Italy death toll rises by 743 : Live coronavirus updates

US has third-highest number of confirmed cases globally behind China and Italy as WHO warns it could be next epicentre.

A medical worker wearing a protective gear works by a patient (Rear R) on March 24, 2020 at the new COVID 3 level intensive care unit for coronavirus COVID-19 cases at the Casal Palocco hospital near

The death toll in Italy from the coronavirus pandemic rose by 743 in one day to 6,820, reversing a declining trend in fatalities observed over the last two days.

In India, 1.3 billion people will go under “total lockdown” from midnight (18:30 GMT) on Tuesday for 21 days to combat the spread of the contagion.

Spain’s deaths surged by 514 in one day, bringing its total to 2,696. It also reported 6,600 new coronavirus cases, raising nationwide infections to 39,673. 

More than 17,100 people have died from COVID-19 worldwide, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 108,000 of the 414,277 people diagnosed with the disease have recovered.

Here are the latest updates:

Tuesday, March 24

21:17 GMT – American playwright Terrence McNally dies of coronavirus complications

Terrence McNally, a revered American playwright, librettist and screenwriter whose long career earned him four Tony awards and an Emmy, died following coronavirus complications. He was 81 years old.

McNally’s publicist said in a statement sent to the AFP news agency that the esteemed artist was a lung cancer survivor who lived with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He died while hospitalised in Florida.

An openly gay writer whose subject matter included love, homophobia and AIDS, McNally’s notable plays included “Love! Valour! Compassion!” and “Master Class”, along with the musicals “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and “Ragtime”.

21:12 GMT – Bad optics: US banks face calls to slash payouts to shareholders

A growing chorus of legislators, former regulators and consumer advocates say it is inappropriate for big banks to tap emergency funding programmes to pay dividends to shareholders.

The eight biggest US lenders, led by JPMorgan Chase & Co, already halted stock repurchases earlier this month.

They characterised it as a patriotic move that would allow them to put more capital toward lending to individuals and businesses during the coronavirus outbreak, which has clobbered stock prices and led the US Federal Reserve to pour trillions of dollars into the financial system.

But none of the banks has cut dividends, with JPMorgan saying it had no plans to do so.

Read more here.

21:08 GMT – Automakers heed calls to retool operations for coronavirus fight

Carmaker Ford Motor Co on Tuesday jumped into the emergency push by major United States manufacturers to produce thousands of ventilators and respirators needed for critically ill coronavirus patients.

By joining forces with General Electric’s healthcare unit and 3M Co, Ford is heeding US President Donald Trump‘s call for US automakers to work across sectors in producing equipment needed for the pandemic.

Read more here.

21:05 GMT – Rebound! Dow closes up 2,100 points – biggest gain ever

United States stock markets roared back into positive territory on Tuesday, on growing hopes that Republican and Democratic legislators on Capitol Hill are close to passing a coronavirus economic aid package approaching nearly two trillion dollars.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rebounded to post its best one-day point gain ever and its biggest percentage gain since 1933, closing up 2,112.98 points or 11.37 percent to 20,704.91.

Read more here.

21:02 GMT – Facebook says coronavirus hits ad sales

Facebook Inc said its business is being hit by the coronavirus outbreak, adding ad sales have weakened in countries taking aggressive actions to reduce the spread of the virus.

20:53 GMT – Latest Italian coronavirus death toll dashes hopes worst is over

Fatalities in Italy from coronavirus have surged in the last 24 hours, the Civil Protection Agency said on Tuesday, dashing hopes the epidemic in the world’s worst-hit country was easing. 

The death toll rose by 743 on Tuesday, the second-highest daily tally since the outbreak emerged in northern regions on February 21, after more encouraging numbers in the previous two days.

Read more here.

20:28 GMT – Spain seeks NATO help as virus death toll touches 2,700

Spain’s armed forces on Tuesday asked NATO for humanitarian assistance to fight the novel coronavirus as the national death toll touched 2,700 and infections soared towards 40,000.

With the pandemic spreading across the world, Spain has been one of the worst-hit countries, logging the third-highest number of deaths with the latest toll standing at 2,696 after another 514 people died over the past 24 hours.

Despite an unprecedented lockdown imposed on March 14, both deaths and infections have continued to mount, with the Spanish army called in to join efforts to curb its spread.

Spain imposes Italy-style lockdown in bid to contain coronavirus

20:05 GMT – Dow surges 2,100 points as Congress nears deal on virus aid

Stocks surged on Wall Street, sending the Dow up more than 2,100 points, biggest-ever point gain, as Congress nears a deal to inject two trillion dollars into the economy to mitigate damage from the coronavirus outbreak. The Dow’s gain of 11.4 percent was its largest percentage increase since 1933.

Treasury yields rose in an encouraging sign that demand for low-risk assets was easing. The market has seen other big rebounds recently, only for them to wash out immediately.

Investors say they need to see the number of new infections peak before markets can find a bottom.

19:23 GMT – France coronavirus death toll jumps 240 to 1,100: official

The coronavirus has killed another 240 people in France, the top French health official said, bringing the death toll in the country from the pandemic to 1,100.

Jerome Salomon told reporters that 22,300 people had tested positive for the virus in France, with a total of 10,176 hospitalised of whom 2,516 people are in intensive care.

Officials believe that the published number of those infected largely underestimates the real figure, as only those showing severe symptoms are usually tested.

19:02 GMT – UK nationals with critical health conditions stranded in Pakistan

Dozens of British nationals, many of them dependent on complex medication to survive, are stranded indefinitely in Pakistan due to new border restrictions imposed by Islamabad to stem the coronavirus pandemic.

Pakistan, on Saturday, abruptly halted inbound international, chartered and private flights until at least April 4, a move which also disrupted most outbound flights.

Read more here.

18:49 GMT – Pentagon says 174 service members have coronavirus

The Pentagon said 174 service members had the coronavirus, an increase of 41 cases from the day before.

In a daily update, the Pentagon added that 59 civilian employees, 61 dependents, and 27 contractors had also tested positive.

18:37 GMT – Medical NGO MSF surprised by Iran decision to cancel coronavirus mission

French medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said it did not understand a decision by Iranian authorities to cancel a mission it had prearranged to set up a facility to fight coronavirus in Isfahan.

“We are surprised to learn that the deployment of our treatment unity is cancelled”, Michel-Olivier Lacharite, who is in charge of MSF crisis response team, said in a statement.

18:33 GMT – NY governor sounds alarm over ‘astronomical’ coronavirus numbers

New York’s governor warned of “troubling and astronomical numbers” in the rate of coronavirus infections in the state, saying they were doubling every three days.

Andrew Cuomo said the virus could now peak in one of the country’s most populous states in as few as two weeks, with some 40,000 people needing intensive care – numbers that could severely stress under-equipped hospitals that currently have only 3,000 intensive care unit beds.

18:31 GMT – Clouds hang over aerospace industry as virus disrupts suppliers

The coronavirus pandemic is taking its toll on aerospace manufacturing, with Boeing Co saying it would halt production of most wide-body jets and Airbus SE, restarting only partial output after a four-day shutdown as suppliers cut jobs.

With airlines unable to fly because of a collapse of demand over fears of contagion, reinforced by air travel restrictions, planemakers and their suppliers are under pressure to save cash to ride out a liquidity squeeze.

Read more here.

18:24 GMT – Italy PM increase lockdown fines, hopes to lift restrictions soon

The Italian government has hiked fines for people who defy a lockdown order, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said, adding that he hoped he could start lifting the restrictions shortly.

Anyone caught leaving their home without good reason will now face fines of between 400 euros to 3,000 euros ($430 to $3,227) against a previous 206 euros, Conte said in a television address.

18:05 GMT – China’s Great Wall opens as curbs lifted in COVID-19 epicentre

China announced that a lockdown would be lifted on more than 50 million people in central Hubei province where the coronavirus first emerged late last year.

There are signs that life is returning to normal in the region, with authorities reopening a popular section of the iconic Great Wall.

See photo gallery here.

Men wearing protective masks stand as people hike along a section of the Great Wall in Badaling in Beijing, on its first day of re-opening after the scenic site's coronavirus related closure, China, M
People hike along a section of the Great Wall in Badaling in Beijing, on its first day of re-opening after the scenic site’s coronavirus related closure [Thomas Peter/Reuters]

17:16 GMT – Italy coronavirus deaths rise by 743 in a day, total now 6,820

The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy has grown by 743 to 6,820, the head of the Civil Protection Agency said, reversing a two-day decline.

On Monday, 602 people died. That followed 650 deaths on Sunday and 793 on Saturday – the highest daily figure since the contagion came to light on February 21.

The total number of confirmed cases in Italy rose to 69,176 from a previous 63,927, an increase of 8.2 percent, in line with Monday’s growth rate.

17:05 GMT – US deaths now 600, almost 50,000 confirmed cases: tracker

Six-hundred people have died from the new coronavirus in the United States, while the number of confirmed cases now stands at 49,768, a tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University.

The US has the third-highest number of confirmed cases globally, behind China and Italy. The death rate based on reported cases is now 1.2 percent – but the actual number believed to be infected is far higher, which would bring the rate down.

17:05 GMT – Russia sends ship with military ambulances towards Syria

A cargo ship operated by the Russian Navy transited Turkey’s Bosphorus strait en route to Syria loaded with ambulances, a Reuters news agency reporter saw.

Syria reported its first case of coronavirus on Sunday after weeks of rejecting opposition allegations the disease had already reached a country with a wrecked health system and thousands of Iranian-backed militias and Shia pilgrims.

The Russian Dvinitsa-50 ship, part of Moscow’s auxiliary fleet, was carrying at least three military ambulances along with a shipping container on its deck.

Russia, which has provided military support for President Bashar al-Assad since 2015, operates a naval facility at Tartus in Syria and an airbase in Latakia.

17:00 GMT – Ryanair becomes latest airline to ground flights

Ryanair said it does not expect to operate flights in April or May and has offered its aircraft to European governments for rescue or the essential movement of medicines and personal protective equipment.

“The experience in China suggests a three-month period for the spread of the virus to be contained and reduced. We do not expect to operate flights during the months of April and May at this time, but this will clearly depend on government advice,” the budget airline said in a statement posted on Twitter.

Read more here.

Ryanair - reuters
On March 18, Ryanair said it expected to ground most if not all of its flights from March 24 except a very small number mostly between Britain and Ireland [Peter Cziborra/Reuters]

17:09 GMT – Netflix, Facebook to cut data traffic in India to ease network congestion

Streaming service Netflix Inc and social media giant Facebook Inc said they would reduce the amount of data their services use to ease congested telecoms networks in India, were millions are using home internet amid a lockdown to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

Netflix will reduce traffic over Indian telecom networks by 25 percent over the next 30 days, the company said in a statement, following similar moves in Europe to help internet service providers experiencing a surge in usage.

17:06 GMT – World on lockdown: Business activity collapses at record pace

Business activity has collapsed from Australia and Japan to Western Europe at a record pace, as measures to contain the coronavirus hammer the world economy, with data for the United States later on Tuesday expected to be just as dire.

“The coronavirus outbreak represents a major external shock to the macro outlook, akin to a large-scale natural disaster,” analysts at BlackRock Investment Institute said in a note.

Read more here.

17:04 GMT – US stocks soar 1,100 points as hopes grow for $2 trillion aid pkg

The stimulus glass is half full on Wall Street on Tuesday, with United States stock markets opening higher across the board on optimism that Republican and Democratic legislators on Capitol Hill will find common ground and pass a coronavirus economic aid package approaching nearly $2 trillion.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average soared more than 1,100 points or 6.2 percent within minutes of the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange. The NYSE building is virtually abandoned as part of coronavirus containment measures, but trading continues electronically.

Read more here.

16:57 GMT – Top Nigerian president aide tests positive for coronavirus

The Nigerian president’s influential chief of staff has tested positive for coronavirus, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said.

Abba Kyari, who is in his 70s, is an important figure in President Muhammadu Buhari’s government and his illness could have ramifications for the running of the country.

Matthew Page, an associate fellow with the Africa Programme at Chatham House, described Kyari as the “lynchpin” of the Buhari government. “This has the potential to further slow down decision-making within top tiers of Nigerian government,” he said.

16:52 GMT – Climate activist Thunberg says she’s recovered COVID-19 like symptoms

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg says on social media that she believes she has recovered from mild symptoms of COVID-19 experienced during a period of quarantine following a European trip.

The teenager called on young people to protect groups at greater risk from the disease. Thunberg says her mild symptoms are “what makes it so much more dangerous” due to the risk of on passing the virus without knowing it.

Sweden only tests patients for coronavirus if they require hospital care. Others are urged to isolate themselves and rest. She urged people to stay at home to slow the spread of the pandemic.

16:44 GMT – Tough combined measures key in virus fight: study

Quarantining infected people, workplace distancing and school closures are most effective in combatting the spread of the new coronavirus when implemented together, according to new research released looking at Singapore’s response to the killer disease.

Researchers from the National University of Singapore saw a dramatic drop in projected cases when all three physical distancing measures were done at once.

But they warned that if a large number of infected people in the community had no symptoms, or if infection rates were very high, the policies had a much reduced effect.

Singapore has used a policy of testing and tracing of COVID-19 patients to limit the spread of the virus, without ordering a widespread lockdown of society and the economy.

Animation: How does coronavirus behave?

16:33 GMT – Congress closing in on nearly $2 trillion virus aid package 

Congressional and White House officials say a deal appears to be at hand Tuesday on a nearly $2 trillion measure aimed at easing the economic damage inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the top Democrat, Senator Chuck Schumer, said agreement appeared close. “I don’t see any issue that can’t be overcome within the next few hours,” Schumer said.

“Last night I thought we were on the five-yard line. Now we’re on the two.”

16:14 GMT – Trump to use Defense Production Act for coronavirus test kits – gov’t official

The Trump administration plans to use the Defense Production Act to procure 60,000 coronavirus test kits, amid severe shortages of kits, masks, ventilators and other crucial equipment for healthcare workers, a federal official said.

Peter Gaynor, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told CNN the administration had decided to use the Defense Production Act because “there are some test kits we need to get our hands on.” It would be the first time the act is being used for the coronavirus crisis.

President Donald Trump invoked the act last week but said he would hold off on using it until it was necessary, prompting criticism from Democrats including House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

16:10 GMT – Coronavirus reaches world heritage Galapagos Islands

The coronavirus pandemic has reached Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage site, an official source said.

Norman Wray, president of the Galapagos Government Council, told the state EcuadorTV channel that tests results on Monday established that four people had contracted the COVID-19 disease.

The four permanent residents of the archipelago had returned to the islands from the port of Guayaquil, the worst affected city in Ecuador with more than half of its near 1,000 confirmed cases.

15:45 GMT – Coronavirus death toll in Italy’s Lombardy rises by around 400 in a day: source

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 around 400 in a day to more than 4,175, a source familiar with the data said.

The figure compared to some 320 deaths on Monday, and if confirmed it might dash hopes of an improvement in the situation which seemed to be emerging in the previous two days.

15:40 GMT – Brazil’s Bolsonaro buries hatchet with China’s Xi to fight coronavirus

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro laid to rest a diplomatic spat with China in a call with President Xi Jinping, with the two agreeing to work together to fight coronavirus as Brazil’s largest city went into lockdown.

The conversation appeared to mark the end of a dispute that began last week with the president’s son blaming Chinese authoritarianism for preventing faster action against coronavirus, drawing blistering comments from China’s ambassador to Brazil and entangling the upper reaches of Brazilian government in the row.

15:32 GMT – Romania imposes stricter measures amid virus

Romania announced further restrictions on the movements of its citizens as it stepped up efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

During a televised speech, President Klaus Iohannis said government recommendations on avoiding all non-essential movements out of doors were now obligations.

He said electronic surveillance measures would be used to ensure that people in quarantine or self-isolation remain at home.

The army would be deployed to reinforce the police, he said.

15:22 GMT – China ‘resolutely opposed’ to US stigamatisation: foreign ministry

China’s foreign ministry attacked US officials for labeling the novel coronavirus the “Chinese virus” or “Wuhan virus”, saying it was a deliberate attempt to smear China.

“Some US politicians and senior officials have continued to use this expression to stigmatize China, causing great indignation and opposition among the Chinese people,” said Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Badly strained ties between the United States and China are deteriorating further with the two sides hurling harsh accusations at each other over responsibility for the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Trump defends calling coronavirus the ‘Chinese virus’

15:08 GMT – Egypt announces 2-week nightly curfew to slow virus

Egypt is set to impose a two-week nightly curfew in the Arab world’s most populous country in an effort to stop the spread of the new coronavirus, its prime minister announced.

The International Monetary Fund warned that a shortage of medical supplies could affect the Mideast’s poorest nations.

There are over 31,000 confirmed cases of the virus across the Mideast, the vast majority in the hard-hit nation of Iran.

14:49 GMT – Modi puts India under lockdown for 21 days to fight virus

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday the government would impose a nationwide lockdown from midnight for 21 days to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

“There will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes,” Modi said in a televised address.

India has so far reported 519 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 10 deaths.

Read more here.

14:44 GMT – Vatican employees balk at lack of full shutdown amid virus

The Vatican is under pressure to let more employees work from home as several of its offices remain open two weeks after the Italian government ordered people to stay home and shut down all non-essential businesses in an urgent attempt to contain the coronavirus.

Vatican employees in three different offices expressed alarm that superiors adopted different policies about working from home. Concern that the varying approaches put people at risk of exposure has been heightened because many Vatican employees live in priests’ residences or religious communities and eat together in communal dining rooms at home.

Nationwide, more than 50 priests with the virus have died, most of them elderly and from the hard-hit northern Lombardy region, the Italian bishops’ conference said.

A photo taken and handout by the Vatican Media on March 12, 2020 shows a deserted St. Peter's Square two days after it was closed to tourists as part of a broader clampdown aimed at curbing the corona
 Members of two religious orders in Rome already tested positive for the virus [AFP]

14:39 GMT – Bulgaria Orthodox Church tells believers to pray at home

Bulgaria’s Christian Orthodox Church has urged believers to observe confinement measures and pray at home to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus after reports of communion-giving from the same spoon sparked angry comments.

“All of us are summoned to be responsible for our close ones, our nation and our country,” Orthodox Patriarch Neophyte said in a televised address.

As church bells rang across the country, he called on believers to “conform our everyday life to all the requirements of the state of emergency… remaining in our homes, before the home icon”.

Hello! This is Usaid Siddiqui taking over from my colleague Ramy Allahoum.

14:05 GMT – Saudi reports first coronavirus death; UAE gears up for lockdown

France enters second week of lockdown as COVID-19 deaths rise

Saudi Arabia reported its first death from the coronavirus, a 51-year-old Afghan resident, while the United Arab Emirates’ main airports in Dubai and Abu Dhabi said they would temporarily suspend all passenger flights from Thursday.

Saudi Health Ministry spokesman Mohammed Abdelali told a televised news conference the fatality occurred on Monday night in Medina, where the man’s health had deteriorated quickly after reporting to the emergency room.

The kingdom recorded 205 new infections on Tuesday, bringing the total in the six-member Gulf Coordination Council to more than 2,100, mostly in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Six people have died: three in Bahrain, two in the UAE and the latest in Saudi Arabia.

13:55 GMT – UN seeks total ceasefire in Syria, prisoner releases

The UN special envoy for Syria called for an immediate nationwide ceasefire across Syria to enable an “all-out-effort” to stamp out COVID-19.

In a statement, Geir Pedersen also appealed on humanitarian grounds for “large-scale releases of detainees and abductees” in Syria and access for medical workers to detention facilities to help ensure adequate medical care is provided to inmates.

The spread of coronavirus to Syria brings the prospect of a deadly outbreak to a population devastated by nine years of war, with ravaged hospitals and tightly packed camps likely to accelerate infection.

The Assad government announced on Sunday its first case after unconfirmed reports suggested the virus had been detected but covered up, a charge officials denied.

13:40 GMT – Pentagon says 174 service members have coronavirus

The US military said 174 service members had coronavirus, an increase of 41 cases from the day before.

In a daily update, the Pentagon added 59 civilian employees, 61 dependents, and 27 contractors had also tested positive.

13:30 GMT – Egypt declares two-week curfew to counter coronavirus

Egypt declared a curfew from 7pm to 6am for two weeks from Wednesday to prevent the spread of coronavirus, and those who violate the measure will be penalised under emergency laws.

Those who do not respect the new rules face fines of up to 4,000 Egyptian pounds ($255) or prison, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said in a televised press briefing.

“I call on all Egyptians to fully comply with these measures,” President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said on Twitter. “And I affirm that all elements of the Egyptian state will confront any attempts to breach them with the utmost firmness and resolution.”

Egypt has confirmed 366 cases of coronavirus, including 19 deaths. 

13:20 GMT – US has potential of becoming coronavirus epicentre, says WHO

The United States has the potential to become the new epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic because of a “very large acceleration” in infections there, the World Health Organization warned.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games postponed to 2021

The highly contagious respiratory virus has infected more than 42,000 people in the United States, prompting more governors to join states ordering Americans to stay at home.

Over the past 24 hours, 85 percent of new cases worldwide were from Europe and the United States, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told reporters. Of those, 40 percent were from the United States.

Asked whether the US could become the new epicentre, she said: “We are now seeing a very large acceleration in cases in the US. So it does have that potential… [The] outbreak is increasing in intensity.” 

13:10 GMT – Tokyo Olympics rescheduled no later than summer 2021

The International Olympic Committee and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe concluded the Tokyo 2020 Olympics must be postponed and held no later than the summer of 2021.

After a call with IOC president Thomas Bach, Abe said the July 24-August 9 event would be rescheduled for the summer of 2021 at the latest, as proof of victory over the coronavirus.

“In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO today, the IOC President and the prime minister of Japan have concluded that the Games … in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021,” the IOC said in a statement after Abe had confirmed the postponement.

The move is “to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community”.

12:40 GMT – UK’s Johnson tells cabinet people must stay at home

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told his cabinet that it was vital that the public followed his instruction to stay at home to slow the spread of coronavirus.

“The PM said that by staying at home, people would protect our NHS (National Health Service) and save lives,” Johnson’s office said in a statement.

Finance Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed to his cabinet colleagues that a scheduled Comprehensive Spending Review would be delayed so that the government could remain focused on responding to the public health and economic emergency.

Only the prime minister, the health minister, the cabinet secretary and the chief medical officer attended the meeting in person. All other cabinet members took part by video conference.

12:35 GMT – Poles will leave home only if justified 

Poland will impose further constraints on citizens to prevent the spread of coronavirus including a lockdown, with leaving home only allowed if justified, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Tuesday.

“We are doing so to prepare for the increased wave of infections,” Morawiecki told a news conference.

The government will also limit gatherings and the number of people allowed to travel on public transport at one time, in order to decrease the number of citizens on buses and trams. 

Animation: How does coronavirus behave?

12:30 GMT – Practical issues with helping the self-employed persist: UK finance minister

British finance minister Rishi Sunak has said he would make further announcements on measures to help self-employed people in the wake of the coronavirus crisis but that there are issues with the practicality and fairness of so doing.

“There are genuine practical and principle reasons why it is incredibly complicated to design an analogous scheme to the one that we have for employed workers,” he said in parliament.

“We need to be confident that that can be done in a way that is deliverable and is fair,” he said. “There are … genuine questions about practicality, fairness and delivery of any such support scheme.”

12:25 GMT – Japanese PM Abe and IOC’s Bach agree on idea to delay Olympics 

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has announced that he and the head of the International Olympic Committee agreed on the idea of delaying the Tokyo Olympics by about one year.

Abe was speaking to reporters after a phone call with IOC President Thomas Bach on postponing the Games amid growing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

Tokyo had completed preparations when the virus started spreading across the world. Despite insisting for months the Games would go ahead as planned, Abe this week said a delay may be unavoidable if the events could not be held in a complete form.

People opposed to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics display placards during a rally in front of Tokyo railway station on March 24, 2020. - The International Olympic Committee came under pressure to speed up its
People have been protesting against the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in the capital, Tokyo  [Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP]

12:20 GMT – German minister says calls to protect economy over slowing down virus ‘cynical’ 

Calls to protect the economy rather than slow the spread of the coronavirus are “cynical and ill-considered,” German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told Bild newspaper.

“You can see that countries which were pursuing that objective, as Britain appears to have been doing, have now changed course,” he said in an online video interview.

Asked about suggestions from some US politicians that older people might be sacrificed for the sake of the economy their grandchildren would inherit, he was even more forthright.

“That makes me shudder,” he said. “It’s utterly cynical and indefensible and I am very glad to live in a country where such opinions have no relevance.”

12:15 GMT – Four NATO service members in Afghanistan test positive

Four NATO service members in Afghanistan tested positive for coronavirus shortly after entering the country, the first confirmed cases in the mission, NATO said in a statement.

“The service members were newly arrived in country, and were in a precautionary screening facility when they became symptomatic, were moved to isolation and were tested,” the statement said, adding that the nationalities of the people would not be released.

Around 1,500 NATO service members, most who had recently arrived in Afghanistan, were in screening facilities as a precautionary measure, NATO said. 

12:00 GMT – Australia limits number of people at weddings, funerals 

Australia banned people from eating in shopping centre food courts and limited the number of people at weddings, funerals and social gatherings in a tightening of measures to curb the spread of coronavirus.

“This will be a significant sacrifice, I know,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra after an emergency meeting of state and territory leaders.

Morrison said businesses involved in beauty therapy, tattoo parlours, physiotherapists and other allied health services could no longer operate. Real estate open houses and auctions were also banned, he said.

Weddings could go ahead only with five people present, including the celebrant, while funerals could proceed with 10 people at most and outdoor social gatherings should also be limited to 10, Morrison added.

11:55 GMT – Austria to use more rapid tests as it broadens testing 

Austria will start using more rapid tests to be able to test hundreds of thousands of people as quickly as possible, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said.

So far, the Alpine country with a population of 8.8 million has tested around 24,000 people with nearly 4,500 cases confirmed.

The government is still collecting data regarding the effectiveness of its measures to curb the spread of the virus and will give an update on that on Friday, Kurz said.

11:50 GMT – Trump acknowledges acquiring masks, ventilators ‘not easy’ 

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday acknowledged the difficulty in procuring crucial healthcare supplies amid the coronavirus pandemic, saying the “world market … is crazy” and that it “is not easy” for the federal government help US states obtain face masks and ventilators.

Trump considers reopening US economy despite coronavirus spread

11:45 GMT – Kazakhstan suspends exports of food staples 

Kazakhstan has suspended exports of buckwheat, sugar, potatoes, carrots, onions and cabbages until at least April 15, the Central Asian nation’s Agriculture Ministry said.

The Nur-Sultan government this month declared a state of emergency until the same date over the coronavirus outbreak. Kazakhstan has confirmed 67 cases of the disease so far and has locked down its two biggest cities.

11:40 GMT – Egypt announces two-week curfew 

Egypt has announced a two-week, 7pm to 6am curfew for its over 100 million people starting Wednesday in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus. 

11:35 GMT – Nigerian president’s top aide tests positive

The Nigerian president’s chief of staff has tested positive for coronavirus, a source with direct knowledge and several diplomats were reported as saying by Reuters news agency. 

The illness of Abba Kyari, who is in his 70s, brings the disease into the immediate circle of 77-year-old President Muhammadu Buhari.

11:30 GMT – Iran coronavirus death toll close to 2,000 

Iran’s death toll from the coronavirus outbreak increased by 122 in the past 24 hours to 1,934, Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said.

The total number of people diagnosed with the disease increased by 1,762 in the past 24 hours, to 24,811, he added on state TV.

11:10 GMT – Spain reports 6,600 new coronavirus cases, raising total to 39,673

Spain’s health ministry has reported 6,600 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of infections to 39,673. 

It said the number of fatalities rose to 2,696 from 2,182 the previous day. 

10:50 GMT – Philippines announces 90 new coronavirus cases

The Philippine health ministry reported 90 new coronavirus infections, the single largest daily increase of confirmed cases in the country, bringing the total to 552.

It also reported two new deaths, among 35 in the country so far, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told a regular news conference.

10:40 GMT – Nearly half of infected on cruise ship asymptomatic at time of testing

A US government report said 46.5 percent of the 712 people who tested positive for SARS-Cov-2 on board the Diamond Princess in February were asymptomatic at the time of testing.

The cruise ship accounted for the largest cluster of COVID-19 cases outside mainland China at the time, and the report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggested the high proportion of asymptomatic infections could partially explain the high attack rate on board cruise ships.

The CDC also said traces of the new coronavirus was found in the cabins of infected passengers 17 days after the rooms were vacated, suggesting the virus, known as SARS-Cov-2, can last longer on some surfaces than previously thought. However, the CDC said it is not clear if transmission occurred from the contaminated surfaces and called for more studies.

10:30 GMT – Malaysia confirms 106 new coronavirus cases

Malaysia’s health ministry has confirmed 106 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, bringing the country’s total to 1,624, with 15 deaths.

It said 43 of the new cases were linked to a mass religious gathering, which has already been connected to more than 60% of the total infections in the country, which has the highest number of cases in Southeast Asia.

10:10 GMT – Cambodia accused of political clampdown amid outbreak 

Cambodia has been accused of arresting and detaining individuals who expressed concerns about the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a statement released on Tuesday, said at least 17 people have been arrested since January for sharing information about the deadly disease, which has killed more than 16,500 people worldwide. It urged the government to immediately stop its “clampdown”. 

Read more here

10:00 GMT – Indonesia records biggest daily jump in cases 

Indonesia has announced 107 new coronavirus cases, its biggest daily increase to date, bringing the total number of infections to 686, Health Ministry official Achmad Yurianto. 

Meanwhile, seven more people had died of the disease, raising the death toll to 55. Thirty people have so far recovered from the virus.

Turkish cologne demand soars as sanitiser shelves stripped bare

09:45 – Laos records first two coronavirus cases

Laos has recorded its first two cases of the coronavirus, Thai media has reported. The two cases include a 28-year-old male hotel worker and a 36-year-old female tour guide, both in the capital Vientiane, Thai state-owned media MCOT. 

The two patients, who work with foreign visitors and travelled abroad, are being treated at a hospital.

09:45 GMT – France has list of companies that could get state support

The French government has drawn up a list of companies that may need state support ranging from a capital injection to outright nationalisation, France’s finance minister said.

Bruno Le Maire told France Info radio that he could not give the names of the companies on the list, but that they knew they could count on the support of the government.

“Nationalisation is obviously a last resort, but it is something that we do not exclude,” Le Maire said, comparing the current economic crisis to the Great Depression of 1929.

09:40 GMT – Cameroon saxophone player Manu Dibango dies from coronavirus 

Cameroon-born singer and saxophone player Manu Dibango has died from a coronavirus infection, according to a statement on his official Facebook page.

“It is with deep sadness that we announce the loss of Manu Dibango, our Papy Groove, who passed away on 24th of March 2020, at 86 years old, further to covid 19,” it said.

Read more here

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 29, 2018 Cameroon jazz saxophonist Manu Dibango performs during a concert at the Ivory Hotel in Abidjan. - Veteran Cameroon jazz star Dibango dies after contra
Manu Dibango performing during a concert at the Ivory Hotel in Abidjan [File: Sia KAMBOU/AFP] 

09:30 GMT – International Olympic Committee to deliver verdict on games postponement ‘within days’ 

A final decision on whether to postpone this year’s Tokyo Olympic Games will be taken in the coming days, two sources within the Olympic movement were reported as saying by the Reuters news agency. 

The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo Games organisers are under mounting pressure to postpone the Games due to the coronavirus outbreak. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and IOC President Thomas Bach will hold a telephone conference at 1100 GMT.

09:20 GMT – China says most of its imported cases involve Chinese nationals 

China’s foreign ministry has said that most of the so-called imported cases of the coronavirus reported in the country so far involve Chinese nationals who have travelled to China from overseas.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters during a daily briefing that 380 of the 427 imported coronavirus cases involve Chinese nationals, without elaborating further.

09:15 GMT – UK could introduce stronger measures for violating gov’t restrictions

Britain could introduce stronger measures than 30 pound fixed penalty fines for people who flout new restrictions announced on Monday to slow the spread of coronavirus, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said.

“The police have a range of enforcement tools, and of course fixed-penalty notices and fines are just one of them. If people do persist in behaving in an anti-social way, there are stronger measures that we have,” he told ITV on Tuesday.

“The legislation will be in place in order to ensure that we have appropriate penalties and appropriate punishment for those people who do not adhere to the clear advice that the government has given and that the police are ready to enforce.”

09:10 GMT – China still at risk of sporadic infection: Health official

China is still at risk of sporadic infection, a health official with China’s national health commission said, adding that the country cannot afford to shut down its defences yet.

“Prevention and control work could still not be relaxed, Mi Feng, spokesman with the National Health Commission, said at a press briefing.

09:00 GMT – Half of Iran’s gov’t workers staying at home: President Rouhani 

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said about half of all government employees were staying at home as part of measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak, state TV reported.

Iran is one of the hardest-hit countries outside China, with more than 23,000 confirmed infections and more than 1,800 dead, according to the latest figures issued on Monday.

Another measure to contain the outbreak, the temporary release of prisoners, will be extended until the end of the current Iranian month of Farvardin, about April 18, he said.

08:50 – Thai declares state of emergency, approves new stimulus package

Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has announced a state of emergency from Thursday to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The move will give the government enforcement powers not normally available to it. They include giving extra authority to officials, the setting up of checkpoints and restrictions on people’s movement. 

The cabinet separately approved additional stimulus measures worth 107 billion baht ($3.25 billion) in a bid to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the economy.

The measures include cash handouts, soft loans, emergency loans, tax breaks, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak told reporters after a cabinet meeting. Authorities have so far reported 827 coronavirus cases and 4 deaths. 

08:45 GMT – Bahraini government to execute 4.3 billion dinars stimulus 

Bahrain’s finance minister Sheikh Salman bin Khalifa Al Khalifa has announced that his country will soon deliver a stimulus package worth 4.3 billion dinars ($11.41 billion), state TV reported. 

08:30 GMT – Taiwan coronavirus cases surpass 200 mark

Taiwan has reported 20 additional coronavirus cases, taking its tally to 215 cases, the government said in a statement. 

The new cases involve arrivals from overseas, including Britain, Ireland, Turkey and Indonesia.

08:10 GMT – German cases up by 4,764, total hits 27,436

The Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases said 4,764 new cases of the coronavirus have been detecting in Germany, raising the total number of infections to 27,436.

It added that the number of fatalities rose to 114 from 86 the previous day.

Medical employees wait to carry out tests at a coronavirus test center for public service employees, during a media presentation in Munich, Germany, Monday, March 23, 2020. For most people, the new co
Germany is the fifth hardest-hit country in the world with more than 27,000 confirmed cases [Matthias Schrader/AP] 

08:00 GMT – China’s Hubei province to remove travel ban 

Many travel restrictions in and out of China’s Hubei province will be removed starting on Wednesday, the local health commission has announced, with the exception of Wuhan, the provincial capital and epicentre of the country’s coronavirus outbreak.

Restrictions for leaving Wuhan will be eased on April 8 and people will be able to travel through a health code, according to the commission. The city of some 11 million people has been under lockdown since January 23.

Coronavirus lockdown: South Africa orders three-week restrictions

07:45 GMT – Thailand confirms 106 new cases, three deaths

Thailand has reported 106 new coronavirus cases and three more deaths, a health official said. The country now has 827 cases and 4 deaths since the outbreak began.

Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a Public Health Ministry spokesman, said all three fatalities were patients who had other health complications.

These include a 70-year-old man who had tuberculosis, a 45-year-old man who had diabetes and a 79-year-old man who had health problems, Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a Public Health Ministry spokesman, said.

Since the start of the outbreak, 57 patients have recovered and gone home, while 766 are still being treated in hospitals.

07:30 GMT – Macau announces new restrictions on HK, China visitors

Visitors from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan who have travelled overseas in the past 14 days will be banned from entering Macau, the territory’s leader said. 

Ho Iat Seng said those who haven’t been abroad will nevertheless be quarantined for 14 days. Visitors from mainland China account for more than 90 percent of visitors to the former Portuguese colony, now the world’s biggest gambling hub.

So far, authorities there have detected 25 confirmed coronavirus cases.

07:20 GMT – Philippines reports 39 new cases

The Philippine health ministry confirmed 39 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the country’s total number of infections to 501.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters that 33 people have so far died from the virus while 19 people have recovered.

Separately, the economic planning agency raised concern about the state of the economy, saying there was a possibility it could contract as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

07:15 GMT – South Korea confirms 76 new cases, bringing total to 9,037

South Korea has reported 76 new cases of the coronavirus, bring the total number of infections to 9,037, Yonhap news agency reported health authorities as saying. 

Residents of Bukgajwa1dong, wearing protective gears disinfect as a precaution against the new coronavirus at a park in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, March 23, 2020. For most people, the new coronavirus
Authorities in South Korea have detected more than 9,000 cases of the novel coronavirus [Lee Jin-man/AP]

07:00 GMT – Olympics to depend on progress made in battle against coronavirus 

Whether the Olympics take place or not depends in large part on the international community’s ability to curb the spread of the coronavirus, a Japanese minister in charge of overseeing the games said. 

“I believe the Tokyo Games cannot move toward the ‘complete form’ that the prime minister [Shinzo Abe] has mentioned as long as countries of the world have not put an end to the coronavirus,” Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto told reporters.

“So, it’s first and foremost for us to join forces and respond firmly for putting an end to the coronavirus,” she said.

Abe is expected to hold a telephone conference with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach to discuss the possibility of postponing the games by a year.

06:30 GMT – South Korea registers new cases from overseas 

South Korea says 19 of 1,444 passengers who arrived from Europe on Sunday were found to have the coronavirus, the first cases detected after authorities began testing all people coming from the continent. 

South Korean Health Ministry official Yoon Tae-ho also said that 101 of some 1,200 passengers who arrived from Europe on Monday have exhibited fever or respiratory symptoms. 

While the country’s infections have been slowing, there’s concern about the reintroduction of COVID-19 amid broadening outbreaks in the West.

South Korea says it will fully fund the treatment for virus carriers regardless of their nationality. Even if they test negative, South Korean nationals arriving from Europe or foreigners who enter the country from Europe on long-term stay visas are required to quarantine themselves at home for two weeks.

UN chief calls for global ceasefire to help fight COVID-19

06:15 GMT – Australia coronavirus deaths rise to eight 

A woman who was infected with the new coronavirus on a cruise ship has become Australia’s eighth COVID-19 death.

Health authorities say the woman, in her 70s, died in a Sydney hospital on Tuesday.

She was one of the initial three cases confirmed aboard the Ruby Princess and was taken to a hospital on Thursday.

So far, 133 passengers from the Ruby Princess have tested positive since the ship docked in Sydney following an 11-day New Zealand cruise. The 2,700 passengers had been cleared to go home without self-isolating because the cruise was regarded as low risk.

06:00 GMT – Beijing tightens overseas arrivals measures

All individuals arriving in China’s capital from overseas must take a COVID-19 test in addition to being quarantined starting Wednesday, the Beijing municipal government announced.

In a notice published online, Beijing authorities said those who have entered the city within the last 14 days also will undergo mandatory testing. 

The heightened measures – which apply regardless of one’s final destination – follow a previous order that all overseas arrivals quarantine themselves at designated hotels at their own expense unless they live alone. The notice did not say whether this exemption still stands.

“Currently, the imported risk from the epidemic’s rapid spread overseas continues to rise,” said the Beijing notice. 

How to overcome obstacles to widespread coronavirus testing?

03:50 GMT – New Zealand prepares for Wednesday lockdown

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern urged New Zealanders on Tuesday to reduce contact with others to a bare minimum in preparation for a one-month lockdown from midnight on Wednesday.

Ardern’s government wants to move fast to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

“Simplest thing is to stay at home … that’s how we will save lives,” Ardern told a news conference in Parliament.

Parliament will sit on Wednesday to impose the state of emergency and lockdown, she said.

03:20 GMT – Thailand reports two more deaths 

Thailand has reported two more deaths from coronavirus, with total confirmed cases rising to 827.

03:10 GMT – Beijing tightens quarantine rules for arrivals from overseas

The Chinese capital is stepping up measures to deal with cases of coronavirus brought in by people returning from overseas.

All arrivals into Beijing will now have to take a test for COVID-19 as well as complete 14 days of centralised quarantine.

03:00 GMT – Philippines confirms 39 new cases

The Philippine health ministry has confirmed 39 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the country’s total to 501.

The number of patients who have died from the virus is 33, while 19 have recovered, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters.

02:30 GMT – Australia’s NSW reports sharp jump in cases

New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, recorded its highest daily rise in coronavirus cases on Tuesday and officials are warning of harsher penalties for anybody violating self-isolation orders.

NSW identified 149 new coronavirus cases overnight, bringing the state total to 818, and the national toll to 1,886 cases. Seven people have died from the disease. 

Australia Sydney
Birds take over the streets in Sydney as Australia’s biggest city closes down [Loren Elliott/Reuters]

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the pandemic was at a “critical stage” and enforcement crucial.

“We are ramping up our compliance,” she told reporters in Sydney. “There are harsh penalties, and we’ll enforce that. We have to take this seriously.”

02:10 GMT – Thailand reports second death, cabinet to meet

Thailand’s cabinet is due to meet to discuss its coronavirus response after a second person died from COVID-19.

The country has 721 infections.

A press conference will be held at 10am (03:00 GMT), and the government will consider more measures to address the outbreak later on Tuesday.

02:05 GMT – China says only imported cases, but questions asked over reporting criteria

Caixin Global, a financial news agency in China, continues to raise questions about the way in which China is counting its coronavirus cases. 

It spoke to an official in Wuhan, where the disease first originated, who says those who have the virus but have no symptoms are left out of the figures.

01:55 GMT – South Korea cases continue downward trend

More encouraging signs from South Korea.

It has just reported 76 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, the 13th day in a row that is has posted new infections of 100 or less.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) says total infections rose to 9,037. Two more people were confirmed dead, bringing the death toll to 120.

01:40 GMT – Myanmar reports first confirmed cases of coronavirus

Myanmar has reported its first confirmed cases of coronavirus.

The health ministry said late on Monday that a 36-year-old travelling from the United States and 26-year-old returning from Britain, both Myanmar nationals, had tested positive.

“Investigation is ongoing on history of people who have been in contact with these two patients,” it said in a statement.

The Southeast Asian nation shares a long and porous border with China.

People in Yangon rushed to stock up on essentials as Myanmar announced its first two confirmed cases of coronavirus [Stringer/Reuters]

01:35 GMT – Cuba bans all citizens from leaving

Cuba is the latest country to impose a lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus – banning Cubans from leaving, closing schools and suspending inter-regional public transport.

Last Friday, foreign tourists were barred from entering the country. 

Cuba has so far confirmed 40 cases

01:30 GMT – US says Tokyo Olympics should be postponed

More pressure on Japan to postpone the Summer Olympics with the US Olympic & Paralympic Committee the latest to say the 2020 game should be postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The committee says it surveyed some 4,000 of its athletes over the weekend and 65 percent of those who responded indicated their training had been severely affected or halted entirely due to virus-related restrictions.

“It’s more clear than ever that the path toward postponement is the most promising,” USOPC board chair Susanne Lyons and CEO Sarah Hirshland said in a statement.

00:15 GMT – New Zealand reports 40 new cases

New Zealand on Tuesday confirmed 40 new cases of coronavirus, taking the number of confirmed and possible cases in the country to 155.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said six people were in hospital and in stable condition. Four cases are being seen as community transmission, he said.

00:00 GMT – Astronauts in quarantine before ISS mission

Two Russian cosmonauts and a US astronaut are spending their final weeks on Earth in quarantine before their April 9 mission to the International Space Station.

The Expedition 63 crew will launch from Kazakhstan without the usual ceremonies to mark the occasion and will spend six months at the ISS.

“We are ready to go, we are healthy, we’ve been tested very well with the medical teams,” US astronaut Chris Cassidy said on Monday in a video from quarantine.

For updates from yesterday (March 23), click here.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies