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Thursday, March 19: Coronavirus global update

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

All the latest news as it happens

Hundreds of millions of people worldwide are adjusting to a once-in-a-generation measures to battle the coronavirus crisis that is not only killing the old and vulnerable but also threatening prolonged economic misery.

The virus has infected more than 218,900 people across the world and the death toll has exceeded 8,912 in 172 nations.

CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK IN NUMBERS (updated continuously)


18:26 France’s Macron says extension of lockdown is ‘likely’

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday that a lockdown put in place to fight the spread of the coronavirus pandemic would likely be extended beyond its initial 14-day period.

During a visit to health facilities in Paris, Macron also said that some French citizens still take the lockdown measures lightly.

18:24 Prince Albert of Monaco tests positive for coronavirus

Prince Albert of Monaco has tested positive for coronavirus but his health is not a cause for concern, his office said on Thursday.

“Prince Albert is continuing to work from the office in his private apartments,” it said in a statement.

17:47 British carmakers and aerospace groups answer call to make ventilators

Some of Britain’s biggest companies with expertise in aerospace and cars have formed three teams to produce basic ventilators to help the National Health Service cope with the coronavirus outbreak.

Meggitt, which employs 12,000 people and builds components including oxygen systems for civil aerospace and military fighter programmes, is leading one consortium alongside engineers GKN, Thales and Renishaw.

The other two teams are being led by carmakers McLaren, which is looking at how to design a simple version of a ventilator, and Nissan, which is working with others to support existing ventilator producers.

European aerospace group Airbus is working across the process to see if its 3D printing or production facilities can be of use.

17:28 Spain promises help for nursing homes as coronavirus deaths climb

Spanish authorities promised to take special measures to prevent more deaths from the coronavirus epidemic in nursing homes after cases of mass contagion there swelled the country’s death toll to 767 on Thursday, 209 more than the previous day.

With 17,149 total cases, up by a quarter from Wednesday, Spain is the second worst-hit country in Europe after Italy, with a state of emergency in place that largely bars Spaniards from all but essential outings. Authorities said 49 people had been arrested for disobedience in the past few hours.

17:23 Moscow bar mixes ‘coronavirus’ cocktail to soothe outbreak angst

A Moscow bar says it has found a remedy for the growing angst caused by the global coronavirus outbreak: a colourful cocktail named after the rapidly-spreading virus.

Moscow’s Razvedka Bar began selling its “coronavirus” cocktail on Wednesday. The cocktail is served in a glass with two medical syringes, one containing a bright red and the other a bright green liquid, though the bar’s manager, Anton Zagariya, declined to identify the ingredients used.

16:31 Turkey suspends soccer, basketball, volleyball matches indefinitely amid coronavirus outbreak

Turkey’s soccer, basketball and volleyball leagues suspended matches indefinitely on Thursday due to the widening coronavirus outbreak, bowing to pressure from players and coaches after many other countries called off sports events.

16:14 Ukrainian man in wetsuit arrested after smuggling surgical masks into Romania

Border guards have arrested a man in a wetsuit who admitted to smuggling surgical masks across a river from Ukraine into Romania, Ukraine’s border guard service said on Thursday.

The Ukrainian authorities say such masks have become more popular than cigarettes to smuggle across the border into the European Union, with demand spiking due to the coronavirus epidemic.

16:13 New York expects spike in coronavirus cases after big batch of overnight tests

The state of New York tested 8,000 people for the coronavirus overnight in what may be the largest batch of testing to date in the United States, likely leading to a spike in positive cases once results come in, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday.

With the United States slow to roll out mass testing for the virus – which has spread rapidly to become a global pandemic – some health officials have feared the number of known cases lags far behind reality.

15:51 H&M issues notice of temporary lay-offs to 2,000 staff in Norway, Iceland – DN

Swedish retailer H&M has sent notice of temporary lay-offs to 2,000 employees in Norway and Iceland due to the coronavirus outbreak, Norwegian business daily Dagens Naeringsliv reported on Thursday, citing the head of the Norwegian business.

H&M was not planning to close stores in either of the two countries, it added.

15:43 Coronavirus-hit Italian cruise ship docks in southern France

An Italian cruise ship that earlier in its voyage disembarked two passengers who later tested positive for the coronavirus has docked in Marseille, southern France, authorities and passengers said on Thursday.

The 1,400 passengers and the crew of the ship – which left Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on March 5 on a cruise destined for Venice, Italy – will remain on board as they wait for the results of coronavirus infection tests on suspected cases.

15.10 Panic buying forces South African supermarkets to ration food

South Africa’s biggest supermarket Shoprite will limit purchases of some food products and medicines, it said on Thursday, as frantic shoppers stripped shelves to prepare for possible isolation during the coronavirus outbreak.

As the spread of the infection triggers panic buying across the world, South African retailers are saying they are working with their suppliers to ensure a consistent supply of products like meat and canned food, and medicine.

15.04 Austria’s public traffic down 90%, corona infections up 25% d/d

The strict restrictions in public life in Austria have led to a 90% decrease in public traffic and a 45% fall in individual traffic, health minister Rudolf Anschober said on Thursday.

Train connections to Switzerland have been suspended, and trains to Germany only take German citizens, said rail operator OBB.

Despite drastic measures, the number of new coronavirus infections rose 25% day-to-day and Tyrol remains a hotspot, Anschober said, urging all Austrians to adhere to the introduced restrictions.

14.52 Swiss cases of coronavirus rise to 3,880, with 33 deaths – government

The number of coronavirus cases in Switzerland and Liechtenstein has risen to 3,888, Swiss health authorities said on Thursday, with 33 people reported to have died from the disease.

The total figure was up about 800 cases from on Wednesday, when the nation had reported 21 deaths.

14.43 German army on standby to help with coronavirus crisis

The German military is making preparations to help with efforts to tackle the coronavirus crisis should other civil servant organisations become overwhelmed with the outbreak, Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said on Thursday.

“We are preparing for a worst-case scenario where a very large number of people will become infected and we have the human resources to help,” she said.

Kramp-Karrenbauer said the army had already contacted hundreds of medical reservists in the armed forces and the army would be able to protect critical infrastructure and distribute medical equipment and medicines should this become necessary.

14.41 UK government scientist: No way to turn back coronavirus epidemic

Britain will not be able to turn back the epidemic caused by the new coronavirus so is working on managing the COVID-19 outbreak by bolstering capacity in the National Health Service, the government’s chief medical officer said on Thursday

Chris Whitty, the government’s most senior medical adviser, said scientists were now reasonably sure about the mortality rates of COVID-19, but warned that in the UK they would appear higher than expected until greater numbers of people are tested.

14.40 Croatia reports first death

Croatia registered its first death of a person infected with the coronavirus, the state public health institute said on the official government web page for the crisis.

“A deceased (70-year-old) man was infected with the coronavirus. Further checks are under way to see whether the person had some chronic diseases or the only cause of death was the coronavirus,” Irena Hrstic, head of the hospital in the northern Adriatic city of Pula, told a news conference.

14.19 Air France working with government to help repatriate French, European travellers

Air France said on Thursday that it was working closely with the French government to help repatriate French and European nationals abroad who might be stranded as a result of transport link closures prompted by the coronavirus.

“Air France is working in close collaboration with the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the embassies to identify the repatriation needs of French and European nationals and to implement additional transport solutions at specific fares as quickly as possible,” the airline said in a statement.

“Air France teams are fully mobilised and are doing all they can to assist French and European nationals at this difficult time,” it said.

14.14 Italy’s schools likely to remain closed beyond April 3 – Education Minister

Schools in Italy are likely to remain closed beyond April 3, Italy’s Education Minister said on Thursday, as the government attempts to further limit contact among citizens to curb the coronavirus outbreak.

“As Prime Minister (Giuseppe) Conte said, I think we are going towards an extension of the April 3 deadline,” Lucia Azzolina told SkyTG24.

Schools and universities were closed on March 5.

Azzolina said schools would reopen only when there would be “certainty of absolute safety”, adding that the end of the school year would depend on how well online lessons would go in coming weeks.

13.49 In Iran, every 10 minutes one person dies from the coronavirus – health official

The new coronavirus kills one person every 10 minutes in Iran, the health ministry spokesman tweeted on Thursday, as the death toll in the Middle East worst-affected country climbed to 1,284.

“Based on our information, every 10 minutes one person dies from the coronavirus and some 50 people become infected with the virus every hour in Iran,” Kianush Jahanpur tweeted.

13.24 Spain’s coronavirus death toll climbs by over 200 overnight

Spain’s health ministry said on Thursday the death toll from the coronavirus epidemic soared by 209 to 767 fatalities from the previous day as the total number of coronavirus cases climbed by a quarter to 17,147 on Thursday.

12.59 UK puts military reservists on standby, no intention to shut down London,  supermarkets to get police protection

Britain on Thursday put military reservists on formal standby as it seeks to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.

“Reserve Forces will be on standby to deliver a range of defence outputs,” James Heappey, armed forces minister, said in a written statement to parliament.

The British government has no plans to bring in blanket travel restrictions for London or to close down the capital’s transport system, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said on Thursday.

“There is zero prospect of any restriction being placed on travelling in or out of London,” the spokesman said.

British supermarkets are expecting to get police support to deter unruly behaviour when London goes into lockdown to contain the coronavirus outbreak, according to an industry source.

12.50 Iran’s death toll from new coronavirus outbreak rises to 1,284

Iran’s death toll from the coronavirus outbreak jumped to 1,284 on Thursday, a health ministry official told state TV, as the total number of infected people increased to 18,407 in the Islamic Republic, the worst-affected country in the Middle East.

“With 149 new deaths in the past 24 hours, the death toll from the virus reaches 1,284. Unfortunately we had 1,046 new cases of infection since yesterday,” said deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi.

12.48 Dutch banks agree to 6-month freeze on loan repayments for small business

Major Dutch banks including ING Groep and ABN Amro have agreed to give small businesses a six-month delay in interest payments on loans, the country’s banking industry association said on Thursday.

The Dutch Union of Banks said the measures would apply to any loan of up to 2.5 million euros. “For the group with larger obligations, banks will follow further developments closely,” the union said in a statement.

12.35 EU’s Brexit top negotiator Barnier has coronavirus

The European Union’s chief negotiator for Brexit, Michel Barnier, said on Thursday he had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

“I would like to inform you that I have tested positive for COVID-19. I am doing well and in good spirits. I am following all the necessary instructions, as is my team,” he said on Twitter.

12.24 Belgium adds 309 new coronavirus patients in largest daily jump

Belgium recorded 309 new coronavirus cases on March 18, a spokesman for the Belgian health ministry said on Thursday, bringing the total number of infected in the country to 1795.

The spokesman said that 7 new deaths were recorded on Wednesday because of the coronavirus, for a total of 21 in the country since the beginning of the epidemic.

12.13 China’s Shanghai asks travelers from 8 more countries to undertake 14 day quarantines

China’s Shanghai on Thursday added eight more countries to its list of places from which travellers entering the city will be required to undertake 14 day quarantines, it said on its official WeChat account.

The latest additions, which come into effect on Friday, take the list of affected countries to 24. The latest additions are Australia, Malaysia, Greece, the Czech Republic, Finland, Qatar, Canada and Saudi Arabia, it said.

Travellers who had been in those 24 countries in the last 14 days before visiting Shanghai will also be subject to the quarantine requirement, it said.

11.43 Number of German coronavirus cases jumps by 2,801 – institute

The number of coronavirus cases in Germany climbed by 2,801 or roughly a third in a single day, public health institute RKI said on Thursday.

The total increased to 10,999 cases while 20 patients died, the public institute said on its website.

11.42 Egypt to shut all cafes, malls, sporting clubs overnight until March 31 – statement

Egypt will shut all cafes, malls, sporting clubs and nightclubs from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. local time, starting Thursday, until March 31 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the government said in a statement.

The government said supermarkets and pharmacies were exempt for the closure. The country has so far registered 210 cases of the new respiratory disease, including 6 deaths

11.26 Vietnam Airlines to suspend all international flights, Wizzair suspends flights to Malta

Vietnam Airlines will suspend all international flights until at least April 30 because of the coronavirus outbreak, which has forced several countries to close their borders, the company said on Thursday.

“Due to the development of the coronavirus outbreak and the entry and quarantine regulations of many countries, Vietnam Airlines will completely suspend all international flights from next Wednesday,” the company said on its website.

Flights to Southeast Asian destinations including Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar will be suspended from March 21. Flights to Britain and Japan will be halted from March 23. Services between Vietnam and Germany and Australia will be stopped from March 25.

Wizz Air has suspended all flights to and from Malta until April 10 as a result of the travel restrictions imposed by the Mediterranean island in an attempt to beat Europe’s worst outbreak of coronavirus, the low-cost carrier said on Thursday.

11.21 Philippines to ban entry of foreigners over coronavirus, ‘no exceptions’ – minister

The Philippines is stopping the issuance of visas to foreigners, banning all nationalities from entering the country to halt the spread of coronavirus, its foreign minister said on Thursday.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin said on Twitter that he had signed an order stopping the issuance of visas domestically and in all foreign posts. Locsin did not give a timeframe for the measures.

“This goes one imperative step forward: a total ban on incoming foreign visitors of all nationalities no exceptions,” Locsin said, adding that outgoing foreign visitors will be allowed to leave.

11.09 Under emergency law, Jordan seals capital to contain coronavirus

Jordan’s army on Thursday sealed off the capital from the rest of the country as the kingdom puts its ten million inhabitants under a lockdown to try to combat the spread of coronavirus, witnesses and officials said.

Army checkpoints on main entrances to the sprawling capital of more than three million inhabitants began imposing a ban that allows entry only to vehicles carrying essential goods or people with authorised business from other provinces, witnesses said.

“These measures are to prevent the spread of the virus,” Brigadier General Mukhles al Mufleh, army spokesman told state media.

11.09 Indonesia confirms 82 new coronavirus cases, biggest daily rise

Indonesia announced on Thursday 82 new coronavirus cases, marking the biggest daily rise for the Southeast Asian nation and taking the total number of confirmed cases to 309, a health ministry official said.

Achmad Yurianto, the health ministry official, said the total number of confirmed deaths from coronavirus rose by six to 25, the majority of which were reported in Jakarta.

11.00 Coronavirus will plunge German economy into recession, business morale slumps

The coronavirus outbreak will massively impact the German economy in next two quarters at least, the DIW institute said on Thursday, adding that it expected Europe’s largest economy to shrink by 0.1% this year.

The DIW institute said that its forecast was based on an optimistic V-shaped scenario in which a sharp drop of business activity would be followed by a quick rebound later this year.

However, the recession could turn out to be much more severe if the uncertainty among companies and consumers sparked by the new virus should persist, the institute added.

German business morale plummeted in March to its lowest level since 2009, a preliminary survey showed on Monday, suggesting that Europe’s largest economy is falling into recession due to the impact of the coronavirus.

10.35 Italy set to prolong lockdown

Italy will remain under lockdown beyond previous deadlines due to expire later this month and in early April, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Thursday, in ongoing efforts to try beat Coronavirus in Europe’s worst-affected country.

In comments to the Corriere della Sera newspaper, Conte said measures taken to close schools, universities and to impose severe restrictions on movement would have to be prolonged.

10.29 Middle East airlines need state aid due to liquidity crisis

Governments must urgently consider providing aid to airlines in the Middle East to help them cope with a liquidity crisis due the coronavirus outbreak, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said on Thursday.

IATA Vice-President for Africa and the Middle East Muhammad Albakri said Middle East airlines were facing rising revenue losses as people stopped travelling.

10.07 Russia reports first coronavirus death

Russia said on Thursday a 79-year-old woman with underlying health issues who tested positive for the new coronavirus had died from pneumonia, the country’s first confirmed death resulting from the virus.

Russia has reported 147 cases of the coronavirus.

09.30 French government to extend lockdown if necessary – interior minister

France’s 15-day lockdown ordered by President Emmanuel Macron to curb the coronavirus epidemic could be extended if necessary, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said on Thursday.

“The 15-day period may be extended. If necessary, the government will re-conduct it,” Castaner told Europe 1 radio station.

Since Wednesday morning, the police deployed to enforce the lockdown has carried out 70,000 controls and handed out 4,095 tickets to those flouting the lockdown, Castaner added.

09.22 UK luxury group Burberry says sales plunge as much as 50% 

Luxury British brand Burberry said the drop-off in demand due to coronavirus had intensified, pushing comparable retail store sales between 40% and 50% lower over the last six weeks.

The company said it was cutting costs to deal with the crisis by trying to renegotiate rents, restricting travel and reducing discretionary spending.

09.10 UK online supermarket Ocado says coronavirus boosting demand

British online supermarket Ocado said growth in the last three weeks was double that of its first quarter period to March 1, as shoppers trying to stock up on goods due to worries about coronavirus boosted demand.

08.52 New ECB measures should show Europe is determined to overcome crisis

The European Central Bank’s (ECB) latest monetary stimulus will hopefully show the markets that Europe is determined overcome the coronavirus crisis, Germany’s Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said on Thursday.

“I hope these measures will also make it clear to the stock markets, to the markets today that Europe will protect its interests and Europe is determined to overcome this crisis”, he told Deutschlandfunk radio in an interview.

08.00 Airline industry may not survive without state aid

Lufthansa said that the airline industry may not survive without state aid if the coronavirus pandemic lasts for a long time, as it throws everything at bringing home travellers and keeping industrial supply chains open.

The German airline group, which has implemented drastic capacity reductions, introduced short-time working and suspended its dividend, said it was impossible to forecast the impact of coronavirus on its profitability.

07.14 Australia bans non-residents from entering country

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday all non-citizens and non-residents would be banned from entering the country from 9 pm (1000 GMT) Friday.

“The overwhelming proportion of cases in Australia have been imported.,” Morrison told a televised briefing in Canberra.

07.04 Mexico registers first coronavirus death – health ministry

Mexico registered its first death from coronavirus on Wednesday, the health ministry said in a statement, saying the deceased was a diabetic whose symptoms began last week.

03.56 Nicaragua registers first case of coronavirus infection

Nicaragua has registered its first case of coronavirus infection, a 40-year-old Nicaraguan man who picked up the virus during a recent visit to Panama, Vice President Rosario Murillo said on Wednesday.

Murillo was speaking on national television.

03.38 China’s Wuhan reports no new infections for first time, imported cases surge

The central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the country’s coronavirus outbreak, reported no new infections for the first time, while imported cases surged by a record, led by new infections in the capital of Beijing.

The new imported infections also accounted for all of the new confirmed cases in mainland China, placing more pressure on authorities to screen travellers at key travel hubs.

03.21 South Korea reports 152 new coronavirus cases, total 8,565 

South Korea reported 152 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, taking the national tally to 8,565, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The country had recorded fewer than 100 new infections for four days in a row until Wednesday.

03.17 Mexican coronavirus tally rises to 118 from 93 a day earlier

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Mexico rose on Wednesday to 118 from 93 a day earlier, the Mexican health ministry said

02.15 New Zealand coronavirus cases rises to 28, with 8 more people confirmed

New Zealand on Thursday confirmed eight new cases of coronavirus linked to overseas travel, taking the total number of infections to 28.

The Ministry of health said one of the new cases is in hospital, while others are at home and self-isolating.

They also advised its citizens not to travel overseas due to the risks posed by the coronavirus.

“We are raising our travel advice to the highest level: do not travel,” Foreign Minister Winston Peters said in a statement.

02.09 Japan’s Hokkaido to end state of emergency 

Japan’s Hokkaido, the nation’s prefecture with the highest number of coronavirus infections, will end its state of emergency over the epidemic on Thursday, the prefecture governor, Naomichi Suzuki, said.

“We will end the emergency declaration as scheduled on March 19 and from the 20th move to a new stage to overcome the crisis of coronavirus infections,” Suzuki told reporters on Wednesday.

01.27 El Salvador suspends deportations of nationals from U.S., Mexico

El Salvador’s government said on Wednesday it had suspended deportations of its nationals from the United States and Mexico in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

01.21 ECB’s commitment to the euro has “no limits”: Lagarde

The European Central Bank intends to use all tools to defend the euro as “there are no limits” to its commitment to the single currency, ECB President Christine Lagarde said early on Thursday after announcing even more bond purchases to counter the financial fallout of the coronavirus outbreak.

“Extraordinary times require extraordinary action,” Lagarde tweeted. “There are no limits to our commitment to the euro. We are determined to use the full potential of our tools, within our mandate.”

00.55 Mauritius confirms first three cases

Mauritius has confirmed its first three cases of coronavirus, its government said in a statement on Thursday.

“It concerns three Mauritian nationals who have travelled back to Mauritius recently aged 21, 25 and 59 years respectively. Two have worked on cruise ships and one is from the United Kingdom,” the government said in a statement on its website.

00.38 Sao Paulo city hall orders commerce closed until April 5

Brazil’s biggest city Sao Paulo on Wednesday ordered most commercial establishments closed to the public until April 5 in a dramatic effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus epidemic that is likely to batter Latin America’s largest economy.

00.27 UAE suspends entry of valid residence visa holders abroad 

United Arab Emirates will suspend entry of valid residence visa holders who are still abroad starting at noon on Thursday for two weeks, over coronavirus concerns, state news agency WAM said on early Thursday.

The UAE has recorded 113 cases on the flu-like disease.

 



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