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Wednesday, March 18: Coronavirus global update

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

The world’s richest nations prepared more costly measures on Tuesday to combat the global fallout of the coronavirus that has infected tens of thousands of people, triggered social restrictions unseen since World War Two and sent economies spinning toward recession.

Worldwide cases crossed 187,000, while the death toll was more than 7,400; there have now been more cases and deaths outside mainland China than inside.

CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK IN NUMBERS (updated continuously)


18:26 Greece bans gatherings of 10 people and more, effective Thursday

Greece will ban public gatherings of 10 people and more, effective Thursday, in an attempt to prevent the spread of coronavirus, its crisis management minister said.

“Movement outside of the home must be limited to the absolute minimum and only for vital needs,” the minister, Nikos Hardalias, told journalists. Greece reported a rise in the number of coronavirus cases on Wednesday by 31, to 418 people.

17:49 Queen Elizabeth’s granddaughter scales back wedding plans

Queen Elizabeth’s granddaughter Princess Beatrice is scaling back her wedding plans and cancelling a planned reception due to be held at Buckingham Palace in May because of coronavirus, the royal family said on Wednesday.

Beatrice is due to marry Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi at London’s St James’s Palace on May 29, and the 93-year-old queen was then to give a private reception in the gardens of Buckingham Palace.

17:22 Russia closes Lenin’s tomb on Red Square amid coronavirus fears

Russia has closed Bolshevik revolutionary Vladimir Lenin’s tomb on Moscow’s Red Square to the public, the Kremlin guard service said on Wednesday, the latest Russian tourist attraction to shut down amid coronavirus fears.

The Federal Guard Service, which handles security for the Kremlin and President Vladimir Putin, said the tomb, which contains Lenin’s embalmed body, would be undergoing maintenance during its closure. It did not say when it would reopen.

16:54 Greece curbs migrant movement in crowded camps over coronavirus

Greece imposed restrictions on the movement of migrants living in overcrowded camps on islands to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the migration ministry said on Wednesday.

Over the next 30 days, people living in camps will be allowed to temporarily exit the facilities only in small groups, every hour between 0700 and 1900 (0500-1700 GMT), in order to obtain food and supplies from nearby towns and villages.

16:41 Every worker will receive support through crisis – UK PM

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday his government would bring forward new measures to support workers and protect private renters from being evicted from their homes because of coronavirus.

Johnson also said Britain was stepping up testing for coronavirus to 25,000 a day. The health ministry later said the government aimed to get to that point within four weeks.

16:13 Eurovision song contest cancelled due to coronavirus

The Eurovision song contest, one of the world’s largest television events, will not take place this year due to the global coronavirus outbreak, organisers said on Wednesday.

“It is with deep regret that we have to announce the cancellation of the Eurovision Song Contest 2020 in Rotterdam,” they said in a statement. Travel restrictions and the possible danger to contestants and fans had made it “impossible to continue with the live event as planned”, they said.

15:58 US-Canada border to temporarily close to nonessential travel – Trump

The US-Canada border will close to nonessential traffic, US President Donald Trump tweeted on Wednesday, saying details on the move would be announced later but that it would not affect trade between the two countries.

“We will be, by mutual consent, temporarily closing our Northern Border with Canada to non-essential traffic. Trade will not be affected,” Trump wrote.

15:14 Governments scramble to prop up airlines as virus forces more flight, job cuts

Australia and Taiwan joined governments offering financial aid to airlines, while authorities in Europe rushed on Wednesday to agree steps to rescue carriers which have had to park planes and cut jobs as the coronavirus puts the brake on travel.

The scramble to bail out carriers came as Italy once again rescued Alitalia, with Rome taking control of the airline and shelving a sale process for the perennially loss-making carrier.

14:52 UK PM Johnson says annoucement on school closures imminent

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the government would be taking decisions imminently on the possible closure of schools, with some forced to partially or fully close due to the spread of coronavirus.

14:30 Some 80,000 EU nationals waiting to return to the EU – Commission

There are approximately 80,000 European Union nationals around the world waiting to return to the EU amid the coronavirus epidemic that has prompted EU leaders on Tuesday to close Europe’s external borders for 30 days, the EU Commission said.

A Commission spokesman said the exact number of EU nationals waiting to return was difficult to estimate and appealed for them to make contact with their national consulates abroad to enable better estimates.

14:06 European Medicines Agency: ibuprofen okay for coronavirus

The European Medicines Agency said on Wednesday that there is no scientific evidence showing that the widely used anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen worsens the effects of coronavirus.

In a statement, the agency said it wanted to dispel incorrect information circulating on social media.

13.56 Djibouti confirms its first case of coronavirus – Health Ministry

Djibouti confirmed on Wednesday its first case of coronavirus, the Health Ministry said.

The ministry said the case was from a Spanish national who was part of a 32-member Spanish special forces unit that arrived in the East African nation on March 14 and who tested positive on March 17.

The ministry said the special forces unit did not come into contact with Djiboutians and they would return to Spain.

13.52 German finance minister working from home with cold, being tested

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said he was working from home on Thursday due to a heavy cold and was being tested as a precautionary measure.

“Today I’m working from home too after I woke up with a heavy cold,” he said on Twitter, posting a picture of his tablet, cup and glasses on a table in the sunshine.

13.19 Nigeria bans entry to arrivals from 13 countries

Nigeria will from Friday ban entry to arrivals from 13 of the countries worst affected by the coronavirus epidemic, its Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said.

All countries on the list have more than 1,000 cases, and include the United States, Britain, Germany, China, Italy, Iran, South Korea and Japan, it said in a Twitter post on Wednesday.

13.12 UK’s Glastonbury Festival cancelled

Britain’s Glastonbury Festival, the largest greenfield music festival in the world, has been cancelled this year due to the coronavirus outbreak, organisers said on Wednesday.

Paul McCartney and Taylor Swift were among those due to play Glastonbury in its 50th anniversary year in June.

12.53 Ukraine imposes state of emergency in capital Kiev region 

Ukraine’s government on Wednesday imposed a state of emergency in the capital Kiev region to contain the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said at a televised cabinet meeting.

Ukraine has fourteen confirmed coronavirus cases, including two deaths, as of March 18. It was not immediately clear what extra measures might be imposed as a result of the emergency being declared. Ukraine has already imposed nationwide restrictions on shops, restaurants and transport.

12.49 Zambia’s health ministry confirms first two cases

Zambia’s health ministry on Wednesday confirmed its first two cases of COVID-19.

“The patients are a Zambian couple that travelled to France on a 10-day holiday,” Health Minister Chitalu Chilufya said.

12.47 Spain’s coronavirus tally climbs to 13,716 cases, 558 fatalities

Spain’s tally of coronavirus cases rose to 13,716 on Wednesday and the number of fatalities rose to 558, said Fernando Simon, the head of the country’s health emergency center.

He said the number of cases rose from a previous tally of 11,178 cases and 491 fatalities on Tuesday.

12.46 Iran’s death toll from coronavirus jumps to 1,135 – state TV

Iran’s death toll from the coronavirus climbed to 1,135 with 147 new deaths in the past 24 hours, a health ministry official told state TV on Wednesday, adding that the total number of infected people across the country had reached 17,361.

“Unfortunately there were 1,192 cases of infected people in the past 24 hours … please follow the guidelines and stay at home,” Iran’s Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi told TV.

12.45 Bangladesh reports first coronavirus death -officials

A patient who was suffering from COVID-19 died in Bangladesh on Wednesday, said healthcare officials, marking the first fatality from the disease in the South Asian country.

The patient, aged 70, was also suffering from diabetes, kidney ailments and hypertension, Meerjady Sabrina, director of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research, told a press briefing on Wednesday.

12.44 Italy says coronavirus lockdown may need to be extended

An unprecedented lockdown imposed on Italians last week to halt the spread of coronavirus might be extended if the incidence of new cases doesn’t slow, officials said on Wednesday.

The government has ordered restaurants, bars and most shops to shut down until March 25. In addition, it has shut schools and universities and told everyone to stay at home unless absolutely essential until April 3.

12.27 UAE to suspend issuing all visas on arrival – UAE embassy on Twitter

The United Arab Emirates will temporarily suspend issuing all visas on arrival, with the exception of diplomatic passports holders, from March 19, the UAE embassy in London said on Twitter on Wednesday.

The Australian and New Zealand embassies in the UAE also separately said those in the UAE with existing resident visas would not be affected.

11.45 Malaysia reports 117 new coronavirus cases

Malaysia reported 117 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 790.

The health ministry said 80 of the new cases were linked to a gathering of 16,000 at a mosque near Kuala Lumpur.

11.36 French army flies coronavirus patients to military hospital

The French army started evacuating critical coronavirus patients on Wednesday from eastern France to a military hospital in the southern city of Toulon to help ease the strain on hospitals that are struggling to cope with intensive care cases.

The military said six patients were being transferred on Airbus military plane equipped with intensive care facilities.

11.34 Mideast states not communicating enough about virus – WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday that some information about coronavirus cases was being “insufficiently communicated” by Middle East states.

Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, said there were “uneven” approaches across the region in fighting coronavirus and that “much more needs to be done”.

11.32 Nevada orders casinos, all other nonessential businesses to close

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak shut down all nonessential businesses, including the Las Vegas casinos at the heart of the state’s economy, as part of steps to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“This is only common sense,” Sisolak said at a press conference in Las Vegas.

11.31 India says 276 citizens have tested positive for coronavirus overseas

A total of 276 Indians have tested positive for coronavirus overseas to date, an Indian government minister said on Wednesday.

The vast majority, 255, tested positive in Iran, with others in the United Arab Emirates, Italy, Kuwait, Sri Lanka, Rwanda and Hong Kong, V. Muraleedharan, minister of state for external affairs, said in a written reply to a question in India’s parliament.

11.23 Emirates asks pilots to take unpaid leave

Emirates, one of the world’s biggest international airlines, has asked pilots to take unpaid leave to help it mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic that has shattered demand for global travel.

“To this end you are strongly encouraged to make use of this opportunity to volunteer for additional paid and unpaid leave,” the airline said in an internal email to pilots, seen by Reuters.

11.19 Indonesia reports 55 new coronavirus cases, biggest daily rise

Indonesia announced on Wednesday 55 new coronavirus cases, taking the total to 227 in the Southeast Asian nation and marking the biggest daily rise in positive cases.

Achmad Yurianto, a health ministry official, also told a news conference that the number of deaths from the disease rose to 19, with deaths recorded in seven different provinces, while 11 patients had recovered.

10.59 Malta to stop all incoming flights from Saturday

Malta will stop all incoming passenger flights on Saturday and only allow cargo, humanitarian and repatriation flights to land to stop the spread of coronavirus, officials said on Wednesday.

The Mediterranean island, which depends heavily on tourism, has reported 38 cases so far, of which 32 were people who had caught the disease abroad.

10.57 Qatar Airways lays off around 200 staff as coronavirus cuts air travel

Qatar Airways laid off around 200 employees, all Filipino nationals based in Qatar, this week as the coronavirus outbreak forces the Middle East carrier slashes flights.

Philippine Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello told Reuters on Wednesday around 200 Filipinos were unexpectedly laid off by the airline, confirming an earlier ABS-CBN report.

10.56 British schools struggle to stay open

Schools across Britain were struggling to stay open on Wednesday, with some forced to partially or fully close as staff and students stayed at home because of the spread of coronavirus.

The closures come amid confusion about why schools are being advised to stay open when the government has stepped up advice to curb social contact to try to slow the spread of the virus.

10.45 Greek securities watchdog bans short-selling until April 24

Greece’s securities regulator banned short-selling on the Athens stock exchange effective from Wednesday until April 24 to shield the equities market from volatility, after Greek shares lost nearly half their value this year due to the coronavirus crisis.

The Capital Markets Commission said it imposed the ban because the impact of the coronavirus epidemic is a “significant threat to market confidence”.

10.23 French health minister: could hope for slowdown in coronavirus infections in 8-12 days

France could hope to start seeing a slowdown of coronavirus infections in about eight to 12 days following the government’s decision to lock down the country, health minister Olivier Veran said on Wednesday.

“We will intervene where necessary to make sure people respect the confinement. When I look outside my window, I see that gradually people are getting the message,” Veran told LCI TV.

10.07 Poland to receive protective gear, tests from China to fight coronavirus

Poland will receive more than 10,000 test kits and tens of thousands of other protective items such as masks, goggles and shoe covers from China to help tackle the coronavirus outbreak, Poland’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement late on Wednesday.

10.00 Coronavirus-hit cruise ship docks in Cuba for passengers to evacuate

A British cruise ship that has been stranded for more than a week in the Caribbean after several cases of the new coronavirus were confirmed onboard is set to dock in Cuba on Wednesday to allow weary passengers to disembark and fly home.

09.49 South Africa’s confirmed covid-19 cases rise to 116

South Africa’s health ministry on Wednesday confirmed that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country has risen by 31 since Tuesday to 116.

09.31 Israel’s confirmed coronavirus cases jump by 40 percent in 24 hours

Confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel have jumped by 40 percent to 427 in the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday, predicting a steeper rise as mass-testing is implemented.

09.28 Moldova reports first death

Moldova reported its first death from coronavirus, the country’s healthcare ministry said on Wednesday.

Moldova, a nation of 3.5 million, has reported 30 confirmed coronavirus cases as of March 18.

09.07 Pakistan urges calm as coronavirus cases surge, Sri Lanka stops flights

Pakistan’s prime minister has urged calm after its tally of coronavirus cases rose to 245 while Sri Lanka sealed itself off and shut its stock market on Wednesday, fuelling fears that South Asian countries are struggling to stem the pandemic.

08.15 After midnight rush, Malaysia’s two-week isolation starts

Malaysia went into a two-week partial lockdown on Wednesday after coronavirus infections in the country spiked to the highest in Southeast Asia, with some buyers rushing to supermarkets to stock up on essentials like instant noodles.

07.58 South African airline SA Express suspends operations

South African state-owned airline SA Express said it would suspend operations from Wednesday until further notice because of recent developments including the impact from the rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic.

Australia declares emergency, warns coronavirus crisis could last six months

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday declared a “human biosecurity emergency” and said the country’s citizens should abandon all overseas travel because of the coronavirus epidemic that he warned could last at least six months.

06.43 Thailand reports 35 new coronavirus infections for total of 212

Thailand reported 35 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, taking its total infections to 212, a disease control official said.

The southeast Asian nation has recorded one death since the outbreak began, with 42 patients having recovered and gone home, while 169 are still in hospital.

07.49 Australia declares emergency, warns coronavirus crisis could last six months

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday declared a “human biosecurity emergency” and said the country’s citizens should abandon all overseas travel because of the coronavirus epidemic that he warned could last at least six months.

06.08 Canada, U.S. to close border to non-essential travel – Globe and Mail

Canada and the United States will announce a deal to partially close their borders on Wednesday, which will allow trade and commerce to go on, the Globe and Mail reported https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-canada-us-to-close-border-to-non-essential-travel on Tuesday, citing sources.

06.00 Vietnam reports new case of coronavirus linked to Malaysia mosque event

Vietnam has confirmed an additional case of coronavirus linked to a mosque event in Malaysia, its health ministry said on Wednesday, bringing its total number of cases to 67.

The latest known patient, a 36-year-old man, returned to Vietnam on March 4 on VietJet flight VJ826 from Kuala Lumpur.

05.26 Kyrgyzstan confirms first coronavirus cases

Kyrgyzstan has confirmed its first three coronavirus cases, Healthcare Minister Kosmosbek Cholponbayev said on Wednesday.

Three Kyrgyz nationals tested positive after arriving from Saudi Arabia, he told a briefing.

05.02 Colombia declares coronavirus state of emergency

Colombia’s President Ivan Duque declared a state of emergency on Tuesday as the country steps up measures to stop the spread of coronavirus, including ordering the elderly to stay home from Friday until the end of May.

04.05 Malaysia starts two-week isolation

Malaysia went into a two-week partial lockdown on Wednesday after coronavirus infections in the country spiked to the highest in Southeast Asia, with some buyers rushing to supermarkets to stock up on essentials like instant noodles.

03.53 Canada’s “Big Six” banks to limit hours, close branches

Canada’s six largest banks will temporarily limit operating hours and close some branches as part of measures to support social distancing and curb the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, the Canadian Bankers Association said on Tuesday.

03.27 Avianca suspends all flights from El Salvador 

Colombian-based airline Avianca said on Tuesday that it will temporarily suspend all flights from El Salvador beginning at midnight due to coronavirus containment measures taken by the government.

The suspension will last 15 days, Avianca said in a statement.

03.21 Mainland China reports 13 new confirmed cases 

Mainland China had 13 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections on Tuesday, the country’s National Health Commission said, down from 21 cases a day earlier.

That brings the total number of confirmed cases in mainland China so far to 80,894, the health authority said in a statement on Wednesday.

The death toll from the outbreak in mainland China had reached 3,237 as of the end of Tuesday, up by 11 from the previous day.

03.19 South Korea reports 93 new coronavirus cases, total 8,413

South Korea reported 93 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing its total infections to 8,413, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The daily tally is slightly up from 84 recorded on Tuesday but marked the fourth day in a row that the country has reported fewer than 100 new infections.

02.21 New Zealand confirms eight new cases

New Zealand confirmed eight new cases of coronavirus, all related to people who had recently travelled overseas, the health ministry said in a press conference on Wednesday.

The new cases take the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country to 20.

02.01 UK’s Sainsbury’s to limit customer purchases, close cafes 

British supermarket group Sainsbury’s is to restrict customer purchases to combat panic buying, close its in-store cafes and counters and beef-up online services to get it through the coronavirus crisis, it said on Wednesday.

01.47 South Africa quarantines cruise liner

South Africa is holding the cruise liner MV AidAmira and a cargo vessel off Cape Town after a crew member on board one of the ships showed signs of the coronavirus, national ports operator Transnet said on Tuesday.

01.22 Czechs seize 700,000 masks 

The Czech authorities seized nearly 700,000 face masks that are needed against the coronavirus outbreak from a company seeking a higher price for the shipment, Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said on Tuesday.

01.17 Saudi Arabia suspends work in private sectors except health and food for 15 days

Saudi Arabia suspended work in private sectors except health and food services for 15 days, state news agency reported early on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia has reported 171 cases of coronavirus so far, and has taken measures to limit the spread of the pathogen, including closing mosques for daily prayers and announcing an extraordinary virtual G20 leaders summit next week.

01.16 ‘Do not travel overseas’: Australia raises restriction to highest level

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday strongly discouraged the country’s residents against all overseas travel as he declared a human biosecurity emergency and banned all non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 100 people.

“The travel advice to every Australian is ‘Do not travel abroad’. Do not go overseas,” he said.

00.45 Kansas school buildings ordered closed statewide

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly on Tuesday ordered all public and private schools from kindergarten through 12th grade closed to classroom instruction statewide for the remainder of the academic year due to the coronavirus threat.

00.06 Kosovo to declare state of emergency

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci on Tuesday asked the country’s parliament to declare a state of emergency to halt the spread of coronavirus.

Parliament must vote on the request within 48 hours.

00.05 Turkey confirms first coronavirus death, more than doubles cases to 98

Turkey confirmed late on Tuesday its first death related to the coronavir1us and the country more than doubled its confirmed cases to 98, from 47 a day earlier.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca told a press conference that an 89-year old died after contracting the virus from someone who had contact with China, the epicentre of the global outbreak.


Late Tuesday, 17th March

PGA Championship postponed

The PGA Championship scheduled for May 14-17 has been postponed over coronavirus concerns, the PGA of America announced on Tuesday.

The major championship was due to be held at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.

The news follows a previous announcement by Augusta National that it has postponed the Masters, the first major of the year that had been scheduled for April 9-12.

Tunisia imposes 12-hour daily curfew 

Tunisia will impose a curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. starting Wednesday with the army patrolling the streets, Tunisia’s president said on Tuesday, tightening the measures to counter the spread of the coronavirus.

Gambia reports first case of coronavirus -health minister

Gambia’s health ministry reported its first case of coronavirus on Tuesday, a 20-year-old woman who had recently returned from the United Kingdom.

Ireland will advise elderly to stay home

Ireland’s government will at a certain point advise the elderly and those with long-term illnesses to stay at home for weeks to try and save lives from the spread of coronavirus, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said in an address to the nation on Tuesday.

 



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