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Tuesday, March 17: Coronavirus global update

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

More than 182,260 people have been infected by the coronavirus across the world and 7,165 have died, with cases and deaths outside China overtaking those in the country where the outbreak began, according to a Reuters tally.

Infections outside China have been reported by 161 countries. Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus

CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK IN NUMBERS (updated continuously)


17.02 Greece: Greek PM urges businesses not to fire workers

Greek PM has urged businesses not to fire workers due to the virus saying that measures will be taken to support their liquidity.

However top priority remainss’ the saving of lives and stopping the spread of the coronavirus’.

He also urged his compatriots to stay at home and protect the elderly.

17.00 Spain approves 200 bln euro aid package

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced on Tuesday a package of measures worth a total 200 billion euros ($219 billion), between loans, credit guarantees, benefits and direct aid, to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus epidemic on the economy.

The package represents about 20% of the country’s gross domestic product, Sanchez said in a televised address, adding that the government would mobilize 117 billion euros for the package, with the rest to come from private companies. The measures include 100 billion euros in state-backed credit guarantees and unlimited liquidity lines for companies.

16.54 Cambodia reports 21 new cases 

Cambodia reported 21 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, raising its tally to 33.

Twenty of those new cases, including three Malaysian nationals, had travelled to Malaysia for a ceremony at a mosque, the health ministry said in a statement.

Two others who had travelled to the same event tested positive for the virus in Cambodia over the weekend.

16.25 UK confirmed coronavirus cases rise 26%

British cases of coronavirus rose 26% to 1,950 from 1,543 the day before, the health ministry said.

Britain reported its first confirmed coronavirus case on Jan. 31. There have so far been 56 reported deaths.

“As of 9am on 17 March 2020, 50,442 people have been tested in the UK, of which 48,492 were confirmed negative and 1,950 were confirmed as positive,” the government said.

16.23 Finland to restrict traffic over its borders – minister

Finland will start heavily restricting traffic over its borders on Thursday in an attempt to contain the coronavirus outbreak, interior minister Maria Ohisalo said.

Finland’s centre-left government approved legislation on Tuesday to adopt a state of emergency which the parliament is expected to approve on Wednesday.

Finland’s health authority had confirmed 319 coronavirus cases but no deaths by Tuesday.

16.11 Supermarket group Morissons to to create 3.500 new jobs

British supermarket group Morrisons said on Tuesday it planned to create 3,500 new jobs to help get it through the coronavirus crisis.

In addition to around 2,500 order pickers and drivers to expand its home delivery service, Morrisons will be recruiting around 1,000 people to work in its distribution centres, it said.

15.54 Berlin planning new hospital for up to 1,000 coronavirus patients

The Berlin city government has agreed to build a new hospital for up to 1,000 coronavirus patients with the help of the military and other partners, German daily Tagesspiegel on Tuesday cited the capital’s health minister as saying.

As of Monday there were 6,012 people in Germany infected with coronavirus, of which 300 are in Berlin. The newspaper did not give any details of the construction timeframe.

15.51 Vietnam Airlines to suspend flights to Malaysia and France

Vietnam Airlines said on Monday it will suspend its flights to France and Malaysia due to the coronavirus, which has forced several countries to close their borders to control its spread.

The national carrier will halt services between Vietnam and France starting March 17 until further notice, it said in a statement.

15.28 Swiss estimate 2,650 test positive, number to rise

Swiss health authorities estimated on Tuesday around 2,650 people had tested positive for the new coronavirus and said 19 people had died, predicting that the number of cases will escalate as the epidemic runs its course.

Daniel Koch, the head of the communicable diseases department at the Federal Office of Health, urged residents to observe strict measures ordered by Bern including bans on events and gatherings, calling these critical in helping limit the damage.

15.21 Moldova PM seeks state of emergency to contain spread

Moldova’s Prime Minister Ion Chicu asked the parliament on Tuesday to impose state of emergency across the country in a bid to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Moldova, a nation of 3.5 million, has reported 29 confirmed coronavirus cases with no deaths recorded as of March 17.

15.16 Armenia bans entry of 16 countries’ citizens

Armenia on Tuesday banned the arrival of citizens from 16 European and Asian countries, including its neighbour Iran, due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak, Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan said.

15.12 Netherlands coronavirus tally at 1,705, with 43 deaths

The total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Netherlands stood at 1,705, health officials said an update on Tuesday, with 43 people dead as a result of the disease.

“Nineteen patients have died from COVID-19 since the previous update,” on Monday, the National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) said in a statement. It said that the people who died in the past 24 hours were aged between 63 and 94.

14.50 Canada’s Ontario declares state of emergency

Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, banned gatherings of more than 50 people and ordered the closure of bars and restaurants on Tuesday in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“We must act decisively, we must not delay,” Premier Doug Ford said at a news conference. “Right now we need to do everything possible to stop the spread of COVID-19 …to avoid overwhelming the healthcare system.”

14.49 Israel tells people not to leave home except for “vital needs and services”

Israel’s health ministry urged people not to leave their homes except to seek “vital needs and services” in new directives issued on Tuesday.

“There should be no leaving home except for situations that would obligate it,” the ministry said in a statement that listed exceptional circumstances such as critial services and seeking medical attention.

14.45 Brussels Airlines suspends flights until April 19 

Belgium’s Brussels airlines, a Lufthansa subsidiary, will suspend all flights as of Saturday until April 19 over coronavirus, the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Given the extraordinary circumstances caused by the worldwide coronavirus crisis, Brussels Airlines has decided to temporarily suspend its flight operations,” said the airlines, a subsidiary of Germany’s Lufthansa.

14.42 Minister Raab: Britons should stop all non-essential travel globally

British foreign minister Dominic Raab advised British nationals on Tuesday to stop all non-essential travel globally for the next 30 days, the latest stringent measure taken by the government to try to stem a growing coronavirus outbreak.

“With immediate effect, I have taken the decision to advise British nationals against non-essential travel globally, for an initial period of 30 days and of course subject to ongoing review,” Raab told parliament.

14.40 Spanish Balearic Islands ban air, sea traffic 

The regional government of the Spanish Balearic Islands banned on Tuesday all flights and halted passenger sea traffic to stem the coronavirus epidemic, it tweeted.

It only maintained the transport of goods and limited traffic to allow locals to return from mainland Spain and from other

14.38 Euro 2020 postponed until 2021 says Norwegian FA

Soccer’s 2020 European Championship has been postponed for a year as the world fights to contain the outbreak of the coronavirus, the Norwegian FA tweeted on Tuesday.

UEFA, who is yet to confirm the decision, has proposed that the June 12-July 12 tournament to be held in 12 countries be put back to June 11-July 11 next year to give the suspended domestic leagues time to be completed.

14.05 Bosnia declares nationwide state of disaster

Bosnia declared a nationwide state of disaster over coronavirus on Tuesday to enable coordination of emergency activities between its two autonomous regions, Prime Minister Zoran Tegeltija said.

The Bosniak-Croat Federation and the Serb Republic declared emergency situations on Monday separately each and introduced urgent measures to halt the spread of the disease. Bosnia has reported 26 cases of the new virus so far, with no fatalities.

13.54 UK’s biggest airports ask for help as possible closure looms

Britain’s biggest airports including Heathrow and Gatwick have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to ask that any government support for the aviation industry should include help for airports, which they said could have to shut completely.

13.46 Azerbaijan to limit entry to capital

Azerbaijan’s government said on Tuesday it would restrict entry to its capital, Baku, and surrounding areas for 10 days from March 19 due to concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.

13.36 China approves coronavirus vaccine for clinical trials

China has authorised clinical trials on its first vaccine developed to combat the new coronavirus, according to a report in the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily.

The researchers are led by Chen Wei, of China’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences, it said.

13.28 Vietnam to quarantine all U.S., European, ASEAN arrivals

Vietnam will introduce mandatory quarantine for all visitors from the United States, Europe and ASEAN countries to curb the spread of coronavirus, the government said on Tuesday.

Earlier on Tuesday, Vietnam said it will suspend the issue of new visas for all foreign nationals.

13.22 Holidaymakers isolated at Portuguese hotel after guest tests positive for coronavirus

Holidaymakers at a hotel on the Portuguese island of Madeira were being isolated after a Dutch guest tested positive for the coronavirus, the regional government said on Tuesday.

The Dutch guest arrived last Thursday and was staying at the Quinta do Sol hotel in Funchal, the largest city in Madeira. Local media said the hotel has around 120 guests.

13.13 Austria’s rail transport down 70%, passenger road traffic down to minimum

Austria’s rail transport operations have come down 70% in the past days and necessary passenger road traffic has been reduced to a minimum following broad restrictions in public life, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told news agency APA on Tuesday.

The Alpine republic, which has reported 1,132 coronavirus cases and three deaths from the global pandemic, announced major restrictions on movement in public places on Sunday, banning gatherings of more than five people and urging Austrians to self-isolate. Schools and shops that sell non-essential goods are closed.

12.58 Iran’s death toll from coronavirus climbs to 988 

Iran’s death toll from the new coronavirus has increased to 988, with 135 new deaths in the past 24 hours, a health ministry spokesman told state TV on Tuesday.

“The death toll is 988 … with 1,178 new infected people in the past 24 hours, now the total number of infected cases is 16,169 across the country,” said Kianush Jahanpur, adding that 5,389 people infected with the virus have recovered.

12.57 Singapore Airlines to cut capacity further as coronavirus weighs

Singapore Airlines on Tuesday said it would cut capacity further as border controls are enforced across the world in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus epidemic.

The airlines is set to operate only 50% of the capacity planned up to end of April, the company said in a statement.

“We have lost a large amount of our traffic in a very short time,” said SIA CEO Goh Choon Phong, adding that they expect the pace of this deterioration to accelerate.

12.56 Spain’s coronavirus cases surpass 10,000, death toll rises to 491

Spain’s tally of coronavirus cases surpassed 10,000 on Tuesday and the number of fatalities rose to 491, said Fernando Simon, the head of the country’s health emergency center.

He said the number of cases rose to 11,178 on Tuesday up from a previous tally of 9,161 cases on Monday.

12.45 Vienna Airport down to minimum operation

Vienna Airport said on Tuesday it expects scheduled flights to completely stop in coming days due to the coronavirus-related restrictions but added that freight flights would continue.

“Vienna Airport will still be operating, especially to enable freight flights and flights to bring people back home,” a spokesman said.

12.22 UEFA cancels hotel booking in Euro 2020 host city of Copenhagen

The postponement of soccer’s Euro2020 Championship may already have been decided after UEFA cancelled its hotel bookings for one of the host cities, Copenhagen, Reuters learned from the hotels on Tuesday.

12.21 Kazakhstan to close two biggest cities 

Kazakhstan will effectively close its capital Nur-Sultan and biggest city Almaty from March 19 after both reported coronavirus cases, the state emergency commission said on Tuesday.

In addition to restricted movement of people and vehicles, the authorities instructed restaurants to switch to delivery-only mode and said they may shut down public transport. Kazakhstan has reported 32 coronavirus cases so far.

12.08 London public transport to run reduced service

London’s public transport will begin operating a reduced service over the next few days because of the spread of coronavirus, the city’s mayor Sadiq Khan said on Tuesday.

“Today is a regular service in Transport for London. Over the course of the next few weekdays we will reduce that to probably a Saturday and a Sunday service, and then we will reduce it again depending on what the demand is,” Khan told Sky News.

12.03 WHO confirms two coronavirus cases among its staff

A World Health Organization official said on Tuesday that two staff members have been confirmed to be infected with coronavirus.

“The staff had left the office and then at home showed symptoms and were confirmed with COVID-19,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told journalists, referring to the official name of the disease caused by the virus. “We do therefore have two confirmed cases.”

12.00 UK faces wartime budget situation, not time to be squeamish about debt

Britain is facing a wartime scenario for its public finances as it seeks to offset the coronavirus hit to companies through higher public spending and borrowing, the country’s independent budget office said on Tuesday.

Robert Chote, head of the Office for Budget Responsibility, told lawmakers that Britain’s budget deficit hit 20% of economic output during World War Two and he said now was not the time for the government to be squeamish about higher debt.

11.51 Jordanian army says it will deploy around cities ahead of state of emergency

The Jordanian army said on Tuesday it will deploy at entrances and exits of main cities in the kingdom in a move officials said was ahead of an imminent announcement of a state of emergency to combat the spread of coronavirus.

11.24 Philippine Airlines to suspend flights

Philippine Airlines said on Tuesday it will halt its international flights starting March 20 as the country’s main island is placed under enhanced quarantine measures.

The flag carrier started canceling all domestic flights on Tuesday after the government imposed a month-long quarantine in the capital and nearby provinces. Philippine Airlines said flights will resume flights on April 13.

11.20 Sri Lanka bans all incoming flights for two weeks

Sri Lanka said on Tuesday said it will ban all incoming flights for two weeks to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Flights already in the air will be allowed to land and passengers to disembark, said Mohan Samaranayake, a spokesman for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

11.19 Georgia bans minibuses, restricts services of gyms and swimming pools

Georgia banned minibuses and restricted services of gyms and swimming pools in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the country’s prime minister said on Tuesday.

Giorgi Gakharia told reporters that the measure would come into force from March 18.

11.18 Pakistan reports first death

Pakistan’s health ministry said on Wednesday that a coronavirus infected person had died.

The death was announced on a web portal the ministry launched on Tuesday to keep a track of the spread of the coronavirus in the South Asian nation.

It said 195 people had tested positive in Pakistan so far.

11.15 France could nationalise big companies if necessary

The French government is prepared to use all means to support big companies suffering in financial market turmoil, including nationalisation if necessary, the finance minister said on Tuesday.

“I won’t hesitate to use all means available to protect big French companies,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on a conference call with journalists.

11.10 Swedish PM lofven says high schools, universities should switch to distance learning

Sweden’s high schools and universities should stop classes on campus and switch to distance learning from March 18, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said on Tuesday, but primary and secondary education will continue as normal for now.

“As of tomorrow, all of Sweden’s high schools, municipal adult education, colleges, vocational schools and universities will be recommended to switch to distance education,” Lofven said at a news conference.

10.42 Philippines’ Cebu Air to halt all flights

The Philippines’ largest budget carrier, Cebu Air Inc said on Tuesday it is canceling all domestic and international flights starting from March 19 to April 14.

The airline, which operates under the brand Cebu Pacific, said it is supporting the Philippine government’s quarantine measures to help prevent the further spread of the coronavirus.

10.27 Top epidemiologist: UK had no time to lose on coronavirus battle

One of Britain’s top epidemiologists said on Tuesday that the British government got the timing of its coronavirus strategy about right but that there was no time to lose on moving to more stringent measures.

“The measures which have just been taken, the earliest we’d expect to see an effect on the growth of the epidemic is about two to three weeks time,” said Professor Neil Ferguson, an expert on the spread of infectious diseases at Imperial College London.

10.24 Germany sets aside 50 million euros to repatriate stranded tourists

Germany is making 50 million euros ($55.66 million) available to repatriate German tourists stranded around the world by the coronavirus-induced collapse in air transport, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told a news conference on Tuesday.

10.10 Global travel expected to fall 10.5% this year

International travel is expected to fall by as much as 10.5% this year, the biggest year-on-year drop as the rapid spread of coronavirus sows chaos across the tourism and leisure sector, according to industry consultancy Tourism Economics.

The latest estimate is a big downgrade from two weeks ago, when the consultancy was using the 2003 SARS outbreak as its benchmark and estimated travel rates would fall by 1.5%.

10.07 Iran has temporarily freed 85,000 prisoners, including political ones

Iran has temporarily freed about 85,000 prisoners, including political prisoners, a spokesman for its judiciary said on Tuesday, in response to the coronavirus epidemic.

“Some 50% of those released are security-related prisoners … Also in the jails we have taken precautionary measures to confront the outbreak,” said Gholamhossein Esmaili.

09.43 German minister expects coronavirus crisis to last until end of May

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told German broadcaster RTL that he expected the coronavirus crisis to last until the end of May.

“I expect we’ll have to deal with the consequences for the whole month of April and the whole month of May,” he said, adding there would be a “considerable number of new infections” during that time.

09.36 Polish ministers screened for coronavirus after one tests positive

Polish ministers who attended the most recent cabinet meeting have been tested for coronavirus after the environment minister said on Monday he had tested positive, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Michal Dworczyk said on Tuesday.

Dworczyk said nine of 24 ministers were absent from the meeting, including Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Health Minister Lukasz Szumowski.

09.21 Thailand to postpone New Year holiday, close schools

Thailand’s cabinet on Tuesday approved plans to postpone next month’s Thai New Year holiday and to close schools to limit the spread of the coronavirus, a government spokeswoman said.

The approvals followed a series of plans announced on Monday to close schools, bars, movie theatres, cockfighting arenas and other entertainment centres as well as postpone the Thai New Year holiday, or Songkran, which falls between April 13 to 15.

08.28 Kazakhstan reports spike in coronavirus cases

Kazakhstan’s healthcare ministry reported 14 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, raising the total count to 27 in the Central Asian nation.

According to minister Yelzhan Birtanov, the 14 new patients were diagnosed in the capital, Nur-Sultan.

08.22 Vietnam to halt issue of all visas

Vietnam will suspend the issue of new visas for all foreign nationals to curb the spread of coronavirus in the Southeast Asian nation, state media said on Tuesday.

Weeks after declaring the recovery of all 16 of its virus sufferers, Vietnam has confirmed 61 infections, but no deaths, after authorities announced a surge in infections from overseas.

07.38 Kyrgyzstan closes borders 

Kyrgyzstan has banned entry to all foreigners to safeguard against a coronavirus, Deputy Prime Minister Altynai Omurbekova said on Tuesday.

Kyrgyzstan has reported no virus cases on its soil, although all its neighbours, except one, have infections.

07.23 Japan to order self-quarantine for all travellers from Europe

The Japanese government will ask all travellers from Europe, including its own citizens, to quarantine themselves for two weeks on arrival, TV Asahi reported on Tuesday.

The government also will begin refusing entry of foreign nationals who have been in certain areas of Spain, Italy and Switzerland, as well as all of Ireland, the report said.

07.03 Malaysia to ban people from crossing Singapore border

Malaysia will bar people from crossing its border with Singapore as part of travel curbs that take effect from Wednesday until March 31 to rein in the spread of a coronavirus, a news website said on Tuesday.

“Not allowed from tomorrow until March 31,” the website, Malaysiakini, quoted the southeast Asian nation’s director-general of immigration, Khairul Dzaimee Daud, as saying.

07.01 Bahrain’s Gulf Air suspends dozens of routes

Bahrain’s state-owned carrier Gulf Air on Monday announced it was temporarily suspending nearly 75% of destinations it operates to. It will continue to fly to London, Frankfurt, Paris and Dubai and nine other cities but dozens of destinations would be suspended. The airline does not operate domestic services.

06.25 Thailand reports 30 new cases, total of 177

Thailand reported 30 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, raising the total to 177, Sukhum Kanchanaphimai, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Public Health told a news conference.

Eleven of the new cases are connected to a crowded boxing match that saw a large number of coronavirus cases, while other cases are those that worked closely with foreigners, Sukhum said.

06.14 Facebook to send content review contract workers home

Facebook Inc said it would work with its partners to send home all contract workers who review content until further notice, as public health concerns due to the coronavirus outbreak rapidly increases.

Facebook will ensure that all contract workers will be paid during this time, the company said in a statement on Monday.

05.35 Cambodia reports 12 new cases, bringing total to 24

Cambodia reported 12 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, doubling its tally to 24.

Of the new cases, 11 were people who had travelled to Malaysia for a religious event at a mosque, a statement from the Ministry of Health said.

Two others who had travelled to the same ceremony had tested positive for the virus in Cambodia over the weekend.

04.27 Ohio to postpone primary election 

Ohio will postpone Tuesday’s presidential nominating election despite judge’s refusal to shut it down, citing a public health emergency caused by the threat of the coronavirus, Governor Mike DeWine said on Twitter.

04.25 China’s Wuhan will require all overseas returnees to undergo quarantine

The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak first began in late December, said it will require all overseas returnees to the city to be centrally quarantined for 14 days at their own cost from Tuesday.

The city epidemic control team made the announcement on their website on Tuesday.

03.16 S.Korea reports 84 new coronavirus cases, total at 8,320 -KCDC

South Korea reported 84 new coronavirus cases, bringing the country’s total infections to 8,320, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday.

This marks the third day in a row that the daily increase in new cases was below 100, compared with a Feb. 29 peak of 909.

03.09 Mexico coronavirus tally rises to 82 from 53 a day earlier

Mexico’s health ministry said on Monday that confirmed cases of coronavirus infection in the country have risen to 82 from 53 a day earlier.

02.46 Mongolia reports 3 new coronavirus all imported

Mongolia has reported three new coronavirus cases among citizens repatriated by specially chartered planes from South Korea and Germany, the country’s emergency commission said on Tuesday.

The commission said the patient from Germany was in critical condition.

02.23 Colombia to close borders 

Colombia will close its borders from Tuesday to prevent the spread of coronavirus and will keep them shut until May 30, President Ivan Duque said on Monday.

The Andean country currently has 54 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

02.17 Venezuela detects 16 new coronavirus cases

Venezuela detected 16 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, President Nicolas Maduro said, adding that the total number of cases in the South American country has risen to 33.

01.53 Mainland China reports 21 new coronavirus cases

Mainland China had 21 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections on Monday, the National Health Commission said on Tuesday, up from 16 a day earlier.

That brings the total number of confirmed cases in China so far to 80,881.

01.22 U.S. poll shows growing worries about coronavirus; drop in confidence in government

Sixty percent of Americans are now ‘very’ or ‘somewhat worried’ they or a family member will be exposed to the coronavirus, up from 36% in February, while confidence in the government’s ability to respond has fallen sharply, a new poll showed.

01.17 Washington state announces six more deaths

Washington state health officials said on Monday that the death toll from coronavirus in the state had risen by six to a total of 48.

All six of the new deaths came in King County, where a long-term care facility in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland was the site of one of the nation’s first outbreaks of COVID-19. Washington confirmed 904 cases of the respiratory illness as of Monday, according to an update on the state health department’s website.

00.56 UK to outline further support for businesses 

British finance minister Rishi Sunak is expected to outline further support for businesses at a coronavirus-related press conference with Prime Minister Boris Johnson scheduled for Tuesday, a UK treasury source said on Monday.

00.06 El Salvador accuses Mexico of sending it 12 coronavirus patients

El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele on Monday accused Mexico of allowing a dozen confirmed coronavirus cases to board a flight due to leave Mexico City for San Salvador, and said he had suspended all passenger air travel with immediate effect.

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