/Coronavirus live updates: Italy deaths at 3,405; cases top 41,000

Coronavirus live updates: Italy deaths at 3,405; cases top 41,000

The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy rose in the last 24 hours by 427 to 3,405, overtaking the total number of deaths so far registered in China, officials said, as the tally worldwide nears 10,000.

The number of infections in Italy has also risen to more than 41,000, while cases in Germany, Iran and Spain rose to more than 15,000 each. Cases in the US also surged past 13,000, while the number of deaths hit 200, forcing the state of California to order a state-wide lockdown.


More than 209,000 people have now been infected by the coronavirus globally and more than 8,700 have died, according to the World Health Organization.

At least 86,000 have recovered from COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University in the US.

Here are all the latest updates:

Friday 20 March

08: 33 GMT – Philippines reports new cases, one death 

The health ministry in the Philippines has reported 13 new coronavirus infections, bringing the total number of positive cases in the country to 230. 

The ministry also announced one death linked to the virus, brining the total number of deaths recorded in the Philippines to 18 so far.

08:26 – India’s Maharashtra state to close shops, offices

India’s western state of Maharashtra has decided to close all shops and offices except those providing essential services in India’s financial capital Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur until March 31, the chief minister of the state said.

08:25 – Japan PM asks to compile steps for school reopening urgently

Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe issued instructions at a coronavirus taskforce meeting to compile concrete steps urgently to reopen schools as the new school year in Japan starts in April, Jiji news agency reported.

Abe last month asked Japan’s entire school system, from elementary to high schools, to close until spring break late in March to help contain the outbreak. 

08:10 GMT – UK hopes newly made ventilators will be ready next week

Britain said its scramble to produce thousands of ventilators to fight the coronavirus outbreak was achieving results as top companies have already produced a prototype which 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 ,” Matt Hancock, the health minister, told the BBC. 

The UK has recorded 3,269 positive cases so far. 

07:49 GMT – Saudi Arabia bans prayers at holy mosques 

Saudi Arabia has suspended the holding of daily prayers and the weekly Friday prayers inside and outside the walls of the two mosques in Mecca and Medina to limit the spread of coronavirus.

The kingdom recorded 36 new infections on Thursday, bringing its total to 274 with no deaths so far. 

Read more here

07:29 GMT – How to socially distance during the coronavirus pandemic

What is the difference between social distancing and self-isolation? 

Click here to find out. 

07:20 GMT – 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.

Scientists in the Vector State Virology and Biotechnology Centre in the city of Novosibirsk have developed vaccine prototypes based on six different technological platforms and began tests on Monday to try to work out how effective they are and in what doses they could be administered, the regulator said.

CureVac coronavirus vaccine development

Scientists in Russia expect it will be possible to start rolling out a vaccine in the last three months of 2020 [Andreas Gebert/Reuters]

Scientists around the world have warned that the development of a vaccine is a lengthy and complex process that might only yield something for broader use in the next 12-18 months.

However, the Russian regulator said it could be possible to start rolling out a vaccine in the last three months of 2020. 

07:17 GMT – YouTube to reduce streaming quality in Europe 

YouTube said 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.

“We are making a commitment to temporarily switch all traffic in the EU to standard definition by default,” the company said in a statement.

Europe’s telecoms providers from Vodafone to Deutsche Telekom have reported a spike in data traffic in recent days, forcing Breton to issue his pre-emptive call before the internet breaks down.

07:12 GMT – First medical aid shipments trickle into North Korea

The first shipments of international medical aid are due to arrive at North Korea’s borders this week, but strict border controls could mean the stream of supplies remains a trickle. 

Some aid organisations had to get emergency sanction exemptions from the UN to clear the way for the shipments and are now navigating North Korea’s border controls imposed in a bid to shut out the virus.

North Korea has not reported any cases of the coronavirus.

07:06 GMT – Sri Lanka postpones general elections

The island nation of Sri Lanka said it would delay parliamentary elections, initially slated for April 25.

It also banned all incoming flights for two weeks on Wednesday and imposed a curfew on some areas. So far, there have been 59 cases of the virus in Sri Lanka. 

Coronavirus pandemic: Sri Lanka schools close for five weeks

07:01 GMT – Roads in Kashmir sealed off, impacting millions

Dozens of people in India-administered Kashmir say they had been prevented from leaving their neighbourhoods by police and paramilitary units.

Srinagar’s senior superintendent of police, Haseeb Mughal, told Reuters News Agency that road blockades across the valley had been imposed to prevent the spread of the virus. 

“I had to take my mother to hospital in Srinagar but the police closed the road,” said Mohammed Ayub, from the nearby town of Budgam. 

“I am waiting here for the last two hours. I can’t even go home now as the road is blocked due to a traffic jam.”

Muslim-majority Kashmir has been relatively unaffected by the virus, reporting its first case on Wednesday. 

06:55 GMT – Pakistan reports third death, urges people to practise social distancing

A 77-year-old patient in the southern city of Karachi died from secondary transmission of the virus, provincial health minister Azra Pechucho has announced. 

The patient was a cancer survivor and had suffered from hypertension and diabetes. They had no history of recent travel to any country with a coronavirus outbreak, and had not been in contact with anyone who had travelled to such a country.

Military officers stand near parked ambulances at the premises of the Expo Center, after government declared it a mass isolation center and field hospital following an outbreak of the coronavirus

Military officers stand near parked ambulances at the premises of the Expo Center in Karachi after the government declared it a mass isolation centre and field hospital [Akhtar Soomro/Reuters]

Friday’s death brings the total number of deaths in Pakistan due to COVID-19 to three. 

“We have now reached the point of community circulation,” said Pechucho in a video statement.

“This means there is hidden circulation of the virus in the community. This is why we need to be very careful. Please take care, of yourself, your family and your loved ones, take care of everyone and practise social distancing.” 

06:27 GMT – Turkey postpones all major events until end of April

Turkish Presient Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a decree postponing all events related to science, culture and art.

The decree said all meetings and activities, indoors or outdoors, would be postponed until the end of April.

Hello, this is Farah Najjar taking over from my colleague Ted Regencia.

05:55 GMT – Vanuatu reports first suspected case of coronavirus

The South Pacific Ocean nation of Vanuatu announced on Friday its first suspected case of coronavirus.

The person is in quarantine and samples have been collected for testing, according to the country’s health ministry. Testing options for the country have been limited by a reduction of international flights.

The country’s National Emergency Operations Centre has assumed control of the coronavirus response operation.

05:15 GMT – Australia steps up social distancing regulations

Australia has ratcheted up its social distancing regulations to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, demanding indoor venues provide at least four square metres (43 square feet) of space per person.

The space constraint announced on Friday follows a ban on Wednesday of non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 100 people, including weddings and restaurants.

Gatherings considered essential include schools, supermarkets and workplaces which are exempt.

Australia has also tightened regulations on travel to and from remote indigenous communities in a bid to spare them from the outbreak.

Sri Lanka

The number of positive cases in Sri Lanka has risen to 59 as of Friday [Eranga Jayawardena/AP]

04:50 GMT – Sri Lankan government imposes curfew

The Sri Lankan government on Friday imposed a 2 1/2 day curfew across the whole island in a bid to contain the spreading of the coronavirus.

The curfew will be in effect from Friday at 6pm until 6am on Monday. The number of positive cases has risen to 59.

04:25 GMT – US governors ask Pentagon for clarification on National Guard authorisation

A group of governors in the United States has asked the defence secretary, Mark Esper, to clarify the federal government’s plan for activating the National Guard as part of the containment action against the coronavirus disease.

In a letter to Esper, Council of Governors representatives Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and Hawaii Governor David Ige, said activating the National Guard should be done in consultation with the heads of all 50 states in the US.

The governors expessed concern that in times of emergency, such as the coronavirus pandemic, the state powers over the National Guard could be taken from them.

03:50 GMT – Olympic flame lands in Japan as doubts grow over Tokyo Games

The Olympic flame arrived in Japan from Greece on Friday in a scaled-down ceremony at an air base in northern Japan.

The flame, carried in a special canister, touched down amid growing doubts as to whether the Tokyo Games can open as scheduled on July 24 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Organisers and the International Olympic Committee say it will, but postponement or cancellation is viewed increasingly as a possible option.

Japan - Coronavirus

Three-time Olympic gold medalists Tadahiro Nomura, left, and Saori Yoshida carry the Olympic flame during the Flame Arrival Ceremony at Japan Air Self-Defense Force base north of Tokyo on Friday [Eugene Hoshiko/AP]

03:35 GMT – Iran pleads for lifting of US sanctions amid deadly outbreak

Iran’s Mission to the United Nations is urging the international community to call on the United States to lift sanctions against the country immediately so it can import medicine and medical equipment desperately needed to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Iran is one of the world’s hardest-hit countries by the coronavirus pandemic. Nine out of 10 cases in the Middle East come from the Islamic republic, and fears remain that it may be under-reporting its cases.

Iran’s UN Mission said in a statement that “while the US is trying to curb the virus internally, it is helping the spread of virus externally by undermining the professional capabilities of certain affected countries who try to combat its pandemic,” the mission said.

As of Thursday, the official number of infections in Iran has reached more than 18,000 with 1,284 deaths.

Iran - coronavirus

As of Thursday, the official number of infections in Iran has reached more than 18,000 with 1,284 deaths [Stringer/AFP]

03:10 GMT – North Korea releases thousands from quarantine 

North Korea says it released thousands of people from quarantine, including all but three foreigners, while maintaining a tough campaign to stem the spread of the coronavirus in the country, according to the Associated Press.

North Korea has not publicly confirmed a single case of the coronavirus, but state media has described anti-virus efforts as a matter of “national existence”.

Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency on Friday said more than 4,000 people were released in the provinces of North and South Pyongan and Kangwon after health officials confirmed they no longer had symptoms.

When combining the numbers from previous state media reports, it is presumed that the North has so far released around 8,000 people from quarantine.

02:30 GMT – California issues ‘stay home’ order; US death toll hits 200

The US state of California has issued a statewide ‘stay at home” order for its 40 million residents and Washington warned Americans to return home or stay abroad indefinitely, with the number of coronavirus deaths in the country hitting 200.

Governor Gavin Newsom said modelling has shown that 56 percent of California residents were expected to contract COVID-19 over the next eight weeks, requiring nearly 20,000 more hospital beds than the state could currently provide

He said Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest city, would likely be “disproportionately impacted” by the pandemic in the coming weeks.

As of Thursday night, there were more than 13,000 coronavirus cases reported in the US.

Spring Break US

Despite the increasing number of coronavirus cases in the US, thousands of young people congregated in the southern state of Florida for the annual spring break [Chris O’Meara/AP]

02:30 GMT – Mexico, US discuss travel restrictions

Mexico’s Foreign Relations Minister says he has held talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about travel restrictions at the border “that won’t paralyse economic activity, and leave the border open to commerce and workers”, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Marcelo Ebrard said he would provide more details on the discussion later on Friday.

Pompeo wrote on social media that he and Ebrard “have been working closely on travel restrictions that balance protecting our citizens from further transmission of #COVID19. Together, we can reduce public health risks and prioritize essential cross-border commerce and trade.”

Im Yu-mi, fan of K-pop boy band BTS, takes a selfie at a cafe decorated with photos and merchandise of them, in Seoul, South Korea

Concern is growing about a steady rise in coronavirus cases in the Seoul metropolitan areas, where about half of South Korea’s 51 million people live [Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters]

01:45 GMT – South Korea reports 87 new cases and three more deaths

South Korea has reported 87 new cases of the novel coronavirus and three more deaths, bringing its totals to 8,652 cases and 94 deaths.

The Associated Press news agency quoted South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday as saying that 316,600 people have so far been tested for the virus and 2,230 have been released from hospitals.

While infections have slowed in the worst-hit city of Daegu, there is also growing concern about a steady rise in cases in the Seoul metropolitan areas, where about half of South Korea’s 51 million people live.

01:25 GMT – China reports record new coronavirus cases from abroad

China’s coronavirus infections from abroad hit a new daily record while infected travellers reached an unprecedented number of Chinese provinces, pressuring authorities to hold the bar high on already tough customs rules and public-health protocols.

Mainland China had 39 new confirmed cases on Thursday, the country’s National Health Commission said on Friday, all of which were imported cases. There were no locally transmitted cases for a second day.

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

As of Thursday, there were 228 imported infections in China.

China coronavirus

Mainland China had 39 new confirmed cases on Thursday, the country’s National Health Commission said on Friday [Aly Song/Mediawires via Reuters]

01:18 GMT- Philippines bans entries of all foreigners

The Philippines is indefinitely banning the entry of foreigners after the government declared a state of calamity and public health emergency amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that it was temporarily suspending visa issuances in all its foreign posts, effective immediately.

The drastic move exempts foreign government and international organisation officials and their dependents, as well as foreign spouses and children of Filipino citizens, the department said.

Philippines -

Foreigners line up at the departure area of Manila’s international airport on Wednesday [Joeal Calupitan/AP]

00:23 GMT- Australian banks announce $57bn loan relief package for businesses

Australian banks on Friday said they would defer loan repayments for six months for small businesses impacted by the coronavirus in a A$100bn ($57.34 billion) relief package, Reuters news agency reported.

Depending on customer take-up, this could help put as much as A$8bn ($4.6bn) back into the coffers of small businesses, Australia Banking Association chief Anna Bligh said.

“These are extraordinary times,” she told reporters, adding Australia’s banking system was among the strongest and the most stable in the world.

There were more than 700 confirmed coronavirus cases in Australia as of Thursday. 

Travelers are seen at Kingsford Smith International Airport in Sydney

Travellers are seen at Kingsford Smith International Airport on Wednesday amid the coronavirus outbreak in Australia [Loren Elliott/Reuters]

00:01 GMT Friday – Fears for tourism in Bali amid coronavirus pandemic

Indonesia will suspend its visa-on-arrival policy for a month from Friday to curb the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus in the archipelago, effectively shutting the country’s tourism.

For the resort island of Bali, where more than three-quarters of the economy is linked to tourism, the de-facto border closure could prove catastrophic for the population of 4.2 million people.

Read full story here.

23:55 GMT Thursday – US court declines to release immigration detainees

A federal judge in the US has declined to order the release of immigration detainees who may be especially vulnerable to the new coronavirus because they are old or have underlying health conditions, according to the Associated Press news agency.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project sought the release of nine detainees at US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Northwest detention centre in Tacoma in the state of Washington.

US District Judge James L Robart said he was aware of the gravity and rapidly evolving nature of the COVID-19 crisis, but that there was no evidence of an outbreak at the privately run jail or that the agency’s precautions were inadequate.

20:00 GMT Thursday – Potential coronavirus treatment touted by Trump already in shortage -pharmacists

Supply of a malaria treatment that has been tried with some success against the new coronavirus is in short supply as demand surges amid the fast-spreading outbreak, according to independent pharmacies and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP).

The ASHP, which maintains a list of drugs in shortage independent of the US Food and Drug Administration’s list, plans to add the generic malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to its list of shortages later on Thursday, according to Erin Fox, senior director of drug information at University of Utah Health, who maintains the shortages list for the ASHP.

The FDA could not be immediately reached for comment, but hydroxychloroquine is not currently on its list of drugs in shortage.

President Donald Trump on Thursday called on US health regulators to expedite potential therapies aimed at treating COVID-19 for which there is no approved treatments or vaccines.

19:55 GMT Thursday – US sick leave aid leaves millions of workers in the cold

It is usually standing room only at O’Duffy’s Pub on St Patrick’s Day, as patrons clad in green pack into the bar to share a drink or two and plenty of food. But this year, owner Jamie Kavanaugh and one of his bartenders sat alone on the holiday that commemorates Ireland’s patron saint. Like restaurants across the country, Kavanaugh’s Kalamazoo, Michigan, bar is now only allowed to serve takeaway food as part of social distancing rules meant to curb the coronavirus pandemic. 

“People are usually celebrating, smiling, toasting one another, sharing hugs and smiles. Instead, the pub is empty,” Kavanaugh told Al Jazeera. “People that came in for takeout didn’t even want to come in the door, and they’re afraid to use the pen to sign.” 

Read more here.

I’m Ted Regencia in Kuala Lumpur with Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the unfolding coronavirus pandemic.

For all the updates from yesterday (March 19), please click here.

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