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Friday, March 19: Coronavirus global update

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

All the latest news in brief as it happens

The world’s wealthiest nations poured unprecedented aid into the traumatized global economy as coronavirus cases ballooned in the current epicentre Europe even as they waned at the pandemic’s point of origin, China.

As of today Friday, March 20th at 7.20am the virus has infected more than 245,850 people across 180 countries and the death toll now exceeds 10,047. The USA had the biggest number of new cases and deaths, 574 and 10 respectively. However 88.440 people have recovered.

CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK IN NUMBERS (updated continuously)


17:46 Spain to treat thousands of coronavirus patients in conference hall as toll tops 1,000

Spanish authorities said on Friday they would turn a Madrid conference centre into a giant makeshift military hospital for thousands of coronavirus patients, as Europe’s second-worst outbreak claimed another 235 lives.

Spain’s worst single-day death toll yet brought the country’s total fatalities above 1,000.

17:08 Macron seeks more EU powers as Europe faces coronavirus meltdown

French President Emmanuel Macron is leading a push for the European Union to acquire more powers to respond in healthcare emergencies, conscious that the EU risks being blamed for the continent’s shortcomings in tackling the coronavirus outbreak.

After a decade in which Brussels has seen a debt crisis and deep internal divisions over migration, the coronavirus pandemic risks delivering an even more powerful blow to European unity, potentially pushing decades of integration into reverse.

16:51 Jogging, park walks banned as alarmed Italian regions impose more coronavirus restrictions

Italian regions struggling to contain a coronavirus crisis imposed further restrictions on Friday, with one banning walks in parks and another prohibiting jogging and bike rides as the national death toll surpassed that of China.

“We already have many hundreds of dead. What more is needed before people understand the tragedy we are facing,” said Sergio Venturi, head of the coronavirus response team in Emilia-Romagna.

16:44 ‘Demand destruction’ – analysts race to lower outlooks for oil

Traders and analysts are struggling to revise down their forecasts for oil demand fast enough, as government lockdowns to contain the coronavirus outbreak have rapidly cut fuel consumption.

At the start of the year, forecasters had expected demand to edge up or stay flat. But, in the space of a few months or even weeks, the most bearish outlooks seem hopelessly out of date.

15:47 EU opens probe into fake coronavirus-related products

European Union regulators have opened an investigation into imports of fake coronavirus-related products that are ineffective or even harmful to health, the European anti-fraud office OLAF said on Friday.

Products seized include masks, medical devices, disinfectants, sanitisers and test kits.

15:18 Belgium to unlock €1bn for hospitals

Belgium’s newly formed federal government will provide 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) urgently to help hospitals face the coronavirus crisis as the situation in the coming days become “extremely intense” for healthcare services, it said on Friday.

Priority is being given to healthcare measures but Belgium will have to go through an economic crisis, Belgian prime minister Sophie Wilmes told a news conference.

14.26 Nissan’s UK factory closed until further notice

Nissan said on Friday its British car factory would remain closed until further notice over the coronavirus outbreak, having previously said it would be shut until the end of the week.

“This suspension will now continue until further notice,” the company said in a statement. “We will continue to assess supply chain disruption and market demand as the situation evolves.”

14.15 Police to step up security checks in Paris train stations over coronavirus

Police will be stepping up security checks in Paris train stations from Friday, said the capital’s police force, as France ramps up its lockdown measures in its bid to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

The police force added on Friday that any train passengers without the necessary documentation to justify their rail journey could be fined 135 euros ($145).

14.10 UK government scientists publish evidence on COVID-19 evolution

British government emergency response scientists published the evidence on their understanding of COVID-19 evolution on Friday.

“The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has been providing ministers and officials with free and frank advice throughout,” they said.

“This is an incredibly fast-moving, developing situation and as part of our collective efforts to give the clearest and most reliable scientific advice, SAGE has and continues to draw upon a huge range of experts and a huge range of evidence,” said Patrick Vallance, the British government’s chief scientific adviser.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-covid-19-scientific-evidence-supporting-the-uk-government-response

14.07 UK police ask firms to give paid leave for volunteer officers to help with coronavirus

British police on Friday asked employers to consider giving paid leave to more than 10,000 volunteer officers to help deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) said the service was likely to come under increasing strain as the virus spreads and Special Constables – volunteer officers who have the same powers as regular police – could help fill gaps caused by sickness and staff who needed to self-isolate.

“We appreciate that this would be placing a further burden on businesses who are already suffering the economic impact of this virus, and we do not make this appeal lightly,” said Martin Hewitt, chairman of the NPCC.

“Businesses who are able to release their staff to undertake these important roles will be supporting the national effort against Covid-19 by helping us to maintain services and keep people safe.”

13.49 Germany’s Bavaria bans going out to slow coronavirus’s spread

The German state of Bavaria will impose general restrictions on going outside for two weeks in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus, state premier Markus Soeder said on Friday.

“It’s not easy to take these decisions,” Soeder said. “We take these decisions according to the best of our knowledge and conscience. There will be a Bavaria after corona, but it will be a stronger one if we don’t look away.”

13.47 Indonesian capital declares emergency 

The governor of Indonesia’s capital Jakarta on Friday declared a state of emergency for the next two weeks in the city, the centre of Indonesia’s coronavirus outbreak.

Governor Anies Baswedan told a news conference that public entertainment would be stopped from Monday and public transportation limited. He urged companies to let staff work from home.

13.43 Indonesian capital declares emergency 

The governor of Indonesia’s capital Jakarta on Friday declared a state of emergency for the next two weeks in the city, the centre of Indonesia’s coronavirus outbreak.

Governor Anies Baswedan told a news conference that public entertainment would be stopped from Monday and public transportation limited. He urged companies to let staff work from home.

13.36 Belgium death toll rises to 37 in largest daily jump

Belgium recorded 16 new deaths on Thursday because of coronavirus, for a total of 37 in the country, the biggest daily rise since the beginning of the epidemic, a spokesman for the Belgian health ministry said on Friday.

The country added 462 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of infected in the country to 2257.

Telework has become mandatory for all companies and social distancing measures must be implemented or companies will have to close and could be fined.

The spokesman said the coming days would be “extremely intense” because the number of patients in hospitals will continue to increase but that hospitals were ready to cope, with a total capacity of 1900 beds, at least at the beginning.

Belgium imposed lockdown measures on Wednesday to contain the spread of coronavirus.

13.33 Swiss says coronavirus deaths rise to 43, cases jump nearly 1,000

The number of coronavirus cases in Switzerland and Liechtenstein has risen by 952 within a day to 4,840 people, Swiss health authorities said on Friday, with 43 people reported to have died from the disease.

13.08 Georgia completely halts air traffic with other countries-government spokesman

Georgia has completely halted air traffic with other countries, the prime minister’s spokesman said on Friday.

Irakli Chikovani told a briefing that the measure comes into force from March 20.

He said that the government would coordinate flights by Georgian Airways, which would bring Georgian citizens abroad back to the ex-Soviet country.

Georgia reported 43 cases of coronavirus as of Friday. One patient has recovered.

13.05 Spain’s death toll surpasses 1,000

Spain’s death toll from the coronavirus epidemic soared to 1,002 on Friday from 767 on the previous day, the country’s health emergencies chief Fernando Simon said.

The number of registered cases in the country rose to 19,980 on Friday from 17,147 on Thursday, Simon said.

13.04 Singapore has 40 new virus cases, mostly imported, steps up distancing

Singapore reported 40 new coronavirus cases on Friday, mainly imported infections from the United Kingdom, and advised further social distancing measures in its fight against the pandemic.

Its tally of cases stands at 385, with no deaths.

12.58 France uses warship to evacuate critical coronavirus patients from Corsica

France’s Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said on Friday that a warship would be used to evacuate critical coronavirus patients from Corsica island to mainland hospitals.

Parly also said on Twitter that use of warship was a decision made by President Emmanuel Macron.

12.49 Changing of Guard halted at UK palaces 

The traditional “Changing of the Guard” ceremonies at Queen Elizabeth’s palaces in London and Windsor Castle which usually attract crowds of tourists have been postponed until further notice, Buckingham Palace said on Friday.

The decision comes after the government advised Britons to avoid any mass gatherings to help curb the spread of coronavirus.

12.26 Iran death toll jumps 149 to 1,433 – health ministry

Iran’s death toll from the new coronavirus outbreak rose by 149 to 1,433 on Friday, a health ministry official tweeted, adding that that total number of confirmed infections had increased by 1,237 to 19,644.

Iran is one of the countries outside China most affected by the pandemic.

12.19 Austria to extend coronavirus restrictions until April 13

Austria will extend its coronavirus restrictions until April 13, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Friday.

The Alpine republic, which has reported more than 2,200 coronavirus cases and six deaths from the global pandemic, put severe restrictions on movement on Monday in response to the developments in Italy and a sharp increase in coronavirus cases in some of its regions.

“Hold tight,” Kurz addressed Austrians at a news conference. “We must not slow down. We must stick with the measures we have taken.”

11.44 Malaysia reports 130 new coronavirus cases; 1,030 in total 

Malaysia reported 130 new cases of coronavirus infection on Friday, sending the cumulative total to 1,030, as it grapples with the highest number of infections in Southeast Asia.

Of the new cases, 48 are linked to an Islamic gathering last month near Kuala Lumpur, the capital, that attracted 16,000 participants. More than 670 infections in Southeast Asia have been linked to the Islamic gathering in Malaysia.

Since Wednesday, Malaysia has closed its borders, schools and non-essential businesses, and urged people to stay at home, warning of a “tsunami” of cases if the curbs were not followed.

11.42 South Africa’s health minister says coronavirus cases rise to 202

South Africa’s Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said on Friday that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases had risen by 52 to 202, with the first cases recorded in the Free State province.

The virus has multiplied in Africa more slowly than in Asia or Europe, but the number of cases has started to rise more rapidly in South Africa in recent days. Africa’s most industrialised economy has the most cases in sub-Saharan Africa.

11.34 Cape Verde says its first coronavirus case is a 62-yr-old Briton

Cape Verde confirmed its first coronavirus case on Friday, the government said in a statement.

The patient is a 62-year-old British citizen who entered the country on March 9 and began showing symptoms on March 16, the statement said.

11.04 UK ventilator prototype ready next week – source

The first version of a new ventilator British industry is rushing to produce to help fight the coronavirus outbreak will be ready next week, according to a source familiar with the situation, with manufacturing due to start in four weeks.

UK health minister Matt Hancock said earlier on Friday that the scramble to produce thousands of ventilators was achieving results.

11.03 Indonesia confirms 60 new coronavirus cases, death toll at 32

Indonesia on Friday confirmed 60 new coronavirus infections and 32 deaths, taking the total number of cases to 369, said a health ministry official.

11.01 France’s Nice city to close Promenade des Anglais

Mayor of the southeastern French city of Nice Christian Estrosi said on Friday he will be closing Nice’s famous Promenade des Anglais as part of measures to fight the coronavirus outbreak spread.

Estrosi also told France’s LCI TV that he was considering whether to implement curfew measures in Nice.

“I am considering a curfew order as early as tonight, excluding of course the priority staff that we also have to take care of”, Estrosi, who has tested positive himself for the virus, said.

10.48 Hong Kong sees 48 new cases of coronavirus, bulk of infections imported

Hong Kong said on Friday it had recorded 48 new cases of coronavirus, a one-day record, as the city hunkers down to deal with a flood of people returning from overseas who are infected with the virus.

The number brings the total of confirmed cases in the global financial hub to 256. Of the confirmed new cases, 36 had overseas travel records, the government said.

10.34 Philippines reports 13 new coronavirus infections, one new death

The Philippines’ health ministry on Friday recorded 13 new coronavirus cases and one death as the country’s main island is under strict quarantine measures.

The new coronavirus has infected 230 people in the Philippines, resulting in 18 deaths, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told a regular news conference.

10.30 European shares bounce for second day on stimulus hopes

European shares jumped for a second straight session on Friday, as a wave of fiscal and monetary stimulus tempted investors back into equity markets after days of selling on signs the world was heading into a deep, coronavirus-driven recession.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index was up 4.9% at 0814 GMT and on course to erase the entire week’s declines.

Travel and leisure stocks jumped 7.6% in a surprise move, leading gains among the major European subsectors, while energy firms added 7.3% on the back of a recovery in oil prices.

Bank stocks jumped 4.2% from their lowest in three decades after the UK’s central bank joined its European peers in suspending stress tests for 2020.

Still, the STOXX 600 was on track for its worst month since October 1987 as the rapidly spreading coronavirus forced several nations in the bloc to impose a lockdown.

10.25 Taiwan coronavirus cases up 27 to 135, two dead

Taiwan has confirmed 27 new cases of the coronavirus to take the total figure in the island to 135, and its second death, the government said in a statement on Friday.

10.22 Indian state to close shops, offices in financial capital Mumbai

India’s westerly state of Maharashtra on Friday decided to close all shops and offices except those providing essential services in India’s financial capital Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur until March 31 in an attempt to restrict the spread of coronavirus, the chief minister of the state said.

The state, which has recorded the highest number of confirmed cases in India, has excluded banks and shops that are selling essential commodities were excluded from the restriction, Uddhav Thackeray said.

10.14 French state has enough money to pay civil servants through crisis

The French government has enough money to be able to pay its civil servants during the coronavirus crisis, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Friday.

“The state will have enough money to pay its civil servants, there is no reason to have concerns about that. France has a solid government,” Le Maire said on LCI television.

10.09 Spain prepares new flights to Guayaquil, Ecuador to airlift citizens

Spain’s Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez said on Friday her administration is preparing new flights to Guayaquil, Ecuador, where the local mayor on Thursday ordered trucks on to the runway to prevent a plane from landing.

Following the unusual incident, the European Union asked Ecuador to guarantee access to its airports to ensure it can airlift citizens out of the South American nation.

The Iberia flight which was unable to land was planning to repatriate 190 EU citizens.

10.07 France says 130,000 of its nationals trying to return home

France is trying to facilitate the repatriation of 130,000 of its nationals stuck overseas due to the coronavirus outbreak, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Friday.

“The fundamental principle is that for the 130,000, we want to bring them back to the national territory, but we ask them to be calm and patient,” Le Drian told France Info radio, adding that it would be up to them to pay for their return tickets.

09.55 UK hopes newly-made ventilators will be ready for coronavirus fight next week

Britain said on Friday its scramble to produce thousands of ventilators to fight the coronavirus outbreak was achieving results as top companies have already produced a prototype and it should be ready for use in hospitals by the end of next week.

“More than half a dozen companies have already made one in prototype, to check with us that we are happy with the quality ,” Hancock told BBC TV.

09.51 Qatar eases exit restrictions on migrant employees in the oil and gas industry

Qatar has removed exit visa requirements for an additional segment of its foreign labour force, including some of those working in the oil and gas industry, according to official tweets posted on Friday.

Qatar in 2018 eliminated exit visas for many foreign migrant workers. But the reform did not apply to domestic workers, government and public institution staff, the oil and gas sector, and workers employed at sea and in agriculture.

09.50 EU open to ‘coronabonds’ to cushion economic fallout – von der Leyen

The European Commission is looking at all instruments at its disposal, including loosening debt rules for member states and issuing common euro zone bonds, to cushion the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak, its president said on Friday.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told German radio Deutschlandfunk that the bloc will do everything to support the economy “without ifs and buts.”

09.32 Worldwide deaths exceed 10,000

More than 245,000 people have been infected by the novel coronavirus across the world and 10,045 have died, with cases and deaths outside China far exceeding those in the country where the outbreak began

09.20 Heathrow to shrink operations during coronavirus

Britain’s Heathrow Airport said it would shrink its operation as part of a plan to keep open for some cargo and passenger flights during the coronavirus crisis, which has brought most air travel to a standstill.

09.16 French utility EDF has enough power to supply France during crisis

French state-controlled power group EDF has enough capacity to be able to keep the country supplied in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, EDF chairman and CEO Jean-Bernard Levy told Europe 1 radio on Friday.

“We can reassure our staff and the people of France, that we have what is needed to continue to provide electricity to all of France,” said Levy.

09.15 Britain’s M&S warns of “severe impact” from coronavirus

British retailer Marks & Spencer said on Friday trading over the next 9-12 months in its clothing and homewares and international businesses was likely to be “severely impacted” by the coronavirus.

It said it was unable to provide meaningful guidance on future earnings but reassured the post-crisis future of the business was strong.

09.06 Russia starts testing coronavirus vaccine prototypes on animals

Russian scientists have begun testing prototypes of potential vaccines against the new coronavirus on animals in a laboratory in Siberia, Russia’s consumer health regulator said on Friday.

Russia has reported 199 coronavirus cases so far, less than in many other European countries, but the figure has risen sharply in recent days. One person diagnosed with the virus has died.

09.01 YouTube to reduce streaming quality in Europe

Alphabet Inc’s YouTube said on Friday it will reduce its streaming quality in the European Union to avoid straining the internet as thousands of Europeans, constrained by the coronavirus outbreak, switch to teleworking and watch videos at home.

YouTube is the second company after Netflix to act after EU industry chief Thierry Breton urged streaming platforms to cut the quality of their videos to prevent internet gridlock. Videos account for a substantial part of internet traffic data.

08.25 Germany to facilitate retail sector cooperation to fight coronavirus

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier wants to loosen anti-trust laws to allow greater cooperation between retail businesses in the fight against coronavirus, magazine Der Spiegel reported on Friday.

“If the food industry and retail sector cooperate to secure supply for citizens during the crisis then we will take up anti-trust issues with the cartel authority in order to find a solution,” Altmaier told Spiegel.

06.48 Thailand reports 50 new coronavirus infections for total of 322

Thailand reported 50 new coronavirus infections, taking its tally to 322, a health official said on Friday, with the majority located in Bangkok, the capital.

A group of 41 new cases is linked to earlier infections, while another, of nine, centres on overseas arrivals and contact with foreigners, Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai, director-general of the disease control department, told a news conference.

06.45 Malaysia to deploy army amid movement curbs to contain coronavirus

Malaysia will deploy the army from Sunday to assist police in enforcing a restricted movement order aimed at reining in the spread of a coronavirus, the government said.

Friday’s announcement follows curbs imposed on travel and businesses this week, as infections spiked to 900, with two dead. The majority of cases have been linked to a gathering of 16,000 Muslim missionaries late last month.

06.11 Airline HK Express to suspend all flight operations March 23-April 30

Airline HK Express, which Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd bought last year from Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, said on Friday it will suspend all flight operations from March 23 until April 30 because of the coronavirus outbreak.

HK Express, a low cost carrier, has already cancelled about 2,000 flight sectors, covering 23 out of 25 routes across Asia. Some 96% of its staff is participating in a special no-pay leave scheme.

05.19 Saudi Arabia suspends domestic flights and trains for 14 days

Saudi Arabia suspended on Friday all domestic flights, buses, taxis and trains for 14 days starting Saturday, state news agency reported quoting a source in interior ministry.

The source said the move comes as a precautionary measure to limit the spread of coronavirus which has spread panic in global markets and put several countries on virtual lockdowns.

03.12 Mexico coronavirus tally rises to 164 from 118 a day earlier

The number of registered coronavirus infections in Mexico rose on Thursday to 164 from 118 a day earlier, a senior health ministry official told a news conference.

03.07 Los Angeles mayor orders residents to stay at home

The mayor of Los Angeles on Thursday ordered all residents of America’s second largest city to stay inside their homes to “immediately limit all non essential movement” in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re taking this urgent action to limit the spread of COVID-19 and save lives,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said at an afternoon news conference.

02.41 Argentina announces mandatory quarantine 

Argentina will begin a mandatory quarantine, President Alberto Fernandez announced.

The quarantine, which restricts people to their homes, will be in effect from midnight on Friday morning until March 31, Fernandez said in a televised address.

02.18 New Zealand confirms 11 new cases of COVID-19; total rises to 39

New Zealand on Friday confirmed 11 new cases of the COVID-19 disease, raising the total of cases to 39.

None of the 11 new cases were in hospital but were all at home in self isolation.

“We continue to see an increasing number of cases and we are expecting more given the rapidly evolving situation overseas,” Ministry of Health’s Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said in a news conference.

02.17 China sees zero local coronavirus cases for second day, imported infections surge

Mainland China reported zero locally transmitted cases of the coronavirus for the second straight day, while the daily tally for infections involving travellers arriving in the country surged to a new record.

Mainland China had 39 new confirmed cases on Thursday, the country’s National Health Commission said, all of which were imported cases.

Of the new imported infections, 14 were in Guangdong, eight in Shanghai and six in Beijing, the health authority said on Friday.

02.03 Haiti declares emergency, imposes curfew, shuts border

Haiti’s government on Thursday declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus outbreak, saying it would close its borders and impose a curfew after authorities detected the first two cases of infection in the impoverished Caribbean nation.

President Jovenel Moise told a news conference that all ports, airports and borders will be closed from midnight on Thursday, though they would remain open for goods traffic.

Schools, universities and industrial parks would be closed, and a curfew would be in force from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. as of Friday, he added.

1.32  Panama coronavirus cases rise to 137 from 109 – health ministry

Panama on Thursday had registered 137 cases of coronavirus infection in total, up from 109 a day earlier, Panamanian health minister Rosario Turner told a news conference.

01.02 Washington state reports eight new deaths

Washington state on Thursday reported eight more deaths from the COVID-19 outbreak, bringing the death toll there to 74, the most of any U.S. state.

00.50 Bolsonaro says coronavirus to peak in Brazil in 3-4 months

The coronavirus outbreak in Brazil is expected to peak in three or four months, President Jair Bolsonaro said on Thursday, adding that the country should then return to normality in seven to eight months’ time.

Speaking via a broadcast on his Facebook page on the day Brazil’s death toll from the outbreak rose to seven, Bolsonaro said his government is taking actionable measures to fight it, and that his role is not to cause panic in the country.

00.38 U.N. condemns Libya shelling deaths after coronavirus truce plea

The United Nations Libya mission condemned a shelling attack on Thursday that it said killed four girls and young women hours after international pleas for a humanitarian pause to help with the fight against the coronavirus.

It said in a tweet that the four, aged 14 to 20, as well as five others including an 11-year-old, were hit during “indiscriminate shelling affecting a civilian neighbourhood in Ain Zara, reportedly by LNA forces”.

00.31 Argentina to announce obligatory quarantine

Argentina will announce an obligatory quarantine to curb the spread of coronavirus, provincial government sources said on Thursday.

Argentina has already closed its borders for a total of 15 days and suspended flights from highly-affected countries.

00.10 Trump cancels G7 at Camp David over coronavirus, to hold videoconference instead

President Donald Trump will cancel an in-person meeting of G7 leaders at Camp David in June because of the coronavirus and will hold a videoconference instead, the White House said on Thursday.

The decision comes as nations around the world seal their borders and ban travel to stop the virus’ spread.

00.05 Panama to suspend all international flights from Sunday night

Panama will for 30 days suspend all international passenger flights from 11:59 p.m. on Sunday to contain the spread of coronavirus, President Laurentino Cortizo said on Thursday.

Writing on Twitter, Cortizo said cargo flights, humanitarian flights and domestic flights would continue operating as normal for the time being.

 

 

 

 



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