As of 15.40 today more than 882,440 people have been infected across the world and over 44,144 have died and at the same time 185,094 people have recovered.
The USA is now the country with the most infected cases (188,881) ahead of Italy (105,792) and Spain with 102,136, who overtook China (81,554) on Monday.
Italy though has most deaths, 12,428, with Spain moving second with 9,053 deaths with USA overtaking China into third with 4,066.
All the latest news in brief as it happens
16.56 Germany set to extend social distancing until at least end of Easter holidays – report
Germany’s federal government and the country’s 16 states want to extend until at least the end of the Easter holidays distancing measures introduced to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Focus Online and broadcaster n-tv reported on Wednesday.
Chancellor Angela Merkel is holding a telephone conference with the premiers of the states on Wednesday and due to give a statement later in the day.
Citizens “are urged to keep contact with people beyond their own household to an absolute minimum, even during the Easter holidays, in accordance with the applicable rules,” Focus Online cited a draft resolution for the telephone conference as saying.
16.52 Switzerland past bottleneck in coronavirus testing – government
Switzerland no longer faces shortages in coronavirus testing, its top health official dealing with the pandemic said on Wednesday.
“There are no bottlenecks any more,” Daniel Koch, head of the Federal Office of Health’s communicable diseases division, told a news conference in Bern. “We did 16,000 tests since yesterday.”
16.26 Portugal PM says virus restrictions could last months, deaths rise to 187
Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said on Wednesday that the country may be facing “one, two, three months” of restrictions on movement of people, as the number those who have died from the coronavirus nears 200.
A total of 3,600 companies have applied for government support to pay a proportion of salaries for 76,000 workers whose jobs have been temporarily suspended as a result of the coronavirus crisis, the prime minister said.
16.18 UK coronavirus deaths rise by 563 to 2,352
The number of people with coronavirus who have died in Britain rose by 563 to a total 2,352 by 1600 GMT on March 31, the government said on Wednesday.
It said there were 29,474 confirmed cases of the virus at as 0800 GMT on Wednesday, up from 25,150 the day before.
16:07 Erdogan says Turkey may tighten measures if “voluntary quarantine” ignored
Turkey will have to take additional measures if the coronavirus outbreak grows and people don’t abide by a “voluntary quarantine,” President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday.
“We won’t need further measures if all our citizens keep themselves in a voluntary quarantine. However, we may have to take much more advanced measures if the pandemic spreads and our citizens don’t stay at home,” Erdogan told a meeting of his AK Party provincial heads in a televised video conference.
Erdogan has stopped short of announcing a full lockdown across Turkey, mainly for economic reasons, despite growing pressure to do so after cases of coronavirus surged to more than 13,000 in just three weeks, with 214 deaths.
15.59 Vietnam’s coronavirus cases climb to 218, no deaths – health ministry
Vietnam’s health ministry reported 11 more confirmed coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the total there to 218.
There are 4,671 suspected cases in Vietnam, it said, and 67,456 tests have been carried out. The health ministry has not reported any coronavirus deaths in the country.
15.56 1.5 million Israelis using voluntary coronavirus monitoring app
Around 1.5 million Israelis have downloaded a mobile app in the past week that alerts users who have crossed paths with a coronavirus patient, according to the Health Ministry, helping to improve tracking of the pandemic.
The app “HaMagen” – Hebrew for The Shield – is sparking interest from abroad with approaches from Germany, Italy, Britain, Australia and Chile so far, ministry deputy director general Morris Dorfman said Wednesday.
15.42 Swiss coronavirus death toll rises to 378, positive tests hit 17,139
The Swiss death toll from the coronavirus has reached 378, the country’s public health ministry said on Wednesday, rising from 373 people a day earlier as Switzerland prepares additional measures to mitigate the epidemic’s economic hit.
The number of positive tests also increased to 17,139 from 16,176 on Tuesday, the ministry added.
15:36 UK’s Prince Charles, recovered from virus, says it is distressing time for nation
Britain’s Prince Charles, who has recovered after testing positive for coronavirus, praised the selfless devotion of healthcare workers on Wednesday and said it was a strange and distressing time for the nation.
Heir-to-the-throne Charles, 71, came out of self-isolation on Monday after suffering what he said were “luckily … relatively mild symptoms” and his office said he was now in good health.
Britain is in a state of virtual lockdown, with the public told they must stay at home other than for essential trips, such as to buy food.
15:18 UK police chided for overzealous response to coronavirus lockdown
From questioning dog-walkers to flying drones to spot people defying self-isolation guidelines, police measures to control the spread of the coronavirus have upset some Britons living under a nationwide lockdown.
Some feel the police actions are heavy-handed and applied inconsistently. One retired judge suggested Britain was turning into a police state, although other countries from Spain to Vietnam have applied more draconian measures.
15:06 EU proposes short-time work scheme to avoid coronavirus lay-offs
The European Commision proposed a short-time work scheme on Wednesday modelled on Germany’s Kurzarbeit programme to help people keep their jobs as the coronavirus pandemic hits economies across the 27-nation bloc.
Announcing the scheme by video message, Commission head Ursula von der Leyen did not give details on how it would be funded, saying only it would be guaranteed by all EU countries -a clue that it could be linked to the EU budget.
“Companies are paying salaries to their employees, even if, right now, they are not making money. Europe is now coming to their support, with a new initiative,” von der Leyen said.
14:28 Loss of taste and smell key COVID-19 symptoms, app study finds
Losing your sense of smell and taste may be the best way to tell if you have COVID-19, according to a study of data collected via a symptom tracker app developed by scientists in Britain and the United States to help monitor the coronavirus pandemic.
Almost 60% of patients who were subsequently confirmed as positive for COVID-19 had reported losing their sense of smell and taste, data analysed by the researchers showed.
That compared with 18% of those who tested negative.
14:13 Putin takes coronavirus precautions as Moscow unveils tracking app
President Vladimir Putin is taking precautions to protect himself against coronavirus, the Kremlin said on Wednesday, as Moscow authorities launched a smartphone app designed to track people who have been ordered to stay home because of the virus.
Putin will hold a government meeting later on Wednesday by video conference, the Kremlin said, a day after a doctor who met him last week said he had been diagnosed with the highly infectious virus.
13:53 Malaysia’s coronavirus infection curve flattening, health ministry says
The rate of new coronavirus infections in Malaysia appears to be slowing amid month-long curbs on movement, a senior health official said on Wednesday, citing research by a government-backed think tank.
Malaysia, which has the highest number of coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia, with 2,908 reported infections and 45 deaths, has imposed restrictions on travel and non-essential business until April 14.
13:41 Calls to Spain’s gender violence helpline rise sharply during lockdown
Calls to Spain’s governmental helpline for victims of gender violence shot up in the first two weeks of a state of emergency lockdown imposed to combat the spread of coronavirus, the government said on Wednesday.
Calls increased by 12.4% in the first two weeks of the lockdown compared to the same fortnight last year, while online consultations of the helpline’s website grew by 270%, the Equality Ministry said.
13:19 Carrefour teams up with Uber Eats for lockdown deliveries
French supermarket retailer Carrefour and Uber Eats said on Wednesday they would launch a new delivery service aimed at helping Parisians buy essential goods and food during the nationwide lockdown triggered by the coronavirus crisis.
Delivery groups and takeaway companies across Europe have been tapping into soaring demand for their services as customers grapple with how to stock up on basic goods during the shutdowns.
Supermarkets are still open in France and elsewhere, though many have restricted the number of shoppers who can enter at one time for safety reasons, while many customers are looking to reduce their store visits.
12:29 Dutch coronavirus measures have lowered infection rate -health official
Measures to limit the coronavirus outbreak in the Netherlands appear to have halved the rate of infection but need to be continued to be really effective, the country’s top official for infectious diseases said on Wednesday.
The rate of recorded infections in the Netherlands, where more than 1,000 people have died, has dropped considerably since the Dutch government closed all schools, restaurants and bars last month, the head of the Dutch Public Health Institute Jaap van Dissel said in a briefing to parliament.
“The measures seem to work”, Van Dissel said. “It is now crucially important to continue them.”
The average number of people infected by someone carrying the coronavirus has dropped below 1 in the Netherlands since mid-march, Van Dissel said.
11:40 Racing to stop coronavirus, India scours mosques to trace contacts with Delhi gathering
As coronavirus cases rose across densely-populated South Asia, authorities scoured mosques in northern India on Wednesday trying to trace people who attended the gathering of a Muslim group in New Delhi that later emerged as an infection hotspot.
Thousands of people from across India and some from countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, had visited the headquarters of the Sunni Muslim missionary movement, Tablighi Jamaat, in a narrow winding Delhi lane last month, participating in prayer sessions and lectures over several days.
With no public transportation and all movement stopped due to a nationwide lockdown, thousands of people had been stranded inside the Tablighi centre’s dormitories after the meeting ended while others had left the city, the administrators said.
11:36 Ireland says reagent shortage to slow Covid-19 tests rollout for 7-10 days
Ireland expects global constraints in the supply of reagents used in testing for the coronavirus to slow the roll-out of tests over the coming week to 10 days, Health Minister Simon Harris said on Wednesday.
Britain’s Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove on Tuesday said the lack of reagents – substances used in chemical analysis – was a “critical constraint” on the ability to rapidly increase testing capacity.
Ireland is testing around 1,500 people per day for Covid-19, well below a target of around 15,000, Harris said in an interview with Newstalk Radio.
11:25 UK to speed up coronavirus testing as criticism grows
Britain’s government said on Wednesday it would ramp up the number of coronavirus tests amid widespread criticism that it was doing far too few, as ministers suggested that shortages of chemicals were partly to blame.
Officials say testing for Covid-19 is key to fighting it, not least to check if medics on the frontline of the epidemic could return to work.
But while Germany has been testing about 500,000 people a week, Britain’s current capacity is just 12,750 a day, a figure the government said it was aiming to double by mid-April.
11.14 Coronavirus threatens Gulf insurers’ earnings – S&P
The fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and tumbling oil prices threaten the earnings of insurers in the Gulf, S&P Global Ratings said on Wednesday, possibly leading to negative rating actions.
“Most insurers we rate in the GCC region benefit from robust capital buffers and should be able to absorb COVID-19-related claims and capital market volatility,” S&P said in a report.
11.05 Recession angst whacks pound as dollar surges
Sterling slipped on Wednesday, losing ground to a surging dollar amid a wider selloff in global stock markets as data showed factory activity in Asia contracting sharply due to the pandemic.
Manufacturing gauges tumbled in Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines, with Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) surveys underscoring the widening damage wrought by the pandemic that has infected more than 700,000 people, upended supply chains and led to city lockdowns worldwide.
11.04 Swiss manufacturing PMI sinks to lowest level since 2009
Swiss industry is being battered by the epidemic, data showed on Wednesday, with the country’s PMI survey sinking to its lowest level in more than a decade.
The Swiss Purchasing Managers’ Index for March fell to 43.7 points, its lowest since July 2009, and is likely to drop further, the authors said.
A measure of below 50 points indicates a shrinking manufacturing sector, which represents around 19% of the country’s economic output.
A reading for the services sector was even bleaker, dropping to a record low 28.1 points.
10.34 Vietnam plans 10% electricity price cut to support virus-hit consumers
Vietnam plans to cut its electricity prices by 10% for three months to support people hit by the coronavirus epidemic, state media reported on Wednesday.
The Ministry of Industry and Trade has submitted the price cut plan, scheduled to take place immediately, to the prime minister for approval, the official Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported.
10.33 Coronavirus impact will get worse before it gets better – UK minister
The number of deaths as a result of coronavirus is likely to get worse before it improves, but measures taken by the government are slowing the spread of the disease, British housing minister Robert Jenrick said on Wednesday.
“The next couple of weeks are clearly going to be critical, and its possible, it’s likely that the numbers will get worse in the coming days before they get better,” Jenrick told BBC radio.
10.28 Swedish GDP to plunge 6% in Q2, 3.2% in 2020
Sweden’s economy will contract a bit over 6% in the second quarter and 3.2% in 2020, hit by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, before rebounding in 2021, the National Institute of Economic Research said in a forecast on Wednesday.
“Economic policy is already adopting a strongly supportive role,” the NIER said in a statement. “The NIER believes that this is an appropriate focus, but that more action than what has been decided or announced to date will be needed to stem the rise in unemployment.”
10.14 UK minister: not all chemicals needed for coronavirus test have been available
Not all of the chemicals needed to produce coronavirus tests have always been available in great enough quantities in Britain, housing minister Robert Jenrick said on Wednesday.
Jenrick was asked on BBC television about an apparent discrepancy between comments from senior minister Michael Gove that there was a problem sourcing chemicals for testing kits and a statement from the chemicals industry saying there was supply of what is needed being delivered to the health service.
10.13 European shares tumble as more coronavirus damage revealed
European shares fell on Wednesday in their first trading session of the quarter, as dismal economic data from Asia fanned fears of a deep global recession.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index was down 2.4% at 0705 GMT, after ending Tuesday with its worst quarter in 18 years .
Figures on Wednesday showed factory activity contracting across most of Asia in March as the outbreak paralysed supply chains, with sharp falls in export power-houses Japan and South Korea overshadowing a modest improvement in China.
London’s blue-chip FTSE 100 shed 2.5%, with financials slumping 7% as a number of UK banks joined European peers in suspending dividend payments to shore up liquidity.
10.00 Europe to launch coronavirus contact tracing app initiative
European scientists and technologists said on Wednesday they will launch a joint initiative to support the deployment of digital applications in the fight against coronavirus while complying with the region’s tough privacy laws.
The Pan-European Privacy Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT) brings together 130 researchers from eight countries to develop applications that can support contact tracing efforts.
09.34 German retail sales boom as shoppers stockpile for coronavirus
German households stocking up on daily essentials ahead of anticipated lock-down and quarantine measures caused retail sales in Germany to surge far beyond expectations in February, official data showed on Wednesday.
On the year, retail sales jumped 6.4% on an adjusted basis, far outstripping the expectations of analysts, who had forecast an increase of just 1.5%. On the month, sales rose by 1.2%.
09.30 UK aims to test 25,000 a day for coronavirus by mid-April – minister
Britain is aiming to increase the number of tests for coronavirus to 25,000 a day by the middle of the month from its present capacity of 12,750 a day, housing minister Robert Jenrick told Sky News on Wednesday.
09.24 Russia sends medical aid to US
A Russian military plane took off from Moscow early on Wednesday and headed for the United States with a load of medical equipment and masks to help Washington fight coronavirus, Russian state TV reported.
The flight, which was organised by the Russian Defence Ministry, is likely to be unpopular with some critics of Trump who have urged him to keep his distance from Putin and who argue that Moscow uses such aid as a geopolitical and propaganda tool to advance its influence, something the Kremlin denies.
07.58 China stocks firm as fresh stimulus hopes lift risk appetite
China stocks on Wednesday started the second quarter of the year on a firm note. At the midday break, the Shanghai Composite index was up 0.3% at 2,758.66 points.
China’s blue-chip CSI300 index rose 0.69%, with its financial sector sub-index higher by 0.88%, the consumer staples sector down 0.11%, the real estate index climbed 1.92% and the healthcare sub-index down 0.69%.
Chinese H-shares listed in Hong Kong dipped 0.29% to 9,567.19, while the Hang Seng Index was down 0.92% at 23,385.41.
07.52 Macau’s gaming revenues tumble 80% in March over coronavirus impact
Gambling revenue in Macau plunged 79.7 percent in March year-on-year, with casinos reeling from a lack of visitors in the world’s biggest casino hub after authorities intensified measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
March’s figure of 5.3 billion patacas ($664 million) was inline with analyst expectations of a drop of around 80%-82%.
07.17 Germany reports 5,453 additional coronavirus cases, 149 more deaths
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has risen to 67,366 and 732 people have died of the disease, statistics from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Wednesday.
Cases rose by 5,453 compared with the previous day while the death toll climbed by 149
06.28 Taiwan stimulus to deal with economic impact of virus to reach $35 bln
Taiwan’s economic stimulus to deal with the impact of the coronavirus will reach T$1.05 trillion ($35 billion), President Tsai Ing-wen said on Wednesday.
Tsai, speaking at a news conference at the presidential office, also said Taiwan will donate 10 million face masks for medical personnel in the countries most affected by the virus.
06.24 Japan to hold experts’ meeting on coronavirus pandemic Wednesday
Japan’s government will hold a regular experts’ meeting on the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday to get an update on the latest developments on infections, economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said on Wednesday.
He also said Japan was not yet at a stage to declare a state of emergency, brushing aside speculation a lockdown of Tokyo could be imminent.
04.34 U.S. emergency medical stockpile nearly out of protective gear as demand rises
An emergency stockpile of medical equipment maintained by the U.S. government has nearly run out of protective gear that could be useful to combat the coronavirus pandemic, according to two officials with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The near-exhausted supply includes masks, respirators, gloves, gowns and face shields, the officials said. A small amount of gear has been set aside for federal first responders.
04.14 Mexico registers 1,215 coronavirus cases, 29 deaths – health ministry
Mexico’s health ministry on Tuesday registered 1,215 cases of coronavirus in the country, up from 1,094 the day before.
It also said 29 people died from the virus in Mexico, up from 28 a day earlier.
03.54 Pet cat tests positive in Hong Kong
A pet cat has tested positive for the coronavirus in Hong Kong after its owner was confirmed with having the virus, the city’s Agricultural and Fisheries department said, cautioning that the animal has not shown any signs of the disease.
In a notice late on Tuesday, the department said there is currently no evidence that pet animals can be a source of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and owners should not abandon their pets.
The World Health Organization also states on their website that there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19.
02.28 El Salvador registers country’s first coronavirus death
El Salvador has registered its first death from coronavirus, President Nayib Bukele said on Twitter on Tuesday.
02.17 Pentagon says coronavirus outbreak on carrier doesn’t warrant evacuation
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said it was not time to evacuate a U.S. aircraft carrier reeling from an outbreak of coronavirus, adding that he had not read in detail a letter from the commander of the ship pleading for help.
Reuters reported earlier on Tuesday about a letter from Captain Brett Crozier, the commanding officer of the Theodore Roosevelt, calling for removing over 4,000 sailors from the ship and isolating them.
02.12 Tokyo may keep city-run schools closed through early May
Tokyo is considering keeping city-operated schools closed through early May, public broadcaster NHK and other local media reported on Wednesday, a day after coronavirus infections in the Japanese capital hit a daily record of 78.
The metropolitan government had previously said it was planning to reopen at least some schools in the new academic year next week. Most of the nations’ schools have been shut since the beginning of March, heeding Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s request.
00.54 Trump warns Americans of a tough two weeks in coronavirus fight
President Donald Trump warned Americans they would have a very tough two weeks coming in the fight against the coronavirus as he urged everyone to follow federal social distancing guidelines through the end of April.
“It’s absolutely critical for the American people to follow the guidelines for the next 30 days. It’s a matter of life and death,” Trump said in a news conference at the White House.
What happened yesterday
- The number of deaths in Italy, which will extend nationwide lockdown measures at least until the Easter season, could be underestimated in official figures, its national health institute said.
- The European Union’s executive warned Hungary that emergency measures must not undercut democracy.
- President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to make France self-sufficient in protective masks by year-end and learn lessons from the coronavirus emergency
- As England’s death toll rose 29%, some police officers have been criticised for overzealous lockdown response.
- A 12-year-old girl died in Belgium of coronavirus, the health ministry said on Tuesday as local media reported she was Europe’s youngest victim.
- The peak of Switzerland’s coronavirus epidemic could stretch into later this spring or summer, the government said.
- Norway for the first time saw a day-to-day decline in the number of admissions to hospitals due to coronavirus infections.
- Belarus reported its first death.
- Canada’s death toll jumped by 35% in less than a day, officials said, and the major province of Quebec said it was running low on key medical equipment.
- Brazil’s president said hunger is just as big a threat as COVID-19, again playing down the seriousness of the outbreak during a news conference.
- Ecuadorean authorities said they would improve corpse collection, as delays left families with relatives’ bodies in their homes for days in some cases.
ASIA AND THE PACIFIC
- Tokyo recorded a record number of new cases in a day, as pressure built on the prime minister to order a lockdown.
- China will start releasing information from Wednesday on patients with no symptoms, ordering them into quarantine for 14 days, after the mainland witnessed its first rise in infections in five days.
- India sealed off headquarters of a Muslim missionary group and ordered an investigation into accusations it held religious meetings that officials fear may have infected dozens of people.
- Afghan authorities have quarantined 16 health workers as Afghans fleeing hard-hit Iran have helped spread the virus in the border province of Herat.
- The Philippines recorded its largest daily increase in deaths and infections, as it ramped up testing with the arrival of thousands of kits from abroad and opened new laboratories.
- Malaysia’s stay-at-home order has prevented major daily spikes in infections, the government said, but the World Bank warned its economy would shrink this year for the first time in more than a decade.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
- Lagos, Africa’s largest city, ground to a halt on Tuesday as it and the Nigerian capital Abuja entered a two-week lockdown.
- Tunisia ordered the release of 1,420 prisoners.
- Iran considered tougher curbs as its death toll climbed to almost 2,900 on Tuesday.
- Dubai said it would help its state-run Emirates airline and enforced a full lockdown on a district famous for its gold and spice markets.
- The South African government is sending testing teams to the country’s townships.
- Ethiopia has postponed parliamentary elections scheduled for August.
- Sierra Leone confirmed its first case, and Tanzania its first death.
- Global stock markets fell in volatile trading on Tuesday, and the economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic left the MSCI benchmark of world equities with its biggest quarterly decline since the financial crisis of 2008.
- A G20 coronavirus plan will address the risk of debt vulnerabilities in low-income countries and deliver financial aid to emerging markets.
- U.S. Republican lawmakers signalled caution over Democratic plans to prepare another large spending bill to battle the pandemic, even as President Donald Trump called for $2 trillion in spending, this time on infrastructure.
- The pandemic is threatening to disrupt Argentina’s debt restructuring talks with creditors, raising the prospect of a default and a downgrade, ratings agencies and bondholders told Reuters.
- Italy’s business lobby Confindustria said the pandemic will translate into a serious recession in 2020, biting as much as 6% off gross domestic product.
- The German government is planning to extend support for mid-sized companies, government sources said on Tuesday.
- A coronavirus resurgence may scupper forecasts of a recovery in air passenger demand by the end of the year and strong growth in 2021, the chief economist of a global airline trade body warned.
- Britain’s top banks they would suspend dividend payments after pressure from the regulator, saving their capital as a buffer against expected losses from the economic fallout from the coronavirus.
Tuesday, March 31: Coronavirus global update