Italy coronavirus death toll surges past 1,000: Live updates

More than 4,600 people have died and more than 126,000 infected globally from COVID-19.

A worker sanitises Ponte della Paglia bridge on St. Mark''s square as a measure to fight against the coronavirus contagion in Venice, Italy, March 12, 2020. REUTERS/MANUEL SILVESTRI
A worker sanitises Ponte della Paglia bridge on St. Mark's square as a measure to fight against the coronavirus contagion in Venice, Italy [Manuel Silverstri/Reuters]

The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy has jumped in the last 24 hours by 189 to 1,016, a rise of 23 percent, the country’s Civil Protection Agency said on Thursday.

The total number of cases in Italy, the European country hardest hit by the virus, rose to 15,113 from a previous 12,462, an increase of 21.7 percent. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a pandemic as Italy tightened its strict quarantine and the United States imposed a ban on flights to Europe.

More than 4,600 people have died and over 126,000 have been infected globally, according to the WHO. About 68,000 victims have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the virus.

Here are the latest updates:

For Friday, March 13 updates click here.

Thursday, March 12

22:00 GMT – Portugal orders schools, nightclubs shut due to coronavirus

On Thursday, Portugal’s government ordered the shutdown all schools nationwide starting on Monday to contain the coronavirus epidemic until further evaluation on April 9, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said in a televised address.

He also said cruise-ship passengers would not be allowed to disembark except those residing in Portugal. Nightclubs in the country will be shut, and there will be capacity restrictions on entry to shopping malls and restaurants.

21:55 GMT – Belgian government says schools, restaurants, clubs to close due to coronavirus

Belgium’s government ordered schools, cafes, restaurants and some shops to close due to the coronavirus, following decisions by France and other European countries to limit all but essential activities.

The measures take effect from Friday at midnight central European time and run until April 3, although schools are set to be shut for five weeks, including during the Easter holidays, Belgium’s caretaker Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes told a news conference.

“There is no lockdown,” Wilmes told reporters, stressing that supermarkets and pharmacies would remain open and other shops would only be required to close on weekends. “We want to avoid the Italian situation and avoid lockdowns.”

21:45 GMT – Bulgaria to declare state of emergency over coronavirus

Bulgaria plans to declare a state of emergency to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said late on Thursday as the country’s confirmed cases rose sharply to 23.

The Balkan country confirmed its first death of a patient diagnosed with the virus on Wednesday, and on Thursday, the number of confirmed cases jumped to 23 from seven.

“The government will ask the Parliament to declare a state of emergency, which will allow the closing of schools, kindergartens and universities,” Borissov said after an extraordinary government meeting.

21:15 GMT – Costa Rica orders universities closed on coronavirus concerns

Costa Rica has ordered all university classes suspended due the risk of the spread of coronavirus, while other schools deemed to be at risk will also be closed for two weeks, officials said on Thursday.

21:00 GMT – Disney to shut California park starting Saturday over coronavirus

Walt Disney Co will close its Disneyland and California Adventure theme parks in Anaheim, California in the US starting on Saturday amid the global outbreak of coronavirus, a company spokesperson said in a statement on Thursday.

No cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, have been reported at the parks, the statement said.

19:45 GMT – NCAA cancels ‘March Madness’ tournaments over coronavirus

National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the United States has cancelled its “March Madness” Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, citing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic that has hit sporting events across the world.

“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events,” the NCAA said in a written statement.

19:21 GMT – Qatar announces closure of cinemas, children’s play areas

The Qatar government announced a series of regulatory measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, including closure of theatres and gyms, the Government Communications Office announced in a statement.

“The Ministry of Public Health calls upon all citizens and residents to avoid crowded places and postpone holding social gatherings for the time being, for their own wellbeing and that of the community,” the statement said.

19:08 GMT – Team from coronavirus epicentre to leave Spain to return to Wuhan

Wuhan Zall, the soccer team from the epicentre of the coronavirus, are to leave their training camp in the south of Spain to return to China, with their coach saying they are more at risk in Europe than in their home city.

“The problem right now is here, [while] in China it has been practically eradicated,” Wuhan Zall coach Jose Gonzalez told Spain’s EFE News Agency.

19:47 GMT – Up to 150 million Americans could get coronavirus: US projection

The physician for the United States Congress expects that between 70 and 150 million people in the country – between 20 and 45 percent of the US population – will eventually get infected with the novel coronavirus, a lawmaker said.

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib made the remarks during a hearing of the House of Representatives with members of the president’s coronavirus task force, confirming what was reported earlier by US media outlets including Axios and NBC News.

“Congress’s attending physician told the Senate that he expects between 70 to 150 million people to eventually contract the coronavirus in the United States,” Tlaib said.

19:42 GMT – India reports first coronavirus death amid new restrictions

India reported its first coronavirus death as authorities ordered schools, theatres and cinemas closed in New Delhi for the rest of the month in a bid to keep the pandemic at bay.

The government in the southern state of Karnataka said that a 76-year-old man who died on Tuesday had been confirmed as a coronavirus carrier and that it was trying to trace those who had been in contact with him.

19:40 GMT – Egypt reports 13 new coronavirus cases including one death

On Thursday, Egypt reported 13 new coronavirus cases, which included one person who died, the health ministry said.

A 60-year old woman had died in a hospital, the ministry said in a statement.

19:30 GMT – Fears over coronavirus grip migrant camps on US-Mexico border

Doctors working at a makeshift migrant and refugee encampment along the US-Mexico border are treating the potential arrival of the novel coronavirus, now declared a worldwide pandemic, as a certainty, not a possibility. 

A doctor at the camp in Matamoros, Mexico, said when COVID-19 arrives here, it will be “catastrophic”, and people will die.

Read more here.

Coronavirus Info
Coronavirus in numbers [Al Jazeera]

19:10 GMT – Putin may extend term over ‘threats to Russia’, coronavirus

President Vladimir Putin of Russia approved legislation allowing him to stay in power beyond 2024, citing global instability and threats against Russia, including the new coronavirus, the Kremlin said.

During a rare and unscheduled appearance in the Russian parliament on Tuesday, Putin stunned both the general public and the establishment by agreeing to a last-minute proposal to reset his constitutional term-limit clock to zero.

Read more here.

19:03 GMT –  NBA Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell tested positive for coronavirus

Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz – a National Basketball Association team in the US – confirmed that he has tested positive for the coronavirus, publicly saying that he is personally dealing with the pandemic that has temporarily shut down the NBA and other major sports leagues.

Mitchell is one of two NBA players to have tested positive: The other is his Jazz teammate Rudy Gobert, who was the first NBA player to test positive, but has not publicly confirmed his diagnosis.

19:00 GMT – In contrast to Trump, Biden pledges to ‘lead with science’ 

US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden called for a sweeping national response to the coronavirus outbreak, chiding US President Donald Trump for a response he said was woefully insufficient and warning that the widening public health crisis should not be viewed through a lens of politics.

“This administration has left us woefully unprepared for the exact crisis we now face,” Biden said in a speech delivered from his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, and tailored to draw sharp contrasts between the former vice president and the Republican incumbent he hopes to topple this fall.

Coronavirus Info
Is it coronavirus?  [Al Jazeera]


18:50 GMT – Israel’s Netanyahu calls for emergency government with rival

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday called for the formation of an emergency government, with his chief rival to confront a growing crisis over the coronavirus, offering a potential way out of the deadlock that has paralysed the political system for the past year.

Netanyahu made the offer in a nationally televised address.

“I call for the formation now, even this evening, of a national emergency government,” he said.

“It will be an emergency government for a limited period. Together we will fight to save the lives of citizens,” he added,

18:44 GMT – Top adviser to Iran’s supreme leader infected with coronavirus: local media

A top adviser to Iran’s utmost authority Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has been infected with the new coronavirus, the semi-official Tasnim News Agency reported.

“Ali Akbar Velayati, who also is the head of Tehran’s Masih Daneshvari hospital, had contacts with many coronavirus patients in past few weeks. He has been infected and is under quarantine now,” Tasnim reported.

17:46 GMT – UK coronavirus peak 10 to 14 weeks away, says government chief scientific adviser

The peak for coronavirus cases in the United Kingdom may still be 10 to 14 weeks away, the government’s chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance said.

“We think that the peak may be something like 10 to 14 weeks away – it could be a bit longer,” he said

The UK likely has between 5,000 and 10,000 people infected with coronavirus, Vallance added.

17:33 GMT – Turkey schools, universities to shut down over coronavirus

Turkish schools will be closed for one week and universities for three weeks from March 16, and all sports events will be played without spectators until the end of April in response to the coronavirus outbreak, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said.

The moves came after Turkey confirmed its first coronavirus infection on Wednesday, becoming the last major economy to report an outbreak after taking what the World Health Organization (WHO) described as vigilant measures.

17:22 GMT – Italian daily coronavirus deaths jump 23 percent to 1,016

The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy has jumped in the last 24 hours by 189 to 1,016, a rise of 23 percent, the country’s Civil Protection Agency said.

The total number of cases in Italy, the European country hardest hit by the virus, rose to 15,113 from a previous 12,462, an increase of 21.7 percent. That marked the biggest daily rise in absolute terms since the contagion first came to light on February 21.

The agency said that, of those originally infected, 1,258 had fully recovered compared to 1,045 the day before. Some 1,153 people were in intensive care versus a previous 1,028.

17:11 GMT – US health official says coronavirus testing system is ‘failing’

A top United States official on infectious diseases, Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health, said that people could not get tests for the deadly coronavirus easily and the US testing system is not meeting the country’s needs.

“The system is not really geared to what we need right now … That is a failing. Let’s admit it,” Fauci told a panel of the US Congress’s House of Representatives. “The idea of anybody getting it easily the way people in other countries are doing it, we’re not set up for that. Do I think we should be? Yes. But we’re not.”

Read more here.

17:07 GMT – UK’s Johnson steps up response to coronavirus, moves to delay phase

United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson stepped up the response to the coronavirus pandemic, moving to the so-called “delay phase”, which includes the option of more stringent measures designed to slow down the spread of the virus.

“We are now getting onto the next phase,” Johnson said.

“This is now not just an attempt to contain the disease as far as possible but to delay its spread,” he added.

16:57 GMT – Norwegian Air lays off half of staff over coronavirus

Norwegian Air Shuttle said it will temporarily lay off up to half its staff, adding that it was cancelling 4,000 flights.

“Due to the extraordinary market situation as a result of the coronavirus … we must look at all possible measures to reduce costs. This unfortunately also includes temporary layoffs of up to 50 percent of our employees and the number may increase,” the company said in a statement.

16:48 GMT – China locks down Mount Everest climbing routes

Mountain climbing expedition operators on Mount Everest says Chinese mountaineering officials will not allow spring climbs from their side of the world’s highest mountain due to fears of coronavirus.

On the other side of the mountain in Nepal, operators say cancellations for the popular spring climbing season have been pouring in, despite the mountain being open for business.

16:25 GMT – Tom Hanks’s son gives update on parents’ coronavirus diagnosis: ‘They’re not worried’

Chet Hanks gave an update on Wednesday about his parents Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson’s health after the elder Hanks revealed on Instagram that he and his wife were diagnosed with the new virus.

“They both are fine. They’re not even that sick. They’re not worried about it. They’re not trippin’ but they’re going through the necessary health precautions obviously,” Chet said.

“I don’t think it’s anything to be too worried about. I appreciate everyone’s concern and the well wishes,” he added.

16:15 GMT – Canada’s Justin Trudeau in self-isolation after wife shows symptoms

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he and his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, will be placing themselves in self-isolation after she began exhibiting mild flu-like symptoms, an official statement said.

“The doctor’s advice to the Prime Minister is to continue daily activities while self-monitoring, given he is exhibiting no symptoms himself. However, out of an abundance of caution, the Prime Minister is opting to self-isolate and work from home until receiving Sophie’s results,” the statement read.

Read more here

16:00 GMT – Brazilian who met Trump tests positive for COVID-19

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s communications chief, who met Donald Trump during an official weekend visit to the US leader’s Florida resort, has tested positive for the new coronavirus, the government said.

The Brazilian president’s office “has taken and is taking all necessary preventive measures to protect the health of the president and all staff that traveled with him to the United States” last Saturday to Tuesday, it said in a statement, confirming the far-right government’s chief spokesman, Fabio Wajngarten, had tested positive for COVID-19.

Read more here.

15:25 GMT – Bahrain accuses Iran of ‘biological aggression’

Bahrain accused Iran of “biological aggression” by covering up the spread of the coronavirus and failing to stamp the passports of Bahraini travellers.

Many of the recorded infections throughout the Gulf region are linked to travel to Iran, which hosts several important shrines and pilgrimage sites for Shia Muslims. No Gulf Arab state has so far reported a coronavirus death.

“With this behaviour, Iran has allowed the disease to travel abroad, and in my estimation, this constitutes a form of biological aggression that is criminalised by international law, as it has put in danger our safety and health and that of others,” Bahraini Interior Minister General Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa said on Twitter.

Bahrain has reported 77 new infections among citizens evacuated from Iran. A second government-chartered repatriation flight is scheduled for Thursday.

14:40 GMT – Iran asks IMF for $5bn emergency funding to fight coronavirus

Iran has asked the International Monetary Fund for emergency funding to help it fight the coronavirus outbreak that has hit the Islamic Republic hard, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said.

The escalating outbreak in Iran – the worst-affected country in the Middle East – has killed 429 people and infected 10,075. It has damaged Iranian businesses and is bound to hit its non-oil exports after many neighbouring countries and trade partners shut their borders.

Read more here

s GMT – Philippines’ Duterte announces ‘lockdown’ of Manila

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced a halt on domestic land, sea and air travel to and from Manila, as well as community quarantine measures, calling it a “lockdown” of the capital to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Duterte approved a resolution to allow a raft of containment measures including bans on mass gatherings, a month of school closures and quarantining in communities where cases are detected, as well as stopping domestic travel in and out of Manila.

Rodrigo Duterte
President Dutere’s announcement comes after the Philippines reported its first domestic transmission of the coronavirus [File: Eloisa Lopez/Reuters]

14:16 GMT – Coronavirus makes Iran more dangerous: US general

A top US general said Iran is significantly underreporting the number of its coronavirus cases and is making Tehran more dangerous, a day after an attack in Iraq that killed US and British troops.

“I think it is having an effect on how they make decisions, I think it slows them down… I believe the numbers are probably significantly underreported,” US Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of Central Command, said.

McKenzie said that while he did not know for sure what impact the virus was having, “authoritarian regimes” usually react to extreme pressure by looking at external threats.

“I think it probably makes them, in terms of decision-making, more dangerous rather than less dangerous,” McKenzie said.

13:48 GMT – Wall Street pauses trading after stocks sink, Dow down 7.2%

Trading on Wall Street was halted just moments after US stocks plunged further on the deepening economic pain from the coronavirus.

Trading was suspended after the S&P 500 dropped 7 percent to 2,549.05, triggering an automatic 15-minute suspension.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 7.2 percent to 21,856.91.

Read more here

Wall Street Bear Market
The tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index tumbled 7.0 percent to 7,393.25 [Andrew Kelly/Reuters]

13:35 GMT – COVID-19 is a ‘controllable pandemic’: WHO

The new coronavirus outbreak “is a controllable pandemic” if countries step up measures to tackle it, the head of the World Health Organization said.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged Wednesday the global outbreak of the new coronavirus could now be considered a pandemic – a disease actively spreading globally.

But he told diplomats in Geneva that describing the outbreak as a pandemic should not mean that countries give up the fight to stop it spreading further.

“This is a controllable pandemic,” he said.

This is Usaid Siddiqui taking over from my colleague Tamila Varshalomidze.

13:00 GMT – Armenia to replace used banknotes with new ones

The Armenian central bank said it would gradually replace used banknotes with new ones to try to prevent the spread of coronavirus and advised people to avoid making cash payments where possible.

In a post on its official Facebook page, the central bank also advised people to use online banking services in preference to cash where possible.

Armenia has recorded four cases of coronavirus, according to the health ministry.

12:36 GMT – Spain’s coronavirus outbreak death toll jumps to 84

Spain’s death toll from coronavirus has risen to 84 on Thursday from 47 on Wednesday, the health ministry said.

The ministry reported the number of cases rose to 2,968 up from 2,140 on Wednesday.

12:00 GMT – Singapore to close mosques to prevent coronavirus spread

Singapore will close all mosques for at least five days for deep cleaning to prevent the spread of coronavirus after a number of congregants in the city-state attended an Islamic conference in neighbouring Malaysia linked to infections.

The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore said the closures would take effect on Friday, and that authorities are trying to track down about 90 Singaporeans who attended the three-day religious event in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur.

A number of other religious groups have cancelled physical gatherings in Singapore in recent weeks to try and halt the spread of a virus that has infected 178 people in the city-state.

11:55 GMT – Anger, confusion in Europe as Trump issues travel ban

Travel to the US from most of Europe will be suspended for 30 days beginning on Friday, President Donald Trump announced, citing a need to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Read more here

11:40 GMT – Real Madrid footballers quarantined

Real Madrid has sent all of the members of its soccer and basketball teams home into quarantine after one of the sports club’s basketball players tested positive for the new coronavirus, the Spanish club said in a statement.

“Real Madrid CF announces that a player from our basketball team has tested positive after undergoing tests for coronavirus COVID-19,” said the statement on the club’s official website.

“From now, the club has followed the recommendation of placing the basketball and football teams into quarantine as the two squads share facilities at the club’s training ground.

“We have also decided to close our training ground and recommended that all staff who work at the facility remain in quarantine.”

All national league basketball games have also been postponed, Real’s statement added.

11:35 GMT – McLaren withdraws from Australian GP after member tests positive

The McLaren Racing team has withdrawn from this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix after a team member tested positive for coronavirus.

“The team member was tested and self-isolated as soon as they started to show symptoms and will now be treated by local healthcare authorities,” McLaren said in a statement.

11:31 GMT – Spain’s top flight suspended for at least two weeks: La Liga

All football matches in Spain’s top division, La Liga, have been suspended for two weeks over fears of the spread of the coronavirus, the league’s organising body said in a statement.

The league’s statement said the decision came after Real Madrid put its squad into quarantine, and that it had notified the clubs, the Spanish soccer federation (RFEF) and the national sports ministry of the postponements.

EIBAR, SPAIN - MARCH 10: A general view inside the empty stadium as fans cannot attend the match due to the medical emergency Covid-19 (Coronavirus) prior to the Liga match between SD Eibar SAD and Re
The Liga match between SD Eibar SAD and Real Sociedad [Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images]

11:27 GMT – WHO’s Tedros urges world to ‘double down’ against virus pandemic

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) urged all countries to “double down” in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, speaking to diplomats in Geneva a day after characterising COVID-19 as a pandemic, also said: “Describing this as a pandemic does not mean that countries should give up. The idea that countries should shift from containment to mitigation is wrong and dangerous.”

He said that, while maintaining a containment strategy, all countries must “strike a fine balance between protecting health, preventing economic and social disruption, and respecting human rights”, according to remarks made available by the agency.

11:22 GMT – Poland reports first death from coronavirus

Poland has reported its first death from coronavirus, local authorities in the city of Poznan said, as reported by private broadcaster TVN24.

So far 47 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the country.

10:45 GMT – Rome to shut Ciampino airport, close terminal at Fiumicino

The authorities announced that Rome’s Ciampino airport would shut from Friday night, with a terminal closing at the city’s main Fiumicino facility next week as airlines slash flights to Italy because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Ciampino will close at midnight on Friday, a spokesman for the company that runs both airports told AFP news agency, with Terminal 1 at Fiumicino closing on Tuesday.

10:35 GMT – Iran reports new cases, death toll reaches 429

Iran reported 75 new deaths from the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said, bringing the death toll there to 429.

“We have identified 1,075 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, meaning that there are 10,075 infected people in the country. The death toll is 429,” Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur told state television.

10:20 GMT – Algeria registers first coronavirus death

Algeria has registered its first death from the novel coronavirus, the health ministry announced without providing further details on the death.

Another five new cases of COVID-19 have been recorded, bringing the total number of confirmed cases on Algerian soil to 24, the ministry added.

Of the five new cases announced on Thursday, two are Algerians who had been in France.

Medics walk outside a clinic where the flight crew as well as several people who were in contact with an Italian man who tested positive for COVID-19 went in for tests, in Algeria, Wednesday, Feb. 26,
Algeria has registered its first death from the novel coronavirus [Anis Belghoul/AP Photo]

10:07 GMT – Austria reports first coronavirus death

A 69-year-old man has died in Vienna after contracting the new coronavirus, Austria’s first death in the rapidly spreading epidemic, city authorities said.

Austria has confirmed 302 cases so far, and four people have recovered.

10:05 GMT – Spanish minister tests positive for coronavirus

Spain’s Equality Minister Irene Montero was diagnosed with the new coronavirus. The country’s Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias was quarantined.

A Spanish cabinet meeting scheduled for Thursday will be attended only by ministers whose presence is needed to approve the new coronavirus measures.

All other meetings of the country’s prime minister will be held through a video conference.

09:55 GMT – Qatar takes additional measures to contain virus

Qatar National Library was closed to the public until further notice. Also in Doha, the Muaither Health Centre of the Primary Health Care Corporation was turned into a COVID-19 test-and-hold facility.

09:45 GMT – Lewis Hamilton questions Formula One start

Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton has questioned the sport of racing for continuing as normal with the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Sunday despite the global impact of the coronavirus.

“I am very, very surprised we are here,” the Mercedes driver told a news conference. “It’s great we have races, but it’s shocking we are sitting in this room.”

Hamilton pointed to the most recent developments in sport and the greater world such as basketball’s NBA halting its season and the United States shutting its border to travellers from Europe.

“It is very difficult having a fair judgement, but I do realise a lot of sporting competitions get cancelled and it is fair to ask the question why you are here,” Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel said.

09:30 GMT – Spanish government considering locking down Madrid

The president of the Madrid region, Isabel Diaz Ayuso, said that the Spanish government was considering locking down Madrid as a measure to stem the coronavirus spread in the country.

The Spanish government denied on Wednesday that it had any plan for such a lockdown.

“From what we have seen in the past hours, the possibility of closing down Madrid is under consideration,” Diaz Ayuso said on the Tele 5 local TV channel.

09:27 GMT – China coronavirus adviser expects global pandemic to be over by June

The global coronavirus pandemic is likely to be over by June, Zhong Nanshan, the Chinese government’s senior medical adviser, said.

A lot of imported cases into China are asymptomatic patients and the reinfection rates among recovered patients is low, Zhong, an 83-year-old epidemiologist renowned for helping combat the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003, told a news conference.

09:05 GMT – Iran asks IMF for $5bn emergency funding

Iran has asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for emergency funding to help it fight the coronavirus outbreak, which has hit the Islamic Republic hard, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a tweet.

The IMF managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, “has stated that countries affected by COVID19 will be supported via Rapid Financial Instrument. Our Central Bank requested access to this facility immediately”, Zarif said.

Iran’s Central Bank chief Abdolnaser Hemmati wrote on his Instagram page that “in a letter addressed to the head of IMF, I have requested $5bn from the RFI emergency fund to help our fight against the coronavirus”.

08:32 GMT – California bans mass gatherings to slow spread of coronavirus

The US state of California is banning mass gatherings of 250 people or more until the end of March in response to the coronavirus outbreak, the office of Governor Gavin Newsom said.

Health experts in the state advised that smaller events could be held if organisers implemented social distancing of six feet [two metres] per person, the governor’s office said in a statement.

Worker in protective suit sprays disinfectant inside a classroom of a primary school, as students’ return has been delayed, in Donghai county of Lianyungang, Jiangsu
A worker in protective suit sprays disinfectant inside a classroom in China [China Daily via Reuters] 

08:26 GMT – South Africa reports first case of local transmission

South Africa’s health ministry reported the first case of local coronavirus transmission, saying a 32-year-old man had contracted it after coming into contact with a Chinese businessman.

“All others (cases) have been by patients who had travelled abroad,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that the number of confirmed cases had risen to 17 from 13 on Wednesday.

08:14 GMT – Three infected Britons on cruise on Cambodia’s Mekong

Cambodia has found three British nationals infected with the coronavirus on a tourist boat on the Mekong River, bringing its tally of cases to five, the health ministry said.

A 73-year old British tourist, his 69-year old wife and a 65-year-old woman were on Viking Cruise Journey, docked in Kampong Cham province, north of the capital, Phnom Penh, the ministry said.

It also said 61 people from the vessel had tested negative and had been put in isolation on land and were being monitored.

08:02 GMT – Czech Republic introduces controls on German, Austrian borders

The Czech Republic is introducing controls on its borders with Germany and Austria and banning crossings away from official frontier border posts to help fight the spread of the coronavirus, Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said.

The country, which is part of the European Union’s Schengen area, will start the checks on Friday, news agency CTK reported.

07:20 GMT – China says it has passed peak of coronavirus epidemic

China’s National Health Commission said the country has passed the peak of the coronavirus epidemic.

Coronavirus: US bans all travel from Europe

06:55 GMT – Tokyo chief: Cancelling Olympics ‘impossible’

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said cancelling the summer Olympic Games was “impossible”, saying Japan was “not thinking of changing directions nor changing plans at all”.

Koike said Tokyo was coordinating and closely discussing with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and organisers “toward holding the games”.

The president of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee said he had received an apology from an executive board member who said the Games should be delayed a year to two because of the coronavirus.

06:15 GMT

I’ll be handling over this blog to my colleague Tamila Varshalomidze in Doha shortly.

Here’s a quick summary of this morning’s developments:

US President Donald Trump spoke to Americans earlier from the White House, announcing a European travel ban and a series of measures to tackle the virus.Democrats in Congress have also drawn up a bill that they aim to pass later on Thursday to provide sick pay, financial support and other benefits to those affected by the virus.

The NBA has suspended the basketball season, while Oscar-winning Hollywood actor Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, have both been hospitalised in Australia with the virus.

In the Philippines, there is growing anxiety within political circles with President Rodrigo Duterte being tested and the parliament sealed off for disinfection after a top transport official was diagnosed with COVID-19. The Asian Development Bank, which has its headquarters in Manila, has also been closed for deep cleaning.

Meanwhile, in China, the number of new cases fell to the lowest since the outbreak began.   

06:10 GMT – Johns Hopkins changes Taiwan designation after outcry

Johns Hopkins University, has changed the way it refers to Taiwan on a map detailing the spread of the new coronavirus, after the institution began referring to the self-ruled island as part of China prompting objections from the government of the self-ruled island.

Beijing, which claims Taiwan as its own, has been exerting pressure on foreign companies and organisations to identify the territory as part of China, and often to name it as a Chinese province.

Taiwan has objected saying it is an independent country called the Republic of China, its official name, that has never been part of the People’s Republic of China.

The World Health Organization (WHO) lists Taiwan’s coronavirus case numbers under China’s, referring to the island as “Taipei and environs”.

That same designation appeared on the Johns Hopkins interactive map earlier this week, but has now reverted to calling the island “Taiwan”.

05:50 GMT – Kazakhstan suspends all public events

Kazakhstan is suspending all public events and taking special preventive measures because of the coronavirus, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

Separately, the Interfax news agency quoted deputy prime minister Alikhan Smailov as saying that the  World Trade Organisation ministerial conference that was supposed to take place in Kazakhstan in June had been cancelled because of the outbreak.

05:40 GMT – Singapore, Malaysia tracking people who attended religious gathering

Health officials in Malaysia and Singapore are trying to trace thousands of people who attended a mass religious gathering in Malaysia after a number of participants were confirmed with COVID-19.

Malaysia’s Director General of Health Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah says about 10,000 people were thought to have taken part in the event at a mosque on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, including a man from Brunei who was later confirmed to have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The ministry is tracking down the Malaysians who were present and urging them to contact the authorities. Singapore, meanwhile, is looking for 95 people from the city-state who were at the event, the local Straits Times reported.

With the WHO designation of a pandemic, Malaysia is also advising that all mass gatherings and events be postponed.

04:40 GMT – Saudi Arabia suspends travel, flights to EU, several other countries

Saudi Arabia has temporarily suspended travel of citizens and residents and halted flights with several states, state news agency SPA said on Thursday citing an official source at the Interior Ministry.

The ban includes the European Union, Switzerland, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Sudan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Eritrea, Kenya, Djibouti, and Somalia, the source added, saying the Kingdom had also suspended entry to those coming from these countries.

The decision excludes health workers from the Philippines and India, and evacuation, shipping and trade trips taking necessary precautions. 

Noon prayers outside the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, which has expanded a travel ban to tackle the coronavirus [Amr Nabil/AP Photo]

04:35 GMT – Thailand reports 11 new cases, bringing total to 70

Thailand reported 11 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of cases in the Southeast Asian nation to 70, health officials said.

All the new patients had socialised and shared drinks, health officials said, adding that a tourist from Hong Kong had been the source of the infection.

“The Hong Kong tourist came alone and already went back. The 11 infected are all Thai,” said Sopon Iamsirithawon, director-general of the Communicable Diseases Department.

04:30 GMT – Greece reports first death from COVID-19

Greece has reported its first fatality from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The health ministry says the man who died was 67 and had recently returned from a religious pilgrimage to Israel and Egypt. He also had underlying health issues.

04:15 GMT – US House leaders unveil coronavirus bill

Democrats in the US House of Representatives on Wednesday unveiled a broad package of proposals to help Americans affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

The legislation, which Democratic leaders aim to push through on Thursday, would grant workers 14 days paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family and medical leave, a summary of the bill shows.

Other provisions in the 124-page “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” introduced late on Wednesday include unemployment insurance, hundreds of millions of dollars for nutrition programmes and assistance for pregnant women. 

It will also guarantee free coronavirus testing for anyone who requires it, including those who don’t have health insurance.

04:00 GMT – Japan must plan for Olympic cancellation risk

Japan must plan for any postponement or cancellation of the Tokyo Olympic Games, even if it seems unlikely, Shigeru Ishiba, a ruling party heavyweight seen as a leading candidate to be the next prime minister told Reuters.

Ishiba, an outspoken critic of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, said on Wednesday the fate of the summer games was a decision best left to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). He declined to comment on what the best move might be.

“Not thinking about worst-case scenarios won’t eliminate the risk of them materialising,” Ishiba said.

“The government must start thinking now about what to do” in case the Olympics Games is cancelled or postponed, he added.

Japan Koike
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike says there has been no change in plans for the Olympics despite the WHO declaration of a pandemic [Jiji Press/EPA-EFE]

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said on Thursday there has been no change to plans for the games, which are supposed to start on July 24.

03:10 GMT – State department urges US citizens to reconsider all overseas travel

The State Department is urging all US citizens to reconsider travel overseas amid the deepening coronavirus outbreak.

02:50 GMT – New York postpones annual St Patrick’s Day parade

New York’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade has been postponed because of the coronavirus, governor Andrew Cuomo said.

Hundreds of thousands usually line the streets of Manhattan for the parade, which was due to take place on March 17 this year.

02:40 GMT – Hanks and wife, Rita Wilson, in isolation in Gold Coast hospital

Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson are in isolation in a hospital on Australia’s Gold Coast after being confirmed to have the coronavirus, Queensland state health officials said.

Hanks and Wilson, who are both 63, are in Australia to shoot an Elvis Presley biopic. Work on the film has now been suspended.

Read more here.

02:30 GMT – South Korea expresses concern over cases at Seoul call centre

Authorities in South Korea warned a new cluster of cases in a Seoul call centre could see the coronavirus spread in the capital.

Around 100 people linked to a call centre in the city have tested positive for the virus in recent days.

“This could lead to a ‘super spread’ in the metropolitan area, where half of the entire population are concentrated,” Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a meeting on Thursday.

So far, about 90 percent of the country’s cases have been in the southern city of Daegu and the neighbouring province of North Gyeongsang.

02:05 GMT – NBA suspends US basketball season after positive test

The National Basketball Association said on Wednesday that it was suspending the season until further notice after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the coronavirus.

The test result was reported shortly before the start of the Utah Jazz game with Oklahoma City Thunder.

The league said the affected player was not in the arena.

“The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight’s schedule of games until further notice,” the league said.

“The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.”

Read more here.

01:55 GMT – Asian Development Bank, Philippine Senate closed

The Philippines Senate has been sealed off and the Manila headquarters of the Asian Development Bank closed after visitors to both buildings were confirmed to have the coronavirus.

The parliament building is being disinfected and President Rodrigo Duterte will be tested for the virus as a precaution, his office said.

ADB staff have been told to work from home, while the building is deep-cleaned and disinfected.

“The safety of staff, visitors to the Bank, and their families is of utmost importance to us. We are providing support to staff who interacted with the visitor,” ADB Vice President for Administration and Corporate Management Deborah Stokes said in a statement posted on the ADB’s website.

01:40 GMT – Guyana, French Polynesia record coronavirus cases

Guyana, and French Polynesia have announced their first cases of coronavirus.

The person with the virus in Guyana was diagnosed after a trip to the US last week, while the case in French Polynesia involves Maina Sage, one of the islands’ representatives in the National Assembly. She returned from Paris at the weekend.

01:25 GMT – Actor Tom Hanks says he has been diagnosed with coronavirus

The Hollywood actor Tom Hanks says he and his wife have been diagnosed with the coronavirus after feeling a bit tired and having a slight fever while visiting Australia.

“To play things right, as is needed in the world right now, we were tested for the Coronavirus,” he wrote in a statement posted on social media.

01:20 GMT – South Korea reports 114 new cases

South Korea has given the first of its two daily updates of the coronavirus. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say there were 114 new cases, as well as six more deaths.

With the new cases, South Korea has 7,869 people with the virus, and a total death toll of 66.

01:15 GMT – China announces 15 new cases of coronavirus, 11 deaths

China, the country where it all began, has given its daily update on the situation there.

The National Health Commission says it had 15 new cases – the lowest since the outbreak began at the end of December – and 11 deaths.

The hardest-hit province of Hubei and its capital Wuhan continue to account for the bulk of the country’s 80,793 cases and 3,169 deaths.

01:10 GMT – US to suspend all travel from Europe, except for UK

US President Donald Trump is speaking on the coronavirus from the White House. 

He’s suspending all travel from Europe to the United States, with the exception of the United Kingdom, from midnight on Friday.

The ban will remain in force for a month.

He also announced a range of other measures, seeking to rebuff those who’ve criticised his response to the outbreak, which he attributed to a “foreign” virus.

“This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history,” he said. Our team at Impact has been writing about the measures. You can read more here.

Coronavirus Trump
President Donald Trump speaks on the coronavirus from the Oval Office at the White House. He said all travel between the US and Europe, with the exception of the UK, would be suspended [Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP Photo, Pool]

00:15 GMT – Australia announces $11.4bn stimulus plan

Australia announced a 17.6 billion Australian dollars ($11.41bn) economic stimulus plan on Thursday that includes wage subsidies and cash payments for small businesses to counter the effect of the coronavirus.

“Both this financial year and in the next two financial years, the gross impact of that stimulus is A$22.9 billion ($14.82 billion). That’s 1.2 percent of GDP (gross domestic product),” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus outbreak.

I’m Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur.

You can read all the updates from yesterday (March 11) here.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies