This live updates page is now closed. For the latest coronavirus updates from Thursday, March 5, please click here.
Governments around the world are scrambling to contain the spread of COVID-19, which is growing globally even as transmission in China, where the virus originated at the end of last year, continues to show signs of slowing within the country.
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There are more than 93,000 cases around the world – the overwhelming majority in China – but as deaths are reported in Italy, Iran and the United States, authorities are considering new quarantine zones and travel restrictions.
As the number of deaths rose in Iran and Italy, Poland, Morocco, Andorra, Armenia and Argentina all confirmed their first cases of the virus in the past 24 hours.
This live updates page is now closed. For the latest coronavirus updates from Thursday, March 5, please click here.
Here are the updates from –
Wednesday, March 4
20:30 GMT – Italian sport to be played without fans
Professional football matches and other big sporting events will take place without fans present until April 3 said Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
The preventive measure is part of a new decree issued by the government hoping to prevent a further spread of the virus which has caused 3,089 infected cases and 107 fatalities in the country.
Conte posted a five-minute video on his Facebook page, reassuring viewers and saying that the decree was a way of assuring “responsible behaviour.”
He said banning crowds at sporting events would help “prevent further opportunities of infection.”
20:10 GMT – Iraq reports second death
Iraq reported its second coronavirus death in the capital Baghdad, the health ministry said in a statement published by the state news agency.
The health ministry added the patient had many chronic diseases.
19:35 GMT – Saudi Arabia confirms second case
A Saudi national travelling from Iran through Bahrain tested positive for coronavirus, the health ministry announced in a statement published by the state news agency.
It added that the man did not disclose at the border that he was coming from Iran and that he had interacted with the person who had the first case reported on Monday.
The ministry confirmed that the new patient is currently quarantined in hospital and all the people who interacted with him have been tested and the results will be announced once completed.
19:25 GMT – US Congress backs $8.3bn to tackle virus
US legislators reached a deal to provide $8.3bn in emergency aid to confront the novel coronavirus in a bipartisan effort, according to members of the House of Representatives.
“We must quickly enact this legislation – lives are at stake,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey who introduced the measure in the Democratic-controlled lower chamber of Congress.
Republicans in the Senate, the upper chamber, are also supporting the bill. US President Donald Trump already said that he would “spend whatever is appropriate”.
The House planned a vote later today to approve the emergency plan, sources told the New York Times newspaper.
19:05 GMT – Algeria reports 17 infected people
Algeria reported nine new confirmed coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing to 17 the total number of people tested positive for the virus, the health ministry said.
The cases include 16 people from the same family in Blida province, some 30 kilometres south of the capital Algiers and an Italian man.
18:40 GMT – Sweden confirms 16 new cases
The total number of cases in Sweden rose to 52 as new cases were registered in Stockholm.
“Sixteen additional patients were found infected with COVID-19 …The infected patients are being cared for in isolation to reduce the risk of further transmission,” Region Stockholm said in a statement.
The causes of four of the 31 confirmed cases in the Stockholm region remain under investigation, as – unlike the rest of the cases – no clear link to infection abroad or contact with people who had been infected abroad had been found, the authority said.
18:30 GMT – France jumps to 285 cases
France has 285 confirmed cases of coronavirus said the head of the public health service Jerome Salomon, which is an increase of 73 compared to a day earlier.
During a press briefing, he added the death toll from the disease was still at four and that 15 persons were in intensive care.
18:05 GMT – Macron and Trump ‘ready to coordinate’
French President Emmanuel Macron said he had an “excellent” discussion with his US counterpart Donald Trump.
The talk took place in order to better deal with the coronavirus. “We are ready to coordinate our scientific, health and economic response within the framework of the US G7 Presidency,” Macron wrote on Twitter.
Excellent discussion with @realDonaldTrump. To better deal with Covid-19, we are ready to coordinate our scientific, health and economic response within the framework of the US G7 Presidency.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) March 4, 2020
17:50 GMT – Hungary confirms first two cases
Two Iranian students tested positive for coronavirus in Hungary said its Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
“We have the first infected individual, or rather two right away, whom we had to hospitalise because of the infection,” Orban said in a video on his Facebook page. “They have no symptoms yet but the fact of the infection has been confirmed”.
17:23 GMT – Italy closes schools and universities
All Italian schools and universities will be shut down from tomorrow until March 15 said Education Minister Lucia Azzolina.
The preventive measure comes as the death toll from the outbreak of the coronavirus has risen by 28 over the past 24 hours to 107 according to the Civil Protection Agency with the contagion showing little sign of slowing.
The head of the agency said also that of those originally infected, 276 had fully recovered versus 160 the day before.
16:53 GMT – Soju makers donate alcohol to curb spread of virus
As demand for ethanol-based sanitisers soars, producers of soju – South Korea’s national drink – are offering to help.
Soju is a distilled spirit with 17 to 20 percent alcohol by volume traditionally based on rice, but now often wheat and potatoes.
“Ethanol demand for disinfection has grown while supply is limited … we have decided to provide it,” an official from Daesun Distilling, based in the southeastern city of Busan, told Reuters news agency.
To banish the virus, the company has pledged to donate 32 tonnes of ethanol for use in disinfecting buildings and public places in Busan and southeastern Daegu, the city at the centre of South Korea’s outbreak.
Whether used for liquor or disinfection, both have the same chemical structure and can break apart the virus particle according to an expert.
16:27 GMT – Israel adds 5 countries to coronavirus air travel restrictions
Israel ordered travellers arriving from Germany, France, Spain, Austria and Switzerland to go into home quarantine over coronavirus concerns.
The same measure was already in place with regard to flights from Italy, China and Singapore.
Under the edict, the Health Ministry ordered all international conferences in Israel to be cancelled and banned gatherings of more than 5,000 participants.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also advised Israelis to stop shaking hands to help halt the spread of the virus.
16:10 GMT – Iran’s gov’t officials barred from travelling
Iran banned top officials from leaving the country until further notice, ramping up efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Iran has the highest number of government officials sickened in the contagion, including the vice president, the deputy health minister and 23 members of parliament.
15:57 GMT – Two coronavirus strains identified by researchers
Scientists in China studying the coronavirus say they have found that two main strains are circulating in humans and causing infections.
However, the study looked only at a limited range of data. The researchers, from Peking University’s School of Life Sciences and the Institut Pasteur of Shanghai under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said follow-up studies of larger data sets were needed to better understand the virus’ evolution.
The preliminary study found that a more aggressive strain of the new coronavirus associated with the outbreak in Wuhan accounted for about 70 percent of analysed cases, while 30 percent were linked to a less aggressive type.
The prevalence of the more aggressive virus type decreased after early January 2020, they said.
15:46 GMT – Third case in New York
A student in New York tested positive for COVID-19, marking the third case in the state.
Yeshiva University said it was cancelling all classes at one of its four New York City campuses as a “precautionary step” while it worked with authorities on how to best prepare and keep its students safe.
The university did not identify the student.
The latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed 108 confirmed and presumed cases in the US.
15:33 GMT – Pet dog confirmed positive for virus in Hong Kong
A pet dog of a coronavirus patient in Hong Kong was confirmed to be infected with the disease, in a likely case of human-to-animal transmission, local authorities said.
The city’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said repeated tests suggest the dog has “a low-level of infection”. The canine, which belongs to a 60-year-old woman patient, was quarantined at an animal centre.
The AFCD said experts from universities and the World Organisation for Animal Health have unanimously agreed that “it is likely to be a case of human-to-animal transmission”.
All pets of people in Hong Kong infected with the coronavirus will be quarantined for 14 days, starting Friday. Two dogs are already in isolation.
15:15 GMT – Egypt bars Qataris over coronavirus fears
Qataris will not be allowed to enter Egypt starting March 6 amid fears over the coronavirus, according to the Egyptian government. The ban includes those with a valid residency.
Qatar and Egypt are on opposite sides of a regional rift and Cairo said it was responding to a similar measure taken by the Gulf state.
“In light of what Qatar has decided regarding prohibiting entry for travellers holding Egyptian nationality … as part of the precautionary measures to face the coronavirus, [we have] decided to implement the principle of reciprocity,” the cabinet said, adding the measure would be in place until further notice.
Qatar imposed a temporary restriction on entry to its territory on visitors from Egypt via intermediate points because of the virus’ spread. The ban did not specifically mention Egyptian nationals.
15:02 GMT – 34 new cases in UK, raising total number up to 85
The number of people testing positive for coronavirus has jumped to 85 in the UK after 16,659 people were tested across the country, said the UK Department of Health and Social Care.
UPDATE on coronavirus (#COVID19) testing in the UK:
As of 9am 4 March 2020, a total of 16,659 people have been tested:
— Department of Health and Social Care (@DHSCgovuk) March 4, 2020
As the country is trying to curb the spread of the virus, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised measures for workers who need to self-isolate.
Speaking at prime minister’s questions, he said: “We will take every step we can to make sure that … no one whether employed or self-employed – whatever the status of their employment – is penalised for doing the right thing.”
14:40 GMT – Virus rumours ‘provocative fake stories’ from abroad: Putin
False rumours about the new coronavirus circulating in Russia are being directed from abroad, President Vladimir Putin said.
He told ministers the country’s FSB security service reported to him that false information was being planted to create panic, while in reality the situation is not critical.
“As for these provocative fake stories, the FSB reports they’re mainly organised from abroad … The aim of such fake stories is clear: to spread panic among the public”.
He said Russia had to fight this by releasing “timely, comprehensive and trustworthy information”. The official total of confirmed cases in Russia is six so far.
14:35 GMT – London Book Fair cancelled
The London Book Fair, one of the world’s biggest publishing trade fairs has been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“It is with reluctance that we have taken the decision not to go ahead with this year’s event,” read a statement published by the fair’s organisers, adding that the decision falls in line with the UK government guidelines and follows the advice of public health authorities.
— The London Book Fair (@LondonBookFair) March 4, 2020
14:22 GMT – Iran rejects US virus aid offer amid ‘vicious’ sanctions
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani dismissed a US offer to help the Islamic republic fight its coronavirus outbreak, charging that “vicious” American sanctions were depriving the country of medicine.
The US offer comes as the novel virus has affected almost all of Iran’s provinces, claiming 92 lives out of 2,922 confirmed infections in the past two weeks.
“Those who have deprived the people of even medicine and food through sanctions, who have done the most vicious things … they appear with a mask of sympathy and say that we want to help the nation of Iran,” Rouhani said, in a clear reference to the US.
US President Donald Trump had said on Saturday he was ready to aid Iran with the virus outbreak if the Islamic republic asked for assistance.
14:10 GMT – Paris museum reopens after virus fears
The most visited museum in the world reopened its doors after it closed on Sunday due to virus fears. However, workers voted overwhelmingly to resume work.
“The Louvre Museum is open” read the latest tweet from the French museum’s official account.
Mercredi 4 mars : le musée du #Louvre est ouvert.
— Musée du Louvre (@MuseeLouvre) March 4, 2020
Management presented a raft of new anti-virus measures to coax employees back to work. Among them: wider distributions of disinfectant gels and more frequent staff rotations so employees can wash their hands.
13:45 GMT – Facebook to help combat virus misinformation
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, is stepping up his effort to fight against virus-related misinformation.
“We’re focused on making sure everyone can access credible and accurate information,” Zuckerberg said in a post on his Facebook account.
“Given the developing situation, we’re working with national ministries of health and organizations like the WHO, CDC [US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and UNICEF to help them get out timely, accurate information on the coronavirus,” Zuckerberg posted, adding that the WHO will be given free advertising.
13:40 GMT – Iran cancels Friday prayers in major cities amid outbreak
Friday prayers in Iran have been cancelled across all provincial capitals amid the country’s growing coronavirus outbreak, state television said.
Friday is the main congregational day of prayer in Islam and traditionally an important event for Iran’s clerical rulers.
The announcement comes as Tehran and other areas cancelled Friday prayers last week over the outbreak.
13:30 GMT – Italian tourists quarantined in India
A group of 17 Italian tourists taken to a quarantine facility in New Delhi have tested positive for the coronavirus.
The group entered India before the country began screening passengers from Italy. Their Indian tour bus driver was also found to be infected.
India has confirmed 28 cases of the coronavirus as of Wednesday, up from an earlier figure of five.
13:15 GMT – Italian gov’t to close schools, universities to contain coronavirus
The Italian government is preparing new emergency measures such as closing schools and universities across the country in a further attempt to contain the worst coronavirus outbreak in Europe.
A draft decree seen by Reuters spelt out the draconian steps, ordering “the suspension of events of any nature … that entail the concentration of people and do not allow for a safety distance of at least one metre to be respected”.
A government source told Reuters that schools and universities will also be closed nationwide, though this was not in the decree seen by the news agency and the education minister said the decision had not yet been finalised.
12:49 GMT – Saudi Arabia suspends Umrah pilgrimage
Saudi Arabia has temporarily suspended Umrah pilgrimages to the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina for Saudi citizens and the kingdom’s other residents over coronavirus concerns, the state news agency SPA said.
The decision will be reviewed regularly and reversed when the situation changes, SPA said, citing an official source in the Saudi interior ministry.
11:07 GMT – Iran death toll rises to 92
Iran’s health ministry said the coronavirus has killed 92 people, up from 77 the day before, while the number of infections rose to 2,922.
Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour announced the new figures at a news conference in the capital, Tehran.
The virus has sickened top leaders within the Islamic Republic’s government. Iran stands alone in how the virus has affected its government, even compared to hard-hit China, the epicentre of the outbreak.
10:45 GMT – Malaysia announces 14 new cases
Malaysian authorities announced 14 new cases of the coronavirus, adding that the spike was the result of a second wave of infections that began late last month.
“After 11 days of no reported cases, a second wave (of infections) began on the 27th February 2020,” Noor Hisham Abdullah, director-general of Malaysia’s health ministry, told a news conference in Putrajaya.
“This makes the total cases of COVID-19, so far, 50 cases, while 22 of them have been discharged,” he said.
10:36 GMT – Coronavirus affected almost all Iranian provinces
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said the outbreak of novel virus has affected almost all of Iran’s provinces.
“This disease is a widespread disease,” he said, according to the official presidency website.
“It has reached almost all our provinces and in one sense it’s a global disease.”
10:32 GMT – Coronavirus deadlier than flu, but containable: WHO
COVID-19 has killed 3.4 percent of cases globally, a figure far above the seasonal flu’s fatality rate of below 1 percent, according to the WHO.
But the global spread of the new virus can still be controlled.
Read more here.
09:43 GMT – Germany reports 44 new cases
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased to 240, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) said.
According to RKI, fifteen of Germany’s 16 states have now reported cases of the virus, with North Rhine-Westphalia being most affected.
09:23 GMT – First death reported in Iraq
A 70-year-old man has died in northern Iraq after contracting the coronavirus, according to the official Iraqi news agency.
The death in Sulaimaniyah, in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region, is Iraq’s first coronavirus death.
The man was diagnosed after his health deteriorated, the report quoted the Sulaimaniyah health directorate as saying.
08:57 GMT – Median incubation period 5-7 days, maximum 14
The Chinese Medical Association has said the median incubation period of the new coronavirus is five to seven days and the maximum 14 days.
Speaking at a press event in Beijing, Du Bin, chairman of the Critical Care Medical Branch of the Association, also said that while in Hubei province some individuals tested positive for the virus even after being discharged from hospital after treatment, there is no data tracking such cases.
He added there was no evidence yet that such patients can transmit the virus – which originated in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, late last year – to others.
08:33 GMT – How the Gulf responded to the outbreak
Gulf countries have responded to the coronavirus outbreak by introducing travel bans, stepping up screening measures at entry points and rescheduling – in some cases cancelling – significant sports and cultural events.
Read more about the measures taken by Gulf countries aimed at curbing the spread of the virus here.
08:28 GMT – Takeda Pharmaceutical says developing coronavirus drug
Takeda Pharmaceutical Co Ltd said it is developing a drug to treat high-risk individuals infected with the coronavirus.
The Japanese company said in a statement it is also studying whether its currently marketed and pipeline products may be effective treatments for infected patients.
“As a company dedicated to the health and well-being of people around the world, we will do all that we can to address the novel coronavirus threat,” Rajeev Venkayya, president of Takeda’s vaccine business, said in a statement.
08:19 GMT – France to regulate price of antibacterial gel
France will regulate the price of antibacterial gels after prices were reported to have shot up since the coronavirus outbreak began in December last year, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said.
A decree regulating the price will be published during the day, Le Maire told French BFM Business radio.
A pharmacists’ union on Wednesday said the price rise was unacceptable and called for government intervention.
08:12 GMT – Russia suspends export of masks
Russia has suspended the export of surgical masks and medical gear, including bandages and one-use chemical protection suits, according to a government resolution, amid fears over the spread of the coronavirus. It added that the suspension would not affect exports being made for humanitarian reasons.
Russia has not reported any confirmed cases of people contracting coronavirus while inside the country, though six people who got infected elsewhere have received or are receiving treatment in Russia.
“It is mainly necessary to prevent a so-called ‘artificial deficit’ in certain medical items – masks, respirators, antiviral agents that speculators can export abroad,” Industry Minister Denis Manturov said.
08:02 GMT – Poland confirms first case
Poland has confirmed its first coronavirus infection, Poland’s Health Minister Lukasz Szumowski said.
Szumowski said the patient is in hospital in Zielona Gora, western Poland, adding that he is in good condition.
07:55 GMT – India confirms new cases, bringing total number of cases to 28
India’s health minister has announced that 14 out of 21 Italian tourists have tested positive for the coronavirus.
In remarks to ANI news agency, said the total number of cases in the country now stood at 28. All flights and passengers will now be subject to universal screening, he added.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan: 14 out of 21 Italian nationals have found positive for coronavirus. They have been sent to at Indo-Tibetan Border Police's (ITBP) quarantine facility in Chhawla. pic.twitter.com/IJqP1e13tT
— ANI (@ANI) March 4, 2020
07:47 GMT – Hong Kong residents due to arrive from Wuhan in first chartered flight
The first chartered flight evacuating residents of Hong Kong from Wuhan – the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak – is scheduled to arrive in Hong Kong at 09:10 GMT.
07:04 GMT – Greece confirms eighth case
Greece’s health ministry has confirmed one more case, bringing the total number of infected people in the country to eight.
The new case in the second city of Thessaloniki is a Greek citizen who is closely related to an earlier infected person.
06:47 GMT – Japan’s Hokkaido island reports three new cases
Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido reported three more cases of coronavirus infections, bringing the total to 82 in the prefecture, which accounts for the highest number of infections among Japan’s prefectures.
The new cases are all men, one in his 50s and the other two in their 60s, the prefecture said on its website.
06:42 GMT – Ireland confirms second case
Irish health authorities have confirmed a second case of the coronavirus in a woman in the east of the country who recently travelled to northern Italy, according to Ireland’s Department of Health.
“Today we are confirming that Ireland has diagnosed one new case of COVID-19. The case arises in a female in the east of the country and is associated with travel from northern Italy,” Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer with the Department of Health told reporters.
03:50 GMT – Air New Zealand deep-cleaning three planes after COVID-19 case
Air New Zealand is deep cleaning three of its planes after it was confirmed a woman diagnosed with the country’s first case of COVID-19 travelled on its flight from Singapore to Auckland, as well as on two regional flights.
In a statement on its website, the airline’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Ben Johnston said the airline was working with the Ministry of Health to identify and contact passengers who were on the flights.
02:50 GMT – South Korea’s Moon calls off Middle East trip
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has called off a mid-March trip to the UAE, Egypt and Turkey because of the coronavirus, according to the presidential Blue House.
“In response to the recent nationwide spread of COVID-19, we have decided not to go ahead with trips,” spokesman Kang Min-seok said in a statement.
The outbreak in South Korea is the largest outside China.
Remarks by Pres. Moon(@moonriver365) During Visit to Armed Forces Daejeon Hospital
"I’d like to extend gratitude to the military once again for doing all it can to respond to the outbreak."
— The Office of President Moon Jae-in (@TheBlueHouseENG) March 3, 2020
02:45 GMT – Olympics will go ahead as planned
Sports events around the world have been cancelled as a result of the coronavirus, heightening speculation around the fate of the Olympics, which are due to start in Japan in a few months.
This morning, top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told journalists Japan was planning to hold the games as planned.
On Tuesday, Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto had noted there could be a delay under Japan’s contract with the International Olympic Committee.
01:50 GMT Further slowdown in China
China’s data continues to show the outbreak there slowing. There were 119 new confirmed cases to the end of March 3, compared with 125 the day before.
An additional 38 people died on March 3, bringing the death toll in mainland China to 2,981.
China has now had 80,270 cases since the virus first appeared in Wuhan late last year.
01:40 GMT Further spike in South Korea cases
The latest data from the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) shows 516 new cases of coronavirus in the country – a day after President Moon Jae-in declared “war” on the infection.
South Korea now has 5,328 cases with 32 deaths in the largest outbreak outside China. The KCDC updates the data twice a day.
00:15 GMT – Nursing-home worker confirmed with virus in Australia
A woman who works in a nursing home in northern Sydney has been confirmed to have the coronavirus, raising concerns for the elderly people who live there.
The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper says the woman is in her 50s and picked up the virus locally – the third such case in Australia.
Breaking: A Sydney woman in her 50s, the third locally acquired case of coronavirus, has been identified as an aged care worker at a facility near Macquarie University https://t.co/7Bf59SfptC
— The Sydney Morning Herald (@smh) March 3, 2020
00:00 GMT – Australian supermarkets ration toilet roll
Australia’s biggest supermarkets are rationing toilet paper after a wave of panic-buying.
#toiletpapergate and #toiletpapercrisis were the top two hashtags on Twitter in Australia on Wednesday.
Australians are not the only ones panic-buying. We have seen it happen in Singapore and Indonesia, while on Tuesday, it seems New Yorkers were clearing shop shelves of cleaning products.
Read more about this here.
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s live blog on the coronavirus outbreak.
I’m Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur, taking over from my colleague Usaid Siddiqui.
A recap of Tuesday’s developments:
The number of deaths surged in Italy and Iran.
In the US, the death toll now stands at nine with the outbreak centred on a nursing home but there are concerns the infection may have been spreading in the community for some time.
In more positive news, the number of new cases in China appears to be slowing. The WHO says global understanding of the virus is increasing and more governments are announcing concrete plans to deal with the outbreak.
Click here to read updates from Tuesday, March 3.