Italy reports 683 more coronavirus deaths: Live updates

The death toll in Italy rose to 7,503, with 74,386 infections, as Spain’s death toll surpassed China’s.

A medical worker in protective gear tends to a patient on March 24, 2020 at the new COVID 3 level intensive care unit for coronavirus COVID-19 cases at the Casal Palocco hospital near Rome, during the
A medical worker in protective gear tends to a patient at the new intensive care unit at the Casal Palocco hospital near Rome. [Alberto Pizzoli/AFP]

Italy reported 683 new deaths in the coronavirus pandemic, bringing its total to 7,503. 

Spain, meanwhile, recorded more than 700 deaths over the past 24 hours – surpassing China in the global death toll – making the country now second to only Italy.

US leaders struck an agreement on a sweeping $2 trillion measure to aid workers, businesses, and a healthcare system strained by the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak. However, by the end of Wednesday the deal appeared to have stalled.

More than 113,000 of the 454,000 people diagnosed with the disease have recovered, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. About 20,500 people worldwide have died from COVID-19.

Here are the latest updates:

Wednesday, March 25

21:59 GMT – $2 trillion virus rescue bill hits late snags in Senate

Senate leaders raced to unravel last-minute snags and win passage of an unparalleled $2 trillion economic rescue package steering aid to businesses, workers and health care systems engulfed by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Italy reports 683 more coronavirus deaths

The measure is the largest economic relief bill in history, and both parties’ leaders were desperate for quick passage of a bill aimed at a virus that is costing lives and jobs by the hour. 

“A fight has arrived on our shores,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “We did not seek it, we did not want it, but now we’re going to win it.”

21:57 GMT – Pentagon orders halt overseas movement for US military

Defense Secretary Mark Esper issued a stop movement order to the US military halting travel and movement abroad for up to 60 days in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus through the ranks, the Pentagon chief told Reuters news agency.

The measure is by far the military’s most sweeping to date and will affect forces around the world.

Esper said in an interview the order applied to all US troops, civilian personnel and families, but noted there would be some exceptions.

“The purpose is to make sure that we’re not bringing the virus back home, infecting others, that we’re not spreading it around the military,” Esper said.

Esper said one exception to the order would be the drawdown under way in Afghanistan, which will continue.

21:54 GMT – Undocumented in US have few protections from virus fallout

Some 10 million to 12 million undocumented immigrants are believed to live in the US. Many earn their living as domestic workers, or in the restaurant, service or construction industries – sectors of the economy that have ground to a halt as mandatory stay-at-home orders have taken effect.

It is unclear what, if any, government support tax-paying undocumented immigrants might receive to help them cope with the fallout from coronavirus.

Read more here

21:52 GMT – US stocks close higher, but rally lost steam on stimulus haggling

Stock markets posted their first back-to-back gains since early February, but the rally lost steam near the close of trading as Senate Republicans and Democrats appeared to be at loggerheads over portions of a blockbuster $2 trillion aid package to help counter the economic damage spawned by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 495.64 points, or 2.39 percent. It had been trading nearly 1,200 points higher only 15 minutes from the market close.

Read more here

21:50 GMT – Turkey’s coronavirus death toll jumps to 59, with 561 new cases

Turkey’s death toll from the coronavirus increased by 15 to 59  as the number of confirmed cases rose by 561 to 2,433, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.

He said on Twitter that 5,035 tests had been conducted in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of tests carried out in Turkey to about 33,000.

How is the coronavirus pandemic affecting the sporting world?

21:45 GMT – Death toll in England rises by 28 to 414

Another 28 people in England have died after testing positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of deaths to 414, the country’s health service said.

The latest fatalities were aged between 47 and 93 and all except the 47-year-old had underlying health conditions, National Health Service England said in a statement. 

21:40 GMT – Saudi-led coalition supports UN call for ceasefire

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen has said that it supports the Yemeni government decision to accept the UN Secretary-General’s call for a ceasefire in Yemen to combat the spread of coronavirus, state news agency SPA reported, citing the coalition’s spokesman.

Spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki added the coalition supports the UN envoy’s efforts for a ceasefire, de-escalation, and taking practical steps to build confidence between the two parties in the humanitarian and economic aspects, SPA said.

21:35 GMT – UAE to shut public transport, restrict movement from Thursday night to Sunday

The United Arab Emirates will restrict the movement of traffic and people from 8 pm (16 GMT) on Thursday to 6 am on Sunday as it disinfects public transport and public facilities, state news agency WAM has said.

The health and interior ministries urged people to stay in their homes throughout the period and only go out to buy food or medicine, receive healthcare or to work in vital sectors including energy, banking, communications, postal services, shipping, water and food, civil aviation and construction, WAM said.

Airbus cleaning - reuters
Cleaning staff wearing protective mask disinfect a seat screen of an Emirates Airbus A380 in Dubai [Reuters]

21:25 GMT – UK government orders 10,000 ventilators from Dyson: Report

The British government has ordered 10,000 ventilators designed by vacuum cleaner company Dyson, the BBC reported.

“Dyson have received uk govt order for 10,000 ventilators designed and made from scratch. Will also produce an additional 5,000 of which 1000 will be donated to uk. 4,000 to other countries,” BBC Business Editor Simon Jack said on Twitter. Dyson’s ventilators will be available in early April, Jack added

21:20 GMT – Finland restricts movement to and from capital region

The Finnish government has issued a three-week blockade of the Uusimaa region around Helsinki, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in Finland, to prevent people from travelling and spreading the virus to other parts of the country.

The decision came after Finnish health authority updated and worsened its forecast for the outbreak earlier on Wednesday, estimating that between 11,000 and 15,500 people would be hospitalised in Finland, and that from 3,600 to 5,000 of them would require intensive care in the following months.

By Wednesday, authorities had counted three deaths and 880 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Finland, most of them in the capital region.

Air travellers wear masks as they arrive at Ivalo Airport, Finland January 24, 2020. On Thursday, two tourists visiting Finland from Wuhan, China went to a health centre in Ivalo, seeking treatment fo
Air travellers wear masks as they arrive at Ivalo Airport in Finland on January 24 [Tarmo Lehtosalo/Reuters]

21:15 GMT – US dem presidential candidate Sanders threatens to put hold on aid bill

US Senator Bernie Sanders has said he was prepared to put a hold on a $2 tn Senate coronavirus economic relief bill unless a group of Republican senators drop their objections to language on jobless benefits in the legislation.

Sanders, an independent who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, said in a tweet: “Unless these Republican senators drop their objections, I am prepared to put a hold on this bill until stronger conditions are imposed on the $500 billion corporate welfare fund.”

21:10 GMT – Pompeo urged G7 leaders to use ‘Wuhan Virus’

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Group of Seven (G7) leaders to call the coronavirus the “Wuhan Virus”, according to the Hill newssite, which cites a report by the German Der Spiegel magazine. 

Pompeo and several US officials have used the term recently in an apparent attempt to emphasise that the virus originated in China. Some Chinese officials have pushed a conspiracy theory in recent days that the virus was introduced to the country by the US military. 

COVID-19: Hong Kong cracks down as China lifts restrictions

20:00 GMT – UK boxing champion Amir Khan offers building to NHS

UK boxing world-champion Amir Khan has offered to donate a 60,000 square foot building, meant to be wedding venue, to the National Health System (NHS).

“I am aware of how difficult it is for the public to get a hospital bed in this tragic time,” he said. 

The building is located in the town of Bolton and is worth $5.9 million, according to Manchester Evening News.

19:55 GMT – Coronavirus cases in Ireland top 1,500, two more deaths

The total confirmed cases of coronavirus in Ireland has risen 1,564 from 1,329 a day earlier, with two more deaths reported to bring the number of fatalities to nine, the health department said.

19:50 GMT – Wimbledon could be postponed or cancelled: AELTC

This year’s Wimbledon Championships could be postponed or cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELT) has said.

The June 29 to July 12 event will not be played behind closed doors and postponing the only Grand Slam grass court event until later in the year “is not without significant risk and difficulty”, the AELTC said in a statement.

“The unprecedented challenge presented by the COVID-19 crisis continues to affect our way of life in ways that we could not have imagined, and our thoughts are with all those affected in the UK and around the world,” chief executive Richard Lewis said. “The single most important consideration is one of public health, and we are determined to act responsibly through the decisions we make.”

19:45 GMT – France’s Macron pledges massive investment in health system

French President Emmanuel Macron has pledged “massive investments” in the country’s public hospital health system, close to a breaking point as it copes with the coronavirus outbreak which has already caused 1,331 deaths in the country.

“Once this crisis is over, a massive investment plan and an upgrade of the career paths will be put in place for our hospital system”, Macron told a news conference in eastern France, a hotspot of the outbreak in the country.

He also said he had decided to launch an army operation to help the population with health and logistics. 

19:40 GMT – Qatar to shut money exchange and transfer services from March 26

Qatar has announced it will temporarily close all in-person money exchange and transfer services from March 26 to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

At least 537 infections have been confirmed in the Gulf country, according to John Hopkins University data, with no deaths. 

Can developing nations handle the COVID-19 pandemic?

19:35 GMT – Pentagon halts all overseas movement for US forces for up to 60 days

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper has issued a stop movement order halting all travel and movement abroad for up to 60 days in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus through the ranks of the military, he told Reuters news agency.

Esper said in an interview that the order applied to all US forces, civilian personnel and families, but noted that there would be some exceptions. One exception would be the drawdown under way in Afghanistan, which Esper said would continue. 

19:30 GMT – New York Governor: NYC hotel to offer free rooms to medical workers

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has said that a Four Seasons hotel in Manhattan will provide free lodging to “doctors, nurses and medical personnel” currently responding to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Cuomo said in a tweet he hoped other hotels would also provide lodging. 

Over 30,000 cases of the infection have been confirmed in New York State, the epicentre of the outbreak in the US, where over 60,000 people have been infected. 

19:20 GMT – WHO says it fully supports decision to postpone 2020 Olympics

The WHO fully supported the decision to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in Japan due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, the organisation has said.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general, said it had been a “difficult but wise decision” taken so as to safeguard the health of athletes and spectators.

“We provide public health advice. The decision to postpone the Olympics was made by the IOC and the Japanese government, wholly and solely,” Michael Ryan, WHO’s top emergencies expert told a news conference. “But we fully support that decision.” 

19:15 GMT – Pandemic downturn will be worse than 2008: WTO

The World Trade Organization’s chief has said that projections show that the economic downturn and job losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic would be worse than the 2008 recession.

“Recent projections predict an economic downturn and job losses that are worse than the global financial crisis a dozen years ago,” director-general Roberto Azevedo said in a video message posted on the Geneva-based body’s website.

He said concrete forecasts are not yet available but its in-house economists expect “a very sharp decline in trade”. 

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18:55 GMT – Panama suspends domestic flights

Panama has suspended domestic air travel to curb the spread of coronavirus, suspending all passenger flights from both local and international airports, the country’s civil aviation authority said.

Only humanitarian flights and planes ferrying products will be exempt from the ban. Panama banned all international flights from the country on March 22.

18:50 GMT – France reports 231 more deaths, bringing total to 1,331 

French health authorities have reported 231 new deaths from coronavirus, taking the total to 1,331. 

The rise in the number of deaths represents a daily increase of 21 percent, a slight slowing from the previous two days with the country now in its second week of lockdown.

The daily government tally only accounts for those dying in hospital but authorities said they would soon be able to compile data on deaths in retirement homes, which is likely to result in a big increase in registered fatalities. 

There have been 25,233 cases confirmed in the country, a rise of about 13 percent in 24 hours.

A medical staff walks by the civil hospital in Mulhouse, eastern France, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. The Grand Est region is now the epicenter of the outbreak in France, which has buried the third most v
A medical employee walks by the civil hospital in Mulhouse, eastern France. The Grand Est region is now the epicenter of the outbreak in France, which has buried the third most virus victims in Europe, after Italy and Spain [Jean-Francois Badias/AP]

18:45 GMT – Tony awards for Broadway theatre postponed indefinitely

The annual Tony Awards ceremony celebrating the best in Broadway theatre have been postponed indefinitely, organisers said on Wednesday.

The awards ceremony was due to take place in New York City on June 7. Broadway theatres were shut down two weeks ago due to the coronavirus epidemic.

18:35 GMT – Person who lives in papal residence tests positive: Report

A person who lives in the same Vatican residence as Pope Francis has tested positive for coronavirus and is being treated in an Italian hospital, the Rome newspaper Il Messaggero has reported. 

The Vatican had no immediate comment on the report.

Francis, who has cancelled public appearances and is conducting his general audiences via television and the internet, lives in the Santa Marta guesthouse. There are currently about 75 people residing there, according to a Vatican source.

The newspaper said the person works in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State and a Vatican source told Reuters news agency he is believed to be a priest.

Italy reports 683 more coronavirus deaths

18:20 GMT – Number of cases in US pass 60,000

The number of confirmed coronavirus infections has passed 60,000 in the US, according to John Hopkins University data. 

At least 827 people have died from COVID-19 in the country, according to the tracker. 

18:05 GMT – Syria adds night curfew

Syria has begun a nationwide curfew from 6 pm to 6 am as lockdown measures to counter the spread of coronavirus were extended, residents and state media said.

The government had already ordered the closure of shops, markets and public transport, allowing only pharmacies to open and limited deliveries of bread to prevent crowding near bakeries.

The Health Ministry said on Wednesday confirmed cases had risen to five after it reported its first case on Sunday. Medics and experts are sceptical of the figures, saying the authorities are covering up many more cases. The authorities deny this.

“The curfew is serious and any violator will be detained and face legal measures,” Interior Minister Mohamad al Rahmoun was quoted as saying on state television.

syria coronavirus
A health worker with a face mask walks inside a hospital in Damascus [Omar Sanadiki/Reuters]

18:00 GMT – US military increases security at bases worldwide

The US military has said it is elevating its health-related security level at bases worldwide over the spread of the coronavirus, as it acknowledged the persistent growth in the rate of infections across the force.

The Pentagon said it was raising its health protection condition, or HPCON, to Charlie, its second highest level, which suggests sustained community transmission. The Pentagon announced 53 new cases of infected service members on Wednesday, bringing the worldwide total to 227.

17:50 GMT – Ukraine to suspend air, rail links from Friday: Report

Ukraine will suspend all air and rail links with other countries from March 27 in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus, the Interfax Ukraine news agency cited Interior Minister Arsen Avakov as saying.

He urged all Ukrainians to decide quickly whether to return home or remain abroad, Interfax reported.

“Overnight from Friday to Saturday, all air links will be suspended. The same goes for train links,” Avakov was quoted as saying. 

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17:40 GMT – Moscow mulls shutting restaurants, cafes

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said all entertainment venues in the capital should remain closed next week to contain the spread of coronavirus, but concrete measures would be announced on Thursday, Russian news agencies reported.

The mayor said he believed all restaurants and cafes should remain shut and restrictions imposed on shopping malls and parks, the news agencies reported.

Earlier on Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin unveiled new measures designed to slow the transmission of coronavirus, declaring next week a non-working week for many Russians and urging people to stay at home. 

17:35 GMT – Deputy British ambassador to Hungary dies

Steven Dick, Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy in Budapest, has died after contracting coronavirus, the Foreign Office has said.

The 37-year-old diplomat died in Hungary on Tuesday, it said in a statement. He had served as Deputy British Ambassador to Hungary since December, according to a biography published on the UK government’s website.

Coronavirus measures against in London

17:30 GMT – England’s chief medical officer says there is a global shortage of tests

There is a global shortage of coronavirus tests, causing a “bottleneck”, England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty has said. 

“We do not have sufficient testing and this is a global problem because basically every country is wanting this new test, for a disease that wasn’t actually being tested for anywhere three months ago,” Whitty said at a daily news conference.

“So everybody wants this, so there is a global shortage and that’s a bottleneck for us.” 

17:20 GMT – UK’s Johnson says 405,000 have volunteered to help health service

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that more than 400,000 people had volunteered to help the National Health Service (NHS) cope with the coronavirus crisis within 24 hours of a government appeal for volunteers.

“I also want to offer a special thank-you to everyone who has now volunteered to help the NHS,” Johnson said during a news conference.

“When we launched the appeal last night we hoped to get 250,000 volunteers over a few days, but I can tell you that in just 24 hours, 405,000 people have responded to the call.” 

China: Hubei eases restrictions after nearly two months

17:05 GMT – Italy death toll rises by 683 to 7,503

Italy has reported 683 new coronavirus deaths in the last day, bringing the total to 7,503 in the country, which has become an epicentre of the pandemic. 

The number of confirmed cases in the hard-hit country rose to 74,386 from the 69,176 reported on Tuesday, according to health officials. 

On Tuesday the country reported 743 deaths. That followed 602 deaths on Monday, 650 on Sunday and a record of 793 on Saturday – the highest daily figure since the contagion came to light on February 21.

16:55 GMT – Coronavirus cases surpass 1,000 in Poland, with 14 deaths

Poland has 1,031 confirmed coronavirus cases and 14 deaths, Poland’s health ministry has said, shortly after the government extended border closures until April 13.

Poland’s government announced earlier this month that it will extend school, theater and cinema closures until Easter and that it will only allow people to leave their homes for essential purposes.

16:50 GMT – Spain Deputy PM Carmen Calvo tests positive for coronavirus

Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo has tested positive for coronavirus, the Spanish government has said.

Calvo tested positive for the virus in a test performed on Tuesday after previously testing negative, but one more test was performed because the last one proved inconclusive, the government said in a statement.

It added that Calvo, who was born in 1957, was doing well and receiving medical treatment. 

Members of the Military Emergency Unit (UME) leave an elderly home after carrying out disinfection procedures during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Madrid, Spain March 23, 2020. REUTER
Members of the Military Emergency Unit (UME) leave an elderly home after carrying out disinfection procedures during the coronavirus outbreak in Madrid [Susana Vera/Reuters]

16:45 GMT – Swiss coronavirus death toll rises to 103, cases total 9,765

The death toll in Switzerland from coronavirus infections has increased to 103, the Swiss government has said.

The number of dead was up from the 90 reported on Tuesday, the Federal Office of Public Health said. Total confirmed cases also increased to 9,765, it said, from just under 9,000 on Tuesday.

How are countries in Latin America fighting coronavirus?

16:40 GMT – Palestinian Authority reports first death

The Palestinian Authority has reported the first death from the coronavirus, a woman in her 60s who lived in the occupied West Bank.

“The woman had experienced symptoms and was later hospitalised” before succumbing to the illness, said Ibrahim Melhem, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority.

The woman was from Bidu, a Palestinian village north of Jerusalem and southwest of Ramallah, Melhem added. There are 62 confirmed coronavirus cases among Palestinians in the West Bank, and two in the Gaza Strip. 

16:30 GMT – Expo 2020 Dubai staff member infected

Organisers of the Expo 2020 Dubai world fair, scheduled to start in October, have confirmed one coronavirus case among staff. 

A spokesman confirmed the case after the Reuters news agency asked for a comment on a letter that informed contractors of the case and said Expo 2020 Dubai would “continue to operate and provide all essential support services to allow construction on site to continue”.

“All those in contact or in touch with the individual are following the Dubai Health Authority protocols, including testing, quarantine, and self-isolation measures,” the spokesman told the news agency.

The infected individual had been working at the Expo 2020 Dubai office, a source familiar with the matter told the news agency. Organisers estimated last year that the Expo would draw 11 million overseas visitors. It is billed as a showpiece of culture, business and technology with pavilions from 192 countries plus concerts and other events.

Coronavirus in Mexico: President blamed for slow reaction to outbreak

16:20 GMT – US reports 54,453 coronavirus cases, 737 deaths

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported 54,453 coronavirus cases, an increase of 10,270 cases from its previous count, and said the death toll had risen by 193 to 737.

Coronavirus cases have been reported in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The total count does not include cases among repatriated citizens from Wuhan, China and Japan.

The CDC figures do not necessarily reflect cases reported by individual states. 

16:15 GMT – Spanish medics demand protection as death toll overtakes China

The Spanish Confederation of Medical Unions (CESM) has presented a legal demand to Spain’s Supreme Court asking the health ministry to provide sufficient protective equipment as soon as possible. 

CESM alleged the ministry had so far failed to provide professional health workers with sufficient protection to carry out their work in a manner which reduces the risk of catching coronavirus.

The number of people who have lost their lives because of the infection in Spain has reached 3,434, among  47,610 infections. 

Read more

Spain - protective kit - reuters
A member of Emergency Military Unit (UME) prepares to disinfect in a special facility for physically disabled people during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Getafe, Spain [Sergio Perez/Reuters]

16:10 GMT – Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre closed due to coronavirus

Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, revered in Christian tradition as the site of Jesus’s crucifixion and burial, has been ordered closed as a precaution against the coronavirus, church officials said.

“The Church of the Holy Sepulchre will be closed from 5 pm on Wednesday,” Wadie Abu Nassar, media spokesperson of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land, told Reuters news agency. 

He said the decision followed a meeting between Israeli police and senior church leaders on Wednesday.

16:05 GMT – Pompeo says G7 discussed China’s coronavirus ‘disinformation’

The Group of Seven (G7) big economies discussed an “intentional disinformation campaign” by China on the coronavirus in a virtual meeting on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said.

At a State Department news conference, Pompeo repeated previous charges that China had delayed sharing information about the virus and said all G7 members were “deeply aware” of Beijing’s disinformation campaign.

COVID-19 in Russia: Doctors warn number of cases much higher

16:00 GMT – Merkel’s second coronavirus test came back negative

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has tested negative for coronavirus for a second time and will undergo another test at the beginning of next week, a government spokesman said in a statement.

Merkel has been self-quarantining and working from home after receiving a vaccination from a doctor on Friday who was later found to have the virus.

“The chancellor continues to work from home quarantine,” the spokesman added. 

15:55 GMT – Irish health minister targeted by ‘disgusting’ coughing prank

Ireland’s health minister has condemned an apparent coronavirus-related prank in which people cough in the face of strangers then post a video on social media, and he said he was the target of one such stunt.

“It is not a game, it is disgusting, that you will target certain people in your community, generally older people, and go up and cough in their face and video it and have a laugh and run off,” Minister Simon Harris told a news conference on Wednesday.

Harris, the public face of Ireland’s fight against the virus, said a man and a woman on the street coughed directly at him and ran off laughing when he was walking between his office and government buildings on Tuesday.

15:45 GMT – Tunisia coronavirus cases jump by about 50 percent

Tunisia has confirmed 59 new cases of the coronavirus, Health Minister Abdelatif el-Mekki said in a televised news conference, taking the total number to 173.

Tunisia has instituted a curfew at nights and a lockdown during the day in which people are only allowed out to buy food or medicine or work in some key sectors.

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]

15:35 GMT – Estonia records its first death: Report

Estonia has recorded its first coronavirus death, when an 83-year-old patient died in Tallinn, the daily newspaper Postimees reported, citing a hospital spokesman.

Estonia has so far recorded 404 infected people, according to official statistics

15:30 GMT – Coronavirus death toll in Italy’s Lombardy rises by about 296 in day

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 296 in a day to some 4,474, a source familiar with the data told Reuters news agency. 

The figure is down sharply compared to some 402 deaths on Tuesday. If confirmed, it will be the lowest daily death toll in Lombardy since March 19.

The number of cases in the region, which includes Italy’s financial capital Milan, increased by some 1,643 to roughly 32,346, the source said.

Italy Continues Nationwide Lockdown To Control Coronavirus Pandemic
A man wearing a protective mask, who was lying unconscious on the ground near a bus stop in Rome, is carried away by the medical personnel from an ambulance as the spread of the coronavirus persists [Marco Di Lauro/Getty]

15:25 GMT – London City Airport to close until end of April 

London City Airport has said it will suspend all commercial and private flights from Wednesday evening until the end of April following Britain’s order that people should stay at home and stop travelling.

“At this point in this fast-moving and unprecedented situation, we think this is the responsible thing to do for the safety and wellbeing of our staff, passengers and everyone associated with the airport,” it said.^tfw

15:20 GMT – Sudan releases 4,217 prisoners 

Sudan has released 4,217 prisoners as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus, state news agency SUNA said.

The country has reported three cases and one death. 

15:15 GMT – Azerbaijan extends holidays until April 4

Azerbaijan has extended holidays related to its traditional Nowruz celebrations till April 4 from a previous end date of March 29 due to the coronavirus outbreak, the government said.

The ex-Soviet country, which began the Nowruz celebrations on March 20, reported its second death from coronavirus on Wednesday and registered 93 cases. 

15:10 GMT – Egypt deep cleans pyramids site emptied of tourists

Egypt has started deep cleaning the area around the Giza pyramids as authorities work to disinfect tourist spots closed down by the coronavirus outbreak.

Workers wearing face masks and gloves swept and sprayed the walkways around the bases of the pyramids, as well as the ticket office and a visitor centre – though the giant stone structures were not themselves cleaned, Reuters news agency reported. 

All of Egypt’s famed archaeological sites and museums from the Egyptian museum in Cairo to the Valley of the Kings in Luxor have been shut since Monday as authorities try to prevent coronavirus from spreading.

egypt pyramid
Members of the medical team prepare to spray disinfectant as a precautionary move amid concerns over the coronavirus outbreak at the Great Pyramids, Giza, on the outskirts of Cairo [Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters]

15:05 GMT – Germany’s Merkel, China’s Xi agree on close cooperation 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has discussed the coronavirus crisis in a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping and the two leaders have agreed to stay in close contact regarding the coronavirus pandemic, the German government said in a statement.

“They agreed that the current crisis can only be resolved through close international cooperation,” the statement read.

15:00 GMT – World Bank, IMF urge debt relief for poorest countries

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has urged official bilateral creditors to provide immediate debt relief to the poorest countries in the world that are facing severe consequences from the rapidly spreading coronavirus.

In a joint statement, the institutions called on official bilateral creditors to immediately suspend debt payments from International Development Association (IDA) countries, which are home to a quarter of the world’s population and two-thirds of the world’s population living in extreme poverty.

“This will help with IDA countries’ immediate liquidity needs to tackle challenges posed by the coronavirus outbreak and allow time for an assessment of the crisis impact and financing needs for each country,” the IMF and the World Bank said.

14:50 GMT – Guinea-Bissau confirms first two cases of coronavirus 

Guinea-Bissau has registered its first two cases of coronavirus, Prime Minister Nuno Gomes Nabiam has said.

The patients are a Congolese UN employee and an Indian citizen, and both have been placed in quarantine, he said, adding that public transport would be suspended to limit the spread of the virus.

Nigeria imposes restrictions amid sharp increase in COVID-19 cases

14:40 GMT – UN urges prisoner releases to avoid virus contagion     

Countries must protect people in detention from the COVID-19 pandemic by releasing vulnerable prisoners, the UN’s rights chief has said.    

“Covid-19 has begun to strike prisons, jails and immigration detention centres, as well as residential care homes and psychiatric hospitals, and risks rampaging through such institutions’ extremely vulnerable populations,” Michelle Bachelet said in a statement.

“Authorities should examine ways to release those particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, among them older detainees and those who are sick, as well as low-risk offenders.” 

14:35 GMT – Switzerland restricts exports of protective equipment

Switzerland has introduced temporary restrictions on the export of protective equipment to head off shortages among medical staff and others fighting the coronavirus outbreak.

Licenses will now be needed to export masks, gloves, goggles and swabs as of March 26, the government said on Wednesday. Exceptions to the licensing requirement will apply to the EU and the three other states in the European Free Trade Association as long as they treat Switzerland the same way, it added.

The government also announced a raft of measures to cut red tape related to recruitment and short-time working. The measures are designed to make it easier to recruit medical, pharmaceutical, agricultural or logistics workers, it said. 

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14:30 GMT – UN Guterres said ‘this is a matter of basic human solidarity’ in plea for aid

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an increase in international aid of $2bn to regions facing humanitarian crises, as countries across the world grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.  

“The world is only as strong as our weakest health system,” said Guterres.  

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus added that “history will judge us on how we responded to the poorest countries in their darkest hours.”

14:20 GMT – UK Johnson wishes Prince Charles speedy coronavirus recovery

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has wished Prince Charles a speedy recovery following news that the 71-year-old heir to the British throne has contracted coronavirus, Johnson’s official spokesman has said. 

“The Prime Minister wishes the prince a speedy recovery,” the spokesman told reporters at a briefing.

Charles’s household said the prince was displaying “mild” symptoms of the disease. 

British PM Johnson gives daily address to nation on coronavirus in London
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a news conference on the ongoing situation with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in London on March 22 [Ian Vogler/Reuters]

14:15 GMT – Dutch coronavirus cases rise by 852 to 6,412, indicating possibly slowing spread

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Netherlands has risen by 852 to 6,412, health authorities said, adding that they see signs that the rate of increase of the virus’s spread in the country is slowing.

Deaths rose by 80 to 356, the National Institute of Health (RIVM) said in its daily update on the outbreak.

“The number of new patients received at hospital had been on an upward curve recently,” the RIVM said. “At this moment that seems to be leveling. That may point to a small reduction of the rate at which the virus is spreading.”

14:10 GMT – Singapore reports 73 new coronavirus cases in biggest daily jump

Singapore has reported 73 new cases of coronavirus cases on Wednesday, the city-state’s biggest daily jump, taking its tally to a total of 631 infections.  

Two people have died from COVID-19 in the island nation, which has been hailed for its response.

How to overcome obstacles to widespread coronavirus testing?


14:05 GMT – Dubai directs private sector to implement remote work for 80 percent of staff

Dubai has directed private sector companies to implement remote working systems for 80 percent of staff from now until April 9, the authority regulating business in the emirate said on Twitter.

Pharmacies, grocery stores, supermarkets and cooperative societies were excluded from the order, Dubai Economy said. The measure was taken “to ensure public health and safety”.

13:57 GMT – Wikileaks founder Julian Assange denied bail by London court 

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is fighting extradition from the UK to the US, has been denied bail after his lawyers said he should be released from prison because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The 48-year-old is wanted by the US on 18 criminal counts of conspiring to hack government computers and violating an espionage law and says he could spend decades in prison if convicted.

Judge Vanessa Baraitser at Westminster Magistrates’ Court ruled that he should remain in Belmarsh Prison in London. 

13:55 GMT – Pakistan seeks $1.4 bn IMF loan to counter coronavirus 

Pakistan is seeking another $1.4 bn loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help it deal with the economic slowdown from the coronavirus, government finance adviser Abdul Hafeez Shaikh has said.

Pakistan will also be seeking more support from World Bank and Asian Development Bank, Sheikh added.

“This 1.4 billion we are asking will be a low cost fast disbursing loan,” he told a news conference in Islamabad.The IMF agreed to a $6 billion financial aid programme for Pakistan last year.

A health worker takes the temperature of a man who returned from Iran and is under medical observation, after Pakistan sealed its border with Iran as a preventive measure following the coronavirus out
A health worker takes the temperature of a man who returned from Iran and is under medical observation at the border post in Taftan, Pakistan in February [Naseer Ahmed/Reuters]

13:50 GMT – UK to detail aid for self-employed on Thursday: Report

UK finance minister Rishi Sunak will give details on Thursday of promised assistance for self-employed workers who lose income as a result of the coronavirus, broadcaster Sky News reported on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told parliament that more news on assistance would come in the next couple of days. Sky News’s political editor said Sunak would make the announcement at the government’s daily late-afternoon news conference on the coronavirus. 

13:40 GMT – Switzerland extends border controls to all Schengen countries

The Swiss government has said it was expanding its border controls to include all countries in the Schengen open border zone to help protect people from coronavirus.

The move comes after Switzerland last week introduced controls at its borders with Italy, France, Germany, Austria and Spain and all countries not in the Schengen zone.

“Since midnight, the tightened entry requirements have also been applied to flights from all remaining Schengen states with the exception of the Principality of Liechtenstein,” the government said in a statement. 

13:30 GMT –  Putin calls on Russians to stay home, postpones constitutional reforms vote 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called on all residents to stay home next week, while announcing that vote on constitutional reforms set to take place on April 22 would be postponed.

Putin said that the government does not want Russians, except those in essential sectors, to come to work next week. He said that stores, pharmacies and banks will stay open.

“Health, life and safety of the people is an absolute priority for us,” Putin said.

Russian authorities reported 658 cases of the virus on Wednesday, with 163 new cases registered since the day before. That marked a significantly bigger daily increase from previous days, when the number of new infections grew only by several dozens.

The postpone constitutional reforms vote include a revision that would allow Putin to serve another term as president beyond 2024.

Russian officials and medical staff wearing protective gear check passengers as a preventive measure against the coronavirus (COVID-19) at Sheremetyevo International Airport outside Moscow, Russia Mar

13:25 GMT – Spain buys $467 millionin medical equipment from China

Spain has signed a multi-million dollar contract with China to acquire medical supplies to fight the coronavirus epidemic, Health Minister Salvador Illa has said.     

Worth some $467 million, the deal will cover 550 million masks, 5.5 million rapid test kits, 950 respirators and 11 million pairs of gloves to address shortages in Spain, where the number of deaths reached 3,434 on Wednesday, overtaking the figure in China where the virus originated late last year. 

13:20 GMT – UK PM Johnson says getting more trains on London Underground possible

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said it should be possible to get more trains on the London Underground to tackle overcrowding happening because of a reduced service during the coronavirus outbreak.

The government and London’s mayor have been at odds over whether the city’s transport system could run more services as commuters travelled on packed tube carriages despite warnings to keep apart to control the spread of coronavirus.

“We should be able to run a better tube system at the moment, we should be able to get more tubes on the line,” Johnson said in parliament, adding that the government would give London’s mayor “every support and help that we can”.

Coronavirus in US: Concern for homeless vulnerable to virus

13:10 GMT – IMF says growth in sub-Saharan Africa to be hit hard

The spread of the coronavirus into sub-Saharan Africa will hit the region’s growth hard, with direct disruptions to people’s livelihoods, tighter financial conditions, reduced trade and investment and a steep drop in commodity prices, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said.

In a blog posting on the IMF’s website, top officials in the Fund’s Africa Department said they have received requests for emergency financing from over 20 nations in the region and expect at least 10 more soon.

“Across the region, growth will be hit hard. Precisely how hard is still difficult to say. But it is clear that our growth forecast in April’s regional outlook will be significantly lower,” wrote Abebe Aemro Selassie, director of the IMF Africa Department and Karen Ongley, mission chief for Sierra Leone. 


This is Joseph Stepansky in Doha, taking over the live updates from my colleague Mersiha Gadzo.


12:45 GMT – Iran warns of second wave of coronavirus

Iran might face a second wave of the outbreak, government spokesman Ali Rabiei said, as some Iranians ignored guidance issued by health officials to contain the spread of the disease.

“Unfortunately some Iranians ignored advice from health ministry officials and travelled during the (Iranian) New Year holidays … This could cause a second wave of the coronavirus,” Rabiei said, according to state TV.

“All the new trips between cities are banned and violators will be confronted legally.”

2,077 people had died in Iran, with 143 deaths recorded in the past day, according to an Iranian health ministry official.

The total number of people infected has reached 27,017, Alireza Vahabzadeh tweeted.

A relative reacts before the burial of the journalist Abdollah Zavieh, who passed away due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Behesht Zahra cemetery in Tehran
A relative in Tehran reacts before the burial of the journalist Abdollah Zavieh, who passed away due to COVID-19 [Ali Khara/WANA via Reuters]

12:15 GMT – EU leaders call for joint debt issuance

Leaders of nine EU countries including France, Italy and Spain called on the bloc to agree on a “common debt instrument” to raise funds to support the health industry along with the broader economies, according to a letter seen by Reuters.

EU leaders will hold a third video conference on coronavirus on Thursday. The letter, dated March 25, comes after euro zone ministers did not agree on eurobond joint debt issuance on Tuesday but said the euro zone’s ESM bailout fund would extend precautionary credit lines as a safety cushion.

11:55 GMT – Tokyo marks largest daily increase in infections

More than 40 cases of coronavirus infections were reported in Tokyo, Japanese media reported, the biggest single-day increase in Japan’s capital which has overtaken smaller cities to become the country’s epicentre of the virus.

Tokyo now has around 200 cases of coronavirus, surpassing the northern island of Hokkaido, which has around 163 cases, according to national broadcaster NHK.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike will ask residents on Wednesday to refrain from going outside for non-essential business at the weekend, public broadcaster NHK said.

11:42 GMT – Mali confirms first two cases

Mali confirmed its first two cases of coronavirus, the government said in a statement.

The two patients are Malian nationals, a 49 year-old woman from Bamako and a 62 year-old man living in Kayes. They arrived in the country from France on March 12 and 16, respectively.

The government said the two patients were being taken care of by the country’s health authorities.

Coronavirus - in numbers

11:40 GMT – Saudi Arabia tightens imposed curfew

Saudi Arabia is tightening a partial nationwide curfew to contain the spread of the coronavirus, barring entry or exit from Riyadh, Mecca and Medina.

The orders, approved by King Salman will also ban movement between all provinces starting on Wednesday, state news agency SPA reported.

Four hours were added in the three cities to the 21-day curfew that began on Monday. The curfew will now start at 3pm instead of 7pm as of Thursday, SPA said.

11:30 GMT – Brazil’s Bolsonaro wants commerce re-opened

Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro said that state-level shutdowns in Brazil were likely to cripple the economy and raise unemployment, urging on Twitter that they be reversed.

The president was criticised for making that argument in a televised address to the nation on Tuesday night in which he minimised the likely impact of the “little flu” in Brazil.

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro is pictured with his protective face mask at a press statement during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Brasilia
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro is pictured at a press conference in Brasilia, Brazil [Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters]

11:00 GMT – Spain surpasses China in deaths, now second to only Italy

Spain surpassed China in the number of coronavirus deaths, now second to only Italy.

Spain recorded 738 more deaths over the past 24 hours, the largest death toll increase since the outbreak hit the country, the health ministry reported.

The number of deaths from the virus rose to 3,434 from 2,696 on Tuesday, the ministry said. The number of cases rose to 47,610 from 39,673 on Tuesday.

In China, 81,661 people have been infected, while 3,285 people have died from the COVID-19 disease.

A patient, center, is transferred to a medicalised hotel during the COVID-19 outbreak in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate sympt
A patient is transferred to a medicalised hotel in Madrid, Spain [Bernat Armangue/AP]

10:43 GMT – UK’s Prince Charles tests positive for coronavirus

The UK palace said heir to the throne Prince Charles tested positive for coronavirus and has mild symptoms.

Read more about it here.

Britain's Prince Charles and Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall, in the background, leave after attending the annual Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey in London, Monday, March 9, 2020. The an
Britain’s Prince Charles announced he had tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday. [Kirsty Wigglesworth/The Associated Press]

10:40 GMT – Ethiopia to release over 4,000 inmates

Ethiopia’s Federal Attorney General announced the release of 4,010 prisoners in an effort to combat the spread of coronavirus in crowded jails, state-affiliated media reported.

Pardoned foreign nationals will be sent to their respective countries, Attorney General Adanech Abiebie said.

10:30 GMT – In pictures: Railways, India’s lifeline, come to a halt

India’s colossal passenger railway system has come to a halt as officials take emergency measures to keep the coronavirus pandemic from spreading in the country of 1.3 billion.

The railway system is often described as India’s lifeline, transporting 23 million people across the vast subcontinent each day, some 8.4 billion passengers each year.

View the photo gallery here.

In this Monday, March 23, 2020, photo, a passenger walks past railway tracks at the deserted New Delhi Railway station during a lockdown amid concerns over the spread of Coronavirus, in New Delhi, Ind
A passenger walks past railway tracks at the deserted New Delhi Railway station during the lockdown imposed amid concerns over the spread of the new coronavirus [Manish Swarup/AP Photo]

10:25 GMT – Indians scramble for supplies as lockdown imposed

Indians crowded grocery stores and pharmacies in a struggle for essential items after Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a total lockdown for three weeks to fight the coronavirus pandemic, one of the toughest such measures worldwide.

Read about it here.

09:30 GMT – ‘Sanitiser? I clean up human waste with my hands’

Sanitary workers around the world carry out life-threatening tasks, majority without access to the most basic hygiene at a time when health agencies are urging extra steps to ensure cleanliness and basic hygiene amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Read about it here.

sanitary workers
Because these workers are informal and undocumented, there are no available statistics on how many die on the job [WaterAid]

08:50 GMT – More than 158,000 volunteer to help UK tackle coronavirus

More than 158,000 people have volunteered to help Britain’s National Health Service fight the coronavirus outbreak just hours after a request for a quarter of a million volunteers, ITV said.

The death toll from coronavirus in the UK jumped on Tuesday by 87 to a total of 422 – the biggest daily increase since the crisis began.


Ambulances outside an NHS centre in London, Britain, 23 March 2020. The NHS is expecting a peak in Coronavirus cases soon, so much so that they will soon be faced with whose life to save. EPA-EFE/ANDY
Ambulances are seen outside an NHS centre in London. The NHS is expecting a peak in Coronavirus cases soon, so much so that they will soon be faced with whose life to save. [Andy Rain/EPA-EFE]

08:45 GMT – French death tally much higher than official data: hospitals chief

The number of people in France who have died from coronavirus is much higher than the official daily government tally, which only accounts for those dying in hospitals and does not include those dying at home or in retirement homes, the head of the hospitals federation said.

“We only know the data provided by hospitals… The increase in the official data is already major, but the absolute numbers would no doubt be effectively much higher if we aggregated what is happening in retirement homes as well as the people who die at home,” Frederic Valletoux, president of the French hospitals federation, said on France Info radio.

A medical staff walks by the civil hospital in Mulhouse, eastern France, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. The Grand Est region is now the epicenter of the outbreak in France, which has buried the third most v
A medical employee walks by the civil hospital in Mulhouse, eastern France. The Grand Est region is now the epicenter of the outbreak in France, which has buried the third most virus victims in Europe, after Italy and Spain [Jean-Francois Badias/AP]

08:37 GMT – Australia welfare agency stretched to the limit

Australia’s federal government says as many as one million Australians could find themselves out of work in coming days due to shutdown.

Read more here.

08:30 GMT – Vietnam to halt new rice export contracts until March 28

Vietnam will temporarily suspend signing new rice export contracts until at least March 28, the government said.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc told the ministries of trade and agriculture to submit a report on domestic rice supplies and exports, according to a copy of the statement seen by Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: A farmer harvests rice by a paddy field outside Hanoi, Vietnam June 10, 2019. REUTERS/Kham/File Photo
A farmer harvests rice by a paddy field outside Hanoi, Vietnam [File: Kham/Reuters]

08:05 GMT – Thai lockdown sparks exodus of 60,000 migrant workers

About 60,000 migrant workers living in Thailand have left the country since authorities shut malls and many businesses on the weekend, a Thai interior ministry official said.

The official told Reuters 60,000 migrant workers from Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar had returned home as of Tuesday.

The country has closed its land borders, told people to stay at home, and closed most businesses in an attempt to curb the virus.

India declares 21-day ‘total lockdown’

08:00 GMT – Mexico suspends refugee requests

Mexico temporarily halted the processing of asylum requests from Tuesday, its refugee agency said.

Migration authorities will resume processing applications on April 20, Mexico’s refugee agency COMAR said, in line with a government order for various public offices to halt certain functions.

The foreign ministry will put the issuance of passports on hold from March 27 to April 19, it said.

07:50 GMT – India bans export of malaria drug

India’s government said that it is banning the export of hydroxychloroquine and formulations made from the medication, as experts test its efficacy in helping treat patients.

There are currently no approved treatments, or vaccines for COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory illness. Researchers are studying existing treatments and working on experimental ones, but most patients receive only breathing assistance.

Hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug, is among the medications that are being tested, as a potential treatment. Earlier this week, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), which maintains a list of drug shortages, said there is a shortage of hydroxychloroquine.

“Chloroquine has demonstrated toxicity in certain patients,” Dinesh Dua, chairman of the Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India, told Reuters. “You have to tread with caution because there is no comprehensive data to prove it works.”

india lockdown
People gather at a pharmacy in Mumbai to buy supplies following Indian Prime Minister’s announcement of a government-imposed nationwide lockdown [Indranil Mukherjee/AFP]

07:35 GMT – Singapore not ruling out holding elections

Singapore’s government said it was not ruling out holding a general election, saying strong leadership was needed in a crisis.

Singapore, which must hold a ballot by early 2021, revised its electoral boundaries this month, in a move typically seen as a precursor to calling a vote. Some opposition parties have urged against an election over health risks.

In parliament, senior minister Teo Chee Hean said “the present situation is not ideal” but said that because the outbreak could continue for some time, Singapore could go for early elections.

07:20 GMT – Germany reports 4,191 new cases

Confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Germany have risen to 31,554 while 149 people have died of the COVID-19 disease, according to statistics from the RKI health institute.

Cases rose by 4,191 while the death toll increased by 36, the tally showed.

07:05 GMT – Cases in South Africa rise to 709: health minister

Coronavirus cases in South Africa has risen to 709, from 554 on Tuesday, health minister Zweli Mkhize said, speaking on the local news channel SABC.

A store assistant gives people hand sanitiser as shoppers stock up on groceries at a Makro Store ahead of a nationwide 21 day lockdown in an attempt to contain the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbr
A store assistant gives people hand sanitiser as shoppers stock up on groceries at a Makro Store in Durban, South Africa [Rogan Ward/Reuters]

06:30 GMT -Taiwan confirms 19 more cases, total now at 235

Taiwan confirmed 19 new coronavirus cases, all imported, bringing the total number of infected people to 235.


This is Mersiha Gadzo in Doha taking over the live updates from my colleague Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur.


05:40 GMT – Federal officials reach deal on $2 trillion stimulus package

The White House and Senate leaders from both parties have struck an agreement on a sweeping $2 trillion measure to aid workers, businesses and a healthcare system strained by the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak.

The agreement came after days of often intense haggling and mounting pressure; it still needs to be finalized in detailed legislative language.

The unprecedented economic rescue package would give most Americans direct payments, expand unemployment benefits and provide a $367bn programme for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home.

One of the last issues to close concerned $500bn for guaranteed, subsidised loans to larger industries, including a fight over how generous to be with the airlines. Hospitals would get significant help as well.

Read more here.

05:15 GMT – Malaysia extends lockdown until April 14

Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin says a two-week lockdown that began on March 18 will be extended until April 14. 

In a televised speech to the country, Muhyiddin said 172 more cases were confirmed on Wednesday, bringing the total across the country to 1,796.

He assured people there were plenty of supplies and that the government would be ramping up testing, especially in virus “hotspots”.

A soldier and a police officer wearing protective masks show a placard to a motorcyclist at a roadblock set up to enforce movement control order due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-1
A soldier and a police officer show a placard to a motorcyclist at a roadblock set up to enforce movement control order in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia [Lim Huey Teng/Reuters]

04:55 GMT – South Korea offers spare medical equipment to US

South Korea says it will send medical equipment to the US if it can spare any, after an urgent request from US President Donald Trump.

In a 23-minute phone call, Trump told President Moon Jae-in he would help Korean producers obtain approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for their equipment, South Korea’s Blue House said in a statement late on Tuesday.

Moon told Trump that South Korea “will provide as much support as possible, if there is spare medical equipment in Korea”.

south korea blog entry
People walk through an alleyway in Seoul, South Korea [Ed Jones/AFP]

04:35 GMT – Cruise ship passengers to be quarantined on Australian island

Some 800 Australian passengers on board the Vasco de Gama cruise ship, which is due to dock in the western Australian port of Fremantle on Friday, will be taken to Rottnest Island for quarantine, according to the ABC.

Rottnest is a popular holiday island renowned for its wildlife. It lies about 24 kilometres (15 miles) west of Fremantle.

04:30 GMT – Hefty fines for NSW residents who breach self-isolation

Police in New South Wales are detailing the powers they will be given to enforce the increasing restrictions on daily life in Australia’s most populous state, including fines of 1,000 Australian dollars ($604) for those who breach self-isolation rules.

The state earlier announced 211 new confirmed cases of coronavirus, bringing the total to 1,029.

04:20 GMT – Malaysia records 17th death

Malaysia has reported its 17th death from coronavirus.

The health ministry says the latest death was a 66-year-old man with a history of chronic illness who died in the southern state of Johor.

04:15 GMT – Thailand cases rise as government prepares to invoke emergency

Confirmed cases of coronavirus in Thailand rose to 934 on Wednesday, a day before a state of emergency is due to come into force, giving the government sweeping powers.

A health official said a further 107 people had been diagnosed with the infection.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who first took power in a coup in 2014, said emergency rule would begin on Thursday. The decree allows the government to “censor or shut down the media if deemed necessary”, among other measures.

thailand blog entry
Migrant workers from Myanmar pass through border gate at Myawaddy, Myanmar, after leaving Thailand due to the coronavirus outbreak [Thant Zin Aung/Reuters]

The US has lifted a ban on a Malaysian medical glove maker it previously accused of using forced labour.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on Tuesday said disposable rubber gloves made by WRP Asia Pacific after March 16 would be allowed into the country. 

Malaysia is the world’s biggest manufacturer of medical gloves and WRP has the capacity to produce more than 11 billion gloves a year.

03:45 GMT – Malaysia PM to make special address to nation; more financial support offered

Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin will make a special televised address at 1pm (05:00 GMT), with the country halfway through a two-week lockdown.

The government earlier announced a series of measures to ease financial stress, including a moratorium on loan repayments. 

03:15 GMT – South Korea reports 100 more coronavirus cases

South Korea has reported 100 more cases of the new coronavirus over the past 24 hours, raising the country’s total to 9,137.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement that 34 of the 100 cases were reported in the Seoul metropolitan area.

The KCDC also said nationwide fatalities from the virus increased by six to 126.

03:15 GMT – Philippines Communist rebels to observe ceasefire after UN call

Communist rebels in the Philippines say they will observe a ceasefire after UN chief Antonio Guterres called for an end to all armed conflicts because of the coronavirus.

The Communist Party of the Philippines says its New People’s Army has been ordered to stop all offensives from Thursday until April 15. The conflict has been going on for more than 50 years.

03:00 GMT – Bolsonaro accuses Brazil media of fuelling hysteria

Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro is accusing the media of stoking hysteria over the coronavirus, repeating his view that concerns about the virus are overblown.

“The virus arrived, we are confronting it, and it will pass shortly,” he said in a televised address. “Our lives have to continue. Jobs should be maintained.”

About 2,200 people in Brazil have been confirmed to have the virus, with 46 deaths reported.

Brazil anti Bolsonaro
Brazilians banged pots and pans at their windows to show their disgust at Bolsonaro’s handling of coronavirus [Pilar Olivares/Reuters]

02:15 GMT – ‘Bunker down’: New Zealand declares state of emergency

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has declared a state of national emergency as the country prepared to go into a month-long lockdown at midnight (11:00 GMT).

The country has 205 cases, but Ardern says modelling suggests there could actually be thousands.

All non-essential services, schools and offices will be shut and people told to stay at home.

“Make no mistake this will get worse before it gets better,” Ardern told Parliament. “We will have a lag and cases will increase for the next week or so. Then we’ll begin to know how successful we have been.”

01:55 GMT – Australia tightens restrictions, worries about intensive care needs

Australia has further tightened restrictions on movement, including limiting the number of people allowed at a wedding to five and those attending a funeral to 10.

Officials are concerned that if the number of cases continues to rise (there are now more than 2,250 confirmed cases) intensive care will be overwhelmed.

01:30 GMT – Xi Jinping to attend G20 video summit

Chinese President Xi Jinping will take part in the virtual G20 summit on the coronavirus that is due to take place on Thursday.

00:40 GMT – South Korea to step up screening of arrivals from US

South Korea plans to step up screening procedures for people arriving in the country from the US, Yonhap news agency reported on Wednesday.

The new measures will come into effect no later than midnight on Friday (15:00 GMT).

People arriving from Europe are already required to be tested and complete two weeks of self-isolation.

00:30 GMT – China reports 47 more cases in people coming from overseas

China continues to report more cases in people returning to the country from overseas.

It now has a total of 474 such cases, with an increase of 47 at the end of Tuesday.

The Foreign Ministry says most of the cases involve foreign nationals, but anyone arriving from overseas is required to go into centralised quarantine for 14 days.

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

For all the updates from yesterday (March 24), click here.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies