Turkey’s coronavirus cases highest in Middle East: Live updates

Turkey overtakes Iran after health minister says confirmed infections in excess of 82,300.

Nurses take care of a patient suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at an intensive care unit of the Medicana International Hospital in Istanbul, Turkey, April 14, 2020. Picture taken Apri

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Below is a summary of key developments on Saturday:

  • The number of deaths linked to the novel coronavirus has crossed 156,000 worldwide, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally. The number of deaths in the United States has exceeded 31,000.

  • Turkey’s health minister has said the country’s confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 82,329, overtaking neighbouring Iran for the first time to register the highest total in the Middle East.

  • Washington state Governor Jay Inslee has accused US President Donald Trump of “fomenting domestic rebellion and spreading lies” after the latter urged supporters to “LIBERATE” three states led by Democratic governors.

  • The United Kingdom’s health ministry has said hospital death toll from COVID-19 in the country rose by 888 to 15,464 as of 16:00 GMT on April 17.

Saturday, April 18

23:30 GMT – Trump warns China could face consequences for virus outbreak

Trump said China should face consequences if it was “knowingly responsible” for the coronavirus pandemic.

“If it was a mistake, a mistake is a mistake. But if they were knowingly responsible, yeah, I mean, then sure there should be consequences,” Trump told reporters at a daily briefing.

The US-China relationship was good “until they did this”, he said, citing a recent first-phase agricultural deal aimed at quelling a trade war between the two countries.

The question now was whether what happened with the coronavirus was “a mistake that got out of control, or was it done deliberately?” he said, adding: “There’s a big difference between those two.”

Trump previously said his government is seeking to determine whether the virus emanated from a Chinese lab.

23:05 GMT – Protesters in US rally against stay-at-home orders

Hundreds of people demonstrated in cities across the US calling for an end to the coronavirus-related stay-at-home rules.

An estimated 400 people gathered in Concord, New Hampshire, according to the AFP news agency, while a similar rally outside Maryland’s statehouse in Annapolis drew about 200 protesters. In Austin, the capital of Texas, more than 250 people showed up.

Read more here.

20:55 GMT – Indonesia’s real coronavirus toll ‘likely 1,000 already’

Indonesia’s death toll from the new coronavirus has likely reached 1,000, nearly double the official figure of 535, Indonesian Doctors Association (IDI) chairman Daeng Faqih was quoted as saying.

There is a discrepancy between official figures and IDI’s estimate, as official data did not include the death of patients suspected to have coronavirus but still awaiting tests.

“Those who were yet to be confirmed with COVID-19 were also reported by hospitals as death by coronavirus,” Daeng told local media.

20:30 GMT – Coronavirus cases in Brazil rise to 36,599

Cases of the new coronavirus in Brazil rose by 2,917 to 36,599, the health ministry said.

Brazil has more coronavirus cases than any other country in Latin America. Deaths rose by 206 to 2,347, the ministry said.

20:10 GMT – Netanyahu: Israel to ease some coronavirus restrictions

Israel will gradually ease its coronavirus lockdown from Sunday by letting some businesses reopen and relaxing curbs on movement after a slowdown in infection rates, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Authorities have steadily tightened a partial lockdown imposed on March 14, shuttering offices, closing schools and ordering people to stay mostly at home.

The measures have battered Israel’s economy, forced many businesses to close and sent unemployment above 25 percent.

But in televised remarks, Netanyahu said Israel had “succeeded in [its] mission so far” in combating the pandemic and argued that the restrictions had “proven themselves in a slowdown” in infection rates.

Netanyahu says Israel ‘succeeded’ in its ‘mission so far’ in combating the pandemic [Reuters] 

19:40 GMT – Number of coronavirus cases in Egypt passes 3,000

Egypt confirmed 188 new cases of the novel coronavirus, bringing the total to 3,032, according to a health ministry statement.

Nineteen new deaths caused by the illness were reported, raising the total to 224.

Egypt has imposed a night curfew since March 25 and will halt public transport on Monday during a public holiday to contain the spread of the virus.

19:20 GMT – Denmark increases economic support to businesses hit by lockdown

Denmark’s government announced about 100 billion Danish crowns ($14.6bn) worth of measures to support businesses struggling during the coronavirus lockdown.

The measures include direct economic aid to businesses, state-guaranteed loans and extended deadlines for tax payments, the government said.

“With this agreement, we are sending 100 billion crowns to companies to help them and their employees get through this,” Finance Minister Nicolai Wammen told state broadcaster DR.

The extra liquidity comes on top of an already announced 287 billion crowns worth of measures for businesses.

19:00 GMT – Spain’s PM to ask for extension of lockdown to May 9

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said he would ask parliament for a third 15-day extension of the lockdown imposed to curb one of the world’s worst outbreaks of the new coronavirus, taking the restrictions up to May 9.

Sanchez said he wanted to relax restrictions on children, who would be allowed out of their homes after April 27, though that allowance would be “limited and subject to conditions to avoid contagion”. He did not go into further details.

Spain has begun to ease a strict lockdown imposed on March 14 and this week opened up some sectors of the economy, including manufacturing. But most people are still confined to their houses except for essential outings including shopping for food.

18:20 GMT – France coronavirus death toll increases, at slowing rate

France registered 642 more deaths from coronavirus infections, bringing the total to 19,323, the fourth-highest tally in the world, although the number of people in hospital declined for the fourth day running.

France’s public health authority said in a statement that the total number of people in intensive care units also fell for the 10th day in a row, to 5,833 – the lowest level since March 31.

France has been in virtual lockdown since March 17 as part of efforts to curb the outbreak. 

Paris during a lockdown imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
France has been in virtual lockdown since March 17 as part of efforts to curb the outbreak [Reuters]

17:50 GMT – Morocco extends coronavirus lockdown till May 20

Morocco will extend lockdown measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus for another month until May 20, the government has said.

The decision was made by the government council as the number of coronavirus cases rose to 2670, including 137 deaths and 298 recoveries as of Saturday morning.

Lockdown conditions imposed on March 20 mean people are only allowed to go out to buy food or medicine and to staff some key jobs. Schools, mosques, non-essential shops and entertainment venues have all been closed.

Morocco has made wearing masks mandatory with those who fail to do so risking jail terms and fines.

17:30 GMT – Turkey’s coronavirus cases overtake Iran, highest in Middle East

Turkey’s confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 82,329, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said, overtaking neighbouring Iran for the first time to register the highest total in the Middle East.

An increase of 3,783 cases in the last 24 hours also pushed Turkey’s confirmed tally within a few hundred of China, where the novel coronavirus first emerged.

Koca said 121 more people have died, taking the death toll to 1,890.

A total of 1,822 people have recovered from coronavirus so far, and the number of tests carried out over the past 24 hours came to 40,520, the minister said.

17:15 GMT – UK has to do more to get equipment to health workers: Minister

The United Kingdom needs to do more to get personal protective equipment (PPE) to healthcare workers on the front line, housing minister Robert Jenrick said on Saturday after criticism about shortages in hospitals treating COVID-19 patients.

“We’ve got to do more to get the PPE that people need to the frontline,” Jenrick said, adding that a consignment was due to arrive from Turkey containing equipment including 400,000 protective gowns.

“We are trying to do everything we can to get the equipment we need.”

16:50 GMT – New York coronavirus daily death toll at two-week low

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said 540 people died across his state over the last 24 hours due to the novel coronavirus, marking the lowest daily tally in more than two weeks.

Speaking at a daily briefing on Saturday, Cuomo also said new hospital admissions stayed around the 2,000-patient mark, which he said was “still an overwhelming number.”

16:30 GMT – Putin orders daily coronavirus projections as Russia’s tally nears 37,000

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the government to provide daily forecasts of the spread of the novel coronavirus as Russia recorded almost 5,000 new cases in a single day.

Coronavirus infections in Russia began rising sharply in April after reporting far fewer infections than many western European countries in the outbreak’s early stages.

Russia’s official tally of coronavirus cases is 36,793, a record overnight rise of 4,785, and the death toll rose by 40 to 313.

In this handout photo released by Roscosmos Space Agency Press Service the Soyuz-2.1A rocket booster with Soyuz MS-16 space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station, ISS, blasts off
Russia’s official tally of coronavirus cases is 36,793, a record overnight rise of 4,785 [AP]

16:15 GMT – Nigerian president’s chief of staff dies from coronavirus

The Nigerian president’s chief of staff died from COVID-19, the presidency said on Friday, making him the most high profile person in the country to die in the coronavirus outbreak.

Abba Kyari had acted as the gatekeeper to 77-year-old President Muhammadu Buhari. After his re-election last year, Buhari ordered ministers to channel all communications through him.

Kyari had underlying health problems including diabetes. His age was not officially disclosed, although two presidency aides said he was 70. It was reported on March 24 that he had contracted the disease.

15:50 GMT – Pakistan lifts limit on mosque congregations

Pakistan lifted restrictions on congregational prayers at mosques but put in place a host of safety conditions to avert the further spread of the coronavirus in the country.

The South Asian nation, the second most populous Muslim country in the world, imposed the restrictions less than a month ago, allowing only three to five people at mosques for prayers.

The decision to lift restrictions, taken in a meeting between Pakistani President Arif Alvi and religious leaders, comes less than a week before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, in which the size of congregations typically increases.

The government had been under pressure to reverse the congregation restrictions, and clashes between mosque attendees and police had been reported in Karachi, the country’s largest city.

Pakistan Prayers
At this mosque in Islamabad’s F-8 neighbourhood, normally packed for Friday midday prayers, worshippers were advised to maintain at least six feet of distance between themselves [Al Jazeera]

15:35 GMT – Algeria extends coronavirus lockdown to April 29

Algeria will extend a lockdown by 10 days until April 29 as it tries to limit the spread of the coronavirus amid increases in deaths and confirmed cases, the prime minister’s office.

The government had imposed a full lockdown in the Blida area, south of the capital Algiers, and a night curfew in the country’s remaining 47 provinces until April 19.

Algeria has so far reported 2,418 infections and 364 deaths.

15:20 GMT – UAE announces $5,500 fine for coronavirus fake news

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) will fine people up to 20,000 dirhams (approximately $5,500) if they share medical information about the coronavirus that contradicts official statements, state news agency WAM reported.

The move appears to be aimed at containing the spread of misinformation and rumours related to the COVID-19 outbreak that has claimed 37 lives in the country, with 6,300 confirmed infections as of Friday.

“It is forbidden for any individual to publish, re-publish or circulate medical information or guidance which is false, misleading or which hasn’t been announced officially … using print, audiovisual or social media, or online websites or any other way of publication or circulation,” WAM reported, citing the government directive.

Read more here.

uae coronavirus
The move appears to be aimed at containing the spread of misinformation related to the COVID-19 [Christopher Pike/Reuters]

15:05 GMT – Indigenous women make face masks with palm leaves in Mexico

Indigenous women in Mexico have been making face masks against the coronavirus, using palm leaves native to the region.

They say that masks made from palm leaves are cheaper than the medical masks that have been scarce because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Mexico declared a state of emergency on March 31 to battle the pandemic.

14:45 GMT – Uzbekistan prolongs coronavirus-related restrictions

Uzbekistan decided to prolong restrictions imposed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus until May 10, the Central Asian nation’s government said.

The social distancing measures were set to expire on April 10. The Tashkent government has locked down all provinces and some major cities, closed some businesses and ordered citizens to only leave their homes for work or essential shopping.

14:20 GMT – Croatia extends lockdown until May 4

Croatia is extending its coronavirus lockdown for another 15 days, Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic said, but added the government was looking at whether it was possible to gradually ease restrictions on movement.

A month ago, the government closed all the shops, bars, restaurants, schools and public transport leaving open only food stores, pharmacies and petrol stations.

Croats have been allowed to leave their homes to buy essentials or seek medical treatment, go for a walk or do an exercise, but not in a group and avoiding social contact. Many people have been working from home.

Croatia has recorded 1,832 cases of COVID-19, with 39 deaths. On Saturday, the number of new infections rose by 18 which is the lowest daily increase registered since March 17. 

Coronavirus measures in Croatia
Croatia has recorded 1,832 cases of COVID-19, with 39 deaths as of Saturday [Anadolu]

14:00 GMT – UK coronavirus death toll exceeds 15,000

The UK’s hospital death toll from COVID-19 rose by 888 to 15,464 as of 16:00 GMT on April 17, the health ministry said.

“357,023 people have been tested, of which 114,217 tested positive,” the health ministry added.

12:55 GMT – Traffic heavy in capital as Iran allows some businesses to reopen

Iran allowed some businesses in the capital and nearby towns to reopen on Saturday after weeks of lockdown aimed at containing the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East.

Iran was slow to respond to the pandemic and held off on imposing widespread restrictions even after other countries in the region with far fewer cases forced most businesses to close. Iran has reported more than 80,000 confirmed cases and over 5,000 deaths.

Gyms, restaurants, shopping malls and Tehran’s grand bazaar will remain closed. Shrines and mosques are also shuttered, and a ban on public gatherings remains in place. Government offices have reopened with a third of employees working from home, and schools and universities are still closed.

Traffic was heavy in Tehran early Saturday, the first day of the workweek. Authorities allowed businesses outside the capital to reopen a week ago.

12:45 GMT – First death in East Jerusalem amid Israeli ‘neglect’

An elderly Palestinian woman has become the first fatal victim of the coronavirus disease, COVID-19, in occupied East Jerusalem, health officials have said.

Nawal Abu Hummus, 78, died on Saturday, said Palestinian Authority (PA) spokesperson Ibrahim Milhem in a statement. Abu Hummus, from the Issawiyah neighbourhood, had pre-existing chronic illnesses, he added.

Read more here

12:30 GMT – Spotlight on hard-hit elderly homes as toll emerges

Authorities in several countries, including the United States, Italy, Spain, France and Canada, have launched inquiries into how elderly care facilities have responded to the coronavirus crisis after reports emerged of high death rates at those facilities.

The pandemic has put a spotlight on nursing homes across the world, where thousands of elderly residents, who are most vulnerable to the disease, are believed to have died after contracting it.

Read more here

france elderly home
Elderly care homes have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic [Christian Hartmann/Reuters]

12:20 GMT – Dutch infections reach 31,589, 142 new deaths: Authorities

Confirmed coronavirus infections in the Netherlands have risen by 1,140 to 31,589, Dutch health authorities have said. 

The death toll among people known to have been infected with the novel coronavirus increased by 142 to 3,601, the Dutch Institute for Public Health (RIVM) said in its daily update.

12:10 GMT – Swiss death toll reaches 1,111, confirmed infections hit 27,404

The Swiss death toll from the new coronavirus has reached 1,111 people, the country’s public health agency said, rising from 1,059 a day earlier.

The number of people showing positive tests for the disease increased to 27,404, the agency said, up from 27,078.

12:00 GMT – Violating lockdown, over a hundred thousand gather at a Bangladesh funeral 

By Faisal Mahmud

Over a hundred thousand people gathered at the funeral of a renowned Bangladeshi Islamic preacher on Saturday, breaking the lockdown that the government of the South Asian nation imposed to avert the threat of coronavirus pandemic.

The funeral of Maulana Zubayer Ahmed Ansari took place at Sarail Upazila of Brahmanbaria district, some 100 kilometres away from the capital Dhaka. Ansari, a leader of the Islamic political party Khelafat Majlish, died on Friday evening. He was 59.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, officer-in-charge of Sorail police station Shahadat Hossain Titu said: “We couldn’t control the crowd. Over one lakh [hundred thousand] people gathered at premise of Jamia Rahmania Madrasa established by the late Maulana Ansari.”

DO NOT USE Muslim funeral attended by thousands in Brahmanbaria, Banglades
The funeral was attended by thousands in Brahmanbaria, Bangladesh [Tareq Ahmed/Al Jazeera]

“The funeral crowd extended up to nearby Dhaka-Sylhet highway,” said Titu, “Even people from capital Dhaka came to attend the funeral.”

Like other parts of Bangladesh, the district of Brahmanbaria also went into lockdown since March 26 up until April 25. On last Thursday, the Bangladesh government declared the entire country at risk of the coronavirus pandemic.

As of Saturday, Bangladesh has 2,144 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 84 deaths. Mahbub Kabir Milon, a secretary with Bangladesh government called the gathering “devastating”.

DO NOT USE Muslim funeral attended by thousands in Brahmanbaria, Bangladesh
The funeral for Maulana Jubayer Ahmed Ansari was attended by thousands in Brahmanbaria, Bangladesh [Bishwajit Paul/Al Jazeera]

11:40 GMT – Christian pastor who defied Myanmar law tests positive

“I had a conversation with someone yesterday, who told me that thanks to God, there is not a single Christian who has been infected with the virus,” Pastor David Lah declared, wagging his finger at the audience in a recorded sermon posted on social media.

“I can guarantee that the church that goes by Jesus’s teaching, there will be no infection,” added Lah, as he waved a bible in the air at an event held earlier this month, in defiance of the Myanmar government’s order banning religious gatherings due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Days later, Lah tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the rapidly spreading coronavirus. He and three other people have also been charged with violation of the country’s Natural Disaster Management Law.

Pastor David Lah
Pastor Lah and three of his companions, who were charged for violating government restrictions, have all reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 and were receiving treatment, and legal action would be pursued upon their recovery [Child of God YouTube channel via Reuters]

11:20 GMT – Amazon deploys thermal cameras at warehouses to scan for fevers faster: Report 

Amazon has started to use thermal cameras at its warehouses to speed up screening for feverish workers who could be infected with the coronavirus, employees told Reuters news agency.

The cameras in effect measure how much heat people emit relative to their surroundings. They require less time and contact than forehead thermometers, earlier adopted by Amazon, the workers said.

Cases of the virus have been reported among staff at more than 50 of Amazon’s US warehouses. That has prompted some workers to worry about  their safety and walk off the job. Unions and elected officials have called on Amazon to close buildings down.

11:00 GMT – Spain death toll surpasses 20,000 

Spain’s death toll from the coronavirus has risen 565, down from a rise of 585 on Friday, the health ministry has said, bringing the total to 20,043 deaths in one of the world’s hardest-hit countries.

The number of overall coronavirus cases rose to 191,726 on Saturday from 188,068 on Friday, it added.

10:30 GMT – Fears for African refugees in crowded Rome squat

Selam Palace is the largest building in Rome to become a squat for refugees and migrants, who struggle to afford the Italian capital’s rental costs. Experts estimate there are another 110 occupied buildings in the Eternal City.

The president of the local municipality, Monica Lozzi, confirmed to Al Jazeera that all residents had been tested for coronavirus, and 50 were found to have contracted it.

Read more here

Rome: Refugee squat palace [Valerio Muscella]
The locked-down, quarantined Selam Palace, is home to around 500 people in southern Rome [Valerio Muscella/Al Jazeera]

10:20 GMT – Guatemala: Many migrants on US deportation flight infected

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei has suspended all flights of deportees from the United States after a large number of migrants who were flown back this week were found to be infected with the novel coronavirus.

Giammattei said on Friday that 12 randomly selected people from the Monday deportation flight had tested positive for coronavirus when examined by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after their arrival. He suggested more on the flight had tested positive as well.

The flight has been at the centre of a political storm since Guatemalan Health Minister Hugo Monroy this week said up to 75 percent of passengers on a deportation flight in March had been infected with the virus.

Read more here

Guatemala deportations
Government officials stand next to a plane carrying migrants deported from the US at La Aurora International airport, in Guatemala City [File: Luis Echeverria/Reuters]

10:10 GMT – Spanish death toll may be much higher than officially reported

Fears of an underestimation of Spain‘s coronavirus death toll have risen sharply this week, amid emerging evidence that mortality rates could be much higher than anticipated.

As of Thursday, Spain already had the greatest total of confirmed coronavirus infections in Europe, with 188,068. It also had Europe’s second-highest death toll, after Italy, with 19,478 fatalities.

But while Spain’s central government has previously defended its criteria for its published figures as following World Health Organization guidelines, for days multiple media reports – as well as the opposition – have suggested that the real toll is more severe.

Read more here

Spanish flag - reuters
A woman waves a Spanish flag from the window of her house in support of healthcare workers, during lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic in Ronda, southern Spain [Jon Nazca/Reuters]

10:00 GMT – Iran’s total death toll rises to 5,031

Iran’s death toll from the new coronavirus has risen by 73 in the previous 24 hours to reach 5,031 on Saturday, health ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpour has said. 

The number of death recorded daily is one of the lowest in recent days, he said. The total number of people diagnosed with the COVID-19 disease caused by the new virus reached 80,868, he said.

A parliamentary report released earlier this week said the coronavirus death toll might be almost double the figures announced by the health ministry, and the number of infections eight to 10 times more.

09:40 GMT – Queen Elizabeth cancels gun salutes for her birthday

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth has asked that there be no gun salutes to mark her birthday on Tuesday, ITV reporter Chris Ship said on Twitter, adding that it would be the first such request had been made in her 68-year reign.

09:20 GMT – Malaysia reports 54 new cases, 2 new deaths

Malaysian health officials have reported 54 new coronavirus cases, the lowest daily increase since the government imposed curbs on movement and business on March 18, taking the cumulative total to 5,305.

The health ministry also reported 2 new deaths, bringing total fatalities to 88.

09:00 GMT – Indonesia reports 325 new cases

Indonesia has reported 325 new coronavirus cases, taking the total number of infections in the world’s fourth most populous country to 6,248.

Health ministry official Achmad Yurianto also reported 15 new deaths, taking the total to 535.

On Friday, Indonesia surpassed the Philippines to become the country with the highest number of infections in Southeast Asia. It has the most number of deaths in Asia outside of China.

08:40 GMT – Taiwan to quarantine 700 navy sailors 

Taiwan will put 700 navy sailors into quarantine after three cases of the new coronavirus were confirmed among sailors who had been on a goodwill mission to the Pacific island state of Palau, the government has said.

Three Taiwan navy vessels visited Palau – one of only 15 countries to maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan – in the middle of March, before returning to Taiwan a month later, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung told reporters.

The three confirmed cases had all shared quarters on the same ship, but all 700 sailors on all three ships were being recalled and would be put into quarantine, he said.

The president of Palau, Tommy Remengesau, told Reuters news agency in an interview on Wednesday that his country of 20,000 people had not had a single case of the coronavirus and he was going to shut it off from the outside world to keep the virus out.

08:20 GMT – Russia says death toll rises to 313

Russia has said its death toll from the novel coronavirus had risen to 313, an overnight increase of 40, as it posted a new record daily jump in new cases.

The authorities reported 4,785 new cases over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number to 36,793.

Moscow, which became the epicentre of Russia’s coronavirus outbreak and was also the first region in the country to introduce a lockdown, recorded 2,649 new cases, and 21 new deaths, the Russian coronavirus crisis response centre said.

Coronavirus infections in Russia began rising sharply this month, although it had reported far fewer infections than many western European countries in the outbreak’s early stages.

08:00 GMT – Philippines records 10 new deaths, 209 more cases

The Philippines’s health ministry has reported 10 new coronavirus deaths and 209 additional infections.

In a bulletin, the health ministry said total infections have risen to 6,087, while deaths have reached 397. It added that 29 more patients have recovered, bringing the total to 516

07:40 GMT – Singapore reports 942 new cases in biggest daily jump

Singapore’s health ministry has confirmed 942 new coronavirus infections, a new daily record, taking the total number of COVID-19 cases in the city-state to 5,992.

The vast majority of the new cases are of “work permit” holders living in foreign worker dormitories, the health ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

07:20 GMT – Confirmed Japan cases hit 10,000

The number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases in Japan has risen to 10,000, NHK public broadcaster has said, just days after a state of emergency was extended to the entire nation in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday appealed to the nation to stay indoors as new cases hit a record in the capital of Tokyo and fears medical services could fail in rural areas that are home to many elderly prompted the expansion of the state of emergency from an original seven areas.

Just over 200 people have died from the virus in Japan, but Tokyo remains the hardest-hit area, reporting 201 new infections on Friday alone – a new record. Tokyo reported 181 new cases on Saturday, NHK reported. 

07:00 GMT – US senator tells VP failed testing is ‘dereliction of duty’

Frustration boiled over into anger on a private call with Vice President Mike Pence as Democratic senators questioned administration officials about coronavirus testing plans but left without adequate answers, according to reports. 

At one point in the Friday call, Maine Senator Angus King, an independent and former governor, told Pence the administration’s failure to develop an adequate national testing regime is a “dereliction of duty,” a person who joined the hour-long call but was unauthorised to discuss it told the Associated Press News agency. 

“I have never been so mad about a phone call in my life,” King told the administration officials, the person said.

The plea for more testing before implementing President Donald Trump’s new guidelines to ease stay-home restrictions is a top priority for Democrats. They are heeding the warnings of health officials worried the virus will simply boomerang into a prolonged national crisis.

06:20 GMT – China mandates tests for key public workers leaving Wuhan

China ordered on Saturday that anyone in Wuhan working in certain service-related jobs must take a coronavirus test if they want to leave the city.

The order comes after the central city, where the coronavirus emerged late last year, lifted a 70-day lockdown that all but ended the epidemic there.

People in Wuhan work in nursing, education, security and other sectors with high exposure to the public must take a nucleic acid test before leaving, the National Health Commission said in an order.

The government of Hubei province, of which Wuhan is capital, will pay for the tests, the commission said.

Since the city relaxed its lockdown restrictions people who arrived in there before Chinese New Year, when the virus was peaking in China, are allowed to go back to their homes.

06:00 GMT – Australia sees three new deaths as govt urges app installation 

Australia’s coronavirus-related death toll rose by three to a total of 68 on Saturday, health data showed, with the government stepping up its calls for people to sign up for a controversial movement-tracking mobile phone app.

Australia and neighbouring New Zealand have shown early success in potentially stopping COVID-19 after closing their early and imposing strict curbs on public movement. Australia recorded 36 new cases on Saturday, bringing the total to 6,533 cases, according to the health ministry data.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Saturday that downloading a movement-tracking up, which would enable the government to detect potential new outbreaks and which has been criticised as an invasion of privacy, would not be mandatory.

Australia coronavirus
A worker cleans the mostly deserted waterfront area of the Sydney Opera House [Loren Elliott/Reuters]

05:40 GMT – Trump accused of ‘fomenting rebellion’ after ‘LIBERATE’ tweets

Washington Governor Jay Inslee on Friday accused Donald Trump of “fomenting domestic rebellion and spreading lies” after the United States president urged supporters to “LIBERATE” three states led by Democratic governors.

“The president’s statements this morning encourage illegal and dangerous acts. He is putting millions of people in danger of contracting COVID-19,” Inslee said in a series of tweets on Friday afternoon.

Inslee’s tweets came after Trump apparently encouraged the growing protests against the stay-at-home restrictions aimed at stopping the coronavirus.

Read more here

05:20 GMT – Thailand reports 33 new cases, no new deaths

Thailand has reported 33 new coronavirus infections, bringing the nation’s total to 2,733 cases, a senior official has said. 

Eleven of the new cases were in Bangkok and had a history of going to public areas, said Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for the government’s Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration.

No new deaths were reported and 1,787 people have recovered, he said.

Thailand has reported 47 fatalities since the outbreak escalated in January. 

Hello, this is Joseph Stepansky in Doha taking over from my colleague Ted Regencia.

04:55 GMT – Germany’s coronavirus cases rise by 3,609 to 137,439: RKI

Germany’s confirmed coronavirus cases have risen by 3,609 to 137,439, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Saturday, marking a fourth straight day of a spike in new infections.

The death toll has risen by 242 to 4,110, the tally showed.

04:05 GMT – South Korea shows lowest daily jump in virus cases since February 20

South Korea has reported 18 new cases of the coronavirus, its lowest daily jump since February 20, continuing a downward trend as officials discuss more sustainable forms of social distancing that allows for some communal and economic activity.

Figures released by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday brought national totals to 10,653 cases and 232 virus-related deaths, The Associated Press news agency reported.

At least 993 of overall infections have been linked to arrivals from overseas.

03:33 GMT – Japan to expand testing amid rising infections

Japan, alarmed by rising coronavirus deaths and the spectre of the collapse of the medical system, is scrambling to expand testing with drive-through facilities and general practitioners helping to collect samples, according to Reuters.

The decision to expand testing came as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this week expanded a state of emergency, originally issued for Tokyo and six other areas, to the entire country, and warned of the growing burden on health facilities

Japan conducted about 52,000 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests in March, or just 16 percent of the number carried out in South Korea, according to data from Oxford University.

03:01 GMT – China reports new cases coming from Russia

China has reported 27 new confirmed cases of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, as it tries to stem an upsurge in infections in a northeastern province bordering Russia.

Twenty of the new cases were in Heilongjiang province, including 13 Chinese nationals who had returned recently from Russia. The land border with Russia has been closed.

The confirmed cases brought the total to 82719, of which 77,029 have recovered. Meanwhile, China’s official death toll rose sharply to 4,632, reflecting a major upwards revision the previous day by authorities in Wuhan, the nation’s hardest-hit city.

02:35 GMT – Indonesia records highest number of cases, deaths in Southeast Asia

From zero reported infections and deaths in January and February, Indonesia now has the highest number of cases and deaths in Southeast Asia.

Indonesia has reported nearly 6,000 cases surpassing the Philippines. The death toll in Indonesia as of Friday was 520.

More than 46,700 people have been tested and 842 people had recovered [Achmad Ibrahim/AP]

02:28 GMT – Canada requires air passengers to wear masks to curb coronavirus

Canada’s transport agency has announced that all airline passengers would be required to wear a non-medical mask or face covering during travel to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The regulator said travellers must cover their mouth and nose during the boarding process and flights. The rule goes into effect on Monday.

Air Canada, the country’s largest carrier, had previously recommended that customers wear a face-covering over their mouth and noses while onboard its flights.

02:00 GMT – Many migrants on US deportation flight had coronavirus – Guatemalan president

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei has announced that a large number of the migrants on a deportation flight from the United States to Guatemala earlier this week were infected with the novel coronavirus.

Earlier, it was reported that at least 44 of the 77 Guatemalans deported on Monday were infected with the coronavirus. 

01:21 GMT – Trump wants to return to campaign trail

US President Donald Trump says he remains hopeful that he will be able to resume campaign rallies ahead of the November election.

Trump said that he does not want social distancing at his rallies, which typically draw big crowds, because doesn’t want attendees to miss the “flavour” of the experience. Trump stopped holding his big stadium rallies in early March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The president predicted that when the rallies resume they’ll be “bigger than ever.” He plans to travel to the US Military Academy in New York next month to deliver the commencement ceremony.

00:40 GMT – Nigerian president’s chief of staff dies from coronavirus

Abba Kyari - Nigeria
Abba Kyari (standing) served as the chief of staff of Nigerian President Mohammadu Buhari (seated) since 2015 until his death on Friday [File: Aghaeze/Nigeria State House via AFP]

The Nigerian president’s chief of staff, Abba Kyari, died on Friday after contracting the new coronavirus, two presidency spokesmen said on Twitter.

Kyari, who was in his 70s and had underlying health problems including diabetes, was the top official aide to 77-year-old President Muhammadu Buhari and one of the most powerful men in the country, Reuters news agency reported.

“The Presidency regrets to announce the passage of the Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari,” said presidency spokesman Garba Shehu in a tweet, using an honorific title for Kyari.

Kyari’s was the highest-profile death due to the disease in the West African country, which has 493 confirmed cases and 17 deaths, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.

Read more here

Mexico City
Mexico has declared a mandatory use of face masks= inside trains and subway stations, as a measure to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease [Edgard Garrido/Reuters]

00:18 GMT – Mexico reports 570 new coronavirus cases, 60 new deaths

Mexican health officials have reported 578 new cases of the novel coronavirus and 60 new deaths, bringing the country’s total to 6,875 cases and 546 deaths.

Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said on Thursday the country might have nearly 56,000 people infected with the fast-spreading coronavirus.

Citing government models, Lopez-Gatell has said many who are infected likely did not have symptoms or were not diagnosed.

00:10 GMT – Mexico: Trump promised to sell 1,000 ventilators

Mexico’s president says that United States President Donald Trump has promised Mexico will be able to buy 1,000 ventilators and other intensive-therapy equipment used in treating severe cases of COVID-19.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador says he spoke with Trump about Mexico’s request to purchase the machines, relatively few of which are available in Mexico.

Lopez Obrador said on Twitter that Trump “guaranteed me that by the end of this month” Mexico could buy 1,000 ventilators and possibly more.

Lopez Obrador calls it a “new gesture of solidarity with Mexico”. He says he suggested a meeting with Trump in June or July to personally express the country’s appreciation.


Hello, I’m Ted Regencia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. You can find all the updates from yesterday, April 17, here.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies