronavirus and, in the past few days, British authorities have rapidly stepped up action to try to limit the spread of the disease and prevent a repeat of the death toll seen in other countries where thousands have died.

Read more here.

14:30 GMT – Tunisia orders army into streets to enforce coronavirus lockdown

Tunisia’s President Kais Saied has ordered the army to deploy in the streets to force people to respect a lockdown imposed to halt the spread of coronavirus, the office of the presidency said in a statement sent to Reuters news agency.

Tunisia has 89 confirmed cases of the virus. It imposed a curfew last week and a general lockdown from Sunday that keeps people in their homes except to buy necessities.

Tunisia coronavirus
A general view of Habib Bourguiba Avenue in downtown Tunis, deserted on the first day of a general lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus [Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters]

14:25 GMT – Denmark extends lockdown until April 13

Denmark will extend until April 13 a nationwide lockdown that has closed schools and restaurants and kept most public sector workers at home in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus, the country’s prime minister has said.

As of Monday, the country has reported 1,572 cases with 13 deaths. 

14:20 GMT – UK will take more action if people ignore coronavirus advice: PM spokesman 

The UK will look at information to gauge if Britons are heeding advice to avoid social gatherings and unnecessary contact to see whether further restrictions are needed to stop the spread of coronavirus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman has said.

“We will be looking at data on how much people have stopped, interacting in recent days,” the spokesman said on Monday. “If that information shows they haven’t stopped, then we will need to take further measures.” 

14:15 GMT – Japan plans to scale back Olympic torch relay

Japan’s Olympic organising committee plans to dramatically scale back the torch relay until a formal decision on the Games is made, public broadcaster NHK said on Monday.

The event, which was due to start on March 26 will now use lanterns to carry in the Olympic flame and will be more of a “tour” than a relay, NHK said. 

Japan mulls delaying hosting of Olympic Games

14:05 GMT – South Africa army prepares to deploy: Report

South Africa has reported a sharp jump in confirmed coronavirus cases to 402, from less than 50 just over a week ago, as the army prepared to deploy in each of the country’s nine provinces, according to an official document seen by Reuters news agency.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has declared a national state of disaster and imposed measures such as travel bans to curb the spread of coronavirus. He is expected to address the nation later on Monday on new measures to mitigate its impact.

A South African Army memorandum seen by Reuters detailed plans to deploy at least an infantry “sub-unit” to each of the country’s nine provinces and two in Gauteng, which includes the capital Pretoria and commercial hub of Johannesburg, where roughly half of the infections have been reported. The deployment will last from March 23 for 21 days, but could be extended for a further three months, the memorandum said.

13:55 GMT – Confirmed infections in Netherlands rise 13 percent with 34 new deaths

The number of confirmed coronavirus infections in the Netherlands increased by 13 percent from a day earlier and 34 more people have died, Dutch health authorities have said.

The number of infections increased at the slowest pace in percentage terms since the first coronavirus case was reported in the Netherlands on February 27.

There were 545 new infections, taking the total to 4,749. The death toll rose to 213, with victims aged between 55 and 97. The average age was 82. 

13:45 GMT – Vietnam says next 10-15 days ‘decisive’ in country’s virus fight

The next 10-15 days will be decisive in Vietnam’s fight against the coronavirus, the Southeast Asian country’s prime minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has said, according to a government statement.

In mid-February, Vietnam said all 16 reported coronavirus cases in the country had recovered from the disease.

Weeks later, that number increased sharply following an influx of imported cases from Europe and the United States. There are now 122 cases, according to the health ministry, and no reported deaths.

Phuc called for limits on large gatherings to contain the spread of the virus and said anyone violating quarantine measures or failing to submit a health declaration could be subject to criminal charges, the statement said.

Coronavirus outbreak affects flow of goods in Kenya and Rwanda

13:30 GMT – Thousands of migrant workers leave Thailand

Tens of thousands of migrant workers left Thailand for neighbouring countries as the country prepared to close many land border crossings late on Monday to curb the coronavirus outbreak, according to Reuters news agency. 

At the same time, Thai workers from the countryside were also fleeing Bangkok after department stores, malls, dine-in restaurants, salons and other public places were ordered closed over the weekend.

Thai authorities have urged workers not to rush out of the cities in large numbers and to stay put in order to curb the spread of the disease.

Thailand is estimated to have four to five million migrant workers, mainly from Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.

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13:15 GMT – Chancellor Merkel is well, awaiting coronavirus test result: Spokesman

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is awaiting the result of a test to establish whether she has coronavirus after visiting a doctor who has tested positive for the illness, her spokesman has said.

“The chancellor is well,” Steffen Seibert said during a regular government news conference. He declined to say when the test results are expected. Merkel went into quarantine on Sunday.

COVID-19 crisis: Asian countries boost restrictions

13:00 GMT – German health minister says hospitals will get help with more beds, staff 

German hospitals that need more staff and beds to tackle the coronavirus outbreak will get financial help, Health Minister Jens Spahn has said.

“If you need more beds, if you need more staff and equipment to treat coronavirus patients you will be compensated financially,” he said. 

“Specifically, you will get a daily bonus of $602.78 per bed that is made free or which is not being used for planned operations. For new intensive-care beds with ventilators there will be a grant from health insurance funds of 50,000 euros,” he added

12:34 GMT – Russia to use mobile phones to track people

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin gave the authorities five days to develop a system to track people who have come into contact with anyone with coronavirus by using mobile phone geolocation data.

Under the new system, people would be sent information if they came into contact with someone who was infected and the same information would be passed on to special regional headquarters set up to fight the pandemic.

The Kremlin said the measure was legal and part of measures Russia is taking to try to halt spread of the virus.

Coronavirus outbreak affects flow of goods in Kenya and Rwanda

12:18 GMT – Singapore reports rise of 54 cases to 509

Singapore’s health ministry reported 54 new cases of the coronavirus, mostly from residents returning from other parts of the world where the infection has spread.

Of the new infections, 48 were imported cases. Singapore’s total stands at 509, with two fatalities.

12:08 GMT – US Fed amounts new steps to combat hit to economy

The US Federal Reserve, citing “tremendous hardship” caused by the coronavirus pandemic, said it would begin backstopping an unprecedented range of credit for households, small businesses and major employers.

The Fed said in a statement the effort was taken because “it has become clear that our economy will face severe disruptions”.

12:00 GMT – India to stop domestic flights

All domestic flights will stop from Tuesday midnight, India’s federal government announced.

Airlines must plan operations in order to land at their destination before 11:59pm on Tuesday, the government said in statement.

Only cargo flights will be allowed. International flights have already been banned for a week.

A passenger wearing a protective mask holds a baby as she waits outside an airport following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in New Delhi
A passenger waits outside an airport in New Delhi, India [Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters]

11:51 GMT – Azerbaijan GP postponed

Azerbaijan postponed its June 7 Formula One Grand Prix, following the cancellation of the Australian and Monaco rounds and the postponement of Bahrain, Vietnam, China, the Netherlands and Spain.

Here is a list of what other sporting events have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

11:50 GMT – South Africa cases rise by 128 to 402

South Africa’s health minister said the number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose by 128 to 402 since Sunday.

Coronavirus changes how Muslims worship

11:45 GMT – Switzerland cases rise by 956 to 8,060: health agency

Swiss health authorities reported 956 more coronavirus infections, bringing the total number of people tested positive in Switzerland and Liechtenstein to 8,060.

The number of deaths rose by six from Sunday to 66, the Federal Office of Public Health said.

11:30 GMT – Map: How many cases does each Indian state have?

At least seven people have died in India after contracting COVID-19, which has infected more than 400 people across the South Asian country, and health experts warn that a big jump in cases could be imminent.

Read more here.

India Calls For Curfew Against The Coronavirus Outbreak
The world’s second most populous nation has so far seen low infections but at the weekend it saw a big jump, prompting authorities to announce lockdown in dozens of cities and districts until March 31 [Yawar Nazir/Getty Images]

11:20 GMT – Botswana’s president in self-isolation

Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi has gone into self-isolation for 14 days after returning from a trip to neighboring Namibia, the presidency said in a statement.

Masisi took an emergency official trip to Namibia on Saturday to attend a meeting with other regional heads of state to discuss measures put in place by countries bordering Botswana to fight the coronavirus.

“The rationale for the imposition of self-isolation is that while Namibia has registered three imported cases and is considered low risk for SARS-CoV-2 transmission at the time of His Excellency the President’s trip to Namibia, the low testing rates in the region make that determination difficult and there is a high possibility of undetermined local transmission,” the statement said.

11:10 GMT – Nigeria reports first death

Nigeria reported its first death from coronavirus as the number of confirmed cases rose to 36.

“The case was a 67 year old male who returned home following medical treatment in UK. He had underlying medical conditions – multiple myeloma and diabetes and was undergoing chemotherapy,” the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control wrote on Twitter.

The agency said the confirmed number of infections in Nigeria had now risen to 36, with cases registered in the largest city Lagos, the capital Abuja and four other states.

Spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Abuja
A man stands with the sanitizer in his hand at the entrance of a Living Faith Church, following the outbreak of the coronavirus in Abuja, Nigeria [Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters]

10:15 GMT – Coronavirus terminology explained

It is easy to be overwhelmed by the jargon around the health crisis that upended daily life across the globe.

Here are some of the most commonly used terms and phrases explained: Your COVID-19 glossary.

09:50 GMT – ‘We’ll die like cattle’: Kashmiris fear coronavirus outbreak

Doctors say Kashmir, which has been under a security lockdown since August, is “ill-equipped” to deal with the pandemic.

Read about it here.

09:25 GMT – US records 471 deaths, cases over 35,200

The coronavirus death toll in the US rose to 471, while the number of cases reached 35,224, according to John Hopkins University.

New York City and Washington state – where the country’s first case was reported in late January – are the most affected, with 99 and 96 fatalities, respectively.

Medical personnels take medical samples of patients at a
Medical personnel take medical samples from patients at a ‘drive-thru’ coronavirus testing lab set up by local community centre in West Palm Beach, Florida [Chandan Khanna/AFP]

09:15 GMT – Turkish Airlines suspends nearly all international flights

Turkey’s flag carrier, Turkish Airlines, suspended nearly all international flights as of Monday until April 17.

The only exceptions are New York, Washington, Hong Kong, Moscow and Addis Ababa, the airline said in a statement.

The airline will continue its domestic flights – with cutbacks – and cargo operations as planned.

Turkish Airlines Boeing 737-800 plane TC-JVV taxies to take-off in Riga International Airport
Turkish Airlines flights to New York, Washington, Hong Kong, Moscow and Addis Ababa will continue [Ints Kalnins/Reuters]

09:15 GMT – Uzbekistan to lock down capital

Uzbekistan will lock down its capital city Tashkent from March 24, the Central Asian nation’s government said.

With all but one of Uzbekistan’s 46 confirmed cases registered in the city of more than 2.5 million, the government has already shut down public transit in the capital and ordered most businesses to switch to remote working.

09:00 GMT – Cases in Indonesia reach 579

Indonesia reported 65 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases in Southeast Asia’s largest economy to 579, Health Ministry official Achmad Yurianto told reporters.

The number of people killed by the virus rose by one on Monday to 49, he said, while 30 patients have recovered from the disease.

Workers walk in protective suits during an operation of spraying disinfectant to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Jakarta, Indonesia March 22, 2020 in this photo taken by Antara
Workers in protective suits during a disinfecting operation in Jakarta, Indonesia [Reuters]

08:45 GMT – Britain now has access to 12,000 ventilators

Britain now has access to 12,000 ventilators after buying more from existing providers, and its manufacturers are stepping up further production, Health Minister Matt Hancock said.

“We’ve made serious progress on that, there’s now over 12,000 that we’ve managed to get to,” he told BBC Radio.

“We started with 5,000, so we’ve been buying ventilators, and we’ve also been engaged with companies who are going to turn their production over to ventilators.”

08:40 GMT – Hong Kong bans all non-resident arrivals

Hong Kong will ban all non-residents from entering the financial hub from Wednesday, its leader said, as it tries to halt a recent spike in virus infections from people arriving from abroad.

“From midnight of March 25, all non-Hong Kong residents flying in from overseas will not be allowed into the city,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam said, adding the order would be in place for at least two weeks.

Passengers wear protective suits, amid the outbreak of coronavirus, at Hong Kong International Airport, Hong Kong, China March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
Passengers wear protective suits at Hong Kong International Airport [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

08:30 GMT – Infections in the Philippines rise to 462 cases

The Philippines’ health ministry confirmed 82 new coronavirus infections, bringing the total number of cases to 462.

08:25 GMT – What does having COVID-19 feel like?

Why do we get a fever and cough? Where does the sore throat come from, and why do some people suffer from diarrhoea? To understand this, we need to understand how the virus takes control of our bodies.

Read more here.

08:13 GMT – Brazil football stadiums to turn into coronavirus field hospitals

Brazil’s top football clubs are handing over their stadiums to health authorities to turn them into field hospitals and clinics to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Read more here.

General Views of Rio de Janeiro as the Coronavirus (COVID - 19) Continues to Spread
An aerial view of Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil [Buda Mendes/Getty Images]

08:00 GMT – Germany reports 31 more deaths

Confirmed COID-19 cases in Germany have risen to 22,672 and 86 people have died from the disease, a tally by public health agency Robert Koch Institute (RKI) showed.

That compares with 18,610 cases and 55 deaths on Sunday, when RKI warned that the actual number was likely higher as not all local health authorities had submitted their figures over the weekend.

07:45 GMT – Over 80 Indian cities, districts under lockdown

Authorities in India have placed more than 80 districts across the country under stringent lockdown after cases of coronavirus were detected from those areas, as the world’s second-most populous nation stepped up measures to halt the spread of the pandemic.

Read more here.

07:20 GMT – UAE suspends passenger, transit flights

The UAE, home to the world’s busiest international airport, is suspending all passenger and transit flights for two weeks.

The country’s emergency and crisis management body and its Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement that the decision to stop all commercial flights would take effect in 48 hours.

Dubai’s famous shopping malls will also close “for a renewable period of two weeks”.

Fresh food markets will also close, but pharmacies and food retail outlets will stay open. Restaurants are limited to home deliveries.

07:00 GMT – Saudi Arabia imposes dusk-to-dawn curfew

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman announced a nationwide dusk-to-dawn curfew from Monday in a bid to limit the spread of the new coronavirus.

The curfew – from 7pm to 6am – will be imposed for 21 days, the official Saudi Press Agency reported, citing a royal order.

The move comes after Saudi Arabia on Sunday said the number of COVID-19 cases it recorded had jumped to 511, the highest in the Gulf.

General view shows the empty garden of the King Fahd Library, following the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia March 19, 2020. Picture taken March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Ah
General view shows the empty garden of the King Fahd Library in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia [Ahmed Yosri/Reuters]

06:50 GMT – Montenegro records first death

A 65-year old man died shortly after his arrival at a hospital in the capital Podgorica on Sunday night, broadcaster RTCG reported.

The man had earlier travelled to Serbia, RTCG reported.

Currently, 22 people have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, in the Balkan country.

Another 5,500 people suspected to have the virus were under observation, health authorities said.

06:30 GMT – Three doctors die from coronavirus in Philippines

At least three doctors have died in the Philippines where thousands of medics bravely worked to treat patients despite a lack of protective gear, officials said.

Several other doctors were reported to be in critical condition, while hundreds of healthcare workers were in quarantine after being exposed to the virus in various hospitals in Manila, according to hospitals and colleagues.

The three doctors – a cardiologist, an anaesthesiologist and an oncologist – were infected with the virus while treating patients in three different hospitals in Manila, according to the Philippine Medical Association and the hospitals.

Gaza confirms first coronavirus cases

03:55 GMT – US coronavirus package held up in Senate

The United States’s $1 trillion-plus coronavirus response bill has been held up by partisan battles in the Senate, but talks continued over Democrats’ demands for more funding for medical care and state and local efforts to combat the pandemic.

The measure faltered after it failed to get the necessary 60 votes in the 100-member chamber to clear a procedural hurdle after days of negotiations.

You can find out more about this here.

03:35 GMT – New Zealand to ‘go into self-isolation’

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the country will move into its highest alert level, with all-non-essential services, schools and offices to be shut over the next 48 hours.

The move means bars, cafes, restaurants and cinemas will be shut. Supermarkets and pharmacies will remain open, Ardern said, adding that the country was well supplied.

All schools will be closed from Tuesday, she said.

“New Zealand is now preparing to go into self-isolation,” Ardern told a news conference.

03:25 GMT – Communities where social distancing and self-isolation are impossible

The idea of “social distancing” and “self-isolation” is next to impossible for 44-year-old Bangkok resident Maliwan Kamdaeng; one of 100,000 people living in Khong Toey, the city’s largest slum community.

Like many people in the settlement, Maliwan lives with her extended family in a modest house of wood and metal sheets squeezed in with others that line narrow alleyways. You can find out more about her concerns in this story by Caleb Quinley.

Coronavirus: Worldwide applause for frontline medical staff

03:15 GMT – Singapore Airlines grounds most of fleet

Singapore Airlines will cut capacity by 96 percent and ground almost all of its fleet after the coronavirus prompted Singapore to close its borders.

The carrier says the pandemic is the “greatest challenge” it has ever faced.

Singapore announced on Sunday it would close its borders to short-term visitors and transiting passengers, after reporting a number of imported cases. You can find out more on the latest situation in Singapore in this report from Tom Benner.

03:05 GMT – Jailed Weinstein has coronavirus

Harvey Weinstein, the former movie producer jailed for sexual assault and rape, has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to an official at the prison officers union. 

Michael Powers, president of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, says the 68-year-old has been placed in isolation, but expressed concern for prison officers who do not have proper protective equipment. Several staff members have been quarantined.

02:50 GMT – More cases of imported coronavirus found in China

Mainland China continues to see more cases of coronavirus being imported from abroad and is ramping up control measures to cope. 

The National Health Commission says there were 39 new confirmed cases on Sunday, down from 46 a day earlier. All involved travellers arriving from abroad.

With 10 new imported cases, Beijing is expanding measures to contain imported infections, with all international flights now directed away from the capital to other cities, including Shanghai.

China Beijing
Flights are being diverted away from Beijing in order to curb the number of imported cases of coronavirus in the capital [Thomas Peter/Reuters]

Shanghai and Guangzhou have said all arriving international passengers will undergo tests to screen for the coronavirus, expanding a programme that previously only applied to those coming from heavily-affected countries.

Shanghai reported 10 new cases on Sunday.

02:45 GMT – Hopes grow South Korea outbreak is easing

South Korea has reported its lowest number of new coronavirus cases since a peak on February 29, and a downward trend in daily infections is raising hopes the outbreak might be easing.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said there were 64 new cases on Monday, taking the total to 8,961. The death toll rose by one to 110.

The new numbers marked the 12th day in a row the country has posted new infections of around 100 or less, compared with 909 cases recorded on the last day of February.

In contrast, 257 patients were released from hospitals where they had been isolated for treatment, the KCDC said. 

02:40 GMT – Canada says it will not participate in Olympics

Canada has said it will not send a team to the summer games, while Australia has said it is preparing for a postponement until next summer.

“The AOC (Australian Olympic Committee) believes our athletes now need to prioritise their own health and of those around them, and to be able to return to the families, in discussion with their National Federations,” the AOC said in a statement.

Canada earlier announced it would not send its team to the Olympics and Paralympics in the summer of 2020, and called for a postponement.

We’ll have more on the story later.

00:15 GMT – Postponing Olympics may become an ‘option’ – Abe

Speculation continues over the fate of the Olympic Games, which are due to take place in Japan in July,

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has told parliament that postponing the games may become an option if holding the event in its “complete form” becomes impossible.

He said cancellation was not an option.

Tokyo Olympics Japan
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, has said the Tokyo Olympics could be postponed, but will not be cancelled [File: Issei Kato/Reuters]

00:10 GMT – New Zealand cases rise; opposition puts campaign on hold

New Zealand has reported an additional 36 confirmed cases of coronavirus, two of which are related to community transmission its Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, told the media on Monday.

Shortly after the numbers were released, the opposition announced it was suspending its campaign for elections that are due to take place in September.

New Zealand now has 102 cases.

00:00 GMT – British scientists to track spread of virus

UK scientists will track the spread of the new coronavirus and watch for emerging mutations by using gene sequencing to analyse the strains causing thousands of COVID-19 infections across the country, the government said on Monday.

Researchers will collect data from samples from infected patients in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the government said in a statement.

Scientists will then map out and analyse the full genetic codes of the COVID-19 samples.

“Genomic sequencing will help us understand COVID-19 and its spread. It can also help guide treatments in the future and see the impact of interventions,” Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said in the statement. 

Click here to read all the latest updates from yesterday (March 22).

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies